Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.
In 2018 the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit celebrated its tenth anniversary.
Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.

September 2015

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2015-09-19

Life Is Just...

Sad Syd. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

One: cocks and sydiots

Let's cut the crap. Most Sydiots, a perfect term coined by a Syd Barrett fan-site webmaster who turned out to be an internet charlatan, are nuts.

A Facebook search gives about twenty Barrett-related groups (not counting the hidden ones obviously), ranging from 7 to well over 7000 members, but at the moment you read this this may well have varied as new groups sprout regularly, mostly when ex-members create new groups out of frustration with another one.

In 2006, due to a sudden emotional storm that swept through my household, I dived deep into those muddy waters that define Barrettism. Joining the madcap cult is not unlike the rise into a masonic lodge and by studying hard and absorbing facts and figures one constantly progresses onto the Barrett road and closer to the 'secret', the 'mystery', the 'enigma', whatever that may be. It is a slow path, but one that is rewarding, at least that is what we are fooling ourselves with.

Pink Floyd carefully cultivated the Barrett myth throughout the years, gaining millions of pounds in the madcap's slipstream, although they have never been eager to share a slice of the pie. Rumours go the band took advantage of Syd's frail mental state in the early seventies peer-pressuring him into selling his financial share in the Pink Floyd company. Roger Waters may have written Wish You Were Here out of remorse, but that was not to be taken too literally and it certainly didn't apply when Syd kept asking for his paycheck. This doesn't mean that Barrett was a poor boy though. Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, The Wall and The Division Bell all made new fans who would check out The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn or a Floyd compilation with some of his early tracks.

A Syd Barrett inspired money machine.
A Syd Barrett inspired money machine.

Selling Barrett by the pound is not a Pink Floyd prerogative. Photographers Storm Thorgerson and Mick Rock turned it into an industry, publishing virtually the same books, with different titles to fool the public, every couple of years. Another grab in the rumour-mill goes that they sued, or threaten to sue, each-other to decide, once and for all, who got the rights of precisely what Barrett pictures. It all is the messy consequence of both of them turning up, on the same day in 1969, for the photo-shoot of Barrett's now legendary and considered cult album, The Madcap Laughs, and mixing up the negatives. Apparently they came to an arrangement that suited both, what cannot be said of the model on the backside of the album who still has to receive the first penny for her performance of 45 years ago.

Much lower at the Sydiverse are those people who once knew him, or those silly tossers (m/f) pretending to have known him, often in the biblical sense of that phrase, and who are frantically trying to keep the memory alive and their reputation high, which can be something of a rope-dancing exercise.

My eternal admiration goes to the person who remarked rather dispirited:

If it weren't for the fact Syd Barrett stuck his cock in me... who would really give a fuck about me?

Exactly.

Life is just...
Life is just..., Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon.

Two: Life is just...

Years ago, I remarked to one of those infallible Syd Barrett-insiders that there could be a good book in the adventures of the Cambridge-mafia, beatniks and hipsters who went to London to seek for fame and fortune, circling (and sometimes dying) like moths around the Floyd's psychedelic flame.

To my knowledge that book was never written, but some bits and pieces can be found in various (early) Pink Floyd biographies and other Swingin' London debris. And there is of course the more than excellent 'The Music Scene of 1960s Cambridge', now in its 6th edition, researched and compiled by Warren Dosanjh, although it tends to look at Pink Floyd as something funny smelling.

Cambridge beatnik and après-beatnik life can also be found in a few autobiographies. William Pryor's The Survival Of The Coolest and Matthew Scurfield's I Could Be Anyone each have Floydian encounters, mainly because it was impossible to frequent hip places and not meet Syd Barrett. Nick Sedgwick's novel Light Blue With Bulges tried to turn the adventures of a would-be beat poet into a novel, but as far as I can remember it pretty much sucked, despite the presence of a certain Mr. Roger Waters as an arrogant bass player.

Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon (NLG) was typecasted as 'Andy' in that novel. In the early sixties he operated the coffee-machine in the trendy coffee-bar El Patio and organised poetry readings and art events, that put him in the centre of the avant-garde cultural elite. Although he moved on into TV/film business he sometimes still performs on art happenings, accurately described by satirist Mick Brown as 'a load of old toffs stuck in a lava lamp'.

