Meic Stevens

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2010-02-27

Gretta Speaks

Margaretta (Gretta) Barclay
Margaretta (Gretta) Barclay.

In the interview that Iggy - or should we say Evelyn - gave after nearly 40 years of silence in The Croydon Guardian she remembers how she helped Syd to paint the floorboards that would give an extra psychedelic feel to The Madcap Laughs cover picture.

When Mick turned up to take the photos I helped paint the floor boards for the shoot, I was covered in paint, I still remember the smell of it.

But Iggy, as we will keep on calling her, isn’t the only one remembering. Also present were Rusty and Margaretta, better known as Gretta:

I remember that Iggy was involved with the floor painting project and that she had paint all over her during the floor painting time but I was not involved with the painting of the floor.

Several biographies, including Julian Palacios’s Lost In The Woods (p.241), Tim Willis’s Madcap (p.106) and Mark Blake’s Pigs Might Fly (p. 141) describe Greta (sic) and her companion Rusty as homeless ‘speed freaks’. This description almost certainly comes from painter Duggie Fields who shared the flat with Syd and who wasn’t very amused with the many people Syd invited to say the least.

Julian Palacios remembers Duggie Fields from an interview he did in 1996:

He was so cool. Reserved and wary at first, then about halfway through he became super raconteur.
(email to FA, 10 February 2010).

This lead to the following paragraph in the Lost In The Woods biography:

Duggie Fields recalls a steady stream of visitors, ‘some visitors were parasites and some were confused in their drug use, not even abusing drugs’. (...)
‘Rusty and Greta were homeless when they came to stay here,’ explains Fields. ‘Greta became good friends with Jenny Spires, and came into Syd’s life from that connection. They were in my life to a degree but I didn’t want them around. (…) They probably brought stimulants for Syd and he took them.’

Now, for the first time in over 40 years Margaretta Barclay has decided to share her memories with the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit as well. But lets starts by setting the record straight:

Your blog relating to Syd Barrett mentions that Rusty and I were drug addicted. This is most certainly not true and an old friend of ours - Jenny Spires has made that fact known to you.
My sister Catriona (Trina) and I met Jenny Spires during the mid 1960’s at a London grooming school. Jenny introduced my sister and I to Syd at 101 Cromwell Rd and at Edgerton Court. Rusty was not with us at that time.

In her interviews with the Church, early 2009, JenS vehemently denied the ‘speed freaks’ rumours: "Rusty and Gretta were not drug-addicted. They never were.” (cfr. When Syd met Iggy... (Pt. 3)  and Addenda and Errata with Gala and Gretta 

Gretta further explains:

Rusty and I were not in the ‘steady stream of visitors’. In 1970 we were in Suffolk at the beginning of that year and Devon for the remainder of it. Not in London. We were not homeless either. Rusty and I left London for various reasons but primarily because I was expecting my first child.
Syd was a very dear friend of ours and we did a considerable amount together in the 60's. Contrary to what I have read, we did not provide Syd with drugs.

It was of course 40 years ago when Barrett recorded The Madcap Laughs and memories may have played tricks on people. A famous example is the Mick Rock statement that Syd Barrett's car was bright pink while the pictures taken by him on that day show that the car was actually dark blue. On the DVD The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story Duggie Fields remembers how Syd painted the floor boards of his flat.


MP3 link: Duggie Fields (mp3)

Although the story is rather funny we now know that the actual truth may have been somewhat different. Similar Syd Barrett myths or legends have been created (and repeated in books and magazines) that way throughout the years without veryfying. Margaretta continues:

Without wishing to be vindictive where Duggie Fields and his interviews are concerned, surely, in order to obtain a balanced view of Syd’s chosen circle of friends, it would be sensible to back up assumptions with fact.
Syd was a highly sensitive, almost delicate person, who was well aware of his constitution where drugs were concerned and perfectly capable of not being cajoled in to anything he did not want to do. To my knowledge, he did not take vast quantities of drugs.
He enjoyed our company and invited us to stay at Wetherby Mansions where we shared good times together. Iggy was around at that time too and I remember her helping to paint the room in question. Dominique A., a French friend of ours, was also close to Syd at this time. Jenny, Catriona and I lived with her in Chelsea for a time.

Update: the Church managed to contact Dominique A. but she refused to talk about the past.

According to Margaretta the legends surrounding Syd Barrett contain many errors and “if they relate to my sister Catriona, Rusty and me, it is my duty to ensure that they are not perpetuated”.

It is convenient to point a finger at others in order to explain Syd’s behavioural patterns. Syd behaved in his inimitable way long before he met us.
Duggie did not socialise with us as a group – and his conclusion that I indulged in such a way - and on my own, is erroneous.
From our point of view Syd was a vulnerable person, we cared for him and our aim was to encourage him to be creative, to write and play his guitar. After all, Rusty only wanted to write and play music with Syd - to give him drugs was not on our agenda; Syd - was ‘far out’ enough without them.

The Reverend was of course anxious to know what kind of music Rusty and Syd played together:

Rusty and Syd played Syd’s songs and variations on them ’Oh baby my hairs on end about you’, ‘Octopus’ etc…, as well as songs they created together and basic blues.
Syd Barrett with Gretta Barclay.
Syd Barrett with Gretta Barclay.
In 1969 we went to Isle of Wight Festival together and at one point, in an effort to encourage Syd to play his guitar, we took him to stay with a musician friend of ours in Wales. Gala may remember the journey.

There have indeed been rumours of Syd Barrett visiting the Isle of Wight festival before and a (much discussed) picture of this event does exist. Margaretta is formal that the photograph is genuine:

The Isle of Wight picture is definitely of Syd with me beside him. (She is the woman at his left side, FA.)

Back to Rusty and Gretta. Hoping that the visit would inspire and encourage Syd to return to the musical ‘land of the living’ they took him to a ‘brilliant musician’ who lived in Solva, Haverfordwest, Dyfed: Meic Stevens.

(Update: The next paragraph is totally wrong as the Welsh musician in question iwas Meic Stevens, not Mike Stevens (although Meic has also been credited as Mike, early in his career). But as this Mike Stevens's family was so kind to contact the Church and as his music is really groovy, the Reverend has decided not to delete it. See: Gretta Speaks (Pt. 2))

It is believed that this musician was Mike Stevens from the Welsh band The Shevells (aka The Welsh Conquerors). In the mid sixties the band recorded several records featuring Stevens on guitar and vocals. Around 1966, as Mike Stevens & The Shevells, they recorded a cover version of Cathy's Clown and the Go-Go Train and as The Shevelles, Come On Home. Stevens was an on/off member of the band as he was apparently also involved in The Squires, originally Tom Jones’s back up band and the composers of the hit It's Not Unusual. (Information taken from Answers.com, the Church is currently trying to contact M. Stevens.)

In a soon to be published, revised and updated, 2010 edition of Julian Palacios’s biography Lost In The Woods the roles of Gretta and Rusty in Syd Barrett’s life have already been changed for the better. Palacios writes:

Life at home edged further toward the chaotic when Rusty and Greta, casual friends of Barrett’s, moved in. (…) Only recently arrived in London, not on the ‘underground scene’, they later left for Devon, where they married and settled. Greta may have done speed, but the pair were not the terrible people they have been painted as.
When Rusty B. split with Greta, he came and stayed with Jack Monck and Jenny (Spires). In late 1972, Jack and Rusty started a new band, Rocks Off.
(Above quotes from 'Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd' by Julian Palacios - Plexus Books, May September 2010 edition.)

