by Scott Frank 

I've been bothered the past few years by the multitude of versions of the song Octopus.  It seems like new little bits are filtering out continually.  Since I recently had a bit of time on my hands with which to sit down and sort it all out, I've done so.  It's rather complicated.  Hang on to something...

There are, of course, two different titles for this song.  The original title "Clowns & Jugglers" generally refers to the versions recorded on 20-July-68.  The other title "Octopus" generally refers to the versions recorded on 12-June-69.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There are 4 versions of the song which have been officially released.  These are:

Madcap Laughs

track 7  Octopus 3.48  12-June-69  Take 11

track 14 Octopus 3.09  12-June-69  Take 1 and 2

- Take 1 is unannounced and is only 16 seconds long.  After it we hear      "Should I do that ?"

- Take 2 lasts 2 min 53 sec.  It is announced by "Two  After"


track 2  Clowns & Jugglers 3.27  20-July-68  Take 2

track 18 Clowns & Jugglers 3.33  20-July-68  Take 1

- Track 18 is announced as "This is Clowns & Jugglers and it's take1"

Unofficially, there are quite a number of mysterious versions floating around.  Let's start right in:


track 5  Octopus  2.44

- This track is announced as "This is Clowns & Jugglers RS1 Take 1 on E69631".   Listening to the track, it's clearly incomplete.  Ok.  The first thing is the fact that this song was only recorded on two different occasions.  (20-July-68 and 12-June-69)  Looking above, we already have both take 1's!  Since this version is longer than 16 seconds, I was leaning towards the 1968 sessions.  Also, the announced title "C&J" suggests the 1968 sessions.   Interestingly enough, if you turn to the "Octopus" lyrics in the Crazy Diamond box set, on the same page is the studio log sheet for tape E69631!!  The page bears the date "20-July-68". I played Opel's track 18 vs Rhamadam's track 5 and was amazed by how similar the two are.  In fact, the only differences in the Rhamadam track are the announcement, the levels of the backing tracks are slightly higher, and the song is truncated.  Why are the two announcements different ?  This is my theory (if you have a better one, please write to me) -  Possibly the announcement was changed when Malcolm Jones added the overdubs on 3-

May-69.  When the Crazy Diamond compilers came along, they possibly decided that the backing track levels were too high and went back to the original vocal track, bringing along the original announcement.

track 6 Clowns & Jugglers 1.30  (voice, drums, keyboard)

- This is really only a segment of the song.  Turn to the lyrics in the

Crazy Diamond box set.  Track 6 contains the following lyrics:

"door will always squeak

two up, two down, we'll never meet

Please leave us here

close our eyes to the Octopus ride

Please leave us here

close our eyes to the Octopus ride"

After the song ends, we hear an announcement which would appear to be studio babble for the song "Opel", which isn't on Rhamadam.

MJ:  "This is RS1 and it's Opel from E91221 4 Track Take 9"

Syd: "That's two verses, sorry.  I'll do it again."

DG:  "Syd, could you actually (something)"

Syd: "Yes"

This song is now officially "Mystery Bit #6".  (See below for 1-5.)

Magnesium Proverbs

track 21 (as it appears on the CD, not as it's listed in the liner notes) Clowns & Jugglers 3.41

- It turns out that this track is identical to the track "Clowns & Jugglers (1-3)" on the Vegetable Man LP.  However, it turns out that there are actually 5 Mystery Bits...  Here's how they break down.

Mystery Bit #1  0:00-0:22  (voice, guitar)  This is the very beginning of the song.  It breaks down rather quickly due to technical troubles.  Call it a false start.  There were many false starts on 12-June-69, needing 11 takes to get the version that was eventually issued.  This is, therefore, likely to have come from that session.

"Trip to heave and ho, up, down, to and fro

you have no word

trip, trip to a dream dragon

hide your wings in a ghost tower

sails cackling at every plate we break

was cracked by scattered needles"

Mystery Bit #2  0:23-1:16  (voice, drums, keyboard)  This is the jam toward the end of the song.  In fact, it could very well be a shorter version of Mystery Bit #6.

"Please leave us here

close our eyes to the Octopus ride"

Mystery Bit #3  1:17-1:24  (voice)  This bit is only the words "That's two verses, sorry.  I'll do it again."

The weird thing, of course, is that this exact phrase was used at the end of Mystery Bit #6, which sounds a lot like Mystery Bit #2.  The only trouble is that Mystery Bit #6 has a bunch of other lines (in the song and of dialog).  If Mystery Bits #2 and #3 do come from the same original source as #6 - What a wacky bunch of editing!

Mystery Bit #4  1:25-2:58  (voice, guitar, some other spacey sound- would one of the Soft Machine kindly phone me up and explain what the hell that instrument is!)

Mystery Bit #5  2:59-3:41  (same arrangement as #4)

- Mystery Bits #4 and #5 fit together to make a complete song from beginning to end, except for one line "the madcap laughed at the man on the border".  The edit removing this line is very obvious.  But why ?  I haven't the slightest idea.  However, if you compare this to Opel's track 18, I think you'll decide that they're one and the same.  (Track 18 containing the missing line and jam at the end of the song as well as being better quality....)

Sights And Sounds of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd

track 16 Clowns & Jugglers  (1.26)  The track is described in the liner notes as being "two takes not included on Syd Barrett box set, first solo session, May 1968".  In fact, what we have here are Magnesium Proverbs' Mystery Bits #1-#3

All other versions of Clowns & Jugglers/Octopus that have thus far appeared have all been from the 6/6/70 Olympia gig.  (once on each Milk Weg, Magnesium Proverbs, and Sights And Sounds Of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd)


1)  It would appear that the first take of Syd's first solo session (20-

July-68), overdubbed by the Soft Machine in 5/69, has been extremely popular with the nice folks that put out RoIOs.  It has appeared on Rhamadam (track 5), Magnesium Proverbs (track 21, Mystery Bits #4 and #5), and originally on the Vegetable Man LP (side 2, song 2, Mystery Bits #4 and #5)  For the very best sound quality, turn to the Crazy Diamond box set (Opel, track 18)

2)  Another version of this song exists as Rhamadam (track 6), Magnesium Proverbs (track 21, Mystery Bits #2 and #3), Sights And Sounds Of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd (track 16, Mystery Bits #2 and #3) and originally on the Vegetable Man LP (side 2, song 2, Mystery Bits #2 and #3).  It's only approximately 1/3 of the whole song.  Go to Rhamadam for the most complete, best quality copy.

3)  A false start exists on Magnesium Proverbs (track 21, Mystery Bit #1), Sights And Sounds Of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd (track 16, Mystery Bit #1), and originally on the Vegetable Man LP (side 2, song 2, Mystery Bit #1)


And that's it.  Of all the tracks, weird editing, and alternate names, there are really only 2 pieces of music that are available exclusively on RoIO releases.  One is a false start and the other is a random middle section.  Pretty disappointing, eh ?

Until Next Time True Believers,

Scott Frank
(The Dream Dragon)


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