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 Smith:
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.
T-shirts 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 the local 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 of Darryl 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!
The 'A 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 Floyd.
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 history.
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, England.
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.
More about this rare meeting I had with Syd in 2002 may be read here in some extracts from the book called Madcap, the half-life of Syd Barrett by Tim Willis: http://www.pink-floyd.org/barrett/madcbarr.htm
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 & others, Stalking 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.