Syd meets... a lot of people
Syd meets Meic
A couple of weeks ago this blog published excerpts from Meic Stevens' autobiography Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini (in Welsh, but awesomely translated by Prydwyn) describing how the Cymry bard encountered Syd Barrett in the late Sixties.
These meetings, as far as the Church is aware, have never been mentioned before, not in any of the four main Syd Barrett biographies and not on any website, blog or forum dedicated to the Pink Floyd frontman. It is a bit weird, seen the fact that the biography already appeared in 2003.
Normally Syd related news, regardless of its triviality, is immediately divulged through the digital spider web tying Syd anoraks together. The Church does not want to take credit for this find, it is thanks to Prydwyn, who contacted the Church, that we now have this information, and we hope that it will slowly seep into the muddy waters of the web. (Strange enough the Church post was almost immediately detected by (Welsh) folk music blogs but ignored by the Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett communities. Is the rumour true that there is a general Syd Barrett fatigue going on?)
The psychedelic London Underground was not unlike the rapid transit system that listens to the same name. The counterculture wasn't really an organised movement, but constituted of many, independent stations with tubes going from one station to the other. Some persons travelled a lot, switching from line to line using intersecting stations as apparently Syd Barrett's Wetherby Mansions flat was one, much to the dismal of Duggie Fields who wanted to produce his art in peace.
Syd meets Spike Hawkins
In a YouTube interview Rob Chapman, author of the Syd Barrett biography A Very Irregular Head, recalls how he found out that beatnik and poet Spike Hawkins was an acquaintance of Syd Barrett. He was interviewing Pete Brown for his book and when the interview was over he remarked that some Barrett lyrics had a distinct Spike Hawkins style. At that point Pete Brown remarked: "I think Spike Hawkins knew Syd Barrett." Without that lucky ad hoc comment we would (probably) never have known that the two artists not only knew, but also met, each other at different occassions, although it was probably more a Mandrax haze that tied them rather than the urge to produce some art together.
Syd meets Dominique
The Church already mentioned the names of Meic Stevens, Jenny Spires, Trina Barclay, Margaretta Barclay and her friend, painter and musician Rusty Burnhill (who used to jam with Barrett), Iggy (or Evelyn, who is rather reluctant to talk about the past) and the French Dominique A., who was - at a certain moment - rather close to Barrett.
Dominique is, like they say in French, un cas à part. Unfortunately nobody seems to know what happened to her, but if the six degrees of separation theory is accurate it might not be too difficult to find her. The problem is that nobody remembers if she stayed in Great Britain or returned to France. But if you read this and have a granny, listening to the name Dominique A., who smiles mysteriously whenever you mention the name Pink Floyd, give us a call.
Syd meets Carmel
Church member Dark Globe compared the English version of Meic Stevens' biography Solva Blues (2004) with the excerpts of the Welsh version we published here and found a few differences. Apart from the fact that Meic also had an Uncle Syd who appears quite frequently in the book there are some minor additions in the English version, absent from the original Welsh.
The Welsh version notes fore instance that 'Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd came to see us in Caerforiog' (Original text: Syd Barrett o Pink Floyd fydde’n dod i’n gweld ni yng Nghaerforiog).
The English version adds a small, but in the life of a Barrett anorak, rather important detail. It reads:
Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd who used to visit us at Caerforiog with his girlfriend Carmel.
It is the first time the Church (and Dark Globe) hears from this lady, and she is probably one of those two-week (or even two-day) girlfriends Mick Rock and Duggie Fields have been talking about.
(Warning Label: The picture just above has been taken from the Mick Rock movie Lost In The Woods, nobody knows for sure who is the mysterious brunette. This blog does not imply she is Dominique A. or Carmel, for that matter.)
The second reference (about Syd visiting the Outlander sessions) also has one addition in the English version. Solva Blues adds the line:
I wouldn't have thought he had a drug problem - no more than most people on the scene.
