For reasons probably best left to psychiatrists, my second or third album purchase ever was Pink Floyd’s early singles collection, Relics. I fell head over heels in love with it, and I’m sure I’ve listened to it hundreds of times in the ensuing twenty-plus years. (My junior high and high school friends thought it was a bit odd of me to always play strange psychedelic sixties rock, although some of them came to appreciate it.)
Anyway, at some point I learned that most of the songs on that collection were not written by Roger Waters, but by Syd Barrett–hey, we didn’t have the Internet back then and bargain-bin tapes didn’t have songwriting credits or much of anything besides cover art and song titles. I also learned that in addition to writing most of Pink Floyd’s amazing debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Syd Barrett had also released two solo albums.
Those albums were not in print at the time and my job sorting bottles and cans at the grocery store was not going to fund purchasing the vinyl from a classified in Goldmine or some similar publication.
Strangely, the first Barrett to be released on CD was Opel, a collection of rarities. I snapped it up and listened to it obsessively (which really annoyed many of my friends–let’s face it, having to listen to a bunch of Syd Barrett demos would strain the patience of damn near anybody). One of the songs that stuck out was an early version of “Dark Globe,” here titled “Wouldn’t You Miss Me.”
At some point, I read in Rolling Stone that R.E.M. had recorded a cover of the song and it was being released as a flexi-disc. For those of you younger than me, a flexi-disc was a 45 RPM record pressed on vinyl so thin that it could be bound into a magazine. This flexi-disc was being released in, of all things, Sassy.
So, yes, I–a teenage boy–had to go to the bookstore and purchase a copy of Sassy. I pray to this day that no one saw me.
It was worth the humiliation. R.E.M.’s take on “Dark Globe” is beautiful. The piano is an excellent addition, adding a wistful grace to the song. This seems to me to prefigure the gorgeous “Nightswimming,” released about three years later on their best album, Automatic for the People.
The following year, Syd Barrett’s two studio albums were released on CD and I heard the original version of “Dark Globe.” R.E.M.’s version turned out to be much closer to the demo than to the released version, which is sung at a higher register. Picking which version of this song I prefer is impossible–I treasure all of them.
I’ve included Barrett’s studio version and R.E.M.’s version here, figuring two “Dark Globe”s is enough for one post. If you’d like to hear the Barrett demo, it’s here.
Also of interest: David Gilmour paying tribute to his predecessor shortly after his death by covering “Dark Globe” solo. It’s quite touching.