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"See Emily Play" is the second single by English psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. Written by original frontman Syd Barrett and recorded on 23 May 1967, it featured "The Scarecrow" as its B-side. Though it was initially released as a non-album single, the song appeared on the American edition of their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). "See Emily Play" is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Rolllist and reached No. 6 in the United Kingdom singles chart. As of 2014, the song has never been mixed to stereo, so the US album version was rechannelled and all subsequent reissues have been in mono.
- 2 Recording and release
- 3 Television performances
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Other versions
- 6 References
- 7 External links
"See Emily Play" is also known as "Games for May", after a free concert in which Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd performed. The slide guitar work on the song was done by Barrett using a plastic ruler. The train depicted on the single's sleeve was drawn by him. The song only stayed in the band's setlist for a few months, and was last played on 25 November 1967 in Blackpool. It was reportedly about a girl named Emily, whom Barrett claimed he saw while sleeping in the woods after taking a psychedelic drug. He later stated that the story about sleeping in the woods and seeing a girl before him was made up "...all for publicity." According to A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, by Nicholas Schaffner, Emily is the Honourable Emily Young, daughter ofWayland Hilton Young, 2nd Baron Kennet, and nicknamed "the psychedelic schoolgirl" at the UFO Club. An article in Mojo magazine called "See the Real Emily" supposedly shows a picture of Barrett's Emily.
The details as to the recording remain shrouded in mystery due to the lack of paperwork in the EMI archive. Engineer Jeff Jarrett recalls that "See Emily Play" was recorded in a much longer form which was then edited down for the single release. It was recorded at Sound Techniques studios on 21 May 1967.There was much trickery involved in the recording with backward tapes, much use of echo and reverb, and the first piano bridge between the first chorus and second verse was recorded at a slow pace then sped up for the final master. The four-track master tape was wiped or misplaced. It no longer exists and has never been mixed into true stereo; it was reprocessed for fake stereo on the 1971 Relics compilation. The US single (Tower 356) was released by Tower Records three times between July 1967 and late 1968. Each time it failed to duplicate its UK success.
Barrett, reportedly, was not happy with the final studio cut. He protested against its release, which producer Norman Smith speculated was based on his fear of commercialism. It was during sessions for the song that David Gilmour became a frequent visitor to the studio, and although being invited by Barrett, was shocked by the perceived changes in Barrett's personality when he did not appear to recognise him. For many years Gilmour would recall this, saying, "I'll go on record as saying, that was when he changed".
Part of the vocal melody was played on a Mini Moog at the very end of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" at the end of Wish You Were Here, as a tribute to Barrett. It later appeared on the compilations Relics (1971), Works (1983), Shine On (1992), Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (2001), The Piper at the Gates of Dawn 40th Anniversary Edition (2007), and on A Foot in the Door – The Best of Pink Floyd (2011). The song was also included on the Barrett retrospective, An Introduction to Syd Barrett (2010).
- Top of the Pops, BBCTV, July 1967
Pink Floyd performed the song three times on BBC TV's Top of the Pops. On each occasion, they mimed to the single and Barrett would occasionally sing a live vocal. Also adding to the legend was the fact the BBC wiped the shows, all of which were "live" transmissions. In late 2009, a badly damaged home video recording was recovered by the British Film Institute containing two of the shows the song was performed on, though only the first appearance was recoverable in part. The first performance was on the 6 July 1967 edition, hosted by Alan Freeman. Parts of this performance have been recovered from the damaged video recording.
They returned for the following week's edition, 13 July, hosted by DJ Pete Murray. The last appearance was on 27 July 1967. Once more hosted by Freeman, Barrett failed to turn up for rehearsals at BBC Television Centre. This prompted managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King to perform a frantic search for Barrett. They eventually found him and frogmarched him to the BBC.
The recoverable parts of the 6 July performance were given a public screening in London on 9 January 2010 at an event called "Missing Believed Wiped" devoted to recovered TV shows. It was the first time any footage was seen of the performance since its original broadcast. The Pink Floyd management now have a copy of the footage, and have promised to use it on a future project.
- Beat Club, Radio Bremen August 1967 — cancelled
The band were booked to appear on this edition of Beat Club. Barrett had suffered "nervous exhaustion" and the band managers decided to give the band a month long break in the hope his health would recover. Therefore the booking for this appearance had to be cancelled.
- Belgian TV, February 1968
In 1968, Pink Floyd travelled to Belgium where they filmed a TV special entitled "Pink Floid" (this misspelling is on the title credits) which featured lip-synched promotional films for "See Emily Play", as well as for "Astronomy Domine", "The Scarecrow", "Apples and Oranges", "Paint Box", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "Corporal Clegg". This was Gilmour's first TV work with the band. Barrett was still technically a member of the band but it had recently been decided to no longer collect him for gigs or shows. Therefore, Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright had to mime to Barrett's vocals.