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See Emily Play

"See Emily Play"
Single by Pink Floyd
B-side "Scarecrow"
Released 16 June 1967
Format 7"
Recorded 21 May 1967 at Sound Techniques, London
Genre Psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop[1]
Length 2:53
Label Columbia (EMI) (UK)
Tower (US)
Writer(s) Syd Barrett
Producer(s) Norman Smith
Pink Floyd singles chronology
"Arnold Layne"
"See Emily Play"

"See Emily Play" is the second single by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd.[2][3] Written by original frontman Syd Barrett and recorded on 23 May 1967, it featured "The Scarecrow" as its B-side. Though it was initially released as a non-album single, the song appeared on the American edition of their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). "See Emily Play" is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and reached No. 6 in the United Kingdom singles chart.[4] As of 2015, the song has never been mixed to stereo, so the US album version was rechannelled and all subsequent reissues have been in mono.


  • Background 1
  • Recording and release 2
  • Television performances 3
  • Personnel 4
  • Other versions 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


"See Emily Play" is also known as "Games for May", after a free concert in which Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd performed.[5][6] The slide guitar work on the song was done by Barrett using a plastic ruler.[7] The train depicted on the single's sleeve was drawn by him. The song only stayed in the band's setlist for a few months, and was last played on 25 November 1967 in Blackpool. It was reportedly about a girl named Emily, whom Barrett claimed he saw while sleeping in the woods after taking a psychedelic drug. He later stated that the story about sleeping in the woods and seeing a girl before him was made up "...all for publicity." According to A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, by Nicholas Schaffner, Emily is the Honourable Emily Young,[8][9] daughter of Wayland Hilton Young, 2nd Baron Kennet,[10] and the sister of author Louisa Young, and nicknamed "the psychedelic schoolgirl" at the UFO Club. An article in Mojo magazine called "See the Real Emily" supposedly shows a picture of Barrett's Emily.

Recording and release

The details as to the recording remain shrouded in mystery due to the lack of paperwork in the EMI archive. Engineer Jeff Jarrett recalls that "See Emily Play" was recorded in a much longer form which was then edited down[6] for the single release. It was recorded at Sound Techniques studios on 21 May 1967.[6][11] There was much trickery involved in the recording with backward tapes, much use of echo and reverb, and the first piano bridge between the first chorus and second verse was recorded at a slow pace then sped up for the final master. The four-track master tape was wiped or misplaced. It no longer exists and has never been mixed into true stereo; it was reprocessed for fake stereo on the 1971 Relics compilation. The US single (Tower 356) was released by Tower Records three times between July 1967 and late 1968. Each time it failed to duplicate its UK success.

Barrett, reportedly, was not happy with the final studio cut, and he protested against its release, which producer Norman Smith speculated was based on his fear of commercialism. It was during sessions for the song that David Gilmour visited the studio,[6] and although being invited by Barrett, was shocked by the perceived changes in Barrett's personality when he did not appear to recognise him.[6] For many years Gilmour would recall this, saying, "I'll go on record as saying, that was when he changed".[6]

Part of the vocal melody was played on a Mini Moog by Rick Wright at the very end of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" at the end of Wish You Were Here, as a tribute to Barrett. It later appeared on the compilations Relics (1971), Works (1983), Shine On (1992), Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (2001),[12] The Piper at the Gates of Dawn 40th Anniversary Edition (2007), and on A Foot in the Door – The Best of Pink Floyd (2011). The song was also included on the Barrett retrospective, An Introduction to Syd Barrett (2010).

Television performances

Top of the Pops, BBCTV, July 1967

Pink Floyd performed the song three times on BBC TV's Top of the Pops.[13][14] On each occasion, they mimed to the single and Barrett would occasionally sing a live vocal. Also adding to the legend was the fact the BBC wiped the shows, all of which were "live" transmissions. In late 2009, a badly damaged home video recording was recovered by the British Film Institute containing two of the shows the song was performed on, though only the first appearance was recoverable in part. The first performance was on the 6 July 1967 edition, hosted by Alan Freeman. Parts of this performance have been recovered from the damaged video recording.

