Friday, February 1, 2013

Pink Floyd - The Shape of Questions to Heaven (1968)

Pink Floyd – The Shape of Questions to Heaven 
(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

1.  Vegetable Man
2.  Apples and Oranges
3.  Late Night
4.  Remember A Day
5.  a) Golden Hair
      b) Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun

Side B:
6.  Lanky, Part One
7.  Paint Box
8.  Clowns and Jugglers
9.  Scream Thy Last Scream
10.  Jugband Blues 

I received a number of requests for this, so I thought I’d give it a try and see how well it comes together.  Luckily it seemed to come together rather enjoyably, so here is the first of a trilogy of my re-imagined albums that postulate “What if Syd Barrett hadn’t been dismissed from Pink Floyd?  The Shape of Questions to Heaven is the theoretical 1968 follow up to 1967’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, and culls material from Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets sessions and Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs sessions to create a second album of Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd, an album that most certainly never was.

At what the band believed to be the height of their popularity in 1967, Pink Floyd witnessed the mental collapse of their lead singer and songwriter Syd Barrett.  Caused by copious amounts of psychedelics and possibly a tendency for madness and erratic behavior in the first place, Barrett was known at that time for blank stares half-way through a Pink Floyd performance, spells in which he would just simply stop playing his guitar and vacantly stare motionless into the audience.  He was becoming unreliable inasmuch as the band resorted to hiring a second guitar player to back Barrett up, a guitarist by the name of David Gilmour.  After sessions for the second album had begun (which would eventually become A Saucerful of Secrets), Barrett’s madness climaxed during a rehearsal in which Barrett attempted to teach his bandmates a new song, allegedly entitled “Have You Got It Yet?”, in which every run-through of the song, Barrett altered the structure so the band could not follow along, and then sung to the band members “Have you got it yet?”  In one of the great moments in Rock History, Roger Waters simply didn’t pick up Syd for rehearsals and Pink Floyd continued without Syd Barrett, the crazy diamond himself.  This era in Pink Floyd’s history can only be remembered in the sole album featuring Syd Barrett as the lead singer/songwriter of Pink Floyd, the psychedelic-pop masterpiece The Piper At The Gates of Dawn.  But no longer does that have to be the case.  

To create this second Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd album, we must put forth very specific constrictions of what source material to include.  The first of the source material would be the only songs on A Saucerful of Secrets to feature Syd Barrett: “Remember a Day”, “Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun” and of course “Jugband Blues”.  More Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd songs were recorded during these late 1967 recording sessions which didn’t make the album that we can also include: the single release “Apples and Oranges” and “Paint Box” (taken from The Piper At The Gates of Dawn 40th Anniversary remaster and Relics, respectively) as well as the unreleased Barrett-penned “Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream” (taken from The Syd Barrett Tapes bootleg).  Already we have more than half an album!   

After Barrett’s dismissal from Pink Floyd, he gathered himself in 1968 to record his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs.  The album was essentially recorded in three sessions: May-June 1968 with Peter Jenner, April 1969 with Malcolm Jones and July-August with former bandmates David Gilmour and Roger Waters.  For the sake of chronological continuity, we are only going to utilize the material Barrett recorded in his initial 1968 sessions (swiftly overlooking the overdubs made in 1969, of course), pairing them with the aforementioned material from the A Saucerful of Secrets sessions recorded in late 1967 and early 1968.  Focusing on the material that sonically fits with the previous seven selected Pink Floyd recordings, we are using “Late Night” and an alternate version of “Golden Hair” from The Madcap Laughs remaster, as well as “Clowns and Jugglers” and “Lanky (Part One)” from the Opel remaster.  

The sequence of The Shape of Questions to Heaven was heavily influenced by its actual previous album The Piper At The Gates of Dawn but almost all of the tracks were crossfaded to create a continuous two sides of music (a tactic Pink Floyd would later explore in the following years).  My re-imagining begins with a duo of uptempo rockers (“Vegetable Man” and “Apples and Oranges”) before a low-key decent with the following two songs (“Late Night” and “Remember The Day”), allowing the side to slowly wind down.  Side A concludes with an original edit of “Golden Hair” and “Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun”, crossfaded into each other creating a seven-minute epic.  Although placed with a record-flip in-between, the psychedelic-jazz jam “Lanky, Part One” continues the mood set by the previous suite, even staying in the same key and mode.  After the rare stereo mix of Richard Wright’s “Paint Box”, the album picks up for a glorious and increasingly paranoid finish with “Clowns and Jugglers”, “Scream Thy last Scream” and the prophetic “Jugband Blues”. 

