2009-01-30

When Syd met Iggy... (Pt. 2)

Daffodils
Daffodils.
Hello, I would like to try and clarify a couple of things about Ig.
She was a girlfriend of mine.

In January or early February 1969, a mutual friend introduced Iggy to Syd Barrett, the rock star who had left Pink Floyd. To celebrate the fortieth birthday of this event The Holy Church of Inuit brings you an exclusive rendition of what happened, as told by JenS, who knew Barrett in his Cambridge and London days.

In the first part of this article When Syd met Iggy (Pt. 1), JenS recollected how she met Iggy and how she introduced the girl to Syd. In the second part she reconstructs the photo shoot from The Madcap Laughs, Barrett’s first solo album.

Introduction

1. It is generally believed that The Madcap Laughs photo sessions, by Storm Thorgerson and Mick Rock, took place in the autumn of 1969, a couple of weeks after the album was cut and a short time before it hit the shelves of the record stores (see Stormy Pictures).

2. It is generally believed that Iggy has only been living in Syd’s apartment for two or three weeks maximum, during which the famous photo sessions took place, before disappearing completely from the scene. In our previous article JenS situates this in February or March 1969.

The problem is that there is at least a six months gap between both dates. JenS however has some strong points favouring her theory.

Daffodils and Pontiacs

Storm Thorgerson probably shot the cover of The Madcap Laughs early in the year because, according to JenS:

If you look at the vase of flowers next to Syd, they are daffodils. We get those in March.

Although a valid argument it is not really tight-fitting, but JenS continues:

The car shots (in Mick Rock’s book Psychedelic Renegades, FA) show there are no leaves on the trees.
If this were London, October or November, there would be leaves on the ground.

Mick Rock’s photo book has got quite a lot of pictures with Syd (and Iggy) leaning against a neglected Pontiac, property of Syd.

The car was there at New Year, (Syd didn’t drive it) and it was there when I left in March, with a borough sticker on it, the remains of which show on the windscreen in the photo. If Storm and Mick are saying October or November, was the car there all that time? I don’t know who would know that.

The previous comment may be completely understandable for Syd Barrett anoraks, but needs some extra explanation for the casual visitor of the Church who doesn’t know the fabulous story of Syd’s car.

Pink Pontiac?
Pink Pontiac?

Tic tac Pontiac

Painter Duggie Fields recalls:

The car too has it’s own mythology. Later on I identified it as the car used in the film of Joe Orton’s Loot (not exact, FA), but I first saw it at Alice Pollock and Ossie Clark’s New Year’s Eve party at the Albert Hall ­ a memorable event itself where both Amanda Lear and Yes (separately) took to the stage for the first time. (Taken from: Duggie Fields)

Ossie Clark, once described as an ‘enigmatic, bisexual gadabout’, textile designer (and wife) Celia Birtwell and Alice Pollock had a boutique called Quorum. It was a haute couture heaven for the Swinging Elite, dressing people like Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Patti Boyd, Marian Faithfull, Jimi Hendrix, the Jaggers and The Pink Floyd. His clothes were a reflection of the past but with the advantages of the new (one of his creations had discreet pockets ‘to put joints in’). In 1965 Clark was the pioneer of the flower power look and two years later nearly all of the 2000 boutiques in London would be copying his style. Clark’s haute couture empire crashed in the seventies; in 1996 he was murdered by his partner.

Mickey Finn, from T. Rex fame, won the Pontiac Parisienne at the Royal Albert Hall raffle (New Year 1969). He took possession of it but became paranoid at the unwanted attention it attracted to himself and his fellow passengers. One day he met Syd and they simply swapped cars (Syd had a mini).

But Syd never drove it, so it stayed parked outside the house for a couple of months. A wheel soon went missing and the car accumulated dust, parking tickets and legal notices. In Mick Rock’s photo book one can see that a neighbour wrote a plea in the dust of the trunk to have the car removed. Syd's solution was simple as bonjour: he gave the car away to a stranger. It was seen being driven around South Kensington soon after.

A couple of months after Syd (and before him, Mickey Finn) got the car it was used in the 1970 British movie Entertaining Mr Sloane (not Loot). The car, with its cream red and silver interior, is featured prominently throughout the movie. The flick is not great but the pink Pontiac gives a shiny performance.
Update December 2009: the above paragraph has been corrected as Syd gave the car away before the movie was made and not, as is generally believed, the other way round. For more details: please check Anoraks and Pontiacs.

This leaves us with another enigma. The car in the movie is pink, but was midnight blue when Mick Rock photographed Syd with it. Although Mick Rock seems to remember: "Syd’s car was a conspicuously bright pink Pontiac Parisienne convertible" several colour pictures, probably taken by Storm Thorgerson on the same day, testify against this. JenS adds:

Syd's Pontiac was blue, midnight blue as you say. I have no idea if it was pink before that. I've only heard it was Mickey's and pink from things I've read. I cannot imagine Syd having it resprayed or painting it.

It remains a mystery when and why the kameleon car changed its colours (twice), but if one looks very close at the picture above, there appears to be a trace of 'brownish' paint under the right front light. Could this have been its original colour?

Car Sticker

Mick Rock has taken a picture of Syd sitting on the hood of his car. A police label can be seen glued to the windshield. JenS:

Look at the date of the police sticker on Syd’s car. It seems to be April 1969. It occurred to me that the little twigs on the ground would come with the March winds, as this was the time of clear-cut seasons. They are very distinctive.
Label on Syd Barrett car
Police label on Syd Barrett's car.

Unfortunately not all can be read, part of the sticker disappears in the inner fold of the book and the smaller letters dissolve with the background. The following is easily distinguishable:

DANGER KEEP OFF
(unreadable)
THIS IS
DANGEROUS LITTER
AND WILL BE REMOVED & DISPOSED OF
SEVEN DAYS HENCE
Dated the ___ day of ___ 196_
Registration No. ___
(if any) ___ F.H. CLINCH,
BOROUGH (unreadable) AND SURVEYOR

The date is more difficult to decipher, but after some tweaking it appears to be the 14th of April 1969. If the British police was as effective in 1969 as it is now it definitely pins The Madcap Laughs photo shoot date between the 14th and 21st of April 1969 and not autumn as has been said before.

The legend goes that Syd Barrett gave the car way to an admirer who happened to like it. It is improbable to assume that the wreck stayed on the street for six months without any police intervention.

Next week will have the final instalment of our series of JenS's memoirs.


Sources (other than internet links mentioned above)
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 141.
Green, Jonathon: All Dressed Up, Pimlico, London, 1999, p. 79-80.
Jones, Malcolm: The Making Of The Madcap Laughs, Brain Damage, 2003, p. 13.
Levy, Shawn: Ready Steady Go!, Broadway Books, New York, 2003, p. 112, p.193-195.
Rock, Mick: Psychedelic Renegades, Plexus, London, 2007, p. 23, p. 58.

The Church wishes to thank:
Dark Globe, Sean Beaver (who watched Loot just to make sure if the Pontiac figured in it or not), Bea Day, Julianindica and all the others who contributed to the discussion at Late Night: The tale of Syd's car - the movie star...
JenS for her invaluable testimony about what really happened in those early days of 1969.