episode #6 – Focusing our lens on the origin of the name “Pink Floyd”

Podcast November 18, 2018

Hello, and welcome to this edition of the Seany D show.  It’s great that you popped by to listen to today’s podcast.  Tonight, we take a look more into the how the name “Pink Floyd”, one of my most favourite bands, came about.

Tonight, we go way back to 1965.  In the fall of that year, Pink Floyd, known as the Tea Set at the time, was getting ready to play a gig at an Royal Air Force base.  According to a reference in his book, Inside Out, A Personal History of Pink Floyd, drummer Nick Mason thinks it was Northolt, which is just outside London, England.  They found out that there was another band with the exact same name playing at the same event.

You can probably understand the ensuing confusion if two bands showed up with the same name at a venue at which they were participating.  Such a predicament forced the band to come up with a new name. Accredited to Syd Barrett, born Roger Keith Barrett in 1946, the name The Pink Floyd Sound was born.  

Pink_floydPink Floyd is a concatenation of the first names of two prominent Piedmont blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.  

According to legend, the name Pink Floyd was concocted after Syd read Paul Oliver’s sleeve notes to a Blind Boy Fuller album, where he noticed Pink’s and Floyd’s name in the credits.  Syd having the name in mind already while at the RAF gig is the most probable reason why he came up with the name so quickly.

It is interesting to see how a spur of the moment thing, like coming up quickly with the name of a band, can become a cultural, iconic symbol of psychedelic rock.

Northolt, according to a Google search, is an historic town in the London Borough of Ealing near London.  It’s a suburban development today, and its showcase feature is the Grand Union Canal, as is the A40 road and history of pony racing.

The air force base Nick was referring to is RAF Northolt.  It is located in west London and is used today by both military and civilian aircraft.  Northolt is also home to the Royal Air Force Music whose mission is to “provide optimum musical support for the Royal Air Force in order to enhance public perception, support State Ceremonial and achieve influence to further Defence and National interest.”  The service is also based out of RAFC Cranwell. They can be found on Twitter @RAFMusic. The service is currently under the direction of Wing Commander Piers Morrell.

We are still researching the exact name of the hall where Pink Floyd played at that time, if there was a hall at the time.

The genre “Piedmont Blues” has its roots in the warm soil where tobacco grows. Blues writer Bruce Bastin describes the music as being “from the coastal plain stretching from the Appalachian foothills to the Atlantic, and from Virginia down through the Carolinas and Georgia to Florida.”

According to “All About Blues Music”, a web site, the Piedmont guitar styles has “folk and ragtime influences, and is played with a light touch and a jaunty swing.”

“All About Blues Music” can be found on Twitter @Bluesman16.

Pink Anderson, born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1900 was reported to have played, at age 14, the guitar to entertain the folks who came to buy Dr. Kerr’s “cure-all medicine.”  Teaming up with Simmie Dooley, a blind guitarist, he played on street-corners all over the Carolinas.

Pink Anderson

Interestingly, Pink is reported to have joined Dr. Kerr of the Indian Remedy Company in 1914 to entertain the crowds whilst Kerr tried to see a “concoction purported to have medicinal qualities.”  The gig was called the “Dr. W. R. Kerr Indian Remedy Company Medicine Show.” (source)

Pink Anderson’s album credits include the 1961’s Volume 1 of Carolina Blues Man and 1962’s Volume 2 of Medicine Show Man, both released under the Prestige Bluesville label. On the Blues Man album, there is an aptly titled track called “Travelin’ Man.”  

More of Pink Anderson’s discography can be followed @discogs on Twitter.

Floyd Council, born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1911 played guitar for tips on the streets of his home town.  He played a lot with the Strowd brothers, playing gigs at parties and local dances. They called themselves “The Chapel Hillbillies”.  Council also played the mandolin and sang.

Floyd Council

Early credits to Floyd Council include the 1937’s “Runaway Man”,  and 1938’s “I Don’t Want No Hungry Woman” and “Lookin’ for My Baby”.  Council often operated under the name “Dipper Boy” Council and “The Devil’s Daddy-in-Law”.

