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

November 2021

This page contains all the articles that were uploaded in November 2021, chronologically sorted, from old to new.
Most browsers have a search function (Ctrl-F) that will highlight the word you are looking for.
Alternatively there is the 'Holy Search' search field and the 'Taglist'.


2021-11-12

Distorted Views: the Arnold Layne story

The boys are back in town.
The boys are back in town.

Have You Got It Yet?

I was browsing through what was once one of the most important Syd Barrett groups on Facebook. and it struck me that it was all yesterday’s jam. The group, with its 8000 members, is a boiling puddle of continuous repetition, publishing the same (often colourised) photographs ad infinitum.

If an interesting discussion magically appears it has been instigated by the same pool of people, about a dozen of them. Most of them I still remember from over a decade ago, but luckily there are a few exceptions.

As the attention span of the Facebook crowd is very limited, the thread will quickly descend into the dark and hollow depths, where it eternally resides in limbo. It is – of course – the business model of Facebook, but I know from a rather good source that some administrators prefer quantity over quality. It is a never-ending race to be the biggest Syd Barrett community, rather than to be the best.

But when something good happens, we are all ears and this time we mean that literally. Laughing Madcaps, that uncoordinated mob of Sydiots, led by the uncurbed warlord Kiloh 'mad Max' Smith, has issued a new version of the unofficial early Pink Floyd and Syd compilation Have You Got It Yet?, or as we retards call it: HYGIY? The blurb goes as follows:

This Syd Barrett Have You Got It Yet? (HYGIY?) 3.0 attempts to gather all of the best quality unofficial material under a single collection. There may be some stray tracks, that were officially released, contained here. These tracks are here because the official versions are not necessarily the best in quality.

The compilation is dedicated to Steve Czapla and Victor E. Reyes (RIP). I don't say it often, but this time I do. Respect.

Dont Do It Again!
Don't Do It Again!

Who is Who: Arnold Layne

There are a few, relatively new, people around who manage to find interesting Pink Floyd related material and one is the person who has led me to the next story: Eleonora Siatoni. While she has found and researched the following, all possible mistakes in this article are the sole responsibility of the Reverend.

Capturing Cambridge is a website from the Museum Of Cambridge that wants to share the extraordinary stories of the people of Cambridgeshire. One entry, about Laundry Lane, a side street of Cherry Hinton Road, caught the eye of Eleonora.

Laundry Lane

Cherry Hinton women had traditionally taken in washing from the university colleges, delivered by a regular donkey cart service. Empty ground was used for drying the linen. One of the companies employing these women was the Cambridge Steam Laundry Co., founded in 1883. It had 5 acres (slightly over 20,000 square metres) of drying grounds and served families, schools, hotels and colleges. Around 1964 it was known as Cambridge Laundry and Cleaners Ltd.

Laundry Lane.
Laundry Lane.
Laundry Lane, 1950s.
Laundry Lane, 1950s..

Barbara, who used to live in Laundry Lane number 5 as a child remembers:

In the 50s the cottages were, I think, much as they had been built – there was no electric lighting upstairs, only cold water to both the sink and a brick-lined drain in the kitchen and the usual outside toilet and coal shed in the tiny yard; not unusual in the post-war years, I am sure. They do look tiny, to accommodate the families with all those children… but from memory, it was a very happy and safe place to grow up. (Link)

One comment, for Laundry Lane #1, reveals an early Floydian secret. It was added by a certain KA (identified later as Kevin Arnold).

I was born and lived in Steam Laundry Cottages. My father was Leonard Percy Arnold, my grandmother was Cecilia Dora Arnold. So many Arnolds lived and worked at the laundry. John (Beefy) Arnold was my uncle and had many children.

One notable small-time criminal in our family, who was well known to the police and an alcoholic, was renowned for stealing high-end garments and linen from the laundry and selling them around Cherry Hinton to feed his habit. Later he built his own still in a shed at the back of the house, also selling cheap liquor.

One of his clothing customers and friend was a certain Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd fame who penned a song called Arnold Layne which became their debut single. (Link)

Cambridge Memories

At the Facebook group Cambridge Memories UK some extra details were given:

In 1939, Steam Laundry cottages, Steam Laundry Lane was occupied by many of the Arnold family, I myself was born there. Grandmother Cecilia Dora Arnold had 8 children, all lived & worked at the laundry. Kath Arnold married into the Abbs family & also lived in the Cottages.