If there is one returning constant about the underground days it is its general tunnel vision. In the brave new psychedelic world every move, the crazier the better, was considered cool and there was a general consensus to deny any problem that could and would occur. Rob Chapman is right when he, in his rather tempestuous style, writes:
What do you do if your lead guitarist is becoming erratic / unstable / unhinged?
You send him off round the UK on a package tour (…) with two shows a night for sixteen nights.
Nick Mason acknowledges this illogical (not to use another term) behaviour:
If proof was needed that we were in denial about Syd's state of mind, this was it.
Why we thought a transatlantic flight immediately followed by yet more dates would help (Syd) is beyond believe.
Syd almost meets R.D. Laing
Of course looking for professional psychiatric help in those crazy days wasn't that simple either. Bluntly said: you could choose between the traditional cold shower - electroshock therapy or go for anti-psychiatry.
Although it is impossible to turn back the clock it still is the question if experimental anti-psychiatry would have helped Barrett. In a previous post we have given the example how an experimental therapist administered LSD to a Cantabrigian friend of Syd as an alternative way of therapy and R.D. 'I like black people but I could never stand their smell' Laing was no exception to that.
Pink Floyd's manager Peter Jenner made an appointment for Syd with R.D. Laing, but Syd refused to go on with it, but this didn't withhold Laing to make the following observations as noted down by Nick Mason:
Syd might be disturbed, or even mad. But maybe it was the rest of us (Pink Floyd, note by FA) who were causing the problem, by pursuing our desire to succeed, and forcing Syd to go along with our ambitions.
This is the main theory that is overzealously, but not always successfully, adhered by Chapman in his Syd Barrett biography. R.D. Laing ended his Barrett diagnosis, who he never met, by saying:
Maybe Syd was actually surrounded by mad people.
Although some biographers may think, and there they are probably right, that the other Pink Floyd members may have been an ambitious gravy train inspired gang, there was also the small matter of a 17,000 British Pounds debt that the architectural inspired band members still had to pay off after the split. They didn't burden Syd Barrett, nor Peter Jenner and Andrew King with that. Now that is what the Church calls accountancy.
We now know that giving Syd Barrett the time and space, outside the band, to meddle at his own pace with his own affairs and music was not entirely fruitful either. In the early to mid Seventies Syd Barrett entered a lost weekend that would almost take a decade and that is a blank chapter in every biography, apart from the odd Mad Syd anecdote.
Mini Cooper (based upon a remark from Dark Globe)
It is also interesting that Meic Stevens mentions Syd's Mini Cooper:
He was a very good-looking boy, always with a beautiful girl on his arm when he was out or driving his Mini Cooper.
Presumably this is the same car Syd drove all over England in, following the band, when he was freshly thrown out of the Floyd.
Syd swapped this Mini Cooper for a Pontiac Parisienne (and not a Buick as car fanatic Nick Mason writes, although Buick and Pontiac were of course closely related brands) with T-Rex percussionist Mickey Finn in the beginning of 1969, which would date the first meetings between Stevens and Barrett prior to the Mick Rock photo session.
But that photo session has been discussed here ad nauseum already so we won't get further into that. So, my sistren and brethren, bye, bye, till the next time, and don't do anything Iggy wouldn't have done. Especially at this warm weather.
Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above)
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 201, p. 227.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 210. (R.D. Laing quote)
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004, p. 87-88, p. 95.
Stevens, Meic: Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini, Y Lolfa, Talybont, 2009, p. 190-191, p. 202.
Stevens, Meic, Solva Blues, Talybont, 2004 (English, slightly updated, translation of the above).
Many thanks go to:
Dark Globe for checking the English version of Meic Stevens' autobiography.
Prydwyn for checking and translating the Welsh version of Meic Stevens' autobiography.
Rob Chapman's An Irregular Head biography has been reviewed at: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory.
Julian Palacios' Syd Barrett biography
Julian Palacios, contributor and friend of the Church let us know that the revised version of his Syd Barrett biography (first edition, 1998 already) will be out any day now. So, for the first time in the history of the Church, let us celebrate a commercial break.
