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2006-10-15

The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd

The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd
The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd fans have been diminished to a bunch of pathetic wankers if you ask me. I know, I am one of them. We discuss the fact if Syd Barrett was having an Earl Grey or an Orange Pekoe tea on Sunday morning the 18th of November of the year 1967 and we are proud of that.

You slowly become a Pink Floyd wanker (PFW for short) when one realizes that the amount of Pink Floyd tribute CDs starts to become bigger than the volume of official Pink Floyd albums. Magazines with Pink Floyd on the cover make a pile higher than the house you are living in and you have just bought The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd only because you want to scrutinize it for possible errors.

Being a grumpy wanker de luxe I am fairly disappointed in Toby Manning's The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd, because it actually is a very fine book. I like it, damn! I like the air of blasphemous criticism it breathes throughout the text, the fine humour, the stabs at all the (past) members of the band. This is by no way a hagiography. Aren't there any errors, "Show me the errors!", I hear you scream. Well probably they are in there, but I have already forgotten them, so much fun I had by reading The Story section of book.

'Cause the book is divided in 3 segments: The Story, The Music and Floydology. The Story takes about half of the volume and is a very good read. The Music tries to delve inside the productive qualities of the Floyd members and this is where some favouritism creeps in. Finally.

Over the years we have had several Which One Is Pink wars. There are still people around who think that the post-Barrett-era band does not have the rights to the name Pink Floyd. Most of those bozos would never have heard of Syd Barrett anyway without the tributes that have been buried inside Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here or he Wall, so their claims are not to be taken too seriously.

Of more importance are the Waters versus Gilmour feuds. Toby Manning has a fine point when he writes that The Final Cut is a Roger Waters solo record disguised as a Floyd release, while The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking is in fact a 'Pink Floyd album in all but personnel'. He certainly has the right to his opinion that post-1986 Diet Floyd was a fine forgery of the classic original. However, I do not understand that the author selects only one representative track from the post-Waters-period: Richard Wright's lament Wearing The Inside Out. That track is, by definition, not representative for the post-Waters Floyd at all and if the slightly horrible The Post-War Dream, Your Possible Pasts and Not Now John made it into his Pink Floyd Top 50, I fail to see why One Slip, Sorrow, What Do You Want From Me or High Hopes have not been included as well.

But even if Toby Manning is an erring admirer of the opposite camp he has probably written the best book about the Floyd in ages. It can stand without shame next to Nicholas Schaffner's Saucerful Of Secrets (1991, already) and Nick Mason's Inside Out memories (2004).

Wanking one last time: the 18th November of the year 1967 wasn't a Sunday after all!


(This review appeared originally on Unfinished Projects : The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd.)


2007-09-08

Fasten Your Anoraks

Missing Fart Enjoy page
Missing Fart Enjoy Page.

No Pink Floyd release nowadays without a controversy between the fans, the (ex-)band members and/or record company. The Pink Floyd's first album 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' has been celebrating its fortieth birthday and boys and girls that gravy train is riding again. Out comes a luxury package containing 3 disks: Piper in stereo, Piper in mono and a third disk containing the first 3 singles - 5 tracks, one B-side is exactly the same as on the album version and is not repeated - plus 4 alternative versions of Interstellar Overdrive (twice), Apples And Oranges and Matilda Mother.

So what is the controversy all about then?

1. EMI seems to release a special edition every decade.

Apart from the normal CD-issue that was basically just an analogue copy onto a digital carrier without fuddling we have already had a 1994 remastered stereo version and a limited (only a few million copies or so) 1997 mono version. The card box of the 1997 mono version was far too large to contain a single CD so that everyone could insert The First 3 Singles inside the box (that CD-EP had to be bought separately).

So basically this new edition combines the 1994 and 1997 versions in one package, adding 4 alternative takes. I know that EMI claims that the tapes have been remastered again (Why? Did James Guthrie do a bad job the previous times?) and the odd anorak will be able to tell you that the mono version of 1997 and the mono version of 2007 have a different fade out on one single track.

2. The tracks we are waiting for since decades are not included.

I don’t want to sound too ungrateful, collectors will find the 4 unearthed tracks worthwhile, but the tracks everybody was really waiting for are the final real tracks that Barrett recorded with his band: Scream Thy Last Scream and Vegetable Man. But perhaps these will find a place on an anniversary edition of A Saucerful Of Secrets.

And of course there are dozens of other (un)finished tracks and demos, believed to be lying in the EMI vaults that could have been included.

It would also have been a nice gesture to include the Pink Floyd's very first demo that has been circulating in bootleg circles for decades. Lucy Leave was Barrett's first song that was recorded by the band, including guitarist Bob Klose who would leave between the demo sessions and the band's debut at Abbey Road. The flip side of that acetate was the Slim Harpo classic (I'm A) King Bee, that has also been covered by Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Grateful Dead.

3. One page is missing on the Fart Enjoy booklet.

Included with the Piper deluxe edition is an 'art' booklet that Syd Barrett made around 1965 for his friend Andrew Rawlinson. The existence of it was revealed in the Tim Willis biography Madcap that printed 6 out of the 12 pages (although a bit truncated). The remaining 6 could be found in the British Mojo music magazine (BTW, this month's issue of Mojo has a free CD entitled In Search Of Syd, containing 15 Pink Floyd inspired tracks).

One of the first people who confirmed that Fart Enjoy would be included on Piper was Ian Barrett, Syd's nephew. The official reason why the twelfth page of Fart Enjoy is missing is cryptically confirmed on the booklet:

This particular page has been left blank for legal reasons.
For further details see www.pinkfloyd.com.

Of course going to the official website of Pink Floyd doesn't give you extra information at all. Enough reasons for the fans to start speculating. The missing page contains 9 times the word 'fuck' and variations of the same verb such as 'fuk' and 'fuc'. According to a Pink Floyd manager who spoke with Keith Jordan, the webmaster from Neptune Pink Floyd, the reason was not the smutty language on the page but the accompanying copyrighted picture that couldn't be released. Very strange as the missing page has been published in Tim Willis's book before and can be found on the NPF website as well.

We haven't been amused like that since the Publius days.

Update March 2014: The Holy Church found out who the mystery woman is on the Fart Enjoy booklet and pinpointed the real date that the booklet was created (and that is quite a surprise). Just another world exclusive of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit: Smart Enjoy.


Some of my Pink Floyd related goodies on this webspace (in Flash):
Syd-a-choo-choo (click-n-play puzzle/game)
Pink Floyd Pie Chart (quiz)

This post has been previously published at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects.


2008-11-16

Si les cochons pourraient voler...

Flamant Rose by Felix Atagong
Flamant Rose, by Felix Atagong

Have you ever seen President Sarkozy on the telly giving a speech? He always thinks he is doing a bloody Hamlet. His performances, because that is what he thinks they are, remind me more of Louis de Funès (or for the non-Francophiles among us: Benny Hill) than Napoleon Bonaparte, another one of those short short-tempered little men with a short fuse who think they can rule the world.

This post contains a fairly well hidden review of the Pink Floyd biography Pigs Might Fly by Mark Blake.

Contents:
1. Flamingoes might fly, about the very first Pink Floyd biography, written in French, by Jean-Marie Leduc.
2. Floydstuff, a rant about merchandising and tribute albums.
3. Pigs Might Fly, review of the Mark Blake biography.
4. A final word about Jean-Marie Leduc.

Flamingoes might fly

Eloquence is a French way of speech but that was not what I was thinking of when I read the following, decades ago:

Je ne sais qui doit le plus à l’autre! La France ou le Pink Floyd? Le Pink Floyd peut-être.
(translation) I don’t know who owes the other more! France or Pink Floyd? Pink Floyd perhaps.

The above is the start of a French rock biography (1977 edition), called Pink Floyd, written by Rock & Folk journalist Jean-Marie Leduc and issued by Albin Michel. Rock & Folk was an excellent French music magazine, that started in 1966, hence its name, and that wanted to inform the French public from the new trends in modern pop music. Jean-Marie Leduc hopped to London and wrote several articles about the London Underground music scene and le pouvoir des fleurs. He discovered this incredible band that would soon be the French progressive student movement’s darling, le Pink Floyd.

Although the most common language at London at that time was the language of love it would’ve helped Jean-Marie Leduc a little bit if he had actually understood some English. Which he didn’t. Probably the acid didn’t help either. That didn’t stop him to write a Pink Floyd biography that was published in October 1973, and that could still be found, a decade later, in every bookstore and self-respecting newspaper and magazine shop in France. Selling figures nearly must have achieved the same height as a regular Pink Floyd album; Leduc’s Pink Floyd was an instant classic and a steady seller.

It was also full of blunders. At page 19 Leduc wrongly mistakes the Pink Flamingo club for the band and throughout the book he will name the lads le Flamant Rose. This (wrong) translation was taken over by all French rock magazines and it would take Rock & Folk until July 1994 to officially denounce the rumour that a Pink Floyd is a Phoenicopterus Roseus. Another botch is on page 49 where Leduc claims that...

...le 2 novembre (1967) (…) un nouveau simple du groupe “Apologises / Jugband blues” est commercialisé en Angleterre’.
(translation) on the 2nd of November (1967) (...) a new single of the band is released in England: “Apologises / Jugband blues” .

This one simple sentence has made French speaking Pink Floyd fans look for this non-existent track of the band for over a decade. At the end of the book the mistake is repeated at the discography, Jean-Marie Leduc keeps on maintaining that the Floyd’s third single was Jugband blues / Apologies (please note the different orthography and running order).

Update November 2011: it was later cleared out that once again it had been Leduc's extended knowledge of the English language that made him misunderstand 'Apples and Oranges' for 'Apologies' or 'Apologises'.

Jean-Marie Leduc’s biography was probably the very first biography on the band, as Charles Beterams wrote in the Echoes, a Dutch fan club magazine, and despite the mistakes it also contains a stunning revelation about the bands first recording, forgotten by most of the biographies that would come next. Leduc interviewed Nick Mason in 1973 and asked if Astronomy Domine was the Floyd’s first composition. Mason answered (translated from French back into English):

Not true. Our first composition was titled Lucy Lee in blue tight or something similar. We recorded it on acetate but it was never commercialised.

Once again Jean-Marie Leduc’s average knowledge of the English language made him note the song as Lucy Lee, and not as Lucy Leave, although Nick Mason’s pronunciation of the song title may not have been too comprehensible as well. It would take ages for another journalist to re-discover the truth about the band’s first recording.

Floydstuff

One bloke who does remember Lucy Leave is Mark Blake. In 2007 he wrote a Pink Floyd biography entitled Pigs Might Fly but because I am such a stingy money spender I wanted to wait until the paperback came sailplaning to me. The last couple of years it is raining Pink Floyd related books and accessories as if all kind of shady people want to have their free ride on the gravy train. It is of course a double feeling, here we are Pink Floyd fans wanting to know everything (and we mean everything) on the band but on the other hand we feel as if we are inside an orange squeezer (or to use Gerald Scarfe’s weird world of Floydian symbolism: a meat grinder). The last thing I’ve read on Pink Floyd merchandising is that Converse will bring out a range of shoes based on the cover art of three of their albums. Part of me is yelling yuck!, but another part is jumping up and down, not a pretty sight if you would catch me on my webcam.

About a decade ago, perhaps a bit longer, small record companies suddenly discovered the tribute album. I jumped on it as a hungry louce on a passing German shepherd dog. But when my heap of tribute records, all made to honestly commemorate the band and not to make a quick buck, started to become bigger than my genuine Pink Floyd collection I simply gave up. I think that Babies Go Pink Floyd was the last tribute album I bought, partially because the concept attracted me. If you also feel tempted to listen to it.
Don’t.
Not only the record is tripe and you wouldn’t want to confront any baby with it without giving him or her a lifelong phobia for Pink Floyd music but also it doesn’t actually motivates grown-ups either to start procreating, normally a quite amusing and satisfactory pastime.

Recently I found this add from Dwell records that goes something like this:

The biggest names in hard rock and avant-garde metal have come together to pay tribute to the madcap genius of Syd Barrett. Featuring some of heavy-metals most influential players, this is a hard-rocking trip through the music world’s most idiosyncratic minds.

Some of the bands present on the record are the following: Dreg, Giant Squid, Jarboe, Kylesa and my favourite Stinking Lizaveta. Except in some distant Norwegian fjordic regions where these bands are probably world famous amongst the local satanic black metal scene these bands don’t really merit the eptitheton ‘biggest name in hard rock’ to begin with. I would have written the add for this album a little bit less triumphant:

Several virtually unknown hard rock and avant-garde metal bands that are constantly struggling to have a record contract have come together to rip off the musical heritage of Syd Barrett. Featuring some of heavy-metals obscurest players, this is a fruitless hard-rocking trip trying to get a fan-base that exceeds the dozen.

Now that is what I call a more realistic description of the project. You can listen to the songs at MySpace and I have to confess they don’t all sound like rubbish to me.

But all the above was merely a long, way too long, way to say that I quit buying Pink Floyd tribute records a while ago as most were, are and will be… full of crap. I had the same compulsive buying disorder when it came to Pink Floyd related music magazines and books. Despite the fact that I can’t play guitar I have dozens of guitar magazines that promise you the tablature of the third guitar solo in Comfortably Numb and a brand new exclusive Pink Floyd interview that was in fact already published in another guitar magazine from three years before that I already had in my scrapbook.

I define myself more than the average Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett fan, but less than an anorak, fanorak suits me fine.. Anoraks have the tendency to start flame wars because someone has told that Syd Barrett was wearing green socks on the 7th of August 1967 while every aficionado knows he was wearing brown socks that day. (To avoid death threats: I’ve just made this whole sock-thing up, but the 7th of August 1967 was of course an important day in Floydian history, about the importance of green socks, just check David Gilmour’s inside sleeve of his About Face album and shiver.)

So I quit buying Pink Floyd books as well, more or less… the last I bought was The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd that can now be found at local lo-price bookshops for the third of the price I bought it for. That is a very nice Pink Floyd biography by the way, and if you are in search for one, well don’t hesitate and get it. It’s cheap and cheerful.

Pigs Might Fly  

But this post was originally intended as a review of Pigs Might Fly, a Pink Floyd biography by Mark Blake and all I did until now is take the piss out of:

a) the very first Pink Floyd biography by Jean-Marie Leduc;
b) the various tribute cds that do exist;
c) the growing pile of Pink Floyd biographies…

So I had given up buying Pink Floyd biographies but when I wrote on the Late Night forum that nobody had ever tried to locate Syd’s girlfriend we know as Iggy Mark Blake promptly replied that he certainly had. I more or less apologised and answered that I would read his biography.

So I did.

Who am I to post a review about a book that Record Collector choose as book of the year, that Q magazine described as a ‘detailed, orderly, first-rate read’, while Mojo praised its ‘heroic research’. It’s excellent, well written, full of anecdotes and it seems to please the casual and the more ardent fan of the band, although it still forgets to mention the colour of socks Syd Barrett was wearing on the 7th of August 1967. Anoraks will always find something to grumble about. I did. I found a mistake from microscopical importance about the Publius affair but only people daft enough to look for the Enigma mystery will probably realise that.

A while ago I started a side-project called the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. In it I am looking for the whereabouts of the girl who appeared on the cover of the Syd Barrett album The Madcap Laughs. It is rather amazing how many bits and pieces can be found after all these years, but apparently Iggy was quite a character in those flowery powery days. The time was ripe as other people suddenly started to reveal their Iggy memories, amongst them Anthony Stern who made a four-minute movie about her in the Sixties that was premiered this year.

I wrote some things about Iggy that I thought were revolutionary but apparently Mark Blake had unravelled these before in his biography, only he didn’t need as many space to write these things down than I did and if this review goes on like this it might be longer than the book itself.

On page 140 Mark Blake writes about how Iggy performed The Bend (Church article: Bend It!), on the next page he reveals the existence of the Anthony Stern movie (before it became an item on YouTube) and how she used to go dancing at The Orchid in Purley (Church article: Shaken not stirred). And all this a year before the Church was started and something of an Iggy hype was created. Hats off to Mark Blake.

Mark Blake is not only an accurate but also a beautiful writer (I’m not speaking about his physical appearance here), reading the bit about the Live 8 reunion gave me tears in my eyes although I normally only weep when I read sweet little things about dying puppies. That more or less sums it up really; Pigs Might Fly moved me and I thank Mark Blake a lot for that.

(In America the book has been published under the alternative title Comfortably Numb, this was the working title of the book but as the cover has a snapshot from Battersea Power Station, including flying pig balloon, this was changed for the European market.)

A final word about Jean-Marie Leduc

One of the funnier parts of the very first Pink Floyd biography are the translated song texts. The Floyd’s first album is called Le joueur de flûte aux grilles de l’aube, but my favourite still is a song that is called Bonbons et pain aux raisins. And what to think about the following, I let you guess what song this has been taken from:

De tortueux signes voltigent.
Lueur. Lueur. Lueur.
Fla. Pom. Pom.
Escaliers d’épouvante et lois de mort…

And a final word for collectors

If you are looking for a copy of the Pink Floyd book by Jean-Marie Leduc be sure to buy the Albin Michel / Rock & Folk versions (several editions from 1973 till 1983). In 1987 another book by Jean-Marie Leduc, also called Pink Floyd, and in the same mini format, was presented to the public by Le Club Des Stars / Seghers. Although based upon the previous versions this book has been completely rewritten and most of the errors have been edited out.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Fasten Your Anoraks 
This post has been previously published at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects.
(The lyrics above are Leduc's French translation of Astronomy Domine.)


2009-03-14

Cheap Tricks

St. Margarets Square, Cambridge
St. Margarets Square, Cambridge.

Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs...

The best Pink Floyd book I've read in years is of course Mark Blake's Pigs Might Fly. Don't tell this to his friends and relatives but I know from a reliable source that he prays at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit from time to time.

The funniest book about the Floyd are the memoirs, not of Nick gentleman drummer boy Mason, although they are good for a chuckle or two, crusty apple pie indeed, but those of Guy Pratt. About a third of My Bass and Other Animals colours pink as Guy joined the diet Floyd, although diet was not exactly the right word to describe the intake of Mr. Gilmour at that time, on their A Momentary Lapse of Reason world tour. Pratt has a very weird kind of humour and one of his pranks was an attempt to crash the Pink Floyd tour plane by frantically running up and down the corridor, in mid-flight! Normal bands have a tour bus; Pink Floyd has a tour plane and the drummer was flying it. If you don’t want to read the book, you can watch an interview where Guy tells about his Floydian encounters.

The best, best as in anoraky, Syd Barrett biography is Julian Palacios' Lost in the Woods, he is a silly bugger if you ask me as he invited the Church on the SBRS forum. Around this time a second (more condensed, I’m afraid) version of his book should finally appear. So far for this commercial break-up.

Speaking about Barretthings, the amount of Syd related books is slowly overhauling the man’s solo output and recently two new ones (in French) have made it onto my desk. Written by Jean-Michel Espitallier, Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs, looked the most promising. It doesn't claim to be a biography but a personal rendition, part essay, of a French Barrett connoisseur.

In my opinion France and rock go together like Germany and humour, Italy and efficiency, Belgium and world soccer finales but this one, I hoped, could be an exception as Mr. Jean-Michel Espitallier is not only is a devoted Barrett fan, but also the translator of the French edition of Tim Willis' Madcap biography, a renowned minor poet (dixit Francis Xavier Enderby) and drummer of the French rock band Prexley? (although that last is not exactly a reference, see above).

The title is a nice pun, un jeu de mots, as it can be interpreted as rock and other stuff but also as rock and other tricks. That is why I preferred to start with this tome instead of the other French Barrett book lying on my desk, called The First Pink Floyd, already deserving the price for lamest title of the year.

Stuff & tricks

It is 30 November 2004 and Jean-Michel Espitallier is nervously strolling around St. Margaret’s Square hoping to get a glimpse of the man who was once known as Syd but now prefers to be called Roger. When Syd-Roger drives by (in his sister's car) and the vehicle has to stop at the crossroads - I deliberately use this term here - where Jean-Michel is sitting on a bench, both men meet in the eye and both pretend, for a couple of minutes, not to see the other one. This anecdote sets the tone of the book, marvellously described by the drummer who can't hide his poetic roots. Strong stuff. Nice trick.

I once remarked at the, now defunct, Astral Piper forum that I couldn’t understand the romantic feelings some female Barrett fans had for Syd. I mean, this guy was a slightly disturbed diabetic elderly and if I should have asked them to have a fling with my grandfather they would’ve been insulted… Espitallier is aware of this dichotomy and compares Syd Barrett to Peter Pan. Syd was a Cambridge youngster who refused to grow up and died in the early Seventies when he, like Icarus, reached for the sky too soon. After all these years, fans were still hoping to find a glimpse of Syd, although only Roger had survived.

From old aged Roger it goes to old aged rock. Espitallier makes the point that we have forgotten about the My Lai massacre but only remember its soundtrack. Good Morning Vietnam has turned into an infomercialised cd-compilation (I have a Tour Of Duty TV-Shop-six-pack myself). Television documentaries use The Mamas and The Papas to comment napalm warfare. We look at a vintage take of an American soldier who has just placed a bullet through a women’s head but all we discuss is Suzy Q by the Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although the above is not really new, innovative or original, it is good to see it in print from time to time.

Le rock et autres trucs
Le rock et autres trucs.

Infotainment

Jean-Michel Espitallier is not always well informed. I can forgive him that he mistakes the Dutch designer duo Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger for a couple of Germans but when it comes to Syd some facts should better have been checked before putting it into print. That Mick Rock did not shoot the cover of The Madcap Laughs is perhaps stuff for anoraks (Mick Rock himself has more or less hinted he was behind it anyway, a fact that Storm Thorgerson denies) but the story that, shortly before his death, Syd Barrett found a guitar from his brother-in-law and started strumming it can be found in the Mike Watkinson & Pete Anderson Crazy Diamond biography, that appeared 15 years before Syd Barrett passed away. And that particular anecdote probably dated already from a few years before it went into print. There are so many myths about Syd Barrett that one doesn’t need to create new ones.

It is perhaps understandable, the man is a poet and not a biographer. His book is about the Barrett phenomenon and not about the historical Barrett.

Lost in translation

Jean-Michel Espitallier writes : Il y a la musique qui nous rentre dans le cerveau musical et il y a la musique qui passe directement dans la poitrine…

Espitallier not only has been hit in the stomach by Syd’s music but received some hits on the head as well, resulting in some serious brain damage. He heard his first Syd song in 1973 and remembers it as Babe Lemonade; actually it is Baby Lemonade. And Jean-Michel’s lethargic song title memories keep on going on. Barrett’s James Joyce adaptation is baptized Golden Air (not Hair) and Syd’s final Pink Floyd statement Jugband Blues is changed to Jugband Blue. A couple of decades ago I started reading a promising French novel but quit after a dozen pages because the author kept on insisting on a Beatles’ song called Eleanor Rugby. Things like that make me grind my teeth. It makes me even wonder if Jean-Miche Espitallier is a real Barrett fan or a mere fraud trying to cash in, like a few others, on the Barrett legacy. For Ig’s sake, it just takes a 10 seconds look on a record sleeve to see if a title has been noted down without mistakes.

Arthur Rambo

The book ends with a list of creative geniuses who stopped being creative at a certain point in their lives. One of these persons is the 19th century poet Arthur Rimbaud, who stopped writing at 21 and proclaimed: Merde à la poésie! I would like to end this review with: Merde au poète! But let’s have a look at the pros and cons of his Syd-hiking first (bad pun, I know)…

Pros: instead of the umpteenth biography this book is a personal journey from the author through music, art and literature, using the Barrett legend as a guide. Interesting viewpoints about music, fandom, culture and politics are intertwined with nice wordplays such as ‘Bob Dylan had a Plan Baez’.

Cons: actually Jean-Michel Espitallier gets more Barrett song titles wrong than he gets them right. At a certain moment I even thought he did it on purpose, the man is a poet after all.

I used to have this philosophy teacher who subtracted points from our exam results if we made spelling mistakes. Although we were angry with the man in those days I can now see he had a point (our points, actually). So out of 10, Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs gets an 8 for its content, but I feel obliged to subtract at least 5 points for its many mistakes.

Suddenly...

...it is silent in here. Did a poet pass or did someone fart?

(This book is further trashed in another Church post: Tattoo You.)

Espitallier, Jean-Michel: Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs, Editions Philippe Rey, Paris, 2009, 192 pages, 17 €.


Note: This book grew out of an essai radiophonique Jean-Michel Espitallier gave on radiostation France Culture on 4 November 2007. Called Syd Barrett Quand Même it can be found on the (interesting) French Floyd fansite Seedfloyd. Webbrowser version: http://www.seedfloyd.fr/article/syd-barrett-quand-meme. Direct downloads in MP3 or WMA format can be found on the same page.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Si les cochons pourraient voler…  
This post has been previously published at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects.


2009-03-27

Tattoo You

Tattooed Inuit Woman
Tattooed Inuit Woman.

Le premier Pink Floyd.

In a new Syd Barrett biography that was recently published in France its author, Emmanuel Le Bret, can get quite lyrical from time to time. How this reacts, interferes or enriches the biography is a question that will be further investigated in our review to be published here in a while (see: Barrett: first in space!). But the Church can’t of course not ignore some Iggy statements to be found in a chapter well spend on The Madcap Laughs:

La cinquième chanson est Dark Globe (Sphère Sombre), un titre inspiré du Seigneur Des Anneaux. C’est l’un des moments les plus forts de l’album, une chanson où Barrett démontre une fois encore ses talents d’écriture.
The fifth song is Sphère Sombre (Dark Globe), a title inspired by Lord Of The Rings. It is one of the strongest moments of the album, a song where Barrett can once again demonstrate his writing talents…

Then, in fine French tradition, starts an in-depth review of some of the themes to be found in Dark Globe. What to think of the following:

Il y a une allusion à la drogue (l’opium que l’on fume allongé) et qui explique le vers suivant: « Ma tête embrassa la surface de la Terre. » Quant à « La personne enchaînée à une Esquimaude », c’est bien sûr Syd qui vit épisodiquement avec Iggy, moitié Inuit!
There is an allusion to the drug opium that is smoked lying on the floor and that explains the following verse: “my head kissed the ground”. “I'm only a person with Eskimo chain” is of course about his short episode with Iggy, who was half Inuit!

The opium reference is quite far-fetched and the head down / ground image symbolism can be found in several Syd songs:
I'll lay my head down and see what I see - Love Song
She loves to see me get down to ground - She Took A Long Cold Look
Creep into bed when your head's on the ground - It Is Obvious.

That the Eskimo Chain verse could refer to Ig is something that the Church has wondered about before in When Syd met Iggy... (Pt. 3) , but according to JenS, who knew both Iggy and Syd in the Sixties this is quite a preposterous idea:

Syd wrote songs and not all of them were about one person or another. It was his job.
His songs were more often a jumble of ideas put together to serve his purpose. I think it’s risky, even though you like the idea, to project this as it just leads to further mythologizing. 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.
I find this idea quite funny and I just hear Syd roaring with laughter.

But Emmanuel Le Bret mythologizes, to use JenS’ discourse, even a bit further…

Le célèbre vers « J’ai tatoué mon cerveau », qui fit les gorges chaudes de journaux à sensation, possède un pouvoir évocateur exceptionnel. Parmi les nombreux sens qu’on peut lui donner, n’oublions pas que, dans la tradition shamanique Inuit , il existe une tradition du tatouage (comme chez les Maoris) qui consiste à se tatouer le crâne en bleu. L’on peut interpréter ces mots comme l’allusion à un rite initiatique pour rentrer dans la « famille » d’Iggy.
The famous verse ‘I tattooed my brain all the way’, which was a splendid headline for the tabloids, has an extraordinary evocative power. Of all the significances one can find, we may not forget, that in Inuit shamanic tradition, there is a tattooing tradition (as with the Maori) to tattoo the skull in blue. One could interpret these words as an allusion to the ritual initiation to enter Iggy’s ‘family’.

Lars Krutak, an anthropologist who specializes in body adornments, has written about Inuit tattoos:

Arctic tattoo was a lived symbol of common participation in the cyclical and subsistence culture of the arctic hunter-gatherer. Tattoo recorded the “biographies” of personhood, reflecting individual and social experience through an array of significant relationships that oscillated between the poles of masculine and feminine, human and animal, sickness and health, the living and the dead. Arguably, tattoos provided a nexus between the individual and communally defined forces that shaped Inuit and Yupiget perceptions of existence… (Taken from: Vanishing Tattoo. An updated version of the same article can be found at: Lars Krutak.)

Although all the writings of Lars Krutak are very interesting it would take us to far to dig further into the specifics of tribal tattooing. Further more, regardless of the fact that ‘Eskimo chain’ may well or not refer to Iggy, who may have acted as a muse for Syd, rather than the groupie some biographers have made of her, she probably was not Inuit at all.

And as far as the Reverend can see, with his little piggy eyes, he cannot distinguish any tattoos on her body.

(The in-depth review of Le Bret's biography can be found at Barrett: first in space!)

Update: some of the above post is redundant as it has been established that Ig has got no Eskimo roots whatsoever: Little old lady from London-by-the-Sea 


Sources (other than internet links mentioned above):

Le Bret, Emmanuel : Syd Barrett. Le premier Pink Floyd., Editions du Moment, Paris, 2008, p.210-211. (Translations from French to English done by the Reverend.)


2009-04-10

Barrett: first in space!

Image by Synofsound
Image by Synofsound.

The first Floyd

I was pretending to be very busy at Atagong mansion and so the review for the most recent French Syd Barrett biography, Syd Barrett, le premier Pink Floyd by Emmanuel Le Bret vegetated in that small Bermuda triangle called 'My Documents' for a while.

Right after I had read the book my opinion about French authors was as follows. I give you an unpublished exclusive excerpt from my first draft:

As long as French biographers keep on insisting that les Pink Floyd is part of their national treasury just because David Gilmour had a fling with BB once they will need to be hunted down by a mob of critics armed with boiling tar and blood stained feathers.

According to the credits on the back cover Emmanuel Le Bret is not only a Sixties collector and connoisseur but also a well known lecturer, although in French this is described as a conférencier what is not exactly the same. Anyway and this is a cheap blow under the belt, I apologize beforehand, a search on the world wide web doesn’t reveal any of his performing qualities to me but perhaps he only reads on private parties.

Syd Barrett, le premier Pink Floyd, is not Emmanuel Le Bret's first book so tells me Google . He debuted with an esoteric study about Uranus, a subject he knows more about than you dare to imagine. I could add in a joke or two here, but I won't. Uranus is not something one makes jokes about, unless you're from Klingon territory.

The biographical planet orbits between two opposing points. At the sinister side all attention goes to meticulously verified, double verified and triple verified facts. This does not always lead to readable books, I'm afraid. Spiralling at the other side are those who will not hesitate to add a good, albeit probably untrue, anecdote because it goes down so well. They probably think they're writing telenovelas instead.

Le premier Pink Floyd
Le premier Pink Floyd.

Legendary nonsense

Emmanuel Le Bret certainly admires the second biographical viewpoint. Several times he warns us, the innocent reader, not to give too many attention to the many legends around Syd Barrett and continues then by giving us a page and a half of the wildest rumours circling around about the madcap. Some of these were even unknown to me but this could be due to the French and their legendary lust for the baroque and the bizarre. It took them until the mid nineties to finally understand that Pink Floyd wasn't a bird so one juicy Syd rumour more or less can't hurt Emmanuel must have thought. Le Bret is as passionate about the rock star as he is passionate about Uranus and this shows in the many sentences that end with an exclamation mark!
Like this!!
And that!!!
And then just another one when you least expect it!!!!
French love this kind of stuff as you can see in their many movie comedies filled with screaming people who keep on smashing doors.

If you want to know what the general tone of the book is, I invite you to read the following post that I found at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. The author of that blog is a complete nutter, ready for the strap jacket, but I can follow the Reverend in what he has to say about Syd Barrett, le premier Pink Floyd: Tattoo You. (Note: this review was originally posted at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects.)

I am now also pretty sure that the French lack the proper DNA string that give other nationalities the magic force to copy and paste English words. For fuck's sake how moronic do you need to be to keep on insisting throughout the entire book that Syd's one time girlfriend is named Libby Gausdeen or that David Gilmour's early band is called Jocker's Wild?

There must be a zillion Internet joints, from Albania to Zambia, where they do manage to spell these names right, except in France. I made a list of the dozens of spelling mistakes in the book, and boys and the one single Nordic girl reading this blog, you are lucky that it has disappeared mysteriously from my harddisk, and I am too fed up to look for them again. Spoken about a narrow escape!

One could say that Emmanuel Le Bret writes English like officer Crabtree (from Allo Allo fame) speaks French (I know that this blog is not spotless either but we Belgians are semi-French anyway).

One time I really had to laugh out loud and that was when le brat re-baptises the hippy couple Jock and Sue, you know those hipsters that according to popular believe and certainly to our brave Uranus spotter spiked the drinking water and the cat food with LSD, as Mad Max and Mad Sue.

In real life Mad Jack was Alistair Findlay and Mad Sue was Susan Kingsford, and they both deny that they have ever mixed LSD in Barrett’s tea. Alistair Findlay even stated in Tim Willis’ Madcap biography that ‘spiking was a heinous crime’. Although these testimonies date from 2002 (and were repeated in Mark Blake’s biography from 2007) Emmanuel Le Bret still describes this as a proven fact and categorizes the couple as:

…un couple infernal (le mot n’est pas trop fort) [qui] biberonne le genie, rêvant sans doute de l’accompagner dans son voyage, à défaut de partager son talent…
…a devilish couple (that depiction is not too harsh) boozing the genius, without doubt dreaming to accompany him in his voyage and to share his talent… (translated by FA, original found on p. 138)

Pure bollocks, if you ask me, and further proof that the French are at least 7 years behind compared to the rest of the world.

What is there more to say? Le premier Pink Floyd has no pictures, although some French photo material does exist, and no index, what is a pity, especially for a biography. Basically the book reads like a train but flies like a brick...

To end this misery, a positive note. Here is a proposal to all French would-be authors who want to write the next Floydian biography, if one more is still needed: send me a copy before it goes to the publisher and I will check it for copy and paste errors. It will cost you nothing except a free copy once it does gets out, promised!

Le Bret, Emmanuel : Syd Barrett. Le premier Pink Floyd., Editions du Moment, Paris, 2008


Notes (other than the above internet links)
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 75, repeated in:
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press, London, 2007, p.83.

Illustration (top left) by synofsound - thanks syn!

Seedfloyd has (had?) some articles and an audiolink concerning this book at the following pages:
http://www.seedfloyd.fr/livre/syd-barrett-le-premier-pink-floyd
http://www.seedfloyd.fr/forum/index.php?topic=1120.0
http://www.seedfloyd.fr/forum/index.php?topic=1199.0
Radio Canada interview.


Other Pink Floyd related books that were trashed by the Reverend can be found here:
Fasten Your Anoraks
Si les cochons pourraient voler… 
Cheap Tricks 
The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd 

This post has been previously published at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects, some updates have been added only here.


2009-08-08

Catwoman

Iggy in Space by Felix Atagong
Iggy in Space by Felix Atagong.

Rejoice, dear followers of the Esqimau, as The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit celebrates its first birthday. On the eight day of the eighth month of the eight year of the third Millennium the Church was born. That day two messages were posted, the first, a very modest one, was a mere introduction that was basically written by someone else, the second post however told the story of the first public appearance of Iggy, already nicknamed the Eskimo, in November 1966.

Ig, as the Church prefers to call her now, was spotted by NME on a party in the presence of Patrick Kerr, the main choreographer of the Ready Steady Go!-show, one hit wonders Twinkle and Adrienne Posta, Frank Allen from the Searchers and Mick Jagger wannabee Chris Farlowe. Already then she was about a mover and could bend it better than Wickham. (Read the article here: Bend It!)

It is possible that Ig was a dancer / guest / visitor at a couple of Ready Steady Go!-shows, but the Church’s investigations have only found circumstantial evidence of that. The Church is still trying to get hold of some courageous witnesses who want to testify this before the Holy Igquisition. Also present at the NME party was pop-PR-publicist Simon Hayes who may have made the aspiring model believe that he was her agent. Up till now The Church couldn’t trace the man although several attempts to contact him have been made.

But this is no time for grief, let us rejoice, rejoice, as today, so declares the Church, is Ig’s day. And celebrate we will…

In the summer of 2006 Denis Combet, professor at Brandon University, wrote a collection of poems as a tribute to the musician and painter Roger Keith Barrett who passed away in Cambridge on the 7th of July 2006. The poems highlight the life of the young artist as a nonconformist who preferred – or was forced – to withdraw from the music world for a more humble existence.

About a year later, part of the collection was published under the title Guitars and Dust Dancing, in the student webzine Ecclectica (site no longer active), together with art work from Lou Visentin and music from Pascal Mascheroni.

The poems describe fragments of Barrett’s life, his youth, his hometown, his friends and relatives and the collection contain poems dedicated to and inspired by David Gilmour, Gala Pinion, Lindsay Corner, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, Roger Waters, Rosemary Breen and Winifred Barrett. And one of them From Quetesh to Bastet is all about Ig.

From Quetesh to Bastet  
 
Quetesh,
Majestic.
 
Iggy the Eskimo,
Girl of space.
 
Often very alone,
But always a friend.
 
Star fallen from the black sky:
Solar, solitary, solstice, soloist.
 
Pale blue crystal dawn, pearl wine dusk.
A mauve Venus, disrobed on the silk orange milky way.
 
Magical music, medieval Median, magnetic:
Even in worlds where love is impossible.
 
Transcended, transparent, translucent, transitory:
Life together unconditionally and forever.
 
And that black cat caressing him with a glance, the night.
The malefic vision of Lucifer Sam.
 
© Denis Combet, English translation by Constance Cartmill (2007). Previously published at: Guitars and Dust Dancing (website no longer active).

Denis Combet had originally written the poetic cycle in French and when the Reverend contacted him to get permission to publish the above the Church also asked for the original to be published as well. It is with great proudness that we hereafter present the original version of the Iggy poem that, as far as we know, has never been published before… Just another world exclusive of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.

De Quétesh à Bastet
 
Quétesh,
Impériale.
 
Iggy l’Esquimo,
Fille de l’espace.
 
Souvent très seule,
Mais toujours amie.
 
Étoile tombée du ciel noir:
Solaire, solitaire, solstice, soliste
 
Aube de cristal bleu pâle, crépuscule de vin de perles.
Une Vénus mauve, dénudée sur voie lactée de soie orangée.
 
Musique magique, médique médiévale, magnétique:
Même dans des univers où l’amour est impossible.
 
Transcendée, transparente, translucide, transitoire:
La vie ensemble sans détours et pour toujours.
 
Et ce chat noir qui le caresse du regard, la nuit.
La vision maléfique de Lucifer Sam.
 
© Denis Combet, 2006. Previously unpublished.

Originally it was planned to launch a separate website (poemstosydbarrett.com) in 2008 containing the complete works (poems, music and art) and to publish the cycle in book form. But due to the high costs involved to print an art book the author is still looking for a publisher who would be interested. For the time being the Reverend wants to invite you all to read the poems, have a look at the artwork and listen to the music at Ecclectica: Guitars and Dust Dancing (website no longer active).

The Reverend wants to thank Dr. Denis Combet for his permission to publish the Ig poems on this space. And with this final message comes an end to the official proceedings of the first anniversary of The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Let's have some booze and party! Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but… to carry on… A la prochaine, my friends, et ne fait pas ce que Iggy ne ferait pas

Update 31 12 2013: The original Ecclectica and Poems To Syd Barrett links no longer work. In 2011 Denis Combet allowed the Church to upload his poems and artwork as a Flash 'pageFlip' book: Crystal Blue Postcards.

Guitars and Dust Dancing by Denis Combet
Crystal Blue Postcards, exclusively for the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.

Notes:
Born in Marseille, France in 1955, Professor Denis Combet holds a doctorate from the Universit de Nancy II. Since 1975 he works in Canada at the University of Manitoba, the College Universitaire de Saint-Boniface, and the University of Victoria. He is currently an associate professor in Arts > Languages at Brandon University (Brandon, Manitoba, Canada).

Dr. Denis Combet is (co-)author of several historical works and articles:
º Gabriel Dumont, Mémoires/Memoirs was nominated by the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards for the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award, Winnipeg 2007.
º In Search for the Western Sea/A la recherche de la mer de l’Ouest, mémoires choisis de La Vérendrye, Selected journals of La Vérendrye was selected by The Globe and Mail (November 24, 2001, p. D 40) among the «Best of the year» 2001, in the category Gift-History. It was nominated by the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards, for five awards, and won two, Best Design, and the Mac Williams Awards, for best Popular History book.

Guitars and Dust Dancing. Poems to Syd Barrett, written by Denis Combet, translated by Constance Cartmill, illustrated by Jean Vouillon and music by Pascal Mascheroni. All texts © Denis Combet, 2007. Poèmes a Syd Barrett, écrits par Denis Combet, traduits par Constance Cartmill, illustrés par Jean Vouillon et musique par Pascal Mascheroni. Tous les textes © Denis Combet, 2007.

The above poems are the property of Denis Combet and are protected by international copyright laws. You may not reproduce, modify, distribute or republish materials contained on this site (either directly or by linking) without prior written permission from the author.


Authorised subsidiaries:
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit Youtube channel
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit Facebook Fanpage


2010-01-30

(I've got my) Mojo (working...)

Mojo March 2010 Cover
Mojo March 2010 Cover.

As if the world has suddenly been hit by a temporal rift in spacetime the March 2010 issue of Mojo music magazine has inundated the stores bearing a big (slightly photoshopped) portrait of a mister Syd Barrett. The well-written and rather accurate cover article, by Pat Gilbert, ranges from page 70 to 81 and tells the story of The Madcap Laughs, Syd Barrett’s first solo album.

Two other articles are of particular interest to the Church as they describe the mythical presence of a ‘girl whose naked body graced the back cover of The Madcap Laughs’.

Who’s That Girl (page 76 insert) is written by Mark Blake, author of the Pink Floyd biography Pigs Might Fly, and an occasional visitor (and contributor) of the Church. Out of courtesy (and for copyright reasons) the Church will not publish the article as long as the magazine is for sale in the shops.
Update: Direct link to the article: Mojo March 2010 (hosted at the Church as the article was removed from the official Barrett website in 2016).

People reading magazines with binoculars will find an odd reference to the Church as the Croydon Guardian article from the 17th September 2008 has been reproduced as well, however in such small print that one needs to xerox it in blow-up mode to distinguish individual letters. The article in full can be consulted at the Church (Where did she go?) but is also still present on the archives of the Croydon Guardian (Where did she go to our lovely?).

Mark Blake writes in Mojo:

In 2008, (Jeff) Dexter and (Anthony) Stern tried to trace the elusive Iggy, and were interviewed in the Croydon Guardian for leads to the whereabouts of the “carefree girl who captured the spirit of the ‘60s”.

Actually the motor behind this article were not Dexter and Stern but the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, after - truth has to be acknowledged – Mark Blake had revealed earlier that Iggy ‘was known as one of the regular teenage girls at the dancehalls around Purley and Caterham’ (see also: Shaken not stirred ).

Researching The Orchid dancehall in Purley, the Reverend found two articles that had appeared in the Croydon Guardian: In dance hall days (9th August 2006) and We remember the Orchid (29th August 2006).

The Church tried to contact Brian Roote in September 2008, an amateur historian writing a book about the Purley dancehall, but this resulted more than a year later in the simple comment: ‘I have no knowledge of this girl whatsoever'.

The Reverend had more chance with journalist Kerry McQueeney author of the two Orchid articles, but no longer working for the Croydon Guardian. He passed the story to Kirsty Whalley who was now editor of the Heritage pages of the newspaper. On the 3rd September of 2008 she replied:

We would like to feature this story in the newspaper next week and hopefully it will prompt a few people to call in.

In the same mail she also asked if the Church could give some leads and amongst the people to contact the Reverend mentioned the names of Mick Rock and Anthony Stern. Kirsty Whalley did an excellent job and did not only interview both men, but also Jeff Dexter who had been a DJ at The Orchid.

The next sermon at the Church will cover the second Iggy-related article from Mojo 196. In My Room, written by Paul Drummond, contains interviews with Duggie Fields, Mick Rock, Storm Thorgerson and Jenny Spires.

The Madcap Laughs Again (Mojo Tribute CD)

Mojo 196 comes with a Madcap Laughs cover CD as interpreted by (amongst others): R.E.M., Captain Sensible, Hawkwind, Jennifer Gentle, Marc Almond and Robyn Hitchcock. Reviews of this CD can be found at Late Night: The Madcap Laughs Again, including the one written by the Reverend.

The Mojo website contains a Syd Barrett top 20 jukebox and three YouTube links to Syd's legendary unreleased material. One of those fan-made videos (Lucy Leave) has been created by limpidgreen aka dollyrocker, a much appreciated Late Night forum member. Way to go, dollyrocker! (All links dead, we're afraid.)


2010-02-05

Goofer Dust [(I've got my) Mojo (working)... Part 2]

Mojo March 2010
Mojo March 2010.

(This is part two of our Mojo magazine review, for part one, click here).

As if the world has suddenly been hit by a temporal rift in spacetime the March 2010 issue of Mojo music magazine has inundated the stores bearing a big (slightly photoshopped) portrait of a mister Syd Barrett. The well-written and rather accurate cover article, by Pat Gilbert, ranges from page 70 to 81 and tells the story of The Madcap Laughs, Syd Barrett’s first solo album.

Two other articles are of particular interest to the Church as they describe the mythical presence of a ‘girl whose naked body graced the back cover of The Madcap Laughs’.

Last week we discussed the Who’s That Girl article written by Mark Blake, and this week the Church will scrutinize Paul Drummond’s In My Room (Mojo 196, p. 82 - 84). Out of courtesy (and for copyright reasons) the Reverend has decided not to publish the articles as long as the magazine is for sale in the shops.
Update: Direct link to the article: Mojo March 2010. (hosted at the Church as the article was removed from the official Barrett website in 2016).

The article, about The Madcap Laughs photo sessions, has interviews with Duggie Fields, Mick Rock and - so it seems - Jenny Spires. But although she was interviewed by email for the main article by Pat Gilbert, she has told the Church she wasn’t really questioned about Iggy.

I guessed, when I saw it, they must have looked at your site (re Daffodils and photo shoot etc…), as I was not asked about this or about Iggy.
(JenS, 10th of February 2010, mail to the Church)

The Reverend could do no other thing than to summon the Holy Igquisition to stick in a few comments as the In The Room article clearly breathes the holy air of the Church but neglects to mention its existence in its columns.

Ig and Jenny Spires meeting each other for the first time

Mojo 196 reports:

Jenny Spires first met Iggy in January 1969 and introduced her to Syd and he let her stay. (p. 83)

The Holy Igquisition wants to set this straight:
According to the Church’s archives JenS first met Ig in summer 1966 (cfr. When Syd met Iggy). The year thereafter (1967) they met again and from then one they went on clubbing together. This has once again been confirmed by Jens this week:

I was surprised they had mistakenly printed that I met her in 1969. This annoys me really because of its inaccuracy.

The date of The Madcap Laughs photo shoot

Mojo 196 reports:

Iggy’s involvement appears to date the shoot as spring ’69 as she was long gone by autumn. (p. 83)

The Holy Igquisition wants to set straight:
JenS has situated the photo shoot in spring 1969 (March or April) (cfr. When Syd met Iggy 1).
Further investigations by the Church have pinpointed a possible date in April 1969 (cfr. When Syd met Iggy 2).

Daffodils

Mojo 196 reports:

It’s more likely Syd picked them (the daffodils found on the cover of the album) while in the park with Iggy, as captured on Super-8 film. (p.83)

The Holy Igquisition wants to set straight:
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit has discussed the lost In The Woods movie at great extent (cfr. Anoraks and Pontiacs). However the theory that the Lost in The Woods video was shot before the photo shoot is new and quite intriguing. However the idea that Iggy, Mick and Syd picked the daffodils is, according to JenS, quite silly.

Pontiac

Mojo 196 writes:

When the photo shoot was over, Rock continued outside using Syd’s blue Pontiac Parisienne as a prop. (…) The life of this inanimate object (registration: VYP74) helps confirm that the shoot wasn’t in the autumn. (p. 84)

The Holy Igquisition wans to set straight:
The story of Syd Barrett’s car has been the object of different posts at the Church (cfr. When Syd met Iggy 2), but the initial quest for the car was done at the Late Night forum by Dark Globe, Sean Beaver and others… they found out that the car appeared in the movie Entertaining Mr. Sloane. Unlike Mojo magazine, the Church does like to give credit to the people who deserve it.

