Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arnold Layne

Arnold Layne  2:53
Studio recording 27 February 1967 
* Released on single 11 March 1967 * 
Re-released on The Best of the Pink Floyd, 1970 (Europe only); Relics, 1971; Masters of Rock vol. 1, 1974 (Europe only); Works, 1982 (US only); and on the Early Singles CD in the boxed set Shine On, 1992

Written by Syd Barrett
Recorded at Sound Techniques Studios, Chelsea, London
Produced by Joe Boyd
Engineered by John Woods

UK: Columbia DB 8156
Reached #20 on the British charts
US: Tower 333

Arnold Layne had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes
Moonshine, washing line
They suit him fine

On the wall hung a tall mirror
Distorted view
See-through, baby blue
He dug it
Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same
Takes two to know
Two to know (3x)
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne (4x)

Now he's caught
A nasty sort of person
They gave him time
Doors bang, chain gang
He hates it
Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same
Takes two to know
Two to know (3x)
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne (3x)
Arnold Layne, don't do it again

Lead vocals: Syd Barrett

After turning professional on 1 February 1967, The Pink Floyd went into a professional recording studio with Joe Boyd and Peter Whitehead in order to 1) record two songs to take around to the record companies and subsequently release as their first single, and 2) record music to be used in the film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London, directed by Peter Whitehead.

Roger Waters: "By this time Syd Barrett was writing quite a lot of songs. Joe Boyd heard them and we got together some bread, went into Sound Techniques, Old Church Street in Chelsea and recorded. John Woods engineered it all very well and out of it came our first single, Arnold Layne."

The idea for Arnold Layne came from real-life events:

Roger Waters: "Both my mother and Syd's mother had students as lodgers because there was a girls' college up the road. So there was constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines, and 'Arnold' or whoever he was, had bits and pieces off our washing lines. They never caught him. He stopped doing it after a bit — when things got too hot for him. Maybe he's moved to Cherry Hinton or Newnham possibly."

Nick Mason: "Maybe he decided to give up and get into bank raids or something."

Syd Barrett: "I just wrote it. I thought 'Arnold Layne' was a nice name and it fitted very well into the music I had already composed. I was at Cambridge at the time I started to write the song. I pinched the line about 'moonshine washing line' from Rog, our bass guitarist — because he has an enormous washing line in the back garden of his house. Then I thought 'Arnold must have a hobby' and it went on from there."

Pete Brown: "Arnold Layne was probably the first-ever pop hit that dealt in an English accent with English cultural obsessions and English fetishes. There had never been anything quite like it; everyone had been behaving like Americans. Previous to that, I was completely blues. That was just when I started writing for Cream, so it came at a very good time for me. Things like White Room wouldn't have happened without Syd."

When Nick was asked why Arnold Layne was chosen as the band's first single, he responded: "It's very hard to describe the complete open madness of us at that time. We just had no idea what was going on at all really. We knew we wanted to be rock 'n' roll stars. We wanted to make singles so we thought Arnold Layne was a great single. It seemed the most suitable to condense into three minutes without losing too much."

After Arnold Layne and its intended B-side, Candy and a Currant Bun, were completed, the tapes were shipped to record companies. The quality of the tape prompted immediate record company interest, and it was EMI, of course, which won the bid with an advance of £5000.

Nick Mason: "Arnold Layne [was created to make the Floyd] a hit parade band... We were interested in the business of being in rock 'n' roll and being a pop group — successful, money, cars, that sort of thing. Good living. I mean, that's the reason most people get involved in rock music, because they want that sort of success. If you don't, you get involved in something else."

However, their new record cost them an excellent producer in the form of Joe Boyd.

Joe Boyd: "At the time, this was January 1967, most major companies, and particularly EMI, were very leery of independent producers. They were very into staff production... Basically what happened was that EMI said, 'We'll give you this contract and £5000 and we want you to use our studios and our staff producers and everything.' So they immediately went in and said 'Thanks a lot for doing Arnold Layne, Joe. See you around,' and at the time... I didn't really know what to do about it. Well, you know, it's up to the group. If the group felt strongly enough that they wanted me to be their record producer they would have insisted on me to EMI..." And Roger Waters did comment later that he thought it had been "a bloody stupid deal."

Arnold Layne was somewhat more commercial than the Pink Floyd's live sound, containing only a few seconds of the type of instrumental jam they were now famous for in the underground community. Nevertheless, the single became immensely popular among the proponents of the new movement.

Miles: "Arnold Layne [became] almost the anthem of the movement."

It seems fantastic now that when Arnold Layne was released it was considered controversial, and caused a minor stir because of its subject matter. The lyrics only allude to Arnold's cross-dressing hobby, and are never explicit. The lyric 'Takes two to know' suggests that Arnold is (shockingly enough) a masturbater as well as a transvestite, and the song is telling him that 'it's not the same' as the morally correct relationship between two people, and asking him 'why can't you see?' Even more interesting, the song turns out to be a conservative morality play á la Romeo and Juliet — Arnold receives his due punishment for his 'crimes' and goes to jail, and the song ends with the exhortation 'Arnold Layne, don't do it again!' Whether these final words represent the voice of the Establishment or of the singer of the song is up to individual interpretation, as is whether the singer condones or condemns Arnold's final fate. However, even a song that presents a risqué subject in a very conservative light was too much for 1967 London, and Radio London banned the record for being 'too smutty.'

Roger Waters: "Arnold Layne was a song about a clothes fetishist which was pretty go ahead for the time, come to think about it..."

Syd Barrett: "Arnold Layne just happens to dig dressing up in women's clothing. A lot of people do — so let's face up to reality. About the only other lyric people could object to is the bit about 'it takes two to know' and there's nothing smutty about that. But then if more people like them dislike us, more people like the underground lot are going to dig us, so we hope they'll cancel each other out."

Roger Waters: "I'm upset when people say it is a smutty song. The attitude is the type of thing which leads us to the kind of situation which the song is about. It is a real song about a real subject. It isn't just a collection of words like 'love,' 'baby' and 'dig' put to music like the average pop song. If all the members of the group had not liked it we would not have done it. That's obvious. The song was written in good faith. I think it is good. If we can't write and sing songs about various forms of human predicament then we might as well not be in the business."

Rick Wright: "I think the record was banned, not because of the lyrics, because there's nothing there you can really object to, but because they're against us as a group and against what we stand for."

Roger Waters: "Some don't like the song because they think it's a smutty idea for a man to run around pinching clothes from washing lines. But we think it's fun."

Nick Mason: "In fact, we really didn't want Arnold Layne to be our first single. We were asked to record six numbers, pick out the best two, then find a recording company that would accept them. We recorded the first two, and they were snatched away and we were told, 'That's it!' All the record companies wanted the disc, so it was just a case of holding out for the biggest offer. By the time Arnold Layne was released, we had already progressed and changed our ideas about what a good hit record should be. We tried to stop it being released but we couldn't. Still, it doesn't matter now."

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