Original member Syd Barrett wrote this about a cross-dresser named "Arnold Layne" who used to steal bras and panties from clotheslines in Cambridge, England. Barrett lived near Roger Waters growing up. Their mothers both lost underwear to Arnold Layne.
Pink Floyd's first single; it was not used on an album. In promotional materials to accompany the single, the band's record company, EMI, wrote: "Pink Floyd does not know what people mean by psychedelic pop and are not trying to cause hallucinatory effects on their audience."
The group was set to make their Top Of The Pops
debut with a performance of this song in April, 1967, but were dropped when it fell three places on the UK chart that week. They first appeared on the show July 6, performing "See Emily Play
Barrett was the group leader and an excellent songwriter, but he did a lot of drugs and lost his mind over the next year, becoming England's first high-profile acid casualty. He was kicked out of the band the next year, replaced by David Gilmour.
Radio London banned this song, since it was about a man who steals women's undergarments. The far more conservative BBC played it, indicating they either didn't have a problem with this particular subject matter or didn't understand it.
Before the band came out at their shows in the late '80s, this played while video of Pink Floyd in 1967 was shown on the giant screens.
This had a Blues sound the band was known for. Pink Floyd's name originated from Syd Barrett. His two favorite blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, appeared to him in what he referred to as a "vision," giving Syd the idea for the name. (thanks, Anthony - Wantagh, NY)
The promotional black and white music video displayed the band with Syd. During the video, the band dressed up a mannequin and took it to a beach. (thanks, Andy - Cleveland, OH)
The song made an unexpected appearance in the live sets of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour during his 2006 tour promoting his solo album, On an Island. Later in the year, two live recordings of the song, from Gilmour's On an Island shows at the Royal Albert Hall were released as a live single, which peaked at #19 on the UK singles chart. One version had guest vocals by David Bowie, the other by Floyd's Richard Wright.