2. Barrett wrote Pink Floyd’s first single about a real-life underwear thief.
While the track “Arnold Layne” is chiefly remembered as the world’s introduction to Pink Floyd, it’s also notable as the only ode to an underwear bandit to ever hit the pop charts. The lyrics were inspired by an unknown fetishist who briefly ran amok in Cambridge, snatching women’s undergarments from clothing lines – including the one in Roger Waters’ backyard.
“My mother and Syd’s mother had students as lodgers,” Waters said in a 1967 interview. “There was a girls’ college up the road. So there were constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines and ‘Arnold,’ or whoever he was, had bits and pieces off our washing lines. They never caught him. He stopped doing it after things got too hot for him.”
Waters relayed the unusual story to Barrett, who was moved to immortalize the local eccentric in song. “I thought Arnold Layne was a nice name and fitted well into the music I had already composed,” Barrett told Melody Maker in 1967. “Then I thought, ‘Arnold must have a hobby,’ and it went from there.”
Arnold’s “strange hobby” of transvestitism proved too much for some, and the song was banned on the popular offshore radio station, Radio London. “‘Arnold Layne’ just happens to dig dressing up in women’s clothing. A lot of people do – so let’s face up to reality,” said a defiant Barrett at the time.
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