Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scream Thy Last Scream

Scream Thy Last Scream  4:30
Studio recording 9 August 1967 

* Unreleased

Production
Written by Syd Barrett
Produced by Norman Smith

Lyrics:
Scream thy last scream, old woman with a casket
Blam blam! Your pointers point, your pointers
Waddle with apples to crunchy Mrs Stores
She'll be scrubbing bubbles on all fours


Scream thy last scream, old woman with a casket
Fling your arms madly, old lady with a daughter
Flat tops of houses, mouses, houses
Fiddle and diddle, sitting quack quack!
Watching the telly till all hours, telly time
Fling your arms madly, old lady with a daughter


Oh, sock it to me

Scream thy last scream, old woman with a casket
Blam blam! Your pointers point, your pointers
Waddle with apples to crunchy Mrs Stores
She'll be scrubbing bubbles on all fours
Scream thy last scream, old woman with a casket


Lead vocals: Syd Barrett and Nick Mason

Before the Summer of Love had ended, Syd Barrett was already showing signs of marked mental deterioration, catalysed by his heavy use of LSD, but also based in other traumatic psychological stresses — such as the pressures of being in the pop music business, a profit-based machine that Pink Floyd would savagely attack in 1975's Wish You Were Here. His later music is very much a product of this disjointed emotional state, especially Scream Thy Last Scream, an intense and disturbing song with bizarre lyrics.

Scream Thy Last Scream and Vegetable Man were recorded in early August for possible release as the group's third single. (At four and a half minutes, Scream is too long for a single, but it easily could have been faded out after the last lyric at 3.15 and fit nicely.) There had even been a press announcement on 25 July tipping this song (under the title Old Woman in a Casket) for release as the next single. However, Scream Thy Last Scream and Vegetable Man were thought to be too inaccessible and unsuited to public consumption to release — whether by EMI or the other members of the band is unknown; Peter Jenner suggests the latter.

Peter Jenner: "After [Syd] left the band, they all thought those songs were too intense. They were like words from a psychiatrist's chair — an extraordinary document of a serious mental disturbance. I always thought they should be put out, so I let my copies be heard. I knew that Roger would never let them out, or Dave. They somehow felt they were a bit indecent, like putting out nude pictures of a famous actress; it just wasn't cricket. But I thought they were good songs and great pieces of art. They're disturbing, and not a lot of fun, but they're some of Syd's finest work — though God knows, I wouldn't wish anyone to go through what he's gone through to get those songs. They're like van Gogh."

The would-be single was on the verge of being released in October when it was withdrawn and replaced by Apples and Oranges the following month.

The studio recording of Scream Thy Last Scream is easily discerned from the live recordings of the song because of the 'laughing gnome' backing vocals. Recorded at a slow speed and then sped up to normal tempo, the unknown backing vocalist accompaning Syd sounds somewhat like Alvin the Chipmunk on speed, adding a bizarre dimension to the tune. The lyrics conjure up images of a type of person most are familiar with — a lonely, pathetic old woman with a daughter who never rings, and who has nothing to do with her life but watch TV and perhaps sell her apples at the market. However, the lyrics veer off in strange non sequiters and nonsense words as well. Towards the end of the song, noises of a crowd were dubbed on, and shouting voices, cheering, and a ringing bell can be heard as the music fades out.

This song is a popular one among bootleggers. It was also recorded live at the BBC for radio broadcast on 20 December 1967.

Alternate titles are:
Scream Thy Last Scream Old Woman with a Casket, Old Woman with a Casket, Old Woman in a Casket, and Old Woman with a Basket.

2 comments:

  1. Lead vocals: Nick Mason and Syd Barrett.

    Excellent job on the lyrics here! Thankfully there is none of the phonetic nonsense that plagues all other versions I've seen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've edited the entry to include your input. Thanks for the help!

    ReplyDelete