Gretta Barclay remarried, is a proud mother and an even prouder grandmother, and according to her family ‘she is a wonderful amazing beautiful lady who has 3 children who love her very much’.

The Reverend can only agree with that. Even for the Church there are more important things in life than chasing the shadow of a girl who lived for a while in a house were someone, apparently famous, lived as well…

The second part of the interview will be published in the weeks to come.


The Church wishes to thank: Margaretta Barclay for her invaluable testimony about what really happened in those early days of 1969. Julian Palacios for additional information.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press, London, 2007, p.141.
Fields, Duggie interview in: The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story, DVD UK Ltd 2005.
Palacios, Julian: Lost In The Woods, Boxtree, London, 1998, p. 241.
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 106.


2010-03-12

Gretta Speaks (Pt. 2)

Margaretta Barclay.
Margaretta Barclay.

In a previous post the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit published an interview with Margaretta Barclay, her first in 40 years, remembering the Syd Barrett days of 1969.

Margaretta (Gretta), her boyfriend Rusty, JenS, Iggy and the French Dominique were regular visitors at Wetherby Mansions, the flat where Syd Barrett lived. Some stories, legends and rumours surrounding Syd can be traced back to painter Duggie Fields, who still lives in the flat he co-rented with Syd and Jules (nobody seems to remember Jules, apparently he disappeared already after a couple of days).

Gretta (as quoted in: Gretta Speaks):

Syd was a very dear friend of ours and we did a considerable amount together in the 60's.

He was a highly sensitive, almost delicate person, who was well aware of his constitution where drugs were concerned and perfectly capable of not being cajoled in to anything he did not want to do. To my knowledge, he did not take vast quantities of drugs.

Iggy

This could be correct. Early 1969 Syd Barrett was very well together, at least compared to the year before where he – if one may believe those unverifiable rumours again – even added heroin to his daily stash of hash and mandrax. Recovering his sanity was one thing, tidying up his love life another. Tim Willis (in Madcap) writes:

While keeping Gala (Pinion, who moved in at the spare room, FA) as his serious girlfriend and Gilly Staples as a girlfriend Barrett began an affair with Iggy the Eskimo.

Iggy (or Evelyn) seems to hint this as well in the reluctant interview she gave to The Croydon Guardian:

Syd was so beautiful looking.
We had a relationship,
I lived with him for a while.

But not everybody seems to be certain of this. Duggie Fields told so in various biographies. And to the Church JenS and some anonymous witnesses maintain that Ig and Syd were never an item. Perhaps Gretta Barclay can shed a light on this?

I would not say that Syd and Iggy were girlfriend and boyfriend. She was his ‘chosen’ model for the Madcap Laughs Album cover.
Whatever may have occurred between Syd and Iggy was kept to themselves.
Neither was Ig the person to stay long at on place.
Iggy moved about and stayed with all sorts of people in all sorts of places without declaring her intention to do so.
To my knowledge there was no ‘when Iggy left Syd’ moment. We were all free spirits then, who moved whenever and wherever a whim took us.

There is an intriguing paragraph in Mick Rock's Psychedelic Renegades book. When the photographer visits Syd to show him the pictures of The Madcap Laughs photo shoot Iggy is no longer there.

Once I’d developed the film, I went round to show Syd the pictures. He took this one opposite and scratched some lines and his name to it. I think there was a bit of negativity towards Iggy. He just started scratching the print, with a big grin on his face. There was that other side to Syd which could be a bit mean and malicious, especially towards women, and this was one occasion when I saw that.
Iggy by Mick Rock.
Iggy by Mick Rock.

The Church has always found this comment from Mick Rock a bit over the top (but the Church has been wrong on more occasions). A while later Margaretta Barclay received one of the original Mick Rock pictures that were lying in Syd’s room.

This picture of Iggy was given to me by Syd but for some unknown reason she had been torn off it.

This is the second documented case where we learn that Syd had taken ‘care’ of an Iggy photo after her departure.

Since a couple of weeks we know Iggy’s real name: Evelyn. Jeff Dexter, Anthony Stern nor JenS ever knew her real name. How about Margaretta?

Iggy was ‘Iggy’ for me also.

Last year the Church tried to pinpoint the date of The Madcap Laughs photo shoot. With JenS’s help and after blowing up the photo of the ‘dangerous litter’ sticker on Syd Barrett’s Pontiac the Church concluded that the pictures had probably been taken shortly after the 14th of April, but before the 21st, as the sticker only gave a 7 days notice to get rid of the car. But Gretta disagrees:

The ‘Madcap’ photo shoot dates are probably incorrect as I have a postcard from a friend addressed to me, Rusty, Syd and Iggy at the Wetherby Mansion address dated June 1969.
Raquel Welsh and Ringo Starr
Raquel Welsh and Ringo Starr.

The Magic Christian

Around about that time we did some film extra work for The Magic Christian. I have a feeling Iggy came with us? But I cannot confirm this.

The Magic Christian is a quite nice satirical (but very sixty-nine-ish) movie, starring Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and a bunch of (uncredited) 60-ies icons: Christopher Lee (as – what else – a vampire), John Le Mesurier, Peter Graves, Raquel Welsh (as priestess of the whip), Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski, Spike Milligan and Yul Brynner (as a transvestite cabaret singer). Fans will also notice the presence of John Cleese and Graham Chapman who independently wrote scenes for the movie (and before they teamed up as Monty Python members).

The movie’s main message is that everything can be bought for money and has scenes of Peter Sellers, an eccentric billionaire, smearing beluga caviar over his face in a posh restaurant or cutting up a Rembrandt painting because he is only interested in the nose. His final trick (minus one) is to make people dive into a big tub filled with blood, urine and excrements to fish the thousands of pounds that float in it (although by all means gross this scene is not so far from what has been shown in some Endemol TV game shows for the last couple of years).

Update: Margaretta and (perhaps) Iggy weren't the only Wetherby-visitors who got involved with the movie. JenS commented, after reading this entry:

I was also an extra in the Magic Christian, I was one of Raquel's slave girls in the Galleon scene, but fortunately taken out in the cutting room, however this tiny scene took two days to shoot. I had done my piece the previous year, in 1968! It was interesting for me to see the others had done some for it in June 69. Films do take a long time in production! (mail to FA, 29th of April 2010)

But according to the BFI work on the movie started on the 24th of February 1969 and ended on the 14th of May. This still quite fits the dates we have been proposing for the photo shoot, but the testimony from Gretta that Ig was still around in June is intriguing to say the least and will have to be further investigated..

Meic Stevens
Meic Stevens.

Meic Stevens

In the first part of this series it was told how Gretta, Rusty, Syd and Gala Pinion visited a brilliant musician who lived in Solva, Haverfordwest, Dyfed. The Church wrongly assessed it was a certain Mike Stevens and found some very scarce information on him.

It took not long before several churchgoers made it clear to the Reverend that the Welsh singer-songwriter in question is better known as Meic Mortimer Stevens.