The Holy Igquisition concludes:

It is clear that Mojo magazine has extensively browsed through the pages of the Holy Church of Inuit but has somehow forgotten to mention this in its articles. The Holy Igquisition has therefore sent the following objurgation at Mojo:

Mojo comment by Felix Atagong
Mojo comment by Felix Atagong.
It was nice to see that the many theories of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit have been reproduced in The Madcap Laughs photo shoot article, albeit without mentioning where these originally came from.

However the Holy Igquisiton knows that any true believer will find the Church, so every Iggy publication will be beneficiary in the end. Ig’s story as published in the March issue of Mojo may be the butterfly effect that will cause the storm at the other side of the world. So perhaps, thanks to Mojo, the Church will be one day able to fulfil its quest.

Rather than to start an endless polemical discussion the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit would like to end this post with Duggie Fields’s magnificent description of our skyclad sistren (p. 82):

I remember being at a 31 bus stop and seeing her coming down the stairs very elegantly in this gold lame 1940s dress that had bell sleeves that buttoned to a train but with no underwear and completely exposed…
Not a care in the world.

Lo and behold brethren and sistren, and don't do anything that Ig wouldn't have done.


2010-06-26

Pink Floyd FAQ - Stuart Shea

Pink Floyd FAQ, Stuart Shea
Pink Floyd FAQ, Stuart Shea.

In my very early days of Internet I wanted to know everything of my favourite band: Pink Floyd. Webpages were still something very exotic, and a webpage that changed its appearance once a month even more so, but luckily there was Bear's Echoes mailing list that I still read every day for over a decade and half now.

Subscribing to Echoes would automatically give you a copy of the latest Echoes Pink Floyd FAQ, maintained by that monument of Floyd oddities Gerhard den Hollander. Divided in 10 sections it learned me more about the brothers Floyd than anything else, I kept it close to me just like that other, lavishly illustrated, monument of knowledge and wisdom, Pink Floyd, The Visual Documentary (1980) by (Barry) Miles.

The Echoes FAQ is not updated anymore since 1999, although a feeble attempt to resuscitate it was once made a couple of years ago, but there are zillions of websites and blogs dealing with those matters nowadays and in case of doubt, there will always be Wikipedia. Mailing Group FAQs are now as hip as a telex machine was when the fax came out. So it goes.

Thus when Amazon nicely proposed to send me Pink Floyd FAQ from Stuart Shea I followed their advice, mainly because my memories of the original Pink Floyd FAQ were still short and sweet. The moment I clicked I felt remorse because this book could easily be a rehash of the original FAQ that I already had, updated with news that I already knew and the four reviews I found ranged from "this is a great book" to "the book is one of the most useless publications about that band in years". Nice.

Let me start with the obvious. The book is not half as bad as I feared it would be but neither is it as good as a book could be that pretends to contain a FAQ, a whole FAQ and nothing but a FAQ. The subtitle Everything Left to Know… and More! (exclamation point included) is a bit overzealous if you ask me.

The book does not give a chronological overview of Pink Floyd but ranges its subjects by the subject, as shows the table of contents that you can consult here. Unfortunately the book has got no index, what duly pisses me off, so if you want to know something about, let's say: You Gotta Be Crazy, there is no other way to find it than to start reading the bloody thing all over again. So called biographies and reference books (as a FAQ, by definition should be) without an index (or an alphabetical or chronological filing system) are immediately put aside by me and won't be touched again. Ever. Probably the author won't care, the book was sold anyway.

Got A Moment?

Some of the chapters look like they have been inspired by these non informational page filling articles in pop magazines that keep on appearing whether you like it or not.

What are ten great Syd Barrett moments?
What are ten great David Gilmour moments?
What are ten great Roger Waters moments?
What are ten great Rick Wright moments?

and last but not least the quite ridiculous…

What are ten great Nick Mason moments?

Probably you see it coming, but there is something basically irrational in the previous list. You can most likely find ten memorable Syd Barrett songs in the short period he was with the band (although Stuart Shea can't and cheats by adding Barrett solo stuff), obviously you can find ten memorable Rick Wright collaborations in Pink Floyd, although the song Wearing The Inside Out, that is, in retrospect, his musical testament has been unexplainably overlooked. And so is, Syd almighty, The Great Gig In The Sky. That song, I'm sure, is treated in another chapter, but as the book has got no index, I haven't got a clue where to find that information.

To note down ten notable Nick Mason moments you have to scrape the barrel a bit. Don't get me wrong, I think that Nick Mason probably was the best drummer Pink Floyd ever had and he was a crucial part in creating the classic Pink Floyd sound (on recent albums he insisted to record his drum licks analog instead of digital to name just one useless, but nevertheless interesting, point that is overlooked in the FAQ), but he didn't get a lot of official credits for it.

But let's be honest, only ten great David Gilmour or Roger Waters moments? Roger Waters thinks he has ten great Roger Waters moments between getting out of bed and his morning pee! All fun aside, making a 'ten great moments' list is considered more appropriate for internet fora (with all discussions and no-no-s involved) than for a book.

Bob Dylan Shoes

Although a FAQ can't answer all possible questions, it is - by definition - a list of the most frequent questions, it helps the reader if he finds as much information as possible. If, at chapter 12: what acts influenced Pink Floyd?, Bob Dylan is mentioned it would, perhaps, be interesting to know that Syd Barrett once recorded a tune called Bob Dylan Blues or that Roger Waters covered Knocking On Heaven's Door, but it doesn't. According to Stuart Shea one of the ten most influential bands or artists for Pink Floyd was the legendary disco outfit Chic because Another Brick In The Wall (Pt. 2) carries a hundred-beats-per-minutes beat. I would have preferred to see a reference to AMM or The Soft Machine instead.

And when there is talk of a FAQ, I would also like to have some accurate information as well. Page 132 has a picture from the Floyd with the caption 'The Floyd on an oddly small stage during the early 1970s. By this time, they had graduated to playing large halls'. The fact why the Floyd stands on an oddly small stage is because the picture comes from the movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972). Their rendition of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, however was not recorded in Pompeii but in a studio in France and in order to get them all four on screen they had to be standing close to each other. Simple as that. No need to create an extra Floydian fable when there is no need to do that.

Despite the fact that you can answer a lot of Pink Floyd questions (the original FAQ had 10 sections, each with dozens of questions and answers) several chapters do overlap each other, and this happens more than once. How did the US discover Pink Floyd goes one about their early (American) tours, so does the chapter What were Pink Floyd concerts Like in…, so does The 1972 and 1973 Tours, so does A Pink Floyd live top ten

Special Guests

What I do like is that some articles have been written by guests that ring distant church bells with Pink Floyd fans: Mark Campbell, Steven Leventhal, Ron Geesin, John Leckie, Toni Tennile, Ginger Gilmour… overall the book is fun to read (and written in an agreeable way) but the bottom line is: this is not a Pink Floyd FAQ and certainly not THE Pink Floyd FAQ. Easily read, but also easily forgotten.

People who don't know nothing about the Floyd are, in my opinion, better off with The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd (Tobby Manning) that combines the band's history, has a discography (with reviews for every album) and a thematic approach like 'Floyd's finest 50' and 'Floyd on Film'. This is an excellent book for starters (and as a Pink Floyd fan for over 35 years I enjoyed it as well).

If you would like an in-depth Pink Floyd biography I can recommend Mark Blake's Pigs Might Fly or, if you have a lot of money, the memoirs of Mr. Nick Mason himself (Inside Out). And for anoraks who want to look up the nitty-gritty there is always The Pink Floyd Encyclopaedia by Vernon Fitch (alphabetically) and Echoes by Glenn Povey (chronologically).

I am not entirely sure what kind of public Stuart Shea wanted to reach with his book but what I am sure of is that, throughout the book, the author likes to ventilate his own opinion rather than to stick to the facts. Here is what he has to say about The Cult of Syd Barrett (p.313):

Some Syd Barrett fans are as sick as the man himself was at his worst. Despite the voluminous evidence of his excessive drug use, physical assaults on girlfriends and business associates, disastrous attempts at recording and gigging, and largely incoherent interviews from his post-Floyd period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there are those who wish to romanticize his illness as a willful subversion of pop stardom.

(This review originally appeared on Unfinished Projects: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory and other FAQs. Updates have been done only here.)


The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory

A Very Irregular Head, Rob Chapman
A Very Irregular Head, Rob Chapman.

Syd Barrett: A very irregular head - Rob Chapman

There are now more Syd Barrett biographies around (in the English language alone) than Syd Barrett records and several Pink Floyd biographies consecrate the same amount of pages for the first three years of the Floyd than for the next 30. So obviously there must be something mysterious going on with this Syd character.

The last in line to open Pandora's box is Rob Chapman. He was actually one of the few people (around 30 to 50) who saw Syd's mythical band Stars at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge (24 February 1972) and is still relatively sane enough to recall it. Young chap Robert Chapman even wrote a review for Terrapin magazine, that would disappear a few years later for 'lack of Syd' but also because no three Syd Barrett fans can come together without having a tremendous fight. Try running an Internet joint for that lot nowadays and you'll see what I mean.

Writing a biography is a difficult job and I once remarked in a (quite pompous) review that biographers are situated on a scale, ranging from those who meticulously verify, double verify and triple verify tiny facts to those that will not hesitate to add a good, albeit probably untrue, anecdote just because it goes down so well.

Rob Chapman is, and often quite rightly so, annoyed with the many legends around Barrett and wants to set the record straight. I kind of like this way of working. But he doesn't indulge us either in an ongoing shopping list of facts and figures. The art of writing biographies is not in adding details, that is the easy bit, but in weeding out the superfluous so that a readable book (rather than a shopping list) remains.

But sometimes I have the feeling that he weeded a bit too much. The trouvaille of the name Pink Floyd (p. 53) is literally dealt with in a single line. Of course ardent Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett fans alike already know the story about Philips BBL-7512 and its liner notes by heart, but the occasional reader might as well benefit from an extra wee bit of information. And quite frankly it is about time that David (Dave) Moore gets the credits for the mail he sent to Bryan Sinclair on the 14th of March 2005 entitled: “RE: [pre-war-blues] Pink Anderson / Floyd Council.”

From an LP apparently in the possession of Syd Barrett: Blind Boy Fuller, Country Blues 1935-1940, issued on Phillips BBL-7512, c. 1962. The sleeve notes were by Paul Oliver, and include the following:
"Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, Georgia-born but more frequently to be found in Kentucky or Tennessee, Pink Anderson or Floyd Council -- these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys." (Source: Pink Anderson / Floyd Council @ pre-war-blues Yahoo, membership probably needed)

Update 2015: The complete story of the Blind Boy Fuller album that gave Pink Floyd its name can be found at: Step It Up And Go.

Chapman, the fearless vampire killer

You might say, that piece of information is too anoraky and Rob Chapman was right not to include it, but why then, when he can lash out at previous Syd Barrett biographers, doesn't he apply his own rules anymore? Every new biography should have its new findings, otherwise there would be no necessity to write it, and I do understand that you can point out a flagrant mistake that has been made in a previous biography, but Chapman acts repeatedly as a vindictive (and verbally abusive) Von Helsing, wooden stake in his hand, ready to stick it through the heart of a vampire on the loose. Only, in my book, a fellow biographer should not be treated as a vampire but rather as a colleague, perhaps an erring colleague, but still a colleague... Writing that some biographies should have a government health warning on their cover is not nice and is better left to amateur blog authors like yours truly and journalists of The Sun.

We have established by now that Rob Chapman does not like false and superfluous information, but on top of that he also has some theories of his own. David Gilmour recalls how he was invited at the See Emily Play recording session (officially the 21st of May 1967, but, according to David Parker, a first session could have taken place on the 18th) and how he found that 'the golden boy had lost the light in his eyes'. Somewhere around that date Syd turned 'crazy' so we have been lead to believe for the past 40 years…

Inside Out

Chapman is of the opinion that Barrett didn't turn mad, but rather that he was alternatively wired and that, what other people have described as mad behaviour, was really Syd playing cosmic jokes on the rest of the world or setting up dadaist and misinterpreted avant-garde performances.

Just like the proverbial fish in a fisherman's story gets bigger and bigger so have Syd legends accumulated weight over the years. Rob Chapman doesn't like these apocryphal stories and wants to debunk these once and for all. He does a good job at that, but - once again - weeds to much. It is not because you can correct a couple of false rumours that - by definition - all memories from all witnesses have to be categorised untrue. And that is what Chapman implies. Even more, in order to prove his theory, he deliberately skips several events that have happened but that he can't immediately minimise or contradict.

It is good to counterbalance the Syd Barrett articles and biographies that have thriven upon sensationalism (Le premier Pink Floyd from Emmanuel Le Bret comes to mind, luckily that 2008 biography was written in French and completely ignored by the Anglo-Saxon world) but that is not a reason to indulge into a fairytale world of Barrett the mystic, but misinterpreted, genius. That is unethical and close to historical revisionism and it turns the middle part of the biography (covering the Piper and Madcap years) into a somewhat misplaced hagiography.

You will probably not believe me when I tell I didn't do it on purpose, but when Chapman quotes Nick Mason's autobiography Inside Out on page 198, saying that Nick writes that 'Syd went mad' during the American tour of 1967, I grabbed my copy (actually, I carefully took and opened it, as it is quite heavy) and read pages 87 till 97 over again. I did this three times. I can't find it. I will not conclude that Nick may never have written (or said during an interview) that 'Syd went mad' but it isn't there where Chapman claims it is. It makes Chapman a sloppy researcher, to say the least.

Update October 2010: By accident I stumbled upon the Syd is crazy quote (or one of the Syd is crazy quotes) from Nick Mason in Barry Miles' The Early Years book:
"You can't believe that someone's deliberately trying to screw it up and yet the other half of you is saying 'This man's crazy - he's trying to destroy me!'"

Nick however does write that on two different occasions on the American tour Syd detuned his guitar, one time even 'until the strings fell off'. This apparently made Roger Waters so angry that he 'gashed his hand in a furious attack on his bass guitar', smashing the (lend) instrument to pieces at the end of the show.

Rob Chapman doesn't see where the problem is and remarks joyfully that Syd had been deliberately detuning his guitar in the past (during the Floyd's early free-form jams) and that it was tolerated and even encouraged then. He seems not to realise that there might have been a time and place to detune a guitar and a time and place NOT to detune a guitar. When I visit my doctor, who is looking gorgeous by the way, and unbutton my trousers in front of her she will not be offended, but if I catch her at the local supermarket, choosing a deep-freeze pizza (the living proof that deep-freeze pizzas are healthy, by the way) and dangle my ding-a-ling in front of her, I will be in hell of a trouble. Not that I have done that, those rumours are incredibly exaggerated and I am again allowed to enter the supermarket anyway.

The Big Barrett Conspiracy

Chapman more or less suggests that, over the years, there has been a Big Barrett Conspiracy going on, claiming that Syd went mad while he was just being artistically misunderstood. It is obvious that Waters, Mason and Wright, and to a lesser extent Gilmour, were behind the conspiracy. They quit their studies and promising architectural career to follow the narrow path of psychedelic pop music and when money was finally starting to come in a whimsical Barrett wanted to turn the clock back (probably through a washing machine) and concentrate on experiment again (proto-Floyd members Bob Klose and Chris Dennis had left the band in the past just because their profession stood in the way). Chapman doesn't even try to hide his disgust for post-Syd Floyd, but more about that later.

What is less understandable is that Peter Jenner and Andrew King are part of the conspiracy as well, because when Syd and Pink Floyd went separate ways, they choose to manage Syd instead of following the goose with the golden eggs. Jenner assisted Barrett during his first batch of sessions for The Madcap Laughs (1968) but commented later that these were 'chaos'. The sessions had been going on from May till July and Jenner reported that they weren't getting anywhere.

Chapman disagrees, he states that during the 6 studio sessions in 1968 Barrett recorded half a dozen of rough tracks dispelling the myth of a 'muse run dry'. I count 9 sessions, by the way, making Barrett's tracks per sessions ratio one third less performing as Chapman wants us to believe, but that is not the issue here. The main problem is not that Barrett was out of songs. Six of them still doesn't make an album, unless you would add the 18 minutes of the avant-garde (read: tedious) Rhamadan. The main problem with Barrett was that the songs never outgrew the rehearsal or demo stadium. Simply said: Barrett wasted a lot of studio time. And these were still the days that a record company expected an artist to cut an entire album in three or four sessions, the only exception perhaps being The Beatles.

Update October 2010: after 40 years Rhamadan has been issued as a free download with the An Introduction to Syd Barrett compilation. The track isn't half as bad as everyone - especially those who never heard it - claimed it to be, but it needs some serious weeding to be presentable as a 'real' album track. More info: Gravy Train To Cambridge.

Juggling the Octopus

I see in Rob Chapman a man with a passion and he is at his best when he analyses Syd's songs. It takes him 7 pages to scrutinise Clowns & Jugglers (re-titled later as Octopus), making it clear to the outside world that Syd wasn't just a young innocent bloke whose lyrics came to him in a psychedelic, LSD-induced, dream. Chapman traces back references (and quotes) from:
Huff the Talbot and our Cat Tib (Mother Goose rhyme),
Thomas Nashe's Summer's Last Will and Testament (an Elizabethan masque play),
Shakespeare's King Henry VI Pt. 1,
Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows
and poems from
Anonymous (Mr Nobody),
John Clare (Fairy Things),
Sir Henry Newbolt (Rilloby-Rill) and
William Howitt (The Wind in a Frolic).

Unfortunately I have in my small collection of Barrett related works a 12-page essay, written in 2005 by Paul Belbin, published at the Madcapslaughing and Vegetable Friends mailing groups, titled: Untangling the Octopus. It describes in detail, almost verse per verse, where Syd Barrett sampled the lines from Octopus from. Although Chapman nearly literally copies the information for 7 pages long, he neglects to mention the source of his findings.

Update October 2010: Paul Belbin has authorised the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit to host the 2006 version of his essay: Untangling the Octopus v2 (PDF file).

In 2009 a revised and updated version of Untangling The Octopus was published by Julian Palacios, a Syd Barrett biographer who doesn't even appear in Chapman's bibliography, but as Chapman spifflicates the biographies he does mention that probably is a compliment.

Mandrax and Brylcreem
Mandrax & Brylcreem

Demythologising Syd

Chapman can get downright cynical when he wants to take the myth out of Barrett and this is where the biography as a biography goes astray. Although a biographer may be unconditionally in love with his subject he (she) must at the same time keep a certain distance, be unprejudiced and should approach the subject with at least a glimpse of unbiased neutrality.

Debunking the brylcreem and mandrax anecdote is not bad, but it is not directly original either. Chapman isn't the first one to have done this as shows this forum post by Julian Palacios and also Mark Blake has put some question marks concerning the event.

Apart from some anecdotes that happened at family parties or random encounters on the street with old friends and (past) lovers, we don't know a lot about Syd Barrett's life in Cambridge. So if a witness does turns up it would perhaps be a chance to check him (or her) out. But in a Q&A that was published on the official Syd Barrett website Chapman tells why he didn't contact the Barrett neighbour who has not always been positive about the rockstar next door:

My thoughts, clearly and unambiguously are that I didn’t want to give this individual a scintilla of publicity. (…) I did check him out, quite extensively as it happens, and my enquiries lead, among other places, to a website where he gives his enlightened views on capital punishment and who should receive it – most of us, by the look of it.

It is not because someone has a dubious opinion about capital punishment that his memories about Barrett are - by definition - untrue or unreliable. However Chapman is not that reluctant when a witness turns up who has got some positive things to say about Barrett.

On pages 365 and following, Chapman recites the charming anecdote of a young child who ran into Barrett's garden to ask him a pertinent question about a make-believe horse. Not only did Barrett patiently listen to her dilemma, he also took the time to explain her that in fairy tales everything is possible, even flying horses.

It is in anecdotes such as this that Chapman shows his unconditional love for Barrett, and I confess that it made my grumpy heart mellow as well. Here is the man, who invariably smashed the door to any fan approaching his house, earnestly discussing fairy tales figures with a neighbourhood's kid.

Update September 2013: some more information about this girl, Radharani Krishna, can be found at the following article: Making it clear... 
Amplex ad, ca. 1958
Amplex ad, ca. 1958.

Wish You Were... but where exactly?

One of the greatest legends about Syd Barrett is how he showed up at the Wish You Were Here recording settings on the fifth of June 1975. A Very Irregular Head merely repeats the story as it has been told in other biographies, articles and documentaries, including Rick Wright's testimony that Barrett kept brushing his teeth with a brush that was hidden in a plastic bag. Roger Waters however claims that Barrett only took sweets out of the bag. As usual different witnesses tell different stories.

The toothbrush myth is one Chapman doesn't know how to demystify but recently Mark Blake may have found a plausible explanation.

The 'toothbrush' and 'bag of candies' may have come out of the story I heard from somebody else that was at Abbey Road that day. They claimed Syd Barrett had a bag filled with packets of Amplex. For those that don't know or remember, Amplex was a breath-freshener sweet that was popular in the 70s. This eyewitness claims that Syd Barrett was nervously stuffing Amplex sweets into his mouth... another story to add to the pile... but you can see how the story of 'breath-freshener sweets' could turn into a 'toothbrush' and/or 'a bag of candies'. (Taken from May 5, 2010 Roger Waters TV interview at Late Night.)

Update August 2011: according to Mark Blake in Mojo 215 the Amplex story comes from journalist Nick Sedgwick, who was writing an (unreleased) Pink Floyd related book at that time and author of the novel Light Blue With Bulges, that describes his beatnik adventures in Cambridge in the early sixties. More info: The Case of the Painted Floorboards (v 2.012).

The Madcap Laughs

Another mystery Chapman can't solve is the exact time frame of the shooting of The Madcap Laughs album cover. He still situates this between August and November 1969 although there is a slightly obscure website on this world that maintains that the pictures date from the beginning of that year.

Chapman does a good, what do I say, a great job by describing Syd's later years. He still can't say a lot about Syd's lost weekend between the mid-Seventies and the early Eighties, although there must be people around who knew or even visited him. Perhaps that insane Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit should try to locate some of them.

In 1982, in the midst of Wall-mania, Barrett left his Syd-character behind by walking the distance between London and Cambridge. For the remainder of his life he would prefer to be known as Rog or Roger.

Chapman managed to talk to Rosemary Breen, Syd's sister, and it is through her that we know a great deal of Barrett's later life. It is a sad story, but one with many laughs, as Rosemary remembers mainly her brother's latter-day sense of humour. That and the story of Syd's life as an adolescent, thanks to the many letters that Libby Gausden has kept for all these years, are the strongholds of this, his, biography.

Pink Fraud

Just when you thought this review was finally going to end it is time to get personal.

I started reading this biography and was genuinely intrigued by the author's style, his wit, his knowledge, but also his unhealthy habit of demeaning anyone who doesn't share his ideas. But I could live with it, despite the odd tsk-tsk that would leave my mouth once in a while.

The passage that made me loose my marbles can be found halfway the book on page 213. It describes how Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd legally split up. Peter Jenner and Andrew King stayed with Barrett, the rest of the band had to choose a new agency, a new manager and a new recording contract. The rest of the band's history, so writes Rob Chapman, is accountancy.

The Early 70 Tours with the Embryo suite: accountancy?
Meddle (with Echoes): accountancy?
Dark Side Of The Moon: accountancy?
Wish You Where Here: accountancy?
Animals: accountancy?
The Wall: accountancy?

Update October 2010: When Barrett and Pink Floyd split up there was the small matter of a 17,000 British Pounds debt that the band had. The Abdab accountants didn't burden Syd Barrett, nor Peter Jenner and Andrew King with that.

On page 317 Chapman infuriates me a little bit more by writing that Waters, Mason, Wright and Gilmour sound like a firm of chartered surveyors. I find this remark as insulting as deliberately mistaking Rob Chapman for Mark David Chapman.

His opinion that, on Wish You Were here, Pink Floyd uses sixth-form imagery to describe their former bandsman (and friend) didn't hurt me anymore. By then Rob Chapman had already become something I usually pick out of my nose.

In Chapman's opinion an entire generation of musicians (in the Seventies) began to make music 'more appropriate to the rocking chair than to the rocket ship'. The man has a way with words, that I have to admit.

I had heard of these Pink Floyd haters before, people who really think that the band died when Barrett left the gang. The problem is that most of these people are aware of Syd Barrett thanks to the fame and glory of a dinosaur called Pink Floyd.

Without Syd Barrett no Pink Floyd, I agree (although it was Roger Waters who invited Barrett to join the band, not the other way round). But without Pink Floyd most of us, myself included, would never have heard of Syd Barrett either.

Thanks to the success of the classic Pink Floyd concepts EMI kept the Barrett solo records in their catalogue. The 1974 vinyl compilation Syd Barrett was a direct result of the interest for early Floyd, after A Nice Pair (1973) had proven successful. Poor Barrett earned 'two and a half million quid' in one year thanks to the Echoes compilation alone.

The backside is that due to Dark Side, Wish You Were Here and The Wall fans from all over the globe started to look for Barrett, hoping he would explain them the meaning of life. Probably Syd would have preferred to be left alone even if it meant not to have all those millions on the bank. But if there is one thing we can't do, it is to change past history, although Chapman tries, more than once, to do so.

Conclusion

Until finally Julian Palacios comes up with a revised edition of Lost in the Woods, Rob Chapman deserves my sincere felicitations for writing one of the most readable Barrett biographies ever. But for constantly exposing himself as an infallible Barrett-prophet, pooh-poohing all those who don't think like him and deliberately ignoring facts that don't fit in his gospel, he deserves nothing more than a good kick on the nose.

Update: some of the anoraky points mentioned in the above article (Octopus lyrics, 1968 sessions) have been further examined in Mad Cat Love (2011).


This (quite controversial) review has been previously published at Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects. Some amendments and updates have been made.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Belbin, Paul: Untangling the Octopus v2, 2006. PDF version, hosted at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit with Paul Belbin's permission.
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press, London, 2007, p. 95, p. 231.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004, p. 94-95.
Miles, Barry: Pink Floyd The Early Years, Omnibus Press, London, 2006, p.111.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 136, p. 138.

Mandrax & Brylcreem drawing taken from thepiperatthegatesofdawn.co.uk (site no longer available).

A quite nice (promotional) interview with Rob Chapman can be found at Youtube.

Previous Pink Floyd related books that were trashed by the Reverend:
Pigs Might Fly by Mark Blake: Si les cochons pourraient voler…
Pink Floyd by Jean-Marie Leduc: Si les cochons pourraient voler… 
Syd Barrett, le premier Pink Floyd by Emmanuel Le Bret: Barrett: first in space!
Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs
by Jean-Michel Espitallier: Cheap Tricks 
The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd by Toby Manning: The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd 


2010-10-10

The Relic Samples

Metallic Spheres, The Orb
Metallic Spheres, The Orb.

There was a time when I would put in the latest Orb CD and murmur blimey! Blimey because The Orb pleasantly surprised you or blimey because Alex 'LX' Paterson and band utterly frustrated you. They had that effect on me for years from their very first album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (1991) until the quite underrated Cydonia (2001) and often the wow! and shit! effect could be witnessed on the same disk, most notably on Orbus Terrarum that probably contains the freakiest ambient track ever (the heavenly Oxbow Lakes) but also some of the worst.

The Millennium Orb

After 2001 Paterson continued to make albums under the Orb banner but the wow! effect had largely disappeared and his most prolific output lay on quite a few (from good to excellent) compilation and/or remix albums: Dr. Alex Paterson's Voyage Into Paradise, Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty (containing an Orb remix of Rick Wright's Runaway), Bless You (the best of the Badorb label), Orbsessions I and II (outtakes), Back To Mine, The Art Of Chill and last but not least The BBC Sessions.

For ages The Orb has been called the Pink Floyd of ambient dance but the only fusion between both bands was the use of some Pink Floyd samples on early Orb anthems (the four note Shine On You Crazy Diamond signature tune on A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld) and the presence of Pink Floyd bass player ad interim Guy Pratt on a couple of Orb albums. Contrary to a stubborn belief the so-called ambient (and illegal) Pink Floyd remix albums from the Nineties were not the work from The Orb, nor from Alex Paterson. Neither will we ever know Pink Floyd's retaliation: when the band worked on their 1994 The Divison Bell album they ended up with so many left-over material that - in the words of Nick Mason - "we considered releasing it as a second album, including a set we dubbed The Big Spliff, the kind of ambient mood music that we were bemused to find being adopted by bands like The Orb".

Update 2015 01 15: Parts of The Big Spliff may have appeared on the latest Pink Floyd album: The Endless River. See our review: While my guitar gently weeps... 

Metallic Spheres
Metallic Spheres, The Orb (alternative cover).

Rumours...

Exactly one year ago Alex Paterson, who has always been a bit of a bigmouth, revealed:

I’ve just started work on an album with David Gilmore (sic) from Pink Floyd which I think every Orb and Pink Floyd fan will want to hear.

But that news was hurriedly demoted by David Gilmour.

Recent comments by ambient exponents The Orb's Alex Paterson that they have been collaborating with David Gilmour are true – up to a point. David has done some recording with The Orb and producer Youth, inspired initially by the plight of Gary McKinnon. However, nothing is finalised, and nothing has been confirmed with regards to any structure for the recordings or firm details re: any release plans.

On the 17th of August of this year, however, the David Gilmour blog had the following to reveal:

David is not working with The Orb on a new album, contrary to some reports, but you may remember that he had been in the studio jamming with Martin “Youth” Glover in recent months. (…) Alex Paterson was not involved in the sole jamming session and the only plan initially was for David to play guitar on that one track.
However, as it turns out and as you can see, the result of that jam session has now been spread across the next Orb album, Metallic Spheres, which will be released as ‘The Orb featuring David Gilmour’. So there you have it. He was working on an album with The Orb. Sort of.

If I may read a bit between the lines I feel some friction here between Sir David and this Orb thingy. But the next day, David Gilmour's official website had the next comment:

David's 2009 jam session with ambient collective The Orb has grown into an album, Metallic Spheres, to be released via Columbia/Sony Records in October. David's contribution to the charity song Chicago, in aid of Gary McKinnon, sparked the interest of producer Youth (Martin Glover), who remixed the track and invited David to his studio for a recording session.
With additional contributions from Orb co-founder Alex Paterson, the album took shape from 2009 into 2010, eventually becoming Metallic Spheres, to be released by The Orb featuring David Gilmour. (underlined by FA.)

Calling LX Paterson an Orb co-founder is technically not untrue, but it feels a little weird when you have just been presenting Martin Glover. It is comparable to describing Syd Barrett as a Pink Floyd co-founder while discussing Bob Klose. Agreed, Youth (from Killing Joke fame) was probably around when The Orb saw the light of day but it is generally acknowledged that the band was formed in 1988 by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. Cauty's primary project however, the Kopyright Liberation Front (with Bill Drummond) pretty soon outgrew The Orb and when - at a certain point in time - some Orb remixes were released in Germany as KLF remixes this provoked a rupture in the co-operation between the duo as Alex and Jimmy started fighting over… copyrights.

After the split between KLF and The Orb Martin Glover helped LX out with two tracks (on two separate albums): Little Fluffy Clouds and Majestic, but he did not become a member of the band. Only in 2007 Youth will join The Orb for a one album project: The Dream.

Orb remix from Rick Wrights Runaway
Orb remix from Rick Wright's Runaway.

...and gossip

Together with the announcement on David Gilmour's website, and then we're back on the 18th of August of this year, a promotional video for the Metallic Spheres album is uploaded to YouTube. Depicting only Youth and David Gilmour several Orb fans wonder where LX Paterson, and thus The Orb, fits in this all. The first, original movie disappears after a couple of days for so-called 'copyright' reasons but is rapidly replaced with a second version (unfortunately taken down as well, now), containing some hastily inserted images of LX Paterson strolling through the grasslands and recording some outdoor musique concrète. It feels, once again, as if the Floyd-Orb connection didn't go down well at the Gilmour camp and Paterson's image was only included on the promo video after some pressure had taken place. But the above is of course all pure speculation and not based upon any fact, so tells you Felix Atagong who has been closely following the band for over two decades.

Bit by bit we hear how the album came into place. It all started with David Gilmour's charity project for Gary McKinnon, an X-Files adhering half-wit who hacked into American military and NASA computers in order to find out about extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. Because of this he faces extradition from England to the USA where apparently they take these kind of idiots very seriously, see also the 43rd president who governed the country from 2001 to 2009.

It is not quite clear if Gilmour asked Youth (David Glover) to make a remix of the Chicago charity tune or if Youth got hold of the project and proposed to help (I've come across both explanations). The two may know each other through Guy Pratt who played in Glover's band Brilliant in 1986 (LX Paterson was their roadie for a while). In 1990 Youth founded Blue Pearl with Durga McBroom who had toured with Pink Floyd for the previous three years. Amongst the session musicians on their Naked album are Guy Pratt, David Gilmour and Rick Wright.

This isn't Glover's only connection with the Floyd however. In 1995 he teamed up with Killing Joke colleague Jaz Coleman to arrange and produce a symphonic tribute album: Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd, but only The Old Tree With Winding Roots Behind The Lake Of Dreams remix from Time combines a modern beat with romantic classical music.

Island Jam

To spice up the Chicago remix Youth invited David Gilmour in his home studio and out of it came a twenty minutes guitar jam. Glover soon found out that he could expand the session into an ambient suite and asked old chum LX Paterson for his opinion and to flavour the pieces with typical Orbian drones and samples, rather than to turn this into a sheepish Fireman-clone.

The Orb featuring David Gilmour can only be a win/win situation. Orb fans have dreamed about this collaboration for the past two decades and that will add to the sales figures for sure. And although artist royalties go to the support of Gary McKinnon there will always be a spillover effect for the artists involved, good news for The Orb whose last album Baghdad Batteries sunk faster than the Kursk in the Barents Sea.

Rest us to say that an Orb album is an Orb album when it has got the name Orb on it, whether you like it or not (and in the case of Okie Dokie, not a bit).

Promotional copy of Metallic Spheres
Promotional copy of Metallic Spheres, The Orb vs. Dave Gilmour.

Metallic Spheres

Metallic Spheres starts with Gilmour's pedal steel guitar over some keyboard drones that makes me think of those good old days when the KLF shattered the world with their ambient masterpiece Chill Out (LX Paterson - as a matter of fact - contributed to that album, although uncredited). But soon after that Gilmour's guitar wanders off in his familiar guitar style with axiomatic nods to The Wall and The Division Bell albums. A welcome intermezzo is Black Graham with acoustic guitar, not from Gilmour but by ragtime busker Marcia Mello. The 'metallic side' flows nicely throughout its 29 minutes and has fulfilled its promise of being 'the ambient event of the year' quite accurately.

The CD is divided into two suites: a 'metallic side' and a 'spheres side' (and each 'side' is subdivided in five - not always discernable - parts). The second suite however, is more of the same, clearly lacks inspiration and ends out of breath at the 20 minutes mark.

So no wow! effect here (but no shit! either)... Youth has done what was expected from him and produced an all-in-all agreeable but quite mainstream product leaving ardent anoraky Orb fans with their hunger, but perhaps winning a few uninitiated souls.

As far as I am concerned this is about the best Orb CD I heard for the past couple of years, but it is still far from Orblivion, U.F.Orb or Ultraworld. But as this is 2010 already you won't hear me complaining.


(This article first appeared on Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects: The Relic Samples)

The Orbian 'Metallic Spheres' posts:
Pink Dreams 
Metallic Spheres 
The Relic Samples 


2010-10-16

Gravy Train To Cambridge

Storm Thorgerson cover.
Cover: Storm Thorgerson.

A couple of months ago a new Syd Barrett compilation was announced and EMI (Harvest) was proud to proclaim that Syd Barrett had joined the league of Jimi Hendrix or Marc Bolan, meaning that the man has got more compilation albums written on his name than genuine albums.

Let's make a quick sum, shall we? Barrett, who was the founder of the mythical band Pink Floyd, was overtly present on their first album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. On the second album A Saucerful Of Secrets he had already taken a sabbatical, and although present on 3 tracks (out of 7) he only takes the vocal lead (and writing credits) on the testamentary coda Jugband Blues.

There are at least 7 Pink Floyd compilations that have Barrett's (sometimes unreleased) work on it and the last one Echoes (2001) turned Syd Barrett into an overnight millionaire. The fortieth anniversary edition of Piper (2007) has (in the deluxe edition) an extra CD containing some alternative versions and the Pink Floyd's early singles as well.

Barrett's solo output in the early seventies is limited to two albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, and that is all there is, give or take 5 or 6 compilations. The count depends whether one catalogues the Opel (1988) record as a compilation of alternative takes and unreleased material or as a real 'third' solo album.

The most recent compilation 'An Introduction To Syd Barrett' boasts that this is the first time in history that Barrett's Pink Floyd and solo tracks have been compiled on one disk. This is true, but… so what?

On the other hand a quick glance at the list of unreleased material shows that there are about a dozen Pink Floyd studio tracks from their Syd Barrett era, but alas this compilation still doesn't contain any of them.

So what could possibly be the added value of this album, one might ask?

Storm Damage

Not its cover, that doesn't show Syd Barrett at all but that has been created, as usual, by Storm Thorgerson. Thorgerson, and more particularly his Hipgnosis studio, made some landmark record sleeves in the Seventies and Eighties, but he seems not able nowadays to sell his creations to influential bands, unless you call the freaky weirdoes of The Mars Volta influential of course. Thorgerson's contemporaneous work flirts a bit too much with cheap kitsch and luckily there is still Pink Floyd Ltd that keeps him away from the unemployment office. I'm quite fond of Thorgerson's work and I do like the cover although most Syd Barrett fans I frequent compare it with visual diarrhoea so I leave it to you to make up your own mind.

Tracks Revisited

As a Barrett anorak I am not interested in the regular songs on this compilation - as a matter of fact I didn't even listen to those - but I jumped immediately on top of the so-called enhanced tunes. The compilation boasts that 4 tracks have been remixed and one track has been 'upgraded' with additional bass from David Gilmour who also supervised the mixes. (The following review has been largely influenced by Blade's comments on the NPF forum and MOB's comments on the A Fleeting Glimpse forum.)

Dominoes: the new mix has been so subtly done that there is hardly any difference. The vocals are more emphasized and the backwards guitar sounds a trifle clearer. Some corrections may have been done, because on the original versions several (drum) parts were out of 'synch'. These errors have miraculously disappeared on the 2010 mix.

Octopus: this track is 7 seconds longer, due to the fact that a 'false' start has been added at the beginning. The "isn't it good to be lost in the woods" vocals have been clarified and brought to the fore and it could even be that its first part has been taken from an alternative take (also a few drumbeats have been added that weren't there on the 1970 version). Overall the muddled sound of vocals and guitars have been cleaned.

She Took a Long Cool Look: this track has always been called She Took A Long Cold Look in the past, but the title has now been changed. This is one of so called 'live' bits from Barrett's first album. These included false starts, bad guitar playing, unstable singing and Barrett generally loosing it… David Gilmour said he included these demos in 1970 to reveal Barrett in all his fragility, but later regretted his choice…

The 2010 version snips some of the unnecessary background sounds (Barrett turning some papers) and the guitar breakdown in the middle of the song is replaced by some strumming from another take. And - as with all of these remixes - Barrett's voice sounds more crisp than before and with less disturbing echo.

Matilda Mother (Pink Floyd): the 40 years anniversary edition of Piper already had this alternative take but in a much shorter version. This one takes 50 seconds longer and has benefited from a real mix. Probably the 2010 version is a sound-collage of several outtakes.

Here I Go: this little dance hall tune has always been my favourite Barrett track. For over 40 years I have wondered how this song really ended and now the ditty lasts 5 seconds longer. Gilmour has done a fine job by adding extra bass and after my second listen I already felt that this was the way it should always have been. (There is also a tiny rhythm correction - compared with the original version - at 01:46.)

Personally I find it a bad judgment from Gilmour & Co to keep the fade out but the closing chord I had been waiting for can still be heard. And I know it's starting to sound repetitive, but Barrett's vocals have been upgraded as well and sound crispier than ever. You don't need to buy the album to listen to this track as a promo video has been put on the web as well: Here I Go (official video).

The few remixes on this compilation are subtle, have been done with great care and love for the original material so that my initial anoraky opinion of 'don't touch the originals' has now been switched over to 'why didn't they simply enhance all tracks'?

But the real revelation of the album can't be found on plastic. The CD contains a key to download the mythical Rhamadan track from the official Syd Barrett website and this is what the next chapter is all about.

R(h)amadan

I won't get into the old story, legend or myth, of Rhamadan as it is all old news by now. The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit wrote a bit about it in Anoraks and Pontiacs and Rob Chapman in A Very Irregular Head describes it as a 'conga-heavy jam session lasting eighteen minutes and of little merit', although it is highly doubtful that the biographer could get hold of the piece.

The only person, apart from some EMI alumni, who could listen to the track in its full glory was David Parker, author of Random Precision. In order to get EMI's permission he had to sign a 'scarily draconian declaration', so scarily draconian that he even had to delete a forum post wherein he had simply admitted it had been 'scarily draconian'. The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit sometimes threatens with the Holy Igquisition but apparently that secret service is peanuts compared to the EMI 'unlimited supply, there is no reason why' storm troops.

David was the only author who could write, in detail, how the piece sounded and as it is so damn accurate I see no point of trying to give my own description.

Peter Bown announces Rhamadan take 1 over some bass and organ noises. He pronounces the title Rarmardarn like a 1950's BBC newsreader. The piece itself begins with the conga drums (probably Steve Took from Tyrannosaurus Rex).
The bass comes in and immediately takes the lead role (whoever the bass player is they are extremely proficient) with some very fast Stanley Clarke style runs and slides in places. The vibes then begin to come in, along with some disjointed organ chording (mostly on one chord). This then continues for a couple of minutes with the bass leading over the conga beat, vibes and organ chords. A piano then enters playing a loose boogie rhythm, and someone starts playing some very staccato mellotron notes as well. Things settle into a groove, and a second drummer joins in, mainly on cymbals. After about 5 minutes Syd's guitar starts to appear, playing muted chords to fill out the sound. The bass falls back slightly, and the piano takes the lead, Syd's guitar feeding back momentarily as he begins to play solo notes. (…)
The piece eventually starts to fizzle out with some mad staccato mellotron, the ever present organ chord and a lot of bass improvisation with a sprinkling of piano notes. Syd plays some open chord plucking and everything gets rather free form with Syd letting his guitar build-up feedback and then fades it out. (…)
Syd starts another riff but it begins to fade until the bass player picks up on it, and everyone begins following along. Another crescendo of feedback builds up as Syd picks out what sounds like the Close Encounters three note theme (!). (…)
Things build up yet again, with everyone in random improvisation, then everyone stops except the organ chord. The bassist begins a strident riff, giving the vibes a chance to solo (with staccato mellotron accompaniment). The bass rockets off into a hyper-drive riff, then everything finally falls to bits, ending with our old friend the organ chord drone, the mad mellotronist and a few bass notes.

We don't really know who are the players on Rhamadan, but Steve Peregrin Took is a name that appears in almost all biographies. Biographer Julian Palacios, however, seems to disagree now:

Talking to my friend GH today, he wrote: 'I don't think that Steve Took is the conga player on these sessions. I knew Steve and discussed Syd with him on a few occasions, he said that Syd had jammed with him round at his flat and that he had recorded it, but there was never any mention of going into a recording studio with Syd. My understanding was that Steve didn't get pally with Syd until after his split from Marc (Bolan). Back in 68 Tyrannosaurus Rex where gigging like crazy and still very much a going concern.' (Taken from Late Night Discussion Forum.)

Rhamadan isn't half as bad as everyone, who had never heard it, claimed it to be. Especially when one remembers that the same biographers and journalists tend to praise AMM, The Soft Machine or The Third Ear band for their revolutionary musical approach. Rhamadan is of course a highly freakadelic experiment, almost free-jazz in its approach, a genre Syd Barrett was not unfamiliar with.

Rhamadan MP3 properties.
Rhamadan MP3 properties.

If you have bought the CD, Rhamadan can be downloaded (legally) from the official Syd Barrett website, but unfortunately only in the MP3 format with a rather cheapish 152kbs bitrate. But its bitrate is not the only amateurish characteristic. While millions of people all over the world have discovered MP3 tags, EMI is of the opinion that this invention is way over their heads. The tags are all empty and reveal that the track is untitled (Track 1), comes from an unknown album, is from an unknown artist and from an unknown year. Not even the Publisher and Copyright data are filled in. My 8-years old godchild can rip MP3 tunes better than EMI does, she at least knows how to attach a (sleeve) picture to the file. (Although I worked this out by myself, Jen D at madcapslaughing beat me by a day by publishing the same findings before me. As I haven't got an irregular head I'll give this bloke the credits.)

While EMI has been nagging us for years that copying is killing music a closer look on the MP3 tags reveals us that the file has been converted with FreeRIP. Here is the biggest music company in the world and it uses a freeware version of a (quite good, I agree) MP3 converter to spread around a track belonging to the founder of their second most commercially successful band, next to The Beatles.

I know of the bad financial situation of the music company but I wasn't aware that EMI was that close to bankrupt that they can't even afford a 29,75 dollar software program anymore.

Conclusion

None really. The best thing is to decide for yourself if the 5 remixes and the 1 download are sufficient to buy the album. As a Barrett anorak myself, I simply had no choice.

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above)
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 215.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 132-133.


The Introduction album and Rhamadan track are further discussed here:
Introduction at Late Night
Introduction at NPF
Rhamadan at Late Night
Rhamadan at NPF
A review of the 40 years anniversary edition of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn can be found at Fasten Your Anoraks
Sister blog Unfinished Projects has recently published a review of the latest Orb album featuring David Gilmour: Metallic Spheres.

2010-11-26

Dark Blog

Sad Barrett
Sad Barrett, by Felix Atagong.

Dark Globe by Julian Palacios.

A while ago it was announced at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit that Julian Palacios' long awaited Syd Barrett biography Dark Globe (Full title: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe) had finally appeared in web shops all over the world. Palacios' previous work Lost In The Woods already dates from 1998 but is (was) still a classic work about Barrett.

Dark Globe 2010 is not an amended or appended Lost In The Woods, Palacios didn't use the easy trick Mike Watkinson & Pete Anderson fell for when they re-issued their Crazy Diamond biography, leaving the (many) errors uncorrected and just adding an extra chapter about Syd Barrett's passing. But I wouldn't go as far as the one critic who claimed that Crazy Diamond is full of 'unsubstantiated nonsense' and that it should come 'with a government health warning on the dust jacket'. Crazy Diamond still takes a soft spot in my heart as it was the first attempt at a serious Barrett biography.

Mojo January 2011 review
Mojo January 2011 review.

But back to Julian Palacios. For those who want to immediately know if Dark Globe is worth the investment, rather than meandering through this review, I will quote Kiloh Smith from Laughing Madcaps:

Just finished Dark Globe and... it's the best book about Syd Barrett that was ever written. I'd say that Dark Globe is my favourite, followed by Crazy Diamond, with A Very Irregular Head taking up a distant third. (Full review at: sydbarrettpinkfloyd.com)

Probably this is the first time in history that Kiloh and I share the same opinion, but he is not the only one praising Palacios. Fleeting Glimpse gives the biography a perfect 10 and quite rightly so. And Mark Paytress from Mojo also has some nice things to say (see left side image).

I once noted down that the art of writing biographies is not in adding details, but in weeding out the superfluous. Palacios is not entirely of the same opinion and that is why my review took so long to appear here. Dark Globe is packed with details, quite an anorak's dream, and it does need some concentration. In my case I found it better to savour the different paragraphs, one at a time, sometimes even going back a bit, than to read the book in one big afternoon chunk.

Palacios has unearthed details that no one has ever found or published before and, this has to be said as well, not all of those are relevant to the average Barrett fan.

Dark Globe, Julian Palacios.
Dark Globe, Julian Palacios.

Postman Syd

Did you know that Syd Barrett had a job as a postman in his teenager years, delivering Christmas cards during the holidays? I didn't. Not only does Palacios reveal that but he also points out that the underwear fetishist who was immortalised in Pink Floyd's first single Arnold Layne could have been a Royal Mail post van driver.

Those familiar with the Pink Floyd's early history remember that the band lived, 64-65-ish, in Mike Leonard's house, an architect who introduced the amateurish R&B gang to light-shows and avant-garde music. Leonard also played a mean piano and replaced Rick Wright for a while, what made him think he was a member of what was ironically called Leonard's Lodgers.

Every student who has been living in a community knows that, sooner or later, food will start disappearing. Stanhope Gardens was no exception to that and Rick Wright used to keep his morning cornflakes inside a locked cupboard, fearing that Roger Waters would otherwise steal his beloved morning cereals. The mystery has lingered on for over 4 decades but Julian Palacios has finally discovered who really nicked Wright's breakfast: not Roger Waters but a boarder named Peter Kuttner. Utterly irrelevant but fun to read. The only fear I have now is that Roger Waters will probably write a concept album about it once he finds out.

