English rock band Pink Floyd  in November 1967. From left to right: Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Syd Barrett. Baron Wolman / Iconic Images / Getty Images.
English rock band Pink Floyd in November 1967. From left to right: Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Syd Barrett. Baron Wolman / Iconic Images / Getty Images.

Pink Floyd: The Early Years 1965-1972 review – a band dogged by anxiety

Roger Waters had the dominant personality; David Gilmour and Rick Wright the musicianship. Perversely, though, the person who exerted the greatest influence on Pink Floyd’s 50-year career was someone who left the band 48 years before that career ended.

Syd Barrett only made one full album with Pink Floyd, after which depression took him over and he retreated from public life. By January 1968 he was gone from Pink Floyd. In 1974 he played his last music, and returned to his mother’s house in Cambridge, England, where he lived, a curious legend disturbed only by the occasional reporter, until his death in 2006.

Syd was gone but he was never completely forgotten by Pink Floyd. Their first globally-successful work, 1973's Dark Side Of The Moon, drew heavily on themes of professional anxiety and mental illness, inspired – if that's the word – by him. Their next, Wish You Were Here (1975), featured a song Shine On You Crazy Diamond explicitly about him. Even when Waters assumed sole captaincy of Floyd songwriting around The Wall in 1979, it's hard not to see Barrett's alienation with the music business as having fathered Waters's own.

This new box set – The Early Years, nearly 30 discs, with replica memorabilia and vinyl singles; a handsome trove of music, all for a correspondingly handsome sum of £399 (Dh1,825) – is just the kind of product that we might expect from a hugely successful band. Indeed, it has been put together by tanned, rather portly 70-somethings, who will next year commemorate their many triumphs with a museum exhibit.

However, this is a different kind of story. Although the music is excellent, much of the material here records the period of Pink Floyd’s greatest anxiety: after Barrett’s departure, and before their first global success, when they are forced to confront an extremely difficult question. Without a major songwriter what, exactly, will they do?

In 1965, as the set begins, Pink Floyd are a band like countless others of their generation: teenagers entering further education with a love of American R&B music and a wish to make something similar. They are led by Roger “Syd” Barrett, the most adventurous and inquisitive mind in their close-knit group. Even on the earliest demos, Barrett’s eccentric wit exerts a powerful spin on their source material.

It doesn't take long for his inspirations – the wonder and literature of childhood, amplified by experiments on the consciousness – to give rise to songs of great strangeness and originality. Arnold Layne, about a man stealing clothes from washing lines, and its follow-up See Emily Play were both commercial successes, but in the glare of promotional engagements, domestic touring and foreign travel, the mental illness that had long lain dormant in Barrett was suddenly permitted to wake.

Barrett unspooled in public and his erratic behaviour led the band's record company to lose confidence in his wayward genius. Nor was the situation easy to disguise. A new member, David Gilmour, was recruited to paper over the plentiful cracks. Syd, meanwhile, who had written all the songs on the band's debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn now on the follow-up, A Saucerful Of Secrets, only wrote one.

That song, Jugband Blues, is forlorn but brilliant. In fact, its production seems to enact Barrett's own recent state: a brilliant opening statement, a disorientating and frightening passage in which things seem to splinter utterly. At the song's end, the singer sounds completely broken. Still, as tragic as was the background narrative, this wasn't the only Barrett song of the period, evidenced here by unreleased contemporary gems: the fragmentary In The Beechwoods, Scream Thy Last Scream and particularly the mischievous, groovy Vegetable Man.

It’s very easy to understand how, by the mid-1980s, with Syd alive but unseen, and these tracks only available on the black market, that a huge mythos should have grown up around him – contributing in part to the British psychedelic revival of 1985 to 1987.

This set values substance over myth, and adds musical bones to the Barrett ghost. As well as early demos like Lucy Leave and the Bo Diddley-inspired Double O Bo, there is a 1967 live set from Stockholm, and the band's improvised soundtrack for Peter Whitehead's film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London. A disc of less sonically-perfect stuff finds Vegetable Man appearing again, clearly recorded in front of a radio in 1967. You can completely see why someone would do this.

All of which helps to explain why, in 1968, Pink Floyd were in so precarious a state, a band with a burgeoning fanbase, but no songwriter. What Pink Floyd did then – namely transform themselves from a lively psychedelic pop group into makers of epic, conceptual rock – might not have quite the dark romance of the Syd Barrett legend, but it is a tense and compelling story, which makes up the bulk of the material here. Even with Syd, improvisation was what had distinguished the live Floyd from the eccentric narratives of their studio songs. Now, in the absence of words, the band explored that avenue extensively. Privately, the band were in crisis. Publicly, they continued to offer a sensorily-deranging live show as much as they ever had done.

As the comprehensive set of material here attests, the band had a number of improvisational and astrally-minded Syd-era standbys (Astronomy Domine, the first track on Piper; Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and Interstellar Overdrive) which could flesh out a set of their more sophomoric compositions. In this period, one track, the scarifying but structured Careful With That Axe, Eugene, was renamed and repurposed on several occasions.

In the absence of words, we discover, the Floyd soundtracked ballet, tried musique concrete, and most notably offered their services as rock composers for movies. For More in 1969, and Zabriskie Point in 1970 and the less enjoyable Obscured by Clouds in 1972, they worked to amplify atmosphere. Prompted by a cinematic mood, they made steps towards evolving their own sound.

What Pink Floyd were looking for – ironically, for former architecture students – was structure. In the studio, they tried to write conventional songs, and by 1969, the likes of Grantchester Meadows (by Waters) and Fat Old Sun (Gilmour) showed they were getting somewhere. Live meanwhile – as you'll hear on disc 8 – they picked selectively from among their recent developing material to help it punch a heavier conceptual weight, creating two works they called The Man and The Journey.

This kind of editing was to provide their eureka moment. At a 1971 live radio broadcast, we hear DJ John Peel comment on how much Fat Old Sun has changed – it's now about 15 minutes longer than it used to be, and has incorporated several distinct new sections. Likewise, in the studio, the band would build epic music from smaller units of sound.

It could be a painstaking, often soul-destroying process. We know Echoes as the centrepiece of band's breakthrough album, 1971's Meddle. However, as the band worked on it, they were disheartened, splicing together dispiritingly small snippets of sound, calling each "Nothing".

Disc 16 opens with Nothing Pt 14, but if the title sounds unpromising, the music itself is quite the opposite. Over the course of seven minutes, we are introduced to the becalmed, watery expanse that will become Echoes, and are subjected to an exquisite, mounting tension.

Syd, for the moment at least, is out of mind, and the band are finding unprecedented space within a gently evolving structure. Above all, after their many frenetic experiments, the band finally sound calm; secure in the knowledge perhaps, that finally they know exactly where they are going.

John Robinson is associate editor of Uncut and The Guardian Guide’s rock critic. He lives in London.


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

The specs

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8
Power: 542bhp
Torque: 770Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price: From Dh1,450,000
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The specs: Taycan Turbo GT

Engine: Dual synchronous electric motors
Power: 1,108hp
Torque: 1,340Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic (front axle); two-speed transmission (rear axle)
Touring range: 488-560km
Price: From Dh928,400
On sale: Orders open

Jewel of the Expo 2020

252 projectors installed on Al Wasl dome

13.6km of steel used in the structure that makes it equal in length to 16 Burj Khalifas

550 tonnes of moulded steel were raised last year to cap the dome

724,000 cubic metres is the space it encloses

Stands taller than the leaning tower of Pisa

Steel trellis dome is one of the largest single structures on site

The size of 16 tennis courts and weighs as much as 500 elephants

Al Wasl means connection in Arabic

World’s largest 360-degree projection surface

How to avoid getting scammed
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Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Hili 2: Unesco World Heritage site

The site is part of the Hili archaeological park in Al Ain. Excavations there have proved the existence of the earliest known agricultural communities in modern-day UAE. Some date to the Bronze Age but Hili 2 is an Iron Age site. The Iron Age witnessed the development of the falaj, a network of channels that funnelled water from natural springs in the area. Wells allowed settlements to be established, but falaj meant they could grow and thrive. Unesco, the UN's cultural body, awarded Al Ain's sites - including Hili 2 - world heritage status in 2011. Now the most recent dig at the site has revealed even more about the skilled people that lived and worked there.

The stats

Ship name: MSC Bellissima

Ship class: Meraviglia Class

Delivery date: February 27, 2019

Gross tonnage: 171,598 GT

Passenger capacity: 5,686

Crew members: 1,536

Number of cabins: 2,217

Length: 315.3 metres

Maximum speed: 22.7 knots (42kph)


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Company profile

Company name: amana
Started: 2010
Founders: Karim Farra and Ziad Aboujeb
Based: UAE
Regulator: DFSA
Sector: Financial services
Current number of staff: 85
Investment stage: Self-funded

The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT
Power: 119bhp
Torque: 145Nm
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On sale: now


Director: Rajkumar Hirani 

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover

Rating: 4/5

UNSC Elections 2022-23

Seats open:

  • Two for Africa Group
  • One for Asia-Pacific Group (traditionally Arab state or Tunisia)
  • One for Latin America and Caribbean Group
  • One for Eastern Europe Group

Countries so far running: 

  • UAE
  • Albania 
  • Brazil 
Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

If you go...

Etihad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, from about Dh3,600. Air Asia currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu, with Berjaya Hotels & Resorts planning to launch direct chartered flights to Redang Island in the near future. Rooms at The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort start from 680RM (Dh597).


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 680hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 2,750-6,000rpm
Transmission: Rear-mounted eight-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 13.6L/100km
On sale: Orderbook open; deliveries start end of year
Price: From Dh970,000


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Signs of heat stroke
  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
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Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

On Instagram: @WithHopeUAE

Although social media can be harmful to our mental health, paradoxically, one of the antidotes comes with the many social-media accounts devoted to normalising mental-health struggles. With Hope UAE is one of them.
The group, which has about 3,600 followers, was started three years ago by five Emirati women to address the stigma surrounding the subject. Via Instagram, the group recently began featuring personal accounts by Emiratis. The posts are written under the hashtag #mymindmatters, along with a black-and-white photo of the subject holding the group’s signature red balloon.
“Depression is ugly,” says one of the users, Amani. “It paints everything around me and everything in me.”
Saaed, meanwhile, faces the daunting task of caring for four family members with psychological disorders. “I’ve had no support and no resources here to help me,” he says. “It has been, and still is, a one-man battle against the demons of fractured minds.”
In addition to With Hope UAE’s frank social-media presence, the group holds talks and workshops in Dubai. “Change takes time,” Reem Al Ali, vice chairman and a founding member of With Hope UAE, told The National earlier this year. “It won’t happen overnight, and it will take persistent and passionate people to bring about this change.”

Abu Dhabi GP Saturday schedule

12.30pm GP3 race (18 laps)

2pm Formula One final practice 

5pm Formula One qualifying

6.40pm Formula 2 race (31 laps)


Euro 2020 qualifier

Ukraine 2 (Yaremchuk 06', Yarmolenko 27')

Portugal 1 (Ronaldo 72' pen)