One particular member of our family was well known to the police for his activities (no name to protect remaining relatives). He was a thief & an alcoholic, stealing high-end linen & clothes from the laundry, he also built an illicit still in the garden shed.

He was friends with Roger Barrett, latter to become Syd Barrett.

Because so many Arnolds occupied the Lane, it was affectionately known as Arnold Lane, Syd later wrote the song Arnold Layne based on it. If you listen to the lyrics, you'll understand.
The path you tread is narrow.
The path you tread is narrow.

Syd Barrett didn’t live far from Laundry Lane. Hills Road 183 was situated about 1600 metres from where the Arnolds lived.

So much history around Arnold Lane (Steam Laundry Lane). Cecilia was the matriarch, children were Leonard (my father), Frank, John, Gertrude, Ena, Kath, Dora & Gladys. (Link)

Not only was Kevin Arnold an acquaintance of young Syd, but he was also apparently one of his friends in his later life.

I knew him & visited him shortly before he passed on, most people who saw him would never have recognised the sad-looking bald guy who lived in abject poverty, the house was bare, with few comforts, he was often seen topless, displaying the operation scar from throat to navel. Very sad ending for such an influential music icon.
Moonshine Washing Line.
Moonshine Washing Line.

Moonshine Washing Line

The Pink Floyd biographies never managed to solve the Arnold Layne riddle. Mark Blake notes in Pigs Might Fly:

The lyrics were supposedly inspired by a real incident in Cambridge, where an unidentified knicker thief had raided Mary Waters’ washing line. Roger had regaled Syd with the story.

Julian Palacios in Lost In The Woods adds some extra info:

Winifred Barrett, like Mary Waters, took in student boarders, common practice in Cambridge. Female nursing students from Homerton College lived in the Barrett home. Roger Waters said, ‘my mother and Syd’s mother had students as lodgers. There was a girls’ college up the road. So there were constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines.’

In one curious incident, brassieres, knickers and garters hanging on washing lines in the Barrett garden proved irresistible to a local underwear fetishist. This character made off with nursing students’ undergarments. (…)

Barrett said, ‘Arnold Layne happened to dig dressing up in women’s clothing.’
Roger Waters said, ‘‘Arnold’, or whoever he was, had bits and pieces off our washing lines. They never caught him. He stopped doing it after things got too hot for him.’

To identify the thief Julian Palacios quotes David Gale, who – just like Syd Barrett – used to work for British mail as a student.

David Gale recalled when they were doing their Royal Mail rounds, a van driver they dubbed ‘Rigor Mortis’ for his laziness would drive them pointing out knickers on washing lines, exclaiming, ‘Cor, I’d like to meet the owner of those.’

But there is another theory, coming from Mick Brown, Cambridge music archivist, painter, cartoonist, satirist and Pink Floyd’s enemy number one, who we all love to hate. He has been outing Arnold for ages and did it once again, as a reply to Kevin Arnold’s story:

The real 'Arnold Layne' was John Chambers who came from Sturton Street. He was well known around Cambridge in the early 1960s and often used to hang about at the Mill Pond.

The Arnold Layne name was simply a typical Barrett parody of the Beatles' Penny Lane that was recorded at the same time. There are loads of Arnolds in Cambridge and they could all claim to be the source of a famous song.
Jenny Chambers. Picture: Mick brown.
NOT Jenny Chambers. Picture: Mick Brown.

Mick Brown has been proclaiming this theory for years and – as a valued contributor to the excellent books The music scene of 1960s Cambridge and High Hopes – he usually is right. Here are some of his earlier claims:

Here is a photo of one of Syd Barrett's earliest girlfriends. (…) Her name was Jenny Chambers. She had a brother called John who was immortalised and renamed Arnold Layne in a song Syd wrote. The photo was taken in a part of Cambridge known as Stourbridge Common.
Update 2021 11 13: Mick Brown has confirmed that the lady is NOT Chambers' sister, however he stands by his Arnold Layne theory.

This seems to be acknowledged by Roy Alan Ethridge, who was also a part of the Cambridge mods and rockers in the sixties and an acquaintance of Syd Barrett:

I knew John Chambers. Mick lived not far (…) and always knew he was Arnold Layne but was told that it wasn’t him. It was a chap that lived on Hills Rd. Now we know it was John. He really changed during the 60s and was often caught snooping up Mill Rd.

