Pink Floyd

Bike

Composed by Syd Barrett

Song Review by

The closing track on Piper at the Gates of Dawn, "Bike" is widely seen by Pink Floyd fans as early evidence of Syd Barrett's impending mental breakdown. While it's true that this is quite possibly the weirdest song on the album, the elements that people point to as indicative of Barrett's fragile state of mind don't always stand up to scrutiny. It's true that the verses don't follow a consistent rhyme scheme or rhythm, but their structure is consistent with a tradition of music hall-derived comic patter songs; it's not at all a stretch to think that the young Roger Barrett might have been a fan of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan's novelty songs in the '50s and early '60s. Similarly, the song's oddball subject matter (a bike, a homeless mouse, a cloak, gingerbread men, clockwork music boxes, etc.) and goofy flourishes of arrangement (the increasingly florid timpani rolls at the beginning of every verse) are completely in keeping with the subset of childlike U.K. psychedelia that Pink Floyd helped pioneer, which has latterly been dubbed "toytown psych" in some quarters. Finally, although the song's 90-second sound-effects coda does cross the line from seriously trippy into actually kinda creepy (pretty much exactly at the point where those weird honking sounds that sound like the laughs of clinically insane mallard ducks in an echo chamber enter the mix of music boxes and percussion), it's not the out-of-nowhere lunacy that many consider it; the coda is set up with the lyrics of the last verse. There's no question that Syd Barrett was on his way to a complete breakdown, but "Bike" is greater evidence of the childlike whimsy that was part of his musical persona all along.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn 1967 Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment 3:21
Relics 1971 Columbia / Legacy / Pink Floyd / Sony Music Entertainment 3:21
A Nice Pair 1974 Capitol 3:21
Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd 2001 EMI Digital / Parlophone 3:24
Oh by the Way 2007 Capitol 3:24
Discovery 2011 Parlophone 3:21
blue highlight denotes editor's pick