Welcome to our weekly feature Video Rewind. Every Friday, a CoS staffer shares a video clip dug up from the depths of the Internet. Today, Ryan Bray looks back at one of Pink Floyd’s first performances following the departure of Syd Barrett, a moment in time before they became the biggest band in rock.
Pink Floyd’s legacy looms so large over popular music that it’s hard to imagine them on anything but solid footing. Records like The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon were the work not only of an incredibly talented collection of musical visionaries, but also driven by a certain sense of fearlessness, an invested interest to discover sonic arenas that were unprecedented at the time. More than four decades later, there’s still an indelible magic that comes with taking in a Pink Floyd record.
Genius aside, Pink Floyd actually had to grow into their iconic skin. By 1968, the band would agree they could no longer forge ahead with their erratic frontman Syd Barrett, who had suffered from bouts of substance abuse. Up until that point, Barrett was the creative driving force behind Pink Floyd and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn put his troubled ears for ’60s psychedelia to good use. Shortly after his departure, however, the band scrambled to reclaim Barrett’s work as their own, which brings us to this live performance on French TV show, Baton Rouge.
The performance is a rare document of Pink Floyd flying without a net, lacking the sort of exact precision that would define their work just a few short years later. Thanks to decades of hindsight, it’s interesting to watch Roger Waters and David Gilmour take their first crucial steps into the limelight, knowing full well that the band’s future successes laid largely in their hands. The songs are solid, but admittedly they feel lightyears away from, say, “Time”, “Wish You Were Here”, or “Comfortably Numb”.
In a way, it feels like we’re watching someone else’s home movies given their honest, boyish moments; from Gilmour’s muddled vocals on “Astronomy Domine” to the auspicious start of “Flaming”. Still, while the performance isn’t masterful, it’s a worthy relic from a particular place in time. It’s a snapshot of a band in a period of transition, one with no idea just what kind of crazed brilliance was awaiting them shortly around the bend.