Pink Floyd, "Astronomy Domine"

>> Monday, November 28, 2011

From a 1968 Belgian television program, here's the Floyd doing an anarchic version of "Astronomy Domine". My favorite things about the clip, actually: (1) Nick Mason's hat, which isn't anything nobody's seen before (he wore it a lot back then) but is a really cool hat until it magically disappears during a bad splice around the middle of the song; and (2) a wonderfully candid assessment from Roger about whether Pink Floyd is a commercial band:

Interviewer: Are you commercial or are you not commercial?

Roger: Um, I don't know--you tell me. You live here. If our records are selling, we're commercial.

Interviewer: I think you are not, not commercial.

Roger: So our records aren't selling here.

It was a rough time for the band, and they weren't selling records, or at least nowhere close to as many as they'd have liked. The band's practically-sole-songwriter, Syd Barrett, had just been fired or was being fired and the remaining band members, along with Barrett's replacement, David Gilmour, were trying to figure out how to fill the void with the songs Barrett had finished before losing his mind and write their own new material in his stead. Roger Waters and Richard Wright, particularly, would attempt to write singles (something Barrett had an aptitude for), but none of those 45s sold especially well and after "Point Me At The Sky" failed to chart, the band would all-but abandon singles and focus on album tracks.

The bad news about that decision was that this was still, really, the heyday of the single and by foregoing singles releases, the band was seriously limiting their exposure. The good news was that the decision was made during the nascent days of what would become the album-oriented rock radio format, and singles were about to become a little less important for promoting an act. It was also a good choice insofar as the only member of the band who had any real aptitude for dropping single cuts on short notice was Waters, but focusing on albums instead of singles freed the band up to compose tracks out of stage and studio jam sessions, ultimately leading to the "spacier", whole-side-of-the-LP songs and suites the band would become famous for in the '70s. (Indeed, an early problem for the band even in their singles days was cutting some of their longer freak-outs down to single-length for studio release. Deciding they weren't going to release singles that weren't going to sell anyway freed the band from having to make the same kinds of cuts for length.)

Now, about that hat, though. I mean, it has a feather and everything. It's a seriously cool hat, though I have to wonder if a man can really rock a hat like that without the shaggy hair and 'stash. It probably sounds like mocking when I go on like this about it, but I truly dig that hat. I wonder what happened to it. Does he still have it? Why doesn't it have a Facebook page? Could I make a Facebook page for it? Etc.

Somehow, I fear it's a young man's hat. A young man's or Sam Elliott's, but only because Sam Elliott was born to rock a hat (he was also born with a moustache and looking like weathered granite, I'm reasonably sure). I may well be too old to rock a hat like Nick Mason's hat; rocking a hat requires a certain kind of youthful conviction that you magically lose around, oh, probably twenty-eight, twenty-nine, somewhere around there. Men who aren't Sam Elliott can wear hats after that age--sure, they do it all the time, I've seen them, I'm not oblivious, but I don't think they rock them, I don't think you look at their hats and say, "Holy shit, now that is an awesome hat, my friend," when you see an older guy wearing a hat. You see a guy who's past his twenties wearing a hat, you ask him if it's cold outside. Unless, of course, he's obviously Jewish or Amish or something like that, then you just figure it's one of those "God" things that some people have to do, because, you know, The Lord just digs yarmulkes, I guess.

I used to wear a hat in college a lot, actually. It was a pretty awesome hat, a suede fedora and it went with a great duster I owned. Twenty-somethings are such pretentious asses, right? But it was a boss hat; not Nick Mason's hat, by any stretch of the imagination, and I didn't have a cool 'stash or anything like that, but I felt kind of cool wearing the ensemble, y'know? I cannot for the life of me remember for certain if there were feathers in my cap, but I think there were. Pretty sure there were, anyway. So I had this hat and I had this duster, but I think the hat died a miserable death somewhere along the line--nothing dramatic or catastrophic or memorable, you know, just the sort of gradual death things die when they're used every single day for years on end, a bit worn out here and faded thin there; same kind of thing with the duster, but I think there were actual holes in it by the time I'd knocked around in it for years and years; a nice coat, but less practical than it might have seemed: waterproof, yeah, but a little too heavy for cool weather and really too light for cold. But I like to tell myself I looked pretty awesome in it. It's not wholly inconceivable to me I may have rocked the look a little now and again, though of course I'd say that and you might want to ask somebody else (though I'd rather you didn't).

But if Nick Mason has any similar self-doubts, he can go to sleep at night knowing he rocked the hat.


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