Not all of this biography reads like a biography. At certain points Palacios can't hide any-more he is a writer at heart, with poetical streaks, obviously regretting that he wasn't around in those underground days. What to say about this:

The face came out from under the murky swell of psychedelic oil lights, like a frame around a picture. A pale, handsome face with thick silky hair and a white satin shirt. Something bright and small seemed to twinkle in his eyes, vanished, then winkled once more like a tiny star. (p .118)

Palacios adds many song descriptions and can get quite lyrical about chord progressions. Personally I can't be bothered as I don't hear the difference between an A and an F anyway. These parts read like a Korean DVD recording manual to me but I suppose that any amateur musician will enjoy them. Julian has been doing more than his homework and for many early Pink Floyd songs he traces back musical or textual references (today we would call that sampling), but he isn't too snotty to give due credits to where they belong.

Palacios has an encyclopaedic musical knowledge and halfway the book I regretted I didn't note down all songtitles he cites. Songs Barrett liked, songs Barrett played and rehearsed in his youth, songs that influenced some of his later work. Adding these would make a nice cd-box, not unlike the cover disks Mojo magazine sometimes issues.

Arnold Rainey

Julian's observations can sometimes be a bit über-detailed. Arnold Layne, the famous song about the cross-dressing knicker-thief, contains a slight musical nod to the 1928 Ma Rainey song Prove It On Me Blues, not coincidentally another song about cross-dressing. As I am tone-deaf - a condition I share with Roger Waters, so it mustn't be all bad as he made a fortune with it - I don't hear any familiarity between both musical pieces but blues scholar John Olivar says there is and Julian Palacios acknowledges it. I simply believe them.

Other links are easier to grasp for a simple man like me, like the fact that Jennifer Gentle (the protagonist from the Lucifer Sam song) can be traced back to a medieval ballad where it goes:

Jennifer Gentle Christmas Carol
Jennifer Gentle Christmas Carol.
There were three sisters fair and bright,
Jennifer, Gentle and Rosemary...
And they three loved one valiant knight—
As the dow [dove] flies over the mulberry-tree.
1974 Session Log
1974 Session Log.

There is one single remark in Palacios book that would create a small storm if its subject happened to be Lennon or Hendrix. In August 1974 Barrett recorded some demos for a third album that never saw the light of day. Barrett had no new songs and he just tried out some blues variations like he used to do more than a decade before in his mother's living room. Initially the 1974 demos were noted down as 'various untitled oddments' and the individual titles these tracks have now were given by producer Pete Jenner to distinguish the different parts. In Boogie #1 (there is also #2 and #3) traces of Bo Diddley's Pretty Thing can be found back. In January 2010 Palacios found out that the track nicknamed John Lee Hooker is in fact a rendition of Mojo Hand from Lighting' Hopkins. That particular titbit didn't even provoke a ripple in the usual stormy Barrett pond.

Palacios adds layers on layers of information. If you happen to be amongst the dozen or so readers who remember the 1989 Nick Sedgwick novel Light Blue With Bulges you might have wondered who was the beatnik behind the espresso machine (and with his hands in the till) of a famous Cambridge coffee bar. Don't look any further, Palacios will tell you exactly who operated the espresso machine, how the coffee bar was called and even more... reveal the brand of the Italian espresso machine... only... I would like to pass this information to you but I can't find it back right now as... and here is my biggest dissatisfaction with this book... Dark Globe contains no index.

Rollodex

In the past I have written some harsh words about biographies and reference books that omit an index:

Unfortunately the book [Pink Floyd FAQ] has got no index, what duly pisses me off, so if you want to know something about, let's say: You Gotta Be Crazy, there is no other way to find it than to start reading the bloody thing all over again. So called biographies (…) and reference books without an index (or an alphabetical or chronological filing system) are immediately put aside by me and won't be touched again. Ever.

I know for sure that Prince Stanisla(u)s Klossowski de Rola, better known as Stash, is cited in Dark Globe. But if I urgently need this information for a post at the Holy Church, to answer a question on the Late Night Syd Barrett forum or just to ease my mind, I will only be able to consult Palacios' (now defunct) 1998 biography Lost In the Woods (pages 186-93), Mark Blakes' 2007 Pigs Might Fly (pages 81 & 99) or Rob Chapman's 2010 A Very Irregular Head (p. 278) although that last insists to call the dandy prince de Rollo.

Dark Globe is by near and by far the best Syd Barrett biography ever, but not having an index is (in my awkward opinion) unforgivable as it diminishes its traceability near to factor zero. And that's a shame... I do know that indexes are but a geeks' dream and that most people don't bother with those, but my ultimate wet dream consists of reading bibliographies that have half a dozen footnotes per page. Maybe I am the problem?

Alternative timeline
Alternative timeline, by Felix Atagong.

No 4 Yes

With hindsight it is easy to call Syd Barrett a genius, but not everybody was of that opinion in 1966. Here is what Peter Banks, from Syn (a precursor of progressive rock-band Yes) had to say: “Whatever night they played was the worst night of the week. (…) A bunch of guys making noise and wearing make-up.” Perhaps that is why Nick Mason quipped, years later, that Johnny Rotten would have looked quite ridicule in a 'I hate Yes' t-shirt.

Pink Floyd was probably not the best band of the psychedelic bunch, but they surely were the loudest, even outdoing The Who in volume at the Psychedelicamania happening on the last day of 1966. A reporter of the Daily Mail, armed with a sound meter, reported on 'pop above the danger level' and warned for permanent damage to the ears.

In just a couple of months Barrett had not only shifted from quiet blues to avant-garde 120 decibel hard rock, he also traded his daily cup of earl green tea for LSD, mandrax and generally everything that could be easily swallowed or smoked.

The previous reads kind of funny but it is an infinite sad story that has been underrated by witnesses, fans and biographers alike. All kind of excuses have been used not to turn Barrett into a hopeless drug case: his father's death, the pressure of his band-mates, managers and record company, even the stroboscopic effect of the liquid light shows... (although of course all these things may have weakened his self-defence). In my opinion, Julian Palacios manages to get the tone right and he consecrates some poignantly written paragraphs to the darker side of the psychedelic summer.

Dysfunction

In April of this year the Church of Iggy the Inuit published the We are all made of stars post. The article tried to remember two people of the early Floydian era: Ian Pip Carter, a long-time friend of Gilmour and a Floyd-roadie who had to fight an heroine addiction for most of his life and; John Paul Ponji Robinson who tried, in vain, to find inner piece in eastern mysticism.

Palacios adds another Cantabrigian: Johnny Johnson, who in a paranoid, probably drug-infected, streak jumped from a six-storey window, survived the fall, but would eventually commit suicide a few years later.

Hendrix, Morrison, Jones and Joplin: 'each victim to the Dionysian excess they embodied'. Alice Ormsby-Gore: overdose (her friend Eric Clapton had more luck). Julian Ormsby-Gore: suicide. Paul Getty: heroine paralysed him for life. Talitha Dina Pol, his wife: overdose. The list is long and those who survived were not always the lucky ones...

Although there are still people who think that Syd Barrett turned avant-garde during the Floyd's first tour in America, Nick Mason, in his typical no-nonsense style, put it otherwise:

Syd went mad on that first American tour. He didn't know where he was most of the time. He detuned his guitar on stage. He just stood there rattling strings, a bit weird even for us. (Cited in Dark Globe, but originally taken from a May 1994 Mojo interview.)

Barrett's situation reminds me of an Alice Flaherty quote I encountered in a recent Douglas Coupland novel:

De-romanticizing Dysfunction:
All the theories linking creativity to mental illness are really implying mild disease. People may be reassured by the fact that almost without exception no one is severely ill and still creative. Severe mental illness tends to bring bizarre preoccupation and inflexible thought.
As the poet Sylvia Plath said, 'When you're insane , you're busy being insane – all the time when I was crazy , that's all I was.
Barrett's Psychiatry Textbook
Barrett's Psychiatry Textbook.

Trip to Sanity

There is the somewhat romantic viewpoint of Duggie Fields, but basically it tells just the same:

He (Syd) could lie in bed thinking he could do anything in the world he wanted. But when he made a decision that limited his possibilities.

The problem, for those who follow the hypothesis Syd had a problem, was that for Barrett there weren't any possibilities left, although record company, colleagues and friends mildly tried to lure him into the studio or invite him for an impromptu jam. But to paraphrase Sylvia Plath: Syd was too busy being insane, and all the time he was crazy that was all he was able doing.

While at different forums people are arguing, even today, that hallucinogenic drugs are harmless Palacios retaliates by simply listing musicians who had to fight drug-related-burn-outs:
Peter Green,
Roky Erikson,
Chris Kefford,
Shelagh McDonald,
Skip Spence,
Brian Wilson...
It took these people literally decades to crawl back to normal life after years of misery. Also Barrett hoped to overcome his condition one day as was proven by a handwritten note in his copy of The Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry. Syd bloody well understood what was wrong with him and we – the fans – don't fucking know how hard it was for him.

A dark spot that even Palacios can't clarify is 'Syd's lost weekend' that roughly went from 1975 to the early Eighties. The first 400 pages describe Barrett's public life from the mid-Sixties until the pivotal event in 1975 when Syd entered the Wish You Were Here recording sessions. The 30 remaining years of his life are dealt with in a mere 40 pages. Even for Palacios there is nothing to dig. (Rob Chapman managed to add some anecdotes from Barrett's Cambridge life – although some are disputed while you read this - but he didn't unearth anything new about Syd's Chelsea Cloister days either.)

Spot the 1 difference
Spot the 1 difference.

Atagong Strikes Again

The following paragraph will probably not add any points to my Barrett reputation scale, already at ground zero level, but who cares. Just before publishing this text I checked the official Syd Barrett website to see if Dark Globe, the biography, is mentioned there. It isn't.

It comes as no surprise as its main function apparently is to sell t-shirts, even on the discography page you'll look in vain for the latest Barrett compilation 'An Introduction to...' (review at: Gravy Train To Cambridge). I am pretty sure its web master knows everything about Flash ActionScript but is unable to recognise a Barrett-tune even if whistled through his arse. When the site started in December 2008 (a temporary page had already been present a few weeks before) it managed to get the release dates wrong from all known Syd Barrett solo albums. Yes, both of them. It is not that Barrett has been as prolific as Frank Zappa who released records for breakfast.

Fan art was mistakenly published as genuine Syd Barrett art and the bibliography contained a non existent book that had been designed as a joke by former Late Night member Stanislav. Even today slightly photoshopped pictures can be found on its pictures page. Apparently the official Syd Barrett website moguls have got no problems that their main source of income swallowed pills by the gallon and fornicated everything female within a 3 miles radius but depicting Syd Barrett with a cigarette in his mouth obviously is a bridge too far.

Clearly I am getting too old for this hobby of mine but I hope I got the message through that Syd Barrett is a bit more than a cheap shirt. Dark Globe by Julian Palacios more than proves this and contrary to my threatening promise of above I'm immediately going to read it again.

Conclusion

A certain Felix Atagong calls himself laughingly the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. But now he realises: Julian Palacios is our prophet. And Dark Globe is our holy book, but I wouldn't mind an index though.

Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010.
443 pages, 24 photo pages.
ISBN10: 85965 431 1
ISBN13: 978 0 85965 431 9.
Amazon (UK) link. (The Church is not affiliated with or endorsed by this company.)

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 143.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 336.
Coupland, Douglas: Player One, William Heinemann, London, 2010, p. 223. Coupland himself cites from a Alice Flaherty book called The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain.
Music score taken from: Riddles Wisely Expounded (pdf document).

Thanks: Göran Nyström.


Other Pink Floyd related books that were trashed by the Reverend can be found here:
Pigs Might Fly by Mark Blake: Si les cochons pourraient voler…
Pink Floyd by Jean-Marie Leduc: Si les cochons pourraient voler… 
Syd Barrett, le premier Pink Floyd by Emmanuel Le Bret: Barrett: first in space!
Syd Barrett, le rock et autres trucs
by Jean-Michel Espitallier: Cheap Tricks 
A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory 
On Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects:
The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd by Toby Manning: The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd 
Pink Floyd FAQ by Stuart Shea: Pink Floyd FAQ

2011-04-25

Barrett: come on you painter!

Barrett, the book
Barrett, by Russell Beecher & Will Shutes.

Barrett, the definitive visual companion to the life of Syd Barrett, by Russell Beecher & Will Shutes arrived at Atagong Mansion on the second day of its release, Friday the 18th of March, but I have to admit, I didn't really look at it, apart from some glancing through its pages.

The reason is simple, the book is a visual biography collecting many (unseen) photographs of Syd Barrett and his band The Pink Floyd, facsimiles from letters to Libby Gausden and Jenny Spires and the very first detailed catalogue of Syd's paintings, and I am more a man of words, too many words some people say (and perhaps there is a a yet undiscovered trail of prudence in me, as I am a bit reluctant to read Syd's letters written to Libby and Jenny).

I care for Syd the musician but I don't get overexcited when a new Barrett (or vintage Pink Floyd) picture appears on the web. First: this has been happening on a regular basis since Barrett's death when people suddenly remember that they have got an exclusive picture lying on their attic. Second: these pictures will arrive, in due time, on the more than excellent Have You Got It Yet? v2.0 Vol 11 Photo/Info DVD-Rom from Mark Jones that can be freely downloaded at several places on the web, but I prefer Yeeshkul as it is the 'official' home for Floydian audio & video collectors.

Although not entirely legal this picture DVD was asked for by the Pink Floyd management who gave Mark Jones a copy of Oh By The Way, the Pink Floyd 14 CD compilation, in return. I am quite convinced that the pictures of the Barrett visual companion will, one day, mysteriously appear on a new release.

Photographs (editor: Russell Beecher)

Barrett is roughly divided into three unequal parts. Part one #1 shows many unseen and previously unpublished pictures of vintage Pink Floyd, #2 has pictures from the Syd Barrett solo era, about 110 pages in total. They are printed in big format (one photo per page or double page, many pictures have been spliced), in high quality and 'digitally' restored. Most of the pages have a description of the picture, the date it was taken and an appropriate quote or anecdote from the Cambridge mafia or the photographer in question.

A so-called signature or limited edition has got a third, separate, photo series by Irene Winsby, but to acquire these additional 72 pages you have to cough up an extra 235 £ (282 €). Unfortunately for me the signature issue is bound in leather and as a strict vegetarian it is against my conscience to skin a cow to watch a Barrett picture. If you find this silly just try to imagine what the master of Sant Mat would have said to Syd Barrett about that.

(A short description of the picture section can be consulted at: Rockadolly.)

Barrett doodle
Barrett doodle.

Letters (editor: Russell Beecher)

Part two, the shortest one with 25 pages, is destined to letters from Syd to Libby Gausden, Jenny Spires and ends with the famous little twig poem to Viv Brans. Tim Willis already described some of these letters in his Madcap biography, but didn't actually put these in print (with one exception and about 4 times smaller in size).

Anoraks know that Syd decorated his letters with funny doodles and this section is obviously more interested in the drawings than in the actual letters. Libby and Jenny give cute explanations in what probably was a very weird menage-à-trois (our quatre or quarante, if we may believe the rumours about Syd's omnivorous female appetite).

Art (editor: Will Shutes)

Section three (over 90 pages) is what everybody has been waiting for, for all these years. At least that is why I have bought the book for.

For ages fans have been drooling over Syd, the painter, but I never really bothered. I did not put Syd Barrett in the same category as Ron Wood and Grace Slick who also smear paint on canvas (and that's about all that can be said about them), but I adhered the theory that was written down by Annie Marie Roulin in The Case of Roger Keith 'Syd' Barrett (Fish Out Of Water, 1996).

The symmetries among the geometrical shapes painted by Barrett show an embarrassing absence of 'concept', of hidden flaming which makes doubtful the real artistic value of these works. As to the technique they can compete only with works by low talented students of low secondary school.
Untitled 15 (Cat. 20) lino print
Untitled 15 (Cat. 20) lino print.

In other words, paintings of Barrett may have been slightly therapeutic (and this can be debated: art sessions can also have the uncanny feature of sliding a mentally unstable person further into regression) but - if one can fully grasp Anne Marie Roulin's Italo-English - they could certainly not be considered as art with a capital A. A daring theory and certainly not liked by many Barrett fans, nor by his family, and that is why journalist Luca Ferrari invented a female alter ego to publish this controversial thesis (Luca's confession in Italian, and an English translation on Late Night.)

In the past, biographies have tried to convince the reader that Barrett was an art-painter pur sang, but none of these could win me over, basically because writing about paintings without seeing the actual work (or only two or three foggy examples) is like talking about music without listening to it. For the first time in history a book publishes Syd's whole oeuvre or what is left of it, about 100 of his paintings; and Will Shutes has written an impressive 25 pages long essay about Barrett's canvas outings throughout the years. While reading the excellent essay one is obliged to constantly switch from text to illustration and luckily the book has two ribbon-markers to facilitate this multi-tasking.

Shutes admits that Barrett's work lacks 'consistency', a remark originally made by Duggie Fields and cited in Rob Chapman's A Very Irregular Head, but he immediately turns this into a plus factor. Will concludes:

"The variety this implies is at the core of his originality."

, but one could use exactly the same reasoning to deduce that Barrett's artwork isn't original at all.

Just like Julian Palacios in Dark Globe has tracked down musical influences in Syd Barrett's discography, Shutes cites several examples for Barrett's graphical work. If there is one work of Barrett that stands out (in my opinion, FA) it is the 1964-ish Untitled 15 (Cat. 20) lino print with its evaporating crosses, but Barry Miles (also in A Very Irregular Head) explains it has been clearly influenced by Nicolas Staël, although Shutes reveals that there must have been some secret Paul Klee ingredient at work as well.

Rosemary Breen told Luca Ferrari that Barrett could make ten paintings a day, and even if this was exaggerated the one hundred in the Barrett book only represent a small percentage of his output. Although nobody actually witnessed Barrett destroying his work, it is assumed he burned them or threw them in the rubbish bin. Some have said that Barrett destroyed only those paintings that weren't perfect to him, but actually he destroyed them all although some seem to have survived for a couple of months before disappearing. The few exceptions are those he gave away to family or visiting friends. Beecher & Shutes could trace 49 surviving artworks by Syd Barrett and were lucky that Rosemary found some photo albums of Syd's art. For most of his life Roger Barrett had the weird habit of photographing his work before destroying it, as if he wanted the destruction to be a bit less final. Opinions differ as well why Barrett did this, and range from a mental disorder to an artistic concept. Will Shutes:

Like Rauschenberg's erasure of a drawing by de Kooning in 1953, Barrett's act of destruction is not a negation – it achieves something new. Barrett is doing something when he destroys what he has done, not merely erasing it.
Arnold Layne Ad NOT By Syd
Arnold Layne Ad not by Syd."

Even a Barrett scholar can have it wrong sometimes, the author describes an Arnold Layne flyer, allegedly dating from March 1967, as designed by Syd Barrett, unaware of the fact that it is fan-art, dating from the late seventies, early eighties, and published in a Barrett fanzine. A quick glance on Mark Jones' HYGIY picture DVD would have settled that once and for all (remarked by Mark Jones at Late Night: Barrett Book).

What intrigues me is that Roger Barrett continued to make abstract and realistic paintings, as if he was afraid to make an irrevocable choice. Personally I find his water-coloured landscapes or florals uninteresting, although they do show some métier, especially compared with the abstract works of the seventies or eighties that are visually more compelling but technically mediocre. I'm quite fond of Untitled 67 (2005) that represents a pie chart of the summer and winter solstices, although some will of course recognise it as a pastiche of the Wish You Were Here cover art. That's the main deviation of the maniacal Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett fan, seeing links that (perhaps) aren't really there.

Untitled 67
Untitled 67.

This book contains the best descriptions and illustrations of Syd's artwork, it is a collector's dream, but in the end Will Shutes can not convince me that Barrett was a graphical artist in the true sense of the word. It's a matter of personal opinion and I'm not sure if Barrett knew it himself or if he even cared.

Conclusion

I hope the authors will not hold it against me if I tell that this book is not destined for the average Floyd or Barrett fan. It contains no juicy stories of feeding Syd biscuits through a closed locker door. Its sole purpose is to ease the hunger of the Barrett community that is easily recognised by its general daftness and its deep pockets.

Despite the blurb that states the opposite Barrett is not essential for the music loving fan, but the book is no waste of time for those that want to acquire it either. Barrett has been made with love, caring and respect for its subject, is a work of art and quality and has been authorised by the Estate of Roger Keith 'Syd' Barrett. But at 90 £ (108 €) for the classic edition (including delivery) it is also pretty expensive, perhaps not overpriced, but still a lot of money.

Introduction

In his witty introduction Russell Beecher writes that over the years there was "a need for a well-researched, intelligent, and well-thought-through account of Syd's life and work". I completely agree. He then continues by stating that this was fulfilled with the publication of "Rob Chapman's excellent An Irregular Head in 2010".

Thank you, Russell Beecher, but I prefer to make up my own mind. In my humble opinion Chapman's biography fails against at least one of the qualities you have mentioned above. Those in need for an independent opinion can consult Christopher Hughes's Irregular Head review at Brain Damage, by and large the best Pink Floyd fan-site in the world.

Russell Beecher proceeds:

An Irregular Head is the definitive textual work on Syd.
What you now hold is the definitive visual work on Syd's artistic life.
The two books compliment one another.

Did I just pay 90 £ for a vaguely concealed commercial, wished for by the Barrett Estate? The Barrett book is quite exceptional and possibly 'the definitive visual work on Syd's artistic life' indeed, but linking its destiny to An Irregular Head, way off definitive if I am still allowed to express my opinion, undermines its own qualities. This feels like reserving a table at Noma in Copenhagen to hear René Redzepi announce that the food will reach the level of the local McDonald's. Can I have some ketchup on my white truffles, please?

Some will find me overreacting again, but I had to get this off my chest. Although a bit superfluous, and destined for the capitalist über-Syd-geek alone, Barrett is far too luxurious and well-researched to have its image tramped down.

The Church wishes to thank: Dan5482, Mark Jones, PoC (Party of Clowns) and the beautiful people at Late Night.


Mark Jones posted a 13 minutes video review of opening the book for the very first time (after having disinfected his hands first). It is more than worthwhile watching: First look at 'Barrett', the book, by Russell Beecher & Will Shutes.

Sources (other than internet links mentioned above):
Beecher, Russell & Shutes, Will: Barrett, Essential Works Ltd, London, 2011, p. 10, 11, 145, 162, 163, 170, 175.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 49, 232.
Ferrari, Luca & Roulin, Annie Marie: A Fish Out Of Water, Stampa Alternativai, Rome, 1996, p. 31, 95, 97.


2011-06-11

Mad Cat Love

The Madcat Laughs (original from The Kitten Covers)
The Madcat Laughs (Felix Atagong variation from The Kitten Covers).

Yesterday, on Friday the 11th of June 2011, the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit was waiting on a bench at the central bus station when a man addressed him in French, but he soon switched over to Dutch.

"I see you are reading a nice book about Pink Floyd. I used to be a Pink Floyd fan myself. Syd Barrett, the madcap loves."

At least it sounded like 'the madcap loves' in my ears and not 'the madcap laughs', but perhaps the man had just a small problem with English pronunciation. Never have made that link myself, I can only smilingly agree that the madcap loves is one of the better Floydian slips ever.

The madcap loves, I love it.

But perhaps I just misheard the thing, my ears aren't any more what they used to be, after having been mistreated by Iron Maiden on my iPod for the last lustrum.

Mad cat's something you can't explain

A trademark rhyme in Barrett's Octopus song is the line that named the album:

The madcap laughed at the man on the border
Heigh-ho, Huff the Talbot.

But Rob Chapman, in an interesting YouTube interview about his biography A Very Irregular Head, is of the opinion that Barrett did not sing mad-cap but mad cat. In that case the title of Barrett's first solo album is based upon a misunderstanding from producer David Gilmour.

The mad cat laughed at the man on the border
Heigh-ho, Huff the Talbot.

Since Paul Belbin's excellent cyber-essay 'Untangling the Octopus' (2005), hosted at the Church with the author's permission, we know that the Octopus song (also titled Clowns and Jugglers in an earlier stage) is packed with obscure literary references, disclaiming the rumour that Barrett wrote his songs in a drug influenced frenzy. One of the characters ripped by Syd Barrett comes from an anonymous nursery rhyme called 'Huff the Talbot and our cat Tib':

Huff the talbot and our cat Tib
They took up sword and shield,
Tib for the red rose, Huff for the white,
To fight upon Bosworth field.

For the adherers of the mad cat theory it is perhaps of importance here that the dog's adversary in the battle of Bosworth just above is not a mad-cap but a cat called Tib.

Rob Chapman also mentions nonsense poet Edward Lear as a further influence on Barrett but he didn't catch the following poem:

There was an old man on the Border,
Who lived in the utmost disorder;
He danced with the cat,
And made tea in his hat,
Which vexed all the folks on the Border.

You don't need to be a genius to reconstruct how the dancing cat from Lear's man on the border and Tib, the warrior cat at Bosworth field, amalgamated into the mad cat character in Octopus.

But, as with all things Syd, things aren't always that simple. The madcap believers have a point as well as a madcap galloping chase does appear in an early incarnation of Clowns and Jugglers:

Sit up, touching hips
to a madcap galloping chase
"Cheat" he cried shouting “Kangaroo!”

This contains a quote from The Wind In A Frolic by William Howitt:

The wind one morning sprang up from sleep,
Saying, “Now for a frolic! now for a leap!
Now for a madcap, galloping chase!
I’ll make a commotion in every place!”

In that case David Gilmour mistook one line for the other and the album's title may have been taken from a quote that didn't make it on the album.

Salvation Came Lately

But the above has got absolutely nothing to do with today's article and the Reverend duly apologises for the confusion.

Sitting on a bench at the bus station he was addressed by a man who had found a common point of interest: Pink Floyd. To prove that the traveller wasn't talking bollocks, the sharp-dressed man suddenly sang the following lines from Jugband Blues.

I don't care if the sun don't shine
and I don't care if nothing is mine
and I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the winter...

Asked to sing a favourite line from a Floyd tune (luckily that never happens) I would never quote an early song, so the choice of this man was quite interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately, the strophe was followed by the announcement that he didn't listen to the Floyd any more, only to religious music.

To my shame I have to admit that the Reverend didn't see it coming that another Reverend was trying to lure him into the tentacles of another Church... Coincidentally we had to take the same bus and we talked like close friends until it was time for the ambassador of god to leave the ambassador of Iggy.

Vibrations
Vibrations.

Good Vibrations

The 'book' I was reading wasn't a book but a special 82 pages issue from the French rock magazine Vibrations, entirely dedicated to Pink Floyd (7,90 €). Printed on luxurious glossy paper it assembles articles (translated in French) from well known Q, Mojo and NME journalists, such as Martin Aston, the Church's partner in crime Mark Blake, Pat Gilbert, Chris Salewicz and the French Aymeric Leroy, who apparently has written an acclaimed biography on the band: 'Pink Floyd: Plongée dans l'oeuvre d'un groupe paradoxal'.

The times are long gone when I bought everything that was from far or nearby Pink Floyd related, I even resisted buying Pink Floyd coffee mugs a couple of week ago, something that would have been impossible for me in the past millennium, so here is a biography I wasn't aware of. Not that I am planning to buy it. There isn't one single French Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett biography that doesn't clash with my personal beliefs of what a good biography should be.

Just try the following reviews of French Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett books on this blog and you'll know what I mean:
Si les cochons pourraient voler… 
Cheap Tricks 
Barrett: first in space! 

Update 2011 06 20: Unfortunately the Internet isn't the safe place any more where you can insult someone without being noticed. Aymeric Leroy got hold of this post and wanted to set a few things straight.

Thanks for mentioning my book on your blog. I'd just like to point out that it isn't a "biography", more like a critical assessment of the band's entire discography, which does include background info of a biographical nature, but primarily an analysis of the music and lyrics.
The stuff I wrote for the special issue of "Vibrations" is expanded from the more biographical passages of the book, but the book isn't an "expanded" version of those. There are other people who did a great job telling the band's history, and I relied on their work, but my reason for adding yet another book to the impressive PF bibliography was to try and do something different - write about the actual music for at least 75% of the book.

Duly noted, Aymeric, and perhaps the Church will have a go at your book then, one of these days...

The Ultimate Music Guide
The Ultimate Music Guide.

Uncut and uncombed

It promises to be a hot Pink Floyd year, this year, and the makers of Uncut magazine have issued a 146 pages Pink Floyd special in their The Ultimate Music Guide series. It isn't such a classy edition as the French Vibrations, but of course the good news is that it contains at least twice as much information. With at least one article or interview per Pink Floyd record this obviously is the 'better buy' of the two, although the initial set-up is more or less the same. The Uncut special assembles old articles and a few new ones and promises to be an enjoyable read.

That an enjoyable read isn't always the same as an accurate read proves Allan Jones' The Madcap Laughs & Barrett article on pages 32 till 35. He starts with mentioning that Syd Barrett entered Studio 3 on the 6th of May 1968, for the first of six sessions that would follow. I don't know what it is with this 6-sessions-myth but Rob Chapman claims exactly the same in his biography. As I always seem to have recalled 9 sessions instead of 6 (but according to the Holy Pope of Rome my brain has been irrecoverably damaged by years of masturbation) it is time for yet another anoraky investigation.

So not for the first time in my career as Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit I have counted the 1968 Madcap recording dates, as noted down in David Parker's excellent sessionagraphy Random Precision. It all starts in the beginning of May.

1968 05 06 – In the morning EMI engineers had been transferring two Pink Floyd tracks 'In the Beechwood' (aka 'Down in the Beechwoods') and 'Vegetable Man' for Syd Barrett to work on, but when Barrett finally arrived he decided to record two new songs instead: 'Silace Lang' (aka 'Silas Lang') and 'Late Night'. Session One.

According to the Allan Jones article Barrett recorded the rambling 'Rhamadan' the day after. Wrong. The next day would have been the seventh of May, but Barrett only re-entered the studio one week later.

1968 05 13 – 'Silas Lang' (take 1) and 'Late Night' (take 6), were worked on / transferred by Peter Jenner. It is not clear if Syd Barrett was present in the studio or if this was merely a technical session. Of course this could have been one of those 'chaotic' sessions where Barrett simply didn't show up, with Peter Jenner trying to salvage the furniture by using the spare time for some producer’s work. Session Two.

1968 05 14 – 'Rhamadan', 'Lanky' (Pt. 1&2), 'Golden Hair'. Obviously Barrett and three session musicians were in the studio, although nobody seems to remember who the backing band members really were. Session Three.

1968 05 21 – 'Late Night', 'Silace Lang'. This was the day when Syd Barrett forgot to bring his guitar to the studio and Peter Jenner had to rent one for £10.50. Always a kind of a joker, our Syd. Session Four.

1968 05 28 – 'Golden Hair', 'Swan Lee' (aka 'Silace Lang'), 'Rhamadan'. This session also included (the same?) three session musicians. Session Five.

1968 06 08 – Superimposition of titles recorded on 6th, 14th, 21st & 29th [wrong date, FA] of May, 1968, so read the red form notes. Peter Jenner made a provisional tracklist for what could have been Barrett's first album:

Silas Lang
Late Nights (sic)
Golden Hair
Beechwoods (originally recorded with Pink Floyd)
Vegetable man (originally recorded with Pink Floyd)
Scream Your Last Scream (sic, originally recorded with Pink Floyd)
Lanky Pt 1
Lanky Pt 2

Looking like a Barrett's fan wet dream the above track listing debunks the story - still popular at certain disturbed Barrett circles - that the band Pink Floyd and its members deliberately boycotted their former colleague.

Barrett was apparently present at this session as some guitar overdubs were recorded for 'Swan Lee' (the right title of that track still wasn't decided). Session Six.

1968 06 14 – cancelled session

1968 06 20 – tape transfers and overdubs on 'Late Night' (noted down as 'Light Nights'), 'Golden Hair', 'Swanlee' (again another way of naming this track). Syd Barrett probably did some vocal overdubs. Session Seven.

1968 06 27 – 'Swanlee', 'Late Night', 'Golden Hair'. Tape transfers and possible (vocal) overdubs. This is a bit of a mystery session as the archives of EMI aren't clear what really happened. Session Eight.

1968 08 20 – 'Swan Lee', 'Late Nights', 'Golden Hair', 'Clowns & Jugglers'. First appearance of the track that would later be named Octopus. Session Nine.

Session nine is where Peter Jenner decided to pull the plug, and unless you believe in the conspiracy theory that Jenner was a spy for the Pink Floyd camp, there must have been a valid reason for it.

So there we have it, the nine chaotic Madcap sessions of the year 1968. Of course it is clear where the six sessions explanation comes from, if one omits the second session where Barrett probably never cared to show up and some tape transfer and overdub sessions you have successfully diminished nine sessions into six.

It all is a matter of interpretation: at one side you have those who argue that Barrett recorded a nice collection of great dance songs in only six sessions, at the other side you have those (including producer, manager and personal friend Peter Jenner) who claim that nine sessions weren't enough to produce three decent demos. As always the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

So the six session myth, as noted down by Allan Jones in the Uncut Pink Floyd 'Ultimate Music Guide' might not be so far off the truth.

Storm shot by Mick during the TML photo shoot.
Storm shot by Mick during the TML photo shoot.

Camera Kids

Another misty myth hangs around the cover shoot of the album. Allan Jones bluntly states, more out of ignorance, I presume, than of knowledge, that Mick Rock was responsible for the cover. The official version goes that the pictures, used for the cover, were taken by Storm Thorgerson, who happened to be at the same place at the same time (as the picture at the left side proves). The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit has already spilled lots of bits and bytes about The Madcap Laughs photo sessions (in plural), so we won't go further into that.

Iggy 'Eskimo' Rose revealed to Mark Blake that other shots were taken as well:

I don't think Storm and Mick were very impressed by them. If you've ever seen the cover of the Rod Stewart album, Blondes Have More Fun, they were a bit like that... Of me and Syd. There were others of me and Syd, as well, which remind me of the picture of John and Yoko [on Two Virgins] which came out later. I'd love to see those pictures now. (Taken from: The Strange Tale Of Iggy The Eskimo Pt. 2)

Nowadays it is not that certain any more if these shots were taken by Storm Thorgerson or by Mick Rock. There might even have been a third photographer at play. It seems that the flat of Syd Barrett was crowded with people that day and that they all brought a camera. Unfortunately the naughty Syd & Iggy pictures seem to have disappeared...

Maybe it was because there was too much frontal. Poor Syd, I remember getting carried away, pulling and pushing him about, getting astride him. He was in fits of laughter....which of course is not what they [the photographers] where after. (Iggy Rose, 30 May 2011.)

Riding the Octopus

Allan Jones is of course not a Barrett anorak like yours truly (and most of the readers of this blog) and thus he has to confide upon other anoraky people. So he probably doesn't see any harm in the following quote:

Rob Chapman's close reading of the remarkable 'Octopus', for example, revealed the craft of which Syd was still capable. The song's cleverly accumulated lyrics drew on diverse literary sources, folklore, nursery rhymes, and the hallucinatory vernacular of dream states to create a wholly realised, enraptured universe, halcyon and unique. (p. 35)

This is all true and very beautifully written, but only – and this brings us back to the starting point of this article – it was Paul Belbin's essay (compiled with the help of a dozen of contributors) that revealed the Octopus' hidden lyrics to begin with and that roughly five years before Chapman's Irregular Head biography. No wonder that Julian Palacios, a Syd Barrett biographer in his own right, calls it the Rosetta stone for decoding the writing inspirations for one of Syd Barrett's most beloved songs.

But all in all Uncut's 'The Ultimate Music Guide' to Pink Floyd seems to be an essential (and rather cheap, only £5.99) overview of the band and its records and I like all the articles that I've read so far. I think it's a gem and a keeper.

The Church wishes to thank: Paul Belbin, Mark Blake, Julian Palacios and the wandering anonymous Pink Floyd lover from the Embassy of God. Top picture: variation on a theme from The Kitten Covers.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above)
Belbin, Paul: Untangling the Octopus v2, 2006. PDF version, hosted at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.
Belbin, Paul & Palacios, Julian: Untangling the Octopus v3, 2009, hosted at the Syd Barrett Research Society (forum no longer active).
Update April 2015: same article hosted at Late Night.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 126-138.


2011-07-02

AnthropoLSD

Anthropologie du Rock Psychédelique Anglais
Anthropologie du Rock Psychédelique Anglais, Alain Pire.

Let me start this review with a quote at the end of 'Anthropologie du Rock Psychédelique Anglais', a title that is so universal that I don't have to translate it into English, unless for some Americans, I guess. Alain Pire quotes Simon Frith who wrote in 1978:

The rock audience is not a passive mass, consuming records like cornflakes, but an active community, making music into a symbol of solidarity and an inspiration for action.

Obviously this quote should be branded on the bodies of record company executives all over the world, especially those that gave us the music of Britney Spears and other singing cattle, and who think that pop music is something repetitive, uninspired and slick (but alas not Slick as Surrealistic Pillow Grace once was). But this post seems to be turning psychedelic before it has even started, so I'll wait a bit until that sugar cube wears off a bit.

Jenny Spires.
Jenny Spires.

Anthropology of English Psychedelic Rock

Alain Pire is a Belgian musician whom I may have caught about 30 years ago when he was a member of the Jo Lemaire & Flouze band, although he won't probably remember that gig in the Stella Artois Feestzaal in Louvain anymore. Neither do I, by the way, I only have a slight recollection that I may have watched that band through a beer enhanced haze.

It was Jenny Spires who pointed me to him, noting that I would perhaps be interested in his (French) study of English psychedelic rock. It is weird that a member of the Sixties underground Cambridge mafia, a term coined by David Gilmour if my memory is correct, had to point me to a book written by a compatriot. The gap between the Belgian French and Dutch community is so deep and our internal relations are so troubled that we don't know any more what the other community is up to, even on a cultural level.

In the Sixties we would have called this divine intervention but I thank social networking services for bringing this study into my attention.

Anthropology of English Psychedelic Rock is based upon Alain Pire's doctoral dissertation for the University of Liège in 2009, counts roughly 800 pages and is divided into 4 parts:

English psychedelic music
Analysis of British psychedelic songs
British counter-culture
Psychedelic drugs

Functional psychedelic nude.
Functional psychedelic nude.

English psychedelic music

Paradoxically the subject of the book is its biggest weakness. Defining psychedelic music is like describing a butterfly's flight. We all know instinctively how psychedelic music sounds, but it is nearly impossible to write down its genetic formula on a piece of paper.

It is extremely complex to give a definition of a musical genre that is so protean as psychedelic rock. (p. 92)

Basically Alain Pire, or Dr. Alain Pire for you, doesn't get any further than stating that psychedelic music is music that simulates or evokes psychedelic sensations. It's a bit like saying that the girl above is nude because she has no clothes on.

As vague as the above definition is, psychedelic music does have some common points. It uses technical novelties that had only recently been introduced in the record studios and that in some cases were invented on the spot by sound engineers at the demand of the musicians.

One of these psychedelic sound effects is the so-called phasing (or flanging) that was already invented in 1941 by Les Paul but was largely ignored for nearly 25 years until it reappeared briefly on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The first 'full' utilisation of this effect can be witnessed on the Small Faces' Itchycoo Park (1967).

Another psychedelic brand mark is the reverse tape effect or backmasking. The legend goes that John Lennon, under the influence of cannabis, 'invented' the effect by listening to a tape that had not be rewound, but sound modifications and (reverse) tape loops had already been used in avant-garde music circles since the early fifties. Those same avant-garde musicians had also experimented with musique concrète, using acousmatic sound as a compositional resource, and with tape speed effects but, once again, these techniques were made popular by psychedelic rock bands in the Sixties, notably The Beatles who seemed to be one step ahead of all the others.

It is due to George Harrison that Indian instruments invaded psychedelia as well, first used in Norwegian Wood and later picked up and copied by The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Pretty Things, Donovan and others. I won't give the other characteristic instruments of psychedelic music here, otherwise there would be no reason to buy the book, but I'll gladly make an exception for the psychedelic instrumental gimmick par excellence: the mellotron.

The basics of this instrument was already around since the late forties, but once again, and I'm starting to sound like a stuck vinyl record here, it was re-discovered by English psychedelia. Graham Bond may have been the first to record it on Baby Can It Be True (1965), but its full potential was used by The Beatles and The Moody Blues who made it their signature instrument. For a while it was even nicknamed a Pindertron, after the keyboards player of that band.

Love, peace, understanding and lots of pot
Love, peace, understanding and lots of pot.

Music Analysis

It took me a couple of months to finish Anthropology of English Psychedelic Rock and that is due to the second part where the author analyses 109 psychedelic songs. I had the chance to listen to the songs on my iPod while reading the book and that is of course the ideal way to benefit of the detailed descriptions.

Starting with Shapes of Things (Yardbirds, 1965) and ending with Cream's I'm so glad (1969) it describes the four heyday years of psychedelia. Influental bands and their albums get extra attention and a short biography: The Beatles (obviously), but also The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Pretty Things, The Soft Machine and Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd.

It struck me, quite pleasantly, that Pire quotes Julian Palacios' Lost In The Woods on page 251, intriguingly not in the Pink Floyd, but in the Sergeant Pepper section, an album that – according to both Pire and Palacios - started the end of the psychedelic era.

This strange psychedelic movement, blossoming quickly in an explosive flash of colour, already seemed to be withering slightly. Its momentum was to be felt everywhere in the world, but the original Big Bang, so to speak, was nearing an end.

Of course Pire can't write detailed biographies about every band, that isn't the purpose of his work, but the anoraky nitpicker in me came across some mistakes that could have been weeded out by a better editor or proofreader. Some examples:

The influence of science fiction stories will be found later in the lyrics of 'Interstellar overdrive' or 'Astronomy Domine'. (p. 289)

I agree with Astronomy, but I have some difficulties believing that the lyrics of Interstellar Overdrive find their origins in a science fiction story as it is... an instrumental. Alain Pire knows bloody well that the track contains no lyrics as he gets quite lyrical about the piece later on:

This track is more than a piece of music: it is the testimony of an era, a musical spokesman for a generation. When the band was in a good shape its open structure symbolised, on its own merits, the term Psychedelic Music. (p. 369)

Another mistake that slipped through is this one:

Duggie Fields, painter and friend of Syd Barrett at that time, still lives at 101 Cromwell Road (p. 293).

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit has dedicated enough space to Syd's (and Duggie's) apartment, located at Wetherby Mansions, Earls Court Square. Of course Duggie lived at 101 Cromwell Road before and that is probably were the error comes from.

During the year 1968, Barrett recorded his first solo album: The Madcap Laughs, with the help from David Gilmour and Waters... (p. 340)

Also this is only part of the truth, Syd Barrett recorded some demos in 1968, but the sessions were abandoned after Peter Jenner agreed they were 'chaos'. In April 1969, perhaps thanks to the the good influence of Iggy, Syd found himself fit enough to start with the real recordings for his first album.

But like I said, nitpicking is unfortunately enough the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit's core business and the few mistakes certainly don't take away the merits of this study. (But I would have a stiff talk with Gérard Nguyen 'secrétariat de rédaction et mise en page' if I were you, Alain, there are still too many printing errors in this release.)

Alain Pire doesn't only describe the psychedelic big shots but also dedicates some space to bands like Tintern Abbey, who only issued one single in their entire career or the almost forgotten band Blossom Toes. Butterfly flights indeed.

Anthem of the sun
Anthem of the sun.

Echoes

Throughout the book Alain Pire has the funny habit of first fully explaining a quote that he has found in an extensive bibliography or from interviews taken by himself, then followed by the quote itself and thus merely repeating the previous.

I can understand that a doctoral thesis must be large and that some professors at the University of Liège may be a bit slow to understand but printed in a book this makes you feel like you are standing on top of echo mountain. (Of course it could be that he uses this gimmick as the written equivalent of the psychedelic tape loop trick.)

Even then, by deleting these double entries Alain Pire could at least have saved 20 pages, handy for an index that is now missing.

It must be a second millennium thing that scholars don't put indexes any more in their books. Alain Pire's study literally cites hundreds of people, but the reader is unable to find these back once you have closed the book. That's a pity. Especially as I like to borrow these things myself for my various web doodles. Perhaps it is another way of saying, look it up yourself, buddy.

(I suddenly realise that if I ever publish a Pink Floyd inspired book the people that I have duly pissed of in my blog reviews will jump on my back as a horde of hungry dogs.)

Meditating hippie
Meditating hippie.

Counter Culture

The third part of the study, a description of the London Counter Culture, is a book in its own right.

Of course there isn't much new you can tell about the underground. Jonathon Green wrote perhaps the ultimate counter culture bible with Days In The Life: Voices from the English Underground 1961-71 and its alter ego All Dressed Up: The Sixties and the Counterculture and recently Barry Miles has added a sequel to his In the Sixties book, London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945.

But Alain Pire puts down some cleverly made points here and there, such as the following remark about the decline of the traditional British values in the Sixties:

Family, religion, marriage, faithfulness get beaten in the face and other values like sexual liberation, hedonism and alternative spiritualism emerge. These new values embrace individualism like the growing importance of one's appearance, but also, and paradoxically, new forms of group participation like the ritual passing of a joint, the sharing of sexual partners and living in communes. (p. 538)

Of course the Sixties counter culture could only thrive under the favourable economical and cultural circumstances of that period.

Counter culture can only live a parasitic life, meaning that it carries, right from its start, the seeds of its own failure. (p. 563)

Basically the classless society of Swinging London was a (very small) mixture of (rock) stars, young aristocrats and middle class youth who had the financial means (or their parent's support) to live outside the square world.

Sundancing
Sundancing.

Psychedelic drugs

One of the many instruments that helped creating psychedelic music was a wonder drug called LSD. Alain Pire tries hard to give an unbiased, albeit slightly favourable, opinion about the drug that was, almost from one day till the other, reviled by the American and British governments.

LSD has been tested as a medicine or therapy by several scientific investigators but these experiments had to be stopped, despite the fact that most clinical test gave positive results, especially with proper professional accompaniment.

Of course LSD also had its negative sides, even more when people started to use it as a leisure drug, Pire notes about Barrett:

If LSD helped Syd in the beginning to reveal his genius as a composer, it became a real brake for his creativity and progressively sucked away his writing potential. (p. 324)

Not that the dangers of LSD were not known. Michael Hollingshead, one of the early LSD researchers, accidentally administered himself a massive dose of the drug. After that event he got the constant impression of living in a no man's land, partially in reality and partially in the twilight world and at one point he asked Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary for help.

While LSD seems to be the ideal method to open certain doors of perception it can turn into a living nightmare if these doors refuse to shut again, leaving its victim behind like a character from an Arthur Machen story. I may not think if this is what really happened to Syd Barrett.

Mudbaths: good for the skin!
Mudbaths: natural skin care.

Conclusion

The psychedelic era and its music is still greatly remembered and loved. It mainly arrived because several puzzle pieces, randomly thrown in the air, landed in such a way that they formed a nice picture.

Alain Pire divides these puzzle pieces into two parts: the pedestal and the components.

The pedestal of the psychedelic era was a thriving economic situation and a socio-cultural context that was open for change. George Harrison called the Sixties a period of 'mini renaissance'. Alain Pire rightfully mentions the art schools that were a pool of inspiration and experiment. The list of those who attended art school is long: Chris Dreja, Dick Taylor, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, Iggy Rose, Jimmy Page, John Lennon, John Whitney, Keith Relf, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Phil May, Ray Davies, Robert Wyatt, Roger Chapman, Roy Wood and Syd Barrett.

Three extra components were the psychedelic icing on the cake:
First: extremely talented musicians suddenly came out in the open;
Second: psychedelic drugs opened doors of (musical) imagination and experiment;
Third: technical wizardry made it possible to find new ways to deal with sound.

But all this couldn't have happened without the support of a fifth pillar: the public. Without a public open for change and experiment the psychedelic movement would have stayed a small avant-garde movement unknown to the outside world.

Let me end with a quote taken from the introduction by Barry Miles:

Anthropology of English Psychedelic Rock is the most complete history of that period's music that I have ever read. The author has to be complimented for his erudition and I heartily recommend his book to anybody who wants a profound explication of what really happened during the Swinging Sixties. (p. 9)

I couldn't say it better. Anthropologie du Rock Psychédelique Anglais is a damn well read and urgently needs to be translated into English.

