Pink Floyd – See Emily Play

Recently I’ve been listening to some early Pink Floyd. This was quite a bit different from their more famous 70s-80s output. I like what I’ve heard so far from the Syd Barret days.

Syd Barrett wrote this…he was one of the band’s original members and the group’s leader. He became very unpredictable, sometimes refusing to play at shows.

Barrett claimed “Emily” was a girl he saw when he woke up one night after sleeping in the woods after a gig. It is unclear if she was a real person or a drug-induced hallucination.

David Gilmour was asked by the members of Pink Floyd to join the band to supplement the guitar work of the increasingly erratic Syd Barrett. For a brief time, Syd and David were both members of Pink Floyd at the same time. When Barrett’s mental breakdown made it impossible for him to continue with the group, Gilmour became a permanent, contributing member in time for their second album, 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets. Syd Barrett contributed one track to that album, his last with Pink Floyd. Syd departed the band soon after that.

The song peaked at #6 in the UK, #134 in Billboard, and #25 in Germany in 1967.

From Songfacts

This was Pink Floyd’s second single. Their first was “Arnold Layne.”

Barrett did the slide guitar work on this song with a Zippo lighter (he used it as a slide, not to set the guitar on fire). 

The original title was “Games For May.” They performed it live a few times before changing it.

This is an example of the psychedelic sound Pink Floyd was known for. Over the next few years, they tried to lose the psychedelic image because they wanted people to know there was much more to their music.

This was included on the 2001 Pink Floyd retrospective album, Echoes. The tracks flow seamlessly together.

The song was inspired in part by 15-year-old schoolgirl Emily Young, who was the daughter of Wayland Young, 2nd Baron Kennet. She recalled to Mojo:

“On Friday night at the Saints Hall, the regular band was the Pink Floyd Sound. I was more into R&B, so their dreamy hippie thing wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was interesting. And the light show was wonderful, and I liked to get stoned and dance. After playing, we’d sit around on grey sofas and pass around joints. I was quite pretty and word got out that I was a lord’s daughter, and apparently the guys in the band called me the ‘psychedelic schoolgirl.'”

“See Emily Play” began life as a Syd Barrett song written for Pink Floyd’s concert-cum-happening Games For May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on May 12, 1967. Emily missed the event but someone told her all about it. She recalled: “I thought, gosh, that’s nice, a song with my name, but I didn’t think it was about me. And I don’t think it was now because Syd and me didn’t have a love affair and he didn’t really know me. It could have been some other girl who played a part in his dream. It could have been Jenny, but Emily scanned better.”

See Emily Play

Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh
She’s often inclined to borrow somebody’s dreams till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way

You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play

Soon after dark Emily cries, ah ooh
Gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play

Free games for May
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily (Emily)

There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

46 thoughts on “Pink Floyd – See Emily Play”

    1. Completely agree. They change so much, my favorite period is Meddle and Atom Heart Mother when they still had a more loose improvisational feel but the composition of Wish you Were Here and evening the Final Cut are such great LPs

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s like finding a new band to listen to. I’ve heard their output from 73 onward so much…Some really cool melodic songs. Atom Heard Mother I haven’t heard as much…I will give it a listen. Thanks for reading

        Liked by 1 person

  1. When I think, “I’d like to listen to some Pink Floyd,” Piper isn’t in my mental list to choose from. But sometimes I actually want to hear the weirdness of Syd, and that album and The Madcap Laughs hit the spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have listened to the Madcap Laughs and I do like it.
      Early Pink Floyd music though I haven’t as much…I’m jumping in more now. It’s like finding a new band.

      Like

    1. I am beginning to like the Syd years more and more. I’m going to check their first album out more.
      I do like that cover! They juiced it up a bit…love the hook at the start.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My Pink Floyd journey started with “Wish You Were Here”, “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” – obviously all very different from the Syd Barrett era.

    It took me a while to fully appreciate Pink Floyd’s early work. Now I really dig most of it. “See Emily Play”, “Arnold Layne” and “Bike” are among my favorite early tunes.

    I think the 1971 compilation “Relics” provides a good entry into their early period.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m late on this one! What a pick! To me, this is music psychedelia at its prime. It’s hypnotic, it’s drugged, it’s what hotfox63 refers to as the happiness before the darkness for Barret. I still go back to pre-Gilmour Floyd in October when I enjoy some trippy music to the autumn skyline. So tragic what happened to Syd. “How I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl.” Great entry, Max!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the 70s/80s Floyd gets overplayed and loses its defining edge because of it. My fave Syd era song is “Arnold Layne” about the poor cross dresser who feels shame. Such short little song gems that stick with you. “Bike” is another trippy funny gem that makes me smile every time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That was the next one I was going to feature…Arnold Layne…
        Plus I want to cover one off of his solo album The Madcap Laughs

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Max, if you get a chance (if you havent already) check out Live At Pompeii ‘Echoes’ It was what hooked me on the band way back. ‘Echoes Pt 1’ about 7 minutes in Gilmour goes to town. I loved the way they filmed it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was a perfect idea… what a location to do that in. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. When I saw the video I did a double take.

        Liked by 1 person

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