2011-03-23

Felix Atagong: an honest man

Fake Reverend unmasked at last
Felix Atagong
Felix Atagong.

The Anchor's editor was kindly asked, although summoned would be a more appropriate term, to do an independent review of an interview of the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit that recently appeared on the extraordinary Spanish Barrett blog Solo en las Nubes (Alone in the Clouds).

Run by Antonio Jesús the blog is a mix of information and fun, containing several references to La Sagrada Iglesia de Iggy La Esquimal, that could be without doubt a title for one of the weirder Pedro Almodóvar movies. Quite recently, in a dark corner of The Anchor, dimly lit by a dripping candle in a bottle on the rough wooden table, I bend over to the gorgeous black-haired girl sitting in front of me, slowly whispering 'La Sagrada Iglesia de Iggy La Esquimal' in her ears (actually, in one ear only as it is quite infeasible to whisper in two ears at the same time, except for Mick Jagger perhaps). Oh Alex Fagotin baby, she passionately sighed with heaving breasts, say that to me one more time, but unfortunately my hair already had caught fire by then.

One very interesting part of the Spanish Barrett blog are the so-called self-interviews (or autoentrevista) and so far Antonio has persuaded Duggie Fields and Laughing Madcaps front-man Kiloh Smith to reveal their souls in these autobiographical Rorschach tests.

Titled 'Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero"' the latest self-interview has provoked roars of hysterical laughter from the Åland Islands to Wallis and Futuna. We reveal no real secrets if we tell you that the Reverend has left a trail of female victims from Oslo to Tarzana and rumour goes there will be more to follow despite many international warnings.

The Reverend's self-interview can already be described as absolute rock-bottom and without doubt it will be voted the all-time-worst-entry at the - otherwise excellent - Spanish Barrett blog. Time to let you decide for yourself what a kind of pompous pathetic pumpernickel that Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit really is. Ladies and gentlemen, the Anchor presents, but not too proudly: Felix Atagong: an honest man...

Solo en les Nubes
Solo en las Nubes.

Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero"

Even the roads of rock are unfathomable.

Felix Atagong, from Belgium, has created a blog dedicated to Iggy, the model of The Madcap Laughs album. Nobody knew her whereabouts for almost forty years. The coincidence of life, meaning that it is not coincidental at all, has lead this case to an unexpected but long-awaited path.

Publius Enigma.
Publius Enigma.

In his self-interview, Mr. Atagong, the Sherlock Holmes of the Floydian world (he even helped to clarify the Publius Enigma) and always committed to the truth he slowly peels the layers of the story of his blog, and more... (introduction written by Antonio Jesús)

1. What is the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit?

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit is a blog for Syd Barrett fans dealing with the – very short – period in 1969 when Syd's alleged girlfriend Iggy lived with the singer. Apart from some unverified rumours about her Eskimo roots nobody really knew something about her, nor what happened to her after her sudden disappearance in 1969.

2. How did it all start?

The Church more or less started as a prank. Discussing the (theoretical) possibility of a Barrett religion on the Late Night forum I mentioned a Saint Iggy Congregation in 2007 and when, in March 2008, DollyRocker recognised Iggy acting in a 1967 British documentary, I jokingly announced the Church's birth. But the idea still ripened for five months before any blog post appeared.

3. What were your intentions?

These were quite ambiguous by design.

Obviously the Church frame, lead by an all-knowing Reverend who addresses his flock in a swollen and theatrical language, is satirical. I wanted to imitate those overzealous fans, who can't stop arguing that Barrett is the world's most underrated musical genius and graphical artist and who painstakingly, almost in religious stupor, scrutinize every minute of his life.

But while I was developing the blog I soon realised that I was painstakingly, almost in religious stupor, collecting all available puzzle pieces that lay shattered over the net, on blogs, in forums, that were published in different articles and biographies, thus creating the ultimate Iggy repository.

Both concepts share an an osmotic relationship and - by being what it is and what it pretends to be – the Church has evolved into a meta-concept, although that thin ironic line is probably completely ignored by the people who visit it.

4. But the Church did trigger an Iggy revival, didn't it?

Not really. Every avalanche starts with a couple of snowflakes and by sheer luck the Holy Church happened to be on the right place at the right time. After nearly 40-years of silence several people simultaneously remembered Iggy. Most of the time the Church was not involved but has been monitoring and commentating these events. What nobody expected, except perhaps for the Holy Igquisition, is that it resulted in some sort of Iggymania.

Iggymania started when Mojo magazine put Syd Barrett on its cover in 2010. Of course that cover story was all about The Madcap Laughs 40th birthday but the Church had clearly inspired one of the articles. Not only did this boost the hits on the website but a few days later The Church could reveal that Evelyn (Iggy) had been found back as well and that thanks to Mojo.

Beginning of this year Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake could finally interview Iggy and that is when Iggymania fully exploded.

5. Not bad for something that started as a joke.

Syd and Iggy - Spring 1969
Syd and Iggy - Spring 1969.

The Church had already turned serious when JenS shared her memories with us, revealing that she (probably) introduced Iggy to Syd and pinpointing The Madcap Laughs photo-shoot date in spring, rather than in the autumn of 1969. Some time later another acquaintance of Syd gave her first interview ever to the Church. Margaretta Barclay and her boyfriend Rusty were regular visitors at Syd's flat and they even tried to resuscitate Barrett's interest in music by dragging him over to Meic Stevens, who is still some kind of weird folk cult figure.

