Wednesday, March 17, 2010

See Emily Play

See Emily Play  2:51
Studio recording 18-23 May 1967 

* Released on single 16 June 1967 
* Re-released on The Best of the Pink Floyd, 1970 (Europe only); Relics, 1971; Masters of Rock vol. 1, 1974 (Europe only); Works, 1983 (US only); and on the Early Singles CD in the box set Shine On, 1992

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

UK: Columbia DB 8214 Reached #5 on the UK charts
US: Tower 356 Reached #134 on the US charts

Emily tries, but misunderstands
She's often inclined to borrow somebody's dreams 'til tomorrow
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play

Soon after dark, Emily cries
Gazing through trees in sorrow
Hardly a sound 'til tomorrow
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground
Float on river forever and ever
Emily (2x)
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play

Lead vocals: Syd Barrett

The Pink Floyd's second single was a slightly rewritten version of the song Games for May, which had recently been performed live at the event of the same name. There are a few differing memories of who exactly 'Emily' is. Pete Brown of Cream claims that See Emily Play was written about the daughter of Lord Kennet, known to the crowd at the UFO Club, where the Pink Floyd was the house band at this point, as the 'psychedelic schoolgirl.'  However, Syd recalls a different version of Emily's identity.

Syd Barrett: "I was sleeping in a wood after a gig up North, when I saw a girl coming through the trees, shouting and dancing. That's Emily."

Given Syd's tendency to create fanciful and fantastic stories about how the band got its name, this description of his inspiration for the song is considered by many to be apocryphal.

See Emily Play was recorded mid-way through the sessions for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn album. However, producer Norman Smith, after agreeing with Pink Floyd's managers that Emily was the most suitable follow-up single to Arnold Layne, wanted to ensure that the song had the same clear and high quality sound as that first single, which was a brilliant job of recording for its time. And so after several abortive attempts to record the song at EMI [18-22 May], Norman and the band ended up traipsing down from Abbey Road to Chelsea to record at Sound Techniques studios, where Joe Boyd had recorded Arnold Layne.

Joe Boyd: "I remember at the time I was very conscious of the fact that they went in and spent a great deal of money and time, a great deal of EMI's money and a great deal of EMI's studio time, trying to get the sound I got down at Sound Techniques on Arnold Layne for their follow-up See Emily Play, and ended up having to go down to Sound Techniques and getting the same engineer [John Woods] and recording at Sound Techniques in order to get the same sound."

Rick Wright talked about the sound of the single and the part played by Arnold Layne's engineer.
Rick Wright: "Although it sounds a bit gimmicky, hardly any special effects were used. Take that 'Hawaiian' bit at the end of each verse: that was just Syd using a bottleneck through echo. The part that sounds speeded-up, though, was speeded-up! John Woods, the engineer, just upped the whole thing about an octave."

The guitar part of Syd's that Rick refers to is actually between lines one and two of each verse, not at the end.

The fact that Norman Smith went to such great lengths to duplicate Arnold Layne's sound would certainly point towards the idea that Norman was trying to make up for the difference between his abilities as a producer and Joe Boyd's, but though Joe was more innovative, perhaps Norman's conservative nature was a help rather than a hindrance in the long run.

Peter Jenner: "Joe might have let them become more indulgent, because he didn't have the age and the experience at that time. There was enough madness flying around, and the sanity and the boringness of Norman helped ensure that the Floyd made hits. Which was vital. If the Floyd hadn't had a hit they would never have got through the difficult times that they went into."

And Emily was a big and exciting hit for the Floyd, landing them in the top ten on the British charts, and allowing them to appear on the BBC's Top of the Pops program three times. However, this sudden new success began to take its toll on Syd, and it is during this period that there were the first indications that all was not right with him.

Peter Jenner: "One thing I regret now was that I made demands on Syd. He'd written See Emily Play and suddenly everything had to be seen in commercial terms. I think we have pressurized him into a state of paranoia about having to come up with another 'hit single.'"

Syd Barrett: "Singles are always simple. The whole thing at the time was playing on stage obviously, [but] being a pop group, one wanted to have singles."

1 comment:

  1. Photo credits? As a photographer and a 40+ year Floyd fan (since 1974) I am bemused that you don't give much or any photo credit on those great, old pictures.