Meic Stevens was discovered by DJ Jimmy ‘Jim‘ll Fix It’ Savile, who saw him performing in a Manchester folk club in 1965. It is believed that he was a session man on several recordings (Gary Farr springs to mind) and he may have issued a solo single for Decca, but without success.

In 1967 Stevens left ‘England’ and retreated to his home village of Solva and started to write and record songs in Welsh. From 1967 till 1969 several EPs were issued, first under the name Mike Stevens, later Meic Stevens. (These ultra rare EPs that according to Record Collector are searched for against exorbitant prices have been re-issued on CD by Sunbeam records.)

Outlander (1970), Meic Stevens.
Outlander (1970), Meic Stevens.

In 1970 Meic Stevens made an English mildly psychedelic rock & folk album – Outlander - for Warner Bros. On several of its tunes it is pretty clear why he was nicknamed the Welsh Bob Dylan (acoustic guitar and mouth organ included), although the first and by far the most powerful track of that album - Rowena - reminds the Reverend of a Roy Harper in the midst of one of his legendary fits. Obligatory to the spirit of those days there are some tabla and sitar inspired pieces as well. Amongst the people involved on that album are Ian ‘Sammy’ Samwell (a Shadow before Cliff Richard(s) came into the picture and later manager of the folk-rock band America) and all-round session guitarist Bernie Holland (but as far as we know, no Syd Barrett).

The record didn’t sell as hoped, but of course - and this isn’t meant as a pejorative comment - Meic Stevens was fishing in about the same pond as Kevin Ayers, Michael Chapman, Donovan, Roy Harper and of course Syd Barrett himself.

It has come to the Church’s ears that Meic Stevens visited Syd on several occasions at Wetherby Mansions and that he 'recalls the bare room with one Telecaster and little else'.

Update: Prydwyn was so kind to translate the Syd Barrett related parts of Meic Stevens Welsh autobiography into English: Meic meets Syd. A photograph of Meic Stevens with Syd Barrett (and perhaps Rusty and Gretta) has also surfaced.

Rusty Burnhill.
Rusty Burnhill.

Rusty

In an old post we had JenS talking about her friends Gretta and Rusty. However there is a mistake in the following quote:

You may be inferring that Rusty and Greta were from Cambridge but they were from Suffolk and went to Colchester Art School (50 miles from Cambridge and London respectively), and had only recently come to London.

Margaretta clarifies:

Rusty did not go to Colchester art School, he went to Ipswich Art School. His parents eventually moved to Cambridge and he considered it his base from that point on.

After a while Rusty and Margaretta went separate ways. Rusty apparently traveled a lot before settling down on a North Frisian island (Germany) from 1978 till 1993. After a brief stay in a village in the North of Germany, where he participated in a few art exhibitions, he moved to a Hamburg suburb and it is believed he is living there since 1995.

Update: the Church managed to contact Mr. Burnhill, but he refused to talk about the past.

Syd

We leave the final words to Margaretta Barclay:

I feel that Syd has, in the main, been portrayed wrongly as a drug orientated and mentally deranged musician.

My impression of Syd was that he was an intelligent, finely tuned artist and extremely sensitive artist who could not stand the pressure of the attention his unique talents attracted.

If he locked himself in his room for days on end, he was entitled to do so - he certainly was not mad - he did it to preserve his 'genius sanity' and maybe that is why the album is titled the Madcap Laughs.

A word of the editor

The posts at The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit are not read by a lot of people. The topics presented here only trigger a small niche market, to use the marketing vernacular of today and the blog’s harebrained title may not really invite readers to click.

The amount of people consulting each topic will lie closer to 100 than to 500 (and these are totals, not clicks per day). But quantity doesn’t matter, quality does.

It is clear that The Church is consulted, not only by hardcore Syd fans, but also by newspaper and music magazine journalists and authors of Syd Barrett related books that have appeared in the past, that will appear in the (near) future and even some that are still on the author’s laptop.

Furthermore, several people whose name and fame have been discussed here (and recently in other places) have visited the Church, so tells us The Holy Igquisition.

And perhaps, one day, some of them will agree to see their story published here as well.

So long my sistren and brethren, and don’t do anything that Iggy wouldn’t have done!


The Church wishes to thank: Margaretta Barclay for her invaluable testimony about what really happened in those early days of 1969. JenS. Anonymous.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Rock, Mick: Psychedelic Renegades, Plexus, London, 2007, p. 20.
Willis, Tim: Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 107.


2010-06-10

Meic meets Syd

Solva Blues, Meic Stevens
Solva Blues, Meic Stevens.

In a previous post it was told how Margaretta Barclay and Rusty Burnhill took Syd Barrett to acid-folk singer Meic Stevens in Wales, trying to raise Syd's appetite to play some music again. None of the Barrett biographies, including the most recent one from Rob Chapman, have mentioned this, although it was not exactly a secret as Stevens recalls the visits in his autobiography that appeared in... 2003.

The Church is much obliged to Prydwyn who guided us towards Meic Stevens's autobiography and who was so friendly to translate the texts from Welsh to English. This article has mainly been written by him.

Meic meets Syd (© Prydwyn)

Meic Stevens is as huge and influential a name in the Welsh-language folk, rock, and pop scene as Bob Dylan is (was) in the English-speaking world. Meic has been recording since 1965 (mostly in Welsh, although for those not willing to take him on in the language of Heaven, his outstanding 1970 psychedelic masterpiece Outlander has recently been reissued on CD).

For the most part he has performed under his own name, although in the late 60s he was a member of Gary Farr’s backing group in London (playing with Farr at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969, the festival Syd went to with Margaretta Barclay [note from FA]). Meanwhile in Wales (and in Welsh) he, Heather Jones, and Geraint Jarman performed as ‘Y Bara Menyn’ as well (late 60s).

Meic Stevens:

I got a contract in 1965 for a record I’d written myself called Did I Dream. Decca were going to try to market me as another Donovan or Bob Dylan. But it all got too much for me, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up back at Solva.

Meic returned to his home village of Solva, Pembrokeshire, to recover, a time he details in his first autobiography, Solva Blues, and he soon became a feature of the Welsh-language folk and blues scene. In 1969 he was signed by Warner Brothers but after his first album Outlander, the contract was abandoned by mutual consent. (Taken from: Wales Online, interview by Robin Turner.)

The following extracts are from Meic Stevens's first biography, Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini (2nd edition 2009, originally from 2003), with translations following. An English version of this autobiography has also been issued, although I haven’t read it and so am not 100% sure it contains the same information. Update: There is one significant difference between the English and Welsh version, see: Syd meets... a lot of people.

Meic Stevens
Meic Stevens.

Syd Barrett and Meic Stevens in a lost BBC documentary

The first piece refers to 1969. It must have been spring or summer, as the next section in Stevens's autobiography is about the Isle of Wight Festival. Meic Stevens, his partner and children were living in a farmhouse (called Caerforiog) near Solva in rural southwest Wales.