The Shape of Questions to Heavens shapes out to be an album very indicative of Syd Barrett’s mindset in 1968.  Although we largely have similar full-band Pink Floyd song arrangements as found on their debut psyche-pop debut, the off-kilter songwriting leans towards the bizarre, with two Richard Wright and a Roger Waters-penned song picking up the slack for their slipping songwriter.  We are fairly certain the album would have been a commercial flop, probably too avant-garde for the mainstream 1968 and too lacking in commercial singles, with “Apples and Oranges” the only possible contender (which was a failed single in itself).  Regardless, it is an enjoyable listen and an interesting alternative to A Saucerful of Secrets, and succeeds in creating an album that demonstrates just what Pink Floyd could have done with their lunatic on the grass.  

Sources used:
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets (1994 remaster)
Pink Floyd – The Piper at The Gates of Dawn (2007 Remaster)
Pink Floyd – Relics (1996 reissue)
Pink Floyd – The Syd Barrett Tapes (bootleg, 2008 Needledrop Records)
Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (1994 Harvest remaster)
Syd Barrett – Opal (1994 Harvest remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included


  1. This is brilliant. I love it. Thanks so much.

  2. Nice work.

  3. This is awesome but I still like ASOS better.

  4. Stumbled across your blog today and... wow, just brilliant. I can't tell you how many times I've set out to recreate the post-Beatles break-up album, or the post-Barrett Floyd album, or the ultimate Smile, but never could pull it off. And you've rendered those efforts moot. Beautiful work all around. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  5. Great work on the Floyd albums. Brilliant new takes on these.

  6. Unreal....
    You are a f**king genius mate.
    The Golden Hair / Controls is just inspired

  7. do you pay licensing to BMI, ASCAP, SESAC to share these official tracks?

  8. Better than what they actually released.

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  10. How about this tracklist
    1.Apples & Oranges
    2. Vegetable man
    3.Remember a Day
    4.Set Controls for the heart of the sun
    6.Nick's Boogie
    7.Scream thy Last Scream
    8.Jugband Blues.

    Bonus Tracks:
    10. Untitled (sunshine)

    This makes way more sense, because its all Pink Floyd recordings. No solo or post Barrett PF recordings here, and the Nick Mason intro on Beechwoods lets you know the album is finished and that your about to hear some bonus tracks. So this is the closest to a Piper follow up as anyone can get right now, not some weird mash up/compilation of solo Syd and Pf.

    1. Mine goes like this (follows Piper's format and clocks at 39:22)

      Side A

      1.Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun
      2.Vegetable Man
      3.Apples & Oranges
      5.Lanky (pt 1)

      Side B

      6.Scream Thy Last Scream
      7.Sunshine/In The Beechwoods
      8.Candy and a Current Bun
      9.Remember a Day
      10.Jugband Blues

      Side B

    2. My biggest problem with Saucerful (and this for the same reason though it is brilliant) is the fact that it's basically a compilation of two different PF eras; the late Syd stuff and the early Dave stuff. I spent a lot of time listening to all the material (outtakes and releases) from late 1967 and early 1968 and found the late '67 stuff has a different feel than the '68 stuff... and that Syd's '68 stuff fits a little easier with PF's '68 stuff.

      So, making a TL;DR short, I was able to make two albums for this period and they don't sound too bad!

      Album One: The Shape of Questions to Heaven (because I couldn't think of anything better)

      Side One (20:15)

      Vegetable Man
      Remember a Day
      Apples and Oranges
      In The Beechwoods (cleaned up the best I could)
      Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun

      Side Two (17:01)

      Reaction in G (The Copenhagen version. Again, cleaned up as best as I could)
      Scream Thy Last Scream
      Jugband Blues

