The inside story of Pink Floyd's The Early Years 1965-1972 box set

Pink Floyd performing with ballet dancers
Pink Floyd provide the soundtrack to the ballet at Palais Des Sports in Paris in 1973. (Image credit: Sipa Press\/Rex Shutterstock)

The Early Years box set really does offer some beautiful relics. Prog peeks into the package to discover the real gems…

When the much-vaunted Immersion editions of the three enormo-Floyd albums (The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall) were released in 2011/’12, the ever-caustic yet frequently spot-on website The Daily Mash posted the news piece “Man Buys Pink Floyd Box Set, Puts It On Shelf, Feels Sad.” The article talked about an imaginary 48-year-old with a large disposable income, who felt downhearted as he would never play what he’d bought (because it would lose its resell grading), even though it contained “a soiled tea towel with the lyrics to Money inscribed on it in green biro and a special bonus LP featuring unreleased recordings of Syd Barrett throwing sprouts into a tin bath.”

The reason these quite superb editions were so up for criticism was that the boxes contained marbles and scarves (or Scarfes) and related frippery. These contents, Storm Thorgerson’s last winking act of subterfuge rather overshadowed the rare musical content of the collection.

Well, the Pink Floyd industry continues and plenty is on offer. With The Early Years 1965-1972, those snipes seem to have been taken on board, and here, across the 27 discs, there’s a wealth of previously unheard audio and visual material. Some of the tracks have circulated on bootlegs for years, but the quality here will astound. For once, the astonishing price tag of a multi-disc set seems justifiable.

The box is low on gimmicks and high on content. According to Floyd PhDs, there are around 30 further tracks/concert recordings that could have been incorporated, but there’s enough here to enthrall, and even the professors admit there’s plenty. There are, of course, tracks here that have been round the block several times: the As and Bs of the early singles are there on CD and vinyl, and the BBC sessions finally receive an official release.

There’s no mono A Saucerful Of Secrets, nor is there anything in the way of outtakes from Ummagumma, save for Embryo – it’s rumoured that the remainder of the tapes for the Birmingham and Manchester recording that made up the in-concert disc are unusable so the live take of Interstellar Overdrive remains unheard. There’s also no stereo mix of Point Me At The Sky. But The Man And The Journey is here, embryonic versions of Echoes, live Atom Hearts, and the version of Moonhead (their improvised piece to accompany BBC footage of the moon landings) is a full minute longer than the version currently circulating.

When the box sets of Dark Side… and Wish You Were Here were announced in 2011, journalists were called down to David Gilmour’s houseboat and were tantalisingly played a snippet of some of the demos from 1965 by Floyd engineer supremo Andy Jackson. He shrugged and suggested that they may one day see the light of day.

Aside from those lucky enough to purchase one of the super-rare double seven-inch sets in November 2015, containing the material designed to prolong the group’s copyright, this will be the first time most will hear Lucy Leave and co, the only Floyd recordings with Rado Klose on guitar. And then there are the grail Syd-Floyd tracks. When this writer spoke with David Gilmour in 2002, he said, “Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream are really interesting, but as they’re from before my time, I don’t see myself as having any right to comment or say whether they should come out or not. It’s up to the other guys.”

Fortunately, the ‘other guys’ took the decision to bring them out. The 1967 Stockholm concert is another bonus.

Visually, there are also the collaborations with choreographer Roland Petit and his company Ballet de Marseille. Petit contacted the band in 1970 with an idea to collaborate on a ballet interpretation of Proust’s A La Recherché Du Temps Perdu, but none of the band could be arsed to read it.

“We’ve had innumerable discussions,” Nick Mason told NME in 1972, “a number of lunches, a number of dinners, very high-powered meetings. And I think we’ve got the sort of storyline. The idea is Roland Petit’s and I think Roland is settled on the ideas he wants to use for the thing, so I think we’re going to get started. Ballet is a little like a film actually: the more information you have to start with, the easier it becomes to write.”

In the end, Petit choreographed five numbers – including When You’re In and Obscured By Clouds – for his company to perform in front of the group. The footage is available officially for the first time in the set. The Early Years 1965-1972, ends out-of-era with the recording of Echoes from Wembley 1974, which means the entire show is now officially available.

“I have no objection to putting these things out,” Gilmour said in 2002 when asked about Floyd’s rarities. “If they’re going to have bad bootlegs, they might as well have something a little better, and closer to the original.
I just don’t have the energy to persuade everybody else to release them.”

Fortunately, the energy has been gathered. There is plenty to savour. One aficionado wrote on the Super Deluxe Edition website: “After years of arsing fans around with endless rehashes of existing material, the Floyd may look as though they may be delivering at last – and no marbles, scarves or cardboard coasters! I expect lots of bitching about the price, or stuff left off, but personally I’m very happy, if rather lighter of wallet.”

It will be a Floyd festive season for many, and potentially just the beginning of another lengthy journey…

See the Pink Floyd website for more information.

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Daryl Easlea

Daryl Easlea has contributed to Prog since its first edition, and has written cover features on Pink Floyd, Genesis, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Gentle Giant. After 20 years in music retail, when Daryl worked full-time at Record Collector, his broad tastes and knowledge led to him being deemed a ‘generalist.’ DJ, compere, and consultant to record companies, his books explore prog, populist African-American music and pop eccentrics. Currently writing Whatever Happened To Slade?, Daryl broadcasts Easlea Like A Sunday Morning on Ship Full Of Bombs, can be seen on Channel 5 talking about pop and hosts the M Means Music podcast.