In his latest novel 'Life Is Just...' NLG describes a typical British dysfunctional family in the year 1962. Well, typical... The authoritarian father, a respected and feared dean at the Cambridge university, is a living example of the rigorous conservatism of the post-war years, while the children, two sons and a daughter, are experimenting with the newfound freedom that is modern jazz, beat literature, pot and premarital sex. Mother Mary, trapped between loyalty towards her husband and love for her children, tries to hold the house together, despite the cracks in the cement, speaking words of wisdom, as the song goes.

Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon
Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon.

When NLG informed the Barrett community that a Syd-like painter and musician, Richard Bannerman, turns up as one of the main characters there was no unanimous cheer and this time this was not due to the fact that the madcap community mainly consists of a lethargic bunch of wankers. In 2000 NLG directed the docu-fiction Remember A Day about an imaginary sixties musician, Roger Bannerman. The film was made with amateurs, some sixties underground celebrities thinking they could act, had a non-existing script and it resulted into a vehicle that makes the Jan & Dean biopic Deadman's Curve (1978) look like Oscar material.

But of course I would never have read 'Life Is Just...' without the Barrett connotation. NLG knows how to trigger some buzz with us anoraks, that is for sure. But after the initial nerdy questions, such as, is Richard Bannerman a realistic portrait of Roger Barrett and did he really was a gigolo on a bike, the character takes over as a character and not as a clone of a once famous musician stroke womaniser. That's the strength of the author and its story, I guess.

Not that the story is that particular. At a certain point La vie est un long fleuve tranquille popped into my mind, there is an old family mystery, some unavoidable traumatic things occur and life simply goes on after as if nothing has happened...

One of the brothers, Dominic, is probably an alter-ego of the author. He travels to India, in search for a guru, where he meets Meher Baba and Swami Satchit Ananda, who takes his preference. While the trip to and through India is a fine read, there are also portions where the character tries to explain the reasons to follow the mystical path, sometimes with excerpts from other books. It comes over a bit like preaching and ostentatiously is one of the author's darlings.

Nigel by Storm
Nigel by Storm.

Several Cantibrigians did go to India, although not as early as here. Paul Charrier made the trip in 1966 and came back a changed man (see also: We are all made of stars and Formentera Lady). He was so enthusiast that he converted others (including NLG) to follow the path as well, cutting the Cambridge underground scene (and its London satellites) literally in half. Others did not agree, like Storm Thorgerson and Matthew Scurfield who called the Indian invasion a 'wave of saccharine mysticism hitting our shores'. Syd Barrett, as we fans know, was also tempted to follow the path, but was rejected by the master. He continued his hedonist life, living it fully, what may have lead to his decline. Isn't it ironic?

At the end not only Dominic's life has dramatically changed, but also that of his brother, sister and mother. The dark family mystery is known to the reader but not to them, yet... so I'm pretty curious what the second instalment of this trilogy will bring, and of course if Richard Bannerman's band Green Onions will hit the charts or not.

While not earth-shattering Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon has written a pretty fine book and the Kindle version costs less than a Guinness at The Anchor, so what you are waiting for, you lazy Barrett faggots?

More to see and read at our Tumblr page:
Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon
Life Is Just...


Update January 2020: RIP Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, 10 January 2020. Obituary by David Gale:

