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A wise man once said: put two Barrett fans together and they start a
group, put three and they start a fight.
When in May 2007 the Astral Piper forum came to a standstill
it was all due to a quarrel that had started a lustrum before and that
suddenly turned ugly.
Dark Days In Paradise
In 1998 an Australian fan with a movie director's dream went to London
and Cambridge. He visited the traditional Floydian landmarks and of
course he also headed for St.
Margaret Square where he caught a glimpse of Mr. Barrett on his way
for his daily newspaper. Somehow he managed to get his camera out and
recorded a take of the ex-rock-star returning home.
Back at home he compiled his holiday souvenirs in a 12 minutes 58
seconds video tape, named it R. K Barrett - A Day So Dark So Warm
(by Reflecting Electric Eye Films) and started selling those at record
stores and fairs.
Apparently this wasn't a release Australia was waiting for and in order
to conquer the world the tape was (briefly) advertised on A
Fleeting Glimpse. Almost immediately the footage was baptised the
'stalker video' by the Yahoo Laughing Madcaps group where the mindless
bleaters were instructed to drag the maker down by the stone. Kiloh
His video was 40+ minutes of Cambridge footage (filler) with about a
minute of him following Roger down the street with Roger looking
bewildered and upset. Oh yeah, the shitbag slowed the footage down to
milk even more "time". We obtained a copy and put it on HYGIY? and gave
it away for free thereby rendering his profit thing moot. We also did a
hate email campaign to him from my 3,000+ member group. We were also the
ones who coined the phrase: Stalker Video. (Kiloh Smith on Facebook,
14 September 2013.)
Unfortunately Col Turner (from the aforementioned A Fleeting
Glimpse website) who had only agreed to put up an ad for a fellow
countryman was targeted in the same hate campaign as well. Things got so
heated that one of those loud-mouthed, self-proclaimed Barrett prophets
send death threats to the website owner. Col Turner at first retaliated
that he would report this at the police, but gave in at the end:
I WAS involved with selling that wretched video for all of 12 days about
4 years ago (written in 2005). I NEVER claimed that it had the approval
of Syd's family. (...) I made a mistake, and as soon as I realised I had
made a mistake, I corrected it, and refused to have anything more to do
with it. I had NOTHING to do with the filming of it, in fact, it was
about two years old when it was shown to me. (Col Turner on NPF,
9 March 2005.)
And all this for a one minute long sequence of someone who made a dozen
of decent songs somewhere in the late sixties, although we may not
forget that the movie maker was of course first interested in his own
wallet and not in the preservation of Syd's legacy. As a matter of fact
you had to be a fool to believe the somewhat redundant message at the
end of his movie that went like this:
There's some Syd on your doorstep
Despite the insults and the threats that made you wonder who the bad
guys really were, the movie maker in spe returned to the UK and
again he took his camera with him. In Tim Willis' book Madcap
it is written that he acted as a spokesman of the Echoes
community who had paid for a Syd Barrett bench in the Botanic
Gardens in Cambridge, but the Echoesians have always denied they
appointed someone to break the news to Barrett. Anyway, carrying a few
hand-drawn maps of the bench in his hand, he rang the door at number 6
of St. Margaret Square.
Barrett opened the door, a look of unnerving intensity on his face. The
man explained why he was there and Barrett asked where it was. The man
handed over a map with directions to the bench. As he glanced over the
page Barrett’s rather severe expression melted into a smile the outside
world had not seen in decades. Barrett asked for the other map. He
signed it ‘R Barrett’. (Taken from: Dark
Globe by Julian Palacios.)
What lots of people don't know is that the event was filmed in real
candid camera style using the camera that was recording in the fan's
shoulder-bag. A couple of 'doorstep' pictures were leaked to the outside
world but the movie itself of Syd putting his autograph on the map was
never shown to the general public, although rumours go that the
door-stepper tried to sell the tape to a few hardcore collectors.
We're all following a strange melody
On Sunday, the third of April 2005 Astral
Piper was launched, a website and forum that described itself as
the New Syd Barrett Appreciation Society. Its owner, Dion Johnson,
was not someone who saw things small. On one of the introductory pages
he expresses his wish to have a society 'of mammoth numbers', to
personally design the sleeve for the soon to be released Vegetable
Man single, to issue a Barrett tribute CD (urging Robyn Hitchcock,
Graham Coxon and Michael Stipe to contact him, sito presto) and
to erect some kind of 'memorial tribute' in Cambridge.
were made (at a total cost of 1347.50 AUD, if our information is right)
that could be purchased through Astral Piper. The benefits would be used
to erect a 12 feet (3,65 metres) tall monument,
standing on 4 curved metal legs, with the sunlight streaming through a
metal cut-template of Syd's face, as if a bench on a park wasn't already
enough. This wild idea apparently pleased Syd's family and made it into
press but alas the Cambridge city council wasn't jumping for joy.
