The Bonhams Auction House, the company that once managed to sell a fake Barrett poem and went through with it despite our warnings, now has the lyrics of Vegetable Man for sale, allegedly in the handwriting of Syd Barrett. This has been published by PinkSydFloyd on Yeeshkul.
The document belongs to an ‘anonymous’ associate of the band who describes the song as follows.
To me these tracks are like the Van Gogh painting with the birds over the wheat field, that’s what Syd’s brain was at. Try to look at the disturbance of Van Gogh through his paintings. If you want to understand Syd, if you want to know what was going on with him, you have to listen to those tracks in the same way…
The above quote has literally been taken from a 2014 innerview I had with Peter Jenner (with many thanks to co-author Rich Hall). It was simultaneously published at the Holy Church and Birdie Hop, but Bonhams doesn’t find it necessary to say where they took this quote from.
The handwritten lyrics for Vegetable Man include the chord breakdown of the song, all in Syd Barrett’s hand. Unfortunately, the picture on the Bonham website and catalogue is very difficult to decipher unless you enhance the contrast between the light blue ink and the white paper. And of course, this is what has been done, for instance in the Yeeshkul forum, by user Axefeld.
On the same forum, Goldenband concludes that the chords on the lyrics sheet are not the chords Pink Floyd plays on the record.
What Syd noted down as
"| D Db | A G# | E | A B | E |"
is, on the recorded version
"| Eb Db | A G# | E | G# A | B E |".
The BBC version is also a bit different, namely:
"| Eb D | A G# | E | G# A | B E |".
Don’t worry if this reads like Chinese to you, it reads like Chinese to me as well.
We have had multiple discussions about Syd’s lyrics over the decades, and even Rob Chapman’s book, aptly titled ‘The Lyrics of Syd Barrett’, has gotten it wrong on different occasions. (See our review at: The Syd Barrett Cookbook) The handwritten lyrics of Vegetable Man reopen the discussion of what Syd meant.
I see some words there that I can't hear on the recordings:
"my haircut looks so ----". I'd always heard "bad" , but there's a different word here, possibly 4 letters?
Same goes for: "so I change my gear and I find my -----". I'd heard "feet", the word here is possibly 5 letters?
Other Syd anoraks have chimed in:
Blackstrat01: I always thought it was "Find my niche."
Lennyif: I have always heard it as "Find my knees."
Blackstrat01: I always thought it was "My haircut looks so rare."
Goldenband: I think it might be "My haircut looks so fair."
Jaman57: I always heard "My haircut looks so fab."
For your information, Rob Chapman lists those as: "I bind my knees." and "My haircut looks so bad."
Several (bootlegged) versions of Vegetable Man exist. In 2011, the Church published an article where some of these differences are mentioned: Scream Thy False Scream. Of course, in 2016, the fairly overpriced Early Years box set saw the first official release of the track.
We continue with a quote from the Bonhams catalogue:
It is believed this is the first time a complete set of Syd Barrett's handwritten lyrics have been offered at auction. This set was acquired by Pink Floyd’s first manager at the time the song was written and has been in his possession since.
Some idiots (not Sydiots!) with brains smaller than a rat claim the Vegetable Man lyrics sheet is a fake. Over at Birdie Hop, LX - that old, grey and wise grandfather of Sydolatry - posted the following message.
I know from his family that this document is 100% genuine.
I even know who is selling it and why this person is selling it.
I will not disclose that under any circumstances.
If you are interested in purchasing this piece of rock ‘n’ roll history be sure to have a fat wallet. The auction prices have been estimated at £30,000 – 40,000, €34,000 – 46,000, US$33,000 – 44,000. See you on the 16th of November 2022 at 13:00 GMT.
Bonhams Auction House
Syd Barrett / Pink Floyd: A Rare Set Of Handwritten Lyrics For Vegetable Man,
Birdie Hop member Rino Di Lernia visited Bonhams and took some pictures. (Thanks, Antonio Jesús Reyes for warning us.) The Church activated some Paint Shop Pro magic on it and here is the result.
The auction took place on the 16th of November where the highest bid stranded at £22,000 - €25,120 - US$25,980, or about 3 quarters of the minimum bid. Thanks to Philippe Spadaccini from Pink Floyd Collectors we have the following screenshot.
Sold, or not?
There seems to be some confusion whether the lyrics have been sold of not. The minimum bid, believed to be £30,000, was not reached. The Bonhams site is pretty vague and mentions 'amended' on the Vegetable Man page, whatever that may signify. But it needs to be said that the lots that have been sold all carry a 'sold' tag on their page and that is not the case for VM.
Whatever it is, the big Syd Barrett hype is perhaps over, something we have been witnessing before. Portrait of a Girl reached £6,500: Missing Person found. On the other hand Syd's Orange Dahlias in a Vase, auctioned in 2021, was sold for a whopping £22,000, while it was only estimated at £3,000! See: Orange Dahlias in a Vase.
The Church wishes to thank: Axefeld, Blackstrat01, Birdie Hop, Bonhams,
Goldenband, Rich Hall, Alexander 'LX' Peter Hoffmann, Jaman57, Peter
Jenner, Lennyif, Rino Di Lernia, Lisa Newman, Göran Nyström,
PinkSydFloyd, Antonio Jesús Reyes, Philippe Spadaccini and all the
beautiful people we have forgotten.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Sources (other than above mentioned links):
Bonhams: Rock, Pop & Film (catalogue), Bonhams London, 2021,
Chapman, Rob: The Lyrics of Syd Barrett, Omnibus Press, London, 2021, p. 91.
The Yeeshkul forum thread (started by PinkSydFloyd):
Pink Floyd / Syd Barrett “Vegetable Man” Lyrics Auction!