Pire Alain, Anthropologie du Rock Psychédelique Anglais, Camion Blanc, Rosières en Haye, 2011. 815 pages, foreword by Barry Miles. 38 Euros. (Link)

The Church wishes to thank: Alain Pire, Jenny Spires.


Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Palacios, Julian: Lost In The Woods, Boxtree, London, 1998, p. 153.
Image 2: © Jenny Spires. Special effect by Felix Atagong.
Images 3 to 8: © Glastonbury Fayre (1972). Special effects by Felix Atagong.
All excerpts from the Anthropology book have been translated from French into English by Felix Atagong, who is the only person to blame if they sound dodgy.


2011-12-02

Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd.

Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd
Money, it's a gas!
Money, it's a gas!

Obviously Felix Atagong returned the next afternoon to that safe heaven that is The Anchor for his alcoholic needs.
"I am still pissed off at you, Alex Fagoting", he snarled, "for throwing me out last night."
"Here's a Guinness on the house.", I lied, pretending I would not note it down on his bill. "Simply get pissed instead." He laughed and as if nothing had happened he just continued his story after his first gulp of the day.

Rule #1: a good barkeeper always listens to his customer, but in this case I was humming along while Al Stewart crooned on the background.

"There is this big ambiguity about the Floyd.", Felix started, "In the early seventies they were aspiring leftist rock stars, playing the French communist (and frankly Stalinist) party parties. But at the same time there are these legendary stories about their royalties' catfights. Waters always nagging and later getting 50 percent for his sixth grade pubertal poetry alone and even then whining about his part for the composition as well. In the theoretical (and highly improbable) case that all four members would get even shares this benefited Waters with 62 and a half percent with the others only earning 12 and a half percent each. Not bad for a rock star who bragged in the press about his social housing projects."

"In reality poor Mason only got the crumpets and even these were later regretted by the so-called socialist activist who Roger pretended he was. One could paraphrase George Orwell here: 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.' Waters would later beg, borrow or steal Orwell's socialist allegory for the Animals album, not realising the ironic fact that by then he had become the upper-pig of the band."

"We all know the story how Clare Torry was only paid 30£ for her contribution on The Great Gig In The Sky, something that would give her headaches for years to come. And Alan Parsons was only getting his EMI salary for his tremendous work on (The) Dark Side Of The Moon, much to his dismay. Even after Pink Floyd had become a financial dinosaur, with an annual turnover that would make some African countries jealous, they were too greedy to give a free copy of the album to the kids singing on Another Brick In The Wall, until the press got hold of it."

Brothers in cash
Brothers in cash.

"Excusez-moi, Felix.", I said, "But I see some pretty girls who want my attention." On Wednesday afternoon the Barrett Ladies Club meets at The Anchor. First they squabble about the pancakes they are going to order and will argue over the fact that they (the pancakes, not the women... yet) have not been sufficiently soaked in Grand Marnier. After a while the grannies start discussing about the exact type of colour Syd Barrett's floor boards were painted in, a somewhat pointless discussion if you ask me, as in 42 years of time they still haven't reached a consensus. You can only join the Barrett Ladies Club if you know what special birthmark Syd Barrett had and on what buttock it could be found, leaving out all the groovy chicks who had just been passing by for some quick plating...

After the ladies had been supplied with the food and drink (coffee and a thimbleful of eggnog) I returned to the bar where Felix had been contemplating his miserable life in silence. With a little luck he would have continued his inner monologue and not take off from where I had left him.

Nick Mason miniature car
Nick Mason miniature car.

"Since Nick Mason admitted he was officially in the recycling business I have the utmost respect for him.", Atagong orated. "Even when he tries to sell miniature cars with his signature on. I love his no-nonsense style. While David 'the sound' and Roger 'the genius' are continually trying to convince the public that they and they alone are Pink Floyd Nick gets in 'with a wit drier than an AA clinic' (to quote novelist Kathy Lette). But although Gilmour and Waters are like fire and water... they sound unexpectedly in perfect unison when it comes to grab into the fan's pockets. I suppose that Gilmour is a bit short of cash now that his stepson has been sentenced to pick up the leftover soap in a British prison. And Waters has just married again for the fourth time and Viagra comes expensive nowadays."

I gave a wry smile but Felix couldn't be stopped.

"Even 37 years after the facts Waters and Gilmour try to be politically correct and claim they gave the 1974 Gini-money to charity, but Mason just adds: 'We shelved the cash, point.' Mason also agrees that this is probably the last time in history that they will be able to sell hardware to the fans (meaning CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray disks) rather than downloadable bits and bytes. And by selling these ridiculously expensive collector's boxes record companies and artists have found a new way of income. Pink Floyd could've taken an example to Elvis Costello who openly asks his fans not to buy his latest record at such a ridiculous price..."

"What's the problem then with these Immersion boxes", I asked, "apart from the price?"

"They are a fucking disgrace!", shouted Atagong, so loud that one of the Barrett Gang Bang girls nearly choked on a profiterole. "Let's start with Dark Side Of The Moon, shall we? How many CD-reissues of that album have we already had? Who knows? Four, five? And all of them have been remastered. Are we talking here about one of the best rock albums of all times or does EMI considers Dark Side Of The Moon a new brand of washing powder? An ameliorated version every few years to keep on washing their dirty laundry whiter than white? Does it mean that the earlier versions were all rubbish if the Floyd annex EMI feel the need to keep on going remastering them? On top of that the 6 disks in the Moon-box are highly repetitive...."

"That is quite obvious.", I retaliated, "It's all about the Dark Side, isn't it?" Felix pointed his finger at a few millimetres from my nose.
"Don't try to be a smart-ass, lad.", he threatened. "That is not what I mean." He looked for and unfortunately found a paper inside his jacket. "I have it all written down for you.", he sycophantically whispered.

Pigs - three different ones

"The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion set has a DVD and a Blu-ray with multi-channel audio mixes of the album. The 1973 quad mix can be found in 448 kbps, 640 kbps and a 96kHZ/24bit version. If you ask me that is three times the same goody good bullshit. Also the 5.1 surround mix is three times in the box. The Wish You Were Here Immersion set has one disk less than the Dark Side box but EMI still found it necessary to keep going on with their continuous repetition: also here the quad and 5.1 mixes have been inserted three times. But that is not all. For a set that costs the fan an arm and a leg they have been scandalously designed, packed and transported."

Dislocated Immersion CDs.
Dislocated Immersion CDs.

The Great Rock'N Roll Swindle

"Several buyers noticed that their disks contained fingerprints although the boxes arrived sealed. I don't give a fuck if EMI uses Korean child-slaves to pack these items but for 120 Euro a piece I would like them to have fat-free fingers. My Immersion boxes arrived with the disks at the bottom dislodged and with scratches that must have arrived somewhere during transport."

"The novelty extras are quite tacky. A separate envelope with a facsimile of a Pink Floyd gig entrance card is something you might pay 50 cents for, but not a lot more. And what to think of the marbles, the scarf and the carton toasters in each box... it feels cheap but alas your wallet reveals it isn't."

"I would like to know who is the EMI fuckwit who decided to package the Dark Side Of The Moon marbles separately in bubble-wrap, but agreed to have the disks attached in such a flimsy way that at the lightest shock they start to travel on their own. Did you understand the music, EMI, or was it all in vain? I know of one customer who had the guts to have 6 Immersion boxes opened in the store before he found one with undamaged disks!"

We're only in it for the money

"And it isn't finished yet. The encrypted Blu-ray disks refuse to play on most PCs. There seems to be a valid technical reason for that, driver issues and so on, but in my opinion EMI deliberately issued a disk that can only be played on stand-alone players, attached to a TV-set. If other companies can manufacture Blu-rays that play faultless on a PC, why not EMI?"

"On top of that the Wish You Were Here Blu-ray, in most European boxes, has several audible glitches in the 5.1 Surround Mix at the end of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and on other tracks as well. At 120 Euro a box these sets are clearly a rip-off, but even at that price EMI fails to provide us with unscratched and undamaged disks. The only question that one can ask is indeed:
Why Pink Floyd?
Why EMI?
For fuck sake, why?"

Lucky for me at that moment one of the Barrett ladies started strangling another one so I had an excuse to leave Felix behind in his misanthropic misery.


(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)
The Anchor wishes to thank all people on the Immersion threads at Yeeshkul:
Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Set problems
WYWH Immersion set problems

Vrooomuk's Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here Immersion Box Set Unboxing 'this is disgraceful'... (Immersion box picture taken from this video).
Yeeshkul's (very) technical guide for playing the Blu-ray Immersion disks on a non-compatible PC-Blu-ray player: How to play your new blu-ray TDSOTM disc!

Dark Side of The Moon fantasy (top picture), based upon a desktop image from an unknown fan.

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.


2012-03-02

The Sixties Unplugged

The Sixties Unplugged
The Sixties Unplugged by Gerard De Groot.

What a wonderful decade the sixties were. A small group of students at both sides of the Atlantic changed the world forever, by making weird music, weird posters and even weirder sex, and since then we live in continuous paradise. Of course this is utterly bollocks but for the bulk of I Remember the Sixties-books this is the general atmosphere they exhale. For the business hippies, who have made successful careers out of the sixties by rehashing pink coloured memories in their coffee table books, the legend has become reality, but they are probably just a minority. The sixties had a silent majority, in- and outside the Underground, that will never be heard.

In 1988 Jonathon Green compiled an oral history of the sixties titled: Days In The Life: Voices from the English Underground 1961-71. In it a constellation of Underground self-proclaimed heroes repeated the clockwork adagio that the sixties were fantastic, but this book was the first, for me at least, that contained some less triumphant testimonies as well. Nicola Lane, who by her own account 'did little other than sit in a corner, roll joints and nod when required' had a stab at the sexual morals of the period in general. Susan Crane (better known as Sue Miles) confirmed that the Beat movement was very sexist towards women, invariably called chicks, and when her husband Barry Miles had those very important International Times meetings her job was 'to make the tea and the sandwiches' and to leave the room 'whenever they were going to actually take decisions'. Which she did.

Another International Times-founder Jim Haynes, by definition a messiah of the Underground, was described by Cheryll Park, then a 19-year old coming from the North of England, as a sexual pervert who wanted her to end up in his bed with six other women. “I'd love to meet Haynes again, now that he's a shrivelled-up old man, and humiliate him in the way he humiliated me.”, she snapped. Be it Jim Haynes, Julian Assange or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, some men will never ever change.

In The Sixties Unplugged, Gerard De Groot repeats the above testimonies of Nicola Lane, Sue Miles and Cheryll Park. The book already appeared in 2008, but I was unaware of it until now. A few copies ended up in the sales bin of a local bookshop and that is how I got hold of it. I hesitated first as the book, at first glance, seemed to be a mere recollection of the counter-culture in America, but browsing through the contents I saw that the author also had things to add about Biafra, China, Congo, France, Germany, Great-Britain, Holland, Indonesia, Vietnam and even our closest extra-terrestrial neighbour, the Moon.

Free Speech movement at Berkeley
Free Speech movement at Berkeley.

Ronnie takes a trip

The Sixties Unplugged is a decade's compendium in 67 short essays and rather than repeating what good things came out of it, it attempts to describe where we went wrong. The book is sceptical, ironical and cynical but also utterly readable, vivid and funny at places. What could have been lying on your stomach as a gloomy brick becomes the proverbial box of chocolates, especially thanks to the many unexpected anecdotes that lighten it up. De Groot constantly dips his pen in a vitriolic inkpot (does anybody in the 21st century understand this?) and like a pigeon flying over an open air statue exhibition he has plenty of choice where to launch his droppings.

I do have the impression that De Groot has more fun in ridiculing the liberal caste than the conservative one, but I could be wrong as we have been taught that the sixties were generally progressive anyway. It is true that lots of noise was coming out of progressive circles... in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris or London... but De Groot also notes that 20 miles outside the city or university centres life went on its usual conservative way. As a matter of fact, while the progressive thinkers were believing that they were going to change the world by smoking pot and listening to Hendrix guitar solos the conservative movement was silently preparing its coup with repercussions that are still visible today.

But some changes even the conservatives didn't see coming. A bit like Rick Santorum now, a certain Ronald Reagan was first laughed away by his fellow republicans and called 'a flagrant example of miscasting'. The man didn't know anything about politics, they quipped and this was probably true, but that was precisely Reagan's strength. He started his career by saying that he wasn't a politician but a simple citizen who understood the needs of the common Californian. While his opponents, republicans and democrats alike, were sneering at him from their élite business millionaire clubs, smoking expensive cigars and showing general disdain for their voters, Reagan proved that the time was ripe for popular conservatism, based on easy to digest one-liners (“One of the great problems of economics is unemployment.”).

To get elected in 1966 Reagan needed to convince over a million of democrat voters to cross over to his side and paradoxically enough one of the issues that helped him to achieve that were... the hippies. Berkeley had a history of tumultuous student uprisings (free speech movement, Vietnam war protest & People's Park) that had infested other Californian universities as well. Reagan only needed a one-liner to describe those radicals: “His hair was cut like Tarzan, and he acted like Jane, and he smelled like Cheetah.”

Those beatniks at Berkeley University thought they were changing the world, and they did indeed, but not as they intended. Ronald Reagan got elected in California... This was the start of a brilliant political career and may have been the pivotal point turning the world into an arena of conservative capitalism...

Lumumba arrested
Patrice Lumumba arrested.

There's a killer on the road

Did anybody notice dead bankers hanging on trees, lynched by an angry mob lately? I don't think so. But we did see poor, unemployed and homeless people, frozen to death this winter, because this crisis – created out of greed – has hit them hard. Jean-Luc Dehaene, ex-prime minister of Belgium and representative of the Christian Labourers Union, will receive a tax-free bonus of 3.26 million Euro (4.35 million dollars) this year. He is the man who led the Dexia bank to its bankruptcy, well knowing that the Belgian government would be obliged to intervene. The Belgian caution for the Dexia 'bad bank' is 15% of our BNP, so if the holding goes into liquidation, a scenario that is not improbable, all Belgians will face a general tax increase and cutbacks on all social programs...

Speaking about Belgium, my little country gets a mention in Gerard De Groot's book as well. Congo, once the sadistic playground of a Belgian king who thought that cutting off hands was a pleasant pastime, got independent in 1960. When its first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, had the guts to insult the Belgian king on Congo's independence day this was nothing less than an invitation to murder.

Not that the Belgians were playing solo, on a White House meeting in August 1960 president Dwight D. Eisenhower vaguely proposed to assassinate Lumumba and CIA director Allen Dulles, who described Lumumba as a mad dog who needed to be put down, immediately gave orders to his secret agents to come up with a cunning plan.

While the CIA was thinking of an all-american-superhero sophisticated way to get a poisoned toothbrush over to Congo and hand it over to the prime minister the Belgians had a much simpler idea. Under mild Belgian pressure Lumumba was arrested, ceremonially and perpetually beaten and tortured and finally shot through the head while four Belgian officials were looking, mildly amused, from a few yards distance. Incidentally, the prime minister of Belgium who was aware of this all, Gaston Eyskens, belonged to the same Christian party as Jean-Luc Dehaene now, but this is of course just a silly coincidence.

Although Gerard De Groot obviously agrees that this was an act of 'cynical criminality' he refuses to believe in the Lumumba myth, that is as big in Africa now as the Che Guevara-myth in the sixties. De Groot quips Lumumba would have been assassinated anyway and if not, he dryly adds, the Prime Minister would probably have grown into a typical African corrupt dictator just like his spiritual heroes Nkrumah, Nyerere or Kenyatta.

Forgive me Chairman Mao.
Forgive me, Chairman Mao.

Love, peace & happiness

And these are just two of the 67 essays in this book. The general rule is that De Groot shows almost no respect for anybody (with some notable exceptions here and there) although there is of course not always reason for respect in his stories.

Biafra had an outburst of ethnic and political violence from 1966 to 1970 causing one to two million deaths, most of starvation. This happened while the 'civilised' world was dutifully monitoring the situation and organising UN congresses.

China had a few uprisings in the mid sixties. In 1968 communist government troops killed 200 thousand rebels in the Guanxi province, although the term rebel could mean women, children, babies or someone wearing glasses or the wrong clothes. One of the weirder, perhaps tribe related, rituals in Guanxi was to eat the enemy and over 3000 cannibalistic acts in the name of communism have been documented. Called an orgy of violence by Gerard De Groot the Cultural Revolution would make 2.8 million victims, although these numbers greatly vary from source to source. The amount of people persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, tortured or raped out of love for the Great Helmsman is estimated to at least a tenfold of the previous number.

That not all political violence had a communist signature was proven in Indonesia. In September 1965 and the months to follow between 500 thousand and one million 'communist' sympathisers were killed in Indonesia, with just a little help of the intelligence services of Great Britain and the USA. Joseph Lazarsky, deputy station CIA chief in Jakarta, revealed that the CIA had made a top 5000 hit-list to help the government troops. The list was crossed off as enemies were liquidated and as an extra bonus president Suharto received lucrative contracts with American Express, British American Tobacco, British Leyland, General Motors, Goodyear, ICI, Siemens and US Steel...

The shameful lesson of this book is that in 30 or 40 years time, absolutely nothing has changed in this world, except perhaps for the fact that in Syria people now have smartphones and can put music in their ears to stop hearing the falling bombs.

Free love, acid not
Free love, acid not.

Parallel lines

One review of the book I found on the net says that Sixties Unplugged often follows very familiar lines.

Although he claims that his work is 'more global than any book previously produced', it is dominated by American characters and events, most of which have been written about dozens of times before. His selection policy is nothing if not orthodox, so his opening sections cover such well-worn topics as the origins of the transistor, the invention of the Pill and the poetry of the Beats. Later, we read about the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the expansion of the Vietnam War, the development of the hippy movement and the Civil Rights marches. The supporting cast is the usual mixture of hairy protesters and senior politicians, above all Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

There is some truth in that, and when Gerard De Groot hits the ground I am a bit familiar with, namely the British psychedelic scene, all he can come up with are testimonies from a book that appeared twenty years ago. Sometimes he even tries too hard to make a point. I don't think that using British Underground quotes to add value to an American situation is really deontological. And there is a certain shock-jock aspect present as well, as the chapter 'Summer Of Rape', amongst others, shows:

Rape was popular in the Summer of love. Rape was easy because there were so many naïve young girls separated from parental protection.

or, quoting some juicy sixties newspaper article...

A young long-haired girl stripped and danced in the warm rain... (…) Her friends stood by while a dozen young men raped her in an animal frenzy.

But it needs to be said that the sensational stories and its many anecdotes make this book a real page-turner. Gerard De Groot likes to divulge that every important man has his smaller side. Martin Luther King, for instance, not only had a dream but also a busload of extramarital affairs and probably that is one of the few things he had in common with JFK. If sex oozes from the pages, it is because the sixties had a sexual revolution and revolutions not only tend to liberate but often lead to an aftermath of violence as well. One hippie leader literally said that women needed breaking like a horse before entering his commune (I wonder how he could get any female followers) and the average discours érotique of the Black Panthers Party then wasn't really different from gangsta-rap today.

Rupert Bear, exposed
Rupert Bear, exposed (Oz magazine).

The Hole in the Ozone Layer

There aren't a lot of women in the book, and when there are they don't always like to be reminded of the sixties. Bernardine Dohrn's 1969 eulogy to Charles Manson, for instance, can't be found on her CV at the Northwestern University School of Law and neither is the fact that she once was one of the most wanted terrorists of the United States. But of course that is nothing to be proud of, The Weathermen only succeeded in blowing their own members to pieces rather than turning America into a communist republic.

In September 1967 hundreds of New York Radical Women assembled before the Miss America contest in Atlantic City. They massively removed their bras, much to the enjoyment of the watching crowd, threw those in a dustbin and set the contents on fire. Unfortunately, this is one of the sixties feminist myths that is just that, a myth. The truth was slightly different. About twenty protesters threw some symbolic girlie stuff in a trashcan: girdles, bras, makeup, curlers, mascara, shoes... and apparently they also crowned a sheep as Miss America, but that was all that happened.

A reporter however called it bra-burning and from then on the legend mushroomed until the point was reached that feminists really started to believe in burning bras or protesting topless, a tradition that happily lingers on till today, but now you will call me a male chauvinist pig probably.

According to The Sixties Unplugged the decade ended in 1971 with the obscenity trial of Oz. One of the questions was if a bawdy cartoon of Rupert Bear (made by a fifteen years old) was obscene or not. The judges decided it was but nobody really cared any more. The world had changed, only the judges didn't know it yet.

Despite some flaws this is a very interesting book indeed. Even with 67 chapters and almost as many topics it gives you something to chew on and makes you start thinking. Lucky we have Wikipedia nowadays, to further dig into those subjects one really digs... but what did the sixties bring into our world then, other than perpetual paradise... Gerard De Groot:

The decade brought flowers, music, love and good times. It also brought hatred, murder, greed, dangerous drugs, needless deaths, ethnic cleansing, neocolonialist exploitation, soundbite politics, sensationalism, a warped sense of equality, a bizarre notion of freedom, the decline of liberalism, and the end of innocence.

Groovy man, really groovy...


Sources (other than the above internet links):
De Groot, Gerard: The Sixties Unplugged, Pan Macmillan, London, 2009.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 60, 119, 418-419, 448 (first edition: 1988).


2012-06-29

Men On The Border: full of guitars and no dust...

alien coaster from DSOTM
Alien coaster, from The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion set.

Summer time has come and this means it is time to take the plastic chairs and table into the garden and have an afternoon drink. The main problem always is: where are the coasters to put the glasses on? Surely you didn't pay 120 Euros for a Dark Side of the Moon Immersion box set to ruin its cheap (but expensive) content by putting a glass of Mojito on top of those exclusive carton collector's coasters, did you?

Thank god there is Mojo's Return to the Dark Side of The Moon - Wish You Were Here Again from a couple of months ago. I you have ever listened to it then you certainly would wish you were over there, praising that nobody can hear crap in a vacuum. My Wall Re-Built albums are still shrink-wrapped and will probably stay like that until eternity or till I finally have the nerve to make the final cut.

The Madcap Laughs Again treatment from 2010 was slightly better, probably because nobody tried to make too much of a fool out of the mad cat, but nevertheless I only gave the album a 4 out of 10 score. It does contain some interesting versions though, like Marc Almond's Late Night that has grown on me like a wart on a witches nose.

But for most of those covermount disks the only slightly ecological way to give them a purpose in life is to recycle them as beverage coasters. By the way, Mojo should realize that these CDs can be counter-productive as well. A while ago I saw the issue with Pet Sounds Revisited and because I didn't want to spoil my good mood I simply turned my back, deciding not to buy it. No way I was going to listen to the massacre of one of the finest albums in the world.

This just to say I am slightly grumpy when it comes to these tribute albums. But sometimes there are exceptions, like...

Men On The Border
Men On The Border.

Men On The Border

Swedish Men On The Border, so learns us the blurb, started as a project inspired by the music and art of Roger Keith ”Syd” Barrett. The power duo consists of Göran Nyström and Phil Etheridge and the result is Shine!, a CD of interpretations of songs by Syd Barrett.

And what interpretations they are, rather than dumbfoundedly mimicking Roger Keith they flavour their interpretations with power chords, contemporary sounds, odd humour and slightly hidden musical references.

I have a soft spot for track number 5 that starts as a Joy Division, Gary Numan or Blur inspired rendition of No Man's Land, seamlessly sliding into Golden Hair and retreating to No Man's Land again. The track is dark, a bit industrial with screaming guitars and probably a signature track for what Men On The Border really stand for. Göran Nyström:

(I'm) quite happy with it. As black as it should be. And yet with a little golden shimmer deep inside.
Shine!, art by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson
Shine! cover by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson.

The cool thing is that MOTB give an odd, unexpected, turn to the classics we know so well. Wined And Dined makes you think that the song will dive into Irish jig territory but the guitar that follows (not that far from Gilmour’s Raise My Rent, if you ask me) brings back happy memories from the music I liked in the seventies (those heavenly oohs and aaahs), ending with a Beatlesque streak. Göran Nyström:

I want to do this with great respect, yet not ending up imitating Syd and his weaknesses at the time. I always felt uncomfortable with cover artists trying to be the sick and poor Syd. I think his songs should shine.

Listening to Gigolo Aunt, that I have always found a bit simple as a song, it comes to me that some of the influences of MOTB lay in the pub-rock from Graham Parker & The Rumour, Rockpile (with Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds) and the cruelly under-appreciated The Motors (their Airport still is in my all times Top-20).

Opel, here renamed as Opal which is probably more correct, has an intro reminding me of a hungry Jaws swimming towards some EMI sales representatives who immediately devour the poor animal. First its intro made me think of an Emerson, Lake and Palmer thing... but at second thought some classic Deep Purple may be a bit closer to it. Anyway it is classic stuff. The song has glimpses of an all female string quartet, playing in the nude, but probably my imagination is having a go at me now.

Long Gone starts – literally - with an interstellar joke before jumping into Mark Bolan or David Bowie cockney territory , it's a totally loony, but irresistible version (and it has a fine moog-a-like outro as well).

Gigolo Aunt by JenniFire
Gigolo Aunt by JenniFire.

What did I forget so far:
Octopus, not as erratic as the original and larded with slight psychedelic effects...
Dark Globe, loving the crack in Göran's voice at the 'wouldn't you miss me at all' bit...,
No Good Trying, a straight forward rocky rendition with lots of reverb, oohs, aahs and nananananas...
Feel, well over seven minutes it starts with a slightly Floydian ambient intro and it further meanders into a pastoral Grantchester Meadows classic but at the four minutes mark a slightly brilliant Narrow Way guitar solo takes over...

Late Night must be one of the most beautiful songs that Syd Barrett ever wrote and Men On The Border also get this one right. Love, peace and understanding are omnipresent (not only on this track, but on the whole album) and, frankly, this is a quite moving version.

You may have deducted by now that the album is excellent and then we haven't said a word about the art department yet, one of the extra reasons you should buy this album for.

The cover art has been made by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson and the booklet illustrates every song with a painting from Jennifer D'Andrea's (aka JenniFire) I.N.Spired series. Buying the CD will also financially help the Cambridge based Squeaky Gate organisation.

Men On The Border haven't set up a web-shop for their album yet, but you would be more than obliged to mail them at info@menontheborder.com and ask for a copy.

And if the above review didn't convince you, you can listen and watch their songs on the Men On The Border Sound & Vision pages (have a go at Feel with more intriguing art work from JenniFire).

Those Swedish surely have something I can't explain.


Many thanks to: Göran Nyström, Phil Etheridge & JenniFire.


2012-07-14

The Rape of Emily (three different ones)

Groovy Hits for Dancing, the Okey Pokey Band & singers.
Groovy Hits for Dancing, the Okey Pokey Band & Singers.

In 1967 Pink Floyd suddenly had a hit with See Emily Play and their name was all over the music press in England. As such they were spotted across the ocean by the Canadian record company Arc that specialised in so-called low-budget sound-alike greatest hits albums.

Sound-Alike

Before we start making fun of the sound-alike phenomenon we would like to point out that there was still a great musical rift between America and Great Britain and that covers were often the only way for an English audience to hear an American record, and vice versa. In 1965 the proto-Pink Floyd combo Jokers Wild, with David Gilmour, tried to cash in on the Sam & Dave classic You Don’t Know Like I Know, but not fast enough as the original hit the English market before Decca could issue the Jokers Wild version. The rise and fall of David Gilmour's first band had been decided on by bad timing and a stroke of bad luck.

Next to the 'cover' market, where local record companies tried to be the first to issue their cover of an overseas hit, there was the 'sound-alike' market, with a slightly different sense of timing. Once a hit record entered the charts, sound-alike singles were rapidly recorded by session musicians and put in the stores to sell their rip-off versions in the slipstream of the original hit.

While some of these sound-alike versions were deliberately made to confuse the customer ('I Walk The Line' by 'Jonny Cass' comes to mind) most of them ended on low-budget hit or party albums, EPs and singles. Nobody would notice the difference anyway, especially on warm barbecue days with lots of booze and a Dansette portable record player screeching in the garden.

There is a thin line between sixties 'covers' and 'sound-alikes', because the cover bands often did their best to sound as close to the original as was humanly possible, while the sound-alike bands often did their best to sound as close to the original as was humanly possible. Sound-alike labels from different countries and continents traded tracks and identical tracks would often appear under different band names.

Warning: if you are already confused by now, you will even get more confused by what follows next, this will not be easy reading. Most has been pinched from collector's blogs and newsgroups and we will do our best to give credit to the original authors and websites.

Arc Records
Arc Records.

Arc Records

One record collector describes Arc records as follows:

Arc Records was Canada's most notorious low-budget label, in the same league as labels like Crown or Alshire in the States. They were famous for taking famous pop songs by one artist and getting some schmo to cover them and giving him a phoney name similar to that of the original artist. (Listener Klip at WMFU blog.)

A slightly more academic description of the label can be found on the Canadian Encyclopedia (page no longer active):

Arc Records, subsidiary of Arc Sound Co Ltd, which was established in Toronto in 1958 by Philip G. Anderson and William R. Gilliland. At first a record distributor, Arc Sound began releasing recordings under its own Arc label in 1959 and purchased the Precision Pressing Co in 1961. Arc Records released a series of pop singles albums under the name "Hit Parade" (1963-64). Arc Sound and its subsidiaries came under the control of a Canadian-owned holding company, the Ahed Music Corp Ltd, Toronto, in 1969 and ceased operations in 1986.

Arc Records in Canada were doing a lot of sound-alike records in the sixties. They had the Hit Parade series and at least two of them are carbon copies of Current Hits albums that appeared on the American Hit Records label.

Arc also apparently got tied in with Embassy Records (Great Britain), the label of the English Woolworth stores. It churned out top hits as well, usually with two different artists on one 45. All of the Embassy recording was done by Oriole Records, with mostly in-house musicians and groups. One of the cover bands on Embassy were The Jaybirds who became famous after Alvin Lee renamed the band to Ten Years After.

Embassy quit the sound-alike business in the late sixties and Oriole was bought by Columbia about the same time. Some of the Embassy/Oriole stuff showed up on American Top Hits albums from Columbia Record Club as well.

Arc Records had at least five LP's of Mersey Beat out in the mid sixties. Some of those list the individual Embassy performers, but most credit the group sounds to The Mersey Beats Of England. Unfortunately there is only a partial list of Arc releases available on the web. (Above text almost literally copied from KenB/Rockin' Bee.)

Three To One (re-issue)
Three To One (re-issue).

Three To One

In 1967 the Vancouver band Three To One issued a mono single considered to be the very first cover of a Pink Floyd song: See Emily Play / Give My Love (Arc 1186, most pictures and sound-bits on the web are from a 2008 collector's edition replica of that single, except - perhaps - the picture underneath that could be an original.)

Let's switch over to Kiloh Smith who describes this little gem in his weird enthusiast style...

Check out this rare Canadian psych 45 by Three To One - See Emily Play b/w Give Me Love on the Arc Label. This one’s got two monster tracks from Three To One, including what must to be the very 1st Pink Floyd cover in history. You might’ve heard their creepy cover of See Emily Play on a comp or two before - it’s pretty faithful to the original, at least up until the second chorus, when a little girl suddenly pops her head into the studio to ask “Everyone know how to play?” while someone in the sound effects library drops in a bunch of outer space phaser effects from the albino gorilla episode of the original Star Trek series.

This would have been an interesting titbit for all the Sydiots among us, but there is more going on. Arc was a rather dodgy label to say the least and also with this release they lived up to their expectancies.

Three To One (original)
Three To One (original).

See Emily Play was Three to One's only claim for fame. The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia describes them as follows:

Three To One

John Renton, Derek Norris (bass), Brian Russell (guitar), Claudette Skrypnyk

After leaving The Classics, Brian Russell formed Three To One in Vancouver in 1966. The band soon relocated to Yorkville in Toronto to try and catch a break. They soon got signed to Arc Records for one single - a cover of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play.

They also performed on CTV's 'After Four' TV show and appeared on Yorkville's tie-in compilation album to the show. They would later change their name to Raja before calling it quits.
After Four Compilation
After Four (compilation).

After Four

The After Four (dead link) TV-show compilation album was issued in 1968 on Yorkville, a sub-label of Arc. It has covers from well-known tracks such as You Keep Me Hangin’ On (Teak Wood, dead link) or Winchester Cathedral (The Chain Rattlers Orchestra). Several things are wrongly stated on its cover: Four In The Morning (dead link) from The Scarlet Ribbon is actually a track in disguise from a Canadian band called The Quiet Jungle (more about them later), Changin' Time (dead link) from Patrician-Anne is a cover from Janis Ian's I'll Give You a Stone If You'll Throw It (Changing Tymes) and the second track on the B-side is not I'm A Bad Boy by Bob Francis, but See Emily Play by Three To One. Nobody knows why there is a different track listed on the sleeve notes than there is pressed on vinyl. (Listen to the complete album on Grooveshark.)

So far so good, but here is where things get a bit more complicated. We did warn you.

Flower Power
Flower Power, the Okey Pokey Band & Singers.

Flower Power

At about the same time, 1967-1968-ish, another Arc compilation album sees the light of day, featuring the Okey Pokey Band & Singers. The album with number A-735 is called Flower Power and has sound-alike versions of several 1967 hits, including See Emily Play. Here is what the liner notes have to say:

On this recording the zany, irrepressible Okey Pokey band & Singers focus on Flower Power. Resultant is a boss album highlighting the best sounds to blitz your transistor over the past months.

See Emily Play from Okey Pokey uses the same bed track (or background music, if you like) as the Three To One version but has different vocals. Some of the wacky sci-fi sound effects are missing, but the good thing is the track is in magnificent stereo hi-fidelity. The 'everyone know how to play' sample at 1:29 has mysteriously disappeared from this version as well.

In short: we have two versions of the same track, slightly remixed and with different vocalists, as if this had been recorded in a karaoke bar.

Okey Pokey Logo
The Okey Pokey Band & Singers (logo).

The Okey Pokey Band & Singers

The Okey Pokey Band & Singers released two full albums but were obviously a studio project. According to the liner notes the band and singers:
'have played San Francisco, capital of the hippy world',
'have blown their minds at Fillmore' and
'loved-in at Ashbury Heights',
but the credits show that the tracks were originally 'recorded in England' and not in Canada.

This could make sense as we have already stated that low-budget record companies from different continents used to trade tracks, just to keep the costs low.

The Okey Pokey version has a certain British feel and when Arc got a copy of the master tape they may have removed the British vocals, replacing them with the Canadian singer of One To Three. Of course there is always the possibility that the English tape only contained an instrumental track and that both singing parts were recorded in Canada. A lot of sound-alike songs do exist that share the same bed track, but have different vocalists.

The Quiet Jungle

In 2007 Garage Hangover suspected that members of The Quiet Jungle could have been part of the deal.

Toronto based The Quiet Jungle started originally as The Secrets. The band was signed by Arc Records and, next to releases in their own name, some of them hit records, they were used as (anonymous) session musicians on a Monkees sound-alike album and on a children's album called The Story of Snoopy's Christmas. Vocalist Doug Rankine, however, denies any involvement on the Okey Pokey Flower Power album:

We had nothing to do with the "Flower Power" album. There were a couple of TV shows at that time called After Four and High Time that were on CTV. We were on those shows verily often. There was an album produced at the time called "After Four". (…) At the time of the album we recorded a song entitled "Four In the Morning". Without going into a lot of detail, we recorded it under the name of the Scarlet Ribbon.
John Smith
John Smith & The New Sound.

John Smith

Anton from Freqazoidiac adheres the theory that the Okey Pokey version, including its vocals, is entirely British.

The missing link could be John Smith, who - as John Smith and the New Sound - had several big hits, notably in France and Germany, with Manchester Cathedral, Snoopy vs the Red Baron, Just A Looser and Judy In Disguise.

It has been rumoured that Manchester Cathedral by The Chain Rattlers Orchestra (see the After Four album above) was in fact done by John Smith. You Keep Me Hangin' On from Teak Wood on that same compilation is definitely John Smith's work. He has acknowledged this himself on Garage Hangover.

The only problem is that John Smith (that is his real name, by the way) denies having ever recorded See Emily Play:

In answer to your first question "See Emily Play", I didn't record that song. If my name and my band was used, this is new to me, but I don't think there's much I can do about that is there!

The real John Smith left after the first album but the band continued to record, with different lead-singers as John Smith and the New Sound. None of their three official albums (and singles) have See Emily Play. John Smith and the New Sound (and their alter-ego band The Beat Kings) took a joyride on the wave of British and Canadian pop, but they can't be linked to the Okey Pokey / Three To One See Emily Play versions. This means we are back to square one.

Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons
Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons.

Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons

Probably the John Smith rumour can be traced back to a typo on, where else?, the Internet. In a comment on the Red Telephone 66 (dead link) blog Jancy claims that John Smith and The New Sound recorded See Emily Play for a German compilation (that appeared in 1972).

However, on the record itself, England's Top 14 of Pop (20. Folge) (private link) from Deutsche Vogue, See Emily Play is credited to Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons, and not to John Smith, nor The Beat Kings.

And yes, might you wonder, this third 'German' cover version is exactly the same as the Okey Pokey one. It could be interesting to compare the Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons cover from My Generation with the Arc release (if any) but this would bring us too far in this messy labyrinth.

David Byron
David Byron.

David Byron

There is an unconfirmed rumour that Ben Cash was none other than David Byron (real name: David Garrick) from Uriah Heep fame. The (more than excellent) David Byron fansite claims that the singer could be present on at least 140 low-budget covers on Avenue Records. They have - so far - identified (and re-issued) 40 tracks sung by Byron, but they don't include See Emily Play on this list.

Multiple versions were recorded of many of the Avenue tracks and sometimes included as many as five different lead vocalists. These tracks were released on various vinyl records under titles such as Top Six, Top Six From England, 12 Top Hits, England’s Top 12 Hits, Chartbusters, Studio 33; and compilations such as Groovin’, The Rock Star Parade, Super Soul Sounds and multiple other titles. David participated on multiple releases under these names but its apparent some of the releases listed false artist names but not the actual participants. David sang under listings such as Dave’s Soul Group, The Beat Kings and the rehashed name John Smith and The New Sound. Multiple other names are known and they overlap by other artists as well but again this can't be listed with accurate results. (Taken from Travellers In Time.)

Update 21 07 2012: Ron Mann from David Byron Net confirmed us that: "David Byron wasn’t part of that [See Emily Play] session", but he doesn't know who the singer is. He was so kind to lead us to some people who do know a lot more about these low budget sessions, so fingers crossed and keep on checking the Church. (February 2012: it needs to be said that we didn't find new information about this release, but we still keep on searching.)

Amongst the other lead singers that have participated on the hundreds of Avenue sound-alike recordings are: Reginald Dwight who was a bit more successful later in his career as Elton John, Tony Steven, Peter Lee Stirling (aka Daniel Boone) and Danny Street.

Ben Cash, My Generation
Ben Cash, My Generation.

John Smith (reprise)

The David Byron website continues with the following information.

At one point there was a real John Smith and a real New Sound backing band. In the 60s he signed a solo deal with Parlophone and released singles under the name of Bobby Dean. Being managed by Bill Wellings he ended up at EMI's Top Six label doing discount records cover songs.

These recordings were released in the UK and Germany and had some success. The Vogue record label released these songs under the original band name but also as The Four Kings. By late 1967 John Smith himself had lost interest in the group and moved on.

This left Bill Wellings with a band but no lead-singer but nevertheless he decided to continue the band, without the consent or knowledge of the real John Smith. As Wellings was deep in the discount records business and was interchanging vocalists with Avenue Records at PYE Studios in London he had several people to choose from.

Several tracks were done by the lead vocalist of The Excheckers, Phil Blackman, but also David Byron did vocals on some tracks for the two John Smith and the New Sound albums that followed.

The Golden Ring EP
The Golden Ring EP.

The Golden Ring

But the confusion isn't over yet, because the See Emily Play cover will appear once again under another name. So far we are aware of four releases of this cover:
1. Three To One (1967, Canadian single)
2. Three To One (1968, Canadian album, same as 1)
3. Okey Pokey Band & Singers (1968, Canadian album, same backing track, but other vocalist)
4. Ben Cash & The Cash-Tons (1972, German album, same as 3)

All these versions take about 2 minutes and 50 seconds, but Cicodelico came across a version on an Arc EP that is about a minute shorter: See Emily Play. The EP in question (TS 10) has All You Need Is Love, See Emily Play and With A Little Help From My Friends and is recorded by The Golden Ring. It is just a shortened version of the Okey Pokey original and probably this was done to fit on the seven-inch record with the other songs.

The Golden Ring are another one of these tribute bands on Arc who issued several albums, EPs and singles: A Man Without Love, A Tribute To Johnny Cash, Love Me Tonight, The Little Drummer Boy, Tribute To Glen Campbell and others...

Epilogue

If the original See Emily Play sound-alike has been recorded in England, with or without vocals, then the (Canadian) Three To One version is not the first cover of a Pink Floyd song. Unfortunately, we don't know where, when and by who this took place. Okey Pokey, The Golden Ring and The Cash-Tons are all fictitious bands that never existed as such. Three To One, however, did exist as a band and they were probably glad to add their voices to an already existing bed track, coming from the UK. It is pretty weird that nobody has located a British release, but perhaps the Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett were already considered too weird to fit in the low-budget marketing scheme.

Links & Stuff

We apologise for this post that is probably the most confusing ever at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. We have tried contacting a few people and as such there may still be updates to be published. And if someone of you happen to know who really recorded the (probably English) low-budget-version of See Emily Play, let us know!

See Emily Play flowchart

See Emily Play flowchart.
See Emily Play flowchart, by Felix Atagong.

See Emily Play versions @ YouTube

Okey Pokey tracklist (side A)
Okey Pokey tracklist (side A).

Three To One single version (1967, 2008 re-issue)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpSfgRxz704
(The 1967 version was also re-issued on Pebbles, Volume 14 in 1984.)

Three To One - Give me Love (flip-side)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS8vo34UamU

CTV’s After Four - album version (1968)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq0pKQzaU94

The Okey Pokey Band & Singers - Flower Power (album version, 1968)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4M_qBw2q40

The Golden Ring - All You Need Is Love (EP version, 1968)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJYgzSbb1rw

Ben Cash And The Cash Tones - England's Top 14 of Pop (20. Folge) (album, 1972)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlKubn-hTqs

Links

CTV’s After Four - album (1968)
http://freqazoidiac.blogspot.be/2007/06/ctv-after-four-1967-canada-yorkville.html

John Smith & The New Sound
http://www.myspace.com/johnsmithsound
http://www.garagehangover.com/?q=johnsmith
http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/SMITHjohn.htm

The Quiet Jungle
http://www.garagehangover.com/?q=QuietJungle


Updated version, July 2017, some rewriting, weeding of dead links, updating of pictures. Many thanks to: Anton (Freqazoidiac), Cicodelico, Greeneyedbetsy, Jancy, KenB / Rockin' Bee, Kiloh Smith, Listener Klip, Ron Mann...
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2013-03-30

Songs of Praise

Iggy Rose, ca. 1975.
Iggy Rose, ca. 1975.

The BBC describes its program Songs of Praise as 'inspiring hymns and songs, together with uplifting stories of faith from around the UK and beyond' This is what we immediately thought of when church-member Rich Hall from Illinois send us a copy of his song The Reverend.

In our humble opinion there is no other day better than Easter to listen to this gem that perfectly describes the Church, its Reverend and our prime object of adoration, Iggy Rose.

Here it is in splendid hi-res, hi-fi and 25 frames per second. As it is a Flash presentation, it might not be visible on your portable phones and other overpriced Apple stuff like that. A fast internet line is recommended.

The Reverend (hi-res Flash version)

The Reverend by Rich Hall (hi-res, Flash)
The Reverend. Music: Rich Hall. Video: felix Atagong. High resolution, Flash version.

And as this is Easter and Songs of Praise we hereby give you the text, so that you can all join in this magnificent hymn.

The Reverend

Oh, congregation
Standing here before me
I offer you this simple sermon

You can trust in Iggy
She's never led me wrong
In Iggy we trust

Don't put your faith
In medieval superstitions
Believe in something that matters

Release your inhibitions
Sit back; let it envelope you
Soon you'll feel Iggy's love

Out in the snow
The wind was starting to blow
As the sun went down
And the fire began to glow

Have you ever looked for someone so long
You have to wonder if they even exist

Here in my igloo with Iggy the Eskimo
Watching the snow falling down

Devoted listeners
Hanging on my every word
I give you Iggy's love

No need to look we further
We can stop the inquisitions
Iggy's message is love

Don't be afraid
to let yourself go
give in to Iggy's love

You'll feel it wrap around you
It's all you'll need to keep you warm
You're no longer alone.

Have you ever looked for someone so long
You have to wonder if they even exist

Here in my igloo with Iggy the Eskimo
Watching the snow falling down

Have you ever looked for someone so long
You start to wonder if they even exist

Here in my igloo with Iggy the Eskimo
Watching the snow falling down

© Rich Hall, 2013.

The Reverend (YouTube version)

For those who haven't got a Flash-enabled webbrowser, let's try it another way. Here is a, somewhat downgraded, version on Youtube. Even if this was created using a 2.64 Gigabyte AVI file, it has some stuttering and, unfortunately, the music came out not entirely synchronised with the graphics. But don't let that spoil the fun.

Happy Easter!


Richard Michael John Hall is a self-publishing artist in the 'alternative' or 'indie rock' genre with about ten releases on his name. It is rumoured that his next release will be a concept album about the weird world of Barrett anoraks.
Website: Richard Michael John Hall
BandCamp channel: RichMFHall
SoundCloud channel: RichMFHall
YouTube channel: RichFMHall

The Church wishes to thank: Amy Funstar, MAY, Brett Wilson for their (un)willing cooperation in the making of the videoclip.
Thanks to Rich Hall and Joe Perry for making music.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2013-08-08

Reverends and Sydiots

5 years Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit: 5 years.

(This article contains a much concealed review of the Rich Hall album Birdie Hop and the Sydiots, to immediately access it, click here.)

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit celebrates its fifth birthday.

An official statement by the Reverend:

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit is five years old. It has always taken an independent road and has maintained an ironic and satirical view on the Syd Barrett phenomenon and its fans.

We will, however, never spit on the fans. We have embraced the term Sydiot as our Geusenwort, meaning that we have reappropriated this derogatory nickname as an honorary title.

While we have the utmost respect for the casual Barrett fans, the cosmic brides (persons [m/f] who claim to have a relationship with Syd of some kind, often crossing spiritual boundaries) and the Sydiots, we intuitively question the official Barrett organisations, record companies and nincompoops who circle around Syd like vultures. We will not automatically endorse their websites, their records and their books... and this has not always been appreciated. It seems that nothing has changed much since those days in 1967 when Norman Smith was reprimanded by his boss:

EMI were ignorant, lazy and paranoid. I'd once been carpeted by Sir Joseph Lockwood, almost fired, told to stay away from courting Pink Floyd. But I took no notice.

If Norman Smith had obeyed we would never have had The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Taking no notice was, is, and will always be the Holy Church's attitude, even if this puts us in the firing line of some of the minor half-gods and makes us wonder if this Church was just a waste of time. But:

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It's a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It's in minor keys
Solutions and remedies
Enemies becoming friends
When bitterness ends
This is my church
(Faithless, God is a DJ, 1998)

All tomfoolery aside, we are proud to have put a thing or two on the Floydian agenda in the past five years that would otherwise have stayed unnoticed. If we may lead you to one paragraph on this blog, that we are particularly fond of, it is this one and we constantly try to live by those standards. So-called social media make witnesses easy accessible nowadays but this doesn't give the Sydiot nor the Reverend a wildcard to constantly harass them with questions about how 'Syd really was'. Remember:

A granddaughter's smile today is of much more importance than the faint remembrance of a dead rock star's smile from over 40 years ago. (Taken from: We are all made of stars.)

And for those who don't agree the Church can only bring solace by citing the following words of that great Cantabrigian band:

So I open my door to my enemies
And I ask could we wipe the slate clean
But they tell me to please go fuck myself
You know you just can't win
(Pink Floyd, Lost For Words, 1994)

But this speech has been going on for too long, so...

Let's party!

It's a fucking birthday godammit! And we have exactly the right party album for that... and you can have yours too!

Rich Hall
Rich Hall.

Birdie Hop and the Sydiots

Richard Michael John Hall is a self-publishing artist in the 'alternative' or 'indie rock' genre with about a dozen releases on his name. In March 2013 he surprised the world with his songs The Reverend and Uncle Alex and it came to the Church's ears that this was going to be a part of a quintessential concept album. Written in about a month's time the album has been released a couple of weeks ago.