      My reasoning/AU stuff: In an alternate universe where Syd is a little more together (or where he doesn't lose heart in PF or if Roger Waters isn't such a jerk (why am I opening that Pandora's Box? ...anyway)), the group record this album mostly in October of 1967. They finish off "Remember A Day" and "Scream Thy Last Scream" at this point (started earlier in the year). Vocals are recorded for "In The Beechwoods" (you'll have to use your imagination for that one) and a studio version of "Reaction in G" is produced (again, your imagination is a wonderful thing, you know). "Vegetable Man" is selected by the band as the single for the end of the month (seeing as The Kinks' "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" basically has the same subject matter, I don't think it was as far-fetched to put this out as is supposed). It's a modest success (#40 on the charts, let's say). The album is put out in early December with "In the Beechwoods" as the glorious follow-up the Evil Record Company wants to "Emily" (probably edited a bit too). The album is loved in the underground as a dark, wintery bit of psychedelia but the general public finds it a little hard to swallow.

      Singles of the period:

      Vegetable Man/Remember a Day (October)
      Remember a Day/Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk (US Only) (Either November or early '68)
      In The Beechwoods/Reaction in G (edit) (December) (Emily-sized success)

      (Note: I don't think "Scream Thy Last Scream" or "Apples and Oranges" would be singles in this scenario. The former is just too weird for teeny-boppers in 1967 and the later feels to me like a great album track but not a great single. Syd does manage to stuff "Reaction in G" onto a b-side, just to poke his fans.)

      (End of Part 1)

    3. (Part 2)

      Album Two: Rhamadan

      Side One (21:43)

      Let There Be More Light
      Late Night
      Golden Hair
      Julia Dream

      Side Two (19:55)


      My Reasoning/AU Stuff: Sometime in late 1967, the band decides they could use a second guitar player. Syd brings his childhood friend David Gilmour on board, the later possibly even contributes to tSoQtH (though with a better-off mentally Syd, this may not be needed). In any case, by early '68, they were a five piece ready to record their third album. Third Album Syndrome hits the Floyd much like most bands (sometimes it's the second... and sometimes the band is called The Beatles and they don't have a problem like this (unless you count Beatles For Sale but I digress)). They nonetheless record Roger's "Let There Be More Light" and "Julia Dream," Rick's "See-Saw," and Syd's "Golden Hair." They also start recording "Late Night" and "Clowns and Jugglers" but the later is unfocused and needs work. The months tick by as "Late Night" is finished but "Clowns and Jugglers" refuses to improve much. In a desperate need to express, Syd and the band spend a session improvising a long jam piece called "Rhamadan." Satisfied with getting some free-form jamming out of his system, Syd modifies "Clowns and Jugglers" into "Octopus" and otherwise changes the arrangement. The album is finished off by May. "Julia Dream" and "Late Night" are released as a double-A side (in theory) to modest success in April and "Octopus" is chosen as the lead single when the album is released in June. Though it is a strange decision at the time to release a song that took up an entire album side, Syd manages to push his way through the Evil Record Company. The album becomes very popular with the emerging FM and Album-Oriented-Rock stations in the United States, alongside another album with an entire side devoted to one song: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

      Singles of the period:

      Late Night/Julia Dream (April)
      Octopus/Let There Be More Light (June)

      (... I had no idea this would be this long when I started it. Maybe I should make my own musical blog....?)

    4. Nicely, and poetically, speckulated. Where's the door to this wonderful universe?

    5. I put together Rhamadan and i must say it works very well,

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    7. I kind of remade Rhamadan... heheh... now it's a double album. (I really should make my own blog...)

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    10. See my blog for an album cover and new track listing for `Rhamadan'

  11. Great job on this! I'm sure if it had been officially released, it would be recognized today as a dark psych masterpiece.

  12. I've only just discovered your blog and find it amazing. I really like your attention to detail and the quality of your recordings, all accompanied by your detailed notes. It's really fascinating. I'm looking forward to your next project - you've got me hooked!

  13. Thank-you for this 'lost' album.

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  15. I think there should have been space for "SeeSaw", (maybe truncated to remove a verse). IMO "Remember A Day" (Side 1 Track 2) was part 1 and "SeeSaw" (Side 2 Track 2) was part 2 of the same song, or at least they were companion pieces. I also thought that “Jugland Blues” was Syd saying goodbye to the Floyd, (with that great sign out “what exactly is a joke”?), yet in our “what if” vision he is still around in 1969s, “Vantage Point” album. Still this is a great “what if album” ~ well done.

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  18. Could you reupload part 2 of the FLAC, please?