Wednesday, August 12, 2009

losing when my mind's astray

44 Syd Barrett, ‘Dominoes’

For entry number 44 (only 5 to go after this one), we move from the bright pop of the Tremeloes to the incandescent aura that surrounded Syd Barrett. It’s like comparing the atmosphere on Mars to the heat generated by the sun.

In 1970 Syd was not yet a burnt out cliched acid casualty. He was still frequently a coherent rapscallion who could play with the language and with the sounds that he heard in his head and, with help from Dave Gilmour, he could still translate those sounds into songs. One thing’s for sure – no one else on the planet could have written Dominoes, certainly not The Tremeloes.

It’s such a tricky song – it’s hard to pin down. It shifts and morphs and won’t sit still. Was it really written 40 years ago? Extraordinary! How is it that the power of a great pop song can survive for all those years? Maybe because the song is both of its time and universal. It’s got a sense of the twee and the cosmic, is dark yet warm. It deals with the mundane (playing dominoes) and questing (don’t you want to know with your pretty hair). It contains (probably not deliberate) references to various senses - (the sound of a lark, the texture of a shell) and the elements (fireworks, tears) but in the end it’s more about time passing than it is anything tangible. The days are like dominoes, one tumbles after the other in a permanent now.

Syd sings with a peculiar melancholic delivery and you can sense the days just drifting by him in a haze. That haze is created in the sound scape by the backwards guitars. After The Beatles Rain, this is the best, most natural use of this technique (David Gilmour’s production or Syd? Who knows? Only David now).

Poor Syd. He flamed out in a blaze of glory. Time goes by…

Robyn Hitchcock does a terrific version in his garden -

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