Astral Piper was a remarkable website, not only because it was a perfect
example of how letter-types, colours and styles can clash (one look at
the html code makes you run away, screaming), but also because it
contained little gems, like the Actuel
article, translated in English, and interviews with and collaborations
Read and Vic
Singh, to name just a few. A mirror of this website has been
archived at Astral
Piper Redux 2013.
Syd on it!
Bench for Syd' page, so was promised, was going to be one of the
most exciting parts of the website.
It will contain a recent 2002 conversation with Syd Barrett featuring
our astral piper and Cambridge astronaut in very good spirits. For those
who don't know, back in 2001 a worldwide group named "Echoes", (with
some help from friends around the world), as well as some very nice
people within the city of Cambridge, a park bench was commissioned in
honour of our hero, Mr Roger Keith (Syd) Barrett. Sporting a
commemorative brass plaque, it was placed in a section of Cambridge
parklands. (…) The full story of the bench and how its location was
revealed to Syd in person (making his day, and mine), is to be loaded on
this web-page soon.
This was definitively the proof that the owner of the Astral Piper
website was also the person who had made the (unreleased) doorstep
video. Unfortunately, this was also the beginning of the end. Dion was
accused on his own forum of being the maker (and seller) of the A Day So
Dark So Warm movie which he vehemently denied (needless to say proof was
against him). The situation escalated and one day he pulled the plug out
of the forum
and the 'A Bench for Syd' webpage was never updated.
There were some fresh starts
and some friendly offers to continue Astral Piper, but these all failed.
The relentless persecution of a few genuine Barrett 'fans' who filled
their days by sending insults to the people involved had become too much.
End of story? Not really.
The Final Cut
Two days ago an interesting item could be found on eBay (page taken
down), being sold by I.E. it was described as follows:
Final video chat filmed with Syd Barrett in 2002 (Roger Keith
Barrett) from Pink Floyd with autograph by Syd Barrett.
Up for auction is an incredibly RARE and UNIQUE item!
This is the last known VIDEO RECORDING and conversation with Syd
Barrett, the genius and founding member of great British rock band, Pink
Up until now this doorstep recording was only spoken about in Syd
Barrett and Pink Floyd forums, discussed among fans and written about in
the now well known book and biography about Syd Barrett's life called
Madcap, by Tim Willis.
In the book, it speaks of an Australian fan who knocked Syd’s door to
tell him about a special park bench seat which had been erected in the
Cambridge Botanical Gardens in honour of him. I am that fan. Since Syd’s
death this bench has become even more meaningful. And I believe this
recording of Syd Barrett is incredibly rare, unique and valuable.
I am the person who knocked Syd’s door, and I am the person who filmed
the conversation with him. He was very happy to learn about the location
of the garden bench, and he can be seen smiling quite a lot during the
casual conversation and very happy to speak. Syd used to enjoy walking
in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, and this enthusiasm is evident.
This video recording is now an important part of Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett
I think it is safe to say that this is the final known video recording
of Syd (Roger Keith) Barrett. He never gave interviews in his later
years and spent most of his life in the privacy of his Cambridge based
home in the suburb of Cherry Hinton.
The original camera tape was badly damaged years ago but thankfully it
was captured to a digital format in the beginning and so up for auction
is the original recording transferred into two formats. A normal DVD
which can be played in a domestic DVD player and also a USB stick which
contains a digital file format of the recording which can be played on
any home computer. Plus I will include a Data DVD for archiving. Also
included is a hand drawn map of the bench’s location which Syd also
kindly “signed” on the day. It has been framed in a high quality frame,
matte-board and photos associated with the conversation with Syd,
including some stills taken from the video recording are also in the
frame. Filmed in January 2002 it is a brief conversation with Syd which
shows Syd speaking and clearly in a good mood.
I cannot stress enough that this is a ONE OFF ITEM! It will be sold ONCE
here on ebay!!
It will be sold here on ebay and the winning bidder can do whatever they
like with the footage. Maybe it could be used as part of a BBC
documentary one day (and sold to the BBC) or it may simply go to an avid
fan or collector for their private collection. Possibly even someone
famous like David Bowie (who I believe is a dedicated Syd Barrett fan)
could purchase it. Or perhaps a Hard Rock Cafe or some crazy casino in
the US may want to buy it?