Update: The final title is 'Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe', and it is out 29 September in Europe and America (Source: Julian Palacios).
Here is a loud announcement.
Silence in the studio!
Syd Barrett, who died in 2006, was a teenage art-school student when he founded Pink Floyd. Famous before his twentieth birthday, Barrett led the charge of psychedelia onstage at London s famed UFO Club, and his acid-inspired lyrics became a hallmark of London s 1967 Summer of Love. Improvisatory and whimsical, Zen-like and hard-living, Barrett pushed the boundaries of music into new realms of artistic expression while fighting what would prove to be a losing battle against his inner demons.
Julian Palacios' probing and comprehensive biography, ten years in the writing, features a wealth of interviews with Syd s family, friends, and members of the band, providing an unvarnished look at Barrett s life and work. Author Julian Palacios traces Syd s evolution from precocious youth to psychedelic rock star; from leading light to drug burnout; from lost exile to celebrated icon, examining both his wide-ranging inspirations and his enduring influence on generations of musicians. A never-to-be-forgotten casualty of the excesses, innovations and idealism of the 1960s, Syd Barrett is one of the most heavily mythologized men in rock, and this book offers a rare portrayal of a unique spirit in flight and freefall.
Buy Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe on Amazon.
The official (still not updated) page:
Julian Palacios. Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe. Plexus Books.
320 pages / 60 photos / 230 x 155mm
ISBN10 85965 431 1
ISBN13 978 0 85965 431 9
(The Church is not affiliated with or endorsed by this company.)
Rod Harrod remembers The Crom
Years before she entered the Underground and met Syd Barrett, Ig’s first venture for glory and fame came when the cameras of NME magazine spotted her in November 1966. Issue 1037 had an article Come with NME for a Pic-Visit to the Cromwellian, written by Norrie Drummond (who passed away in April 2005) with photos by Napier Russell and Barry Peake.
Some relevant info can be found in two previous articles at the Church but it need to be stressed that, already then, Iggy claimed she was a model and used to throw around her alleged Eskimo roots. (The complete NME Cromwellian Pic-Visit article can be consulted on this blog. Just another world exclusive of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.)
It is not unthinkable that Ig may have worked, at one time or another, for Quorum. Quorum was a boutique led by the eccentric fashion designer Ossie Clark, whose ‘stuff was fluid and drapey and revealing all at once, in key places it fit so exactly that you couldn’t wear a bra or panties’. To Marianne Faithfull he once told that the dress he presented to her was so designed she could have sex anywhere.
One of the people bragging he was a Quorum model was a lad called David Gilmour but in reality he just drove Quorum’s delivery truck around. "Dave Gilmour never really said very much. He just used to stand around. It was a bit unnerving.", recalls Celia Birtwell in Pigs Might Fly.
Syd Barrett used the Quorum boutique not only to pick some clothes. Quorum models Gilly Staples and Kari-Ann Moller (of Roxy Music album cover fame) have been ‘associated’ with Syd at one time or another.
JenS, one of Syd’s Cantabrigian girlfriends, who lived in Anthony Stern’s flat for a while and who suggested The Pink Floyd to Peter Whitehead when he was looking for a soundtrack of Tonight Let’s All Make Love In London, first met Ig in 1966. Iggy invited JenS to a Dusty Springfield and crew party and this may have taken place at The Cromwellian as well, one of the clubs Dusty liked to frequent if we may believe George Melly.
Revolt Into Style
Musician, critic, journalist and raconteur George Melly reviewed the place in Revolt Into Style. That ‘brilliant guidebook’ about the pop arts in Britain is a collection of essays, written between 1965 and 1972 and it has the advantage that the situations and anecdotes described were noted down when they were actually happening and are not (blurry) memories from three decades later. The Church would not like to feed the authors that have taken bits and pieces from Melly's essays to add some extra candy to rock biographies or Swinging London books.
