What if Syd hadn't left Pink Floyd - part 1

What if Syd hadn't left Pink Floyd

Part 1 / 1967 - 1970

Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd officially on April 6th 1968 after suffering from a mental breakdown bought about by an excess of drugs, which affected him so much that he was unable to perform properly on stage.
But supposing this didn't happen...

NB: although some of the names of albums and songs used here may appear familiar to you, they aren't in any way related to what was actually written and recorded by the group under those titles!


The Pink Floyd tour America as part of a package tour with Jimi Hendrix and are given a favourable response. Rolling Stone cites them as "the innovative ideas of The Grateful Dead combined with the essential British songwriting power of The Beatles". However since the group are only fourth on the bill to Hendrix, their overall standing is minimal. Still at least the group get their first chance to taste America. At the end of Christmas, the single Apples And Oranges is released, accompnied by an impromptu performance in London's Covent Garden by the band late at night. Unfortunately the consumption on the instruments and lights is so large that the mobile power generator gives up the ghost after only three songs (Astronomy Domine, Candy and a Currant Bun and Matilda Mother); still the ensuing publicity means an ITV camera crew are present, and air some footage of the abortive concert the next day. Apples and Oranges reaches number 9 in the UK charts.
When asked about the single, Barrett replies, "Oh it's about this smart old girl that likes getting what she wants, that sort of thing really." Waters adds, "Oh yes, we're happy that our singles have sold but what I'd really personally like to do is to concentrate on some LP work"...."most of our live material isn't based around our hit singles."


The year starts with a two month UK tour. The intial reaction to the band outside London is still cold; however the reaction improves with the development of the band's stage act. By now they are employing specially shot footage for much of their live material (including bootlegged NASA space footage for Astronomy Domine) and developing some new ideas for their second LP, while at the same time Barrett is turning into something of a cult hero, alienating other members of the group.
Barrett says "It's nice to get attention from the public but while I do write the bulk of the material for the band it really wouldn't be the same at all without Roger, Rick and Nick's musical contribution. Besides which the other members have actually put their heads together to come up with some ideas of their own which we're hoping to put down on tape for our next album!"

In May, the group release another Barrett penned single, Haven't you seen it yet? which peaks at number 13 in the charts. The single's lyrics focus on the vast network of underground activity (such as the line "Haven't you seen the happening floating down the hall") that has accompnied the band. This is followed in July by the group's second album,Exploding In Your Mind which reaches number 4 in the charts. The album's cover is the result of photography by the London company Hipgnosis mixed in with Barrett's own paintings. The track listing is:

Keep Smiling Happy People (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason)
Lady Lemonade (Barrett)
Towns And Gowns (Barrett, Waters)
Remember A Day (Wright, Barrett)
Ups And Downs (Barrett)

Star Shaped (Barrett)
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (Waters)
It Would Be So Nice (Barrett, Wright)
Isn't This Where We Came In? (Barrett)
Let There Be More Light (Barrett, Waters)
Joyful (Barrett)

Waters : "I've got some lyrical ideas which I'd like to develop in association with Syd's musical contributions, but unfortunately the rest of the band prefer his lyrics to mine, so I went away and started to write my own music!"

Barrett : "Set The Controls came out of a riff that Roger had discovered just by playing around on his guitar. The music sort of developed from there more or less. He refused to let me write the words so he stole them out of a Chinese Book of verse I happened to be reading at the time!"

Wright : "We tried Remember A Day when making Piper but we redid it with some of Syd's lyrics during the recording of this album and it turned out better. I'm not good at writing lyrics at all; I feel incredibly insecure about that, so I let Syd write the words instead, which he does very well"

Barrett : "Keep Smiling Happy People was a conscious attempt by the other members of the group, particularly Roger, to get away from the usual format of me demoing a song and presenting it to the rest of the group. So we basically went into the studio with no ideas about what we were going to come up with and just started jamming around one note for ten minutes and recorded what we came up with down on tape. Then me and Roger started piling all the strange backwards guitar and organ sounds on top of it all to give it the overall structure. I think we all feel we pulled it off so I'm not loathe to try this method of songwriting again"

Mason : "Songs like Keep Smiling Happy People aren't really in the same league as the more commercial singles we've put out. It's more attuned to our live work and I'd like to give that more of an airing really"

Waters : "The lyrics to Towns and Gowns came from mine and Syd's schooldays in Cambridge where we used to have a go at the students there. I think we were just jealous we weren't as clever as them really..."

