Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Covers Syd Barrett’s ‘Octopus’ In Isolation

Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Mick Rock

David Gilmour has covered Syd Barrett‘s ‘Octopus’ and ‘Dominoes’ in a new livestream.

Syd Barrett started Pink Floyd,” Gilmour recounts, “he was its original leader… He was a couple of years younger than all the other guys but he was very bright. Somehow, very, very sadly, he lost his mind.

“We were very briefly, for five gigs only in January 1968, in the band together,” Gilmour adds. “We played 5 university dates, which were pretty strange! And then the band decided [he] was more of a liability than it was worth.

(Barrett was famously ejected from the group in 1968 after becoming increasingly erratic on and off stage.)

More than 52 years since Gilmour first assisted Barrett in recording his post-Pink Floyd solo debut The Madcap Laughs he again reprises one of Barrett’s original compositions.

The first is ‘Octopus‘ which Gilmour performs around the 20-minute mark.

I carried that about in my head for about six months before I actually wrote it,” Barrett shared of ‘Octopus’ in one 1970 interview, “so maybe that’s why it came out so well. The idea was like those number songs like ‘Green Grow the Rushes, O’ where you have, say, twelve lines each related to the next and an overall theme. It’s like a fool-proof combination of lyrics, really, and then the chorus comes in and changes the tempo but holds the whole thing together.”

Later in the video, at 35-minutes, Gilmour performs ‘Dominoes‘ from Syd’s 1970 album Barrett.

It sounds like a lockdown song,” Gilmour shares of the second cover.

Gilmour’s newly rediscovered fascination with these songs comes from proofreading a forthcoming book of Syd Barrett’s lyrics.

(The book has yet to receive a title or release date.)

In addition to performing the two covers, Gilmour also relates how the task of going through Syd Barrett’s original master tapes to discern the precise meaning of his words has been challenging.

It’s extremely hard to get them correct,” Gilmour shares of Syd Barrett’s idiosyncratic performance and lyrical style.

The Pink Floyd guitarist even goes as far as to suggest that long-running fan theory that Barrett actually sings “mad cat” and not “madcap” in ‘Octopus’ may be true.

This, therefore, could make the title of the album The Madcap Laughs – which Gilmour shares was his not Barrett’s idea – somewhat incorrect.

Watch both covers below.

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