Octopus (Syd Barrett song)

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Syd barrett octopusFR.jpg
French picture sleeve
Single by Syd Barrett
from the album The Madcap Laughs
B-side"Golden Hair"
Released14 November 1969
Format7" vinyl
RecordedMay 1968,[1] and 12 and 13 June 1969
20 July 1968 (Opel version)
GenrePsychedelic rock
Length3:47 (single and Madcap version)
3:27 (Opel version)
LabelHarvest Records
Songwriter(s)Syd Barrett
Producer(s)Syd Barrett and David Gilmour
Syd Barrett singles chronology
"Wouldn't You Miss Me"
The Madcap Laughs track listing
13 tracks
Side one
  1. "Terrapin"
  2. "No Good Trying"
  3. "Love You"
  4. "No Man's Land"
  5. "Dark Globe"
  6. "Here I Go"
Side two
  1. "Octopus"
  2. "Golden Hair"
  3. "Long Gone"
  4. "She Took a Long Cold Look"
  5. "Feel"
  6. "If It's In You"
  7. "Late Night"
An Introduction to Syd Barrett track listing
18 tracks
  1. "Arnold Layne"
  2. "See Emily Play"
  3. "Apples and Oranges"
  4. "Matilda Mother"
  5. "Chapter 24"
  6. "Bike"
  7. "Terrapin"
  8. "Love You"
  9. "Dark Globe"
  10. "Here I Go"
  11. "Octopus"
  12. "She Took a Long Cool Look"
  13. "If It's In You"
  14. "Baby Lemonade"
  15. "Dominoes"
  16. "Gigolo Aunt"
  17. "Effervescing Elephant"
  18. "Bob Dylan Blues"

"Octopus" (originally recorded as "Clowns and Jugglers" and also known as "The Madcap Laughs",[2]) is a song by Syd Barrett. It appeared on his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs.


I carried that about in my head for about six months before I actually wrote it 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.

"Octopus" directly quotes a section from the poem "Rilloby-Rill" by Sir Henry Newbolt. The song features a variety of other influences as well.[4]


After Barrett left Pink Floyd in April 1968, Peter Jenner from the band's management followed suit. Jenner led Barrett into EMI Studios to record some tracks[5] in May, that would later be released on Barrett's first solo album.[1] During the May sessions, Jenner failed to record, properly, any vocals at all, for several tracks one of them, "Clown and Jugglers".[2] Sessions stopped once Barrett was in psychiatric care, apparently after a drive around Britain in his Mini.[6]

After New Year 1969, a somewhat recovered Barrett decided upon returning to a musical career; Barrett contacted EMI, and was passed on to Malcolm Jones, the then-head of EMI's new prog rock label, Harvest.[5] Barrett wanted to recover the Jenner-produced sessions recordings; several tracks, including "Clowns and Jugglers", were improved upon.[7]

An early version of the song was released on the Barrett rarities album Opel (1988) under the title "Clowns and Jugglers", which was recorded with the band Soft Machine. The 1993 re-releases of The Madcap Laughs and Opel contain alternate versions of "Octopus" and "Clowns and Jugglers" respectively, as bonus tracks.[8]


The album's title came about as a result of co-producer David Gilmour mishearing a line from this song ("Well, the mad cat laughed at the man on the border..." - although the word "madcap" does figure in another of the song's lyrics, "To a madcap galloping chase"). "Octopus" is known for being Barrett's only single as a solo artist. It was released on 14 November 1969, two months before the release of The Madcap Laughs.[9] In France, the single gained a picture sleeve, which had the drawing of an octopus on it. A very scarce exemplar of this single has been auctioned for 10,500 euros on 19 June 2016 (Lot 284) during an 8000 vinyl records sale organized by the "Discothèque de Radio France"[10][11][12]

It was included on the multi-artist Harvest compilation A Breath of Fresh Air – A Harvest Records Anthology 1969–1974 in 2007.[13] For later release in 2010, on An Introduction to Syd Barrett, David Gilmour added bass to one track, "Here I Go".[14] In 2011, as part of Record Store Day Black Friday, a limited edition tin-set featuring a replica of the "Octopus" single yellow vinyl, with a 120-page book of photos of Barrett by photographer, Mick Rock, was released in the US.[15][16]



  1. ^ a b Manning, Toby (2006). "Set the Controls". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 70. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  2. ^ a b Manning, Toby (2006). "Set the Controls". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 70–71. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  3. ^ "Syd Barrett: Lucy Leave & Other Rarities - All Pink Floyd Fan Network". Pinkfloydfan.net. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  4. ^ Palacios, Julian (30 September 2009). "Untangling the Octopus". Socialartsnetwork.ning.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b Jones, Malcolm (2003). The Making of The Madcap Laughs (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 3.
  6. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). "Set the Controls". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 71. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  7. ^ Jones, Malcolm (2003). The Making of The Madcap Laughs (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. pp. 3–4.
  8. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Crazy Diamond - Syd Barrett : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  9. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Octopus - Syd Barrett : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Octopus / Golden Hair by Syd Barrett : Reviews and Ratings". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  11. ^ http://www.art-richelieu.fr/flash/index.jsp?id=27160&idCp=372&lng=fr
  12. ^ https://www.franceinter.fr/musique/decouvrez-le-catalogue-des-vinyles-mis-aux-encheres-a-radio-france
  13. ^ "A Breath of Fresh Air: A Harvest Records Anthology, 1969-1974 - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ "Pink Floyd news :: Brain Damage - 'An Introduction to Syd Barrett' coming from EMI/Harvest in October". Brain Damage. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  15. ^ oojavaguru (14 October 2011). "Wax Poetic-Vinyl Fanatics Unite!: Record Store Day Presents Black Friday 2011". New-vinyl.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  16. ^ "Syd Barrett - Mick Rock: Syd Barrett, The Photography Of Mick Rock (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 21 September 2012.