The Madcap Laughs (1970)

Syd Barrett

"Floating, bumping noses dodge a tooth ..."

Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in April 1968. While the band had scored a couple hit singles by that point, and had released its first album, 1967's "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," it was clear that Barrett was not suited for the role of pop star.

As his behavior grew ever more erratic, unpredictable, and counterproductive to performing live or otherwise — he refused to lip-sync "See Emily Play" during a television appearance Nov. 6, 1967, on "American Bandstand," and, instead, stood stony still — Barrett was slowly nudged out of the group.

At first the plan was to keep him on as a songwriter, with David Gilmour filling Barrett's role during performing and recording. (Gilmour had been playing with Floyd since February 1968.) Eventually, Barrett's association with the band would be severed altogether when the rest of the group simply failed to pick him up on the way to a gig.

Work on "The Madcap Laughs," Barrett's first solo album, began at EMI's Abbey Road studios on April 10, 1969. EMI's Malcolm Jones began producing the album, though Gilmour and the Floyd's Roger Waters, both wrapping up their "Ummagumma" LP, took over for the three final sessions, June 13 and 14, and July 26.

Supporting musicians

Other musicians called in to help out throughout the sessions were Willie Wilson of Quiver, who had also played with Gilmour in Joker's Wild, Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie, and Soft Machine: Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and Robert Wyatt. (Due to contractual reasons, Soft Machine went uncredited on the album's sleeve.) The Floyd's Rick Wright is said to have contributed some organ as well.

"Octopus," backed with "Golden Hair," written by Barrett at age 16 from a James Joyce poem, was released as a single in December 1969. The album was released the following month.

The album's cover shot was taken by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey "Po" Powell, who would go on to create many album covers for Pink Floyd under the moniker of Hipgnosis. Barrett painted the floor to his Earl's Court apartment with red and purple stripes just for the occasion. The woman in another photo on the LP wasn't planned. The photo team simply found her hanging around Barrett's flat at 11 a.m. the day of the shoot, nude.

The version of "The Madcap Laughs" we play on "Floydian Slip" comes from the "Crazy Diamond" box set, a U.K. import released in April 26, 1993. It includes additional tracks at the end of the CD — mostly alternate takes — not included on the original album. The box set includes "The Madcap Laughs," "Barrett" and "Opel," and a 24-page, longbox-sized booklet about the recordings.
the madcap laughs album cover

Release date

Jan 3, 1970 (UK)

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Track listing

  1. Terrapin
    05:05 (Barrett)
  2. No Good Trying
    03:26 (Barrett)
  3. Love You
    02:30 (Barrett)
  4. No Man's Land
    03:03 (Barrett)
  5. Dark Globe
    02:02 (Barrett)
  6. Here I Go
    03:12 (Barrett)
  7. Octopus
    03:48 (Barrett)
  8. Golden Hair
    02:00 (Barrett/Joyce)
  9. Long Gone
    02:50 (Barrett)
  10. She Took a Long Cold Look
    01:55 (Barrett)
  11. Feel
    02:18 (Barrett)
  12. If It's in You
    02:26 (Barrett)
  13. Late Night
    03:11 (Barrett)
  14. Octopus (Takes 1 & 2)
    03:09 (Barrett)
  15. It's No Good Trying (Take 5)
    06:23 (Barrett)
  16. Love You (Take 1)
    02:29 (Barrett)
  17. Love You (Take 3)
    02:11 (Barrett)
  18. She Took a Long Cold Look at Me (Take 4)
    02:45 (Barrett)
  19. Golden Hair (Take 5)
    02:28 (Barrett/Joyce)