Pink Floyd, Relics

Pink Floyd has never done well in compilation form (as proof, see particularly A Collection of Great Dance Songs but also Works) except for their earlier, less conceptually rigourous outings, which is probably why this one succeeds where other such accumulations fail. A strange throwback album from 1971 when EMI was concerned about their apparent lack of studio output, the label collected a few A-sides and B-sides here and there and a couple odds and sods from some of the previous albums and even threw in the unreleased "Biding My Time," a rare studio version from the live favourite "The Man and the Journey" which was never otherwise properly recorded. Even the album art was a motley bunch, officially a Nick Mason doodle of some Rube Goldbergian contraption, but my LP and cassette have a bizarre four-eyed and double-tongued bottle opener which was used States-side. The problem is not the actual songs, which are solid in and of themselves: for example, leading off with "Arnold Layne," their first big single about a cross-dressing underwear thief (!); then later the gauzy, breezy psychedelia of "See Emily Play," their other big early single; and sandwiched between them, three meditative B-sides ranging from the baroque lyricism of "Julia Dream" to the menacing shrieking terror of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" (the original version, later remade for film at least twice). No, the real problem is what EMI left out. I rather like "Remember A Day," but there were better tracks on A Saucerful of Secrets, and no one was desperately asking for cuts from More to round out the second half to replace the A-sides they didn't include like "Point Me At The Sky," "Apples and Oranges" or "It Would Be So Nice" -- all of which are only represented by those aforementioned B-sides. For that matter, "Remember A Day" was itself another B-side b/w, er, a/w "Let There Be More Light," from the same album and also omitted, and I'm not sure what the space-jam instrumental "Interstellar Overdrive" or endearingly daffy "Bike" (both from Piper At The Gates of Dawn) are doing here at all. Still, "Biding My Time"'s studio incarnation is excellent, with its jazzy jam middle intact, and it pretty much redeems the second side all by itself. Overall it's a strange album from a strange time, and by no means a complete portrait of their early work, but because it's so weird it's certainly worth a spin. The CD reissue reverts to the original mono (instead of Duophonic) mixes for "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play," flattening them to my ears even though the inclusion is arguably more authentic, and actually has a photograph of Mason's contraption fully built in miniature which I am told now sits on his desk. (Content: mildly adult themes in "Arnold Layne," implied violence in "Careful With That Axe.")