Birdies and Barretts

Birdie Hop and the Sydiots is named after a rather decent Facebook group and its members who range from the wacky to the insane now that an old cricketer has left the crease. Its first song, Birdie Hop, is a pastoral tune about this relatively calm oasis and how it is a reference to all who have enclosed Syd Barrett in their hearts.

I've seen your mother (and she's beautiful) is a track about our most cherished and most hated family member. Rich Hall perfectly catches that ambiguity (see also John Lennon & Roger Waters) but apparently that is not what the song is about. Let's just resume by saying that Barrett fans come in different colours and sizes. Cosmic brides are fans, who declare their unconditional love for Syd and sometimes meet him on a higher esoteric level. It is good that what happens in the spirit world cannot be seen by the naked eye although sometimes weird erotomanic anecdotes drip through. Cosmic brides are usually harmless, although they can be annoying when they start messaging people with important directives from the other side.

With Cheesecake Joe, a catchy hard rock tune built around one of Birdie Hop's most flamboyant members, the Birdie suite lifts off into the higher stratosphere. Cheesecake is the deadhead equivalent of the Floydian fan. He is the UFOnaut who still claims Pink Floyd is a stoner band and that their main message is to turn on, tune in & drop out...

The Reverend is the first highlight of the album, what a psychedelicate song, what a fine realistic description of this genius, what an adoration for Iggy the Eskimo, what a magic looking glass. But even after having heard this song for about 45 times I still don't know if the song really isn't an insult packaged as a gift. But walking the thin line between praise and mockery is what the Holy Church is all about. Great song. It should be a hit. Really.

A high-res Flash clip of this song can be found here.

The Reverend, by Rich Hall
The Reverend. Sound: Rich Hall. Vision: Felix Atagong. Hi-resolution Flash movie.

And for those who prefer a somewhat lighter YouTube version:

Just when you think that it can't get any better there is Uncle Alex, an ear-worm of a song. Not wanting to go too far into details I can only say that some of the apparently throw-away lines are far closer to the truth than you possibly can imagine. Rich Hall is a poignant observer. This should even be a bigger hit.

A videoclip for this song can be found on the Reverend's YouTube channel.

Solo en las Nubes could be the theme song for a Sergio Leone spaghetti western with Antonio Jesús as the vengeful balded bad-ass. On his own this man is responsible for most of the Barrett admiration in the Spanish-speaking world and thus he is, by definition, regarded as a potential danger by the powers that be. Speak out his name in a certain provincial university town, close by the river Cam, in East Anglia and gallows are spontaneously risen again. This is a song that should be played around camp-fires all over the world. This is an urban hymn.

Jenny and Libby makes me think of the Television Personalities for one thing or another. Throughout the song Rich Hall name-drops several Birdie Hop alumni and their doings. I wonder if the artist has amazing powers of observation and if he knew, when he wrote the song in spring 2013, that the refrain was predictive for the shape of things to come.

Jenny and Libby ends, what I call, the birdies section of the album. This is being followed by the madcap suite, a trilogy about the darker side of Barrettism where the weirdness, the madness and the obsessiveness turns into a Stephen King nightmare...

Blow Syd
Blow Syd.

Madcap Laughter & Hammerings

Fuggitaboutit, build around a fifties teenage tragedy song, is based upon the endless laments of certain self-proclaimed Barrett scholars.

Your Significant Other is a track about those weird trolls who infests groups with different aliases, spreading false information and starting discussions, sometimes among themselves, just for the sake of argument. So what's your name today, which identity will you choose?, is the question Rich Hall asks. Based upon a true story.

Yer List Monger. Call it this album's The Trial but with a haunting Twin Peakish atmosphere, a hot burning sun, a mad priest preaching on the telly about sin and redemption, a fat red-neck orating conspiracy theories at the end of the bar, suddenly spitting out the venomous question: are you real Syd Barrett fans? Dwarfs are passing by, walking backwards and speaking in tongues. Meet the Hannibal Lecter of the Syd Barrett world.

A Cry From The Outside

Birdie Hop and the Sydiots has its coda with a rather alienated version of Barrett's Feel that leaves me with a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth. It's puzzling, it's not nice. It's all dark, as a matter of fact.

At times Rich Hall's way of words makes me think of Jason Lytle and Lee Clayton, his music is a kaleidoscope of sounds that reminds my fragile memory of T-Rex, neo-psych or garage rock. But of course Rich Hall is at first Rich Hall and nobody else.

Throughout this article I have dispersed some quotes from Pink Floyd and I did catch some resemblances here and there with themes from The Wall, but that is probably because I've recently watched a Mr. Roger Waters show. Let's hope this album will never grow into a monster and that a 69 years-old Rich Hall will not be obliged to lip-synch next to a 130 metres long plastic wall with hi-tech projections and a ridiculous flying cactus balloon in the air.

You don't need to be a Birdie Hop member to enjoy this album as all songs stand by themselves, but if you grab this and listen to it why don't you let the birdies know what you think of it.

Birdie Hop and the Sydiots @ Bandcamp

Birdie Hop and the Sydiots
July 2013
Instruments & vocals by Rich Hall.
Mixed by Rich Hall and Ron Bay.
Mastered by Ron Bay.

Streaming & digital download (name your own price system, 0.00 is an option as well).


Sources (other than the above internet links):
Jefferies, Neil, Dartford's Finest Band, Record Collector 417, August 2013, p. 54-55.

Website: Richard Michael John Hall
BandCamp channel: RichMFHall
SoundCloud channel: RichMFHall
YouTube channel: RichFMHall

♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Thanks: Anonymous • Freqazoidiac • Solo En Las Nubes • Psych62 • Anni • Bill • Euryale • Brooke • Jeff • Prydwyn • Chris • Helen • Sean • JenniFire • Sadia • Herman • JenS • Vince666 • Nipote • Gretta • Viv • Adenairways • Giuliano • Dolly • John • Babylemonade • Duggie • Synofsound • Mark • Xpkfloyd • Rich • Brett • Krackers • Peter • Phil • Zag • Warren • Listener • Bob • MOB • Nina • Dark Globe • Emily • Retro68special • Natashaa' • Vic • Jenny • Neonknight • Lord Drainlid • Ebronte • Simon • Ian • Will • Motoriksymphonia • NPF • Greeneyedbetsy • Anton • Hallucalation • PF Chopper • Lee • Felixstrange • Michael • PhiPhi • Eva • Cicodelico • Julian (Gian) • Denis • Dallasman • Emmapeelfan • Paro नियत • Ewgeni • Matt • Kiloh • Elizabeth • Alexander • Kirsty • Paul • Mohammed (Twink) • Nigel • Rusty • Braindamage • Pascal • Mark • Stanislav • Anthony • I Spy In Cambridge • Mick • Alain • Wrestling Heritage • Bloco do Pink Floyd • Moonwall • Rod • Charley • Amy • Joe • Griselda • Eternal • Dominae • Russell • Beate • KenB • Dan5482 • Tim • Antonio • Party of Clowns • Anne • Late Night • Lori • Colleen • Brian • Christopher • Jose • Göran • Jancy • Banjer and Sax • Ron • Vicky • ...and all those we have forgotten to mention!


2013-11-30

Men On The Border: Jumpstart

Men On The Border (photo: David Parkin)
Men On The Border (photo: David Parkin).

Men On The Border are a Swenglish duo (Göran Nyström & Phil Etheridge) who surprised the world around June 2012 with the release of their album Shine! (exclamation point included). The album consisted entirely of Syd Barrett covers that were, for a change, not meticulously cloned, but recreated following the weird musical rules from their Nordic universe. The album was (still is) a smasher, although that may not have resulted in a million selling mega success. Of course that is entirely their responsibility as they neglected to follow the Reverend's advice to make a video clip where bikini-clad ladies would have logistic problems with melting ice cream.

In an interview from this summer, originally published (in Spanish) on Sole En Las Nubes, and hosted at the Church as well (Men On The Border, Syd Swedish version, thanks Antonio!) they broke the news that a new album, called Jumpstart would see the light of day this year.

It made me wonder if MOTB would suffer from Second Album Syndrome, also know as Sophomore Slump in more academic circles, especially as the band would have no recourse to the effervescing work of Syd Barrett this time. How will their own work be received by the Barrett community, now that there is no more Syd to rely on... Well let's find out, shall we?

Jumpstart (art by Ian Barrett)
Jumpstart. Artwork: Ian Barrett.

Jumpstart

The album starts traditionally with the title track. An electric guitar mimics a starting motor, I remember that trick from Todd Rundgren's solo on Bad Out of Hell, yes the Reverend is that old, and the song further evolves into a pub rock tune that asks to be played very loud. As a starter it hardly sounds original, but who needs originality when it comes to having fun? The track digs into the rich history of rock'n roll, with prominent drums and riffs that nod slightly towards Run Like Hell. This is the kind of song that makes me think that I urgently need a beer. A Danish beer, close enough.

Those who feared there would be no Syd at all on the album are contradicted by track two. Baby Lemonade sounds as if the song has been put in a washing machine with punk rock fabric softener. Suddenly the song oozes sex and its pistols all over, and it makes me wonder how it could have sounded sung in a wild cockney accent by Sid. Yes, that Sid. Men On The Border keep it tidy though and even use a harpsichord that gently clashes with the loud guitars. They're such nice boys.

Pills immediately caught our attention with its keyboard line that has a certain Floydian feel.
I Don't Want To Be Your Man starts lennonesque with harrisonesque undertones until it changes after the mid-solo into signature MOTB with a couple of sweet oohs and aahs before the track turns somewhat bitter. Quite a crispy song.

Have You Got It Yet, another pub rocker that could be from a Status Quo record. Nice tune, nothing more, nothing less. A typical album track, with all the tricks from a fun rock track that could turn into one's live favourite...

The Public: one of Phil's tracks, bringing a change in tone and atmosphere and a more introspective tune.
Old Friends benefits from an El Condor Pasa treatment and is quite an earworm, actually.
Garden has a certain 60s beat feel in its 'no no no' refrain, but is one of the lesser tunes.

Destiny Today is a grower until it sticks in your mind like Velcro. It reminds me of those sweet pastoral hymns by the gentlemen Waters and Gilmour, that either are perfectly swell (Fat Old Sun) or complete duds (Smile). Its mid-piece adventure into prog-territory and backward tapes gives the track some extra panache. Of course I can't help to immediately associate the words 'endless' and ‘river’ with High Hopes, although the endless is linked to laughter here. That is the toll of 4 decades of Floydian obsession. The song's atmosphere makes me think of Where We Start (Gilmour), that I first found terribly boring (like almost everything from On An Island) but that grew on me like a wart on a witches nose.

Jumpstart CD. Artwork: Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson.

Warm From You starts a bit like a French pop tune and I more or less suspected Jane Birkin to join in. A very good song with some slight Bryan Ferry & Mick Ronson influences that gains some momentum near the end...

Terrapin, the second Barrett cover. A weird bend in my brain immediately links this to early Bowie in his Quicksand period and of course this tune immediately gets stuck in your mind like mental flypaper. Cool guitar stuff and a vintage Men On The Border quality treatment...

Something For The Waiting: what a weird and nice oddity. At the start it made me think of a toned down mashup of Mad World (Tears For Fears) and As Tears Go By (Rolling Stones), but after that the song wanders into its own folkish psychedelic territory...

Let's Party (Yeah Yeah) starts like a failed Sparks single and doesn't seem to go anywhere in the beginning (for over one and a half minute). Luckily it evolves into a cool rocker when the drums kick in. In a previous review we mentioned Graham Parker & The Rumour and the classic setup of Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe) as possible influences on Men On The Border and in this case it results in a fucking good song, probably the best on the album.

The ambient end of the last track, a reprise of Jumpstart, has a surprise in the form of a friendly nod to Pink Floyd lovers...

Jumpstart @ Atagong mansion.

Conclusion

So have Men On The Border avoided the second album syndrome, I hear you ask. Well actually, it is not a bad attempt, not bad at all. I would have liked some of the tunes a bit messier, the singing a bit less polished but that is probably my education, not having grown up in a string quartet, you see...

Throughout this review I have been throwing song references and bands around, MOTB surely know their history and use it to their own benefit, turning the sounds of the sixties, seventies and eighties into something new-millennium-wise.

Don't worry about this, lads, Jumpstart is more than OK, it is quite excellent as a matter of fact, so you can start fearing the difficult third album now, and that is gonna be a real drag!


Just as with Shine! the packaging of this album is a feast for the eye.

The front cover has been designed by Ian Barrett.
Ian Barrett Art

Kajsa-Tuva Henrikkson, who was present on Shine! as well, made the CD art.
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kajsatuva/sets/


2014-02-09

Pictorial Press selling fake Pink Floyd pictures!

Pictorial Press selling fake Pink Floyd pictures!
Shindig Interstellar Overdrive
Shindig Interstellar Overdrive.

Interstellar Overdrive is the name of a January 2014 Shindig guide and it's worth every penny you spend on it. In 35 articles on 170 pages, it tries to define and explore the space rock phenomenon. It has in-dept articles on Acid Mothers Temple, Tim Blake, Neu!, Ozric Tentacles, Yes and many others without forgetting The Tornados' Telstar and the obligatory space rock top 30 countdown. A 6-pages article, called 'The Reluctant Spacerockers', written by Austin Matthews, investigates the frail relation between Pink Floyd and space rock.

This is part two of our review, for part one that covers an entirely different matter, please check:
Pink Floyd. Still First in Space. NOT!  

Interstellar Overdrive

Even if it omits the ambient Cluster One instrumental from The Division Bell, that with Storm Thorgerson's artwork of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile, refers to Astronomy Domine, we thoroughly enjoyed the well researched 'Reluctant Spacerockers' essay. What we are not happy with however, is the picture that is put on top of the article.

Here it is (we have cropped the picture a bit to only show the band members and we put some nifty numbers above each person).

5 man Floyd?
5 man Floyd? Not.
Copyright: Pictorial Press. We honestly think we can publish this picture under the 'Fair Use' rules, especially as it will be used for criticism, comment reporting, news gathering and frankly, for taking the piss out of the copyright holders. See also: legal stuff.

It is a nice picture, no problem about that, but unfortunately the band isn't Pink Floyd. There are five musicians on the picture but the five man Floyd barely existed for 8 days in the beginning of 1968.

This picture goes around for ages but the question if this is really the Floyd was raised on the 'A Fleeting Glimpse' forum in 2009, where Mr. Pinky identified the band as Dantalian's Chariot.

Hi all. Only to say you that, according with Ian Russell, this picture, posted in the page 57, shows a band called Dantalian's Chariot, a famous psychedelic band in the end '60. This photo was also in the Cliff Jones 'Echoes' book, but has nothing to do with the Floyd at all.
It seemed to be a 5-man Floyd pic, but NOT, we really should know better, wrong instruments, wrong equipment etc.
5 man Floyd promo pic
5 man Floyd promo picture.

That band's something we can't explain

The picture shows five musicians and that particular setup in Pink Floyd was only known for five live gigs between 12 January 1968 and 20 January 1968. On the Yeeshkul forum this picture has been further analysed by fans who know these things much better than we do...

The five men on the picture should be, left to right, numbers one to five:

1: Roger Waters playing the bass. The picture isn't clear enough to recognise the bass player, but the bass should've been a Rickenbacker and the musician on the left is holding a Fender.

2: Nick Mason. First of all: this isn't Nick's drum set. The silver toms look the same, but the bass drum is smaller and doesn't have a front skin. Pink Floyd always had a front skin on the drums and furthermore Nick always had two bass drums instead of one.

3: David Gilmour. It is weird that the third man doesn't play a guitar. Especially for David Gilmour who normally is glued to his axe and who was hired in to mimic Syd's solos.

4: Syd Barrett. The man on the picture is playing a black or sunburst Strat, a guitar Syd didn't have, as far as we know. David Gilmour only acquired one two years later. A white strat would have been more appropriate for Syd.

5: Rick Wright. Although the keyboard player is nearly completely hidden in the dark one can see something that resembles a huge perm. Richard was never the man to have an afro. It is awfully dark but the organ doesn't seem to be a Hammond, Rick Wright's favourite instrument.

And there is more. The equipment is not Pink Floyd's. There is a Marshall stack and a Fender Bassman and these are not Floydian at all, so tell us the people who know. What the equipment does have in common with Pink Floyd is a Watkins (aka WEM) PA unit, but that is hardly unique.

Then there is the projection of the nude woman left on the picture, she also appears on the right side of the stage (on the uncropped version). We have never seen something similar on the dozens of live pictures of the Floyd of that era. Often avant-garde movies were shown on the walls (or the ceiling) while bands where playing in the psychedelic clubs, but it is again one of those things that don't add up.

And last: this picture is often described as taken at the UFO club but the 5 man Floyd didn't play there in the 8 days they existed.

As for the assumption that the band is Dantalian's Chariot with Zoot Money on keyboards and a young Andy Summers on guitar the cons are about the same. That band consisted of four members, not five, and Zoot Money didn't have a big hairdo either. But apparently Jeff Dexter confirmed it is them allright. So this could have been taken during their UFO gig on the 22nd of September, 1967.

5 man Floyd promo pic
5 man Floyd promo picture.

Copy copy

The above picture is copyrighted by Pictorial Press who have it in their Pink Floyd folder as number 1398. Unfortunately they can't give us a date but they do mention it was taken at the UFO club. To further demonstrate their competence they categorise Pink Floyd under the category 'metal', a class they share with KC and The Sunshine Band, Dionne Warwick and Sandie Shaw. These people are professionals, we can tell you that! (We are aware of the existence of The Nile Song and Ibiza Bar, though.)

But scallywags or not, Pictorial Press has several times managed to sell this picture. We find it on page 20 of William Ruhlmann's Pink Floyd (1993), but luckily the author caught the error in time and describes it as 'an unidentified group at UFO'. This biography is one of those mass printed 'take your money and run' budget releases with scarce text and plenty of pictures. It is also one of the few biographies that was published in Dutch and in that edition the picture can be found on page 16.

In 1996 Cliff Jones published the picture on page 25 of his Echoes biography, not to be confused with the Glenn Povey history book that has the same title. Subtitled 'the stories behind every Pink Floyd song' the book attempted to tell the band's history track per track and album per album, but there it miserably failed. There are plenty of mistakes in the text and also on the pictures: on page 29 Roger Waters can be seen but the picture is described as 'a young Dave Gilmour'; page 25 has the UFO picture this article is all about, captioned 'The Floyd light show, UFO club'. Apparently David Gilmour was so angry about this book that he threatened to sue the author:

"The book has a very large number of errors - over 120 - some careless, some very serious", the star's solicitors, tell me. "We have also identified four serious libels of David Gilmour. The band take a very serious view of this and are furious." (Daily Express Dec. 9th 1996, quoted on Brain Damage)

An agreement was reached and the book was shipped to the shops, but with a sticker on page 107 that replaced 23 lines with new text. We will never know how the passage reads that infuriated Gilmour so much. Original copies were send back to the publisher and seem to have vanished from this planet. For those interested in the many mistakes there is this webpage showing them all and for a review we can guide you to Brain Damage. To add insult to injury this book was also issued under the title Another Brick In The Wall (for the overseas market?) but it comes with exactly the same mistakes.

London Live by Tony Bacon could be found for years on the official Syd Barrett website where they thought it was all about the person that makes them sell these t-shirts. However, the book is not a Pink Floyd, nor a Syd Barrett biography but an 'inside story of live bands in the capital's trail-blazing music clubs' of London. Page 90 and 91 have the (artificially coloured) picture where it is called 'a majestic lightshow at UFO', not mentioning any band.

In October last year, a new biography, Behind the Wall, appeared, written by Hugh Fielder. Floyd anoraks say that the book doesn't really reveal new facts, apart from the obligatory updates about the Roger Waters never ending Wall-world-tour. One thing that makes us hesitate buying it is that the UFO club picture is in there and that it apparently is attributed to the band we all love.

Shame on Shindig!

Of course Pictorial Press, in their role as entrepreneurial con men, are not entirely to blame for selling their crap images. Authors and graphical editors should not only check and double-check text material but also the pictures they publish.

The guys from Shindig normally deliver excellent work, but before he gave his fiat for this issue Jon 'Mojo' Mills must have inhaled a wee bit too much sweet smoke from his water-pipe.

Shame on you, crazy Shindig!

P.S. Obviously The Anchor has warned Pictorial Press about their mistake and as soon as we will receive an answer this article will be updated. (Update 2016: they never answered.)
P.P.S. Shindig was so kind to give us the following message: "We were duped! I should have spotted it. Many apologies."


(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)

The Anchor wishes to thank: the Yeeshkul and A Fleeting Glimpse forums and their members, b_squared, demamo, Rich Hall, hallucalation, Mr. Pinky, Orgone Accumulator, saygeddylee, supervehicle, sydzappa...

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Bacon, Tony: London Live, Balafon Books, London, 1999, p. 90-91.
Jones, Cliff: Another Brick in the Wall, Broadway Books, New York, 1996, p. 25. In the UK this book has been published under the title 'Echoes'.
Ruhlmann, William: Pink Floyd, Magna Books, Leicester, 1993, p. 20.
Ruhlmann, William: Pink Floyd, ADC, Eke (Belgium), 1994, p. 16. Dutch edition of the above.
Fielder, Hugh: Behind The Wall, Race Point Publishing, New York, 2013.

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.


Pink Floyd. Still First in Space. NOT!

Pink Floyd. Still First in Space. NOT!
Shindig Interstellar Overdrive
Shindig Interstellar Overdrive.

Interstellar Overdrive is the name of a January 2014 Shindig guide and it's worth every penny you spend on it. In 35 articles on 170 pages, it tries to define and explore the space rock phenomenon. It has in-dept articles on Amon Düül II, Gong, Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Spacemen 3, Sun Ra and many others without forgetting the sci-fi movie soundtracks of the fifties (Forbidden Planet!) and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Doctor Who!).

In a six pages article 'The Reluctant Spacerockers' the on-off relationship between Pink Floyd and space rock is examined and what an enjoyable essay that is.

While journalists, who are nothing but a bunch of lazy buggers anyway, have labelled the band as space rockers, its members denied this, in particular Roger Waters who reacted in his usual diplomatic style: “Space – what the fuck are they talking about?” Probably the bass player is so demented nowadays that he has forgotten that his lame Amused to Death album features some alien anthropologists trying to find out why all these skeletons are sitting before their TV sets.

Then Austin Matthews chimes in and quite intelligible shows where and how the Pink Floyd used space rock tricks to appease the masses.

TM-7 mission patch
TM-7 mission patch.

Space 1988

There is an error in the article although the author is only partially to blame. (We are just being gentle here, that spaced out sod could of course have done a search on the Internet first.) On page 29 David Gilmour is cited:”To say that we are thrilled at the thought of being the first rock band to be played in space is something of an understatement.”

This refers to the Soyuz TM-7 rocket launch from the 26th of November 1988 five days after Pink Floyd had released their Delicate Sound Of Thunder (live) album. The French president François Mitterrand attended the launch because of cosmonaut Jean-Loup Chrétien, who was the first western European man in space (this was his second flight, by the way, his first was in 1982). David Gilmour and Nick Mason attended because a cassette of their latest album was sent to the MIR space station, apparently on demand by one of the cosmonauts. We'll never know if this is true or just a staged lie but surely there was a mighty PR machine behind the band who made it clear to the world that this was the first rock music recording played in outer space.

Which was not true. Simple as that.

Soyuz TM-3 mission patch
Soyuz TM-3 mission patch.

spAce 1987

In 2003, while researching for an Orb biography that would never see the light of day, the Reverend stumbled upon the electronic band spAce who had a million-selling disco hit in 1977 with Magic Fly. The band split in the early eighties but electronic composer Didier Marouani had a particular successful solo career in Russia (and the East-European communist countries), often using the spAce name and logo, depending on the lawsuit of the month that ex-members were bringing on each other.

Marouani's solo work is slightly reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield or Tangerine Dream and was (still is) inspired by Russian and American space programs and sci-fi themes. In 1987 he released a CD called Space Opera (got the slight promotional nudge towards his old band?) and that CD was taken by cosmonauts Alexander Viktorenko, Syrian Muhammed Faris and Aleksandr Aleksandrov to the MIR orbital station in July 1987, more than a year before Pink Floyd made all that brouhaha.

In 2003, long before the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit was founded, the Reverend interviewed Didier Marouani who had the following to say:

I was composing my album Space Opera and I had the idea to bring Americans and Russians together on my album which at that time was very difficult (especially from the USSR). After negotiating with the Soviet ministry of Culture for 6 months I got the authorization to have the Red Army Choir together with the Harvard University Glee Club choir, who were recorded separately.
Following my concept I thought it would be very nice to have this first Space Opera shipped to MIR and then launched into outer space. They asked me to wait while they would study my request and in the meantime I wrote a letter to Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev who answered very positive.
Two months later the Ministry of Space confirmed an appointment. On July, the 2nd, 1987 I was received by the Russian cosmonauts and I gave them a CD, together with a CD-player and 2 small speakers. This was extensively reported in the Russian press.
The cosmonauts left Baikonur on the 22nd of July 1987 and in October 1987 the CD, the player and the 2 speakers were launched into outer space. So my music really floats into space which is for me a very big and happy achievement.
So for sure Pink Floyd did not have the first music in space. During a concert tour in the USSR, I met cosmonaut Aleksandr Pavlovich Aleksandrov, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, again who told me that he worked in space for 7 months, listening to my music. [Note: actually Aleksandrov stayed 160 days in Space in 1987.]
Pink Floyd patch
Pink Floyd patch.

Lie for a Lie

But of course Mr. Gilmour may not entirely have been lying when he said Pink Floyd was the first rock band to be played in space. Didier Marouani's oeuvre is more electronic, new age (and recently: dance) oriented and the Floyd, as we all know, have never flirted with these musical styles before. (Yes, this is called irony.)

The last laugh may be for Didier Marouani though. In 2011 he released an album called From Earth to Mars and it was officially appointed by Roskosmos as the album that will go with the first manned Russian flight to that planet. But we earnestly doubt that listening to it for 6 months in a row will have a positive effect on its crew.

This is part one of the Shindig Interstellar Overdrive review. Part two covers an entirely different subject: Pictorial Press selling fake Pink Floyd pictures!


(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Marouani, Didier: First In Space, mail to Felix Atagong, 01 June 2003.

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.


2014-06-06

Boogie Wonderland

Birdie Hop. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

The Birdie Hop Facebook group has also a side project where people with a certain arty je-ne-sais-quoi are trying to get something on the rails. For the moment it is still vague and too preliminary to predict what may come out of it, but there are some ideas floating around and these tend to trigger other ideas, and perhaps one day it will surprise the world.

Opel, 2014

In contradiction to the Reverend, Rich Hall - one of Birdie's administrators and the creator of the amazing tribute album Birdie Hop and the Sydiots - didn't sit on his lazy ass while Alex was frolicking with the girls around the British landscape (see part one of this article: A sunny afternoon with Iggy). He took Syd's Opel track and added several guitar layers to the original version to make it sound a bit more finished. Of course it still has the quirky singing, but Rich's attempt is something of a definitive version and one that could be put on any Syd Barrett compilation album to come.

Update 2016 06 17: Soundcloud deleted this version a while ago, but it can be found on Facebook as well:

Opel upgrade by Rich Hall

Link: Opel (Rich Hall upgrade)

Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band
Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band.

London Cambridge Boogie, 1972

In Cambridge Alex had the opportunity to meet some people who already had an advance copy of the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band album that will come out any day now. Another reason to join Birdie Hop is that you read and hear things first, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. And, with Alex's blessing, we publish here what well could be the very first review of this record in the entire world!

Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band (© Alexander P. HB., 2014)

A big thanks to my friend and Punjabi brother Warren Dosanjh who sent me the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band CD (I had to look three times on the cover to write that correctly).

Of course, the sound and recording quality is not the best, but not as bad as I feared. It is much better than the 1967 live recordings we have of the early Pink Floyd. The main members Jack Monck and Twink do a great job in all songs, no doubt. The singer, Bruce Michael Paine, makes some of the songs sound like a special performance of Uriah Heep or Steamhammer (obviously). The track listing is a collection of late fifties or early sixties blues / rock 'n' roll / boogie tunes and a little bit of early seventies hard rock as well.

I can only hear two guitars.

I hear the perfection of Fred Frith in the first four songs and again in track 8 and 9, I´m not so sure of #8 though. Frith is nearly a perfect guitarist and can almost play nearly everything, nearly (lol)!

I definitively hear Syd Barrett in tracks 5 to 7. But he is not there for just a little bit, he is almost dominating the songs. He is strong and good and I´m sure he had practised a lot before, probably at home. Syd doesn't has the perfection of Frith but he is full of ideas and he is able to play parts that others can´t play or that others have not the craziness to play these parts. But at other times he plays conventionally and fits in perfectly with the song´s structures.

All in all this is much more than I had expected. I only listened to it once, but I didn't want to withhold you of my opinion.

A last word. How we look at the quality of the performed songs has got a lot to do with our viewpoints of today. Today we are spoiled by good concerts and good audio productions, but I'm sure we would all have been very happy to be there on the 27th of January 1972 in the Cambridge Corn Exchange!

Perhaps my expectations were so low that I sound a little bit too enthusiast now. But I am surprised by Syd´s guitar playing. I never thought that he was in such a good shape as a guitar player. This lets me believe that Twink is right and that the Stars concerts were far better than what was written later by people who weren't there.

© Alexander P. HB., 2014.

A detailed review with a full background story and an interview with Twink will appear later on, simultaneously at the Church and Birdie Hop.

This is part two of Alexander's adventures in the UK, for part one, go here: A sunny afternoon with Iggy 
This is also a prequel of our Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band article series: LMPTBB 


Many thanks to: Alexander P. HB.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2014-06-22

Syd's Last Stand

The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band
The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band.

It is a small miracle that you can listen to the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band Six Hours Technicolour Dream CD, issued by Easy Action.

In a previous article, The Last Minute Put Together Reel Story, you could read how the reel came into place, how a first copy was found back in 1985 and immediately seized, in about the most moronic way ever, by Pink Floyd Ltd (or EMI), who put it into one of their secret locker rooms.

The second (and last) copy was found back 20 years later and when it was put on sale, EMI nor Pink Floyd reacted, which could have been their ultimate chance to bury this release forever and ever... They were so full of themselves they thought they could delay this release even with another copy floating around.

Easy Action purchased it and after an immense struggle, behind the scenes, to get the copyrights (partially?) settled it was finally released, in June 2014. Of course this isn't an audiophile release, it is nothing more than an audience recording (but one of the slightly better ones) and the band that plays is rough and sloppy at times, but they seem to enjoy the gig. The Number Nine jam is, for Barrett fanoraks, as essential as the Rhamadan download, that – if our information is correct – has disappeared from the official sydbarrett.com servers, but can still be downloaded on iTunes.

The Syd Barrett website is run by One Fifteen that, like a good dog chained to Pink Floyd Ltd, has to lick its master's orifices for a living. Is that why you won't find a trace of LMPTBB on the official Syd Barrett news overview? And now that we are on to it, stop that irritating jukebox, will you.

But perhaps we, members of the Sydiot league, are just a bit over-sensitive and too unrealistic to acknowledge that Syd Barrett was just a very small sardine in a fishbowl of sharks? Isn't the Reverend getting too geriatric for this kind of goody good bullshit? Anyway, here is our second article in our Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band series, because nobody seems to care if we don't.

Update 2016: in January 2016 the official Syd Barrett website changed hands. It is now maintained by the Barrett family. After a good start with some out of the ordinary articles about Octopus and Bob Dylan Blues, it has - unfortunately - retreated into internet limbo.

Six Hour Technicolour Dream poster
Six Hour Technicolour Dream poster.

Boogie Nights

After Barrett's second solo album failed to impress the charts Syd retreated to Cambridge where it became clear that not all was well (see also: Hairy Mess). Trying to find his way back in music, at his own pace, he met Jenny Spires, who had returned to Cambridge as well and was now married to bass player Jack Monck whom Syd jammed with at least once. On the 26th of January 1972 Jenny took Syd to an Eddie ‘Guitar’ Burns gig that had Jack Monck and John 'Twink' Alder as backing musicians. Of course Twink was not unknown to Syd, they once had managed to gatecrash the launch party of King Crimson's first album, high on a dangerous cocktail of Champagne (from Steve Peregrin Took) and mandrax (accidentally misplaced in Iggy Rose's handbag who would otherwise never carry such a thing with her).

Somehow Jenny and Jack persuaded Syd to bring his guitar and when the Burns gig ended Syd joined the backing band for an impromptu jam. In Terrapin 3 from February 1973 this gig was reviewed by Mervyn Hughes:

Eddie (Burns) does a solo spot, then announces his “Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band” which consisted of Twink on Drums and Jack Monck on Bass. This band was given a set on their own and Syd was roped in to play too. (…) Although he stood at the back (just jamming as he obviously didn't know the numbers) play he did.

Our previous article in the LMPTBB series has a testimony of Jim Gillespie who noted that the jam with Syd Barrett took place as a supporting act, before the Eddie 'Guitar' Burns gig. He claims the LMPTBB played two short sets, one before (with Syd) and one after (with Bruce Paine). This is just another example of how memories can differ between persons, especially after a four decades interval.

In the extremely well written and definitive Stars (and LMPTBB) article: Twilight of an Idol, Mark Sturdy quotes another witness, Steve Brink:

There was a real natural musical empathy between the three of them. In any improvisational band, the musicians have to be interested in what each other are doing, and Syd was genuinely interested. It was just a free-form jam for about half an hour – more improvisatory than 12-bar blues, and I’m sure it changed key on any number of occasions. But there’s always that moment, that dynamic thing when three musicians make something that works.

Steve Brink was the man who organised the Six Hour Technicolour Dream festival the next day and perhaps he was secretly hoping for Barrett to show up again. We can't be sure of what Syd Barrett thought of it all, but Jenny Spires, Jack Monck and Twink convinced him to rehearse the next afternoon. The band tried to have Syd sing at least one of his own songs, but that plan was abandoned as Syd was still too fragile. Fred Frith, from Henry Cow fame, was quite disillusioned and would still be after the gig:

Syd played “Smokestack Lightning” or variations thereof in every song, and didn’t really sing at all.

Well let's find out if he spoke the truth, shall we?

Why don't you listen to the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band album on Spotify while reading this interview? (A Spotify membership is probably needed, but this is free. There is no need to download and install the Spotify player, the music will (hopefully) play in your browser.)

Direct link: Six Hours Technicolour Dream.

1. Foreplay

Sea Cruise

The record starts immediately with a cover of Huey "Piano" Smith's Sea Cruise (better known in Frankie Ford's version), so no band's introduction or greeting.

It is clear that this is not a soundboard, but an on stage recording and already after 41 seconds there seems to be a microphone falling out. Actually this is good news because it accentuates Fred Frith's guitar playing that surely is inventive and most of the time right to the point. Don't worry, sound quality will get better after a while, or perhaps it is just our ears getting used to the recording. The first number undoubtedly is just a warming up for better things to come.

The band introduces itself after the first track. Tape completists like to have the full recording of a concert, including guitar tunings and chatter in between numbers, and these seem to be left in. Of course every commercial release might be edited and snipped here and there, but if it is done it is pretty well done. However there are some places where we think some cuts have been made.

Bruce Paine
Bruce Paine.

L.A. To London Boogie

Singer Bruce Paine announces the second number as one he wrote himself.

Bruce Michael Paine, who sadly passed away in 2009, started as a folk singer in Greenwich Village (NYC) in the 60's. Like Dylan, his music became “electrified" by the middle of the decade, and he signed with Atlantic Records. He joined the Apple Pie Motherhood Band after their eponymous first album (1968) and sang on their second and last (Apple Pie, 1969). Both records can be found on the web and don't really impress, call it contemporary psychedelic oddities of the average kind.

After Apple Pie (without the crust, as Nick Mason would say) Bruce Paine stars in the San Francisco production of the musical Hair, then he moves to London where he meets drummer Twink and bass player John 'Honk' Lodge, from Junior's Eyes and later Quiver. They form a power blues trio, the 'Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band' (luckily they didn't pick Honk, Twink & Paine for a band's name). After some demo sessions at Polydor the band is denied a recording contract and a disillusioned Honk leaves the band. With Jack Monk as replacement the band mysteriously ends up in Cambridge, but after about ten gigs the claim for fame is over.

In May 1972 Bruce Paine briefly joins Steamhammer for their European and UK tour, but then he calls his European adventure quits and returns to the States to star in another musical, this time Jesus Christ Superstar.

Later on he will do session and acting work, with (small) roles in Married with Children and Quantum Leap. According to his self-penned bio he appeared in numerous films and television series and kept on gigging with his own band.

L.A. to London Boogie is a straightforward seventies rock song and the good thing is that about one minute into the tune Paine's micro switches back on. Remarkable is that Fred Frith keeps throwing arpeggios around as if they come thirteen in a dozen. All in all the band plays pretty tight, but the song itself is nothing more than a good average and leaves no lasting impression.

Apple Pie Motherhood Band
Apple Pie Motherhood Band.

Ice

The third song is called Ice. It is a cover from the first Apple Pie Motherhood Band album, the one Bruce Paine didn't sing on, and written by Apple Pie member Ted Demos and session singer Marilyn Lundquist. On the album Ice is a trippy psychedelic blues that seems to go nowhere in the end but how does the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band deals with it?

Direct link: Ice - Apple Pie Motherhood Band.

One thing you can say that it is longer, almost the triple longer than the original. Frith adds guitar lines that don't always seem to be coherent in the beginning but that get better later on. At the three minutes mark Twink and Frith start an experimental cacophony and this makes us wonder if this is what Spaceward Studios archivist Mark 'FraKcman' Graham described as dreadful, stoned, out-of-key noodlings (see: The Last Minute Put Together Reel Story). It sure is a weird fusion between blues, hard rock and the avant-garde prog sound of Henry Cow, the band Frith started in 1968. The prog-rock stoners in the public must have loved it. Of course this is a cheap reflection afterwards but in this track Paine really shows he is the right person to star in those hideous Andrew Lloyd Webber rock operas, that man has a throat and he knows how to use it.

Nadine

A heckler in the audience shouts for some some rock'n roll and we get the classic Nadine. Also known as "Nadine (Is It You?)" it is a song written by Chuck Berry who released it as a single in February 1964. A straightforward and simple rendition this is, nothing less, nothing more, these guys know their business.

We haven't said a lot about Twink and Jack Monck yet, but the band certainly is inspired and well-trained. In the liner notes Twink reveals that they recorded several demos for Polydor, including L.A. To London Boogie and one that isn't on this live set, called Smoke. The band did about 10 gigs in total and as this could well have been their last gig they were a well oiled machine by now and it shows.

From now on the gig can only get better and better.

2. Eargasm

Gideon Daniels
Gideon Daniels.

Drinkin' That Wine

Time to announce a special guest:

We'd like to bring Syd Barrett up to the bandstand. Will you come on and (???) how about a hand for Syd Barrett?

We hear some polite applause and a guitar that is plugged in. Bruce Paine tells the public that the last group he toured with in the States was Gideon Daniels' gospel band and that he picked the next song from their set. There isn't much about him on the net, but one comment on a YouTube video tells this:

I saw Gideon & Power numerous times, and to this day (…) they were the best live act I've ever seen -- and that includes Jimi Hendrix. I remember when Mickey [Thomas] joined. Prior to that, there was Bobby Castro, Bruce Payne [sic], and Charlie Hickox on piano and vocal.

According to Bruce on the Six Hour Technicolour Dream record the song is about a funky dude who gets drunk by stealing the mass wine but in fact this is a traditional communion song that has been described in several anthologies and studies, like The Negro And His Songs from 1925 (page 136) and Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands from 1942 (page 249-251):

The swinging rhythm of the communion song, “Drinkin' of the Wine”, made it a favorite with the chain-gang for cutting weeds along the highway.

American minstrel Bascom Lamar Lunsford learned the song around 1900 in Wilkes County, North Carolina and you can hear him singing it at the beginning of this video. The history of the Drinkin' That Wine traditional is fascinating (the Reverend lost nearly three hours reading about it) but it would bring us too far. What matters for us, Syd fans, is that Syd Barrett plays on it and that it is a mighty earworm and the catchiest song on the album. Once you've got in into your head it is difficult to get it out again.

The track turns into a power blues that pushes Syd's guitar to the background at points, but his playing can be well distinguished if you take attention. His playing is in a different style from Frith's, muddier, sloppier perhaps... He does not spit out the notes at 120 beats per minute but this is about having a good time and not about a finger speed race.

This is good, this is really good.

Number Nine

As if a gospel wasn't weird enough, in a Floydian context, the gig turns even weirder. Number Nine is a bluesy jam that starts pretty traditional and then develops further into space. This could well be the highlight of the album for vintage Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett freaks. It catapults this reviewer back to the Abdab days when the proto-Floyd struggled with psychedelic versions of Louie Louie and other R&B standards. This may well sound like early Pink Floyd may have sounded in their experimental days. In the Barrett biographies to come this track will be described as being as essential as the Whitehead Interstellar Overdrive and the recently (and reluctantly) released Rhamadan. We took the liberty of grabbing some comments on Yeeshkul:

Demamo: “The guitar playing and sound is very "Lanky" and "Gigo Aunt" ish.”
Orgone Accumulator: “For all his psychedelic leanings, Syd tapped into that earlier Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly groove, with an emphasis on percussive rhythm.”
Beechwoods: “I must admit that musically I like it and there is an interesting progression between Interstellar and his '74 guitar pieces ('Chugga Chugga Chug Chug' etc) that is worth hearing.”

Like Rhamadan this isn't easy listening, but just like Rhamadan it isn't the disaster everyone feared for either. Listen to it, concentrate, feel the groove. It will grow on you.

Just before the eight minutes mark a micro falls out again for a couple of seconds, resulting in - weird enough – a better sound quality because the sound isn't distorted any more.

Gotta Be A Reason

At ten minutes the track segues into Gotta Be A Reason, probably the second LMPTBB original on this record. This track is only mentioned as a separate number for copyright (read: financial) reasons because after the strophe and refrain it further develops into Number Nine territory. As a matter of fact, early track listings just mentioned it as Number Nine (Gotta Be A Reason) and not as two separate numbers.

The jam ends somewhat sloppy with Twink, who has been in excellent shape throughout the record, in an obvious death struggle on drums. Perhaps it is just a clumsy way to have Syd unplug his guitar and leave the stage.

What a weird trip it has been.

3. Afterplay

Feel It!
Elvin Bishop.

Let's Roll

The eighth track is named Let's Roll on the CD, and this can be open to some controversy.

Actually this fun piece is a close cover of Elvin Bishop's Party Till the Cows Come Home that is equally irresistible (watch this 2013 version and try not to tap your feet), co-written with S. Colby Miller and recorded on the Elvin Bishop Group's second album Feel It! (1970).

While the lyrics of the verses are different in both versions:

LMPTBB:

Everybody out for a have a good time
I say wiggle baby and I'll be mine
You gotta shake your legs and wiggle with your hip

Elvin Bishop:

Kick out the windows bust down the doors
We`re drinkin` half gallons and shoutin` for more
Take off your shoes and let yourself go

The refrain, melody and chord progression are almost identical:

We're gonna boogie till the rooster crows
We're gonna party till the cows come home
Let's roll. Let's roll. (Let it roll in the Elvin Bishop original).

Bruce Paine toured with Gideon Daniel's gospel band in the USA, before he went to the UK, and that musician worked, on different occasions, with Elvin Bishop, so perhaps a link can be found there. Perhaps both tracks are based on a communal forefather or traditional, who knows?

When the Reverend remarked on Birdie Hop that he found it weird that none of the Boogie Band song credits mentions copyright owners, nor lyricists and composers, although the two owners had nine years to sort this out, the answer - from a music insider - was laconic as ever:

It is gray area and not as uncommon as you think, especially in the world of music. (…) The usual reason is that it's a sorted affair, meaning multi copywriters on the same tune. The composers also have to agree with how it is going to be submitted to ASCAP or BMI. So rather than hold it up, the material gets released.

In other words, by not sorting out the copyrights beforehand, the hot potato is pushed forward until the record has been released. If the copyright holders eventually find out they can ask for a slice of the pie (or in this case: potato) and if they don't: tough luck. And just yesterday morning the Church was informed that the reason why this release still isn't widely available in the shops is there still is 'a small issue with agreements...'

Let's Roll aka Party Till the Cows Come Home gets a great round of applause, but alas it is time to say goodbye with a last tune, originally from B.B King.

Sweet Little Angel

Shivers down the spine, although the song is given a somewhat shady treatment, but that adds to its integrity.

Not only a great band was lost with the Last Minute Out Together Boogie Band, but lead singer Bruce Paine surely deserved a better musical career than he actually had. If you don't want to buy this record for Barrett's involvement, do it to remember Bruce Paine. We certainly hope he is drinkin' that wine with Syd, up there in nirvana.

Guitars (3 different ones)

The Reverend is so tone-deaf that if you play him a trumpet and tell him it is a guitar, he will believe you. So all we hear, thanks to god's unequal distribution of the aural senses, is a mud-pool of guitar noise. Luckily some people can distinct instruments, like Syd Wonder does on Late Night.

There are three guitarists on this set... Two of them play on tracks without Syd. Barrett's announced when he joins the group in mid-show, while Frith isn't. I think Frith plays the entire show, with Bruce Paine on guitar as well.
I also appreciated Alexander's review (and most of the time, I do hear two guitars).

This could be correct as Bruce Paine joined LMPTBB the day before, on the Eddie Burns gig, with his guitar to have a jam.

About the tracks with Syd he adds:

"Drinkin' That Wine" - vocals were recorded very loud; I hear three guitars. Instrumental sections are from 1:50-3:03 (Syd heavily distorted, playing rhythm, searching, finding a groove - when he starts to solo, Paine starts to sing again), and 3:41-4:49 (Syd plays some solid leads).
"Number Nine" - highlight of the set, it begins with a repeated riff from Barrett. The band doesn't react, so he stops and they all start again. Some worthy improvisations emerge, as it continues. Frith's guitar work is more trebly and rather busy, Barrett's comparatively relaxed and textural. At times I hear three guitars. I really like what Syd plays in the last couple of minutes.
"Gotta Be A Reason" - it segues out of Number Nine, in a continuous performance. Syd solos for about 30 seconds near the beginning. Paine sings a bit, ceases at 2:05. Three guitars again... Frith becomes very busy... Barrett responds with strong counter-melodies, seems to vanish sometime after the 5-minute mark.
Signed by Twink (not ours)
Signed by Twink (not our copy).

Conclusion

Sound quality: slightly above bootleg quality, with tape damage here and there and mikes that fall out (and are plugged in again). Towards the middle of the gig the sound gets rather distorted due to the higher volume levels and there is a lot of resonance. At Yeeshkul, where sound fanatics reside, questions have already been raised that the cleaning and denoising was clumsily done, but this can't be verified without a raw tape leaking out.

Performance: sloppy and muddy at times, but great fun that still can be felt 4 decades later. The band is a typical seventies power blues construction, think : Led Zep, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple. Syd is not in super form, but he isn't that bad either.

Packaging: it looks great, with a 12 page booklet and an exclusive Twink interview, but lacking song copyright information.

Accuracy: grumpy as we are, we need to get the following of our chest. The back cover correctly places three asterisks next to the three tracks that feature Syd Barrett. However, both Fred Frith (who is on all tracks) and Syd Barrett (who is only on three) get an asterisk next to their name. Blimey, Easy Action record cover people, you have had 5 fucking years to get that cover right. As mentioned above, there are 3 guitar players present, something that is overlooked as well on the sleeve.

Trivia: the poster, used for the front cover, was meticulously scanned in by Warren Dosanjh of I Spy in Cambridge fame and a honorary member of the Birdie Hop Facebook group. Eternal thanks to Mohammed Abdullah John Alder, not only for a magnificent performance but also for rolling, pushing and squeezing the ball.

(End of part two of our LMPTBB series, part one can be found here: The Last Minute Put Together Reel Story. Part three will have more of the same. You have been warned.)


Many thanks to: Mohammed Abdullah John 'Twink' Alder, Rick Barnes, Beechwoods, Birdie Hop, Mick Brown, Cyberspace, Demamo, Chris Farmer, Late Night, Orgone Accumulator, Syd Wonder, Yeeshkul.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 171-173.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 283-285.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 392-400.
Six Hour Technicolour Dream poster scanned in by Mick Brown.


2014-09-12

Spanishgrass by Spanishgrass, a review of the 2014 album

Spanisgrass reel 3, courtesy Stanislav
Spanisgrass reel 3, courtesy Stanislav.

