Early November 2008, while we were baffled by The City Wakes festivities in Cambridge, a mystery man send the following message to some Syd Barrett oriented forums:
Next Week (November 10th) I begin filming a DVD of places associated with Syd and the roots of Pink Floyd in Cambridge. I'm looking for someone to assist as a production assistant. This will be PAID work. Three days - Monday, Tuesday and Friday. There are 25 locations I am aware of that were not included on the tours and I will also be including interviews with many people not at the Wakes events.
What does a production assistant do? Lugs equipment, gets coffee but also has an input into the production and filming. If anyone is interested please email me. (Taken from: Syd's Cambridge, help wanted.)
That man was Lee Wood who, in the sixties & seventies played in a few obscure bands such as The Antlers, The Pype Rhythms, The New Generation, The Sex and LSD. Because it was so difficult to find obscure records he opened a record store “Remember Those Oldies” in 1974 that grew into an independent punk rock record company after he had witnessed a rehearsal session from the legendary punk band The Users.
The sessions were recorded in Spaceward Studios who are known in Pink Floyd's territorial waters because they used to have the only tape in the world of a concert of the Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band, recorded on the 27th January 1972 at Corn Exchange, featuring a certain Syd Barrett. Also present were Hawkwind and their live set of that day has just been issued by Easy Action. There is no clearance yet for the other bands and at their website Easy Action has only put the following enigmatic message:
Syd Barrett, Pink Fairies
Easy Action has purchased a number of reels of master tape capturing a performance by Hawkwind, Pink Fairies and a band hastily assembled featuring Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett NOT Stars!
Recorded in Cambridge in January 1972, we will be investigating further copyright clearances and one day hope to produce the whole lot for your listening pleasure!
Unfortunately Lee Wood did not become the second Brian Epstein or Richard Branson. As a newbie in the record business he didn't realise that even punk bands need a business plan (and some proper bookkeeping). He kept on releasing those records he liked, and about the only one that actually made a decent profit was 'Settin' The Woods On Fire' from rockabilly rockers Matchbox. Other bands that landed on Raw Records were The Killjoys whose leader Kevin Rowland would later form Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Soft Boys (with Robyn Hitchcock) and even Sixties sensation The Troggs:
When I was growing up in the 1960’s I loved The Troggs. It’s a long story but in 1977 I became their manager and we recorded “Just A Little Too Much” at the legendary Olympic Studios in London. (…) It was issued in 1978. (Taken from: Just A Little Too Much.)
Raw Records also had its Decca audition disaster. Between 1977 and 1978 Lee Wood literally received hundreds of demos, after he had put an ad in a music magazine. One came from an average Manchester band called Warsaw and the tape was binned without further ado. A year later the band had changed its name to Joy Division and hit the post punk scene with its dark and gloomy classics.
In 1979 the company was losing so much money that the record store couldn't cope any more for its losses (several singles only had white sleeves because there was no money to print covers) and after about 30 singles and a few LPs Raw Records was history. (Raw Records history compiled from: Punk 77.)
But a decade before Lee Wood ventured into punk he had been following the Cambridge R&B scene. Antonio Jesús could persuade him to confess the following on the Solo en las Nubes blog... and here it is, for the first time in the English language and exclusively licensed to the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit...
How long have you been living in Cambridge?
I have lived in Cambridge since 1962. My parents moved to a small village called Histon just outside Cambridge when I was 12 years old and they ran a Public House.
Did you ever meet Syd or members of Pink Floyd?
I never met Syd but I probably bumped into him (literally) as I used to go Roller Skating about 3 or 4 times every week at Cambridge Corn Exchange and I’m told Syd went there with his sister.
I knew David Gilmour to say hello to, as I played in a band and spent a lot of time in the local music shops. In fact I was in a shop called Ken Stevens on the day David came in and bought a Fender Stratocaster. 3 days later we all read in Melody Maker magazine he had joined Pink Floyd.
