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8.14-SEE SAW (Pink Floyd)

Pink Floyd
Without Syd Barrett, With David Gilmour

LISTEN

Marigolds are very much in love,
but he doesn't mind
picking up his sister, he makes his way into the seas or land.

All the way, she smiles.
She goes up while he goes down, down.

[Break]

Sits on a stick in the river
laughter in his sleep;
sister's throwing stones, hoping for a hit.

He doesn't know so then.
She goes up while he goes down, down.

[Break]

        Another time, another day
        A brother's way to leave.

        Another time, another day.

She'll be selling plastic flowers
on a Sunday afternoon,
picking up weeds, she hasn't got the time to care.

All can see he's not there.
She grows up for another man, and he's down.

[Break]

        [Chorus]
        Another time, another day.

        [Chorus]

[Coda]


The album Saucerful of Secrets was recorded largely without the input of Syd Barrett, who had been essential to the tone of Pink Floyd’s first album Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, released in Summer 1967. Syd Barrett was undergoing a mental breakdown, and never recovered. The remaining members of the group were left to try and extend Barrett’s childlike inspiration in order to maintain a psychedelic mood that was already shifting underneath them. Saucerful of Secrets marks the beginning of Pink Floyd’s development into “progressive rock” before the definition of that aesthetic was clear. Though the psychedelia of Pipers at the Gates of Dawn is apparent in the song See Saw, its structure seems to drift as if dematerialized, seeking a new form. (For what it’s worth, another group going through a transition from psychedelic to progressive, the Moody Blues, would release in July 1968 a song titled Ride My See Saw, in the album In Search of the Lost Chord. Perhaps both groups were beginning to sense the rise of one aesthetic and the fall of another.)

It is unusual that See Saw seems to be about the relationship between a brother and sister. (I can’t think of another such sibling theme in this psychedelic collection, except the Kinks' funereal See My Friends.) If I’m hearing this correctly, the brother & sister have been close, but she has fallen in love with another man, maybe in the brother’s absence. The see-saw metaphor implies that while her fortune rises, the brother’s sinks. The brother is abandoned. There’s also a play upon authenticity in the lyric. The song begins with marigolds (“very much in love”)—and the poem’s construction suggests that the love is for the outside man. Later, the marigolds are contrasted with plastic flowers that the sister sells on Sunday afternoons (not to mention the “weeds” she seems to be entangled in). Something authentic seems to have become fake or degraded in the selling of it. I speculate, but perhaps the brother represents psychedelic music (Syd Barrett?) which rock music, the sister, enjoyed close kinship with, but she ends up having relations with something else (outside her kinship)…classical music? jazz? From her new perspective of "another man", the sister seems to disdain her previous childish affection for her brother, and throws stones at him while he sleeps.

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