In 1968, Pink Floyd’s relationship with increasingly drug-addled lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Syd Barrett unraveled. Though Barrett’s departure wasn’t officially announced until April, that band had already begun, by necessity, performing and recording without him late the previous year, adding guitarist David Gilmour to the lineup to supplant Syd’s erratic performances. In February of ’68 the band appeared minus Syd on a French live-music program called Baton Rouge. Sixties music blog A Dandy in Aspic describes the show as capturing during its year-long run “some of the best British Mod/Psych bands at their peak,” including The Small Faces, The Moody Blues, and the Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page.
This Floyd footage, however, is especially significant for its portrait of the band finding its way through the trauma of its chief architect’s mental demise, with a seemingly awkward Gilmour taking over: “It still sounds great, but the band are visibly uncomfortable. Roger Waters’ dark psychedelic gem ‘Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun’ sounds amazing, and ‘Let there Be [More] Light’ is an indication of Pink Floyd’s new, post-Syd direction.”
In addition to those two songs from their upcoming second album A Saucerful of Secrets, the band plays two songs from their debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The weird mystical chant “Astronomy Domine” doesn’t suffer at all, since keyboardist Richard Wright sang the lead vocals on the album version and does so again here. David Gilmour takes over the lead for Barrett’s “Flaming,” which is such a Syd song, with its disturbing and childlike lyrics and loopy vocal melody, that his absence becomes noticeable. But it comes off fine, if somewhat stiff, and the song remained in their set for years afterward.
For more classic psychedelic performances from the 1967-68 Baton Rouge, head over to A Dandy in Aspic.