Saturday, March 6, 2010

Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict

Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together 
In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict  4:55
     (written by Roger Waters)

Aye, an' a bit of mackerel, settler rack and down
Ran it down by the home, and I flew
Well, I slapped me and I flopped it down in the shade
And I cried, cried, cried.

The fear a fallen down had taken, never back to raise
And then cried Mary, an' took out wi' your Claymore,
Right outta a' pocket, I ran down, down the mountainside
Back on (Battlin'?) the fiery horde that was falling around the feet.

Never! He cried, never shall ye get me alive
Ye rotten hound of the burnie crew!
Well, I snatched fer the blade an' a Claymore cut and thrust,
And I fell doon before him round his feet. Aye!

A roar he cried!
Frae the bottom of his heart
That I would nay fall but as dead,
Dead as I can by a' feet, d'ya ken?

And the wind cried Mary.

Thank you.

One of the most interesting pieces Roger ever produced, Several Species has been consistently underrated. While hardly melodic or even musical, the piece embodies the experimental era of the Floyd and other such bands through its imaginative uses of 'animal' sound effects (most of them done by Roger, then sped up or slowed down) to create a multi-layered chorus, functioning very effectively as a rhythm track.

The animal section, lasting about three and a half minutes, supposedly contains hidden messages which are revealed when the record is played at different speeds, such as 16, 45 and 78 rpm.

The 'Pict' section, lasting only a minute, is also fascinating. At first listen, Roger's rant makes no sense whatsoever. However, repeated listening reveals a discernible monologue, distorted by a heavily affected satiric Scots accent and some nonsensical words and phrases. Some sources have claimed that this monologue was improvised live in the studio, but it seems a little more coherent and linear than something that might be made up off the top of one's head. Based on the possibly incorrect assumption that the 'lyric' was written and actually means something, an analysis of its content follows.

First, a historical note: the Picts were composed of violent, raiding tribes of both Celtic and pre-Celtic peoples who held power in ancient Caledonia (now Scotland), most notably during the time period c.300-843 AD. After this point, they became united with (and in most minds, synonymous to) the Scots. This 'poem' if you will, which almost seems to parody the style of the renowned Scots poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), tells an interesting story. The transcription above converts the heavily accented words to standard English spelling in most cases (such as 'middin stain' to 'mountainside' and 'doon' to 'down'). The 'Pict' who tells the story starts by referring to the fact that his family settled down in this (apparently) coastal area, probably to fish for mackerel (a common industry in Scotland). But now, conflict and fighting has disrupted his life, all the more so because he is a coward, and has just fled from the battle that his brethren partake in, back to his home. He slaps himself for his cowardice, drops his sword in the shade, and weeps. He is afraid of the heavy blade causing him to fall down in battle — a mistake no-one survives ('never back to raise'). But then he gathers his courage, picking up what is probably his father's Claymore ('your Claymore') and rejoins the fray with a battle cry of Mary! (probably Mary, Queen of Scots, or else the Virgin Mary, a reference to his Catholicism). He sees his friends falling dead around the feet of a particularly ferocious enemy, who screams his defiance. Our young Scotsman grabs for his blade, but his worst fears are realised — it is too heavy, and the enemy's Claymore 'cut and thrust' and he falls at the enemy's feet. The enemy cries that he will not fall and live, and the young Scotsman meets his ignoble end, leaving only the wind to echo his battle cry ('and the wind cried Mary').

The poem seems to imply that it is Scotsman against Scotsman, a situation that did occur during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots in the mid-1500s, as the Catholic supporters of the Queen warred against the Protestant opposition. The above, is however, merely one interpretation of a piece which could mean any number of things — or nothing.

What is particularly humourous about this section of Several Species is the elaborate poetic set-up used in order to end with a joking reference to a lyric already made popular by Jimi Hendrix a couple of years before ('the wind cried Mary') — and have it actually make sense. Someone who sounds a bit like Dave Gilmour says 'Thank you' in a normal accent at the end — perhaps Dave was in the recording booth? Unknown.

It was previously thought by some that Scots experimental musician Ron Geesin, who Roger was good friends with at the time, did the vocals for this piece.

Ron Geesin: "People always used to ask me if I did that. I was doing a lot of John Peel radio programmes at that time, doing pieces even further out. My variety of Scottish ranting may have jogged something in Roger, but it was probably coincidental. We both had Scottish mothers and English fathers, as it happens."

However, the following year Ron would record a soundtrack with Roger, as well as collaborating with Pink Floyd on Atom Heart Mother. In addition, he would later record a parody of Several Species called 'To Roger Waters, Wherever You Are.'

Several Species was re-released in 1983 on the US compilation album Works.

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