I find it rewarding that some of the Church theories have been reprinted in magazine articles and biographies, so I guess we're not all rubbish after all.

6. But finding Iggy also presented a major crisis for the Church, isn't it?

It is the ambiguity of all organisations that have a certain goal. What do you do if the goal has been reached? What will Greenpeace do if no-one hunts little seals any more? The worst thing that could happen to the Church was to find Iggy! But every time the Reverend uttered the fear there would be lack of Iggy, something new turned up. And 2011 has already proved to be no exception.

Thinking about the future the Church did some reorganising and will continue developing into other areas, of course not neglecting its primary task to inform about al things Ig. One of the new items at the Church will be a gossip corner called 'The Anchor', named after the Cambridge pub Syd Barrett used to visit in the early Sixties. We hope it will stir things up as the Barrett community has become quite lethargic lately. We're all old farts who fall asleep after our afternoon tea and biscuits.

7. The question we are all waiting for: is Iggy aware of it at all and what does she think of the Church?

Evelyn kept a low profile over the years, although she apparently never hid the fact that she had been on the cover of The Madcap Laughs album. But the path of Iggy and the path of the Barrett fan community simply didn't converge for the last 40 years.

Recently Iggy has contacted the Church and she gave us valuable information. However the question is what will happen when Iggymania freezes over. I feel it a bit hypocrite to say that now, but it was never the Church's intention to invade Iggy's privacy.

8. This interview should have at least one anoraky question, reflecting the true nature of the Church. Does the 'eskimo chain' line in Barrett's Dark Globe refer to Iggy?

Dark Globe is a very poignant, hermetic track and, as is the case in many of Syd's songs, its lyrics can be interpreted in different ways. I think Julian Palacios describes it as a lament to Pink Floyd or something of that order. It also reads as a goodbye song to a past love and here is where the 'eskimo chain' line fits in – or doesn't.

I'm only a person with Eskimo chain
I tattooed my brain all the way...
Won't you miss me?
Wouldn't you miss me at all?
Solo en las Nubes banner
Solo en las Nubes banner.

Most people who read Barrett blogs will know that Barrett recorded under the guidance of Malcolm Jones, but somewhere in May 1969 he passed the torch to David Gilmour (Roger Waters would join in as well on a later date). Jones had given up in desperation, as Peter Jenner had done the year before, that last one declaring that the sessions had been 'chaos'. Finally it was David Gilmour who pleaded Harvest records to allow Barrett a third and final chance to finish his solo record. Of course this is just one interpretation and not all biographers and witnesses agree with that. Another story goes that Malcolm Jones simply invited Gilmour (and Waters) for marketing reasons: three Pink Floyd members for the price of one, so to speak (four if one adds Rick Wright who might have done some uncredited overdubs on Golden Hair). Probably the truth lies, as is often the case, somewhere in the middle.

The first session of the third recording round took place on the 12th of June 1969. Barrett premiered two new songs: Dark Globe and Long Gone. On the third (and final) session (26th of July) Roger Waters joined David Gilmour and a couple of other attempts were made of the same songs. (this alternative version of Dark Globe, now retitled as Wouldn't You Miss Me, was later released on the Opel outtakes album.)

It would be logical to see Long Gone and Dark Globe as an indivisible pair as they are both sad love songs. But there is an abundance of that theme on The Madcap Laughs. Jenny Spires told the Church: “Syd wrote songs and not all of them were about one person or another. It was his job. (…) Syd was not romantically inclined this way. 'I'm only a person with Eskimo chain' refers to the evolutionary chain, not to a specific person. He was on a very much higher spiritual plane, not so much on the material.”

But on the other hand Syd liked to put wordplay and little nods to reality in his texts. Pink Floyd's second single See Emily Play refers to psychedelic debutante Emily Young and to Libby Gausden, Jennifer Gentle from Lucifer Sam is a mixture between Jenny Spires and an ancient English ballad called 'There were three sisters' (Jennifer, Gentle and Rosemaree).

Dark Globe also contains the verse: “'The poppy birds way, swing twigs coffee brands around.” At first sight this is just a nature description set in a romantic mood but if one knows that a former girlfriend of Syd was Vivian 'Twig' Brans it becomes quite clear that Syd has cryptically entered her name in that line.

So while Dark Globe may have no-one specific in mind the Eskimo chain line may have been a slight nod toward Iggy.

9. This explanation made my appetite grow for more. How can one join the Church?

To paraphrase Groucho Marx: I don't want to belong to any Church that will accept me as a member, so you can't. The Church does have some loyal friends though who have helped by passing on valuable information. Basically the Church just reaps what others have sown (a common practice amongst churches, I might add). Many kudos go to a long list of loyal brainstormers, informants, witnesses and friends (and I already want to apologise for the ones I have forgotten): Anne, Anthony, Bea, Denis, Dollyrocker, Douggie, Eternal, Gretta, Jenny, Julian, Kieran, Lisa, Mark, Paro, Prydwyn, Rod, Sadia, Sean, Vicky, our many visitors and fans... And of course Iggy herself.

10. What is this recurring thing about the Holy Igquisition?

Nobody expects the Holy Igquisition!

Self-interview courtesy of: Solo en las Nubes (2011) - Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero", introduction written by Antonio Jesús. Self-interview written in December 2010 and updated in January 2011.


The Anchor is the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit's satirical division, intended for people with a good heart, but a rather bad character.
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