Astronomy Domine: How Syd Barrett invented Pink Floyd

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A masterpiece composed by Syd Barrett, initially titled Astronomy Domine (An Astral Chant), begins with the voice of the manager of Pink Floyd back in the days, Peter Jenner, who reads in a megaphone the names of planets and satellites (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Titan and Oberon).

The song focuses on the immensity and magnificence of the universe, topics much beloved by Barrett, already since his early age. He imagines a cosmic journey, Jenner’s voice to the megaphone seems the voice of an astronaut who speaks to Earth, describing his visions. Musically, the pulsating, continuous bass represents the radio connection with the Earth, while the omnipresent guitar, together with a majestic and solemn voice, is lost in a cosmic, dark and gloomy landscape, built on keyboards and emphasized by Mason’s drumming. In the beginning, Rick Wright’s Farfisa organ imitates the morse code, an encoded message that remained a mystery, even though many tried to decipher it.

Does it really matter whether or not this trip was born thanks to the use of LSD? No, it doesn’t. Barrett and his genius catapulted us into another world and this is art, because it’s thanks to this journey that Syd invented Pink Floyd and much more.

By a fortunate coincidence, The Piper was recorded at the same time as the Beatles were recording their most important and awaited record, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pink Floyd were in the Studio 3 and the Beatles in the Studio 2,  at Abbey Road. The meeting between Pink Floyd and the Beatles, especially between Lennon and McCarney with Syd, happened in the recording studios, and you can read it as a real meeting of destiny: it’s not crazy to assume that, without The Beatles having listened to the psychedelic elements in Syd’s music, their masterpiece woudln’t have come as we know it.

Of course The Beatles had already wide evidences of their psychedelic treats (Revolver and Strawberry Fields Forever were just two examples), but surely there is something magical in Pink Floyd’s debut album that we can hear also in the Fab Four’s masterpiece.

Who has influenced who, if the Sgt Pepper or The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, we cannot know for sure, and in the end of the day it doesn’t matter. With black holes instead of eyes, Syd Barrett has opened the door of the cosmos to us all.

Below you can find a rare live version of the song.

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