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See Emily Play

by

Pink Floyd



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Syd Barrett wrote this. One of the band's original members, he was the group's leader until he lost his mind. He did a lot of acid and became very unpredictable, sometimes refusing to play at shows. His band mates kicked him out in 1968.
Barrett claimed "Emily" was a girl he saw when he woke up one night after sleeping in the woods after a gig. It is unclear if she was a real person or a drug-induced hallucination.
This was Pink Floyd's second single. Their first was "Arnold Layne."
Barrett did the slide guitar work on this song with a Zippo lighter (he used it as a slide, not to set the guitar on fire). (thanks, Steve - Laconia, NH)
David Gilmour was asked by the members of Pink Floyd to join the band to supplement the guitar work of the increasingly erratic Syd Barrett. For a brief time, Syd and David were both members of Pink Floyd at the same time. When Barrett's mental breakdown made it impossible for him to continue with the group, Gilmour became a permanent, contributing member in time for their second album, 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets. Syd Barrett contributed one track to that album, his last with Pink Floyd. Syd departed soon after that. (thanks, Joel - Chicago, IL)
The original title was "Games For May." They performed it live a few times before changing it.
This is an example of the Psychedelic sound Pink Floyd was known for. Over the next few years, they tried to lose the Psychedelic image because they wanted people to know there was much more to their music.
This was included on the 2001 Pink Floyd retrospective album, Echoes. The tracks flow seamlessly together.
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd Artistfacts
More Pink Floyd songs
More songs with girls' names in the title

Comments (52):

It could very well be that Syd may have had some subtle kind mental illness, and the LSD he had been taking took him over the edge. Many true geniuses have been considered a bit "crazy", or showed signs of unconventional behavior. Take musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, and Jim Morrison, all who had been considered wild, unconventional, and at the same time creative geniuses. However, as someone mentioned earlier in the thread - Syd was never actually diagnosed that we know of, so any statements made about his mental state is nothing more than speculation, albeit some may be educated guesses at best.
- espinada, Magdalena, NM
To reply to Matthew, Downers Grove comment from a while back -- the instrument you hear is called a harpsichord, chich looks a lot like a "miniature piano" and is actually built a lot like one, but the keys operate levers that pluck strings lightly rather than strike them (like a piano would do). Incidentally, my friend thinks its a sitar, but he's kind of obcessed with sitars...
- Zero, Nowhere, NJ
I swear the horn after the piano trip reminds me of the war drums from Lord of the Rings Movies
- brett, Avon Park , FL
It's about sculptor Emily Young, according to a book about the group. She did artwork for several of the band's album covers.
- mike, Little Rodk, AR
I take it back, thought about it, if Gilmore and Waters and the lads paid respect and hommage to Syd in later years there has to be something to it. Researched and listened to lots good quality recordings, I get it now.
- Hope, Watertown, NY
I mean no disrespect but I think Syd was off his rocker the whole time, this is just garbage, Astronomy Domine is the only bright spot. Things happen for a reason, I highly doubt that Pink Floyd would have evolved into what they became had Syd remained.
- Hope, Watertown, NY
Syd BArret was not schizophrenic or another acid casultie. He was never diagnosed with it mental health doctors would just like to say he was so they can raise money for their cause easily.

He is just someone who kind of went insane something with in him who is much deeper. The acid probably accelerated whatever it was. We will probably never understand him.
- Ryan, Cincinnati, OH
i really dont think emily was one person particularly, but i dont think she was made up, either. syd said that she was just a "hung up chick"- a sort of representation of all the girls who like to live in the moment, who have no dreams of their own but simply take whatever comes.
- chloe, st. louis, MO
Syd didn't have aspergers, he became schizophrenic. Some may say that the drugs didn't make him schizophrenic, that they acted as a catalyst bringing out something that was already there. This may be true but without all the acid Syd would not have fallen as hard as he did, and he certainly would have had a few more years of great music. Of course some argue that without drugs he never would have made music in the first place but if he kept it under control he could've had the best of both worlds.
- Tristan, Philadelphia, PA
Love the song (the Bowie version is horrible.) Every book or article I've read indicates there were several possible female inspirations for "Emily" but as Syd never really confirmed anything (except for his clearly playful fiction of seeing a girl after waking up in the woods) Emily will always remain a mystery. To me, Emily is simply a very poetic name chosen to fit the lyrical tone and feel of this lovely bit of Victorian psychedelia. In true poetic fashion, Syd always seemed to chose his words more for sound and effect than actual meaning. Shine on, Syd!
- Jim, Johnsonburg, NY
Whit,

