Pink Floyd – Arnold Layne

I’ve been listening to the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd and ran across this one. You can hear the later Pink Floyd in this. 

This was Pink Floyd’s debut single in 1967. 

Syd Barrett wrote this about a true story….a cross-dresser who he called “Arnold Layne” who used to steal bras and panties from clotheslines in Cambridge, England. Barrett lived near Roger Waters growing up. Their mothers both lost underwear to Arnold Layne.

Of course Radio London banned this song, since it was about a man who steals women’s undergarments. Surprisingly BBC played it,saying they either didn’t have a problem with this particular subject matter or didn’t understand it…probably the latter. 

The song peaked at #20 in the UK in 1967. 

In the promotional materials to accompany the single, the band’s record company, EMI, wrote: “Pink Floyd does not know what people mean by psychedelic pop and are not trying to cause hallucinatory effects on their audience.”

The promotional black-and-white music video displayed the band with Syd Barrett. It shows Pink Floyd goofing around with a mannequin on the beach in East Wittering, West Sussex, England in late February 1967 ahead of the song’s release the following month.

Roger Waters:  ‘Both my mother and Syd’s mother had students as lodgers because there was a girl’s college up the road so there was constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines.’ In one curious incident, the bras and knickers that hung on the washing lines in the Barrett’s garden proved irresistible to a local underwear fetishist. This character, whom Barrett would later immortalize in song as Arnold Layne, made off with many of poor nursing students’ undergarments, presumably to indulge his fantasies. ‘Arnold or whoever he was, had bits and pieces off our washing lines. They never caught him. He stopped doing it after a bit, when things got too hot for him.’ ‘I was in Cambridge at the time I started to write the song,’ Syd Barrett told *Melody Maker*. ‘I pinched the line about “moonshine washing line” from Roger because he had an enormous washing line in the back garden of his house. Then I thought “Arnold must have a hobby” and it went on from there. Arnold Layne just happened to dig dressing up in women’s clothing.’

From Songfacts

The group was set to make their Top Of The Pops debut with a performance of this song in April 1967, but were dropped when it fell three places on the UK chart that week. They first appeared on the show July 6, performing “See Emily Play.”

Barrett was the group leader and an excellent songwriter, but he did a lot of drugs and lost his mind over the next year, becoming England’s first high-profile acid casualty. He was kicked out of the band the next year, replaced by David Gilmour.

Before the band came out at their shows in the late ’80s, this played while video of Pink Floyd in 1967 was shown on the giant screens.

This had a blues sound the band was known for. Pink Floyd’s name originated from Syd Barrett. His two favorite blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, appeared to him in what he referred to as a “vision,” giving Syd the idea for the name. 

The song made an unexpected appearance in the live sets of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour during his 2006 tour promoting his solo album, On an Island. Later in the year, two live recordings of the song, from Gilmour’s On an Island shows at the Royal Albert Hall were released as a live single, which peaked at #19 on the UK singles chart. One version had guest vocals by David Bowie, the other by Floyd’s Richard Wright.

Arnold Layne

Arnold Layne
Had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes
Moonshine washing line
They suit him fine

On the wall
Hung a tall mirror
Distorted view
See through baby blue
He done it, oh, Arnold Layne
It’s not the same,
It takes two to know
Two to know
Two to know
Two to know
Why can’t you see?

Arnold Layne
Arnold Layne
Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne

Now he’s caught
A nasty sort of person
They gave him time
Doors bang, chain gang
He hates it
Oh, Arnold Layne
It’s not the same
It takes two to know
Two to know
Two to know
Two to know
Why can’t you see?

Arnold Layne
Arnold Layne
Arnold Layne

Arnold Layne, don’t do it again

Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

35 thoughts on “Pink Floyd – Arnold Layne”

  1. Pink Floyd in their poppy early days! Short and happy song. Don’t look for depth just enjoy the sunshine while it lasts (Syd Barret’s dark moods begin to surface not too much later).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A fine ’60s single by one of the great ’70s bands… but I bet most people wouldn’t identify the band if it was played, since it was so atypical of the Floyd of six to ten or twelve years later. I never really listened to the lyrics before – interesting, odd story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can hear the future Pink Floyd in parts of it but not real strong of course. I love the story of the song though.


  3. Poor Arnold. Back then, I bet it was even tougher to be a cross-dresser and misunderstood. “It takes two to know.” I love the briefness of this song – a short, bittersweet tale with psychedelic jamming at the end. Just moody, blurry, dazed fun! Also, Waters sure knows how to make the electric bass sound “fuller.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a compilation called Relics. It’s a bit annoying as most of it is recycled from the studio albums – but collects some of the early singles (although leaves off Apples and Oranges).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Piper at the Gates of Dawn has become my favorite Pink Floyd album. When I was a kid in the 70s/80s I worshipped all their arena rock albums, Dark Side, Animals, etc, but now I find it difficult to listen to those – The greatness of the Waters era is undeniable but I exhausted the appeal.
    Luckily I rediscovered the Syd era about 10 years ago and I’m a total born again convert. Yes, there’s 60’s pop elements and catchy melodies, but there’s also explosive psychedelic rock like Astronomy Domine, Lucifer Sam, and Interstellar Overdrive that are every bit as intense as anything in the Pink Floyd catalog. I wish Syd had been able to stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am where you were… I really like what I’m hearing. I am a Beatles fan of course and they do have some of the same feel for melodies at that time….but were different .
      I like The Madcap Laughs also…it’s a whole new world of Pink Floyd.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have two fave floyd albums: ‘Piper at the gates of dawn’ and ‘Ummagumma’ (in particular the long track, ‘set the controls for the heart of the sun’.

        Liked by 1 person

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