More of Floyd Council’s discography can be researched from @StefanWirzHan.

You can read more at http://www.allaboutbluesmusic.com

Syd, if not having a strong connection to blues music, at least had an solid inspiration from it.   

It’s ironic, looking back now, at Council’s choice for his track “Runaway Man” in 1937 and Syd’s departure from the band in 1968, which is attributed to the deterioration of his mental state, likely as a result of psychedelic drugs like LSD.

Rogers Waters, bassist with the group, as quoted by sydbarrett.com, said in reference to Syd’s behaviour, “It actually happened very fast with Syd, I have to say, right around the time of “See Emily Play”.  You know, he got very weird very quickly.”

Syd, upon reflection, back in ‘68 could have been lumped into the indubitable category of a runaway man, as his changes in behaviour caused genuine concern amongst the band members that included songwriter, singer, bassist and composer Waters, drummer Mason and keyboardist and vocalist Richard Wright.

Council’s “Runaway Man” had some dark lyrics in it as well.  Well, the lyrics would be considered dark today and the tones would surely have raised a few eyebrows.  But we need to keep our analysis objective, given the time that Council was writing the lyrics. A snippet of those lyrics includes:

I’m gonna get me a razor

Knife and a blue steel gun

I’m gonna get me a razor

Knife and a blue steel gun

So I can cut you if you stand

Shoot you if you run

You can see more of how to obtain the rest of the lyrics courtesy of @Genius, on twitter.

The full song, Runaway Man, can be heard on Google’s Play Music: 

In his later days, Syd wrote a few proposed singles, including a composition entitled “Vegetable Man”, in 1967.  Due to its dark nature, it has remained shelved and to this day is officially unreleased. I hope someday it is released so we can continue to learn from Syd and try to understand what he was thinking at the time he wrote it.

“Runaway Man”, “Vegetable Man”, ironic and interesting.

To appreciate more of Syd’s life, work, career and artistic pursuits, I encourage you to visit the official Twitter feed @thesydbarrett.

It’s fascinating when you look back into history and study the progression of things that really have no hard core connection but in some way adds some great conversational tidbits.

But let’s not get too deep into any vicarious atonements.   

We also like to thank Tabs Ultimate Guitar for providing the guitar controls for those who wish to play some of the Pink Floyd songs themselves.  One of my favourites is “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” released on the “A Saucerful of Secrets” LP in 1968.

Some images courtesy of:

Today, we have our own societal issues with declining health, drugs and dark lyrics.  Music today, in 2018, is different than it was in 1930’s and 1960’s. But people still have feeling of needs, and they may struggle with events that are presented in their lives.

In this episode, we took a deeper dive into how the name Pink Floyd came about for one of the most innovative and culturally iconic music bands of the 20th and 21st century.  

What was on Syd’s mind when he wrote “Vegetable Man”?  Was it a reflection of his mental state and view of the world at the time?  Probably. He did become an artist after his musical tenure, perhaps as another release for his talents.  

The 1960s was a time when personal experimentation, spiritual exploration, free thinking, radical intolerance to political institutions and a simple need for people to find themselves were front and centre in a culture trying to find its niche.  And it did this through the introduction of innovative music, and yes, the mind numbing use of drugs. There was a movement afoot, pure and simple, much like there is the #MeToo movement, and others similar to it, today.

What was running through Floyd Council’s head when he wrote “Runaway Man”? 

There was a lot that Floyd could have written about.

During this time, the 1930’s, there was racial tension, the Jim Crow laws (which instituted a segregationist ideal for the use of schools and public facilities), the widespread use of poll taxes and other methods to deny blacks the right to vote or hold public office.  Clearly, Council’s Runaway Man could be suggestive of a man in need of fleeing his current political, social and economic environment. And who wouldn’t blame him for wanting to do that.

If you write lyrics, what’s the motivation behind some of your work?  What’s happening in your political, social or economic life that is your inspiration for your creative, cultural works?

We’d love to hear from you at smoothcubeanalytics.com or via our Twitter feed at @smoothcube.

US cultural history sources ca be found at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_United_States

I’ve been your host Seany D.

Until next time, have a wonderful, funkified week.


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