I have since met a lot of his friends. People like Warren (Dosanjh, Syd Barrett's first manager), the very beautiful Jenny Spires, Clive Welham (drummer in Geoff Mott and the Mottoes) and many more. Let me say – I can understand why Syd liked them so much. These people are loyal friends and wonderful human beings. It is a pleasure to know them.
Did you ever see Pink Floyd play live?
Yes. At The Dorothy Ballroom in Cambridge. Of course they were amazing.
Note: The Floyd played that venue on Friday, 17 February 1967 for the St. Catherine's College Valentine Ball, with Bob Kidman, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and Pearl Hawaiians.
What was the music scene like in Cambridge during the period 1965 to 1968?
It was probably like any other town or city of its size. There were lots of groups and a lot of places for them to play. Unlike today you could put on a concert at virtually any church hall or the back room of a pub and people would turn up. It was a very vibrant place. The music scene was incredible. Everything you read about the 60’s – and more. The Corn Exchange and The Dorothy ballroom put on lots of famous bands every week. I saw The Who just after My Generation came out, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Spencer Davis Group, The Kinks, Small Faces and many more.
Did you ever see Syd perform in his first band “Those Without”?
It is possible. When I was 15 some of the older guys who used to drink in my parents pub in Histon would go to another pub in Cambridge called "The Racehorse". Even though I was underage they would take me virtually every week and I saw a lot of bands. I didn’t drink – I just went to see the bands play. I am sure I saw Jokers Wild play there and I know Those Without played there around that time. The band I remember the most and my favourite were called “Something Else” after the Eddie Cochran song but it is possible I saw Syd play there and didn’t realise it. There was also another great band from the area where Syd lived called The Go Five.
Note: Those Without played The Racehorse on Sunday, 20 June 1965 while Jokers Wild had passed there on Friday, the 26th of March 1965. In those days Jokers Wild were quite popular, in 1965 they swept the Dorothy Ballroom 9 times and gigged 22 times at Les Jeux Interdits (Victoria Ballroom).
Were there any other bands in Cambridge who sounded like Pink Floyd?
Yes. There was a group called "This Sporting Life" who really liked them and copied their light show. They were a really good band. The drummer was a friend of mine called David Orbell who actually had a professional recording studio in Histon from 1965 and recorded a lot of bands. He is certain Syd came over and played guitar with another band on one occasion.
Note: the garage freakbeat compilation Le Beat Bespoké 3 (Circle Records, 2008) has an intriguing 1966 track, from an unknown Cambridge band: Time's A Good Thing by Syd's Group. Obviously the liner notes hint that Syd Barrett had a hand in this recording but actually nobody knows the band members, the record studio or the exact date. While some claim that the guitar play is similar to Syd's in a typical fuzzy Sixties style, Kiloh Smith from Laughing Madcaps has suggested that the track is an Eighties forgery annex tribute annex pastiche by a neo-garage-freakbeat band. If only someone could access those tapes in Lee Wood's collection...
He gave me the tapes of a lot of local bands who recorded there, including "The Wages of Sin" with lead guitarist Tim Renwick. David lives in somewhere like Brazil nowadays so I never see him.
Do you still have the tapes?
Yes I do. But I sold my old reel-to-reel tape recorder many years ago and have no way of playing them. But I did hear the track and it is possible. It certainly sounds like Syds style but was recorded in 1965. Who knows?
Do you know where the famous bench dedicated to Syd that two fans told him about when they visited his house is located?
I know exactly where it is. I have visited it on several occasions. The inscription is not obvious. It doesn’t actually mention Syd by name. I show details of it on the DVD I produced called "Syd's Cambridge".
Can you tell us what is on the DVD?
The DVD consists of three seperate tours of Cambridge.The first tour is the City centre. The second tour is the area were Syd grew up and lived. The third tour is all the places inside and just outside Cambridge connected with Syd and the early days of Pink Floyd. As I have lived here all my life I know the city very well. A lot of the books that have been published have incorrect information so I decided to include all the correct details. It shows over 30 locations associated with Syd and Pink Floyd. It even shows the place where Stars played that no one knew about before.