According to Brown, Arnold – or John – wasn’t a cross-dresser:

So-called Arnold Layne wasn't a transvestite but a pervert. I remember him clearly being a friendly chubby little chap who mingled with us down at the Mill. Yes, he ended up in jail.

His name was John Chambers. Of course, Syd used Arnold Layne as a parody of the Beatles.

So we have two contradicting stories here (if we forget the story of the mailman). Kevin Arnold replied that he has at least one picture but is reluctant to have it published.

I could verify it, but that would mean revealing the name & pic of Roger (Syd) & my relative together.

In a private chat, that the Church was allowed to see, Kevin Arnold adds even more details:

Roger was friends with a relative of mine who was, shall we say, less than honest & often on the wrong side of the law. He used to steal high end & fancy clothing from the launderette & I believe Roger was one of the people he sold to. (...)

He and my cousin formed a friendship although I stress Roger (Syd) was in no way involved in the criminal activity. (...)

I must protect my cousin’s name for the sake of his remaining family. I will approach them & ask if I can show photos of him & Syd, but not without permission.

But even when these pictures exist (and there must be some more of a young Syd Barrett in private collections) it still isn’t proof that the ‘unknown cousin’ was the one and only Arnold Layne. Unless there was more than one knicker picker running around in Cambridge in those days, which is not such a crazy idea.

Emily

Syd liked to put wordplay and little nods to reality in his texts. Pink Floyd's second single See Emily Play refers to psychedelic debutante Emily Young, his friend Libby Gausden and shows his fondness for the name Emily that he would’ve liked for a daughter.

Three Sisters.
Three Sisters.

Jennifer Gentle

Lucifer Sam has only 8 lines but it is bursting with mystery. The Jennifer Gentle character is a mixture of Jenny Spires and Rosemary Barrett. Syd quotes from an ancient English ballad, noted down in 1823 by Davies Gilbert, called 'The Three Sisters' or ‘The Riddling Knight’. These sisters (in the folksong) are Jennifer (or Juniper), Gentle and Rosemaree. In the ballad, they have to solve a few riddles for the youngest (Rosemaree) to marry a ‘valiant knight’.

The ballad has some older and darker versions (Inter Diabolus et Virgo, c. 1450) where the devil threatens to abduct a young virgin unless she can answer some riddles. Was Syd Barrett aware of this early version from five centuries before the summer of love? It is uncanny that the devil appears in his song, disguised as a cat.

Julian Palacios adds some other points of interest regarding Lucifer Sam. One underground member was ‘Thai Sam’ who dealt acid from a flat in Beaufort Street, where Sue Kingsford and Alistair ‘Jock’ Findlay lived. He shared a flat with Thieu, another member of the Cambridge Mafia who later married Fizz (Frances Fitzgerald).

Last but not least Lucifer Sam could also have been inspired by Peter ‘Lucifer’ Walker, who was a warlock and disciple of Aleister Crowley. Lucifer was the lead singer of The Purple Gang and, as most of us will know Syd Barrett, who was impressed with Peter’s occult appearance, presented them Boon Tune (Here I Go) and an early version of Jugband Blues to cover. (Read more at: Hurricane Over London)

Little Twig, Syd Barrett
Little Twig poem, Syd Barrett.

Vivien Brans - Laldawngliani Joyce

Dark Globe (its title referencing John Milton, William Blake and/or JRR Tolkien) is a song of despair, a song of a man who is ‘psychologically wounded’ (Mark Blake).

The obfuscated Dark Globe contains the verse: “'The poppy bird’s way. Swing twigs coffee brands around.” If one realizes that a former girlfriend of Syd was Vivien Brans, nicknamed Twig, it becomes clear that Syd has cryptically entered her name into the song.

Then there is the ‘Eskimo chain’ line that has confused Barrett fans for decades. Although Jenny Spires vehemently denies that it has something to do with Iggy the Eskimo the consensus is that Syd added a second, failed, love interest in the song.

Octopi

And don’t let us get started about Octopus (Clowns and Jugglers). You can read all about the many hidden layers in the excellent Untangling the Octopus essay from Paul Belbin, first published in 2005, five years before someone else claimed he discovered it all by himself. If you have an hour to spare you can read this 'Rosetta stone' for decoding the writing inspirations for one of Syd Barrett's most beloved songs right here, at the Church:
Untangling the Octopus v2 - 2006 (Paul Belbin)
Untangling the Octopus v3 - 2009 (extended version 3, Paul Belbin & Julian Palacios)

Arnold Lane.
Arnold Lane.