Ro’n i’n dal i wneud peth gwaith i’r BBC yng Nghaerdydd pan gwrddes i â chyfarwyddwr ifanc, Gareth Wyn Jones, oedd am ffilmio rhaglen ddogfen amdana i a ’mywyd. Cymeradwyodd y pennaeth rhaglenni y syniad o gael y cywaith ’ma yn rhan o bump o raglenni dogfen am Gymry cyfoes. Roedd un ohonyn nhw am waith gwneuthurwr drymie o Gasnewydd.

Daeth criw ffilmio i lawr am wthnos a ffilmio yng Nghaerforiog, Solfach, a Thyddewi. Wedyn wthnos arall lan yng Nghaerdydd a Llunden. Y cwbwl wnaeth Gareth oedd ffilmio ein bywyd arferol ni o ddydd i ddydd...

Ymhlith y rhai eraill a ymddangosodd yn y ffilm roedd Heather a Geraint, Gary Farr a Mighty Baby yn Llunden, a Syd Barrett o Pink Floyd fydde’n dod i’n gweld ni yng Nghaerforiog.

Yn nes ymlaen, ffraeodd Gareth ’da’r BBC a mynd i weithio yn Singapore, gan adael y ffilm heb ei golygu. Beth amser wedyn, rhoddodd y BBC ganiatâd i gyfarwyddwr arall olygu portread pum munud ohona i mas o gesys ffilm Gareth, a chafodd beth oedd yn weddill ei daflu mas. Wyth rîl o ffilm un milimedr ar bymtheg oedd yn gyfnod o’n bywyde ni yn 1969! Bachan drwg, Rhydderch Jones!

English translation (© Prydwyn):

I was still doing a bit of work for the BBC in Cardiff when I met a young director, Gareth Wyn Jones, who wanted to film a documentary about me and my life. The chief programming approved the idea of getting this joint effort as a part of five documentary programs about contemporary Wales. One of the other ones was about a drum-maker from Casnewydd.

The film crew came down for a week and filmed in Caerforiog, Solva, and St. Davids. Then another week in Cardiff and London. All Gareth did was to film our normal day-to-day life…

Among the others who appeared in the film were Heather [Jones] and Geraint [Jarman], Gary Farr and Mighty Baby in London, and Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, who came to see us in Caerforiog.

Later on, Gareth quarrelled with the BBC and went to work in Singapore, leaving the film unedited. Some time later, the BBC gave permission to another director to edit a five-minutes portrait of me out of the cases of Gareth’s film, and what was left over got thrown out. Eight reels of 16mm film that were a record of our lives in 1969! Shame on you, Rhydderch Jones!

Rhydderch Jones was a producer/director for the BBC’s Welsh-language service at the time. This excerpt doesn’t make it fully clear if Syd appeared in the London or Wales parts of the shooting, although it is hinted that it was made while Syd visited Meic in Wales (note from FA). Neither do we know if any of Syd's footage survived at all in the five-minute segment that was eventually broadcast. But it does confirm the year (1969) and the place (Caerforiog near Solva) where Syd visited Meic.

Meic Stevens and Syd Barrett
Meic Stevens & Syd Barrett.

Update 2011 07 08: The Church found this picture on the Laughing Madcaps Facebook Group depicting Meic Stevens and his shortlived band (Y) Bara Menyn. This folk trio also included Geraint Jarman and Heather Jones who made an album in March 1969. The Dylanesque man at the back is Meic Stevens, the man with the hat and the guitar at the front appears to be Syd Barrett. Standing behind Syd could be his friend Rusty Burnhill, sitting behind Syd could be Gretta Barclay. Unfortunately nobody (not even Barrett photo archivist Mark Jones) seems to know where this picture comes from, nor if it is authentic or not.

A message from the Church: We leave it up to other Syd scholars to contact the Welsh branch of the BBC in order to locate the missing reels of the original documentary. Some of the people mentioned above are still around and can be contacted through the BBC or are present on social network websites. And if you do find something, please let us know! (Note: written in 2010 and 6 years later not a single soul has attempted this.)

Ghost Town, Meic Stevens
Ghost Town, Meic Stevens.

Outlander sessions

The next bit is part of the description of the recording sessions for Meic’s 1970 (mostly) English LP, Outlander. As the album was recorded in 1969 it fixes the date of this anecdote also in that year.

Y dyddie hynny, fe fydden ni’n recordio gefen nos fel arfer. Bydde rhai o’r sesiyne’n para tan orie mân y bore – neu drwy’r nos ambell waith – ac wedyn bydden ni’n cael brecwast mewn caffi yn Soho tua saith neu wyth o’r gloch... Allwn i ddim ymdopi ag Olympic, oedd yn hen sgubor fawr o le ’da pentyrre Marshall ar hyd y lle ym mhobman, gwifre spaghetti, a blyche llwch gorlawn.

Daeth Syd Barrett lawr yno un noson pan o’n i ar fy mhen fy hun yno ’da gitâr acwstig, ac ro’n i’n falch pan gyrhaeddodd Syd y tresmaswr ’da’i gariad, mynd â’r gitâr, iste ar lawr, a dechre chware iddo fe’i hun. Ro’n i wedi recordio trac y noson honno, o’r enw ‘One Night Wonder’, ac mae e ar Ghost Town, Tenth Planet Records. Ar lawr y bydde Syd wastad yn iste; doedd dim celfi yn ei stafell, dim ond estyll pren moel neu rai wedi’u peintio’n oren neu’n las, ffôn gwyn, a Fender Telecaster.

Fi oedd un o’r ychydig oedd yn cael mynd yno; dwi’n credu ’i fod e’n hoffi bod ar ei ben ei hun lawer o’r adeg. Ambell waith, fe fydde’n chware’i Telecaster heb ei chwyddo. Dro arall, syllu trwy’r ffenest neu i’r gwagle fydde fe. Doedd Syd ddim fel ’se fe moyn llawer mewn bywyd, dim ond bod ar ei ben ei hun ’da’i feddylie. Roedd e’n foi golygus iawn, wastad ’da merch hardd ar ei fraich pan oedd e mas neu’n gyrru’i Mini Cooper, yn dene fel styllen, ac yn gwisgo dillad ecsotig few siwtie satin croendynn, cryse sidan ffriliog, sgarffie hirlaes, a bŵts croen neidr!

English translation (© Prydwyn):

Those days, we usually recorded in the middle of the night. Some of the sessions would continue until the wee hours of the morning – or right through the night sometimes – and afterwards we’d have breakfast in a café in Soho around seven or eight o’clock… I couldn’t cope with Olympic [Studios], which was an old barn of a place with Marshall stacks everywhere throughout the place, wires like spaghetti, and overflowing ashtrays.

Syd Barrett came down there one night when I was on my own with an acoustic guitar, and I was glad when Syd trespassed his way in with his girlfriend, took the guitar, sat on the floor, and started playing to himself. I had been recording a track that night called One Night Wonder, which is on Ghost Town, Tenth Planet Records. Syd would always sit on the floor; there was no furniture in his room, just bare wooden planks or ones painted orange or blue, a white phone, and a Fender Telecaster.

I was one of the few who got to go there; I believe he liked being on his own most of the time. Sometimes, he would play his Telecaster unamplified. Other times, he would stare through the window or into empty space. Syd didn’t seem to want much in life, just being on his own with his thoughts. He was a very good-looking boy, always with a beautiful girl on his arm when he was out or driving his Mini Cooper. He was as thin as a rail, and wore exotic clothes like skin-tight satin suits, frilly silk shirts, long scarves, and snakeskin boots.
Sackloth, Meic Stevens
Sackloth, Meic Stevens.