It also corrects details about the only performance by Geoff Mott And The Mottoes. They didn’t actually play at the Friends Meeting House – or other places previously mentioned. I give the real location on the DVD. You can see it all. It also shows the inside of Syds house and garden and has an interview with the girls in the artshop where Syd bought his artist paints.
Can you tell me about the special box set as I have heard about it but never seen one.
The box set is very special. A beautiful pink box with a ribbon containing two DVD, the tours DVD plus one of Matthew Scurfield and Emo talking about Syd and life in the 60’s. The box also contains a book of places connected to the band, the real estate agents details of Syds house when it was for sale (with details from his sister), a Cambridge postcard and bookmark, some special wrapping paper I had designed and specially made and also a small plastic bag with some soil I took from Syds garden when I visited it. There are also some other items in it.
There were only 100 copies of the box set made. Each one is individually numbered and when I sent them out to people they were sent from the Post Office Syd used just round the corner from his house. I also had a special cardboard posting box made to make sure the box set arrived in perfect condition. I’m quite proud of it and the comments and thank you letters I received bear this out.
© 2010 Antonio Jesús, Solo en las Nubes. Pictures courtesy of Lee Wood. Notes, Introduction & Afterword: the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Translation mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely the responsibility of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.
Syd's Cambridge Box Set (Lee Wood)
Some people have asked me about the box set and what it contains, so here goes:
The first DVD is divided into 3 tours. In total we cover 58 locations. There is a lot of new information, including a review of a little known STARS performance at The Perse School, with the actual date and a review of the concert. There is also video of the hall where it took place.
The Geoff Mott And The Mottoes performance did not take place at either the Friends Meeting House or in the Union Cellars. The DVD reveals for the first time where this historic event did take place.
As has been revealed - our research proves beyond a shadow of doubt Sid Barrett was the Double Bass player with the Riverside Jazz Band - not the drummer as claimed in virtuallly every book and article. We also discovered the origins of his nickname originally given to him in the scouts.
Note: this was later confirmed by Syd's school and scouts group mate Geoff Leyshon in A very Irregular Head (Rob Chapman, 2010).
The DVD has footage of 183 Hills Road including the back garden and takes you right up to the front door. There is exclusive footage from INSIDE the Union Cellars and inside Homerton College. Both of these locations are not open to the public.
New information about David Gilmour just days before joining Floyd, the exact location of the park bench dedicated to Syd, the EXACT spot on the Market Square where STARS performed plus lots of photos from the 1960's/70's including The Dandelion Cafe.
There is also an interview with the girls from the art shop where Syd (Roger) purchased his brushes and paints.
Plus a lot more - his local shops, post office, supermarket and places he played when a member of Those Without, including Cheshunt College Lodge.
The city centre tour is conducted by two friends of Syd and at each location they reveal details of their times with him.
Note: these co-presenters are Warren Dosanjh (see: Syd Barrett's first manager) and Charlie Weedon.
The box set also includes a DVD of the City Wakes discussions by Emo and Matthew Scurfield, a book with maps and places around Cambridge, details of Syd's house, cuttings from the local newspaper including adverts for the STARS concerts, a Cambridge greetings card and a small sample of soil taken from 6 St Margaret's Square. There is also exclusive video footage of Syd's house and garden filmed by me in 2006. (Taken from: Syd's Cambridge Box Set.)
Syd's Cambridge Box Set Gallery
Our new gallery shows artwork of the (sold out) Syd Barrett Limited Edition Deluxe Box set issued in 2008 by Sound Publishing. The scans contain (most) material of the box and follow the numbering of the certificate. Some parts have (deliberately) not been scanned and some have been slightly tampered with: Syd's Cambridge Box Set Gallery. The interesting book inside the box is Pink Floyd Fans Illustrated Guide of Cambridge (96 pages) by Mark Warden and Alfredo Marziano. A review of this book can be found at Brain Damage and Amazon still has got a few copies left.
Notes (other than internet links mentioned above)
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 11-12.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 25-27.