I met Nigel Lesmoir Gordon, who died today, when I was fifteen, in our home town of Cambridge. We became fast friends. He was endowed with God-like physical beauty, a finely muscled physique of classical Greek proportion, a voracious appetite for all aspects of the emerging Beat culture and a charming but deceptive lightness of manner. One might have been tempted to wonder just what manner of companion this angel-headed godling would seek in that dappled city. He was not your standard posho but one of those who somehow endured the harsh and unrelenting regulation of his school yet, like others in the Cambridge bohemian scene, managed to get under the radar, over the fence and leg it for the badlands. When he was 17 he fell in love with Jenny and, after a while, they moved to London, as did many of us. Their flat in Cromwell Road acquired an international prominence – the police would have used the word ‘notoriety’ - as a beatnik salon in the soaring 60s and the gilded but generous couple hosted a nightly meeting of countless international travellers, seers, babblers, poets, writers, arts activists, film-makers, alternative journalists, freaks, ambulant schizophrenics and those who were none of the above but trod the paths of meditation, worship and unusual diets. We went our ways after a while but stayed affectionately in touch. A few months ago he was told he had a few months to live and this morning the multiple cancers bore him away. Nigel – ‘Les’ to some of us - will be missed terribly by all who knew him, not least Jenny, his children Daisy and Gabriel and all the grandchildren.

Many thanks: Mick Brown, David Gale, Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2015-09-25

Attack the troll!

Rattle That Lock
Rattle That Lock, David Gilmour.

"Bored socialist millionaires making solo records."

This header from a review of the About Face album duly infuriated me, about three decades ago. In this review the critic satirised the fact that David Gilmour had asked colleague Pete Townshend, from an equally legendary band, to help him out on a couple of tracks.

In retrospect the About Face album tried a bit too hard to launch Gilmour on a successful solo career, it was a bit too AOR, too Foreigner-ish to be good. The general audience wasn't interested in Pink Floyd members going solo anyway and - in Belgium - Gilmour only played a small university hall in Brussels, that was only partially filled, if my memory is correct. Not that I was there, I didn’t go as well, but that was thanks to my legendary social anxiety disorder.

Things are different now, the music industry may be complaining music isn’t selling, but at least there is an appetite for the musicians formerly known as Pink Floyd.

The buzz has been going on for quite a while now and you might except that a new David Gilmour album is something like the second coming of Christ. I’m a bit sceptic when things are getting overhyped, since Star Trek V was promoted with the slogan ‘why are they putting seatbelts in theatres this summer’? As the movie-goers found out, it was to prevent them from leaving after fifteen minutes.

Although the preliminary signs weren't all too positive, who composes a (rather mediocre) song around an annoying French railway jingle anyway and links it to a text from John Milton?, I tried to remain neutral when the CD appeared in the stores.

TL;DR: It didn't help.

Rattle That Lock

5 AM starts a bit like the absolutely beautiful Let’s Get Metaphysical (About Face) and makes me think remotely of At The End Of The Day from Mason + Fenn's Profiles album. It’s a nice introduction, but just when it could go somewhere it simply fades out, what happens with several tracks on this album unfortunately. It’s a nice, somewhat colourless intro, but that is default Pink Floyd territory, so to speak.

Rattle That Lock sits in your brain like a cockroach and jumps up when you least expect it. It’s Gilmour’s most catchy number in years, sounding a bit like one of these irresistible Chris Rea tunes: I can hear your heart beat / Rattle that lock. The problem is, who has heard of Chris Rea for the last 3 decades? The song has a standard eighties feel with irritant percussion, irritant singing and irritant lyrics and is a serious contestant to replace The Dogs Of War as Gilmour’s worst song ever. On top of that the track uses a sample from the Momentary Lapse Of Reason days (Learning To Fly) and that is how it sounds actually, fucking dated. While David Gilmour gladly acknowledges that About Face suffers from the eighties (over-)production, he does it all over again on this track. Actually I am glad I don’t live in France so I don’t have to hear the SNCF jingle on a daily basis and be reminded every time of this turd.

Rattle That Lock (back cover).
Rattle That Lock (back cover).

Faces of Stone. For a moment I feared Gilmour was going klezmer but this is a little waltz that regularly puts you on the wrong foot. Perhaps the best track on the album, although not among Gilmour’s bests, if you know what I mean. It says something of the quality of the other tracks, I fear. I guess I’m just happy there is a cool solo at the end.

Gilmour’s eulogy to Rick Wright A Boat Lies Waiting starts with a long and slow intro that could have been on The Endless River. Although there is the tendency from fans to find it a fitting remembrance it is a bit monotonous, despite some nice singing from Crosby and Nash. The song ends rather abrupt as if these old tossers were suddenly out of breath, but others think that it is a symbolical way to visualise how Rick was taken out of this world. Beautiful, but not really earth-shattering and the fact that it is about Wright probably makes me judge it milder than the others.

