See Emily Play
I've been having fun with our look at, first, Dunwich Records out of Chicago and, this past week, A&M Records out of Los Angeles. I'm going to continue the creative conceit by focusing this week on the legendary Tower Records out of LA.
Tower Records was a subsidiary for Capitol Records (the name was derived from the Capitol Building's infamous Tower). The label only existed for 6 years from 1964-1970. Oh, but what years those were. The label specialized in artists that were considered too minor for the titan of labels that was Capitol Records. As a result, a lot of garage bands -- particularly those hailing from California -- found their way to the iconic red and black "t" label. But Tower didn't just do garage rock. Some country artists, soul artists and doo-woppy vocals groups. Hell, even Mickey Rooney had a release on the catch-all Tower Records label. And like A&M Records, Tower Records became an outlet for some obscure British acts that barely even made a dent in their native UK. Let's look at one of those today.
We start our Tower Records focus with a monster of a record and a collector's valhalla. Everyone knows the name...Pink Floyd. But they sure didn't when this groundbreaking, mind melting record came out. And it's not the Pink Floyd that would go around putting bricks into walls. The Pink Floyd released five ultra-rare singles and two LPs on Tower Records. The second release for The Pink Floyd was, in my opinion, their best. It is Syd Barrett's own composition, See Emily Play with a Flip-Side of Syd's The Scarecrow. The single was released with an über, über rare picture sleeve (whose picture I've unceremoniously swiped from 45cat.com as I don't have it).
As all should know, Syd Barrett was the founder of The Pink Floyd, named the band, wrote the vast majority of their material, was the lead singer and was the sole guitarist. He only lasted one album and a few singles before mental illness mixed with psychotropic drugs pushed him over a brink from which he would never quite crawl back over. Of all his brilliant compositions, See Emily Play is my favorite. Shucks, I already said that. Two minutes and 55 seconds of pure joy. Gentle, melodic, ethereal, abstract, innocent. It's as close to perfect as a song can get. Even the out-of-nowhere harpsichord breakdown works perfectly. And that voice, ahh, what a voice Syd had. David Gimour would soon be brought in to help his friend Syd get through the increasingly erratic shows. But it was too late. Syd moved back home with his mum and Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright would carry on without the "The" before Pink Floyd. I think they had a hit or two, but I don't really know about that band.