Finally the fourth copy of Spanishgrass has been found. It is somewhere in that immense country that is Russia, in the hands of the slightly dadaist artist Stanislav, whom we happen to have met this summer in Brussels, the territory of Manneken Pis, Hergé and Magritte. If this was an episode of Crime Scene Investigation, where the actors have the uncanny habit of talking way too fast, we would say that the net closes around the Syd Barrett Facebook group Birdie Hop as all people who have received a copy are linked, one way or another, to that gang. On the other hand, as Birdie Hop undoubtedly is the best Syd Barrett group around on Facebook this is not really earth-shattering news either.

Oseira

The great grey edifice of the Osera monastery stretches out almost alone within a trough of the Galician hills. A small shop and a bar at the very entrance of the monastery grounds make up the whole village of Osera. The carved exterior which dates from the sixteenth century hides the twelfth-century interior – an imposing stairway, perhaps twenty metres wide, up which a platoon could march shoulder to shoulder, leads to long passages lined with guest rooms above the central courtyard and the cloisters. Almost the only sound during the day is the ring of hammers where half a dozen workmen are struggling to repair the ravages of seven centuries. (Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote)

Let's cut the crap, once and for all. Of course the 2014 Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta) 'immersion' set, that has only been issued in four copies, isn't Syd Barrett's lost Oseira record. Syd has never visited that monastery. The Spanish blog Sole En Las Nubes has dedicated some valuable webspace to investigate the Spanishgrass hoax and managed to trace it back to a Spanish journalist and photographer who decided to have some fun in a satirical underground magazine of the mid-eighties. (Thanks to Antonio Jesús for allowing us to publish his articles in English: Spanishgrass.) If you call yourself a decent Barrett-fan you should know that by now, so don't feel insulted.

But this doesn't mean that there isn't a 'Spanishgrass' record by a 'Spanishgrass' band. The numbered and limited deluxe sets have been sent to four extremely lucky people on 3 different continents. There also seems to be a regular CD release, but it is pretty limited as well, and probably you will have to ask for one if you want to receive it, but of course you need to puzzle out who is behind the record first. Luckily the set has been released this week on Bandcamp where you can listen to it, track per track, or download the album in its entirety on a 'name your own price' basis (0.00$ is an option as well).

Why don't you listen to the Spanishgrass album on Bandcamp while reading this review?

Direct link: Spanishgrass: Twenty Songs of Space and Siesta by Spanishgrass

Spanishgrass (CD), courtesy Antonio Jesus
Spanishgrass (CD), courtesy Antonio Jesus.

Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta)

Spanishgrass 2014 is a re-imagination of a record that never was in the first place. Its maker had to explore the unexplored, like those medieval cartographers who wrote hic sunt dracones (here are dragons) on uncharted regions of their maps and who drew mythological creatures, dragons and sea serpents on the empty spaces.

The record, 57 minutes in total, has 23 tracks (3 more than on the 'original' Spanisgrass), divided into 4 blocks and closely following the track-listing and the lyrics that have been published by the Solo En Las Nubes and Holy Church blogs (Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed). Supplemental lyrics have been taken from The White Goddess (Robert Graves, 1948) and Imaginary Lives (Marcel Schwob, 1896).

Like in Eduardo Galeano's Book of Embraces where every anecdote stands on its own but interactively forms a complete chapter, each track has its own merits but unites with the others. The record has been made to listen to in its entirety, or at least part by part, 4 in total, each separated by a 'division' Bells track (#1, 2 and 3). An interesting experiment would be to play the record on shuffle and see what new auditive interactions are created.

The music consists of evocative instrumentals and up-tempo tunes, with a spacey, early Floydian, guitar sorrowing in the background, psychedelic keyboards, fragile percussion and spoken word, whispered mostly in English and sometimes Galician (Na Outra Banda). Soundscapes and musique concrète are omnipresent: babbling brooks, chirping birds, whistling teapots (Breakwater and Tea), a lawnmower (Waste Deep) and some excited monks.

Do not expect an easy parcours, the music can be annoying, harrowing, exhausting, cathartic, transcendental, repetitive. It is impossible to fit the tracks into a single category other than that melting pot that is avant-garde or art-rock. There are traces of early and vintage Floyd (from Ummagumma to Obscured By Clouds), haunting rhythms that stay remnant in your mind like those irritating Swans drones (The Seer), seventies porn flick lounge tunes, Tarantinesque exotica, Michael Nyman's repetitiveness and even (cough, cough)... Spanish bluegrass rockabilly (Grey Trees).

Either you find this record utterly irritating or utterly brilliant and the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit seems to fall in the second category. A masterpiece for non easy listeners, but we have never been easy, haven't we?

Reel three (by Stanislav)
Reel three (by Stanislav).

Tracklisting

Part One: Manantial (Spring) / Reverential Mourners / Black Maid / Plastic Gunpowder / Bells 1 (approx. 14 minutes)

Part Two: Mouse after a fête / Breakwater and tea / Grey trees / Two bangers + mash / Whining at the moon / Bells 2 (approx. 15 minutes)

Part Three: Greenland / Eu son Dhaga (I am Dhaga) / Na outra banda (On the other hand) / Un poeta esquece os días de chuvia (A poet forgets the rainy days) / Saturnalia / Bells 3 (approx. 16 minutes)

Part Four: William Phips / Stede Bonnet / Gabriel Spenser / Gospel at Noon / Waste Deep / Frog (approx. 13 minutes).

(This is part three of the the Spanishgrass, the myth continues... series. Hi-def scans and pictures will be revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass Tumblr gallery.)


Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package. Spanishgrass can be downloaded at Bandcamp.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ Babylemonade Aleph ♥


2014-10-24

Hurricane over London

Who is Who in Rock Music
Who is Who in Rock Music, William York.

Contents

Norman Smith: John Lennon Called Me Normal
Joe Beard: Taking The Purple
Pink Floyd: Jugband Blues

Introduction

One of the Reverend's great advantages of his Pink Floyd adoration, somewhere in the mid-seventies, was the start of a music collection. Barry Miles' excellent Visual Documentary (first edition: 1980) had a separate discography with Floydian collaborations and once the Reverend had a job, in the early eighties, he also had the dough to buy Floyd - and later: Hipgnosis and Harvest - related records at the local second-hand record shops thus creating a musical spiderweb with Pink Floyd at its centre.

After the Reverend had joined an illegal local university radio station his weekly excursions to the record shop resulted in an even bigger appetite for vinyl. At Saturday afternoon he would arrive home with the catch of the day, open his Who's Who in Rock Music, look for the records he had just bought and underline all personnel (band members and session players) he found in the alphabetical listing. The book came in very handy for making the playlist for a weekly rock, blues, jazz and folk show he co-produced, trying to find connections from one record to the other. The world-wide web, dear children, didn't exist yet in those days and links weren't just one click away as they are now.

(The Reverend's heavily damaged record collection can be admired at the Record My Cat Destroyed Tumblr blog.)

Mr. Smith goes to London

This last remark is one Norman Hurricane Smith could have made (actually, does make) in his autobiography John Lennon Called Me Normal. The book was first issued as a limited edition at a 2007 Beatles Fan Fest but, as we found out this year to our amazement, it can also be found at Lulu where it is sold for a healthy 25$ a piece. If you don't know for sure who Norman Smith is you can read this excellent obituary, written by Syd Barrett biographer Gian Palacios, hosted at the Church: John Lennon called him 'Normal'....  

Norman Smith.
Norman Smith.

Invasion Force Venice

Smith was a pilot during world war II but he never saw any real war action, making the chance of being killed nearly zero. He was part of a secret missions squadron, so secret that military bureaucracy didn't give them any. When the European side of the war was over, and most soldiers were sent home, Smith and his colleagues were stationed in Venice of all places to await further secret invasion plans, but apparently they were forgotten after Japan's surrender as there were no more enemy countries to secretly invade.

While England was on ration books, Norman sunbathed on Venice beach, dining on espresso, grappa, Parma ham and stuffed mushrooms, longing for the woman he had married in May 1945. In the evening he would go to the Excelsior hotel for a Cinzano soda where he sat in with the twelve-piece jazz band. It took British headquarters two full years to locate (and dismiss) the secret squadron, probably by following the trail of limoncello and sambucca bills, and back home - in 1947! - Smith decided for a weird career change and became a refrigerator repair man.

The Beat is on

But his heart had always been with music and Norman's second lucky strike came when he managed to bluff himself in at EMI where he became an apprentice sound engineer in 1959. No two without three and Smith's third chance of a lifetime came when some Liverpudlian lads auditioned for a record deal, supervised by his boss George Martin.

And here is where Smith's autobiography, that was in fact ghost-written by Neil Jefferies who is called 'Research' throughout the book, becomes foggy. The audition, so remembers Smith, did not take place as George Martin professes, repeated in every Beatles biography since. Norman hints that something smelly was going on from the beginning and that shady deals were taking place in the dark corners of the studio, something to do with song-rights. Each individual Beatle earned only one thousand of a pound per single while others had their greasy hands in the till. He repeats this several times in the book, but he never actually directs his accusations at someone, although George Martin, coincidentally, always seems to blend in the background.

You can read between the lines that Norman Smith and George Martin weren't best pals, especially since the one didn't find it necessary to mention the other in his memoirs despite the fact that Smith had engineered and produced about a hundred Beatles songs. When George, who has acquired something of an infallible status, got hold of the news that Norman was writing his side of the story, Smith was summoned to an informal meeting in the EMI gardens that is a bit described like Galileo Galilei having to explain heliocentrism before Pope Paul V and the Roman Inquisition.

Pink: the Colour of Money

But this blog is not about the true story of The Beatles but about (early) Pink Floyd. George Martin may have done a Don Corleone on Norman Smith, but when it comes to his own financial matters the Hurricane is overtly discreet as well. So you will find only one flimsy reference in the 501 pages book that Smith once had a solid financial share in Pink Floyd (12,5% as was leaked out by Neil Jefferies in a Record Collector article). About his financial share in the Beatles catalogue (and all the other bands he recorded and produced): not a word.

Most of the time Norman Smith is pretty down to Earth. When he finds out what Roger Waters says about the third single Apples And Oranges in Toby Manning's The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd:

It was destroyed by the production. It is a fucking good song.

his reaction is likewise:

There might be no L's in Waters, but there are two in 'Bollocks'.

Smith is too much of a realist and doesn't adhere the romantic or conspiracy viewpoints many fans have of the downfall of Barrett:

Syd wasn't anybody else's fault. Syd was Syd's bloody fault.

At one point Norman Smith, Parlophone head suit after George Martin had left EMI with doors smashing, got a phone call from Bryan Morrison bragging about a new fantastic band he wanted to promote. They met at UFO:

I found myself having a pint with him in the filthiest, foulest-smelling, shittiest dive that I'd ever been to in my life so far. (…) I thought: Maybe I should just go home?

But there, deep in the bowels of the Tottenham Court Road, in the overpowering pong of Patchouli oil, dope, and incense and sour ale that would have a tramp gagging but maybe not your average music-biz exec, I suddenly found myself listening to some great sounds and also being propositioned by some starry-eyed chicks.

Of course Norman also met the Pink Floyd managers:

Andrew King and his friend Peter Jenner were not hippies and certainly not mohair-suited wide-boys out on the make. (…) They were about as middle-class as you could get. They both attended Westminster School (…) and both their fathers were clergymen! - Yes! (…) Two vicar's sons managed Pink Floyd!!!
Norman Hurricane Smith
Norman 'Hurricane' Smith.

Unfortunately that's about all there is to find in the 500 pages book and while every fan was eager to read some revealing stories about Smith's involvement with The Beatles and Pink Floyd the biography never goes further than occasional cocktail party small talk. Some anecdotes are literally repeated five time throughout the book and it would have benefited to be two-thirds shorter. To add insult to injury most anecdotes seem to be about... Elvis Presley, a man Norman Smith never met, nor recorded, but thoroughly admires.

Fish Report with a Beat

The DVD Pink Floyd: Meddle - A Classic Album Under Review is one of those rather redundant, take the money and run, documentaries where people – who have nothing to do with Pink Floyd whatsoever – claim to make an in-depth analysis of the band or one of its albums, but it has an interesting ten minutes Syd Barrett featurette with Peter Banks (Syn, Yes) and Norman Smith. (Direct link: Syd Barrett - The Early Days Of Pink Floyd.)

In the interview Norman Smith tells Syd didn't come over as the 'musical director' of the Floyd:

He spoke through his songs.

Instant Salvation

The featurette tells more about how Jugband Blues came into place (and we will not try to find out what this has got to do with Meddle). It was actually Norman Smith's idea to add 'some kind of a brass band' at the end of the song and Barrett suggested to ask the Salvation Army for that.

Through his many contacts Norman managed to hire several International Staff Band musicians, 12 to 14, he recalls, but it was probably closer to 8. Random Precision author David Parker assumes these musicians were 'moonlighting' as the International Staff Band itself has no trace of this session in its archives, besides that the complete troupe had over 30 members.

Syd Barrett showed up in the studio an hour too late, that 19th of October 1967, and Norman asked him what he had in mind. As legend goes Barrett didn't have any ideas and suggested that they could play anything they liked. Then he left the studio. Smith adds somewhat wryly:

He not only left the studio, he left the building.

We can imagine this was not the kind of behaviour Norman Smith liked, for several reasons.

First he was perhaps too much of a musician and so he did fully understand that classical trained performers need a score in front of their noses before they blow their horns. Pink Floyd would have about the same problem, a couple of years later, with Atom Heart Mother, when the orchestra refused to play the score the way Ron Geesin had written it. The composer had to be removed from the studio seconds before he wanted to punch one of the musicians in the face.

Second, Norman Smith also had a financial responsibility towards EMI, and the bookkeepers wouldn't have liked the idea to pay an eight man brass band to sit on their chairs for tea and biscuits.

So he played the tape in front of the session players and when they couldn't come up with an improvisation, these guys were not rock musicians who can fabricate a lick in seconds, Norman wrote a score he was rather embarrassed with, but it ended up on the record anyway.

You have those hardcore Sydiots, with the emphasis on the last part, who find the idea to have a brass band play anything they like one of those genial flashes half-god Barrett had. Hagiographer Rob Chapman is one of them:

Once again Syd’s wilfully anarchic approach was in direct conflict with the regimented working methods of an unsympathetic producer.

Actually Smith's testimonial shows it was exactly the contrary. Syd was the one who acted unprofessional by first arriving too late and then by leaving the studio when he was asked to direct the session. Smith was obliged, back against the wall, to deal with the problem, which he did splendidly in the short time that was left to him. One thing is for sure, Normal really earned his 12,5% on this one...

The Purple Gang in satanic outfit
The 'satanic' Purple Gang.

Gangsters

It is generally believed that Jugband Blues is one of the songs Barrett wrote in the second half of 1967, together with Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream. This trilogy is regarded by some as being highly introspective songs where Syd, in an exceptional state of clarity, describes his own vulnerable and frail psyche.

However, in a recent autobiography from Chris Joe Beard, Taking The Purple, a remarkable (and until now untold) story has been put forward.

Chris Joe Beard is lyricist / songwriter from the band The Purple Gang who had an underground novelty hit in 1967. They started as a traditional jug band and changed their name from The Young Contemporaries to The Purple Gang, forced by their manager, a roaring 1920’s aficionado, who thought a clean-cut Chicago gangster style would be cool. Looking for a scene to make some promo pictures they stumbled upon a shop in Kings Road, where they accidentally met Paul McCartney.

The shop's name Granny Takes A Trip inspired Joe Beard to write an innocent and funny song about a rich old lady wanting to meet movie-star Rudy Vallée in Hollywood, adding it to a catchy melody that had been composed by piano player Geoff Bowyer. The song was a cross-over between traditional jug and pop and as such producer Joe Boyd preferred it to their more traditional repertoire à la Bootleg Whiskey (that has John 'Hoppy' Hopkins on piano, by the way).

Boon Blues

Incidentally The Purple Gang wasn't the only band Joe Boyd was producing that week in January 1967. On Sunday, the 29th, a band called Pink Floyd, then still without a contract, had recorded Arnold Layne at Sound Techniques studios. Syd Barrett had listened to Granny Takes A Trip and had humorously remarked it would become #2 after the Floyd's soon to be number one. But Joe Boyd had other important news as well:

There’s a tape of some of his [Syd Barrett, note from FA] songs and we think a good, quick follow-up to Granny is on there. Syd thinks Boon Tune is the one for you. There are several. There’s one called Jugband Blues but he’s still working on that.

Unfortunately Nathan Joseph from Transatlantic Records objected, saying that they didn't want to pay out any royalties to someone from outside the band. Boon Tune was shelved, although it would surface as Here I Go on a Barrett solo album. Joe Beard took the reel-to-reel demo home where it was promptly forgotten and it has never been found back since.

While the UFO crowd accepted The Purple Gang in their midst, the BBC did otherwise, and for exactly the same reasons.

Granny's Satanic Trip

The title of The Purple Gang's first single Granny Takes A Trip was tongue in cheek and ambiguous enough to please the psychedelic crowd. By then the band did not like the gangster outfits they had to wear from their manager and opted for a more alternative look. Singer Pete Walker, nicknamed Lucifer, was a member of a coven, an actual warlock, and used to wear a red robe with a big upside down cross while gigging. During the Wizard song he would do the odd pagan routine on stage, much appreciated by the psychedelic crowd (see also: Arthur Brown). However, for the BBC, the word 'trip' in the lyrics and the satanic outing of the singer was enough reason to ban the song. The BBC boycott dwindled the chances for The Purple Gang to get into the charts, to get their (only) record sold, to find gigs and they eventually disbanded. If this proves one thing, dear sistren and brethren, it is that selling your soul to the devil will not automatically guarantee you chart successes.

The first half of the biography, from the start to the psychedelic years of the band, is interesting, funny, packed with anecdotes and deserves a 5 star rating. The fact that the BBC banned Joe Beard's only chance to have a million-seller has left its marks though and unfortunately the author feels the need to repeat that every few pages. The later years, with Chris Beard as a solo-artist and struggling to get The Purple Gang back on the road are a bit tedious. But the Kindle edition is only 5$, cheaper than the latest Pink Floyd interview in Q, Mojo or Uncut, so it is money well spent. For the first half, the book is a real treat to read.

Two Of A Kind

Eventually, in 2006, Joe Beard and a reincarnated Purple Gang covered Boon Tune in a jug band way.

At a book signing / reading in 2007, Joe Boyd talked about the lost demo tape Syd Barrett gave him in early 1967... He said Syd described the tape's contents as 'songs the band didn't want to do' (Source: timeline of songs). According to Julian Palacios that tape had 6 tracks and Boyd and Jenner even discussed the possibility of Syd Barrett doing a solo record, next to the Pink Floyd's first, with skiffle or music-hall style songs. (By the way, did you know we have a Peter Jenner interview on this blog? An innerview with Peter Jenner)

It is not sure if there have been one or two Barrett demo tapes floating around as both men claim they took a tape home and lost it. Joe Boyd received his from Syd Barrett and remembers it had six whimsical tunes. Joe Beard, who got his from Boyd, only remembers two songs: Boon Tune and Jugband Blues.

Jugband Blues turned up, heavily re-arranged, on [A] Saucerful of Secrets – still with the kazoos.

Jugband Blues was recorded by Pink Floyd in October 1967 and as also Vegetable Man was made during the same session it has always been assumed these songs are somewhat related. In Nick Kent's 1974 article The Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett Peter Jenner is quoted:

Y'see, even at that point, Syd actually knew what was happening to him. (...) I mean 'Jug Band Blues' is the ultimate self-diagnosis on a state of schizophrenia. (Source: The Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett)

But if the song had already been written earlier than January that year, this comment doesn't make much sense, does it? What if Jugband Blues is just one of those songs where Barrett copies and juxtaposes 'sampled' messages from other sources, like he did in Octopus (See also: Mad Cat Love).

Jug Band Blues (1924)
Jug Band Blues, Sara Martin (1924).

Still got the Blues for You

Sara Martin began her career in 1915 as a vaudeville singer and in the twenties she became one of the popular female blues singers, next to Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. In September 1924 she recorded some tracks with jug player Earl McDonald and fiddler Clifford Hayes and one of those was called Jug Band Blues.

At first sight that song has nothing in common with Barrett's version. Sara Martin's song is a variation on the popular blues theme of the person who wakes up in the morning and sees that her daddy (lover) is gone. In the first decade of the twentieth century a 'daddy' in African American slang was still a pimp, but later on the term was generalised to a male lover.

Did you ever wake up, find your daddy gone?
Turn over on your side, sing this lonesome song
I woke up this morning between midnight and day
You oughta see me grab the pillow where my daddy used to lay
(Source: Jug Band Blues Sept. 16, 1924.)

One riddle is how Barrett came up with the title 'Jugband Blues'. The chance is small he could find it (mentioned) on a compilation album like he did with Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. (The origins of the Pink Floyd name is extensively discussed at Step It Up And Go.) Sara Martin's Jug Band Blues was only issued as a B-side on two different 78-RPM records from 1924, perhaps in two different versions: Don't You Quit Me Daddy (Okeh 8166) and Blue Devil Blues (Okeh 8188, not to be confounded with the Walter Page track from a few years later). Her 'complete recorded works' (1996, Document) do not include the 'Jug Band' track and probably there weren't any compilations around in the sixties including that track.

Jug Band Blues can (now) be found on a 1994 Clifford Hayes compilation. He had several bands in the twenties, with Earl McDonald on jug, and issued several songs under different names for copyright reasons. Earl McDonalds also had several bands in the twenties, with Clifford Hayes on fiddle, which doesn't make it simpler to find any accurate information. The jug band / skiffle revival resulted in at least three compilations, between 1962 and 1967, but none of these have Sara Martin's Jug Band Blues. We checked.

Skiffle had been very popular in the UK and was not unknown by the Pink Floyd members. Rick Wright had a brief flirtation with skiffle, before converting himself to to trad jazz and Syd Barrett's brother Alan played sax in a skiffle group in Cambridge.

Cambridge had its own deal of skiffle bands, or groups that had started as skiffle units but moved to R&B or rock'n roll later on. The Scramblers, who turned into The Phantoms, The (Swinging) Hi-Fi's, The Black Diamonds, who evolved into The Redcaps, with Tony Sainty on bass (see: RIP Clive Welham: a biscuit tin with knives). Tony Sainty was also in The Chequers, as was Ricky Wills who would later appear on David Gilmour's first solo album. Willie Wilson, who played with Quiver and on the first Gilmour album as well, had been a (replacement) drummer for The Zodiacs, whose roots had also been in skiffle. You can read all about them in the excellent, awarded (and free) I Spy In Cambridge book The music scene of 1960s Cambridge.

Blue Devil Blues by Sara Martin and her Jug Band (with its flip side: Jug Band Blues) has been nominated to be the very first recorded jug band number in human history and that fact may well have been known in Cambridge jug band and skiffle circles. Syd Barrett may have been well aware of this as well.

A Dream within a Dream

Deconstructing Syd's Jugband Blues.

1

It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here
and I'm most obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here
Through the looking glass
Detail from 'An Introduction to Syd Barrett'. Picture: Storm Thorgerson. Slightly amended by: Felix Atagong.

Rob Chapman is right when he describes the opening lines from Jugband Blues as 'cultivated sarcasm' and refuses to see this as a declaration of schizophrenia like Peter Jenner does or did. David Gilmour, and others with him, see Jugband Blues as a transitional song, between his earlier work with Pink Floyd and his later solo songs, that are more mature and experimental in their lyrics.

Actually this opening is just an (awkward) introduction like in so many skiffle songs, including Here I Go.

This is a story about a girl that I knew
She didn't like my songs and that made me feel blue.

Of course Here I Go is pretty conservative and lends its intro from trademark skiffle à la Lonnie Donegan:

Well, this here's the story about the Battle of New Orleans.
(Battle of New Orleans)
Now here's a little story. To tell it is a must.
(My Old Man's A Dustman)
Now, this here's the story about the Rock Island line.
(Rock Island Line)

Syd Barrett transforms the traditional skiffle opening line into a dark and mysterious setting.

2

After the introduction the anecdote is usually explained or elaborated on, although the enigma in Jugband Blues only gets bigger.

and I never knew the moon could be so big
and I never knew the moon could be so blue

A big moon, or super-moon (a popular term dating from 1979), happens when the full moon and the earth are at its closest distance, sometimes resulting in a so-called perigean spring tide. We had one at the 9th of September 2014 and they happen about every 412 days. So it is an event that only happens once in a while.

An astronomical blue moon, or the second full moon in the same month, happens about once every two or three years. Blue Moon is also a standard, from 1934, that has been performed by countless bands and singers, and that has a romantic connotation.

Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

The title of that song (and Syd's lyric) is taken from the saying 'once in a blue moon', meaning a rather rare occasion and Wikipedia learns us that the term 'blues' may have come from 'blue devils', meaning melancholy and sadness.

3

and I'm grateful that you threw away my old shoes
and brought me here instead dressed in red
Louder Than Words
Louder Than Words. Artwork: Hipgnosis (2014).

Just like the 'head / down / ground' symbolism is used several times in Syd songs (see: Tattoo You) so does 'shoes / blues'. Apples and Oranges has a dedicated follower of fashion who alliteratively goes

shopping in sharp shoes

, while Vegetable Man walks the street

in yellow shoes I get the blues.

Earlier in his songwriting career, Barrett was much influenced by an American folkie:

got the Bob Dylan blues,
and the Bob Dylan shoes.

Of course shoes and blues has always been something of a nice pair as was already proved by Robert Johnson in Walking Blues (1936):

Woke up this morning I looked 'round for my shoes
You know I had those mean old walking blues

Incidentally the Pink Floyd latest (and last?) song Louder Than Words, with its (horrible) lyrics written by Polly Samson, reflects the same:

an old pair of shoes
your favorite blues
gonna tap out the rhythm

In the ballad 'Blue Moon' (see point 2) the protagonist who was lost / alone has been helped / cared for by someone. In Jugband Blues we seem to have the same situation. At this part of the song a second actor is introduced who tries to assist the first one.

4

and I'm wondering who could be writing this song

Barrett almost describes an out-of-body experience in the first part of the song. Pete Townshend claimed he had one once using STP, a drug that also Barrett was familiar with. This is another variation on a theme of absence as the narrator is present and absent at the same time. Make your name like a ghost, suddenly seems more autobiographical than ever.

5

I don't care if the sun don't shine
and I don't care if nothing is mine
and I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the winter
Patti Page single
I don't care if the sun don't shine, Patti Page (1950).

This apparently happy refrain is a pastiche on Patti Page's 1950 hit I don't care if the sun don't shine, directly paraphrasing two of its lines. Elvis Presley and Dean Martin also covered this song (and all three of them also did Blue Moon, by the way):

So I don't care if the sun don't shine
I'll get my lovin' in the evening time
When I'm with my baby

Syd's 'I'll do my loving in the winter' makes the refrain fairly darker than in the original though. It is as if Barrett is indefinitely postponing the happiness that could be waiting for him.

6

During the refrain some kazoos make the point that this is a jug band song after all, and then a psychedelic Salvation Army band (perhaps Syd did see the contradiction before everybody else) jumps in. Then it is the time for one of the weirdest codas ever:

And the sea isn't green
and I love the queen

At first sight this is just a nonsense verse. There was a song called The Sea Is Green, written by The Easy Riders, an American calypso and folk-song trio and used in the 1958 Windjammer travelogue documentary, but this is a long shot. In the song a sailor expresses his hope to find his family back when he returns home. By implying that the sea isn't green, Barrett loses all hope to see his loved ones back.

6.1 A possible Beatles connection (Update: 1st of November 2014)

At the Late Night forum, Wolfpack came with another explanation, that seems far more plausible than ours, he remembered that The Beatles' Yellow Submarine has 'a sea of green' in its lyrics. Actually the term is used twice in that song. It comes up at the first strophe where the story is told about a man who travels in a yellow submarine:

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found a sea of green

The term shows up again in the third strophe where it is told that the sailors live a life of ease:

Sky of blue and sea of green.
Revolver-Piper mash-up?
Revolver - Piper cover mash-up. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

The song is not originally from the 1968 animated movie, but from the 1966 Revolver album, where it was the obligatory Ringo Starr track. Paul McCartney wrote it with Ringo in mind, hence the simplicity of the melody and the nonsensical subject. McCartney had a little help from his friends John Lennon and Donovan, who actually came up with the green sea lines.

Barrett, in a much darker mood than McCartney, who had a children's song in mind, declares there is no such thing as a sea of green. The sailors' unburdened life has been based on a dream.

There is a second similarity between Yellow Submarine and Jugband Blues. Although Norman Smith was not involved in the recording it has a (short) interruption by a brass band, just after the line 'and the band begins to play'. Engineer Geoff Emerick, who is on backing vocals with George Martin, Neil Aspinall, Pattie Boyd, Marianne Faithfull, Brian Jones and Brian Epstein, used a 1906 record of a military march, altering it a bit to avoid copyrights. Several sound effects were used for the song, including the cash register sound that would later be used by Pink Floyd on Money. There is another Floydian connection, although bit stretched, Echoes (1970) has the Roger Waters line 'and everything is green and submarine', but that last is used as an adjective, not as a noun.

Unfortunately we will never know if Norman Smith thought of Yellow Submarine when he proposed Syd Barrett to add a brass band in between the strophes.

7

and what exactly is a dream
and what exactly is a joke
Dreamcatcher, courtesy LoveThisPic
Dreamcatcher, courtesy LoveThisPic.

The 'Carrollesque quality of the closing couplet', to quote Rob Chapman again, is omnipresent. In Lewis Carroll's 'Through The Looking Glass', on a cold winter evening, Alice climbs through a mirror where chess pieces are alive. Alice meets the White and Red Queen and the 'joke' subject is briefly spoken about:

Even a joke should have some meaning—and a child's more important than a joke, I hope.

Dreams are discussed more often in the book, even the surreal possibility that Alice is nothing but a 'thing' in the Red King's - so somebody else's - dream:

If that there King was to wake,' added Tweedledum, 'you'd go out — bang! — just like a candle!' (…)
When you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real.

At the end, with Alice back in her house, she still isn't sure what really happened and in whose dream she had landed.

Let's consider who it was that dreamed it all. (…)
You see, (…), it MUST have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course — but then I was part of his dream, too!

As we now know that Jugband Blues might have been written before Barrett had his apparent breakdown, all speculation about this being an intense self-description could be wrong, unless of course Syd altered the lyrics between January and October 1967.

We'll never know for sure.

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

THE END


Many thanks to: Baby Lemonade, Syd Wonder, Wolfpack and all participants from the Jugband Blues thread (started in 2008) at the Late Night Forum.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

The Purple Gang

Joe Beard, The Forgotten Flower Power Band From The London Underground, A Fleeting Glimpse.
The Purple Gang, The Purple Gang Strikes (1968), YouTube, including Bootleg Whisky, The Wizard & Granny Takes A Trip.
The Purple Gang, Boon Tune (2006), MySpace.

Jugband Blues

Sara Martin's Jug Band, Jug Band Blues (1924), YouTube.

I don't care if the sun don't shine

Patti Page (1950)
Elvis Presley (1954)
Dean Martin (1953)

Windjammer

The Sea is Green (1958) - movie version, YouTube
The Sea is Green (1958) - soundtrack version, Spotify

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Beard, Chris Joe: Taking The Purple. The extraordinary story of The Purple Gang – Granny Takes a Trip . . . and all that!, Granville Sellars (Kindle edition), 2014, location 858, 1372, 1392.
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013 reissue, p. 18.
Carroll, Lewis: Through the Looking Glass, Project Gutenberg.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 191.
Dosanjh, Warren: The music scene of 1960s Cambridge, I Spy In Cambridge, Cambridge, 2013, p. 32, 40, 44, 50.
Jefferies, Neil, Dartford's Finest Band, Record Collector 417, August 2013, p. 54-55.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 21.
Manning, Toby: The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd, Rough Guides, London, 2006, p. 34.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 25, 298, 314.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 99.
Smith, Norman 'Hurricane', John Lennon Called Me Normal, Lulu (self-published), 2008, p. 218, 373, 397. Unnumbered section: #8.


2014-11-08

While my guitar gently weeps...

The Endless River
The Endless River. Image: Ahmed Emad Eldin. Concept: Hipgnosis (2014).

(This is part two of our The Endless River series, for the bawdy introduction, go here: What the fuck is your problem, Pink Floyd?)

So here it is. The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit's The Endless River review of what undoubtedly is the most anticipated record of the year.

Read

The album has four, mostly instrumental, suites, that Pink Floyd prefers to call sides. Each suite has several tracks, but these are best listened to in one piece as they form one ensemble. The 'luxe' edition has a 39 minutes extra DVD or Blu-ray with 6 videos of 1993 studio rehearsals and 3 audio tracks. The Blu-ray version is the most complete (and expensive) as it also has a stereo PCM, a 5.1 DTS and a 5.1 PCM version of the album, whatever these acronyms mean.

The front cover concept was designed by Ahmed Emad Eldin, in what could be called ersatz Hipgnosis style, probably chosen because it evokes the boatman who was present in The Division Bell artwork (and, in lesser extent, on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason). The other artwork is credited to the usual gang of graphic designers: Aubrey Powell, Stylorouge, StormStudios and, weirdly, Hipgnosis, although that company stopped in 1983. The 24-pages booklet has a maritime feel: compasses, maps, logbooks... The lettering misses a piece in most letters, to accentuate the missing keyboard player, who has been credited on 11 of the 18 tracks. Storm Thorgerson is remembered as well in the credits.

Boatman
Pink Floyd 'Boatman' logo.

Think

The album was created out of rejected 1993 jams and demos, with Richard Wright, Nick Mason and David Gilmour, that were probably revisited to be added to a Division Bell anniversary set of one kind or another. Rejected is too strong a word because way back, twenty years ago, it had been the idea to turn the The Division Bell into a double CD-set, what was abandoned for lack of time. That second album turned into the apocryphal The Big Spliff that still sits in Gilmour's studio in an unfinished form and that was assembled by Andy Jackson. Phil Manzanera was asked, in 2012, to work on it, but refused.

I don't wanna hear. I wanna hear every single piece or scrap that was recorded, everything. Outtakes from Division Bell. Everything.

In December 2012 Manzanera puzzled dozens of unfinished pieces into a skeleton, divided into four 12 minute suites, out of 20 hours of material. According to Manzanera, Pink Floyd thanked him and immediately put the work in a box where they forgot it. Martin 'Youth' Glover however says that he was invited in June 2013 and that David Gilmour had already worked on the two different versions of the project.

Within about 40 seconds, it sounded like Floyd. It was absolutely magical. (…) Listening to unreleased Pink Floyd recordings with David, the hair was going up on the back of my arms.

Youth then created a third version and in November 2013 a meeting was held between the two remaining Pink Floyd members and the three producers: Andy Jackson, Phil Manzanera and Youth. Gilmour and Mason picked the best ideas from each version and started working on something that could have been an atrocious Frankenmix but that turned out quite coherent in the end.

Listen

Tree / Roots illustration. Image: StormStudios.

Side One: ambient spaces

"Things Left Unsaid...", Gilmour, Wright
"It's What We Do", Gilmour, Wright
"Ebb and Flow", Gilmour, Wright

Things Left Unsaid (4:27): a very ambient, Cluster One atmospheric, introduction, with some voice samples of the Floyd members. Tradition wants that it only starts morphing into something of a melody after the two minutes mark. It gradually slides into It's What We Do (6:17) that thrives on a Shine On You Crazy Diamond moog synth and traces of Marooned later on. This is a typical Floydian spacey slow blues, ideal for those fans who want to chill out with a big spliff. It's lazy and slow and probably a bit boring for some, a typical trademark of the Floyd sound, and just because it is so intriguingly and deliberately slow, the first thrill of the album. It continues into Ebb and Flow (1:55), mainly an epilogue to the previous track.

Actually the first suite is pretty daring to start with in the hectic days we are living in today, this is so contradictory with contemporary music it nearly feels alienated. It's the kind of suite that will be used in nuru massage parlours around the world.

Radar Fantasy
Radar fantasy. Image: Stylorouge (?).

Side Two: early days tripper

"Sum", Gilmour, Mason, Wright
"Skins", Gilmour, Mason, Wright
"Unsung", Wright
"Anisina", Gilmour

Sum (4:48), there's that Cluster One intro again with ambient effects switching towards an Astronomy Domine space trip. Then it nods to an early seventies style Floydian jam, One Of These Days, although bigger and louder, including that good old perverted VCS3 machine.

Skins (2:37) further elaborates on the A Saucerful Of Secrets tribal rhythms and this is the first time in years we hear grand vizier Nick Mason take the lead on a track, finally! We could never think we would be so happy with a fucking drum solo. Gilmour makes his guitar scream à la Barrett in Interstellar Overdrive in something that can be described as a beat bolero. The track ends with some minor guitar effects, just for the sake of the effect and glides over to Unsung (1:07), an intermezzo that is a bridge to the ending of this suite, the magical Anisina (3:17). Those who think this is Wright in a jazz lounge must be contradicted. This is 100% Gilmour and it brings shivers down the spine, even if this a known track that has been bootlegged before as a Division Bell outtake.

The second suite is the experimental one, although the experiment is limited not to scare the casual listener away. We've heard people say that this Pink Floyd record is more of the same. And it's true. But who complains when The Rolling Stones or U2 bring out their umpteenth album sounding exactly like the previous one?

Talking Heads
Talking Heads sculpture. Design: StormStudios. Picture: Rupert Truman.

Side Three: all that jazz

"The Lost Art of Conversation", Wright
"On Noodle Street", Gilmour, Wright
"Night Light", Gilmour, Wright
"Allons-Y (1)", Gilmour
"Autumn '68", Wright
"Allons-Y (2)", Gilmour
"Talkin' Hawkin'", Gilmour, Wright

The lost art of conversation (1:43) is an introductory piano piece by Wright, obviously with some guitar effects from Gilmour. It segues into On Noodle Street (1:42), that is, as the title gives away, nothing but a light jazzy noodling, featuring Guy Pratt, Wright's son-in-law. It is easy listening for Floydheads, just like the next track Night Light (1:42). The first three tracks are merely the introduction for the highlight of this side, and perhaps the album.

Allons-Y (1) (1:57), is a two-piecer and a Run Like Hell copycat, only much better (actually, we find Run Like Hell one of the worst tracks by the Floyd). It is irresistible and the moment we really started tapping our feet. The mid-piece of Allons-Y is Autumn '68 (1:35), the much discussed archival bit taken from a Wright improvisation from the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, reminding us vaguely of a movement of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, only this dates from about five years before. Allons-Y (2) (1:32) is a reprise of the first part to close the circle.

Talkin Hawkin' (3:29) starts rather like one of those slow evolving (and a bit tedious) pieces from On An Island, but is – yet again – irresistible in its meandering movements. Nobody is so immaculate in creating these lazy and slightly boring moods than Pink Floyd. With its Stephen Hawking samples this track is the obvious link to The Division Bell, but the track itself is the counterpart of Keep Talking.

The third suite is the most light-hearted one, perhaps the most commercial and catchy, and it surely is saved by, here we go, Allons-Y.

Happy Rick
Happy Rick Wright.

Side Four: turn off the lights

"Calling", Gilmour, Moore
"Eyes to Pearls", Gilmour
"Surfacing", Gilmour
"Louder than Words", Gilmour, Samson

Anthony Moore, who made the Broken China album with Richard Wright is responsible for Calling (3:38) and it certainly has the mood of that pretty depressed, and unfortunately underestimated, album. The atmosphere is somewhat reminiscent of David Bowie's Warszawa, it is an ambient and dark and haunting piece. It is a nice thing from Gilmour to have added this obvious nod to Rick's solo album and one of the more interesting pieces of the album.

Eyes To Pearls (1:51) breathes the air of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks and has hidden hints of Money and One Of These Days, but one can find traces of earlier work in about all tracks on this album. Didn't Nick Mason quip once he was in the recycling business? Surfacing (2:46) acts as the intro to the final song, it seems a lesser track at first, but it has a weeping guitar that hit us right in the heart / stomach / balls. Actually most of the numbers may not be seen as individual pieces but as movements of each suite and as such they perfectly serve their roles.

Louder Than Words (6:37) was gravely discussed when it came out, it has been called Floyd by numbers and Polly Samson's lyrics are of syrupy soap series quality but in this context and as the coda of the album it just works great. Just listen to that piano intro by Wright, the last we'll probably hear, that irresistible refrain, the perfect ending solo, also the last we'll probably hear... This is Gilmour at his best and for once he doesn't stretches it too long, what was his problem on the previous Diet Floyd records where he had the habit of putting six minute guitar solos in three minute songs. Gilmour's playing on this album is to the point and you never get the feeling he is showing off like on, for instance, On An Island, although it is clear he bought a new set of pedals.

Communicate

This is a great album, a classic in the making, although perhaps only for the die-hard fans, and is far much better than we had ever hoped for.

(A third article, with a more critical approach to the album can be found at: Chin Chin.)


More reviews at A Fleeting Glimpse and Brain Damage. Illustrations (except the Rick Wright picture) taken from The Endless River and The Division Bell..
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Bonner, Michael: Coming back to life, Uncut, November 2014, p. 35 – 41.


2014-11-15

Chin Chin

Diet Floyd officially fat-free.
Gilmour, Astoria studio, 1993.
David Gilmour, Astoria studio, 1993.

The new Diet Pink Floyd album The Endless River is conquering the world, perhaps to the absence of any real competition. We don't think Susan Boyle's cover version of Wish You Were Here will pose a real threat, does it? In Holland the album, currently at number one, sells five times as much as the number two.

The Endless River is a slow evolving, ambient piece of work with obvious nods to the Floyd's glorious past... one hears traces of A Saucerful Of Secrets (Syncopated Pandemonium), Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Cluster One, Interstellar Overdrive, Keep Talking, Marooned, Money, One Of These Days (I'm Going To Cut You Into Little Pieces), Run Like Hell, Shine On You Crazy Diamond and probably half a dozen more we've already forgotten.

The familiarity of it all has created raving enthusiasm for some and 'mainly yesterday's reheated lunch' for others and this also seems to be the opinion of the press. Mark Blake (in Mojo) politely describes the album as 'big on atmosphere, light on songs', Mikael Wood (in the Los Angeles Times) states that Pink Floyd drifts towards nothingness with aimless and excruciatingly dull fragments.

While the 1987 A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album was a David Gilmour solo effort, recorded with 18 session musicians and with the Pink Floyd name on the cover to sell a few million copies more, The Endless River originally grew out of jams between Gilmour, Mason & Wright.

Actually these were rejected jams, not good enough to include on The Division Bell, but over the years they seem to have ripened like good old wine. Well that's the PR story but in reality Andy Jackson, Phil Manzanera and Martin 'Youth' Glover had to copy bits and pieces from twenty hours of tape and toy around with every single good sounding second in Pro Tools to obtain something relatively close to Floydian eargasm. Phil Manzanera in Uncut:

I would take a guitar solo from another track, change the key of it, stick it on an outtake from another track. 'Oh that bit there, it reminds me of Live At Pompeii, but let's put a beat underneath it.' So then I take a bit of Nick warming up in the studio at Olympia, say, take a bit of a fill here and a bit of fill there. Join it together, make a loop out of it.

This doesn't really sound like an organic created piece of music, does it? The result is a genetically modified fat-free sounding record and while this is the most ambient experiment of Pink Floyd it will never get extreme, despite Martin Glover's presence whose only ambient house additions seem to be the On The Run VCS3 effect that comes whooshing in several times. Youth isn't that young and reckless any more so don't expect anything close to the KLF's Madrugada Eterna, Jimmy 'Space' Cauty's Mars or the Orb's A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld, unfortunately.

Update April 2017: One and a half year after the record has been released the involvement of Nick Mason can be finally discussed as well. Pink Floyd know-all Ron Toon at Steve Hoffmann:

Nick had nothing to do with this project except to play a few new drum tracks basically being brought in as a session drummer. Of course he was / is a member of Pink Floyd but his involvement in this project was minimal at best. The vision was David's and the other producers and Andy [Jackson] did most of the work. Source: Pink Floyd - The Early Years 1965-1972 Box Set.

But the music isn't the only thing that seems to be embellished. Last week long-time Echoes mailing list member Christopher, also known as 10past10, went on holidays, taking with him the new Pink Floyd CD and, as reading material, Nick Mason's Inside Out book. Then something happened which unleashed the power of his imagination (read Christopher's original mail).

The mid-book picture of The Endless River shows the Astoria studio with Rick Wright, David Gilmour and Nick Mason jamming in 1993, taken by Jill Furmanovsky. This picture has been stitched out of several shots, the borders don't match (deliberately) and Nick Mason (or at least his arms) can be seen twice.

Astoria session, 1993, courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky
Astoria session, 1993. Picture: Jill Furmanovsky.

But Christopher was in for another surprise when he looked at the fourth picture gallery in Nick Mason's Inside Out soft-cover (or on page 313 if you have the coffee-table edition). It shows another picture of the same session, with Rick Wright, David Gilmour and Bob Ezrin.

Astoria session, 1993, courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky
Astoria session, 1993. Picture: Jill Furmanovsky.

Now look at the man in the middle, the one who doesn't like to be called Dave. Christopher:

If you look closely at every piece of David's clothing, his hair, the way he is holding his guitar, the chords, the lot. It all matches exactly ... too much not be a match.
David Gilmour with double chin.
David Gilmour with double chin.
David Gilmour with single chin.
David Gilmour with single chin.

Not only does The Endless River centrefold superimposes Nick Mason twice, but they have glued in David Gilmour from another shot (and removed Bob Ezrin).

And still, that is not all.

Look very closely to Gilmour's face in the 1993 picture (left) and to his face on the 2014 release (right). Christopher explains:

The difference is in the original shot.
David has a double chin.
In The Endless River shot it has been dealt with.

There will be no fat on The Endless River, not on the music and certainly not on Air-Brush Dave.

(This is The Anchor's satirical review of The Endless River, or part three if you like. For the Reverend's opinion, check: While my guitar gently weeps...)


(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)

Many thanks to Christopher (10past10), Ron Toon. Pictures courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above internet links):
10past10 (Christopher), Alcog Dave no more, mail, 2014 11 14.
Bonner, Michael: Coming back to life, Uncut, November 2014, p. 39.
Echoes mailing list: to join just click on the appropriate link on their sexy echoes subscription and format information webpage.

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.


Christopher's original posting to Echoes: (Back to article)

Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2014 18:00:32 +1000
From: 10past10
Subject: Alcog Dave no more ...
To: echoes@meddle.org

Hi Ho All,

I do believe there is photographic trickery afoot!

Exhibit A: The centrefold picture in The Endless River depicting Richard, David and Nick in the studio.

Exhibit B: Inside Out; the fourth lot of pics in the paperback or p313 in hardback (1st ed), depicting Richard, David and Bob Ezrin.

Obviously it is a different pic of Richard and Bob/Nick. But I reckon the picture of David is the same one; except for one difference.

So, I reckon, to get the wider shot for the TER CD centrefold (I don't know how it may or may not appear in the other versions as I haven't seen them yet), they have made a composite photo using the shot of David rom the one Nick originally published and shots of Richard and Nick from one or two different pictures.

If you look closely at every piece of David's clothing, his hair, the way he is holding his guitar, the chords, the lot. It all matches exactly ... too much not be a match.

Does this matter? Of course not. Why not do that to get what you need. Obviously Nick himself is double exposed when you look at his arms.

Is it worth pointing out? Yes (but just because you can, not because it will change the world). Why? Because of the one difference.

The difference is in the original shot David has a double chin. In The Endless River shot it has been dealt with.

Some time ago I was castigated for calling David, Fat Dave. So I changed that to Alcog Dave. He is that no more. In my more whimsical moods I shall hence forth refer to him as "Air-Brush Dave".

I like Pink Floyd.

Rock On
Christopher

i am remotely morty

(Back to article)


2014-12-05

Behind The Wall (Nederlandse Editie)

This is a review of the Dutch edition of Hugh Fielder's Pink Floyd biography Behind The Wall.
There is nothing wrong with your browser as the review is in Dutch as well.
Behind the Wall
Behind the Wall, Hugh Fielder.

Er zijn niet zoveel Nederlandstalige Pink Floyd biografieën bij mijn weten. Eigenlijk ken ik er slechts een: William Ruhlmanns low budget Pink Floyd, een boek dat waarschijnlijk rechtstreeks in de ramsj terechtkwam en dateert uit 1994. Nu, met een nieuw Floyd album in de rekken en kerstmis voor de deur is er een Nederlandse vertaling van Hugh Fielders Behind The Wall dat in oktober 2013 uitkwam en ook al niet te veel potten brak. Ik dien ook even Charles Beterams Pink Floyd In De Polder (2007) te vermelden dat een overzicht bevat van de Pink Floyd optredens in België en Nederland en dat ik, tot mijn grote schande, nog steeds niet gelezen heb. Spijtig want ik zou graag willen weten wat hij te zeggen heeft over de doortocht van de jongens in mijn geboortestad Leuven in februari 1968, tijdens de taalrellen die hadden geresulteerd in het ontslag van de toenmalige regering. Blijkbaar brak er een vechtpartij los in de zaal tussen Vlamingen en Walen die enigszins geamuseerd werd bekeken door de bandleden en die er verder niets van begrepen op een 'Fuck Belgium' commentaar na (Nick Mason bericht hier overigens foutief over in zijn autobiografie Inside Out). Een Franstalig artikel over dit incident vind je hier: Pink Floyd en Belgique.