Probably NOT Syd

Finally, there is mention of a Syd somewhere in 1964 or 1965, although I don’t think the man in question is Syd Barrett. Still, just in case.

Ro’n i’n iste ar y stâr yn Chalk Farm un noswaith yn trial chware fel Big Bill Broonzy, pan ddaeth Syd, y boi oedd yn byw drws nesaf, mas a sefyll yno’n edrych arna i. Ymhen dipyn, medde fe, “Can you play what you’re thinking?” Wedyn, yn ôl â fe at ei deipiadur a chau’r drws. Do’n i rioed wedi meddwl am chware beth o’n i’n feddwl; ro’n i wastad yn trial copïo cerddoriaeth pobol eraill. Ar chwap fel ’ny, fe wnaeth e i fi feddwl yn wahanol am gerddoriaeth, a dwi’n fwy gofalus byth ers hynny.

English translation (© Prydwyn):

I was sitting on the stair in Chalk Farm one evening trying to play like Big Bill Broonzy, when Syd, the boy who lived next door, came out and stood there looking at me. After a while, he said, “Can you play what you’re thinking?” Then, back he went to his typewriter and closed the door. I’d never thought about playing what I was thinking; I was always trying to copy other people’s music. Just like that, he made me think differently about music, and I’ve been more careful ever since then.

Chalk Farm is an area lying in the London borough of Camden. In 1964 Syd Barrett was living in Mike Leonard's house in Stanhope Gardens, Highgate. The next year he moved to the West End, renting rooms at 12, Tottenham Street. As none of these addresses are next door to Chalk Farm it probably was another 'Syd' Meic Stevens is talking about. Also if Meic had met Syd Barrett (who was still an amateur musician at that point) in 1964 or 1965 he would certainly have stressed this a bit more...

An update on this article has been published at: Syd meets... a lot of people 


Many thanks to Prydwyn for his writing and translating skills.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 81.
Stevens, Meic: Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini, Y Lolfa, Talybont, 2009, p. 138, p. 190-191, p. 202 .

An excellent article on Meic Stevens: Welsh wizard at work (2011).


2010-07-03

Syd meets... a lot of people

Meic Stevens
Meic Stevens.

Syd meets Meic

A couple of weeks ago this blog published excerpts from Meic Stevens' autobiography Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini (in Welsh, but awesomely translated by Prydwyn) describing how the Cymry bard encountered Syd Barrett in the late Sixties.

These meetings, as far as the Church is aware, have never been mentioned before, not in any of the four main Syd Barrett biographies and not on any website, blog or forum dedicated to the Pink Floyd frontman. It is a bit weird, seen the fact that the biography already appeared in 2003.

Normally Syd related news, regardless of its triviality, is immediately divulged through the digital spider web tying Syd anoraks together. The Church does not want to take credit for this find, it is thanks to Prydwyn, who contacted the Church, that we now have this information, and we hope that it will slowly seep into the muddy waters of the web. (Strange enough the Church post was almost immediately detected by (Welsh) folk music blogs but completely ignored by the Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett communities. Is the rumour true that there is a general Syd Barrett fatigue going on?)

The psychedelic London Underground was not unlike the rapid transit system that listens to the same name. The counterculture wasn't really an organised movement, but constituted of many, independent stations with tubes going from one station to the other. Some persons travelled a lot, switching from line to line using intersecting stations as apparently Syd Barrett's Wetherby Mansions flat was one, much to the dismal of Duggie Fields who wanted to produce his art in peace.

Spike Hawkins
Spike Hawkins.

Syd meets Spike Hawkins

In a YouTube interview Rob Chapman, author of the Syd Barrett biography A Very Irregular Head, recalls how he found out that beatnik and poet Spike Hawkins was an acquaintance of Syd Barrett. He was interviewing Pete Brown for his book and when the interview was over he remarked that some Barrett lyrics had a distinct Spike Hawkins style. At that point Pete Brown remarked: "I think Spike Hawkins knew Syd Barrett." Without that lucky ad hoc comment we would (probably) never have known that the two artists not only knew, but also met, each other at different occassions, although it was probably more a Mandrax haze that tied them rather than the urge to produce some art together.

Syd meets Dominique

The Church already mentioned the names of Meic Stevens, Jenny Spires, Trina Barclay, Margaretta Barclay and her friend, painter and musician Rusty Burnhill (who used to jam with Barrett), Iggy (or Evelyn, who is rather reluctant to talk about the past) and the French Dominique A., who was - at a certain moment - rather close to Barrett.

Dominique is, like they say in French, un cas à part. Unfortunately nobody seems to know what happened to her, but if the six degrees of separation theory is accurate it might not be too difficult to find her. The problem is that nobody remembers if she stayed in Great Britain or returned to France. But if you read this and have a granny, listening to the name Dominique A., who smiles mysteriously whenever you mention the name Pink Floyd, give us a call.

Update May 2011: thanks to its many informants, the Church has traced the whereabouts of Dominique. She currently lives in a small village, close to Bayonne, near the Bay of Biscay (French: Golfe de Gascogne). Unfortunately she doesn't want to talk about the past.

A mysterious brunette.
A mysterious brunette.

Syd meets Carmel

Church member Dark Globe compared the English version of Meic Stevens' biography Solva Blues (2004) with the excerpts of the Welsh version we published at Meic meets Syd and found a few differences. Apart from the fact that Meic Stevens also had an Uncle Syd who appears quite frequently in the book there are some minor additions in the English version, absent from the original Welsh.

The Welsh version notes fore instance that 'Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd came to see us in Caerforiog':

Syd Barrett o Pink Floyd fydde’n dod i’n gweld ni yng Nghaerforiog.

The English version adds a small, but in the life of a Barrett anorak, rather important detail. It reads:

Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd who used to visit us at Caerforiog with his girlfriend Carmel.

It is the first time the Church (and Dark Globe) hears from this lady, and she is probably one of those two-week (or even two-day) girlfriends Mick Rock and Duggie Fields have been talking about.

(Warning Label: The picture just above has been taken from the Mick Rock movie Lost In The Woods, nobody knows for sure who is the mysterious brunette. This blog does not imply she is Dominique A. or Carmel, for that matter.)

Drug problem

The second reference (about Syd visiting the Outlander sessions) also has one addition in the English version. Solva Blues adds the line:

I wouldn't have thought he had a drug problem - no more than most people on the scene.

If there is one returning constant about the underground days it is its general tunnel vision. In the brave new psychedelic world every move, the crazier the better, was considered cool and there was a general consensus to deny any (drug related) problem that could and would occur. Rob Chapman is right when he, in his rather tempestuous style, writes:

What do you do if your lead guitarist is becoming erratic / unstable / unhinged?
Simple.
You send him off round the UK on a package tour (…) with two shows a night for sixteen nights.