"Barrett died on Friday 7 July 2006 at his home in Cambridge. He died of pancreatic cancer, but this was usually reported as "complications from diabetes." The occupation on his death certificate was given as "retired musician.""

from wikipedia
- Martin, Rostock, Germany
Bill man,
Syd Barret still breathes.
- Whit, Sunshine City,
Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright brought the main riff from this back for "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"- it's on Part IX at the very end, fading out into the distance. I suppose he thought it would be a good touch to include some of Syd's music on the song that paid tribute to him.
- Bill, Erie, PA
Have a look on You-Tube, theres a vid of the Tellytubbies dancing and this track playing. The two go really well together !!!!
- William, Deal, United Kingdom
So Emily was a real person? I doubt it very much. Anyway she'd be a 50-something today, not some cute little brit teenager. Makes ya feel old doesn't it.
- N, Staten Island, NY
this song is amazing, but iagree, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn should be up, i mean FLaming is an amazing song.
Also people should not forget his work after Floyd like MAdcap Laughs which is also amazing
- Rob, southend, England
This song replaced "Astronomy Domine" on the US vinyl configuration of "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" on Tower (Capitol Records' sub-label) as well as Arnold Layne. Both songs were mixed in "fake stereo" like the Beatles US albums prior to 1967. They no longer appear on the CD release but are on "Echoes" and "Relics".
- Robert, Chicago, IL
people pelase. see emily play was not about an acid trip get that into your minds there was a real girl called emily. there are pictures of her. yes, real ones.
- sorcha, perth, WA
i think this song is about a autistic girl named emily and how she has no dreams so she borrows her parents dreams...and how she lives for everyday and she lives in the moment...and how she loses her mind having fun with a girl named may? (emily helps may have fun and lose her mind for a moment?) and that emily is interesting to watch as she plays...later it explains how she is scared of the dark...and maybe she got ditracted and got lost in the woods...and she decides there is no imeadiate danger so she keeps quiet untill the next day...then she grows up to put on a gown that touches the ground and she lives on a boat...
- Madalyn, Greensburg, PA
Syd's only song on A Saucerful of Secrets was Jugband Blues incase song facts didn't now that.
- patrick, Chicago, IL
DeepPhreeze, I think you will find they are playing Cricket in the video. We do not play Baseball.
- Tim Smith, Chesterfield, England
Along with Lucifer Sam this is probably my favorite Barrett-era song. You can find some interesting home/music video bootlegs from the swinging London days on some P2P networks. Oh, and you're right Bill, damn you diabetes!
- Alex, Fort Mill, SC
Just heard that Syd Barrett died. Shine on, Syd- may the pigs on the wing carry you up to the great gig in the sky.
- Bill, Erie, PA
DeepPhreeze from Irvine, umm ya...then whos that guy playing the guitar? Syd wasn't in the video. That was Rick Wright hitting the guys, you can tell because one guy is playing the bass, Roger Waters, Nick Mason is pretending to play the drums, David Gilmour is playing the guitar, there were no keyboards/paino in the video.
- Bill, Somewhere, CA
If Barrett was autistic, it's quite possible that his mental illness was caused by well-meaning psychiatric intervention as a child. You can look this up at autistics.org. Autistic children are still brutalized in "therapy". I wouldn't doubt that this happened to Barrett back then.
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
""i think the name emily is a reference to aunt em. who is in the wizard of oz. aunt ems full first name is emily."" No. You are Wrong.
- Tyler, Brantford, Canada
"sounds like the beatles"

- Ha! Not even buddy.
- Matt, Brisbane, Australia
Syd Barrett's drug did not help the fact the was suffering from mental illness. It was not just his drug use which led to his instability. It has been suggested that he has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism, owing to certain traits in his behaviour.