Part of the final price will go to charity Stroke. My father died from a
Stroke and it is a charity I strongly believe in.
Like many people living in the UK at the moment, I struggle to pay the
rent, bills and put food on the table. I’m selling something quite
valuable from my past which hopefully will make somebody happy as this
is a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity to buy something incredibly
rare and unique. I have no idea what this recording is worth, and so I
will make it a simple start bid with a no reserve price.
It is available on ebay worldwide and will be sent via
Insured/Registered/Tracked DHL courier. Or if the buyer is based in the
UK, the item will be sent Registered/Signed For Courier. Alternatively,
the item may be picked up in person from an address here in Cambridge,
Winning bidder will receive the following:
1) A DVD of the footage which can be played on any domestic DVD Player
or computer 2) A data DVD which has a raw file of the footage. 3)
USB stick containing an MP4 video file of this conversation with Syd
(Roger Keith) Barrett 4) A framed print containing a map personally
signed by Syd in 2002. The large framed print also contains photograph
srelating to the bench and chat with Syd at his home in Cambridge. Frame
dimensions are 76cm wide, 67cm high and 3cm thick.
Any questions, please ask. This item ends on Sunday 22nd September at
11.06pm (British standard time).
This sale was not only picked up by Cambridge
News, but unfortunately also by those Syd Barrett fans who never
forget and called the seller some very bad names. Two days after the
item was put for sale, it was withdrawn from eBay.
The Anchor got hold of the news that the Barrett Trust may have
intervened and that they had the item removed. This is understandable,
they can only agree with Syd being sold if they can have their share of
the profit, they're not called the Cambridge Mafia for nothing, you know.
A gallery, containing all the known doorstep pictures, has been added
to this blog: Doorstep.
(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations have
been enlarged for satirical purposes.) The Anchor wishes to thank:
Anonymous, Cambridge News, HYGIY, Dion Johnson, Joanne 'Charley' Milne,
Kiloh Smith, Col Turner.
Sources (other than the above internet links): Luminous_grin &
Syd Barrett, NPF forum, 25 June 2007. Col Turner & others, Syd
Stalker, NPF forum, 19 March 2005. Palacios, Julian: Syd
Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 434.
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. More info: The
Anchor. Read our legal stuff: Legal
Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten
message, somewhere in 2003? It might be true, or not, depending from
your point of view.
Food and drink
The story of Syd turning into an involuntarily hermit may be correct to
a certain extent, but this doesn't mean the man didn't interact with the
world around him.
Now and then some anecdotes sip through, almost accidentally, like MvB
who told the Church that Syd Barrett had dinner at her parent's home one
day, probably in 1970. These were strange psychedelic days and her
parents, journalists who must have been groovy folk, allowed her to go
on her own to Syd's apartment afterwards. She wasn't really impressed
with what was happening there, which is slightly understandable, as she
was still more or less into Barbie dolls.
It's also weird how this Earth has changed for the past 40 years,
because sending a young girl into something that has been described by
others as a notorious free drugs & free sex den isn't something we would
approve of nowadays, unless that description was an exaggeration as
well. But like we said, these were different times.
We all know that Syd Barrett liked a good beer or two. So from time to
time he would jump on the tube from Earl's
Court, pass Gloucester
Road and get off at South
Kensington, where he would walk to a pub nearby. All highly
irrelevant stuff that Sydiots like to collect, like Panini
It is because there is this Barrett's lost weekend which, in his case,
took three decades. That is why we cling to every little detail we can
get hold of and extrapolate it as being emblematic for his entire life.
Sometimes an anecdote gets to lead its own life like the story that
Barrett was writing The
History Of Art, a titbit that has been reheated by fans and books
and articles for nearly two decades, that can be traced back to a quote
from his sister and that was nothing more than a chronological list of
Often we are simply willing to believe an unconfirmed anecdote because
it is the only thing we can relate to. Rob
Chapman in his Irregular
Head biography vehemently wanted to debunk the false rumours and
'unsubstantiated nonsense' about the man but quite a few readers feared
he might have created one himself.
On pages 365 and following, Chapman recites the charming anecdote of a
young child who ran into Barrett's garden to ask him a pertinent
question about a make-believe horse. Not only did Barrett patiently
listen to her dilemma, he also took the time to explain her that in
fairy tales everything is possible, even flying horses. (Taken from: The
Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory.)