Following the LP's success, the group head off to tour Europe where they are filmed by a Dutch TV company performing "Keep Smiling Happy People","Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" and "Intestellar Overdrive".
Wright : "Unlike America most of the people that came to see us didn't really know what the underground scene where we came from was like so they didn't know what hit them I guess!"


The group begin a shot at a second US tour, this time supporting The Grateful Dead and are enthusiastically received by the audience. Media attention focuses on Barrett's guitar pyrotechnics and Wright's etheral organ sounds, particularly bought to the fore on "Intestellar Overdrive" and "Keep Smiling Happy People". Their experiences with The Dead give the group the inspiration to try out some more extended pieces which will appear on their next album.
Back home, the group play the Newport National Jazz and Blues festival to a somewhat bemused audience. However the group's futuristic sound and Barrett's overall charisma make them tower over the rest of the groups on the bill.
In May, the Floyd perform a free concert at London's Hyde Park, which nearly results in riots for the group's demand.
In August, the group's third LP, Ummagumma is released. The track listing is as follows :

Embryo (Barrett, Waters)
Waving My Arms In The Air (Barrett)
Proverbs And Sobs (Barrett)
Paintbox (Wright, Barrett)
Nightmare (Barrett)

The Amazing Astral (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason)

Waters : "I'm disappointed that I didn't get some more of the ideas I wanted to express onto this album, because the group don't seem to think my contributions are the best. I'm not too fussed about the musical ideas but I really think there are some good lyrics I could make if only the band would accept them"

Barrett : "The problem with Roger is that he would like some more of his lyrical ideas in the band; however a lot of what he writes is very bleak and depressive, and that really isn't what this band is about. I think I'm the better lyricist because I've had more practice; certainly when this group started I was the only person who could stitch two words together. There is no question that Roger would want to leave because his playing is second to none in this group, but I do also feel that if he keeps at it he will produce some good ideas for the band which will enhance our music better overall I feel."

Wright : "I'm not really a fan of what Roger writes that much. I'm more suited to Syd's material. I certainly think it goes down far better with the public as well."

Waters : "I'm sure that after a few years are space age astral image will definitely wear off, and I'd like to steer the band away from that a bit."

The band continue playing concerts until the end of the year. That December, Roger reveals that he has plans of his own for The Pink Floyd.

Waters : "I've got some ideas about some more down to earth musical concepts. I've been writing some musical and lyrical ideas for a human body documentary and I'd like the band to have a go at some of it. I think it would do well to stop becoming a musical cliche."


In February, Barrett, Waters, Wright and Mason enter the Roundhouse studios in London to write and record their fourth album. An ensuing battle results between Barrett and Waters as to what material should be put on the album. The end result, Is There Anybody Out There ends up containing the following tracks:

Welcome To The Machine (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason)

If (Waters)
Nothing to See (Barrett, Wright)
The Wide World (Wright, Barrett)
Your Possible Past (Barrett)

Wright : "Syd and Roger both came in with virtually an album's worth of material between them. I had some musical ideas as well which weren't complete songs, but I felt that they'd be better suited to Syd's material."

Waters : "I've had enough of the bloody domination Syd's had over this group since day one..."

Barrett : "I have tremendous respect for Roger but the fact is that the material that I put together, sometimes with Rick ends up being a better choice for the group. I have given him the option to write stuff with me but it's tended to be declined somewhat. Still it's his choice and I can't change it."

On May 21st 1970, The Pink Floyd released a press statement via EMI that Roger Waters had left the band.

"Due to principal artistic differences between Roger Waters and the rest of The Pink Floyd, principally over writing contributions, it has been neccessary for him to leave the group."

The Floyd take a two month break from touring to sort out a suitable replacement

Part two / 1970 - 76 coming soon...