Pink Floyd Performs on US Television for the First Time: American Bandstand, 1967

You may have noticed we’ve been in the midst of a mini-six­ties revival for the past decade or so—what with the retro soul of Alaba­ma Shakes or the late Amy Wine­house, the garage rock of Ty Segall, and the Cal­i­for­nia psych of Aus­trali­a’s Tame Impala. That’s to name but just a few stu­dents of six­ties’ sounds; many hun­dreds more pop­u­late events like the Psych Fests of Austin and Liv­er­pool. And before these bands, late eighties/early nineties brought us a British re-inva­sion of six­ties garage rock and pop like the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Chameleons, the Stone Ros­es, Oasis, and many oth­er jan­g­ly, fuzzy, dreamy bands.

All of that is to say it’s near­ly impos­si­ble to hear any­thing six­ties rock with fresh ears. Not only has the inces­sant nos­tal­gia dimmed our sens­es, but we’ve seen the ideas of the six­ties evolve into myr­i­ad sub­cul­tures var­i­ous­ly indebt­ed to the decade, but no longer even in need of direct ref­er­ence. What would it mean, how­ev­er, to hear the far-out sounds of a band like Pink Floyd for the first time, a band who may at times sound dat­ed now, but much of whose more obscure cat­a­log remains shock­ing. And it’s easy to for­get that when Pink Floyd—or “The Pink Floyd” as they tend­ed to be called—got their start with orig­i­nal singer and song­writer Syd Bar­rett, they made a much dif­fer­ent sound than those we’re famil­iar with from The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon.

If you haven’t heard the sound of the band cir­ca 1967, when they record­ed their first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn, then you may nod along with Dick Clark’s ambiva­lent intro­duc­tion of them to U.S. audi­ences in the ’67 Amer­i­can Band­stand appear­ance above—their first vis­it to the States and first time of TV. They do indeed make “very inter­est­ing sounds”: specif­i­cal­ly, “Apples and Oranges,” the third sin­gle and the final song Bar­rett wrote for the band before he suf­fered a psy­chot­ic break onstage and was replaced by David Gilmour. There isn’t much in the way of per­for­mance. (But stick around for the inter­views around 3:25.) As pret­ty much every­one did at the time, Bar­rett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright mime to a pre­re­cord­ed track. And Bar­rett looks par­tic­u­lar­ly out of it. He was close by this point to the crip­pling men­tal health cri­sis that would even­tu­al­ly end his career.

But Syd Bar­rett did not dis­ap­pear from music right away. The unre­leased “Scream Thy Last Scream,” slat­ed to be the next sin­gle released after Piper at the Gates of Dawn, gave much indi­ca­tion of the musi­cal direc­tion he took in two 1970 solo albums, The Mad­cap Laughs and Bar­rett. Like lat­er Bar­rett, ear­ly Pink Floyd is not music for every­one. Instead of the famil­iar stomp­ing funk of “The Wall” or the soar­ing blues of “Com­fort­ably Numb,” the songs mean­der, twist, turn, and wob­ble, often indi­cat­ing the state of Barrett’s trou­bled soul, but just as often show­cas­ing his bril­liant com­po­si­tion­al mind. Bar­rett is gone, as is key­boardist Richard Wright, and Pink Floyd is no more. But their lega­cy is secure. And we still have mad genius­es like Austin psych leg­end Roky Erick­son to kick around, as well as all the many thou­sands of musi­cians he and Bar­rett inspired.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pink Floyd Plays With Their Brand New Singer & Gui­tarist David Gilmour on French TV (1968)

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Son­net 18

Hear Lost Record­ing of Pink Floyd Play­ing with Jazz Vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li on “Wish You Were Here”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Paul Altese says:

    I swear i remem­ber Pink Floyd appear­ing on “The Woody Wood­bury Show” back in 1967. I’m pret­ty sure they per­formed both “The Gnome” and “The Scare­crow.” Can any­one out there ver­i­fy this appear­ance?

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