It was a tragic thing for the band. The entire Wish You Were Here album is a tribute to Syd Barrett.. get it? 'Wish You Were Here'
- Pink, Dallas, TX
Awesome tune, but check out Bowie's version, 100 times better!
- Jeremy, Warren , RI
this is a good early pink floyd song, it proves to their psydalecity (made up word i know) and it does sound like the beatles:o
- Phil, Niagara Falls, Canada
Wow its nice to see how uniform everyones view on this song!
- Stump, Gulf Shores, AL
sounds like the beatles
- Anthony, beverly, NJ
This is one of my favorite Floyd songs - just very orinal, and it really rocks. I came to this song very late in the game, having been weaned on brick in the wall as a kid, but the first time i heard it in the late '80's i was totally blown away, and still love it.
- steve, lansdale, PA
i reckon this site should have some songs off Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Lucifer Sam is the best. Ash, you are a legend.
- Helen, Oxford, England
Ash, you are so full of it! Everybody knows this song is about a real girl named "Emily."
- Ash, Charleston, WV
Yes it was about an acid trip! I was there, man.
- Ash, Charleston, WV
get real guys
great 60s track from a band that was to become awesome
arnold layne was a far better example of mid 60s alternave stuff but Ed Stewpot was worried by the lyrics!!!!!!!!!!!!
- mac, newport, England
See Emily Play isn't about (or because of) an acid trip. Syd just said it was for the publicity. It's about a girl he had shared spliffs with.
- Helen, Oxford, England
This may seem like heresy, but I prefer the David Bowie version on "Pin-Ups."
- Wes, Springfield, VA
Defintely in my top 5 favorite Floyd songs. I love the part after the first verse with what sounds like-- a miniature piano?? Aunt Em... thats a little far-fetched, and believe me, i know far-fetched.
- Matthew, Downers Grove, IL
This song is not about an imaginary girl or lsd trip but based on a real girl named Emily see Mojo article "The real Emily"for more info.Great song.Floyd never been popier than this.Very much a tune of the time but brilliant never the less.
- Andrew, Toronto
"See Emily Play" is the exact same length as "Arnold Layne" (2:52).
- Maya, San Francisco-ish, CA
yea it must be about Aunt em from the wizard of Oz. That must be it.... WHAT?!?!
- Helen, Oxford, England
This wa sthe last song on the US release of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It is put in instead of Bike (Which was on the UK Release). Good song. One of the more conventional song compositions (Chorus, bridges etc..)
- Matthew, Germantown, MD
The most coherent song Syd ever wrote. It was a hit by a fluke, but things fell apart when the group hit the limelight (Syd was taking so much drugs and all, and most of his other songs were absolutely weird, in a much different vein). When he left, the group had already gotten a foot in the music industry and had to learn to write songs themselves. Their next few albums were dismally bland, and it was almost six years before they had worked up to 'Dark Side of the Moon' which was more characteristic of their actual sound.
- Liquid Len, Ottawa, Canada
During this time, the band's live music consisted primarily of extended unstructured jams. When "See Emily Play" became popular, it became a huge problem for the band, because they were unable to play it live.
- Kent Lyle, Palo Alto, CA
Syd stated he had indeed fallen asleep in the woods and when he awoke, this girl he named Emily was standing there, but as far as I know, all the band members thought this was really the result of an acid trip.

"Games of May" was sort of a festival where the band had performed, if I'm not mistaken, they even did it for free, hence the lyrics.

Even though "Arnold Layne" was their first single, "Emily" was the one which really put them in the spotlight.

Also, in the video they are playing imaginary cricket, not baseball.
- Erik, Lund, Sweden
He met this "Emily" girl several times at a club and introduced her to his friends. She apparently was one of the first 'ravers', and used MDMA.

The video shows them playing imaginary baseball, with Syd as a ringleader of a sort. He goes around tapping them on the shoulders and they start playing their respective instruments, and quickly resort to pretending to play baseball, using guitars as baseball bats and hats as mitts.
- DeepPhreeze, Irvine, CA
i think the name emily is a reference to aunt em. who is in the wizard of oz. aunt ems full first name is emily.
- gill, parlin, NJ
It's also on "Relics". If you don't have that album, get it. As far as Pink Floyd goes, it's second only to Dark Side of the Moon.
- Brooks, Vero Beach, FL
this is NOT in fact a hallucination syd had, in fact if you look hard enough you can find a picture of an article about syd's emily.
- james, sudbury, Canada
See emily play is about one of syds acid trips. Its their second single before the release of thier first offical album "piper at the gates at dawn"
- Lee, Durham, NC
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