George Melly’s Cromwellian piece dates from 1965 and tells how the club was already old news by then. When Disc and Music Echo journalist Rod Harrod, who used to be the Crom’s PR-moonlighting-agent, offered his services to The Scotch of St. James, the Crom suddenly relegated from premier to second league. In only a couple of weeks time the, still rather exclusive and expensive, Crom club would only host and entertain some of the minor gods from the rock pantheon.
In the only interview we have got from Iggy she says “I met so many people in the 60s – the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart." She may have met them in one of the many artist clubs that were around: The Scotch of St. James, The Cromwellian, The Speakeasy (where she met Anthony Stern during a Jimi Hendrix gig). The London Live music club anthology has an intriguing picture, to say the least, depicting Speakeasy managers Roy Flynn and Mike Carey with two ladies. One of them could be Iggy, although not all Church members agree with that.
In 2009 the Church contacted the man whom George Melly had interviewed 45 years ago but just when the Church wanted to publish the article Iggy, now known as Evelyn, was featured in a couple of articles in Mojo. Quite some buzz happened after that, but as the spring storms have settled down a bit, the Church finds it is about time to get on with its business.
Rod Harrod describes himself as a doyen of music business and is remembered by some as the person who offered Jimi Hendrix his first gig on British soil and made him sign a record contract on a napkin from the St. James club. Harrod more or less tones this down a bit:
I did not make Jimi Hendrix sign a record contract on a napkin. The Heads of Agreement were drafted on a napkin between Jimi's co-manager Chas Chandler and the owners of soon-to-form Track Records - Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (brother of actor Terence Stamp).
I do not want people thinking I forced Jimi to sign anything... I didn't.
Kathy Etchingham, who lived in a flat in Zoot and Ronnie Money's house in Fulham, was DJ for me at the Scotch of Saint James at the time Jimi made his first appearance.
(Rod Harrod, 30 July 2010, e-mail)
The first night Hendrix arrived in London, he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham that lasted until February 1969. (Taken from: Wikipedia.)
After a life in music business Rod went to South Africa where he was founder of PROmpt (Professional Music Performance and Technology) trying to bring music closer to the life of the disadvantaged youth in Cape Town.
Living in Great Britain, Harrod seriously thinks of moving back to South Africa to revitalise his music-training centre and to finally start writing his memoirs. Some facts that have appeared in rock biographies over the past decades didn’t really happen as such and Harrod would like to put the record straight once and for all…
Obviously the Church's first question was if Harrod remembered the girl called Iggy whose snapshot had been taken at The Cromwellian:
...sorry to disappoint but although I have vague recollections from the photo I can not add more...
One of the people pictured on the NME article is Lynn Annette Ripley aka Twinkle who had several hits in the mid Sixties.
I immediately spoke to Twinkle (Ripley) who lives quite close to me. She used to go out with Simon (Hayes)... but she does not even remember him being the PR there...
She remembers him as working in a PR Agency in Berkley Square or somewhere - not owning it. Trouble is when you run down memory lane these days you sometimes hit cul de sacs and others take you in totally the wrong direction...
But Harrod’s trip down memory lane isn’t exactly a dead end street, quite the contrary… The Church is proud to publish some of his Cromwellian memories in avant-première…
So many things changed quickly in those days...
I was around at the Cromwellian as PR around 1964 – 1965 before I moved on to the Scotch of Saint James that became even more famous as THE Club... The late George Melly's account is reasonable except he got my name wrong (it is not Roy, but Rod).
George Melly's account of the Crom can be found at the Church article: The Style Council. Rod Harrod continues:
George Melly missed mentioning the very camp 'Harry the Heart' of Harry's International Bar on the ground floor of the Cromwellian (the 'Heart' bit came from his delightfully effeminate wave over the heads of a packed bar as you walked in: 'Hello (dear) Heart, how are we? Be with you now."
According to Melly, Harrod left the Crom club after a quarrel with its owner. Rod disagrees:
I do not remember having a row with the owner - wrestler and promoter Paul Lincoln - who wrestled incognito wearing a mask, just that the Crom decided they did not want to pay my bar bill anymore. I had a better offer anyway from Louis Brown who, with Lenny Bloom, owned the Scotch of Saint James.