Nick Mason acknowledges this illogical (not to use another term) behaviour:

If proof was needed that we were in denial about Syd's state of mind, this was it.
Why we thought a transatlantic flight immediately followed by yet more dates would help (Syd) is beyond believe.
R.D. Laing
R.D. Laing

Syd almost meets R.D. Laing

Of course looking for professional psychiatric help in those crazy days wasn't that simple either. Bluntly said: you could choose between the traditional cold shower - electroshock therapy or go for anti-psychiatry.

Although it is impossible to turn back the clock it still is the question if experimental anti-psychiatry would have helped Barrett. In a previous post we have given the example how an experimental therapist administered LSD to a Cantabrigian friend of Syd as an alternative way of therapy and R.D. 'I like black people but I could never stand their smell' Laing was no exception to that.

Pink Floyd's manager Peter Jenner made an appointment for Syd with R.D. Laing, but Syd refused to go on with it, but this didn't withhold Laing to make the following observations as noted down by Nick Mason:

Syd might be disturbed, or even mad. But maybe it was the rest of us (Pink Floyd, note by FA) who were causing the problem, by pursuing our desire to succeed, and forcing Syd to go along with our ambitions.

This is the main theory that is overzealously, but not always successfully, adhered by Chapman in his Syd Barrett biography. R.D. Laing ended his Barrett diagnosis, who he never met, by saying:

Maybe Syd was actually surrounded by mad people.

Although some biographers may think, and there they are probably right, that the other Pink Floyd members may have been an ambitious gravy train inspired gang, there was also the small matter of a 17,000 British Pounds debt that the architectural inspired band members still had to pay off after the split. They didn't burden Syd Barrett, nor Peter Jenner and Andrew King with that. Now that is what the Church calls accountancy.

We now know that giving Syd Barrett the time and space, outside the band, to meddle at his own pace with his own affairs and music was not entirely fruitful either. In the early to mid Seventies Syd Barrett entered a lost weekend that would almost take a decade and that is a blank chapter in every biography, apart from the odd Mad Syd anecdote.

Mini Cooper (based upon a remark from Dark Globe)

It is also interesting that Meic Stevens mentions Syd's Mini Cooper:

He was a very good-looking boy, always with a beautiful girl on his arm when he was out or driving his Mini Cooper.

Presumably this is the same car Syd drove all over England in, following the band, when he was freshly thrown out of the Floyd.

Syd swapped this Mini Cooper for a Pontiac Parisienne (and not a Buick as car fanatic Nick Mason writes, although Buick and Pontiac were of course closely related brands) with T-Rex percussionist Mickey Finn in the beginning of 1969, which would date the first meetings between Stevens and Barrett prior to the Mick Rock photo sessions.

But that photo session has been discussed here ad nauseum already so we won't get further into that. So, my sistren and brethren, bye, bye, till the next time, and don't do anything Iggy wouldn't have done. Especially at this warm weather.

(This article is a (partial) update from this one: Meic meets Syd)


Many thanks go to: Dark Globe for checking the English version of Meic Stevens' autobiography. Prydwyn for checking and translating the Welsh version of Meic Stevens' autobiography.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):

Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 201, p. 227.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 210. (R.D. Laing quote)
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004, p. 87-88, p. 95, p. 129.
Stevens, Meic: Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini, Y Lolfa, Talybont, 2009, p. 190-191, p. 202.
Stevens, Meic, Solva Blues, Talybont, 2004 (English, slightly updated, translation of the above).

Rob Chapman's An Irregular Head biography has been reviewed at: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory


2010-08-10

Octopus Ride

Variation on an Iggy theme (artist unknown)
Iggy (variation), Artist unknown.

So busy, the Reverend has been, that he forgot to mention the second birthday of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Luckily there was the Holy Igquisition, sending him a memorandum on parchment paper. And a whip. And a letter of instructions.

Founded on the eight of August two thousand and eight the Reverend didn't know what a strange trip it would eventually prove to be. More than a trip, it was a true octopus ride taking the Church from childhood to stardom.

For the past year the Reverend tried to re-trace Iggy's footsteps and that not always with success. Knowing that Ig had once been to a Dusty Springfield party we asked Dusty's bass player if he remembered her. The answer was he didn't. We asked Vickie Wickham, from RSG! fame and Dusty's manager. The answer was she remembered hardly anything from the sixties. We asked Rod Harrod from the Cromwellian, where Ig was spotted dancing The Bend, but he apologised for not remembering her.

What the Church couldn't achieve, Mojo did. January 2010 saw the appearance of the March issue of that particular music magazine, dedicated to the 40 years anniversary of Syd Barrett's mythical album The Madcap Laughs. On the 6th of February 2010 the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit triumphantly broke the news that Ig was alive and well and living in the south of England: World Exclusive: Ig has been found!

One week later saw Evelyn's (her real name) first, and rather reluctant, interview in 40 years, by Kirsty Whalley from The Croydon Guardian. (The transcript from that interview, with some extra comments from the Church can be found here: Little old lady from London-by-the-Sea.)

But the Church did achieve something else. Margaretta Barclay, who often visited Syd in 1969, gave an exclusive interview, revealing - en passant - that the controversial picture of Syd visiting the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 was genuine indeed. Also musician Meic Stevens used to visit Syd in those days, but alas, the Welsh proto-punk-folk-rocker had no further comments for the Church. His memoirs reveal though that the BBC filmed a visit of Syd Barrett at Stevens' house in Caerforiog, but that the rolls may have been lost: Meic meets Syd.

The Church will continue, at its own pace, to look further for people and clues that can explain the madcap's enigma. The Reverend recently revealed the (first) names of two women who knew Syd in the late sixties, early seventies: Dominique (from France) and Carmel. We would like to see these grannies talk about their trip, for sure.

But not all people are inclined to talk about their flower power days. A musician, who used to jam with Syd Barrett in his flat at Wetherby Mansions, recently told the Reverend:

Isn't it time this all ends?
This has been going on for 40 years now.
Can't you just let the music speak for itself?

Upgrade November 2016: this artist was Rusty Burnhill, who sadly passed away in November 2016.

But as any Barrett anorak will tell you, it is hard to close our eyes and just enjoy the octopus ride… now going strong for its third consecutive year... In the meantime, sistren and brethren, don't do anything that Iggy wouldn't have done!


Last year's birthday party can be found here: Catwoman, containing an exclusive (and unpublished) poem dedicated to Iggy, by Dr. Denis Combet (Manitoba University, Canada).

2011-03-23

Felix Atagong: an honest man

Fake Reverend unmasked at last
Felix Atagong
Felix Atagong.

The Anchor's editor was kindly asked, although summoned would be a more appropriate term, to do an independent review of an interview of the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit that recently appeared on the extraordinary Spanish Barrett blog Solo en las Nubes (Alone in the Clouds).

Run by Antonio Jesús the blog is a mix of information and fun, containing several references to La Sagrada Iglesia de Iggy La Esquimal, that could be without doubt a title for one of the weirder Pedro Almodóvar movies. Quite recently, in a dark corner of The Anchor, dimly lit by a dripping candle in a bottle on the rough wooden table, I bend over to the gorgeous black-haired girl sitting in front of me, slowly whispering 'La Sagrada Iglesia de Iggy La Esquimal' in her ears (actually, in one ear only as it is quite infeasible to whisper in two ears at the same time, except for Mick Jagger perhaps). Oh Alex Fagotin baby, she passionately sighed with heaving breasts, say that to me one more time, but unfortunately my hair already had caught fire by then.