Arnold La(y)ne

The previous examples hopefully show that Barrett loved riddles and word games that he liked to put into his lyrics. So what if Syd mixed several situations and anecdotes from his past in the song that made Pink Floyd a force to reckon with?

Syd loved intricate puzzles and this could be a very clever one, amalgamating John Chambers, Kevin Arnold’s cousin, Rigor Mortis and a road called Arnold Lane all into one song.

If there is one thing for sure, Syd Barrett will never stop amazing us.


The Church wishes to thank: Kevin Arnold, Barbara, Mark Blake, Mick Brown, Roy Alan Ethridge, Eleonora Siatoni, Julian Palacios.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (others than the links above):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 75.
Palacios, Julian: Darker Globe: Uncut and Unedited, private publication, 2021, p. 118-119, 140, 499-500.


2021-11-28

Rock of Ages

Mick Rock
Mick Rock.

With Mick Rock (1948-2021) we have lost another member of the Cambridge mafia, although he wasn’t from that town, so perhaps Floydian mafia is a better description. Rock, a Londoner, was a student in Cambridge where he took a degree in Medieval and Modern Languages. He frequented some of the local beatniks, Emo (Ian Moore), Pip (Pip Carter) and Fizz (Frances Fitzgerald), and followed them to London to the legendary 101 Cromwell Rd drugs pad. Later he moved to Egerton Court where Syd Barrett, Duggie Fields, David Gale, Dave Henderson, Nigel and Jenny Lesmoir-Gordon, Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, Ponji Robinson, Matthew Scurfield, Storm Thorgerson and Yes-collaborator Roger Dean all lived together.

In the beginning, was Syd

Rock knew Barrett since December 1966, they were hanging out together, getting high, discussing literature, playing Go, and developed some kind of virtual friendship that – according to Rock – would go on for decades. Syd’s last interview, for Rolling Stone in 1971, was taken by Mick Rock. Syd’s last ‘public’ outing was when he autographed 320 copies of Psychedelic Renegades, a 2002 Mick Rock coffee table book. Mick was one of the very few photographers who managed to picture Barrett in a relaxed state, laughing, as the 1971 pictures, taken in Syd’s back garden, prove.

My experience of Syd was he wanted to have fun. But somehow he was stymied and then he got caught in this trap, this psychological trap and he couldn’t get out of it.
Syd Barrett, Mick Rock, 1971 Picture: Sheila Rock
Syd Barrett, Mick Rock, 1971. Picture: Sheila Rock.

The last time Mick Rock saw Syd was on an unexpected visit to Rock’s flat in Notting Hill Gate in early 1973.

Mick Rock by Dave Benett
Mick Rock. © Dave Benett.

Caught in a storm

There has been some animosity for years between Storm ‘Hipgnosis’ Thorgerson and Mick Rock over The Madcap Laughs pictures. History has been interpreted, changed and rearranged by both and different versions of what ‘really’ happened can be found, depending on the source one consults. Julian Palacios keeps it diplomatic in his Syd Barrett biography:

Storm Thorgerson supervised the photo session for the cover of The Madcap Laughs, bringing in Mick Rock to photograph, whom Syd requested. Rock: ‘Syd just called out of the blue and said he needed an album cover.’

The Holy Church already mentioned the divergence in a 2008 article: Stormy Pictures. Legally, the cover and back cover shots for Syd’s first solo album belong to Hipgnosis. The official story is that these have been taken by Storm, but Mick Rock has several times suggested that he was behind it all.

Thorgerson gave his point of view in the 2007 edition of Mind Over Matter:

A photo session was duly arranged at Syd’s request in the flat in Earls Court that he shared with the painter Duggie Fields. (…) My only decision was to use a 35mm camera (to adapt to Syd’s mercurial moods) and upgraded colour transparency, partly because of the low-level light conditions and partly for the grainy effect.

Mick Rock’s presence, that same day, is dryly explained as follows:

Friend and photographer Mick Rock, later famous for his Bowie photos amongst many others also came on the photo session, but I can’t remember why. I think it was to help me, which seemed ironic given his subsequent lensmanship and success in the rock business, especially in New York.
Mick Rock Syd Barrett books
Mick Rock Syd Barrett books (and one more).

Mick Rock books (three different ones)

Mick Rock has devoted three books entirely to Syd Barrett. Two of them are part of a box that also contains some music.