Ready, Steady, Kerr!
Dusty (Springfield) was closely associated with Ready Steady Go! and the show's booker Vicki Wickham. It was her idea for a RSG Motown Special that broke Motown in the UK after a flop theatre tour.
The importance of Ready, Steady, Go! as an instant pop style catalyst can not be emphasized enough. The program literally uphove the island of Britain from a dark and gloomy past. George Melly in Revolt into Style:
In the McLuhanesque sense RSG was an important breakthrough. It plugged in direct to the centre of the scene and only a week later transmitted information as to clothes, dances, gestures, even slang to the whole British teenage Isles.
When I was touring in the 50s fashions took an almost incredible time to spread. Even the large provincial centres like Liverpool and Manchester were at least six months behind, while in small Yorkshire mining communities as late as 1960 it was still possible to find Teddy Boy suits, and not only that. They were tailored in ruby red or billiard-table green cloth. As for the borders of Scotland the girls' dresses had hardly altered since the middle 30s.
RSG changed all that. It made pop work on a truly national scale. (…)
The whole chemistry of RSG was right. So was its timing. Friday night just after work. ('Your weekend begins here' was its slogan.)
Already in 1964 George Melly had described the program as an example of telly-brutalism, never seen before on British television.
New trends in dancing, clothes, even erotic habits (a tendency to tug gently at the legs of the singers has recently become common) appear on this programme at the same time - or even in advance of - what's going on in the teenage clubs.
It all happens, and the rest of the pop shows - ABC's Thank You Lucky Stars and the BBC's Top of the Pops limp painfully after it.
Patrick Kerr was a national celebrity thanks to his involvement in Ready Steady Go! Nearly every week the choreographer (and his Go Go Girls) presented a brand new hot dance that would be copied and mimicked in dance halls all over the country.
In the early sixties Kerr turned to full-time dancing with his dance partner (and future wife) Theresa Confrey. After a contract on a cruise ship in the Americas he returned to Britain in 1963 where he was immediately spotted by RSG! to promote the most popular (American) dances. Later on he picked them up at the hip London clubs, often the Sabre where he would also recruit the weekly bunch of volunteers to appear at the show, but if no hip dance could be found he designed the new moves by himself. The RSG! dance of the week would be published in newspapers and youth magazines so that the kids were able to learn it for their week-end dance hall debauchery.
(In the mid-sixties Kathy McGowan used to present the show in Biba clothes and on Saturday morning Carnaby Street was invariably overrun by fans looking for gear they'd seen on Ready, Steady, Go! the night before. Patrick Kerr (and Theresa Confrey) cashed in on that trend as well by opening the Hem and Fringe boutique on Moreton street.)
In 1964 Patrick Kerr debuted as a pop singer. Although he was in the capable hands of Adam Faith and Sandie Shaw's manager, Eve Taylor, his career would be limited to one single only: Magic Potion / It’s no trouble to love you. After a UK package tour with Adam Faith, Sandie Shaw, The Barron Knights and the proto-Procol-Harum-gang The Paramounts he returned back to Ready, Steady, Go! as its main choreographer.
But perhaps Kerr's recording contract was not based upon his singing qualities alone. When Sandie Shaw was due on stage for Top Of the Pops the floor buzzed with the rumour that she and Kerr had been found inside a broom cupboard and that the thing they were looking for wasn't exactly a broom...
Sadly Patrick Kerr passed away on the 15th of August 2009 so the Church can’t ask for his comments anymore, regarding Iggy obviously…
To bend or not to bend
When 'Bend It' came out, the programme controller of the pirate station Radio London, Alan Keane, was very reluctant to play it as he suspected it was obscene. So we came up with the ruse that 'The Bend' was intended as a new dance, hopefully dance craze. (Taken from davedeedozybeakymickandtich.nl)
Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley hastily wrote (and recorded) a few other Bend songs and approached Patrick Kerr from Ready, Steady, Go! fame to devise a brand new dance. Kerr accepted, the dance was promoted on RSG! as this week's brand new thing and its steps appeared in the press.