I don’t honestly know what to think of Dancing In Front Of Me, I would like to like it, but then there is that feeling that it could’ve been much better and that it is just a filler. Gilmour obviously is a happy man and happy men, so goes the first rule of rock'n'roll, don’t make great records. What if The Wall had tracks like ‘My father and me went fishing’, ‘My mother was always positive towards me’ and ‘Pink has a successful garden shop in Cambridge’? Nobody would’ve bought it.

In Any Tongue first has some whistling for god’s sake, but then it takes off like all the others in that lazy tone that specifies this record. For a moment the refrain brings a solace, a glimpse of Floydian grandeur, but – fearing I’m getting repetitive – the song never seems to blossom, except perhaps for that ending 'Comfortably Numb'-ish solo. With some help from Roger Waters and Rick Wright this could’ve been an epic track. Wait a minute. Did I just ask for Roger Waters? Something must be really wrong with this record.

Beauty starts like it could’ve been a part of the last Floyd and perhaps it was. Still sounds like a bit of filler, with a slight touch of One of These Days. Too many bread and not enough cheese on this album though.

The Girl In The Yellow Dress or Gilmour and Samson go jazz. Unfortunately it is the kind of jazz you hear as a soundtrack on French romantic movies. This would be a cute track on a Jools Holland album and actually that guy manipulates the piano here, as are Robert Wyatt and Bob (Rado) Klose. But as it is definitely something else it kind of stands out against the rest. Different, not better.

Today starts like a church hymn, never a good sign, but then a funky guitar takes over with a Fame signature, unfortunately one of the David Bowie tracks I loathe the most. Today is a mixed bag, has some awful singing, and seems to be getting nowhere, like most of the disco dance floor fillers. Chris Rea once sang 'I'm in a European disco', but this is no Saturday Night Fever, I'm afraid.

And then… there is a relieved sigh that this record is finally over. The last instrumental will be used by radio makers all over the world to end their show with and thank the audience for their kind attention. If it had a sax solo it could also have been used to musically accompany an episode of Red Shoe Diaries, but just like that soft erotic drama series it never really gets off the ground.

Le Chat Noir.
Le Chat Noir (postcard).

No sex please, we're British

As a matter of fact that is not such a bad comparison. David Gilmour has given us a soft-core record, that will obviously be loved by millions, but personally I was expecting something more 'in the flesh'. Of course this isn't a bad record, David Gilmour is smart enough not to make 'bad' records, but it is just so... dull, flat, uninspired. Like that American cheese with no holes, no smell and also no taste.

As a final note I would like to add that the album comes in a regular and a deluxe version. At almost the triple in price you get an incredible amount of, what the Dutch describe so beautiful as, 'prullaria' (kitsch, rubbish). One of those is a piece of plastic that is called a plectrum, although 'plectrum-ish' would be far more closer to the truth. It could be a plectrum for an ukulele, but apparently that is an instrument you can't use a plectrum on, so tells me a musician who is the master of all things strings. Whatever. (At the Holy Church Tumblr page there is a gallery with the contents of the deluxe box: Unpacking Rattle That Lock #1 and Unpacking Rattle That Lock #2.)

The deluxe edition also contains a Blu-ray (or DVD) with a few meticulous surround mixes, a couple of barn jams between Gilmour and Wright and some horrifically bad remixes of Rattle That Lock. The barn jams used to be online but they have already been deleted by the Pink Floyd gestapo.

Conclusion

This is a fucking disappointing record and one that certainly won't help me through my midlife crisis. On the other hand, Jason Lytle has just announced a new Grandaddy album. So there is still a reason to keep on going on with this miserable life. But first, I think I'm going to have a listen to About Face, compared to Rattle That Lock, it is a masterpiece.

Keep smiling people!


Many thanks: Rich Hall. Rattle That Lock on the Holy Church Tumblr page.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥
'Attack the Troll' is an anagram of 'Rattle that Lock'.