Rammelende Blues

Maar over naar de orde van de dag. Hugh Fielder is een rockjournalist en -criticus, die een aantal boeken op zijn actief heeft staan en blijkbaar ook heeft meegewerkt aan meerdere 'Inside' DVD-documentaires (Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin,...), documentaires waarvan je enkel kan zeggen dat ze van een zeer twijfelachtig allooi zijn. Een pluspunt is dan weer wel dat zijn vader, Denis Fielder, een bevlogen muziekleraar was die onder meer Syd Barrett en Roger Waters de beginselen van het vak bijbracht. Hugh is van Cambridge, een aantal jaren jonger dan de Pink Floyd leden en in 1965 was hij zanger bij The Ramblin' Blues die op een dag zonder gitarist kwamen te staan, net voor een optreden. Ze huurden David Gilmour in die een vlekkeloos parcours reed en er was enkel het probleem dat Gilmours gage even hoog was dan wat de band gekregen had voor het hele optreden. Pink Floyd 'Behind The Wall' is dus zijn kans op een revanche, hoewel we er ongeveer zeker van zijn dat Gilmour nog steeds de meestverdienende is van de twee.

Het boek heeft als ondertitel 'de complete geïllustreerde geschiedenis' en dat is het ook, het is rijkelijk voorzien van bekende en onbekende foto's en bevat ook illustraties van posters, tickets, backstage passen, singlehoezen en dergelijke. Tekst en beeld vullen elkaar mooi aan en het is niet zo dat de tekst enkel een lapmiddel is om een fotoboek te verkopen, zoals in een aantal andere biografieën het geval is. Grafisch is het boek af, vaak is ook de achtergrond van het tekstveld gekleurd, wat zeer mooi oogt, maar in een paar gevallen de tekst moeilijk leesbaar maakt, een detailkritiek misschien.

De tekst is eenvoudig, accuraat, to-the-point, verstaanbaar voor de Pink Floyd leek, en dat is klaar duidelijk het publiek waarvoor dit werd geschreven. Hugh Fielder is een belezen man en vermeldt eerlijk waar hij de mosterd heeft gehaald, wat niet altijd gebeurt in biografieën, nietwaar Rob Chapman? Anderzijds is Hugh Fielder enkel een raconteur, hij heeft feiten en anekdotes geplukt uit andere boeken en artikels en herhaalt die, netjes geordend, op zijn eigen manier. Enkel in de Cambridge-sectie, aan het begin van het boek en het begin van de Pink Floyd geschiedenis, voegt hij wat toe. Dit is dus geen Pink Floyd studie zoals Mark Blake er een schreef, maar dat was ook niet de bedoeling. Dit is hapklare brok.

Hugh Fielder - Behind The Wall
Achterflap.

Tekst

Zijn er dan geen punten van kritiek? Jazeker die zijn er, maar enkel wanneer een Sydioot en Floyd-fanaticus de tekst uitvlooit, op zoek naar een bron van ergernis. Hier gaan we dan.

Op bladzijde elf staat te lezen:

Barrett speelde gitaar [bij Geoff Mott and the Mottoes] en zong covers van Buddy Holly en Eddie Cochran. Ook leverde hij instrumentale bijdragen aan de aankomende Britse gitaarband The Shadows.

Syd Barrett die als broekvent songs leurde aan The Shadows, dat kan toch niet waar zijn?

Het is ook niet waar want in de Engelse, originele tekst staat:

Barrett played guitar and sang covers of Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran while also performing instrumentals by seminal British guitar band the Shadows.

Dit is dus blijkbaar een vertaalfout van Ireen Niessen van Vitataal die dit boek een Nederlandse zwier gaven.

Als lezer heb ik me hier en daar geërgerd aan de vertaling die me, om het enigszins pejoratief uit te drukken, wat te Noord-Nederlands getint is voor deze Zuid-Nederlander van het Vlaamse type. Ik kan aannemen dat 'Pink Floyd played like bums that night' niet zo makkelijk te vertalen valt en dat 'Pink Floyd speelde als een stel lapzwansen' (p. 31) eigenlijk een geniale inval is. Waar ik wel moeilijkheden mee heb is dat het David Gilmour citaat

nudge, nudge... if such and such happened, and if this, and if that... would you be interested in it... (citaat te vinden in: December 17th 1976 - Capital Radio PF Story - part 1)

in het Nederlands klinkt als

Hé joh... als zus en zo zou gebeuren, en dit en dat, zou je dan belangstelling hebben? (p. 38)

Hé joh, geen Vlaming die dit over de lippen krijgt en het zwakt het tongue-in-cheek 'nudge nudge' enigszins af.

Het boek is gelardeerd met vlotte taal ('het leek alsof Rick Wright zijn snor drukte', p. 133) wat deze plechtstatige dinosauriër, die Abraham heeft gezien, raar in de oren klinkt, maar dit boek is dan ook geschreven om een jong publiek wat bij te brengen over deze prachtband, dus wat schwung is waarschijnlijk niet misplaatst. Over taal en taalgevoeligheden kan je net zolang redetwisten als Gilmour en Waters deden over de klankkleur van Dark Side Of The Moon, uiteindelijk heeft iedereen en niemand gelijk en dient er een compromis gesloten te worden.

Bronkennis

Hugh Fielder heeft zelf ook een aantal fouten gemaakt in het boek. Zoals eerder aangehaald citeert Fielder verscheidene bronnen, meestal met kennis van zake, maar als de inhoud inmiddels achterhaald werd, gaat het natuurlijk om foutieve informatie. Zo weten we intussen dat Davy 'O List slechts eenmaal Barrett verving tijdens de Jimi Hendrix package tour en niet meerdere malen, blijkbaar heeft Fielder nou net niet Pigs Might Fly van Mark Blake gelezen (dat blijkt overigens uit de bibliografie achteraan):

'In the past I’ve exaggerated and told people I played more shows,’ he [Davy 'O List] admits now. ‘But that’s only because I wished it had been true.’

Dat Barrett zijn tanden poetste tijdens het bezoek aan de Wish You Were Here sessies is iets dat Rick Wright ooit heeft gezegd maar Mark Blake heeft dit verhaal later grotendeels ontkracht op het Late Night forum en in het rocktijdschrift Mojo 211 (2011). Hierover heeft de Heilige Kerk van Iggy de Inuit (sic) ooit bericht: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory.

Fielder is net iets te enthousiast wanneer hij zegt dat Nick Mason 'een paar vintage auto's' diende te verkopen om de A Momentary Lapse Of Reason te financieren. Mason gaf enkel een auto in onderpand, zoals hij zelf schrijft in Inside Out:

In my particular case I was a bit short of ready cash for the millions required, so I eventually went down to the upmarket equivalent of the pawn shop and hocked my 1962 GTO Ferrari.

Het bovenstaande is natuurlijk kommaneukerij van een Floyd fanaat met teveel tijd. Fielders tekst is een consequent, coherent geheel zonder naar de een of andere stroming over te hellen (het zogenaamde Waters versus Gilmour kamp om niet van de Barrett fanatici te spreken). Het boek is bijgewerkt tot en met Waters' The Wall tournee (zomer 2013) en de auteur kan er ook niet aan doen dat zijn statement dat The Division Bell 'vrijwel zeker het laatste studioalbum van Pink Floyd is' ondertussen aan diggelen werd geslagen.

Hugh Fielder - Behind The Wall
Mooi geïllustreerd.

Beeld

Dikwijls worden woord en beeld onafhankelijk van mekaar samengesteld in dit soort boeken, vaak met een desastreus resultaat, maar ook hier valt het best wel mee.

We starten met een flater van jewelste, waarschijnlijk te wijten aan het te oppervlakkig lezen van bronmateriaal. Profiles, Nick Masons tweede soloalbum, was geen samenwerkingsproject met Mike Oldfield, zoals en in de tekst en onder de foto op pagina 162 staat. Wel zingt Maggie Reilly op Lie For A Lie, samen met David Gilmour. Maggie is natuurlijk te vinden op vijf verschillende Mike Oldfield albums en is medeverantwoordelijk voor enkele van zijn allergrootste hits.

Op bladzijde 155 staat een afbeelding van de single When The Tigers Broke Free, maar de tekst zegt dat het gaat om de 'albumcover van The Wall: Music From The Film'. Er was wel ooit sprake van een The Wall soundtrack en/of een Spare Bricks album, maar die werden nooit uitgebracht. De enige officiële soundtrack van The Wall was een single en geen album. Hebben we reeds gezegd dat we kommaneukers zijn?

De grootste fout staat op pagina 21 waar een foto wordt omschreven als Pink Floyd in de UFO club. Zoals uitvoerig, om niet te zeggen: langdradig, beschreven in een eerder artikel (Pictorial Press selling fake Pink Floyd pictures!) gaat het hier niet om de (zeer tijdelijke) vijfmansformatie Pink Floyd met Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters en Richard Wright, maar om een geheel andere band, misschien (maar ook niet zeker) Dantalian's Chariot. Het is een spijtige zaak dat Pictorial Press, die de rechten op deze foto bezit, nog steeds niet aarzelt om de foto onder valse voorwendsels aan de man te brengen.

Het is ons opgevallen dat heel wat foto's in het boek van Nederland komen, we vermoeden dan ook dat een en ander duchtig werd vernederlandst, wat enkel toe te juichen valt. Zo zijn er foto's van 1968, genomen in Den Haag (en een enkele in Brussel), Holland Pop Festival 1970, Ahoy 1971, Olympisch Stadion 1972, Ahoy 1977, Utrecht 1977, Rotterdam 1984 (Roger Waters), Feyenoord 1988... Er is ook de cover van The Pink Floyd songbook, een (illegale) Nederlandse gestencilde songteksten compilatie uit 1977 die je kon kopen in elke zichzelf respecterende platenzaak.

Discografie

De discografie, aan het einde van het boek, vermeldt een aantal compilaties niet, hoewel ze wel staan afgebeeld: Master Of Rock, Works. Een echte schande wordt het pas wanneer in de individuele album besprekingen More en Obscured By Clouds niet eens worden vermeld, waarschijnlijk omdat het maar om soundtracks gaat, wat in het geval van Obscured zeer kort door de bocht is.

Besluit

Maar als je een nichtje of neefje hebt dat wil weten waarom je zo gebiologeerd bent door de groep van Dark Side of the Moon of The Wall, kopen die boel. Zelf houden wij het liever bij Pigs Might Fly en Dark Globe, natuurlijk, maar als aperitief kan dit tellen. Het kan alleen maar leiden tot meer.

Update Juli 2017: dit boek is sinds kort ook in een bijgewerkte versie beschikbaar in de ramsj.


♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Bronnen (anders dan de bovenvermelde internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 35-36, 99.
Fielder, Hugh: Behind The Wall, Librero, Kerkdriel, 2014. Nederlandse editie.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 291.


2015-02-09

Blitz Books: filled with an urge to defecate

50 shades of shit
50 years on the dark side, don't buy it!
Warning: don't buy it.

When the Reverend spotted an expensive collectors limited edition 4 DVD & book set in his favourite bookshop last week there was a little voice going in his head whispering: “Don't buy it, don't buy it...” Unfortunately the Reverend has this problem with authority, so this good advice was completely ignored. The moment he had paid 60 Euro (44.65£, 68.00$) he immediately regretted the purchase, but by then it was already too late. “Told you so!”, said the voice in his head. Little bugger.

The Reverend, Felix for the rapidly diminishing herd he calls his friends, should have been warned by the fact that there was no author on the cover and that the editor goes by the name of Blitz Books, but the promise on the back that read: four DVD films packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band, made him forget several of the seven deadly sins.

So he returned to Atagong mansion with Pink Floyd: 50 Years On The Dark Side tucked inside his overcoat and he only opened it in the privacy of his study room.

The Book

At first sight the 110 pages coffee table book looks impressive. It starts with an essay titled Pink Floyd In The Beginning that covers their early history from The Pink Floyd Blues Band, although that name may have been some kind of an urban legend, until Ummagumma, so roughly from 1965 till 1969. It's not particularly innovative, nor original as Barry Miles has his 2006 The Early Years book that roughly covers the same old ground and that is well worth the read. But, it has to be said, the article is not bad and does quote a lot from early interviews with the band.

The text, however, is not original, it was first published in a book called Pink Floyd: Reflections and Echoes from Bob Carruthers, that also had – coincidence ? - 4 DVDs packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band.

We're starting to see a pattern here.

Part one ends at page 58 but, mind you, two-thirds of the pages are filled with pictures from our friends at Pictorial Press who, by the way, still haven't answered if they have any Iggy Rose pictures in their archive, which we know with certainty they do.

After the quite enjoyable read about vintage Floyd and the somewhat quirky attempts from the remaining members, plus one newbie: David Gilmour, to find a new direction it is time for the rest of the Floydian history. That second part start with The Wall.

Which one's Pink? Phil Rose.
Which one's Pink? Phil Rose.

The Wall?

Does this mean the book skips a whole decade, not coincidentally the one that had the Floyd's classic albums Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and the somewhat underrated Animals and Obscured By Clouds?

Apparently it does.

Blitz Books' business plan is to have some text on paper, any text, so that they can put (coloured) photographs around. On top of that The Wall-part mainly tells what happens on the album, song per song, so it is not even a review. We're still trying to recover from the disastrous catastrophe that was Roger Waters' The Wall show in summer 2013 and we solemnly confess we didn't read this chapter because reading about The Wall is even more tedious than listening to the album. We once tried getting through Phil Rose's Which One's Pink that analyses the concepts of the different Roger Waters albums, as a solo artist and with Pink Floyd, but it only made our psycho-therapist wealthier.

Discography

The third and final part of the 50 Years On The Dark Side book is a discography of the studio albums from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn till The Division Bell, with a (small) description of every song. The Floyd's debut, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is described as 'deeply disappointing' where 'two completely different, and totally irreconcilable, musical personalities battle for supremacy'. As long as we know where these fans really stand it is fine for us.

Not only is the page order for the A Saucerful Of Secrets review wrong, but the (anonymous) author also seems to have found a new Floyd track called 'Heavenly Voices', probably the ending piece of the title track is meant, better known as 'Celestial Voices'.

The other album reviews are generally acceptable and from page 100 to 103 The Wall comes around for a second time and again all individual tracks are mentioned with some titbits her and there.

It would have been an excellent idea to have added the track-listing of The Endless River, but that was too much asked from the Blitz boys. To add insult to injury the Division Bell review omits the last three songs... because there are no more pages left in the book. Really, it is, we're not trying to tell you a joke or something...

Conclusion

This book is an even greater insult than the history book that could be found in the Pink Floyd 1992 Shine On box set that mysteriously ended in mid sentence on page 107. All in all 50 Years On The Dark Side is not a book, it is merely text on paper.

Shine On (1992) the last sentence...
The luxurious Pink Floyd box-set Shine On (1992) had a book ending in mid sentence.

The DVDs

After the obvious debacle that is the piece of printed paper pretending to be a book, it was time for the Reverend to sit in front of the monitor and have a four hours DVD watching marathon.

Inner back cover
Inner back cover.

Theoretically the four DVDs should be well attached to plastic 'teeth' (probably there is a more scientific term) at the inside-back-cover, but these things are from such a poor quality that when you grab the book, at least one DVD will lose its grip and fall with a kling klang on the floor. Yes, Kraftwerk has build an empire on these things.

This is not really unique for Blitz Books. David Gilmour's solo album On An Island is packed in a digibook that has a rubber round soft cap to hold the compact disc. The only problem is that once you take the CD out it often is impossible to slide it again over the rubber plug. It's about the same problem as getting a cork back inside a bottle. In the Reverend's case this lead to the situation that for years he knew where the digibook was, but that he had lost the whereabouts of the CD.

The same situation happened with the over-expensive Pink Floyd Immersion sets of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. While the marbles ("Marbles? Yes, marbles.") were individually packed in bubble-wrap bags the unprotected CDs and DVDs would freely roam all over the box, collecting scratches during the transport on plains, trains and auto-mobiles. (Read more at: Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd.)

The Syd Barrett Years

DVD 1 (The Syd Barrett Years) seems to be a compilation of at least 2 to 4 other documentaries as one recognises people from the awful 'Inside Pink Floyd' set, the 'Critical Rock Review' series, the aforementioned 'Reflections and Echoes', plus 'Musical Milestones - Reflections on the Wall', although these documentaries may already share the same pieces. It is a common trick from these low-budget companies to repackage the same garbage. The documentary 'Pink Floyd behind the wall' is basically the same, perhaps with some cuts here and there, as 'Pink Floyd in their own words' to give just one example.

But actually the first DVD isn't that bad as it has interviews with Duggie Fields, Joe Boyd, Norman Smith, Ron Geesin and the recently deceased John 'Hoppy' Hopkins...

List of interviewees.
List of interviewees.
Carbon Copy
The Ultimate Critical Review: Atom Heart Mother.

Pink Floyd in Development

DVD 2 (Pink Floyd in Development) highlights the Floyd's career from A Saucerful Of Secrets to Atom Heart Mother. Here is where shit really starts to hit the fan. Basically these are interviews with people who have absolutely nothing to do with the band whatsoever, sharing their opinions. One could say that the presence of some journalists eases the pain a bit: John Cavanagh (read an interview with him here: so much to do, so little time), author of the 33 1/3 book The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has the most intelligent things to say, followed by Syd Barrett & the Dawn of Pink Floyd biographer Mike Watkinson. Chris Welch who wrote the stinker Learning To Fly in 1994 comes in as third.

The notable exception on the second DVD is Ron Geesin, who gives his side of the Atom Heart Mother story, but stays gentle in regard to the boys who didn't want to put his name on the sleeve. Ron's name can only be found in small print, on the credits for the suite, and that duly pissed him off at the time. Geesin wrote the sublime The Flaming Cow in 2013 and as Nick Mason provided the introduction it seems that the problems have been solved 44 years later. Even with Ron Geesin's testimony the second disk lingers on and on, dragging for minutes that turn into quarters, a bit like Atom Heart Mother itself, one might say. If you might have a 2005 DVD called The Ultimate Critical Review: Atom Heart Mother don't bother to watch this as it is the same material.

Getting back to the sleeve one more time. We are probably all aware about Lullubelle the third, the iconic cow on the Atom Heart Mother album cover. It is funny..., no we're looking for another term here, it is pathetic that the people on the 50 Years On The Dark Side DVDs keep on discussing the merits of Storm Thorgerson and his Hipgnosis team without actually showing the covers. What they show are replicas of the covers, a generic cow for Atom Heart Mother, a three-dimensional prism for Dark Side of the Moon, a psychedelic picture of Battersea Power Station for Animals. This is the Aldi approach, replacing the real deal with a cheap lookalike.

Momentary Lapses

Let's be brief about the third and fourth DVDs that are called 'Momentary Lapses 1971-1977' and 'Momentary Lapses 1979-1994'. Again these DVDs are filled with people who have absolutely nothing to do with the band saying lots of things about the band. One wonders if these 'specialists' could talk for 52 minutes about a loaf of bread instead, and probably they could: “This is a remarkable loaf of bread, considered when it was made in 1975 without the technology of today. That loaf of bread has set the standard for all other loafs of bread to come.” Ad infinitum.

Back cover.
Back cover.

The only exception on these DVDs are some interviews, but not as elaborated as the Ron Geesin one before, with Clare Torry, who did the vocals on The Great Gig In The Sky, Snowy White who sheds some light on his (live) work on Animals and The Wall, Andy Roberts who replaced Snowy White as a Surrogate Band member on the 1981 Wall shows and Tim Renwick who sessioned for the diet Pink Floyd that emerged after Roger Waters had left the band. Don't get too overexcited either, what they tell is something that has been rehashed in a million magazine articles and books before.

Several of the Pink Floyd specialists are chosen a bit too incestuously. Amongst these are people who are (or were) associated to Classic Rock magazine and members of the prog-rock band Mostly Autumn, who – what a coincidence! - were under contract at Classic Rock when the Inside Pink Floyd DVDs came out. As a matter of fact the second Inside Pink Floyd DVD tried so hard to be a Mostly Autumn promotional film that the Reverend took a solemn oath never ever to allow any of their mediocre albums to enter Atagong mansion.

As stated before, 'Pink Floyd: 50 Years On The Dark Side' is a combination of four or more of these pseudo-documentaries and – on paper – it was a good idea to weed out the crap and only to keep the interesting stuff. Both 'Pink Floyd: Reflections and Echoes' and 'Inside Pink Floyd' have interviews with members of the band, although coming from other sources like the BBC Omnibus documentary, radio shows, snippets from TV clips, parts of the KQED performance and others.

Unfortunately, all copyrighted material showing the Pink Floyd lads and music has now been removed and only the talking heads remain. '50 years on the dark side' is even crappier than the original DVDs it has compiled. This is not a documentary, this is a bloody insult.

And oh, by the way... that line on the back cover saying 'four DVD films packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band', nothing of that is true, but you had figured that out by now, we think.

Conclusion

The only reason why we should advise you to buy this DVD set is to ritually burn it, cast a spell over its makers, so that they will land in the fourth circle of hell, where they will be tortured until eternity by the rancid muzak of Mostly Autumn.

This image says it all, we think...

Bollocks!

(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)

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.


2015-02-22

Uschi Obermaier: Proletarian Chic

Uschi Obermaier? Not!
Not Uschi Obermaier.

Do a combined Syd Barrett Uschi Obermaier search on Google and you get approximate 4600 results tying both celebrities together, the first results being 'who's dating who' (now called Famousfix) related finds. On the fifth place, although this result will change from computer to computer is an entry from the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, but not the regular one.

Iggy's church can be found on various places on the interweb, most of the time just to gather some dust. One branch office though, is alive and kicking, and operates more or less independently from its headquarters. It is on the microblogging Tumblr platform, is aptly called The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit and can be found at the following address: http://iggyinuit.tumblr.com.

The first image that is presented, also on the Famousfix platform, is the one of Syd Barrett on a Formentera beach, standing behind a woman who hides her nudity behind a red veil. That picture is actually copyrighted and belongs to John Davies who took the picture when he went to the island in summer 1969.

Update 2015 02 25: John Davies contacted us to get some facts right.

The photo of the naked girl behind the red scarf was taken by Imo (Ian Moore) and not by me although I used it in an article I wrote about Cambridge, and credited Imo. Secondly, I went to Formentera first in 1963, with some friends from Cambridge, including Richard Eyre. We raved about the island so much that other friends started going there in the mid-sixties, including dear Syd. I still spend a lot of time there and one or two of those Cambridge "hipsters" still live there.

The article from John Davies can be found at A Fleeting Glimpse: The John Davies Collection. In another Church post (from 2012, time flies!) we have highlighted the yearly trek from the Cambridge hipsters to the island of Formentera: Formentera Lady.

John Davies

John Davies was one of those Cambridge hipsters who, between 1963 and 1965:

...made the transformation from schoolboys to aspiring beatniks’, swapping school uniforms for black polo necks and leather jackets, listening to Miles Davis, riding Vespas and smoking dope purchased from American GIs on the neighbouring airforce bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

He was, with Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, one of the people who mastered the Gaggia espresso machine in the coffee-house El Patio and who (probably) had his hand in the till when the boss wasn't around, as noted down by Nick Sedgwick in his roman à clef Light Blue with Bulges:

Lunch times, just keep the till open, ring up only half of the orders, keep a check on the rest, then pocket the difference.

Nick Sedgwick

Nick Sedgwick, who sadly passed away in 2011, wrote a Pink Floyd 'on tour' biography in the mid-seventies, but this was never published because none of the characters came out very well, with the exception of Roger Waters, who had commissioned the book. In August 2011 Waters promised to respect his friend's dying wish and release the manuscript as 'a simple PDF, a hardback version, and a super de-luxe illustrated limited edition' (see: Immersion). Transferring a typoscript to PDF literally takes a few minutes, but nothing has moved three and a half years later and the Church fears that this is just another case of the ongoing Waters vs Gilmour feud still lurking behind their smiling faces and fat wallets.

The Church has dedicated some space to the above picture before on the post Formentera Lady throwing the hypothesis around that the woman was one of Syd Barrett's girlfriends nicknamed Sarah Sky. This explanation was given to the Church by a Barrett fan who quoted her grandmother, but communication was interrupted before we could get more into details.

According to Emo (Iain Moore) however, the girl was an American tourist who was visiting Formentera for a day and had arrived at the house they all rented, close to a nude beach.

Famous Groupies

In December 2013 The Groupie Blog claimed the woman on the picture is German photo-model Uschi Obermaier. This was followed by another post in January 2014 where the author pretends Syd Barrett used to hit Obermaier when he had hysteria attacks.

Obviously the Church wanted to get further into this as none of the biographies mention any kind of romantic (nor aggressive) involvement between the two of them. As the (anonymous) author of the groupies blog was not contactable Uschi's autobiography High Times / Mein Wildes Leben was bought and searched for any Syd Barrett entries.

Mein Wildes Leben - Uschi Obermaier
Mein Wildes Leben, Uschi Obermaier.

Wild Thing

First things first: Obermaier's autobiography is a fine read, a three to three and a half star rating out of five.

Born in 1946 Uschi escapes the German conservative square society in the mid-sixties by clubbing at the Big Apple and PN in Munich where she is rapidly adopted by the in-crowd because of:
a) her good looks,
b) her dancing abilities and
c) her free spirit attitude.

She meets with Reinhard 'Dicky' Tarrach from The Rattles, who will have an international hit with The Witch, and soon promotes to international bands like The Kinks, whose Dave Davies is such an arrogant male chauvinist pig he deserves a separate entry. She is discovered by a photographer and a career as photo-model is launched.

Around 1967 Neil Landon from the hastily assembled The Flower Pot Men has a more than casual interest and he invites her to swinging London but she leaves as soon as she finds out about his jealous streaks. Back in Germany she doesn't fit in everyday society any more. She joins the alternative Amon Düül commune, following drummer Peter Leopold, and she makes it on a few of their jam-session albums as a maracas player.

Commune Love
Rainer Langhans & Uschi Obermaier, November 1969.

Through Amon Düül she falls in love with Rainer Langhans from Kommune 1 (K1). The Berlin communards live by a strict Marxism-Leninism doctrine where everything belongs to the group and everyday family life is forbidden. Individualism is totally annihilated at a point that even the toilet has its doors removed and telephone conversations need to be done with the speaker on. Good-looking Rainer and cover-girl Uschi become a media-hyped alternative couple, the German John and Yoko avant la lettre. She is by then Germany's most wanted, and some say: best paid, photo-model and as such not accepted by the community hardliners. Drinking cola or smoking menthol cigarettes is considered counter-revolutionary.

In January 1969 Uschi hears that Jimi Hendrix is in town and they meet for some quality time (short clip on YouTube). He visits the commune which gives it another popularity boost. Despite its utopian rules the communards have their intrigues, jealousies and hidden agendas, it becomes a heroin den and when one of the more extremist inhabitants hides a bomb in the house the place is raided by the police. Later that year the commune disbands. (It was also found out that the bomb was planted by an infiltrator, spying for the police.)

The couple moves for a while into the Munich Frauenkommune (women's commune), where their bourgeois manners and star allures aren't appreciated either, but you won't read that in Obermaier's memories. Movie director Katrin Seybold:

Do you remember when Uschi Meier and Rainer Langhans stayed with us? They really moved in at our place, like residents. And while the person who happened to have money normally bought twenty yoghurts for all of us, they bought the double for themselves and hid it in their room. They were a narrow-minded philistine couple within our community. They were not a bit generous. (Katrin Seybold and Mona Winter in Frauenkommune: Angstlust der Männer. Translation by FA.)

Leaving the all-women group in 1970 the couple starts the High-Fish (a pun on German Haifisch, or shark) commune, this time not a communist but a hedonistic group where sex, drugs and rock'n roll are combined into art happenings and/or sold as porn movies. The mansion may well have been the German equivalent of London's 101 Cromwell Road, which was some kind of LSD temple and the place where Syd Barrett used to live with some 'heavy, loony, messianic acid freaks', to quote Pete Jenner. (See also: An innerview with Peter Jenner )

Picture taken at the day of the Munich Incident.
Rainer Langhans & Uschi Obermaier on the Munich Incident day.

The Munich Incident

In March 1970 the High-Fish commune was the centre of a rock'n roll tragedy if we may believe some accounts. In vintage Fleetwood Mac circles the event is better known as the Munich Incident. Ultimate Classic Rock:

“It was a hippie commune sort of thing,” said Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer. “We arrived there, and [road manager] Dennis Keane comes up to me shaking and says, “It’s so weird, don’t go down there. Pete [Green] is weirding out big time and the vibes are just horrible.” Green was already set to leave the band, but this was, as [Mick] Fleetwood put it, “the final nail in the coffin.” Friends say Green was never the same after the Munich incident. (Taken from: 38 Years Ago: Fleetwood Mac Founder Peter Green Arrested for Pulling Shotgun on His Accountant.)

Jeremy Spencer, at Fleetwood Mac community The Ledge, continues:

It's true that we, or more accurately, Pete [Green] was met at Munich airport by a very beautiful girl [Uschi Obermaier] and a strange guy in a black cape [Rainer Langhans]. Their focus was definitely Pete for some reason. The rest of us didn't get it, but we discussed the weird vibes. We were invited to their mansion in the Munich forest that night. Pete was already jamming down in the basement (…) when I arrived with Mick [Fleetwood]. Dennis Keane [road manager] met us in the driveway, ashen faced and freaking out over the bad vibes and how weird Pete was going. I don't think Dennis was stoned, he just wanted to get out. (…) Anyway the house (more like a mansion) was a rich hippy crash pad. And it was spooky. There was some weird stuff going on in the different rooms. (Taken from: The Munich accident.)

Road manager Dennis Keane maintains they were spiked:

When we went inside there was a party of about 20 people sat around, we were offered a glass of wine, and the next thing I knew all hell broke loose in my head - we'd been drugged. Nobody had offered us any tablets; they just went and spiked us. (Taken from: Celmins, Martin: Peter Green: The Authorised Biography, Sanctuary, 2003)
Miss Kommune
Uschi Obermaier, "Miss Kommune".

Over the years the Munich Incident may have been exaggerated and Rainer Langhans, in his (free) autobiography, tries to bring the incident back to its true proportions:

After the performance of Fleetwood Mac in Munich, at the Deutsche Museum, the band went to the hotel. Peter Green came along with us, with the High-Fish people. (...) I quickly befriended him but he did not talk much. We were both, in a way, soul mates. A soft, vulnerable and loving man. Uschi had no special connection with him. She did not find him physically attractive. He was too hairy, she said, and also the music of Fleetwood Mac was too soft and not 'rocky' enough, while I found it very beautiful. We spent the night together with him, tripping, jamming and floating through the rooms on LSD. (...)
  
We met him twice in London in the next couple of weeks. It was him who brought us in contact with the Stones and Uschi was able to fulfill her dream of finally starting an affair with Jagger. With Fleetwood Mac everything seemed to be fine, but then Peter Green suddenly dropped out of the band. We heard he was so disgusted with the music business that he no longer wanted to be there. Much later the band put the responsibility on the night he was with us in Munich and claimed his trip with us had completely changed him. (Translated from German to English by FA.)

Peter Green's decline and retreat from the music industry is often compared to Syd Barrett's 1967 breakdown and although his descend into madness can't be linked to one single event, just as in the Barrett case, the gargantuan trip at the High-Fish community may have pushed him closer to the edge.

Conveniently Uschi Obermaier's excellent memory suddenly fails her when it comes to the Munich Incident. There is not a single word about it in her autobiography, but the Frauenkommune testimony from above already shows she can be rather discrete if she wants to.

Uschi Obermaier on the road.
Uschi Obermaier & Dieter Bockhorn.

Reeperbahn Prince

With their days of Marxist collectivism gone, she and Langhans are thinking of organising a German Woodstock festival. Peter Green does what is asked of him and a few days later the couple is standing in a London studio where Mick Jagger is working on Sticky Fingers. It is satisfaction at first sight and a treat for the paparazzi.

But German Woodstock never happens, the relation with Rainer Langhans comes to an end and Uschi, now an international photo-model, jumps back into the Munich nightlife, replacing the diet of Champagne and Quaaludes with the trendier heroin. In Hamburg she meets Dieter Bockhorn, who is officially an eccentric Reeperbahn strip-club owner and they start a turbulent relationship. When the Rolling Stones are in Germany for some recordings she gradually replaces Mick Jagger for Keith Richards, following them on a European tour and joining them in the USA. Bockhorn is not amused.

From then on she will have a bizarre love triangle: everyday life with Dieter and meeting Keith whenever his touring schedule allows him. She will always have a soft spot for Richards: “The most honourable bad boy I knew – and I knew some.”

In the mid-seventies Obermaier and Bockhorn, who has made the move to heroin as well, follow the hippie trail to Asia in a converted bus. It will be a trip through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and India that takes 622 days, 55141 kilometres with many weird, unbelievable adventures and a few narrow escapes. German press, as always, is interested in the adventures of Germany's baddest Kultpaar (cult couple) and they are regularly interviewed and photographed 'on the road'.

Back in Hamburg Uschi obviously returns to modelling but the couple fails to adapt to the western world and their relationship suffers gravely. She remarks that the hippie days are over and that punks have taken over the street. Bockhorn's business has suffered from the 20 months they were abroad and he struggles with monetary, legal and not quite so legal problems. They make plans to leave for America as soon as they can afford to leave.

In November 1980 they arrive in the USA where they will do a Kerouac, heroine free after an obliged detox boat journey. In summer they roam the continent and for three consecutive winters they stay in an alternative hippies and bikers camp in Baja California (Mexico). It is in Cabo San Lucas that Keith Richards arrives one day, carrying a guitar under the arm and giving a one man campfire gig on the beach, much to the amazement of the stoned onlookers. In the third year money has run out and the dharma bum life, with loads of alcohol, 'grass' and promiscuity, weighs heavily on both of them. On the last day of 1983 a drunk Dieter Bockhorn crashes his motorcycle on a truck ending his wild life.

Das Wilde Leben (movie)
Das Wilde Leben (movie). Natalia Avelon as Uschi.

Biography

For a while a depressed Uschi Obermaier feels that she has achieved nothing in her life and that she only got there through her pretty face. One of her pastimes is scrimshaw and she starts designing jewellery that she sells through the exclusive Maxfield store in Los Angeles, where Madonna and Jack Nicholson buy their trinkets. While she is certainly not an airhead and may have talent as an artist it can't be denied that her career is a case of, what the Germans amusingly describe as, Hurenglück.

On top of that the Krauts simply can't have enough of her. The story of her life as a groupie, a junkie, a starlet, her relations with a communist rebel, some Rolling Stones and a Reeperbahn crook who thought he was the Hamburg equivalent of Ronnie Kray make her autobiography Mein Wildes Leben (literally: my wild life) a page-turning bestseller.

It is followed by a biopic Das Wilde Leben, a home-country hit, but not abroad where it is baptised Eight Miles High. Reviews vary, but in our opinion it is a pretty average movie, with uneven and often caricatural scenes (check the Mick vs Keith scene for a ROTFL) and frankly Natalia Avelon's gorgeous cleavage has more depth than the script.

Uschi Obermaier.
Uschi Obermaier (1974) in a see-through dress, for comparison purposes only.

Back To Barrett

But to finally get back to the initial subject of this post, because in fine Church tradition we seem to have gone astray for a while.

Did Uschi Obermaier have a love-interest in Syd Barrett?
Did they meet at Formentera?
Did he hit her when he had hysteria attacks?

No.
No.
No.

We're afraid the answer is a triple no.

Doesn't Mein Wildes Lebens mention Syd Barrett at all?

Yes, his name is dropped once. He is mentioned in a comparison between Swinging London and 'its psychedelic music scene from early Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett' and the grey, conservative atmosphere in Germany where girls in miniskirts were insulted on the street.

Could Uschi have met Syd Barrett in Germany?

No. Vintage Pink Floyd, with Barrett in the band, never played Germany. A gig for the TV show Music For Young People in Hamburg, on the first and second of August 1967 was cancelled.

How about Syd hitting her?

The Barrett - Obermaier hysteria attack rumour is probably a mix-up from Syd's alleged violence towards his girlfriends and the tumultuous relationship between Obermaier and Bockhorn, who once pointed a gun at her and pulled the trigger (luckily the weapon jammed).

So how about Uschi Obermaier hiding her precious body behind a red veil on Formentera in the summer of 1969?

She writes that she visited Ibiza (the island next to Formentera) on the day Mick Jagger married Bianca, so that places the event in May 1971, nearly two years after Syd's Formentera picture. When Barrett was strolling on the beach Uschi was either at K1 in Berlin or at the Frauenkommune in Munich.

Well, I'm still not convinced until Uschi Obermaier herself tells us it never happened.

Why didn't you ask before, because we did. We managed to pass Uschi Obermaier the question through a mutual contact and we even got an answer back. Uschi Obermaier on the first of February 2015:

They are right, this is NOT me, they researched right. I was at this time either in Berlin or back in Munich.

Case closed then. Unless Sarah Sky wants to come forward, obviously.


Many thanks to: Bianca Corrodi, John Davies, Little Queenies, Nina, Uschi Obermaier, Jenny Spires.
This is, more or less, an update of a previous article that can be found here: Formentera Lady.

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 28, 83.
Langhans, Rainer: Ich Bin's, pdf version, 2008, p 39.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 38.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 67.
Sedgwick, Nick: Light Blue With Bulges, Fourth estate, London, 1989, p. 37.

Videos:
Coffee Bar - YouTube - 8:19, a 1959 Look At Life documentary about the British 'coffee bar boom' in London.
The Munich LSD Party Incident - YouTube - 7:41 (interviews with Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie, Dennis Keane, Peter Green, Clifford Davis).
Von wegen Liebe: Das schoenste Paar der APO - YouTube - 43:50, German documentary from Christa Ritter about Rainer Langhans, Uschi Obermaier and Kommune 1.
Jimi Hendrix with Uschi Obermaier in Berlin, January 1969 - YouTube - 0:35.


2015-03-27

Step It Up And Go

Church Shrine
Church Shrine.

The following is a 'longread' about the blues musicians who gave Pink Floyd its name.

TL;DR:
Syd Barrett did not have Pink Anderson and/or Floyd Council records, as they were extremely rare.
Those two blues musicians were named on the liner notes of a popular Blind Boy Fuller compilation though.
It wasn't Syd who distilled the name 'Pink Floyd' from that record, but Stephen Pyle, one of his friends.

Personnel: Trotting Sally | Simmie Dooley | Pink Anderson | Samuel Charters | Floyd Council | Bryan Sinclair | Blind Boy Fuller | Warren Dosanjh | Stephen Pyle
Review: Country Blues, Blind Boy Fuller

Introduction

Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett fans have a pretty rough idea how the band acquired its name, although the exact story is probably less known and only interests Roger Keith Barrett anoraks anyway. In their enthusiasm, some fans even share pictures of the Pink Floyd name-givers on the dozens of, mostly obsolete and highly repetitive, Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Facebook fan groups, in their continuous race to be bigger than the others.

Here they are: Georgia blues singers Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, whose records were in the proud possession of a certain Cambridge boy.

Not Floyd Council
Not Floyd Council, but Blind Boy Fuller.

Only, the person at the right is not Floyd Council, but Blind Boy Fuller (and they are not from Georgia either). We'll explain later how Blind Boy Fuller gets into the picture.

Knowing how a blues singer from the beginning of the past century looked like is one thing, knowing how he sounded often seems even more of a gargantuan task. And even the world's best music magazine wasn't so sure either.

Different tunes

The above YouTube movie allegedly has the Pink Anderson song C.C. and O Blues, followed by the Floyd Council track If You Don't Give Me What I Want. Only what you hear is not always what you get.

C.C. and O Blues

The vocals on C.C. And O Blues are from Simmie Dooley, not Pink Anderson. Dooley was a country blues street singer who lived in Spartanburg, South Carolina and who is mostly remembered as Anderson's musical mentor.

In the beginning of the past century Spartanburg's black district was named the politically incorrect Niggertown, by Negroes and whites alike. The black district was a spirited place, in all possible interpretations of the word, and not always safe to roam. Ira Tucker, lead singer of The Dixie Hummingbirds, remembers:

Anywhere you would go could be risky. Those guys in Spartanburg, they didn't take any tea for the fever. They would fight to the end!

As a black person, living in Spartanburg, one had to face thousands of indignities. The racist police was generally showing disrespect:

Nigger, you have to say 'mister' to me.

The black population of Spartanburg reacted, unsurprisingly, as expected.

The white cops, when they would get ready to arrest a black man, it would take three or four of them. If they came into a neighbourhood to arrest somebody for nothing, black people would fight back.

Not that a lot has changed a century later, with the exception that the n-word is now considered inopportune. USA police still can insult, kick and shoot unarmed black people, but as long as they don't call them niggers it's all passing by without consequences.

Trotting Sally with Rosalie
Trotting Sally with Rosalie (his violin).

Trotting Sally

Niggertown also offered good times and music was always around. Ira Tucker's grandfather 'Uncle Ed' was a musician who played a mean accordion and who sang in the local church choir.

Another character was Trotting Sally, real name: George Mullins. Born a slave in 1856, he was freed at the age of 9 and became a familiar street musician with his fiddle 'Rosalie'. He was known for his wild antics and crazy animal imitations. His behaviour was so eccentric that people doubted his mental stability. He was – literally - the stuff legends are made of. It was rumoured that Millins had superhuman strength, that he could outrun a train, hence the nickname Trotting Sally, and these heroic deeds were the subject of several late 19th-century folk-tales. When he died, in 1931, he was remembered in several newspaper articles. Although he was captured on film, no sound recordings of him exist. Ira Tucker:

He was an excellent violinist. Nothing but strings and his fingers. He had that violin almost sounding like it was talking. If you said “Good Morning”, he would make that violin say, “G-o-o-o-d M-o-o-o-rning”.

Simmie Dooley

Another street musician who not only impressed Ira Tucker, but Blind Gary Davis as well, was an old man who sang and played the guitar: Blind Simmie.

Simmie Dooley (1881-1961) may have played his favourite spot in Spartanburg's 'Short Wolford' when he met young lad Pink Anderson, an entertainer in a travelling medicine show who wanted to learn the guitar. They would go off in the woods to practice, usually with a bottle of corn whiskey 'to help the throats'. Simmie's educational system consisted of hitting Pink's hands with a switch until he got the chords right.

In Search of Syd
In Search of Syd, Mojo compilation.

In search of Simmie

Anderson was not only Dooley's sideman, but also his eyes. It was practically impossible for a blind man to travel but with Pink he could go to the small towns around Spartanburg, like Woodroff and Roebuck, to play on country picnics and parties. They often performed together and in April 1928 they recorded four tracks for Columbia Records in Atlanta. These two 10 inch 78RPM records were issued under the name Pink Anderson and Simmie Dooley and have the duo at their finest. The musical bond between both was so strong that Pink Anderson refused to record without his teacher, which could have made his life much easier. (Apparently the record company didn't like Simmie's distinctive voice.)

C.C. & O Blues, referring to the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway that ran through Spartanburg, is a bit carelessly attributed to Pink Anderson on a Mojo cover disk of October 2007 (issue 167): In Search Of Syd. Simmie Dooley, who is the main performer, is only mentioned in the liner notes, but not on the front nor backside track-listing. It is one of those mysteries why exactly this track was chosen for the compilation. From that same 1928 session Mojo could have, for instance, picked Papa's Bout To Get Mad where Pink Anderson is the lead instead of Simmie Dooley. All in all there are about 3 dozen Pink Anderson songs but Mojo resolutely went for about the only track in his entire career where he can't be heard at all.

If You Don't Give Me What I Want

The second song on the YouTube movie from above is If You Don't Give Me What I Want. It can be found on the same Mojo compilation and there it is somewhat lavishly attributed to Blind Boy Fuller and Floyd Council. It certainly is a Blind Boy Fuller song, taken from a session in February 1937 with accompanying musicians Floyd Council (on guitar) and George Washington (on washboard), using the pseudonyms Dipper Boy Council and Bull City Red.

Mojo stretched the line by adding Floyd Council's name, making us wonder why they forgot the third musician. The YouTube uploader even went a step further by omitting Blind Boy Fuller from his own record, thus giving the title a self-explanatory extra dimension.

Although Floyd Council solo tracks are harder to find than those of Pink Anderson, they do exist and 6 of those have survived into the twenty-first century.

Syd Barrett visits UFO.
Syd Barrett visits UFO. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

Ufonauts

If you are already confused by now, we can only promise it will get worse from now on. Who are these Pink and Floyd character everyone is talking about?

Syd Barrett at first tried to explain that the name Pink Floyd had come to him in a vision or by a passing flying saucer while he was meditating on a leyline, but the truth is somewhat less exotic. In a Swedish interview from September 1967, Barrett explained:

The name Pink Floyd comes from two blues singers from Georgia, USA – Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

Basically this story kept repeating itself from article (for instance: Nick Kent, 1974) to article, from year to year, from biography to biography, without much checking of the journalists involved, although some did have the guts to add the odd detail here and there. But all in all it would take more than three decades to get to the truth.

In the Visual Documentary (aka the Pink Floyd bible) by Barry Miles (1980) Anderson and Council are still described as Georgia blues-men who were in Syd's record collection. It may come as blasphemy for vintage Floyd fans but demi-god Syd Barrett actually made an error as these two musicians stayed in the Carolinas for most of their lives. Nicholas Schaffner (1991) managed to add the years of birth and death of these obscure blues musicians, but also Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson in their Crazy Diamond biography state that Syd 'had a couple of records by two grizzled Georgia blues-men'. Same for the lavishly illustrated, but for the rest forgettable, Learning To Fly biography by Chris Welch (1994) and a few other publications...

In 1988 though, in the first release of Days in the Life, Jonathon Green quotes Peter Jenner:

The name came from a sleeve note which one of them had read, which referred to Pink somebody or other, and Floyd somebody or other, two old blues guys, and they just thought that 'The Pink Floyd' was a nice combination, and they called it the Pink Floyd Sound.

Information doesn't always gets transferred through the appropriate channels and the booklet of the Crazy Diamond CD-box, that appeared 8 years later, still alleged that:

Barrett, Waters, Wright, and Mason reconvened as The Pink Floyd Sound, a name Syd had coined from an album by Georgia blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

(Barrett's record company and/or management have a history of making silly mistakes, see Dark Blog or Cut the Cake.)

All it needed to straight things out was to go to a local library (this was pre-WWW-days, remember) and look up these names in a blues encyclopedia, like yours truly did, a very long time ago. Kiloh Smith's adagio that 'Syd Barrett fans are, basically, really, really lazy people unless it comes to fighting amongst themselves on some message board' can also be expanded to rock journalists.

Pink Anderson
Pink Anderson.

Pink Anderson

Although never of the grandeur of B.B. King or Muddy Waters Pink Anderson isn’t really that obscure and the perfect example for someone who likes to brag about his (or her) Piedmont blues knowledge.

Pink Anderson was born in Lawrence, South Carolina, in February 1900, and was raised in Spartanburg where he would stay his entire life. He first went on the road at age fourteen, employed by Dr. Kerr of the Indian Remedy Company, singing and dancing medicine show tunes. When the show was not travelling between Virginia and southern Georgia, with occasional trips into Alabama and Tennessee, Pink was working as a handyman in the Spartanburg storehouse where W.R. Kerr kept his trucks and stage equipment. He would stay with the troupe until Dr. Kerr retired in 1945 and never considered himself a blues singer, but a medicine show entertainer.

In 1916 Pink met Simmie Dooley, a blind blues street-singer, living in the same town. When Pink wasn’t out selling magic potions, he and Simmie played at picnics and parties in small towns around Spartanburg. They cut a few singles together in April 1928, but Anderson refused to record without Dooley (until Simmie was too old to perform). In February 1950 he was recorded by singer, folklorist and music-archivist Paul Clayton, but the tapes wouldn't be released for another decade.

