“Candy And A Currant Bun” by Pink Floyd, Released March 10th, 1967
I know, I know, it’s tough to imagine Syd Barrett as a sexual being. This is mostly due to the press he’s received, both during his run with Pink Floyd and after he dropped from society’s ever-roving radar, painting the golden child as some sort of eunuch-like faerie prince sprinkling magic dust in an English garden forevermore, an androgynous exalted poet far beyond the wicked reach of base desires, a tortured idealist so concerned with artistic integrity that he would never dare chance the slightest glance at any Floyd groupie waiting in the wings.
Well, our dear Sydney casts all this nonsense like dirt off his shoulder within the first five seconds of this B Side to the “Arnold Layne” single, gleefully proclaiming, “Ohh myyyyyyyyyy! Girl sitting in the sun!” with such palpable, naughty delight it leaves no room for question as to what this jaunty little ditty is all about. The sheer glee bleeding through in Barrett’s voice as he chances upon this lovely flower child sitting in (insert whatever summer-lush London or Cambridge public space or square or park here) can only be described as infectious, riding the loping, slightly warped R&B rhythm to flipside throwaway glory.
Just in case the intended sentiment of “Currant Bun” isn’t clear to the listener from the very first line, Syd makes sure to slip in a “fuck” in place of “walk” on the “Please, just walk with me” bridge, and though this may not seem all that risky in the present day just keep in mind that noted bad boy Lothario Mick Jagger couldn’t even drawl the words “let’s spend the night together” without being censored that very same year. Yes, this is a very twee-leaning artist who often delves headfirst into childhood memories in search of lyrical couplets, but such is the high summer hot blooded vibe of “C&ACB” that a line like “Ice cream tastes good in the afternoon” can really only be interpreted in one way.
All this isn’t to say that Lustful Syd Barrett doesn’t come with the same lyrical quirks and grey areas as those of The Madcap. “It’s true, sun shining very bright, it’s you I’m gonna’ love tonight” deftly swerves relegation to the “rote come on” category due to it’s trippy clarification that the sun actually is shining bright and not just some lysergic hologram or alternate reality. Plus, no white cross popping shag cut bad boy of the time would have thought of using “Please, you know I’m feeling frail” as a pick up line, which Syd manages to do with great effect not once but thrice over the course of this track. Even on a bona fide skirt chaser like “C&ACB” Mr. Barrett just wasn’t going to slip into the king bee “lil’ gal done me wrong” misogyny of the Yarbirds/Stones/Who English blues boom camp.
The aforementioned “Please, you know I’m feeling frail” lyric is also significant as the first in a long line of similar romantic sentiments sprinkled throughout Syd’s four-year songwriting sprint. There’s the “I don’t care if I’m nervous with you” statement from “Jugband Blues”, the “Oh baby my hair’s on end about you” line from “Terrapin”, a large parade of declarations of weakness, frailness, nervousness, tongue-tied agony, and plain old-fashioned aloofness from girlfriends and potential lovers. But unlike, say, an emo singer who would go all screamo against his own awkwardness and curse the day he was born such a shy little loser, Syd frames his own lack of effect as a badge of pride, a winning quality, an other worldliness that attracts even as it pushes away. It isn’t that he’s better than these girlfriends or that he doesn’t wish to communicate with them, it’s just that he’s apart. And over his short period as a musician he never stopped beckoning them to try to break into his specialized realm. It’s a prevailing theme that can be traced right back to this second song the public at large heard from Mr. Barrett, a proud declaration of frailness in the midst of the stream of psychedelic come ons that was “Candy And A Currant Bun”.
So just what does that “Candy And A Currant Bun” title mean, anyway? You can be forgiven for assuming this is some sly drug reference designed to send knowing giggles rippling through the Ladbroke Grove set. After all, lyrics such as “Go buuuyyyyy candy and a currant bun, I like to see you run, lay back” surely seem to prop up this theory, as does the fact that the original title of the song, one of The Floyd’s earliest originals, was “Let’s Roll Another One”. But true to form, Syd Barrett just wasn’t that easy to pin down. Just a small bit of research reveals that these candies and currant buns are actually a reference to a candy ban that was in place in English public schools at the time, with the only sanctioned sweets legally on offer being currant buns (whatever those might be). Knowing this, the encouragement of his girl sitting in the sun to run off and purchase candy and a currant bun is transformed into a statement of unbridled freedom. You CAN buy BOTH, Syd is saying to his flower child. You can live in both worlds. You can TRULY HAVE IT ALL. And here is where we fall upon yet another highly recurring Syd aesthetic that will be popping up again and again as we review every track he ever laid down on tape: The bemused utilization of even the most mundane topical elements to weave the surreal, ever expanding fabric of his universe. Syd was nothing if not a found objects sculptor, utilizing pop culture junk and bizarre headlines to construct his gilded web.
Of course, none of this would matter if the song itself wasn’t great. And dear goodness is this some off kilter brilliance in action right here. That middle section freakout that threatens to spin out of control? Syd’s proto punk riffing on the middle eight? That “oh so far off the beat and yet oh so very right” Roger Waters/Nick Mason rhythm? That nearly-buried bouncy organ line from Floyd’s serene secret weapon Rick Wright? That pesky chirp of seemingly unplanned feedback that wraps up the proceedings? Even though it isn’t necessarily an essential Syd Barrett song, there’s no way we can give this glorious mess anything less than an 8. “Candy And A Currant Bun” is insanely catchy and innovative without being the least bit self congratulatory about it. Most importantly, it’s just a whole lot of fun. Yes, fun. This is a key element of the early Pink Floyd that would be permanently sucked out in the slipstream of Syd’s firing. You see, the story of The Madcap may have been tragic, but Syd Barrett was undoubtedly the only Pink Floyd member with a rollicking sense of humor and buoyancy.
Almost as much as its legendary A Side, “Candy And A Currant Bun” is a pristine document of a window in time where Roger “Syd” Barrett could truly do no wrong, spinning even tossed off B Sides into sheer liquid gold.