Picture sleeve for Pink Floyd's "Apples and Oranges"
Pink Floyd had its genesis in an earlier band called Tea Set featuring guitarists Rado “Bob” Klose and Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and wind instrument player Rick Wright. All four had been in a band called Sigma 6 which had since broken up. Tea Set added guitarist/vocalist Syd Barrett (Roger Waters switched over to bass guitar), and the band was rechristened Pink Floyd (or The Pink Floyd), an amalgam of the names of blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Klose left the band, leaving Pink Floyd as a quartet. Barrett started writing his own material, influenced by both British and American psychedelic music, but incorporating his own whimsical humor. Pink Floyd became a favorite in the underground movement, and in October 1966, they formed a six-way partnership with managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King. This led to a contract with EMI and the release of their first single, “Arnold Layne”, in March 1967. “Arnold Layne” reached #20 on the UK singles chart and the follow-up, “See Emily Play”, reached #6. This led to their first full-length LP, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”, released in August 1967. It was a commercial hit in the U.K., reaching #6 on the album charts, and was a critical success as well, with many critics recognizing it is a prime example of British psychedelia, second perhaps only to The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. While the band was still working on a second LP, they released a third single, “Apples and Oranges” b/w “Paint Box”, in November 1967. This is today’s featured single.
The A-side, “Apples and Oranges”, was written by Syd Barrett and provides a prime example of Barrett’s pop psychedelia at its finest. It opens with a slightly distorted guitar, augmented by a wah-wah pedal. Soon we are introduced to Barrett’s vivid lyrical imagery: “Got a flip-top pack of cigarettes in her pocket/Feeling good at the top/Shopping in sharp shoes/Walking in the sunshine town feeling very cool/But the butchers and the bakers in the supermarket stores/Getting everything she wants from the supermarket stores”. And then we find out about a girl that Barrett saw walking around town in Richmond. The chord arrangement is relatively simple, relying heavily on G, which is probably the most oft-repeated chord here. The song fades out with a music box-like melody repeated, giving way to a wail of guitar feedback. Although “Apples and Oranges” failed to make the charts in either the U.K. or U.S. (in the latter country, it was released on Capitol subsidiary Tower Records), it is a memorable piece of psychedelic whimsy. Although the song was initially not intended for inclusion on an album (its first appearance on an album was on the compilation LP “The Best of Pink Floyd/Masters of Rock”, released in 1970), both tracks on the single were mixed in stereo, although the single was released in mono (the “Masters of Rock” LP represented the first appearance of the stereo version).
The B-side of this single, “Paint Box”, was written by Richard Wright, and the song features a minor key melody that prominently features E minor ninth and E added ninth chords. The song is played in the key of G and has a more complex chord arrangement that “Apples and Oranges”. The song is notable for its anti-social lyrics (also sung by Richard Wright): “Last night I had too much to drink/Sitting in a club with so many fools/Playing to rules/Trying to impress/But feeling rather empty/I had another drink”. The song also features some rather extended drum fills from Nick Mason. As the lyrics end, a piano solo begins, which lasts through the song’s fade-out. Listening to the song, this music listener is a little disappointed that Wright didn’t compose more songs, either for the Pink Floyd canon or as a solo artist. Still, “Paint Box” is a testimony to his capabilities in crafting rather ponderous music. This song can also be found on the “Masters of Rock” LP, as well as the “Relics” (1971) compilation of early Pink Floyd material.
The single (catalog #: DB 8310) was issued on November 18, 1967; it
"Apples and Oranges" single without the picture sleeve (U.K. release)
was issued with a picture sleeve (shown above). This was the last single released during Syd Barrett’s tenure with the band. But the stress of life on the road, pressure to write new singles, and almost constant use of LSD began to take their toll on Syd Barrett, who became unpredictable both during concerts, where he would often strum the same chord over and over or simply stare into space, and during rehearsals. Since Barrett wrote most of the bands material, his breakdown could have been the end of the band, but the other band members decided to bring in David Gilmour to take Barrett’s place during concerts, with the hope that Barrett would continue to write for the band. When it became apparent that Barrett was unable to continue even in this capacity, his departure from the band was finalized, and the six-way partnership was dissolved. This left Pink Floyd without the support of Jenner and King, who decided to manage Barrett’s solo career, but determined to forge ahead with Gilmour. Their next single, “It Would Be So Nice”, released in March 1968, featured David Gilmour on guitar in place of Barrett. What followed was a gradual shedding of the band’s psychedelic sound as the band became more polished and collaborative. By the time “Meddle” (1971), their fifth album was released, they had evolved into a progressive rock band. Their seventh studio album was their massive U.S. breakthrough “Dark Side Of The Moon” (1973), which was their first U.S. #1 LP, and would remain on the U.S. Billboard album chart until 1988, establishing a world record. The album was the beginning of the band’s salad days, which would culminate in the release of “The Wall” (1979). The recording sessions for this album saw acrimony between band members – especially between Waters and Wright – reaching a new high, and Wright quit during the recording of “The Wall”. Nevertheless, he was employed for “The Wall” tour as a paid musician (and in fact was reportedly the only band member to profit from the venture, which lost about $600,000). The next album, “The Final Cut” (1983), was recorded by the trio of Waters, Gilmour and Mason, with the assistance of studio musicians; the album, which received mixed reviews, was viewed by some critics as essentially a Waters solo album. There was no supporting tour and in the aftermath of its release, Waters and Gilmour had a falling out, with both musicians working on solo albums: Gilmour released “About Face” (1984) and Waters released “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” (1984). Amid an ongoing dispute between Gilmour and Waters over legal ownership of the Pink Floyd name, the next Floyd album was released, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” (1987), with Gilmour and Mason the only official members of the band (Richard Wright was employed as a paid musician for the album, but his contributions were minimal). Wright’s contributions were more substantial, however, on “The Division Bell” (1994) were more substantial. “The Division Bell” remains the band’s last studio album, although the live double CD “Pulse” was released the following year. In spite of the acrimony between band members, the “classic” lineup of Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason reunited for Live 8 in 2005. Richard Wright died of cancer in September 2008.