Chapman didn't materialise this witness from his high hat though as she
was originally a Laughing Madcaps group member. Kiloh Smith
that this is another proof that Rob Chapman was 'skimming off original
material' from forums and mailing groups for his biography. Nothing
wrong with that, of course, as long as you give a friendly nod here and
there. Radha's first message appeared on the 13th of March 2007:
My name is Radha, and I wanted to say a personal "hello" to everyone in
this group as I've just joined today. (Radharani, Laughing Madcaps, 13
Soon Radha (short for Radharani Krishna) added some pretty innocent
I remember he used to walk to the shops in town and sometimes stopped to
tell us little kids some silly nonsense rhyme or listen to ours and
laugh with us. I never knew he was anybody other than a sweet older
fellow who lived up the road and never went to work! (Radharani,
Laughing Madcaps, 16 March 2007)
It's a pity really that Radharani's comments, about 40 in total, can
only be consulted by accessing the Yahoo
Laughing Madcaps group, that for one reason or another has been
declared a no tress-passing area for the Church. In 1998 she left
Cambridge for London to be 'rich and famous' and that is when she said
goodbye to Roger:
He said Cambridge'd be dull without me (…) and we had a long talk that,
knowing what I know now, really gives me the old throat-lump. I didn't
realise it at the time, but he was really giving me a lot of himself. I
think he must have done this with some of the other kids I grew up with
who left home the way he had done, with big dreams and not much
experience. I think it was his chance to be a dad. (Radharani, Laughing
Madcaps, 20 March 2007)
It was at this point when Radha was first accused, in the group's
typical cynical style, of being a fraud, she published less and less and
finally disappeared in 2008.
I think the myth of RKB as a mean-spirited old curmudgeon or some sort
of vacant-eyed schizo burnout is dreadfully one-dimensional and out of
touch with the reality and intricacies of human nature. I cannot speak
for his interaction with people who came in from the outside, but he was
always polite to people in town. Some days he had more time to give than
others, but he always waved or smiled as he passed our gate. (Radharani,
Laughing Madcaps, 21 March 2007)
When Rob Chapman was researching for his book Radha's existence was
confirmed to him by Ian Barrett, who may have met her and who confirmed
she had lived two doors away from Roger.
As in all good stories this isn't all. A nice overview of the Radha
controversy can be found on the Syd
Barrett Pink Floyd blog and if you really want to delve into the
sore details you can always check the Neptune
Pink Floyd forum.
It's awfully considerate
But people who are accustomed to the Church's customs probably know that
the previous was just a lengthy introduction to today’s sermon.
Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten message,
somewhere in 2003? Here is the story that is so unbelievable it could be
10 years ago, at 15, Jonathan Charles was a bit Syd Barrett
obsessed. He would sit at the computer after school and do tons of
research on Syd & early Pink Floyd. Collecting photos, reading articles
and interviews, looking for items on eBay. Like the rest of the world he
also tried to find out where Syd lived, but Barrett's address was
impossible to find. But from time to time he would look for it again and
one day a certain Roger Barrett in Cambridge turned up.
I really can't remember exactly where I found it though it was not a
typical yellow pages or similar site. I searched the address on a map
online to check it out further. I'm pretty sure these were the days
before Google street view so I wasn't sure if it really was his place. I
decided to send a letter even though I thought I probably wouldn't get a
response. I did feel I should leave him alone but my curiosity got the
best of me I guess... (Taken from: I
sent a letter to Syd in 2003 - was returned with a note.)
In his letter Jon asked a number of things but he mostly wanted to know
details about Roger's current life and of course there was the
obligatory 'I'm a big fan' stuff. One day an envelope from the UK
arrived but with no return address on it. Inside was Jon's original
letter with a note added at the bottom. It read:
DEAR JONATHAN, NOT ME – I AM NOT THIS MAN – I AM AN
OLD AGE PENSIONER – AND NOT HIM. SORRY TO DISSAPPOINT YOU.
The note, written in capitals and with several words underlined,
stressed several times that the man who had received the letter was not
Syd Barrett, all in all a strange way to react. At 15 Jon thought
nothing more of it and the letter landed in a drawer until it was
rediscovered a few weeks ago.
Jon decided to compare the handwriting of the note (also from the
address on the envelope) with that of Syd at a later age and concluded
there are some similarities, especially in the M's, N's and T's.
As usual in these kind of matters there are opposite views. Alexander,
who has some originals from Barrett in his collection, remarked that the
capital 'D' is not at all the capital 'D' we know from Syd, but Younglight,
at the other hand, also discovered that, in this note, Barrett uses a
lowercase-type 'U', just like he had done in the sausage-thief
letter from 1963.