The Bend made it on the Pathé news with Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich miming the song, in front of Patrick Kerr and his Go Go Girls, at the London Playboy club near Hyde Park (Park Lane 45). More a casino than a club the Hutch On The Park, as the place was nicknamed, was an immediate success and the place where one could occasionally meet The Beatles, George Best, Warren Beatty, Michael Caine, Judy Garland, Sean Connery, Roman Polanski or Sharon Tate. (Taken from Wikipedia.)
The Playboy Club had only recently opened, described by some as a 1.6 million pounds celebration of female pulchritude, it contained several restaurants, a nightclub, a casino and flats and suites that could be rented by the day, week or month. This was not the place the average Londoner would, nor could, enter. Woody Allen, who had done the opening night as a favour to Hugh Hefner, called it the London clubhouse for visiting Yanks and he was spotted joining Telly Savalas, John Casavetes, Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin during all-night poker games (this was in 1967 during the shooting of The Dirty Dozen). There was lots of money, lots of drugs and, not unsurprisingly for a Playboy subsidiary, one might add, lots of women.
The Bend party at The Cromwellian may have been, according to this source, the finals of the British national 'Bend' competition, so actually Iggy may have been one of its contestants, if - of course - there has ever been a contest to begin with, because it had all been a publicity stunt just to sell the Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich single.
The ruse worked, and thankfully 'Bend It' got onto the Radio London playlist, vitally important in those days. I don't think the 'dance craze' ever quite happened!
As a follow up tune for Bend It Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley wrote a carbon copy, that even didn't pretend to have been ripped from Mikis Theodorakis' Zorbas anymore. Simply called The Bend it was recorded by a non-existent five-strong London group, The Potatoes, actually Steve Rowland, Alan Caddy and Alan Blaikley in disguise. Its flip-side was called Bend Ahead and that was about the end of this Bend dance craze that never was.
In Germany a third Bend single was released, apparently recorded by the Gaylord Parry's Carnival Band. Actually the A-side Let's Bend was sung by composer Ken Howard, with the help from the same studio musicians that had recorded the Potatoes single, while the B-side Bending Kremlin' Gremlin' was mainly instrumental, apart from some fake Russian grunting. Its sleeve shows Patrick Kerr and his Go Go Girls in full action, although the British public never was aware that it ever existed.
Thanks for reading (an updated, rewritten and enhanced) part three of our Cromwellian Bend-It series. Part four, that will reveal everything about Doctor Death, will come out when you see it appearing on this website! In the meantime, brethren and sistren, don't do anything that Iggy wouldn't have done!
Sources (other than internet links mentioned above)
Bacon, Tony: London Live, Balafon Books, London, 1999, p. 103.
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 72, p. 108.
Levy, Shawn: Ready Steady Go!, Broadway Books, New York, 2003, p. 191, p 207-211.
Melly, George: Revolt Into Style – The Pop Arts In Britain, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1972, p. 170-171.
Palacios, Julian: Lost In The Woods, Boxtree, London, 1998, p. 209.
Many thanks go to:
Rod Harrod, Lynn Annette Ripley, the Dutch Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich fan community.
Rod Harrod let the Church know on July 30, 2010:
Things have progressed on the PROmpt training re-opening in Cape Town front. I got back from meetings with Government Ministers and others there last week. We have been offered by the Provincial Government a huge building on three floors that needs a massive amount of renovation but could work. But first I have to raise a lot of funds for that and to run the programme.
Please visit Rod Harrod's South-African PROmpt website that says most that anyone might need to know. Any contacts or potential donors or anyone interested can contact Rod Harrod through that site: PROfessional Music Performance and Technology.
This is part three of our Cromwellian Bend-It series:
1. Bend It!
2. The Style Council
3. Rod Harrod remembers The Crom
4. Dr Death and other assorted figures...