Mick Rocks favourite
Mick Rock's favourite.

Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs – The Mick Rock Photo-Sessions (UFO Books, 1993) is a limited deluxe box combining a book, a vinyl album and a t-shirt. The elaborate and well-researched text of this (sold out and deleted) book has been written by Pete Anderson, who is the co-author of the Syd Barrett biography Crazy Diamond. Pete Anderson wrongly dates the photoshoot in October and writes:

The task of designing the album sleeve fell to Storm Thorgerson and his partner Aubrey 'Po' at Hipgnosis.

When it comes to the actual photoshoot there isn’t a single word about Storm Thorgerson being there. Throughout the essay, it is mildly suggested that Mick Rock did all by himself.

The startling colour images were taken in a single two-hour session in the autumn of 1969 in the spartan bedroom of Syd Barrett's Earls Court flat in London. (...)
The sleeve, showing the beleaguered "star" squatting bird-like in a room devoid of all creature comforts save a vase of flowers and a battered electric fire, perfectly summed up the mood of the record which many have interpreted as a scream for help.
The Madcap Laughs (front)
The Madcap Laughs (front). © Hipgnosis.

But isn’t the above description about the Thorgerson picture? Mick Rock (and Pete Anderson) carefully dance around the subject.

"We hadn't had any discussion about how the pictures were going to be," says Rock. "I suppose the idea had always been to do them in the flat because Syd had told me about the floorboards and he was pretty excited about that.”
“But there had been no talk of getting a model in. Iggy just happened to be there. I have no idea where she came from or where she went to. Everyone just knew her as Iggy the Eskimo." (...)
"There were no curtains, just the bed, Syd's record player, the vase, and maybe the stool. I can't remember if that was because the floor had just been painted or because he didn't like furniture."

It is no secret that Mick Rock used to work as a freelancer for Hipgnosis in his early career. His camera was a black Pentax that he had bought from Po (Aubrey Powell), equipped with a cheap 28mm wide-angle Soligor lens. The following paragraph however seems to imply that there was more than one person around (without naming them):

"I think we did make a conscious decision not to have Iggy's face in the pictures and we also decided that Syd would look good with a bit of kohl make-up around his eyes. Iggy put that on. "Syd was pretty passive about the whole thing and he was never that interested in the pictures afterwards. (…) Syd could be quite uncommunicative but I can see from the pictures that he was relaxed that day."

The photoshoot only took about two hours. Mick Rock used only two rolls of film, simply because he couldn't afford a third.

"There had been no discussion about money at all. Later on I did get a very minor payment but it couldn't have been more than £50 and I don't know if it came from Syd or EMI."

Again, not a word about Storm Thorgerson nor Hipgnosis.

The Madcap Laughs (back)
The Madcap Laughs (back). © Hipgnosis.

Two of a kind

In his other books, Mick Rock is a bit less authoritative.

Psychedelic Renegades – Photographs of Syd Barrett by Mick Rock. Genesis Publications published a limited first edition in 2002. 320 copies were autographed by Roger Barrett & Mick Rock and 630 copies were signed by Mick Rock alone. In 2007 the book was published in a regular version, by Plexus (London) and Gingko (USA).

This is the picture book to get if you are interested in Mick Rock's Syd pictures. It has an introduction/essay by Rock and throughout the book there are some observations by the photographer, although these are not always accurate. Contrary to the first book Rock acknowledges that Storm was around that day, although he still stresses the fact that the initiative came from him:

Syd asked me to take the pictures. We had talked about the shoot for a while, and the day before it happened I told Storm from Hipgnosis, so he came along because they were putting the package together.
So the actual session turned out to be a collaboration really because Storm also took some pictures. I remember Storm asking me whether to credit the image, ‘Hipgnosis and Mick Rock’ and I said, ‘No just credit it Hipgnosis’.

This must have been a decision Rock regretted later.

Barrett album, back cover
Barrett album, back cover. A Mick Rock picture.

Tinned Octopus

Syd Barrett – The Photography Of Mick Rock is a tin box that includes a 128 pages booklet and a 7-inch single 'Octopus' b/w 'Golden Hair' (EMI Records Ltd & Palazzo Editions Ltd, Bath, 2010). There is an introduction and some observations by Mick Rock who repeats that Syd asked him to do the photoshoot in autumn.