One very interesting part of the Spanish Barrett blog are the so-called self-interviews (or autoentrevista) and so far Antonio has persuaded Duggie Fields and Laughing Madcaps front-man Kiloh Smith to reveal their souls in these autobiographical Rorschach tests.

Titled 'Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero"' the latest self-interview has provoked roars of hysterical laughter from the Åland Islands to Wallis and Futuna. We reveal no real secrets if we tell you that the Reverend has left a trail of female victims from Oslo to Tarzana and rumour goes there will be more to follow despite many international warnings.

The Reverend's self-interview can already be described as absolute rock-bottom and without doubt it will be voted the all-time-worst-entry at the - otherwise excellent - Spanish Barrett blog. Time to let you decide for yourself what a kind of pompous pathetic pumpernickel that Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit really is. Ladies and gentlemen, the Anchor presents, but not too proudly: Felix Atagong: an honest man...

Solo en les Nubes
Solo en las Nubes.

Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero"

Even the roads of rock are unfathomable.

Felix Atagong, from Belgium, has created a blog dedicated to Iggy, the model of The Madcap Laughs album. Nobody knew her whereabouts for almost forty years. The coincidence of life, meaning that it is not coincidental at all, has lead this case to an unexpected but long-awaited path.

Publius Enigma.
Publius Enigma.

In his self-interview, Mr. Atagong, the Sherlock Holmes of the Floydian world (he even helped to clarify the Publius Enigma) and always committed to the truth he slowly peels the layers of the story of his blog, and more... (introduction written by Antonio Jesús)

1. What is the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit?

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit is a blog for Syd Barrett fans dealing with the – very short – period in 1969 when Syd's alleged girlfriend Iggy lived with the singer. Apart from some unverified rumours about her Eskimo roots nobody really knew something about her, nor what happened to her after her sudden disappearance in 1969.

2. How did it all start?

The Church more or less started as a prank. Discussing the (theoretical) possibility of a Barrett religion on the Late Night forum I mentioned a Saint Iggy Congregation in 2007 and when, in March 2008, DollyRocker recognised Iggy acting in a 1967 British documentary, I jokingly announced the Church's birth. But the idea still ripened for five months before any blog post appeared.

3. What were your intentions?

These were quite ambiguous by design.

Obviously the Church frame, lead by an all-knowing Reverend who addresses his flock in a swollen and theatrical language, is satirical. I wanted to imitate those overzealous fans, who can't stop arguing that Barrett is the world's most underrated musical genius and graphical artist and who painstakingly, almost in religious stupor, scrutinize every minute of his life.

But while I was developing the blog I soon realised that I was painstakingly, almost in religious stupor, collecting all available puzzle pieces that lay shattered over the net, on blogs, in forums, that were published in different articles and biographies, thus creating the ultimate Iggy repository.

Both concepts share an an osmotic relationship and - by being what it is and what it pretends to be – the Church has evolved into a meta-concept, although that thin ironic line is probably completely ignored by the people who visit it.

4. But the Church did trigger an Iggy revival, didn't it?

Not really. Every avalanche starts with a couple of snowflakes and by sheer luck the Holy Church happened to be on the right place at the right time. After nearly 40-years of silence several people simultaneously remembered Iggy. Most of the time the Church was not involved but has been monitoring and commentating these events. What nobody expected, except perhaps for the Holy Igquisition, is that it resulted in some sort of Iggymania.

Iggymania started when Mojo magazine put Syd Barrett on its cover in 2010. Of course that cover story was all about The Madcap Laughs 40th birthday but the Church had clearly inspired one of the articles. Not only did this boost the hits on the website but a few days later The Church could reveal that Evelyn (Iggy) had been found back as well and that thanks to Mojo.

Beginning of this year Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake could finally interview Iggy and that is when Iggymania fully exploded.

5. Not bad for something that started as a joke.

Syd and Iggy - Spring 1969
Syd and Iggy - Spring 1969.

The Church had already turned serious when JenS shared her memories with us, revealing that she (probably) introduced Iggy to Syd and pinpointing The Madcap Laughs photo-shoot date in spring, rather than in the autumn of 1969. Some time later another acquaintance of Syd gave her first interview ever to the Church. Margaretta Barclay and her boyfriend Rusty were regular visitors at Syd's flat and they even tried to resuscitate Barrett's interest in music by dragging him over to Meic Stevens, who is still some kind of weird folk cult figure.

I find it rewarding that some of the Church theories have been reprinted in magazine articles and biographies, so I guess we're not all rubbish after all.

6. But finding Iggy also presented a major crisis for the Church, isn't it?

It is the ambiguity of all organisations that have a certain goal. What do you do if the goal has been reached? What will Greenpeace do if no-one hunts little seals any more? The worst thing that could happen to the Church was to find Iggy! But every time the Reverend uttered the fear there would be lack of Iggy, something new turned up. And 2011 has already proved to be no exception.

Thinking about the future the Church did some reorganising and will continue developing into other areas, of course not neglecting its primary task to inform about al things Ig. One of the new items at the Church will be a gossip corner called 'The Anchor', named after the Cambridge pub Syd Barrett used to visit in the early Sixties. We hope it will stir things up as the Barrett community has become quite lethargic lately. We're all old farts who fall asleep after our afternoon tea and biscuits.

7. The question we are all waiting for: is Iggy aware of it at all and what does she think of the Church?

Evelyn kept a low profile over the years, although she apparently never hid the fact that she had been on the cover of The Madcap Laughs album. But the path of Iggy and the path of the Barrett fan community simply didn't converge for the last 40 years.

Recently Iggy has contacted the Church and she gave us valuable information. However the question is what will happen when Iggymania freezes over. I feel it a bit hypocrite to say that now, but it was never the Church's intention to invade Iggy's privacy.

8. This interview should have at least one anoraky question, reflecting the true nature of the Church. Does the 'eskimo chain' line in Barrett's Dark Globe refer to Iggy?

Dark Globe is a very poignant, hermetic track and, as is the case in many of Syd's songs, its lyrics can be interpreted in different ways. I think Julian Palacios describes it as a lament to Pink Floyd or something of that order. It also reads as a goodbye song to a past love and here is where the 'eskimo chain' line fits in – or doesn't.

I'm only a person with Eskimo chain
I tattooed my brain all the way...
Won't you miss me?
Wouldn't you miss me at all?
Solo en las Nubes banner
Solo en las Nubes banner.

Most people who read Barrett blogs will know that Barrett recorded under the guidance of Malcolm Jones, but somewhere in May 1969 he passed the torch to David Gilmour (Roger Waters would join in as well on a later date). Jones had given up in desperation, as Peter Jenner had done the year before, that last one declaring that the sessions had been 'chaos'. Finally it was David Gilmour who pleaded Harvest records to allow Barrett a third and final chance to finish his solo record. Of course this is just one interpretation and not all biographers and witnesses agree with that. Another story goes that Malcolm Jones simply invited Gilmour (and Waters) for marketing reasons: three Pink Floyd members for the price of one, so to speak (four if one adds Rick Wright who might have done some uncredited overdubs on Golden Hair). Probably the truth lies, as is often the case, somewhere in the middle.

