2017-05-29

Shady Diamond

Syd Barrett by Duggie Fields
Syd Barrett, by Duggie Fields.

Brain Damage

At the 'Mortal Remains' Pink Floyd exhibition that is currently running in London a Polaroid can be found showing Syd Barrett at the Abbey Road studio in July 1975. This is not the picture that was magically found back when Nick Mason needed to promote his biography in 2004 and that dates from June 1975.

Here is what Nick writes about that:

It was during these sessions at Abbey Road, on 5th June, that we had one totally unexpected visitor. I strolled into the control room from the studio, and noticed a large fat bloke with a shaven head, wearing a decrepit old tan mac. He was carrying a plastic shopping bag and had a fairly benign, but vacant, expression on his face. His appearance would not have generally gained him admittance beyond studio reception, so I assumed that he must have been a friend of one of the engineers. Eventually David asked me if I knew who he was. Even then I couldn’t place him, and had to be told. It was Syd. More than twenty years later I can still remember that rush of confusion.
Syd Barrett, 5 June 1975. Picture: Nick Mason.
Syd Barrett, 5 June 1975. Picture: Nick Mason.

Remember a Day

Confused is what Mason is indeed, as he doesn't mention Syd's second visit to the studio, a month later, accidentally - or not? - on David Gilmour's wedding day. In a Mojo interview from 2006 David Gilmour denied that Syd was at his wedding, although he seems to recall that Barrett visited the band more than once.

From a 1982 Musician Magazine interview:

He showed up at the studio. He was very fat and he had a shaved head and shaved eyebrows and no one recognized him at all first off. There was just this strange person walking around the studio, sitting in the control room with us for hours. If anyone else told me this story, I'd find it hard to believe, that you could sit there with someone in a small room for hours, with a close friend of yours for years and years, and not recognize him. And I guarantee, no one in the band recognized him. Eventually, I had guessed it. And even knowing, you couldn't recognize him. He came two or three days and then he didn't come anymore. (Taken from: December 1982 - Musician Magazine at Brain Damage)

So, Gilmour does seem to acknowledge that Syd Barrett visited the studio more than once, only not on his wedding day.

Mark Blake in Pigs Might Fly:

On 7 July, during a break in the Wish You Were Here sessions, Gilmour married girlfriend Ginger at Epping Forest Register Office, and the Syd tale takes on another curious twist. In conversation with Mojo magazine in 2006, Gilmour disputed any stories that Syd had attended his wedding. Yet at least three of the guests claim they saw Syd at a post-wedding meal at Abbey Road. Ex-manager Andrew King recalled Barrett looking ‘like the type of bloke who serves you in a hamburger bar in Kansas City’. Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley referred to him as ‘an overweight Hare Krishna-type chap’.

Young Lust

One who does remember - obviously, as it was her wedding day - is Ginger Gilmour in her autobiography Bright Side Of The Moon:

Ginger Gilmour - Bright Side of the Moon Bright Side of the Moon - Ginger Gilmour
Bright Side of the Moon, Ginger Gilmour.
Syd Barrett, 7 July 1975. Picture: Nick Mason.
Syd Barrett, 7 July 1975. Picture: Nick Mason.

Remember Me

For one reason or another, Pink Floyd members (and other witnesses) amalgamated the different Barrett appearances into one, quasi mythical, event. Venetta Fields hinted already in March 2004 that there were pictures of the event:

I think there were photos taken at that time... I remember telling someone that was showing me a photo. I can’t remember who? I may even have a picture. We took a lot of pictures that day. They had been at the studio for hours before we got there. I think that while we were there, Syd came into the studio. Everything stopped. We were all shocked to see him and the way he looked. (Taken from: An Interview With Venetta Fields at A Fleeting Glimpse.)

The Gold It's in the...

Another mystery is why Nick Mason, who has meticulously classified the Pink Floyd archive, only came up with this second picture now – almost by chance - when he needed to promote yet another Pink Floyd pension fund.


Check extra big pictures and other assorted trivia at our 'IggyInuit' Tumblr page: 1975.

Many thanks to: Marc-Olivier Becks, Johan Frankelius, Antonio Jesús, Göran Nystrom.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 231-232.
Gilmour, Ginger: Memoirs of the Bright Side of the Moon, Angelscript International, 2015, p. 103-104.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 207.