They returned for the following week's edition, 13 July, hosted by DJ Pete Murray. Barrett complained that the band shouldn't appear, because "John Lennon doesn't do Top Of The Pops". He did perform but without the enthusiasm of the previous week. The last appearance was on 27 July 1967. Once more hosted by Freeman, Barrett failed to turn up for rehearsals at BBC Television Centre. This prompted managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King to perform a frantic search for Barrett. He was found at a friend's house, with badly bruised feet after arriving barefoot. He was said to be in a poor state of mind. Taken to the BBC, he performed sat down on a large cushion due to his physical and mental condition.

The recoverable parts of the 6 July performance were given a public screening in London on 9 January 2010 at an event called "Missing Believed Wiped" devoted to recovered TV shows. It was the first time any footage was seen of the performance since its original broadcast. The Pink Floyd management now have a copy of the footage, and have promised to use it on a future project.

Beat Club, Radio Bremen August 1967 — cancelled

The band were booked to appear on this edition of Beat Club. Barrett had suffered "nervous exhaustion" and the band managers decided to give the band a month long break in the hope his health would recover. Therefore the booking for this appearance had to be cancelled.

Belgian TV, February 1968

In 1968, Pink Floyd travelled to Belgium where they filmed a TV special entitled "Pink Floid" (this misspelling is on the title credits) which featured lip-synched promotional films for "See Emily Play", as well as for "Astronomy Domine", "The Scarecrow", "Apples and Oranges", "Paint Box", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "Corporal Clegg". This was Gilmour's first TV work with the band. Barrett was still technically a member of the band but it had recently been decided to no longer collect him for gigs or shows. Therefore, Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright had to mime to Barrett's vocals.


Other versions

  • A cover of "See Emily Play" by Canadian group Three to One (aka Okee Pokey Band) is on the 1967 Yorkville album CTV After Four. This version also appears on the psychedelic compilation album Pebbles, Volume 14.
  • David Bowie recorded a version of "See Emily Play" for Pin Ups in 1973.
  • Japanese group Salon Music recorded a cover version of the song for their 1984 album La Paloma Show (Pony Canyon C28A0371).
  • A cover appears as (one of two) B-sides on a 1991 CD single ("I Am Here") from The Grapes of Wrath, a Canadian jangle-pop group. The same version is available on the 1994 compilation album Seems Like Fate 1984–1992.
  • All About Eve played the song live c. 1992 and recorded a demo, which was not released until 2006 as part of the Keepsakes compilation.
  • The song was covered by Arjen Anthony Lucassen on his 1997 album Strange Hobby and The Changelings on their 2002 album Astronomica.
  • Judy Dyble, the original lead singer of Fairport Convention, recorded a cover of "See Emily Play" in 2004 for her album Spindle.
  • A cover of "See Emily Play" by David West, appears on the 2001 bluegrass tribute album Pickin' on Pink Floyd: A Bluegrass Tribute.[15]
  • A cover appears on the 2008 album I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too by Martha Wainwright.
  • A cover of also appears on the 2008 re-release of the album The End Is Begun by the band 3. This is a heavily modified version, with an added bridge made by rearranging lyrics from the final verse.
  • A parody appears on the 2013 album "Cover Your Ears" by French Canadian duo "Sèxe Illégal". The song is renamed "Si Émile est gay" or "If Emile is gay"
  • John Frusciante played it live.


  1. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (2005). Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey (New ed.). London: Helter Skelter. p. 65.  
  2. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh:  
  3. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London:  
  4. ^ "PINK FLOYD | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. pp. 160–161.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 38.  
  7. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 171.  
  8. ^ Biography, Emily Young Sculpture.
  9. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 161.  
  10. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. pp. 93–94.  
  11. ^ Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 29. 
  12. ^ "Echoes: the album credits". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  13. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (2005). Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey (New ed.). London: Helter Skelter. p. 13.  
  14. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 38–39.  
  15. ^ Pickin on Pink Floyd: Bluegrass Tribute

External links

  • Music video of the song on YouTube. Accessed September 2009.
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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