4.29-FLAMING (Pink Floyd)

Pink Floyd


Alone in the clouds all blue.
Lying on an eiderdown.
You can't see me, but I can you.

Lazing in the foggy dew.
Sitting on a unicorn.
No fear!
You can't hear me, but I can you.

Watching buttercups cup the light.
Sleeping on a dandelion.
Too much!
I won't touch you, but then I might.

Streaming through the starlit skies.
Traveling by telephone.
Hey ho here we go!
Ever so high...


[Repeat 1st Verse]

The prelude to the Flaming uses sound effects to suggest that the song will be coming to the listener on the wind. Structurally, Flaming is a very simple song of repeated verses with free form sounds for a break and a repeat of the first verse again at the end. It is sung in from the point of view of a child addressing his playmate. The singer imagines himself invisible, inaudible, but still, perhaps, tangible. That way the child wins at hide and seek. The three syllable words found for each of the four verses: eiderdown, unicorn, buttercups, dandelion, telephone all participate in the child’s magic world as “important” overdetermined words. The child imagines being able to move through space at the speed of a telephone message: streaming through the starlit skies. Perhaps this streaming as if a shooting star is where the song got its title. The instrumental break seems to ascend and then explode into sparkles. After a repetition the song ends with the friendly tinkle of a bell. There seems a bit of Peter Pan in this fantasy.

The psychedelic nature of Flaming is not in the use of drugs, nor does it reside in a nostalgia for childhood, but in depicting the alternate consciousness that exists in children. Syd Barrett in this song brings a special sense of insubstantiality to this child’s consciousness, a world in which nouns with three syllables are far more substantial than the singing child, who is so ethereal he could simply float away. The poet speaks from the pleasant childhood of middle class White families (that raised many a rock star), the type of family that is found in most psychedelic reminiscences, without much mention of being economically deprived or damaged by their upbringing. It is the childhood of the Victorian England that English rock and roll groups inherited—and sometimes ridiculed--in the 1960s, though Syd seems to still value the sense of playfulness he experienced as a kid.