Remember When: Pink Floyd Made Their ‘Top of the Pops’ Debut With “See Emily Play” Before it Was Erased by the BBC

Pink Floyd was originally scheduled to make their debut on Top of the Pops with their first single “Arnold Layne” in May of 1967 but the episode never aired. The band’s debut single, “Arnold Layne” was released before the band’s ’67 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn as a single with B-side “Candy and Currant Bun.” Written by original Floyd vocalist and founding member Syd Barrett, the song was never released on any of the band’s albums, but it ultimately shifted the trajectory of the band’s Top of the Pops debut.

“Arnold Layne” was inspired by a true story of a cross-dressing man who stole women’s bras and panties off the clotheslines where Barrett and his bandmate Roger Waters grew up in Cambridge, England.

When “Arnald Layne” began dropping on the charts, Pink Floyd had already recorded their Top of the Pops debut appearance with the song in April of 1967. The performance never aired, but the band was invited back and appeared on the show that July to perform their second single, also written by Barrett, “See Emily Play.”

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[RELATED: The Crossdressing Thief Behind Pink Floyd’s 1967 Debut “Arnold Layne’]

Also released as a single before The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, “See Emily Play” fared better on the charts for Pink Floyd, peaking at No. 6. The band ended up performing the song three times for Top of the Pops at the BBC Studios, which broadcasted on July 6, 13, and 27. The first broadcast on July 6, 1967, marked the band’s debut.

‘You’ll Lose Your Mind and Play’

Originally titled “Games For May,” and performed by this name by the band a few times before it was changed, Barrett claimed the song was inspired by a girl he saw when he woke up in the woods after one of the band’s shows during one of his drug-induced trips.

Emily tries but misunderstands
She’s often inclined to borrow
Somebody’s dreams till tomorrow


There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play


Soon after dark, Emily cries
Gazing through trees in sorrow
Hardly a sound till tomorrow

Syd Barrett, founding singer, songwriter, and guitarist of Pink Floyd, in 1967. (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

[RELATED: 1967 Singles Reviewed by Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, From Jim Reeves to Bowie]

According to Nicholas Schaffner’s 1991 book A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, the song was about a 15-year-old girl named Emily Young, who was the daughter of British writer and politician Wayland Young and earned the nickname “the psychedelic schoolgirl” at the UFO Club, which Barrett frequented regularly.

“I thought, gosh, that’s nice, a song with my name, but I didn’t think it was about me,” Young told Mojo of her connection to the song. Young is now a world-renowned stone sculptor. “And I don’t think it was now because Syd and [I] didn’t have a love affair and he didn’t really know me,” she added. “It could have been some other girl who played a part in his dream. It could have been Jenny, but Emily [sounded] better.”

There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for May
See Emily play


Put on a gown that touches the ground
Float on a river forever and ever
Emily, Emily


Unfortunately, in the early 1970s, the BBC erased the three early recordings of Pink Floyd on Top of the Pops—and presumably the band’s unaired “Arnold Layne” performance—and other substantial archival material. In 2009, the British Film Institute recovered a damaged home video recording of the first and third shows. The band’s first appearance was the only portion recoverable and was screened for the first time on January 9, 2019, in London.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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