“The Scarecrow” by Pink Floyd, Released June 16th, 1967

We are four tracks deep on The Madcap Rated Series, and it pains me to say that this is the first track in Syd’s catalog that I don’t enjoy. It’s also the first, albeit one of the least offensive, of another key internal genre within our temporary prophet’s catalog: Regression To Childhood Songs. If you’re about to point out that lots of LSD-drenched ditties from this period were toying with themes and images of childhood reversion, then why not purchase a lolli and skip along a schoolyard in your old school uniform while contemplating these lyrics:

 

The black and green scarecrow as everyone knows
Stood with a bird on his hat and straw everywhere
He didn’t care
He stood in a field where barley grows
His head did no thinking
His arms didn’t move except when the wind cut up
Rough and mice ran around on the ground
He stood in a field where barley grows
The black and green scarecrow is sadder than me
But now he’s resigned to his fate
‘Cause life’s not unkind, he doesn’t mind
He stood in a field where barley grows

Twee as fuck, huh? Perhaps cloyingly so? Overbearingly so, even? Look, I realize that lots of Syd fanatics love these Childhood Regression Songs depicting scarecrows amongst the barley, mischievous gnomes, and shiny bicycle worship, but I’m just not one of them. These are the tracks that disturb me the most, considering what would happen just several years into his future, and when put against the hyper-intelligent,  economic, and guardedly emotive three minute statements that surround them I feel that they just don’t carry the same water. I would go as far as to argue that Syd himself seemed to agree with me, for it was the epochal “See Emily Play” that got that A-Side, Top Of The Pops glory on this single. When Mr. “Scarecrow” finally did emerge from the barley, he was buried way deep on the second side of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, long after the last epic squiggles of “Interstellar Overdrive” had faded from view.

All of this isn’t to say that “The Scarecrow” is a horrible song or anything. It adequately performs its function as a B-Side throwaway, which may explain why it was used for this purpose more than just once. It isn’t as scorching and fun as previous B-Side “Candy And A Currant Bun”, but it does have a pleasingly jaunty gallop over it’s barely 2-minute running time. Those double-tracked wood block percussion lines are interesting, vaguely marshal in its meter, which grates in a pleasing way against the genteel, mum’s tea-and-cake eccentricity of the track. And shout out to the always awesome Rick Write for that ever-so-distant organ line that threatens to slide right off the end of the track at any moment. Syd himself adds a few of his trademark “I can barely play, but I sure can play” acoustic strums on the outro, leaving in an audible bum chord just as the song fades out, a definite foreshadow of the lackadaisical production style he would eventually utilize on The Madcap Laughs.

If one were to pick through the scant, regressive lyrics the “Scarecrow” has on offer, some brief glimmers of Syd’s usual opaque, wide-open muse can be detected, albeit without the Barret synapse cackle of his best work. You see, this scarecrow is…wait for it…just like ME, MAN! He’s sad and resigned to his fate! He only moves his arms when the wind blows up! Maybe, just maybe, we’re all, all of us, scarecrows on the barley field of the world and…well…we’ll leave that train of thought for all those just now getting stoned for the first time. The only line that threatens this twee ether (tweeether?) is that business with the “rough and mice ran all around” which is the first appearance of a key trick hidden up Syd’s paisley sleeve, the use of descriptors as verbs and vice versa, which would be used to much more stunning effect just weeks into his future. Plus, the video is pretty cool since it proves that Syd and Rick very well could have been cosmic twins, and that Roger Waters is hands down the worst open-shirted mime to ever walk God’s green Earth.

So what is the final word on Mr. “Scarecrow”? We’ll just say that it’s a Barrett-by-numbers composition and that it’s impressive to have this category already after just three released songs. We’ll also acknowledge that this sad, zen scarecrow is the beloved of thousands of early Floyd fans, so there’s that. And even though we may not like it ourselves, we can’t really hold it against him since he probably jotted this thing down in two-minutes-and-eleven-seconds and never thought of it again.

Rating: 4/10

In our next Madcap installment we shall leave our martyred scarecrow in peace with the rough and the mice and move on to the void-bating shapeshifter that was Syd’s first proper album. Yes, my dears, the Piper is at the gates.

 

Daniel Falatko