I was humming Pink Floyd tunes (to myself, not out loud, I don't want people staring at me over the tops of their newspapers) during this morning's otherwise uneventful journey to work. It was such a pleasure to see the group playing together once more, (sadly, for the last time unless something highly improbable happens) at the Live 8 concert at Hyde Park. It's hard to know how many in the audience knew them, could put their music in context, or had the faintest idea what Roger Waters meant when he dedicated "Wish you were here" to "Syd". To me, having last seen them play live at a concert in the old Wembley Pool in 1975, it was an emotional and stirring moment. Particularly as it was at that concert that they played most of what was to become the album "Wish you were here" including the great tribute to Syd Barrett, "Shine on you crazy diamond". And to be honest when I first heard it, I had no idea what it was about. It has taken many years for me to gain a deeper understanding of their lyrics.
It is amazing to contrast those years with today. Apart from their records and the odd concert on radio, the Floyd were known to us only through the music papers. John Peel played their stuff regularly but few other DJs took an interest. There were no dedicated pop music channels (and I doubt if they would have featured much on them if there had been). There were no videos or dvds, indeed there were no cds at this time. Vinyl or tape, both fragile, were the only media for recordings. Now a plethora of websites list every recording, review, performance and incident in their life. I used to struggle to make out the lyrics on some of their songs. Now they are available, often with the chords (if not the full sheet music) at the touch of a mouse. And on one website, idly browsing after the concert, I stumbled on a recording of Astronomy Domine. Not the track from their first album - a live recording, a VIDEO recording of the band - with Syd - on what looks like an American TV show complete with utterly bemused middle-aged host. I had never seen him (Syd, not the u.b.m-a.h.)playing live. Despite the awful recording, what a magical performance - this was at a time when the height of sophistication in pop was "I love you" or a variant on that theme in a 3 minute song with a chorus repeated four times. The descending alto* line that floats over the metallic sound of the guitars, that I had always assumed was itself a highly distorted guitar, was actually Syd's voice. Watching it I was 17 again.
*or possibly soprano. My wife will know.