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit was the first blog in the world where it was suggested that The Madcap Laughs photoshoot took place during spring. This theory, originating from Jenny Spires, has now been largely accepted by Syd fanatics and scholars. It is possible that a second photoshoot took place later in the year, but the sleeve uses the pictures of April 1969.

Remarkably, ‘Renegades’ and ‘Octopus’ contain a picture that was cropped on the back cover of Syd’s second solo album, without crediting Mick Rock.

Syd Barrett Sleeve (Hipgnosis)
Syd Barrett Sleeve (Hipgnosis).

Syd Barrett (1974, double album vinyl compilation)

In 1974 Storm and Po knocked on Syd’s door asking if they could take some pictures for a budget vinyl compilation that was going to be released. Barrett never let them in and told his old chums to ‘fuck off’. Thorgerson designed one of his iconic sleeves instead, the one with a plum, an orange and a box of matches.

The inner sleeve of the Syd Barrett double album contains a bunch of disorganised press clippings and pictures of Syd and Pink Floyd. Some of these undoubtedly are Mick Rock’s. It means that Hipgnosis, at one point, did have access to Mick Rock’s negatives. It is believed that Mick Rock gave his film rolls to Storm, to have them developed. (Pictures of the Syd Barrett inner sleeve can be found at our Storm Watch gallery.)

Stormtrooper

There are quite a few Hipgnosis related coffee table books around (the reverend’s wife claims he’s got at least six too many). We have already quoted from Mind Over Matter, but what do the others have got to say?

It needs to be said that the sleeve pictures of The Madcap Laughs can not be found in any of Mick Rock’s books, these can only be found in Hipgnosis/Storm Thorgerson related works.

Walk Away René

The 1978 book Walk Away René (The Work of Hipgnosis, Paper Tiger, 1978) contains a detailed description of every picture in the book, except for The Madcap Laughs. It gives conspiracy theorists a field day, although it doesn't help anyone any further.

Iggy outtake by Mick Rock
Iggy out-take by Mick Rock.

Taken By Storm

Taken By Storm (The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson, Omnibus Press, 2007) leaves no ambiguity as Storm writes:

He crouched down by the fireplace and I took a 35mm pic quite quickly.

For The Love Of Vinyl

One year later For The Love of Vinyl (The Album Art of Hipgnosis, Picturebox, 2008) was published and obviously the cover of The Madcap Laughs is represented as well. Storm Thorgerson:

Back in 1970, the Floyd helped him make a solo album called The Madcap Laughs. I told him I was coming over to his Earls Court flat to take a picture. Mick Rock came too. I think Syd painted the floor specially for us. He crouched. I took a pic. A naked girl appeared. Mick took a pic, and we went home.

Portraits

Storm Thorgerson died in 2013. Po published another Hipgnosis book one year later: Portraits. According to Po, the Madcap sleeve was taken by Storm Thorgerson, using a Nikon with a 500 ASA 24 x 36 mm film.

Powell writes that Syd invented the word Hipgnosis and that he wrote it on the front door of the Egerton Court house they all lived in. About The Madcap Laughs photoshoot Po has the following to say:

Syd's management company, Blackhill, commissioned us to do the Madcap cover, and Storm went to the flat with our assistant, Mick Rock. (Translated from the French edition by FA.)

Suddenly Mick Rock has become merely an assistant of Storm Thorgerson. It gives the story about who did what a completely new insight.

But our investigations aren’t over yet.

Shot!
Shot!

Shot!

In the 2017 documentary Shot! – the Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock – Mick Rock hints again that he was behind the cover shot.

In the beginning, was Syd. Psychedelic Syd. (…) Syd had actually left Pink Floyd and was living in relative obscurity. He asked me to take the cover photo for his solo album The Madcap Laughs.

It is then that the official ‘Hipgnosis’ sleeve picture appears, for the first time, in a Mick Rock publication, albeit without giving credit to Storm Thorgerson. The image, with a handwritten title, clearly hints that it is Mick Rock’s work, not Storm’s. Of course, when this documentary came out Storm wasn't around anymore to comment on Rock's interpretation of the past.

The Madcap Laughs (screenshot from Shot!)
The 'official' Madcap Laughs (screenshot from Shot!).
Alternative TML cover
Alternative The Madcaps Laughs cover.
I didn't really have any plans. It simply was to shoot El Syd... and Iggy opened the door in the altogether. All together now, miss Iggy.
She was holding company with Syd... but of course, the gift was the floorboards. He had moved in not long beforehand and he was painting the floorboards and he... he was painting all over these... I mean, there were dog ends buried in there. He didn't clean the floor before he started painting.