The first session of the third recording round took place on the 12th of June 1969. Barrett premiered two new songs: Dark Globe and Long Gone. On the third (and final) session (26th of July) Roger Waters joined David Gilmour and a couple of other attempts were made of the same songs. (this alternative version of Dark Globe, now retitled as Wouldn't You Miss Me, was later released on the Opel outtakes album.)

It would be logical to see Long Gone and Dark Globe as an indivisible pair as they are both sad love songs. But there is an abundance of that theme on The Madcap Laughs. Jenny Spires told the Church: “Syd wrote songs and not all of them were about one person or another. It was his job. (…) Syd was not romantically inclined this way. 'I'm only a person with Eskimo chain' refers to the evolutionary chain, not to a specific person. He was on a very much higher spiritual plane, not so much on the material.”

But on the other hand 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 and to Libby Gausden, Jennifer Gentle from Lucifer Sam is a mixture between Jenny Spires and an ancient English ballad called 'There were three sisters' (Jennifer, Gentle and Rosemaree).

Dark Globe also contains the verse: “'The poppy birds way, swing twigs coffee brands around.” At first sight this is just a nature description set in a romantic mood but if one knows that a former girlfriend of Syd was Vivian 'Twig' Brans it becomes quite clear that Syd has cryptically entered her name in that line.

So while Dark Globe may have no-one specific in mind the Eskimo chain line may have been a slight nod toward Iggy.

9. This explanation made my appetite grow for more. How can one join the Church?

To paraphrase Groucho Marx: I don't want to belong to any Church that will accept me as a member, so you can't. The Church does have some loyal friends though who have helped by passing on valuable information. Basically the Church just reaps what others have sown (a common practice amongst churches, I might add). Many kudos go to a long list of loyal brainstormers, informants, witnesses and friends (and I already want to apologise for the ones I have forgotten): Anne, Anthony, Bea, Denis, Dollyrocker, Douggie, Eternal, Gretta, Jenny, Julian, Kieran, Lisa, Mark, Paro, Prydwyn, Rod, Sadia, Sean, Vicky, our many visitors and fans... And of course Iggy herself.

10. What is this recurring thing about the Holy Igquisition?

Nobody expects the Holy Igquisition!

Self-interview courtesy of: Solo en las Nubes (2011) - Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero", introduction written by Antonio Jesús. Self-interview written in December 2010 and updated in January 2011.


The Anchor is the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit's satirical division, intended for people with a good heart, but a rather bad character.
More info: The Anchor.
Read our legal stuff: Legal Stuff.


2016-11-26

RIP Rusty Burnhill

Rusty Burnhill
Rusty Burnhill. Picture: Gretta Barclay.

The Church was informed, a couple of days ago, that Rusty Burnhill died at the age of 70.

Rusty, and his girlfriend (and later wife) Gretta Barclay, were a 'hippie couple' who were in Syd Barrett's inner circle and who visited him in his apartment at Wetherby Mansions. It is there that they met Iggy and helped painting the floorboards in blue and red (or any colour variation you like).

Unfortunately the other tenant of the apartment wasn't really amused with the constant stream of visitors around the has-been pop-star and, in several interviews, many years later, he still uttered his frustration about this, naming the couple as one of the heavier nutcases.

This unfavourable account found its way in at least three renowned Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett biographies and as such the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit repeated that testimony as well. (Source: Love In The Woods (Pt. 2)).

However, another friend of Syd Barrett, who we may only address under the pseudonym JenS, for reasons too much complicated to explain here, vehemently disagreed and called the couple 'art school kids' who probably goofed out on booze and mandrax, like everyone else did in those days (Source: When Syd met Iggy... (Pt. 3)).

Gretta Barclay denied the accusations in her interview with the Church:

Syd was a very dear friend of ours and we did a considerable amount together in the 60's. Contrary to what I have read, we did not provide Syd with drugs. (Source: Gretta Speaks.)

JenS had met Gretta and her sister Trina during the mid sixties in a London grooming school and she introduced them to Syd when he was still living at 101 Cromwell Road. JenS, Gretta, Trina and the French Dominique (who apparently had a huge crush on Syd) lived together in Chelsea for a while. Then Gretta met Rusty.

In late 1969 or early 1970 the couple, who had never been part of the underground, left hectic London for Suffolk mainly because Gretta was pregnant from her first child. Later in 1970 they moved to Devon.

Barrett still was a close friend and they did visit him, but obviously not to indulge in drugs and booze. Rusty was a pretty good guitarist and he jammed with Syd on tracks as Terrapin, Octopus and the blues standards they both loved. The couple tried to upkeep Syd's interest for (his own) music and Rusty silently hoped to do something together.

Although Gretta, in her first and only interview she ever gave, is pretty vague about Syd's condition the couple must have sensed there was something terribly wrong with the Cambridge wonderboy. They actively tried to reactivate his musical interest by introducing him to the Welsh folk-maverick Meic Stevens.

Meic Stevens with Syd Barrett
Meic Stevens & Syd Barrett.

They all visited the Welsh singer-songwriter in his house in Solva, where Syd and Rusty jammed with Meic's band Bara Menyn. A pretty bad photo exists of the encounter, perhaps with Gretta and Rusty sitting around the table with Syd, Meic, Heather Jones and Geraint Jarman. (Syd and Meic would meet several times and they were the subject of a BBC documentary that has probably been lost. See Meic meets Syd for the story.)

After a while Rusty and Margaretta went separate ways. Rusty lived for a few months with Jenny Spires and Jack Monck in Cambridge. Jack and Rusty even started a band, in 1972, right after the Stars debacle. Rocksoff (or Rocks Off) had Rusty Burnhill (gtr/voc), Jack Monck (bass/voc), George Bacon (gtr/voc), Dan Kelleher (gtr/pno/voc) and a succession of drummers, including Chris Cutler and Laurie Allan. (Source: http://calyx.perso.neuf.fr/mus/monck_jack.html.)

Rusty apparently travelled a lot before settling down on the North Frisian island Amrum (Germany) from 1978 till 1993. After a brief stay in Worpswede, a village in the North of Germany, where he participated in a few art exhibitions, he moved in 1995 to Barmstedt, a Hamburg suburb.

In March 2010, after some holistic detective agency proceedings, the Church could find Rusty's address. We knew he wasn't using mail and that he was very reluctant to speak about the past, so we wrote him a letter to ask for an interview.

It took quite a while, and actually we had forgotten all about it, but one day he called us out of the blue. Unfortunately the conversation wasn't going into the direction we had hoped for. After a tirade that took a few minutes Mr. Burnhill asked us:

Isn't it time this all ends?
This has been going on for 40 years now.
Can't you just let the music speak for itself?

Wise words. There are more important things in life than chasing shadows of dead men.

We really hope, Rusty, that you can finally form that band, you've always dreamt about.


Many thanks: Gretta Barclay, Thomas Hartlage, JenS, Gus Mark Peters, Rebecca Poole, anonymous. Picture of Rusty Burnhill: courtesy of Gretta Barclay.

The Gretta Barclay Files: Gretta Speaks 
The Meic Stevens Files: Meic 'Welsh Syd' Stevens 
The JenS Files: JenS Remembers