Finally, for all the Syd Barrett fans out there, Snapper Music has released the rare Peter Whitehead film of the early Pink Floyd line-up, titled London 1966/1967. This is basically a 30- minute film showing the band playing in the Sound Techniques studio in London in January of 1967, and it is interspersed with footage of the band from the UFO Club in late 1966 and at the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream festival from 1967. In addition, Whitehead has included various period footage and interviews, making this almost more of a late 60's look at London's night life and counter culture than an actual DVD on Pink Floyd, but it's a fascinating watch regardless.
The Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd is a strange audio experience indeed, and those who are only familiar with the band from their 70's and 80's material might be a little shocked at the lack of cohesion, melody, and arrangements of the earlier material. This was pure psychedelic music, dripping with avant-garde attitude and experimentation, jazz, classical, and early prog rock. The band performed two pieces in the Sound Techniques studio, "Interstellar Overdrive", which was a staple for the band at the time, and the improvisation "Nick's Boogie", a song that never made it to a Pink Floyd record other than bits of the piece winding up on the song "Saucerful of Secrets" later on. This alone will prompt Floyd fanatics to have this DVD/CD package (oh yes, this set contains an audio CD of both songs in their entirety). "Interstellar Overdrive" is given royal extended treatment here, as the band bloats the piece to near 17-minutes of experimentation, noise, and cacophony. There's little melody to be had here, but that wasn't really the forte of the early Floyd. Barrett's guitar work is brittle and ferocious, what he lacks in technique he made up with an amalgam of sound effects and thunder. Using everything from a cigarette lighter as a slide to a tape echo box called a Binson Echorec, Barrett had a tremendous wave of caustic and dissonant sounds emanating from his amps at all times, only occasionally laying down some sinewy jazz or rock passages. The rest of the band followed suit, as Roger Waters rarely pumping out regular bass lines on his Rickenbacker, Nick Mason flailing about on his kit, and Rick Wright sprinkling the arrangements with effects laden electric piano and organ colors. If you thought Pink Floyd's performance on the Pompeii DVD was "out there", you haven't seen anything yet. Whitehead edited in plenty of groovy footage from the UFO gig and the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream festival, so while you hear the complete two studio pieces, the video portion doesn't stay on them the whole time, but jumps all over the place. For some who enjoy the groovy 60's aura, this will be an fun watch, but for others who just want to see Floyd playing the tunes, it might be a tad annoying. Given the nature of the songs and the fact that the band basically is standing still in the studio twiddling and manipulating their instruments, 30-minutes of watching them play might have been a little boring, so I respect Whitehead's decision to splice in other footage while the band is playing. Be on the lookout for footage of John Lennon, who was at the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream festival, and can be seen in a few shots walking around and talking to a few people. Apparently he and Yoko Ono were both there at the same time, but had not yet met.
Also included are short interviews with a very young (and confusing) Mick Jagger, actor Michael Caine, actress Julie Christie (looking stunning I might add), and David Hockney, as well as commentary from director Whitehead. Plus there is a nice booklet with photographs and information about the making of the movie and the director's relationship with the band. Like I mentioned, it's more of a look at the London scene in the late 60's than an actual document of Pink Floyd, but I guarantee if you have any interest in the late 60's counterculture, as well as the early music of Pink Floyd, this will be a mandatory purchase.
1) Interstellar Overdrive (16:46)
2) Nick's Boogie (11:50)
Interviews with Mick Jagger, Michael Caine, Julie Christie, David Hockney
Overview with Director Peter Whitehead
Footage Capturing the London Scene in the 1960's
Bonus Audio CD featuring full versions of both songs