My Top 1000 Songs #352: Lucifer Sam

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Like a lot of 70s kids, I fell in love with Pink Floyd when The Wall arrived in 1979, the perfect album for nerdy, introverted 13-year-olds. I worked my way back through other 70s classic rock landmarks like Dark Side of the Moon and Animals, and eventually found my way all the way at the beginning. 

I bought their Syd Barrett-helmed 1967 debut Piper at the Gates of Dawn as part of a double-LP package (paired with the Saucerful of Secrets follow-up) called A Nice Pair (bonus points for the lame boob double entendre, perfectly targeted for a young adolescent like myself). I'd read a little about Barrett's formation of the band and subsequent departure in the wake of serious mental illness and acid derangement, but wasn't sure what to expect.

The album's "Astronomy Domine" opener was cool enough, a trippy space-rock number--and, as I later learned, Barrett-free, as the US vinyl release I bought inadvertently swapped in a David Gilmour-led live version in lieu of the original. But the album really kicked off for me with the next track. "Lucifer Sam" was essentially a standard 12-bar blues with a surf-guitar sound, but given a heady psychedelic make-over, with oddly clanging guitars and percussion effects and stereo panning. And I was totally unprepared for the magnetic presence of Syd, so radically different from the band's later work, whimsical and exuberant and otherworldly. The rest of the record fleshed out the Barrett mystique, whimsical and imaginative and wholly unlike anything from their 70s heyday (given an emotionally grueling bookend with the Barrett farewell "Jugband Blues" that closes out Saucerful). While all of Piper remains a landmark of late 60s British psychedelia, I particularly love to spin "Lucifer Sam" and recapture that original thrill of discovery.

Naturally, no live versions by the original Floyd line-up, but here's drummer Nick Mason performing it a few years back in San Francisco (yeah, I was there, it was amazing!):

The song has become a go-to cover choice for countless artists. In fact, I put together a Spotify playlist comprised entirely of "Lucifer Sam" covers:

Cool version by Paisley Underground band True West:

Gone goth with Love & Rockets: