The Making of "The Madcap Laughs"

Making of the Sleeve

The task of designing the album sleeve went to Storm Thorgorson and Aubrey 'Po' Powell of Hipgnosis, who had previously done the design for 'A Saucerful Of Secrets'.  In 1967 all album graphics were, by tradition, done by the resident designers in the record companies.  The Beatles, at E.M.I. at least, were probably the first group ever to be allowed to bring in outside designers, and the Pink Floyd were the second. Allowing outsiders to do artwork was little short of a heresy, and complaints such as 'It's the wrong size for the platemakers' or 'the EMI logo is in the wrong place' (it had to be placed top left) were offered as the reason for keeping work within the company.  It also allowed the company, understandably, to keep greater control over the progress of work.  Almost single-handed in Britain, Hipgnosis managed, by their work for the Floyd and acts on Harvest that I gave to Hipgnosis at the design stage, to change the quality of album graphics and put an end to years of indifferent work.  In 1982 it is almost expected that a group will have a very large say in the design of their sleeve, or even do (or commission) the work themselves.  But in 1967 it was a very different story!  One day in October or November I had cause to drop in at Syd's flat on my way home to leave him a tape of the album, and what I saw gave me quite a start.  In anticipation of the photographic session for the sleeve, Syd had painted the bare floorboards of his room orange and purple.  Up until then the floor was bare, with Syd's few possessions mostly on the floor; hi-fi, guitar, cushions, books and paintings.  In fact the room was much as appears on the original 'Madcap' sleeve.  Syd was well pleased with his days work and I must say it made a fine setting for the session due to take place.

     By the time the artwork was completed it was too late to get the album pressed and into the shops in time for Christmas without doing an unprofessional job of work.  Then, as now, it is usually beneficial to pre-sell the album by giving a salesman a finished sleeve to show to the buyers in the individual shops. Such a sales aid can double advanced orders, but tends to delay the release of the record.  In the end a months delay means no lost sales (if someone wants an album, he will more likely than not still want it a month later!) but all too often there is pressure from management and from the artist him or herself to rush the release of the record.  In my experience such actions are rarely likely to increase sales, usually it is the opposite. Fortunately, is Syd's case, there was no such pressure and the sales department scheduled the album for their January supplement, with our choice of single, 'Octopus' / 'Golden Hair' helping to pre-sell the album during December.  The album is still available over ten years later, so I think our release plan didn't to it much harm!

     The initial reaction was generally very good, with a particularly flattering review in the then fledgling 'Time Out'. Syd was offered a 'live' session by Top Gear, and the recording was broadcast during late February.  Elsewhere there was precious little airplay either for the single or for any of the album tracks.  Radio was even more charts oriented than it is today with only a couple of 'rock' programmes per week, and the initial sales of a couple of thousand were largely through word of mouth based on Syd's reputation.  I recently found a sales figure sheet dated 27th February, showing that, in almost two months, 'The Madcap Laughs' had sold just over 6,000 copies.  Not bad! 'Melody Maker', while not devoting many column inches to the record gave a fairly enthusiastic review, saying it was 'a fine album full of madness and lunacy representing the Barrett mind unleashed'.  'Disc' called it 'an excellent album to start 1970'.

    'Beat Instrumental' gave it a rather strange, uncomprehending
review, putting it in a 'late night' bracket, and stating that 'Terrapin' comprised vocals, guitar and washboard'!! Nevertheless it was a good review, calling it a 'beautiful solo album'.  The January 31st edition of 'Melody Maker' carried an interview with Syd by Chris Welch, with Syd stating that 'Top Of The Pops' is all right! and that he had written lots more material.  N.M.E. made the observation that, with the listing of five engineers, it would have been a nice touch to list the musicians too.  Sad to say that was contractually impossible, as all the musicians involved were under contract to other companies, and in the climate of 1970 rival labels were reluctant
to allow their stars to appear on other labels.  This was
particularly annoying as it is only fair to list musicians who have made a significant contribution to an album.  It wasn't possible, though, so their names were left off.  In a sense it added an air of mystery to the whole affair, but there is no reason why the re-issue double album could not have rectified the situation.  Unfortunately this was not done and to this day no musician credits appear on the sleeve.

     For my own part, among my usual efforts, I took the time to write a letter, under an assumed name, to M.M. saying how great
the album was.  Dishonest ?  Not really, but I felt I had to do all I could personally manage to help sell the record.  At the time I had no financial stake, and when the letter was published I allowed myself a private smile.

     All in all, the initial sales and reaction were sufficient to justify sanctioning a second solo album.  The first session took place as early as 26th Feb., and the following day Syd made four songs as demos only, in stereo only, not multi track.  They were 'Wolfpack', 'Waving My Arms In The Air', 'Living Alone' and a track that has since been the subject of much speculation 'Dylan Blues'.  David Gilmour is credited, on the recording sheet, as having taken the tape with him at the end of the session.  I am sure Syd's fans would love to hear those four demos to compare them with the versions released on 'Barrett', but above all, the 'Dylan Blues' is the most tantalising!  I
often wonder if Dave still has the tape.  Still, that's another story!!