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…allegedly inspired by a large Raleigh bicycle belonging to his new Cambridge girlfriend Jenny Spires… although she has since dismissed the connection as rubbish.

— Watkinson/Anderson, Crazy Diamond, p 32.

‘The Bike Song’ (aka “Bike”) … [was] the forthcoming album’s [i.e. Piper at the Gates of Dawn — eH] closer. Cliff [“Syd’s Blind From Diabetes”] Jones wrote,

The tempo changes at the end of every verse. The rising glissando note that finishes each chorus was achieved using a crude oscillator and varispeeding the tape down while the track was running.

The apparently double-tracked vocal on ‘Bike’ is set far enough apart from the lead to disorient the listener. One fears the vocal tracks will become unglued and drift farther out of phase than they already are. Artificial double tracking was developed at EMI to save the trouble of recording a separate back-up vocal The song started out as a playful Barrett ditty in the style of ‘The Gnome’, but the haunting coda imbues it with a prophetic, sinister overtone. The finale of the song proper is a parody of the sort of fanfares to be found at the end of an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan or in English vaudeville. Waters, Wright and Barrett join in on a campy chorus, inviting the girl ‘who fits in with my world’ into Syd’s ‘room of musical tunes’. At the beginning of the coda, footsteps echo down a long hallway, a door opens with a heaving creak and a most extraordinary sound collage free of melody or harmony erupts; as if Barrett was trying to let everyone else hear the sounds in his head: a wash of cymbals, discordant string instruments, clockwork echoing the bell towers of Cambridge.

The final ingredient in this sonic bouillabaisse is a repeated loop of shrill and horrific laughing voices, rising discordantly as the ‘room of musical tunes’ fades back into the recesses of Syd’s mind. Slowed down by half, the loop reveals itself to be a roughly edited loop of bellowing laughter. It resounds from the speakers like the riotous drunken laughter of pub regulars ringing in the ear of one fleeing a pub into a cold, raining night. The twisted laughter is both funny and frightening, disarming you as it hits home. And its eerily reminiscent of the run-out groove on “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which Syd and the Floyd were directly inspired by when they heard a special advance copy. Indeed, the day “Sergeant Pepper” was released, the Floyd were at Abbey Road working on a version of ‘Bike’.

— Palacios, Lost in the Woods, p. 151.

Edited by alvareo on 18 Jan 2009, 21:36

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