Rock shows one of the better known Madcap pictures and claims:

That should really have been the cover of The Madcap Laughs. (…) That’s what me and Syd wanted.

While he testified earlier that Syd wasn’t interested in the pictures at all, he suggests in Shot! that they both agreed on a sleeve cover, an opinion that wasn’t followed by Hipgnosis.

Screenshot from Shot!
All photography, archival material and memories presented in this film originate from the mind, body and soul of Michael David Rock (screenshot from the Shot! intro).
Storm Thorgerson at the TML photo shoot. Picture: Mick Rock.
Storm Thorgerson at the TML photo shoot. Picture: Mick Rock.

A reconstruction

For years there have been rumours in anoraky Floydian circles that Thorgerson and Rock sued (or threatened to sue) each other over the ownership of The Madcap Laughs pictures. Probably a deal was made – a bit like the one between Roger Waters and Pink Floyd over The Wall. The Madcap Laughs front and back sleeve pictures officially belong to Hipgnosis (Storm Thorgerson). The out-takes belong to Mick Rock. It has been hinted before that Rock handed over his film rolls to Thorgerson to have them developed and part of the deal must have been that the negatives were returned to him.

This could be the reason why the Mick Rock out-takes can’t be found in Hipgnosis / Storm Thorgerson books.
This could be the reason why ‘official’ Madcap pictures can’t be found in any Mick Rock publication, except for Shot!

Both parties seem to agree that Hipgnosis was commissioned by the record company (Harvest, EMI) to supervise the record sleeve.

Did Syd Barrett ask his friend Mick Rock, an aspiring would-be photographer, to organise the shooting for the forthcoming album? As Rock was freelancing for Hipgnosis and they all were buddies anyway, he may have warned Storm that Syd was expecting a photographer the next day. The result was that Storm was there, not as Mick Rock’s colleague, but as his boss.

We keep hearing from people how nice a person Mick Rock was. From Men On The Border we have this reaction, coming from Jenny Spires:

The wonderful Mick Rock, unmatched intelligence, kind and generous, totally lacking in malice, a dear friend. RIP. I will miss you, Mick.

That’s why it is a pity that Storm and Mick never conciliated, fought over the legacy of the Madcap pictures and refused to give the other one some credit.

Because of their stubbornness, there will always be some doubt who took The Madcap Laughs cover (and back cover) pictures. But it doesn't matter really. It's the stuff legends are made of.


Many thanks to: Anonymous, Göran Nyström.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (other than the links above):
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 385.
Palacios, Julian: Darker Globe: Uncut and Unedited, private publication, 2021, p. 823, 963.

Hipgnosis & Storm Thorgerson:
Powell, Aubrey: Hipgnosis, Les Pochettes Mythiques du Célèbre Studio, Gründ, Paris, 2015, p. 40, 118 (French edition of Hipgnosis Portraits).
Thorgerson, Storm & Powell, Aubrey: For The Love Of Vinyl, Picturebox, Brooklyn, 2008, p. 38.
Thorgerson, Storm & Curzon, Peter: Mind Over Matter 4, Omnibus Press, London, 2007, p. 234.
Thorgerson, Storm & Curzon, Peter: Taken By Storm, Omnibus Press, London, 2007, p. 100.
Thorgerson, Storm: Walk Away René, Paper Tiger, Limpsfield, 1989, p. 103.

Mick Rock:
Rock, Mick: Psychedelic Renegades, Plexus, London, 2007, p. 20.
Rock, Mick & Anderson, Pete: Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs - The Mick Rock Photo-Sessions, U.F.O. Books, London, 1993. The text of this book ca be consulted at Luckymojo.com.
Rock, Mick: Syd Barrett - The Photography Of Mick Rock, EMI Records Ltd, London & Palazzo Editions Ltd, Bath, 2010.

Videos:
Syd Barrett related excerpt from Shot!: The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock: Syd Barrett SHOT!
Mick Rock Shot! Q&A, hosted by Barney Hoskyns. Filmed Wednesday 12th July 2017: Mick Rock Q&A (Syd bit starts at 5:30, do not miss the hilarious anecdote about David Gilmour being chased by Brian Epstein in his bedroom).
Mick Rock: on shooting Syd Barrett for 'Madcap Laughs' album cover. Interviewed in his studio, September 2001: Mick Rock.