A quick check by the Church confirms indeed that Barrett often wrote a
lowercase 'U' in uppercase sentences. Examples can be found on a letter
to Libby from 1963 or on the 'deddly
dumpty' part of the Fart Enjoy booklet.
Although short, a lot can be told by analysing the message. Wolfpack
did this at the Late Night forum and returned with a couple of
1. For someone just getting a wrongly addressed letter, this answer
is quite long.
The return note is indeed not logical. A normal response would have
been: “Sorry Jon, you've send this letter to the wrong address so I am
returning it.” There are several stories of how Roger Barrett told
visitors that Syd wasn't there and this note surely reflects the same
2. The word 'NOT' is used 3 times: two times underscored, the 3rd
time double underscored. The writer seems to put a lot of emotion in not
being this man.
The note is almost a distress call, all in capitals and stressing
several times he is not the man Jonathan thinks he is. But by denying it
once too many the author unwillingly admits the opposite.
3. The old age pensioner might hint at being an old retired rock star.
Probably Jon mentioned Syd the rock star in his letter and a logical
answer would have been: “Sorry mate, but I have been a bus driver all my
life.” Or a teacher, a farmer, an undertaker. But none of that in the
answer, an answer that seems to imply: I am an old age pensioner now and
not the young music god you take me for but who I once was.
4. The spelling of 'dissappoint' matches with another unverified
text, which is certainly in a fan's handwriting.
Wolfpack hints at the Rooftop In A Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point
poem where 'dissapear' is written with a double 'S'. Unfortunately an
original in Syd's handwriting didn't survive (or went missing) and we
only have two (handwritten) copies made by Bernard White, that can be
consulted in our Rooftop gallery: Rooftop
It leaves us with the puzzling question: did Syd Barrett really write
'dissapear' or did the copier made an error? We will never know until
the original shows up that might still be in Storm Thorgerson's
psychedelic ordered archives.
Bonhams once tried to sell this copy as a genuine Syd Barrett piece and
when the Church revealed this (with the help of many Late Night members)
they didn't even thank us for pointing this out to them, read all about
that in Bonhams
Sells Fake Barrett Poem.
5. The writing style is poetic. The writing style is melodic. The
visual composition (text layout) is aesthetic.
This is entirely Wolfpack's point of view and you can check his ideas
and theories on the Late
Night forum, if you want.
I'm not here
The Holy Church asked Jon to get a closer look on the envelope, but all
we have obtained so far is that it had two 2 stamps, one of 1£ and one
of 5 pence. Jon further explains:
I ended up looking very closely at the post office ink stamp on the
envelope and found a date. It should be correct because there is another
stamp on the other side that says AU10P. The one on the front is 030810.
August 10th, 2003.
So is this note the real deal, or not?
A look at the handwriting seems to point to that direction and the
message itself is in accordance with the anecdotes of the mad bard as we
On the other hand this could all be an intelligent and very elaborate
hoax, done by someone who admits he was (and still is) somewhat of a
Barrett obsessed fan. The comparison of the letters (see image above)
could have been made as a 'visual aid' to imitate Syd's handwriting,
rather than to prove the opposite.
Adding the deliberate spelling error 'dissapoint' (thus repeating the
mistake on the Rooftop poem) could be an indication that the forger
thought this spelling error was Barrett's and not Bernard White's.
And then there is still a third possibility, as proposed by Alexander:
...there were not many Roger Barretts in Cambridge which is a small
city. And (it is) quite possible that Syd has asked somebody to write
something and send it back. It´s a male longhand, I´m sure. So, not
Rosemary, but a brother or the postman or a shop owner etc... etc...
What exactly is a joke
But at then end, does it really matter? If enough people believe this is
real, it is real, even if it isn't.
Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten message,
somewhere in 2003? It might be true, or not, but it makes a nice story
and adds to the kaleidoscopic viewpoint we have of the man who once was
Notes: Radha went to America where she attempted a brief modelling
career. She has published some well written slash
fiction about the early days of Pink Floyd. Since 2008 she has
completely disappeared from the Barrett spectrum. Jonathan also send
a copy of the 'Barrett' note to Mojo where it was (apparently) published
in Issue 240, November 2013. Many thanks to Michael Rawding for finding
this. This seems to indicate, in our opinion, that a hoax can be ruled
The Church wishes to thank: Alexander, Jonathan Charles, Late Night,
Laughing Madcaps, MvB, Psych62, Radharani Krishna, Michael Rawding,
Wolfpack, Younglight. ♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥
Sources (other than the above internet links): Barrett, Ian:
personal message on 11 March 2011. Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular
Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 365-366.