Samuel Charters

There was a kind of Pink Anderson revival in the early sixties, when he was tracked down by blues historian Samuel Charters who recorded him and brought out three albums spanning Pink's career as a Carolina blues man (volume 1), a medicine show entertainer (volume 2) and a ballad & folksinger (volume 3), otherwise Pink Anderson would've stayed a mere footnote in blues history, just like his tutor Simmie Dooley. These three albums still sell today, obviously aided by the Floydian connection, and they are of an excellent 'vintage folk & blues' quality. (Samuel Charters passed away in March 2015, aged 85: obituary.)

It is not unimaginable that some people in the Cambridge blues & beatnik circles were aware of these compilations, although they must have been rare. Floyd Council's name, however, can't be found on any of these records. Anderson's repertoire contained several Blind Boy Fuller songs, but they never met. Anderson died in Spartanburg in 1974, perhaps unaware of the fact that one of the greatest shows on earth was named after him.

Pink Anderson albums
Pink Anderson albums.
Floyd Council
Floyd Council.

Floyd Council

Floyd Council is a slightly different matter. Blues scholars and historians know him as a side-man on about a dozen of Blind Boy Fuller records and he only became a kind of celebrity because of the Floyd segment. His solo songs have been included on several blues compilations, because of the Pink Floyd link alone, for instance on the Century of the Blues 4-CD set (see picture above) where he comes up, right after... Pink Anderson.

Floyd Council was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in September 1911 and began working with legendary blues artist Blind Boy Fuller in the 1930’s. Though he is mainly known for backing Fuller, he also worked with Sonny Terry and cut some solo tracks as well. A few sources tell he may have recorded enough tracks for three albums, but only six of those have survived. The well-informed Wirz blues discography only found one lost 1937 two-tracks session.

In a (fruitless) effort to become famous he gigged and recorded as 'Dipper Boy Council', bearing the epitheton ornans 'Blind Boy Fuller's Buddy' (1937). According to the New Dictionary of American Slang, edited by Robert L. Chapman (1986), dipper refers to dippermouth, a person with a large mouth. The term showed up in Dippermouth Blues, recorded by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in 1923 with a 21-years old Louis Armstrong in the band, whose nickname happened to be just that, for obvious reasons.

Carolina Blues
Carolina Blues Compilation.

Devil in disguise

Another stage name for Council was the 'Devil's Daddy-in-Law' (1938), probably to cash in on the popularity of Peetie Wheatstraw who was known as the 'Devil’s Son-in-Law' and whose songs often referred to the hoodoo tradition, root doctor and crossroads legends in blues.

"If black music is the father of rock, voodoo is its grandfather" write Baigent and Leigh in their overview of the occult through the ages. It is not known if Council was a follower of Vodu, but like most Negroes he must have been aware of the pagan undercurrent in his society, that was politically, culturally and socially segregated from the white highbrow class.

Probably his nicknames had been chosen by his white and highbrow class manager J.B. Long, a Maecenas for some and a thief for others, who also had Blind Boy Fuller in his stable and who employed Floyd Council on a farm he owned.

Floyd passed away in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on May 9, 1976. He is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere at White Oak A.M.E. Zion Cemetery of Sanford.

Carolina Blues

The first widely available Floyd Council compilation Carolina Blues (1936-1950) was released in 1987, a tad too late to influence Syd Barrett in his search for a name for his band. Let it be clear that in the early sixties it was close to impossible, for a Cambridge youngster, to find a Floyd Council record in the UK, unless you happened to be a very lucky and rich 78-RPM gramophone collector. We seriously doubt that anyone would lend any of these singles to a bunch of teenagers who would scratch the surfaces on their Dansette portable record players.

So that is why it was impossible for Syd Barrett to have a Floyd Council record in his collection, as some biographers have written.

Philips BBL 7512
Philips BBL 7512

Pre-War Blues

Little by little the Pink Floyd biographies had to alter the story, but it lasted until 2005 before Bryan Sinclair asked the following question to a Yahoo group of pre-war blues collectors:

Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 08:58:47 -0500
To: pre-war-blues@yahoogroups.com
From: Bryan Sinclair
Subject: Pink Anderson / Floyd Council
I am interested in some background info on the origin of the band name "Pink Floyd." It is my understanding that Syd Barrett came up with this hybrid by combining the first names of Carolina bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Bastin provides ample info with respect to dates and locales for both, but how did the two names become associated with one another, at least in the mind of Barrett?
Bryan Sinclair
Asheville, NC

It took less than a day before Bryan Sinclair has an answer. David Moore from Bristol remembered the names from a record he had in his collection:

To: <pre-war-blues@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 15:47:51 -0000
From: "Dave Moore"
Subject: Re: [pre-war-blues] Pink Anderson / Floyd Council
From an LP apparently in the possession of Syd Barrett: Blind Boy Fuller, Country Blues 1935-1940, issued on Philips BBL-7512, c. 1962. The sleeve notes were by Paul Oliver, and include the following:
"Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, Georgia-born but more frequently to be found in Kentucky or Tennessee, Pink Anderson or Floyd Council -- these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys."
Dave Moore
Bristol, UK
Blind Boy Fuller Country Blues
Country Blues, Blind Boy Fuller compilation.

Enigma

So there we have it. All it took to find the answer was, oddly enough, to ask someone who knew, a thing nobody had ever thought of doing for 35 years. All we needed to do, was to keep on talking.

The rest is history and has been repeated in decent Pink Floyd biographies ever since. So it is a crying shame that Floyd über-geek Glenn Povey, in his encyclopedic study Echoes from 2007 still writes:

It [Pink Floyd] is the amalgamation of the first names of two old Carolina bluesmen whose work was very familiar to him [Syd Barrett].

Not... a... fucking... chance.

Update July 2017:...and yet, official Pink Floyd sources still don't grasp this. The 2017 catalogue for the Pink Floyd Their Mortal remains exhibition states at page 82 that the band was - and we quote - 'named after two of Syd Barrett's favourite blues artists'.

Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller.

Blind Boy Fuller

Fulton Allen was born in July 1907 in Wadesboro, North-Carolina and learned to play the blues from the people around him. In his mid-teens he started to lose his eyesight from a maltreated disease at birth and not from washing his face with poisoned water, given to him by a jealous woman, as has been put forward by Paul Oliver.

What was a hobby at first, now became his trade, because blind Negroes didn't have many job opportunities in the thirties. Allen started busking in the streets of Durham and playing gigs with Floyd Council (aka Dipper Boy Council), Saunders Terrell (aka Sonny Terry) , George Washington (aka Bull City Red) and Reverend Gary Davis.

In 1935 he was discovered by record store owner and music promoter James Baxter Long who became manager of the lot. Re-baptised as Blind Boy Fuller he was paid about 200$ per 12 song session, not a bad deal in those days, unless you would suddenly start selling hundreds of thousands of records. And that was exactly what happened.

In five years time Blind Boy cut 139 sides, in 11 sessions taking approximately 24 days, but there would be no royalties going Fuller's way. Long would later explain that, as a rookie, he didn't understand the concept of copyrights. It is true that before 1938 Fuller's records were not credited to any author, thus (theoretically) flushing a lot of money down the drain. After April 1938 Long started putting his own name on the copyright papers when he noted down Fuller's lyrics, claiming he did this innocently and with no intent to rip Fuller.

Opinions about J.B. Long differ. As a patron of the arts he provided housing and jobs for his artists, but of course that was also a way to have them chained for life to his agency. Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller called him a thief, although Sonny Terry was slightly more diplomatic:

In the beginning he took all the money, but we didn't care because it started our careers.

Brownie McGhee, however, never had a bad thing to say about his manager.

The Decca Tapes

Blind Boy Fuller once tried to moonlight at Decca, but these records were rapidly pulled from the market after a complaint from his manager, who wasn't apparently such an innocent rookie after all when somebody tried to grab his artists.

Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller.

James Baxter maintained he constantly provided Fuller with money, clothes, food, fuel 'and other necessities' but the singer and his wife applied several times for welfare, neglecting to mention that they already had an income from recording sessions.

The blind aid bureaucracy didn't realise that Fulton Allen and Blind Boy Fuller were the same person and they gave him a monthly allowance. Unfortunately Fuller gave his secret away when he complained to social services that his manager was not giving him the royalties he was entitled to, but the only advice they could give him was to wait until the contract ended and not to sign another one.

By 1939, suffering from alcohol related stomach ulcers, kidney troubles and probably a touch of syphilis, Fuller impatiently waited to be released from his contract and from jail, as he had shot his wife in the leg, quite an accomplishment for a blind man and a sign that he had more than money problems alone.

The Last Session

J.B. Long had the last laugh when he told Blind Boy Fuller he was still under contract with the American Recording Company. Ironically it was James Baxter who drove Blind Boy, Sonny Terry, Bull City Red and the Reverend Gary Davis to Memphis for another recording session. This time Fuller only received part of his session money, because he was already greatly in debt with his ex-manager. On top of that the Blind Assistance administration had finally found out that Fulton Allen was the same man as Blind Boy Fuller. From his ex-manager they learned that he earned about three times as much as the average household, which was still ridiculously low given the records he sold. They (logically) terminated the welfare checks.

The problem was that Fulton didn't spread his session money over several months but that it would be invariably gone by the next. James Baxter Long proposed to give Fuller a monthly salary instead of a session lump-sum, and even a house rent-free, but a stubborn Blind Boy refused, perhaps because it would have meant giving his freedom away and signing a new contract with the music promoter.

For reasons that have never been properly disclosed, but it might have been a rough life of sex and drugs and rural blues, Fulton Allen's health rapidly declined and he died in February 1941, at only 33 years of age.

Country Blues (inside cover)
Country Blues (inside cover).

Classic Jazz Masters

In his book 'How Britain Got The Blues', R.F. Schwartz notes that:

...most critics agreed that the great blues of the past would never be reissued [in the fifties, FA], but some collectors were committed to making this repertoire accessible.

For the smart understander: illegally. History repeats itself, ad infinitum.

At first many jazz and blues reissues were bootlegs, made by collectors for collectors and taken from the original 78-RPM records. As the musicians had been paid flat fees anyway, and seldom received royalties, no harm was done, although the record labels obviously had different opinions.

With a growing demand for vintage blues the major labels finally understood that there was a market and that the costs for producing these albums was minimal. Philips began its Classic Jazz Masters Series in 1962 with:
Blind Boy Fuller 1935-1940 Country Blues (BBL-7512),
Bessie Smith 1923-1924 Bessie's Blues (BBL-7513),
followed by:
Robert Johnson 1936-37 (BBL-7539).

That last one was almost immediately deleted for legal reasons (apparently even record companies have difficulties sorting copyrights out) but so many copies had already been sold to blues-hungry teenagers that a whole generation was inspired to start their own bands. British blues boom was a fact.

On his first trip to England, in November 1962, Bob Dylan bought two albums he brought back to the States. The first one was Blues Fell This Morning, a Southern Blues compilation, that accompanied Paul Oliver's book with the same name. The second was the Philips Blind Boy Fuller Country Blues album. (A picture of that album, with Bob Dylan's signature, can be found on Recordmecca: Bob Dylan's Muse: Suze Rotolo, 1943-2011.)

Blues was a tidal wave that couldn't be stopped. 1965 saw a British tour of Reverend Gary Davis and his old mates Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry headlined the Cambridge Folk Festival on the 31st of July.

Stephen Pyle suggested Pink Floyd as a new name for The Hollerin Blues.

Blues In Cambridge

That the blues was also popular in Cambridge was proved by bands as The Hollerin' Blues, named after the 1929 Charley Patton song, Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues. Incidentally, Blind Boy Fuller's Piccolo Rag, that is present on the 1962 Country Blues compilation, has the lyrics:

Said, when I'm on the corner hollerin'.
"Whoa! Haw! Gee!"
My gal's uptown hollerin'.
"Who wants me?"

As their only way of communication, slaves or black farm workers would holler to each other across the fields. Sometimes these hollers would be wordless, sometimes they would form sentences and grow into songs that were sung in call and response. Spirituals, work songs and hollers influenced and structured early blues.

The line-up of this 1962/63 rhythm & blues band was Barney Barnes (piano, harmonica and vocals), Alan Sizer (guitar), Pete Glass (harmonica) and Stephen Pyle (drums). Rado 'Bob' Klose and Syd Barrett joined them at least once at the Dolphin Club in Coronation Street, but he was never a band member. According to Gian Palacios Barrett also sat in on several jam sessions, mainly because he showed a certain interest in Juliet Mitchell who lived in the house where the band rehearsed.

Women were the reason why the band cut itself loose from their old management and they reincarnated as Those Without with Warren Dosanjh as their new manager. (See also Antonio Jesús interview: Warren Dosanjh, Syd Barrett's first manager.) Stephen Pyle remembers in The Music Scene Of 1960s Cambridge that he actually suggested Pink Floyd as the band's new name, but this was rejected.

Which one's Pink?

It means that the Philips Blind Boy Fuller Country Blues album was well known by the Hollerin' Blues mob, including Syd Barrett, who joined Those Without for about a dozen of of gigs. It could also mean that the Pink Floyd name, contrary to general belief, was not thought up by Syd and that it might have been an incidental joke. Not that it really matters, but we asked Stephen Pyle anyway:

I am afraid time has taken is toll on my memory.
But Syd and I used to invent band names when Those Without were already in existence, as to who's album it was I think it was mine.
It was Dave Gilmour who claimed that I was the source, and he must have got that from Syd.
Country Blues

Country Blues: a review

The 1962 Philips album Country Blues, Blind Boy Fuller 1935-1940 is a wayward compilation, containing 16 tracks, ranging from the obvious to the less than obvious. It contains tracks from 10 different sessions, recorded over 12 days, starting with the first session that made Fuller a star and ending with the last one he would ever do. Intriguingly - for Pink Floyd anoraks - is that none of the tracks have Floyd Council on them, but George Washington (aka Bull City Red) and Sonny Terry can be found on several songs. So the record that gave the Pink Floyd name away actually doesn't have Pink Anderson, nor Floyd Council on it.

Why don't you listen to the Country Blues album while reading this review?
A Spotify playlist (login needed) for the same album can be found here: Country Blues. Throughout the review many YouTube and Wikipedia links will be given, checking them out will take many hours of your life. A Blind Boy Fuller gallery with hi-res images of the record, its cover and the liner notes has been uploaded: Blind Boy Fuller.
Country Blues
Country Blues.

Country Blues Side One

She's A Truckin' Little Baby

The album starts with She's A Truckin' Little Baby, a country dance tune and a song that has many incarnations. Big Bill Broonzy recorded it as Trucking Little Woman, John Hammond Jr. as Trucking Little Boy and John Jackson as Trucking Little Baby. All have different lyrics, but they're essentially the same song. Led Zeppelin sometimes included the song as Trucking Little Mama in their R&B medley during Whole Lotta Love.

Blind Boy Fuller is generally cited as the originator of the terms 'keep on truckin' (in Truckin' My Blues Away, not on this compilation) and 'get your yas yas out' (not included either). Several of his songs belong to the hokum genre - humoristic blues with double entendres and sexual innuendos – or bawdy blues. His What’s That Smell Like Fish, Mama (not included) as being one of the most risqué ever.

There's a bit of playful innuendo in Truckin' Little Baby with the line:

she got good jelly
but she's stingy with me.

Jelly is a culinary metaphor for female attractiveness and/or sexuality. Imagine this tune with an electric guitar, add some bass and a drum and there you have it: rock'n roll.

Recorded: October 29, 1938, with Bull City Red (George Washington) on washboard.
Sound & Lyrics
Source(s): Lyr Req: Trucking Little Baby / ...Woman / ...Mama

Screaming And Crying Blues

Screaming And Crying Blues can't get more 'default' as it is about a man, waking up in the morning and realising his woman has left him. The term comes back in different songs, one of them Screamin' and Cryin' by Muddy Waters (1949) and one by Morris Pejoe (1956).

I was worried and grieving,
about that girl had done left me behind.

Recorded: October 29, 1938.
Sound & Lyrics

Big Leg Woman Gets My Pay

Big legged women are something of a tradition in blues and, once again, have been cited in a Led Zeppelin song (Black Dog) where it is said that:

a big-legged woman ain't got no soul.

And that might be quite an insurmountable problem for a band that has been flirting with Satanist tendencies. Mississippi John Hurt recorded Big Leg Blues in 1928, Roosevelt Sykes had Big Legs Ida Blues in 1933, Kokomo Arnold Big Leg Mama in 1935, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry covered Bill Gaither's Another Big Leg Woman as Big-Legged Woman and so on...

A big legged woman is just another way of saying that she is sexually attractive and with 'gets my pay' Fuller is implying he wants to give her more than his monthly salary alone, but you probably already had figured that out.

Recorded: July 12, 1939, with Bull City Red (George Washington) on washboard.
Sound, but no Lyrics found.
Source(s): A big legged woman ain't got no soul

Custard Pie
Custard Pie (sexual metaphor).

I Want Some Of Your Pie

I Want Some Of Your Pie obviously is an example of a risqué blues, without really being too smutty, unless we semantically dig deeper. Officially the song goes like this:

Says, I'm not jokin' an' I'm gonna tell you no lie,
I want to eat your custard pie.

But most hear something else:

Says, I'm not jokin' an' I'm gonna tell you no lie,
I want to eat your custy pie.

In a mighty interesting online essay that has unfortunately disappeared from the web at the end of 2014 'The use of food as a sexual metaphor in the blues' (Elise Israd) it is suggested that the use of code words for romantic and sexual activity may have come out of fear and oppression. Plantation owners were not amused that their (male) slaves would discuss sex in public and thus they used innocent synonyms for the yummy things they wanted to describe.

When it came to producing and selling blues records there was as well the matter of censorship. As often in these cases the record companies had a double standard, calling the naughty bits by their proper name was considered obscene and legally forbidden, but they didn't see any harm in selling songs about sugar plums, fish and custy, custard, crusty or cushdy pies.

I Want Some Of Your Pie (1939) is one of those songs that has different incarnations. It can be found as Custard Pie (1947) by Sonny Terry and as Custard Pie Blues (1962) by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Buddy Moss and Pinewood Tom recorded an early version, with slightly other lyrics, as You Got To Give Me Some Of It in 1935, 4 years before Blind Boy Fuller.

It might not come to you as a surprise that Led Zeppelin's 1975 album Physical Graffiti starts with a track called Custard Pie, what made one fan seriously wonder if Sonny Terry covered it retroactively from the dark angel that is Robert Plant.

Recorded: July 12, 1939, with Sonny Terry (harmonica) & Bull City Red (washboard).
Sound and Lyrics
Source(s): Custard Pie

Cat Man Blues

The next three songs all have an animal theme and in these cases animals are used as an allegory for a situation man is not really happy with.

Cat Man Blues is the story of a man who returns home, hears a noise in another room and is told by his wife it is nothing but the cat.

Went home last night, heard a noise,
I asked my wife what was that?
Said man don't be so suspicious,
that ain't nothin' but a cat.
Lord I travelled this world all over mama,
takin' all kinds of chance.
But I never come home before,
seein' a cat wearin' a pair of pants!

While the words are funny, the situation isn't and the protagonist surely doesn't appreciate that the cat man is stealing his cream away.

Recorded: April 29, 1936, (recorded twice that day, actually).
Sound (take1), Sound (take 2) and Lyrics

Been Your Dog

Been Your Dog has a man complaining how badly treated he is by his wife. In Untrue Blues, not on this record, Fuller describes it as follows:

Now you doggin' me mama, ain't did a thing to you.
And you keep on doggin' no telling what I'll do.
Now you dog me every morning,
give me the devil late at night.
Just the way you doggin' me,
I ain't goin' treat you right.

Been Your Dog plays with the same subject:

I've been your dog mama
ever since I've been your man...

Fuller complains how he has to work hard all day, only to come and find a drunk wife in bed and ponders if he should leave her and make room for another man.

Recorded: February 10, 1937.
Sound, but no Lyrics found.

jelly roll
Jelly Roll (sexual metaphor).

Hungry Calf Blues

Hungry Calf Blues is much more funny and risqué, although it has again the undertone of a man who is cheated on and who does his best to win his woman back. The song, so tell the experts, is a variation of Milk Cow Blues by Sleepy John Estes (1930) although the lyrics haven't got much in common. In 1934 Kokomo Arnold covered the song, still much the same as the original one.

Fuller's version is closer to Milkcow's Calf Blues, recorded by Robert Johnson on his last session in June 1937 and with a new set of lyrics. Copyright wasn't really an issue in those days, as Lawrence W. Levine explains in his study 'Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom'.

Black singers felt absolutely free to take blues sung by others - friends, professional performers, singers on records - and alter them in any way they liked.

Fuller certainly was no exception to that rule and re-utilises a couple of Johnson's lyrics:

Your calf is hungry mama, I believe he needs a suck.

and

Your milk is turnin' blue, I believe he's out of luck.

, but then he is off into his own miserable territory:

I found out now mama,
the reason why I can't satisfy you... (…)
You've got a new cat,
he's sixteen years old.

There's that trousered cat again! From then on the song turns pseudo-autobiographical and the protagonist promises he will be faithful to his wife from now on and to treat her well:

I'm gonna save my jelly, mama,
gonna bring it right home to you. (...)
You can't find no young cat,
roll jelly like this old one do.

For those thinking that Fuller is keen on sweet desserts, we would like to add that jelly is not what you think it is, except when you have a perverted mind and then it is exactly what you think it is.

A stanza later we learn that the I-person in the song is none other than Fuller himself. He apologises that the flesh is weak and the blues groupies abundant:

Says I got a new way of rollin' mama,
I think it must be best.
Said these here North Carolina women
just won't let Blind Boy Fuller rest.

But just when you think it would be wise to show some discretion male chauvinist ego takes over again and Fuller brags that he is the best lover around:

Said I got the kind of lovin',
yes Lord, I think it must be best.
Said I roll jelly in the mornin'
and I also roll at night.
I said hey hey, I also roll at night.
And I don't stop rollin',
till I know I rolled that jelly just right.

We doubt the lyrics need further explanation, unless perhaps you are confused by the terms jelly and jelly-roll, another example of pastry being used as a sexual metaphor. Harry's Blues gives a neat definition and lists 15 songs that use the same terminology.

Recorded: September 9, 1937.
Sound and Lyrics
Source(s): Milk Cow Blues

Mojo
Mojo (magical charm bag).

Mojo Hidin' Woman

The last song on side A of the album is Mojo Hidin' Woman, and compared to the previous lot a rather solemn and respectful one, although it still blames the wife who brings misery over the man. Blind Boy Fuller refers (literally) to black magic and the woman's habit of concealing a mojo, a magical charm bag, on her body.

Fuller probably means a 'nation sack', a term originating from the Memphis area, which is a red flannel bag containing roots, magical stones and personal objects, worn by a woman, meant to keep her man faithful and make him generous in money matters.

Other sources say it should be 'nature sack'. Harry Middleton Hyatt, a white Anglican minister who studied folklore in the thirties and who documented over 13000 (!) magic spells and beliefs, may have misunderstood the Negro term 'naycha' and wrote it down as 'nation' instead of 'nature'. In hoodoo it was seriously believed that the magical bag controls a man's 'naycha' or virility. No wonder that Blind Boy Fuller didn't laugh at this one.

To make the spell powerful some objects of the love interest were put in the bag, a photograph, his name or signature on a piece of paper, cloth, fingernail clippings, (pubic) hair and other intimate by-products... The bag was worn under the clothes, at the lower waist for obvious magical reasons, and it was strictly forbidden to be touched, or even seen, by a man. Married women would hide it before going to bed:

Yo' know, a man bettah not try tuh put dere han' on dat bag; yo' know, he betta not touch. He goin' have some trouble serious wit dat ole lady if he try tuh touch dat bag, 'cause when she pulls it off at night -- if she sleeps by herself, she sleeps wit it on; but if she got a husban', yo'll see her evah night go an' lock it up in dat trunk. [Taken from Nation Sack @ Lucky Mojo.]

Not that a pious man would ever try to do that, as touching the bag would make him lose, as Austin Powers erroneously put it, 'his mojo'. As the naycha sack was strict taboo for a man it was a safe place for the woman to put her belongings in, money and tobacco, and if the money had been given to her by her husband, that could only act as an extra charm.

Mojo Hidin' Woman is the same song as Stingy Mama, recorded a month earlier, but with a new title. Fuller knows exactly what he sings about:

My girl's got a mojo.
She won't let me see.

In true hokum tradition the song is full of double entendres, starting with the first line:

Stingy mama, don't be so stingy with me.

As the (secret) mojo was often used or hidden inside a purse a 'stingy' woman is one who doesn't like to spend money, but in this context mojo is of course used as an euphemism for sex. Being the sexy motherfucker he is, Fuller knows she will finally give in:

I say, hey-hey, mama, can't keep that mojo hid...
'Cause I got something, mama, just to find that mojo with.

And that's a verse Fuller lends almost literally from Blind Lemon Jefferson's Low Down Mojo Blues (1928).

The song perfectly ends with a play of words, ingeniously hinting at the 'stingy' remark of the beginning:

Mama left me something called that stingaree.
Says, I done stung my little woman
and she can't stay away from me.

Sex has never been described better, even if you don't immediately grasp the concept of a stingaree, but once again Harry's Blues comes to the rescue. This is, if you ask the Reverend, as poetical as:

'Cause we're the fishes and all we do
the move about is all we do
well, oh baby, my hairs on end about you..

Recorded: September 7, 1937 (Stingy Mama: July 12, 1937)
Sound and Lyrics

Dancing not allowed.
Dancing not allowed.

Country Blues Side Two

Piccolo Rag

Side two starts with the Blind Boy Fuller classic Piccolo Rag that can be found on about every compilation of him. It's a joyous and irresistible ragtime guitar dancing tune that is typical of the Piedmont Blues style. It is a fun track with a direct message that doesn't need to be further explained:

Every night I come home
you got your lips painted red.
Said, "Come on Daddy and let's go to bed."

In the first decade of the twentieth century a 'daddy' in African American slang was a pimp, but later the term was generalised to any male lover.

Recorded: April 5, 1938.
Sound and Lyrics

freight train
Freight Train.

Lost Lover Blues

Lost Lover Blues is the sad story of a man who takes a freight train to 'a far distant land', probably to look for work, and who gets a telegram to immediately return home. On his return he finds that his lover has died while he was on his journey. The message is clear and direct with no double entendres, but this is normal as the subject is one of melancholy and sadness.

Then I went back home,
I looked on the bed
And that best old friend I had was dead
Lord, and I ain't got no lovin' baby now

Recorded, June 19, 1940 with Bull City Red (washboard).
Sound & Lyrics

Night Rambling Woman

Fuller's last solo song recorded on the 19th of June 1940, in a 'superstar' session that also had Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Eli Jordan Webb (originally from Nashville) and Bull City Red (credited on some tracks as Oh Red). Thirteen solo tracks were recorded, 8 by Fuller and one by Sonny Terry.

The remaining four tracks are credited to a band called Brother George & His Sanctified Singers, actually an alias for all involved, singing religious inspired gospel and blues, with titles as: 'Must have been my Jesus', 'Jesus is a holy man' or 'Precious Lord'. Fuller did not sing on this gospel session and it may have been George 'Oh Red' Washington who was the main vocalist.

Rambling Woman is not an unique term as it was used in the traditional Ragged But Right that dates from around 1900. Recorded versions exist by the Blue Harmony Boys (Ragged But Right, 1929) and Riley Puckett (Ragged But Right, 1935). As a traditional it had many different lyrics including this very raunchy version:

Just called up to tell you that I'm ragged but right
A gamblin' woman ramblin' woman, drunk every night
I fix a porterhouse steak every night for my boy
That's more than an ordinary whore can afford

Country stars Riley Puckett and George Jones (I'm Ragged but I'm Right) used more innocent lyrics and changed the protagonist to a gambling man, instead of a woman. Covers by Johnny Cash (I'm Ragged but I'm Right) and Jerry Garcia (Ragged but Right) also exist.

Death of Blind Boy Fuller.
Death of Blind Boy Fuller.

Night Rambling Woman was posthumously issued by Brownie McGhee in 1941, partly as a tribute to his friend, but probably as a cunning plan from manager J.B. Long to cash in on Fuller's reputation by covering a previous unreleased track. J.B. Long also put the epithet 'Blind Boy Fuller #2' on early McGhee singles, for instance on the song Death Of Blind Boy Fuller.

Night Rambling Woman is another take on the infidelity of women with one line taken from Victoria Spivey's 1926 song Black Snake Blues, generally regarded as a stab at Fuller's own mortality:

My left side jumps and my flesh begin to crawl.

It has been said that Fuller was a master of eclecticism rather than the originator of a style and there are many recorded examples in which the influence of other popular blues artists can be heard.

Recorded: June 19, 1940.
Sound, but no Lyrics found.
Source(s): Ragged But Right

Step It Up And Go

Step It Up And Go, credited to J.B. Long, was Fuller's biggest hit, although far from an original. Known as Bottle Up And Go it was recorded in 1939 by Tommy McClennan, himself referring to Bottle It Up And Go, written by Charlie Burse for the Picanniny Jug Band in 1932. J.B. Long claimed he heard a song 'You got to touch it up and go' from an old blues man and that he re-wrote the lyrics for Fuller to sing it a couple of days later.

Blues biographer Bruce Bastin found out that just before the Fuller session Charlie Burse had cut a new version of his own song, now titled: 'Oil It Up And Go', in the same studio. That is probably where J.B. Long heard and copied it from.

Many artists recorded this song after that, and all versions are different. It seems as if every artist who performed the song, made up his own lyrics or added a verse or two. Some of the people who recorded the song are: B.B. King, Big Jeff and the Radio Playboys, Bob Dylan, Brownie McGhee, Carl Story, Harmonica Frank Floyd, John Lee Hooker, Mac Wiseman, Maddox Brothers & Rose, Mungo Jerry, Sonny Terry and The Everly Brothers.

The song is in the hokum style with casual observations about (again) the terrible treatment men suffer from their women.

Recorded: March 5, 1940, with Bull City Red (washboard).
Sound & Lyrics
Source(s): Bottle Up and Go

Keep Away From My Woman

Keep Away From My Woman, this song actually exists in two different takes, from the same session, with about 20 seconds difference, but the vinyl record doesn't specify what version it is (same for Cat Man Blues, by the way). The title already gives away what the tune is about.

Recorded: April 29, 1936.
Sound (take 1, 2:54), Sound (take 2, 3:14), but no Lyrics found.

Little Woman You're So Sweet

Little Woman You're So Sweet is a love song, a small masterpiece, where Fuller actually mentions himself.

Hey mama, hey gal,
don't you hear Blind Boy Fuller callin' you?
You're so sweet, so sweet, yeah sweet,
my little woman, so sweet...

The song was first recorded as So sweet, so sweet by Josh White in 1932 and Fuller's version is nearly a carbon copy of the original.

“The effects of the phonograph upon black folk-song are not easily summed up.”, writes Lawrence Levine in 'Black Culture and Black Conciousness'. Mamie Smith's second single Crazy Blues (1920), the first vocal blues recording in history, had sold over one million copies despite being exorbitantly priced at one dollar. In the mid twenties five to six million blues records were sold per year, almost exclusively to the black public, who were with about 15 million in the USA. After the blast-off with mostly female singers talent scouts roamed the states to audition regional bluesmen who brought their version of traditional blues to the rest of the land.

It can't be denied that the booming record sales had a disruptive effect on many local folk styles and traditions, but on the other hand, the thousands of 78-RPM records archived songs that would otherwise have been lost for ever. Even if the records had to fit inside the three minutes format, blues had no beginning and no end, as the one performer took up where the other left off and singers were constantly referring to each other. A blues song didn't belong to the singer, it belonged to the people.

Other trivia: Blues band Shakey Vick named their first album, in 1969, after this song.

Recorded: March 6, 1940.
Sound & Lyrics

sugar plum
Sugar Plum (sexual metaphor).

Brownskin Sugar Plum

Brownskin and Sugar Plum are terms that regularly appear in blues songs, although the combination of both might be unique to this one.

It has been a while since we mentioned Led Zeppelin but their Travelling Riverside Blues, itself named after a Robert Johnson tune (Traveling Riverside Blues), ends by mentioning this Fuller song. Another fine example of hokum blues, the lyrics are just damn' horny:

Oh just tell me mama
Where do you get your sugar from
Aw just tell me sugar
where you get your sugar from
I believe I bit down
On your daddy's sugar plum

Recorded: July 26, 1935.
Sound & Lyrics

Evil Hearted Woman

The last song Evil Hearted Woman is one where the female race is again described at its worst. It isn't the only time Fuller sings about an evil hearted woman as the term is also used in his Untrue Blues (not on this compilation).

Recorded: July 25, 1935.
Sound, but no Lyrics found.

Conclusion

Paul Oliver (on the Country Blues liner notes):

In Evil Hearted Woman, My brownskin sugarplum, and Keep away from my woman there is love, there is desire, there is menace, there is jealousy, there is disappointment and there is humour.

We couldn't have said it better. If this record was good enough for Syd Barrett to listen to, it surely is good enough for us as well. Listening to Country Blues may be a challenge if your ears have been used to the electric and electronic sounds of the third millennium, but this is R&B in its embryonical stage. Dig it.

Epilogue

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit started in 2008, more as a prank than anything else (see: Felix Atagong: an honest man), and has worn out its welcome more than once. Feeling that our expiration date was reached at least a year ago, it is time to say goodbye. And what better opportunity than to do it with the album that named the best band in the word.

Let's give our final words to one of our esteemed colleagues, the Reverend Gary Davis:

One of these days about 12 o'clock
This old world's gonna reel and rock
I belong to the band
Hallelujah
(I Belong to the Band, Hallelujah, 1960)
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit tombstone

Many thanks to: Bennymix, Cagey, Caitrin, Deanna, Jim Dixon, Dorothea, Brian Hoskin, Elise Israd, Mudcat.org, Parla, Stephen Pyle, Tony Russell, Sorcha, Stagg'O'Lee, Dave T, Winifred, Wordreference.com, Zowieso...
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ friends, lovers and fans...

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Baigent, Michael & Leigh, Richard: The Elixir and the Stone, Penguin, London, 1998, p. 399.
Bastin, Bruce: Blind Boy Fuller, biography in: Stefan Grossman's early masters of American blues guitar: Blind Boy Fuller, Alfred Music Publishing, 2007.
Bastin, Bruce: Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast, University of Illinois Press, 1995, p. 223-234.
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 43.
Charters, Samuel: Carolina Blues Man, Pink Anderson vol. 1 record liner notes, 1961.
Charters, Samuel: Medicine Show Man, Pink Anderson vol. 2 record liner notes, 1961.
Charters, Samuel: Ballad & Folksinger, Pink Anderson vol. 3 record liner notes, 1961.
Dosanjh, Warren: The music scene of 1960s Cambridge, I Spy In Cambridge, Cambridge, 2013, p. 54.
Goodall, Howard: Painters, Pipers, Prisoners. The musical legacy of Pink Floyd., in: Pink Floyd. Their Mortal Remains, London, 2017, p.82.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 104.
Hogg, Brian: What Colour is Sound?, Crazy Diamond CD box booklet, 1993.
Israd, Elise: The use of food as a sexual metaphor in the blues, 2008?, (original page deleted, partially archived page)
Levine, Lawrence W. : Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom, Oxford University Press, 2007 reprint, p. 225-232.
McInnis, Mike : This one's Pink, Unraveling the mysteries behind the Pink Floyd name, 2006.
Miles, Barry: London Calling: a countercultural history of London since 1945, Atlantic Books, London, 2010, p. 181.
Miles, Barry: Pink Floyd The Early Years, Omnibus Press, London, 2006, p. 46.
Miles, Barry & Mabbett, Andy: Pink Floyd The Visual Documentary, Omnibus Press, London, 1994 edition, unnumbered pages, 1965 section.
Obrecht, Jas: Blind Boy Fuller: His Life, Recording Sessions, and Welfare Records, 2011.
Oliver, Paul: Country Blues 1935-'40, Blind Boy Fuller liner notes, 1962.
Palacios, Julian: Lost In The Woods, Boxtree, London, 1998, p. 40.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 18.
Pyle, Stephen: Pink & Floyd, message on 21/03/2015 16:38.
Schaffner, Nicholas: Saucerful of Secrets, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1991, p. 30.
Schwartz, Roberta Freund : How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom, Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008, p. 91-95.
Stagg'O'Lee: Blind Boy Fuller, Sa Vie, Gazette Greenwood, 2003.
Watkinson, Mike & Anderson, Pete: Crazy Diamond, Omnibus Press, London, 1993, p. 31.
Weck, Lars: Pink Floyd på visit, Dagens Nyheter, 1967-09-11.
Welch, Chris: Learning to Fly, Castle Communications, Chessington, 1994, p. 26.
Zolten, Jerry: Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds : Celebrating the Rise of Soul, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 54-57.

Discography:
Pink Anderson
Floyd Council
Blind Boy Fuller

So long, and thanks for all the fish.


2015-09-19

Life Is Just...

Sad Syd. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

One: cocks and sydiots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

Two: Life is just...

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

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

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

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

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

Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon
Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


2015-09-25

Attack the troll!

Rattle That Lock
Rattle That Lock, David Gilmour.

"Bored socialist millionaires making solo records."

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR: It didn't help.

Rattle That Lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Chat Noir.
Le Chat Noir (postcard).

No sex please, we're British

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Keep smiling people!


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


2015-11-07

De Som Der Delen

This is a review of the Dutch Pink Floyd biography: De Som Der Delen (The sum of the parts).
There is nothing wrong with your browser as the review is in Dutch as well.
De Som der Delen
De Som der Delen, Wouter Bessels.

Het wordt weer cadeautjesseizoen en dan is er tijd en plaats voor... een nieuw Pink Floyd boek!

Muziekjournalist Wouter Bessels schreef 'Pink Floyd: De Som Der Delen' voor de Rockklassiekers-reeks dat ook Nederlandstalige biografieën over Deep Purple, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Focus en Kayak in huis heeft. De auteur zegt dat het 'de eerste allesomvattende biografie in de Nederlandse taal over de carrière van Pink Floyd en haar vijf groepsleden is geworden' maar dat is maar hoe je het bekijkt. De Heilige Kerk van Iggy de Inuit besprak eerder de Nederlandse uitgave van Hugh Fielders Behind The Wall (2014) en ooit, in een zeer ver verleden, was er een boek met de geïnspireerde titel 'Pink Floyd' (1994) van William Ruhlmann, beiden vertalingen uit het Engels overigens. Maar als Bessels bedoelt dat dit de eerste in het Nederlands geschreven biografie is heeft hij natuurlijk overschot van gelijk, meer nog: dit is momenteel het meest complete Pink Floyd boek ter wereld omdat het ook The Endless River bespreekt en zelfs Rattle That Lock aanhaalt. Bessels zelf is een jonge snaak die The Wall ontdekte in 1987, wat ook al rijkelijk overtijd was, maar dat album liet een onvergetelijke indruk na op hem (terwijl ik dat maar een zwak broertje vond na The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here en Animals). Even checken hoe hij er vanaf brengt.

Tijd voor de Ster

Vooraleer het boek van start gaat is er een mini-bio over de heren Anderson en Council. Van Floyd Council wordt er gezegd dat hij 27 nummers opnam waarvan zeven als achtergrondzanger voor Blind Boy Fuller. Dit is kopieer-plakwerk uit de Nederlandstalige Wikipedia, niets op tegen natuurlijk maar Council was toch wat meer dan een zanger in het achtergrond-koortje. Maar deze opmerking hoort hier enkel thuis om wat reclame te maken over onze eigen, massieve, bijdrage over de roots van Pink Floyd: Step It Up And Go.

Nederwiet

Het boek begint met het verschijnen van The Endless River wat het einde betekent van Pink Floyd als groep. Bessels schrijft dat het deels gebaseerd is op The Big Spliff, in 1993 samengesteld door Martin 'Youth' Glover. Dat is niet zo. The Big Spliff werd gemaakt door Andy Jackson tijdens de opnames van The Division Bell. Youth kwam pas twintig jaar later in actie als één van de co-producers van het laatste Floyd album. Het is een euvel waar dit boek meer aan lijdt. Bessels weet wel steeds de som te maken maar slaat een aantal keren de bal mis inzake detailkennis maar laat ons nu net dat soort van kommaneukers zijn dat zich daaraan ergert.

Dan neemt het boek de chronologische volgorde aan, startend met de ontstaansgeschiedenis van de band. Er wordt niet zo lang stilgestaan bij de underground-fase van de groep als in andere biografieën, waar de periode 1965-1967 soms een derde inneemt van het geheel. Eind 1967, als Barrett het laat afweten, worden David O’List en Jeff Beck gebeld om de groep te vervoegen. Werkelijk? Alle andere biografieën houden er een andere mening op na. David O’List zou misschien wel hebben toegehapt als we dit interview uit 2015 mogen geloven: Davy O’List – Second Thoughts.

Zo gaat het boek verder in een mix van algemeenheden en wat meer gedetailleerde wist-je-datjes. Niet onaardig om lezen maar het komt mij toch wat luchtig over. Wat dan wel weer leuk is is het overvloedig citeren van songteksten. Soms vind ik dat Bessels schrijfstijl wat houterig overkomt en een loopje neemt met de Nederlandse taal ('allerdaagse' spanningen?) en hier en daar is de spellingscontrole wat te overijverig geweest. Zo wordt het Engelse 'wall', niet onbekend voor Pink Floyd-adepten, naar ik meen, een paar keer vervangen door het Nederlandse 'wal'.

Delen door vijf

De geschiedenis van Pink Floyd neemt zo'n 160 bladzijden in beslag en eindigt met het hoofdstuk 'Erfenis' met informatie over de verschillende compilaties, remasters, bootlegs, coverversies en coverbands. Het tweede deel van het boek, 58 bladzijden, behandelt de solocarrières van de aparte bandleden en doet dat heel wat gedetailleerder dan de meeste andere biografieën. Wij vlooien even de tekst over Syd Barrett na, wat had je anders gedacht?

Dat hoofdstuk begint met Barretts opmerkelijke verschijning in de Abbey Road studio's tijdens de opnames van Shine On You Crazy Diamond waar hij nu en dan een tandenborstel boven haalt. Dat verhaal komt van Richard Wright en werd verder verteld door John Leckie en Peter Jenner, hoewel die laatste niet eens in de studio was op die dag. De andere getuigen, en er zijn er genoeg om een voetbalploeg mee samen te stellen, hebben geen weet van een tandenborstel. Overigens twijfelen Gilmour en Mason of ze wel met de track 'Shine On' bezig waren. Om biograaf Mark Blake te citeren in Mojo: “Geen twee mensen vertellen een eensluidend verhaal.” In latere jaren werd het tandenborstel-verhaal grotendeels ontkracht door diezelfde Mark Blake die erover postte op het Late Night forum, maar echt zekerheid brengt dit ook weer niet.

Storm op til

Wat verder schrijft Bessels dat de hoesfoto op The Madcap Laughs door Mick Rock gemaakt werd. Niet correct. Die iconische foto komt van Storm Thorgerson. Officieel althans, maar dat is dan ook de enige versie die telt. Wel leuk is dat er vermeld wordt dat Syd Barrett jamde met de Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band wat een soort generale repetitie was voor het desastreuze Stars project. (Zie ook: LMPTBB.)

Als het gaat over het outtakes album Opel wordt de songtekst van Word Song (of Untitled Words) afgedrukt om de bizarre genialiteit van Barrett toe te lichten. In de versie van Wouter Bessels eindigt Word Song met de zin 'Rooftop in a thunderstorm missing the point'. Die laatste zin behoort natuurlijk niet tot Word Song, maar is de titel van een gedicht dat in de Hipgnosis archieven werd teruggevonden en gepubliceerd werd in het fanblad Terrapin (als A Rooftop Song In A Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point). Blijkbaar is er iemand wat overijverig geweest met het knip- en plakwerk. (Zie ook: Bonhams Sells Fake Barrett Poem)

Tot slot, ik weet wel dat Pink Floyd Barrett een poot heeft uitgedraaid door hem uit de band te gooien maar ik wist niet dat men in 2006 een been bij hem amputeerde, alvast volgens Bessels die dit smeuïge detail voor waar aanneemt.

Besluit

Voor de leek is dit best wel een interessant boek en dat is precies de doelgroep voor wie het is bedoeld, niet voor de een of andere mopperende dinosauriër die midden de jaren zeventig een 'oorgasme' kreeg na het beluisteren van On The Run. Net zoals Hugh Fielder is Wouter Bessels de auteur die de verhalen bij anderen is gaan halen en die dan in zijn eigen versie giet.

De meerwaarde is dat dit boek werd geschreven in het Nederlands en dus de eerst 'echte' Nederlandstalige Pink Floyd biografie is. Ook zijn de meeste foto's originelen uit het archief van Peter Koks en de auteur maar omdat het meestal gaat om live- of podium-shots lijken ze natuurlijk op alle andere live- of podiumshots in andere boeken.

Toch kan ik me niet van de indruk ontdoen dat Hugh Fielders Behind The Wall net dat tikkeltje beter is, met accuratere informatie, sterkere foto's en, over het algemeen, een heel wat luxueuzere uitgave is en dat voor nagenoeg dezelfde prijs.

Het spijt me zeer.


Met dank aan: Wouter Bessels.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2015-11-14

Men On The Border: Live in Brighton

Live in Brighton
Live in Brighton, Men On The Border.

June had the second (and if rumours are correct: last) Birdie Hop meeting in Cambridge with Syd Barrett fans having an informal drink with some of the early-sixties Cambridge beatniks we know and love so dearly: Jenny Spires, Libby Gausden, Mick Brown, Peter Gilmour, Sandra Blickem, Vic Singh, Warren Dosanjh and others...

Special guest star was none other than Iggy Rose who left, if we may believe the natives, an everlasting impression. You can read all about it at: Iggy Rose in Cambridge.

Men On The Border came especially over from the northern parts of Europe, leaving their igloo, so to speak, to gig at the Rathmore Club where they not only jammed with other Syd-aficionados, but also with Redcaps frontman Dave Parker. (For the history of those sixties Cambridge bands check the excellent: The Music Scene of 1960s Cambridge.)

The night before however, on Friday June 12th, Men On The Border played the legendary Prince Albert (that name always make us chuckle) music pub in Brighton. This gig was recorded and is now the third album of Men On The Border, after ShinE! (2012) that consisted of Barrett covers and Jumpstart (2013) that mainly had original songs but with a slightly concealed madcap theme.

This live release shows that Men On The Border is a tight band and that they can play their material without having to revert to digitally wizardry. In a previous review we already remarked that:

...some of the influences of MOTB lay in the pub-rock from Graham Parker & The Rumour, Rockpile (with Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds) and the cruelly under-appreciated The Motors...
Men On The Border. Picture: Vic Singh.
Men On The Border. Picture: Vic Singh.

This live album certainly proves that. The versions are pretty close to the recorded versions and singer Göran Nystrom manages once again to give us goosebumps on Late Night and their own Warm From You that is a pretty ingenious song if you ask us (with a sly nod to Jimi Hendrix)...

So give them a warm hand of applause and make them feel welcome in this mad cat world of random precision.
 

Tracklist:

01 Terrapin (Jumpstart)
02 No Good Trying (ShinE!)

03 Scream Thy Last Scream (2015 single)
04 Long Gone (ShinE!)

05 Gigolo Aunt (ShinE!)
06 Late Night (ShinE!)

07 Octopus (ShinE!)

08 Warm From You (Jumpstart)
09 Baby Lemonade (ShinE!)

Digital release only, people don't buy plastic any more, unfortunately.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017WFLEH8/ref=dm_ws_sp_ps_dp
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6MStF6YtxCYNY7FTIoeNzq


Many thanks: Göran Nystrom, Vic Singh.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2015-12-05

Skeletons from the Kloset

Roger Waters.
Roger Waters.

Pink Floyd, dear sistren and brethren of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, will never stop to amaze us, for better and for worse.

Riff-raff in the room

Two weeks ago saw the umpteenth incarnation of The Wall concept. Let's try to count how many times this important work of musical art more or less exists. We'll only take count of official and 'complete' versions as individual songs from the Wall can be found on compilations, live albums and concert movies from the band and its members going solo.

First there was The Wall album by Pink Floyd (1979), followed by the 1982 movie with the same name. In 1990 Roger Waters staged his rock opera in Berlin, with guest performances by other artists, and this was immortalised with an album and a concert movie.

The twenty year anniversary of the album was celebrated at the turn of the millennium by Is There Anybody Out There, a live album taken from the eighties tour by the classic Floyd, although Rick Wright technically was no longer a member of the band.

2011 saw the Why Pink Floyd? re-release campaign and three epic albums were issued in an Experience and Immersion series, each with added content. The Wall Immersion has 7 discs and four of these are the regular album and its live clone. A third double-CD-set has the so-called Wall demos and WIP-tapes that had already been largely around for a decade in collector's circles. A bonus DVD contains some clips and documentaries, but not the concert movie that is known to exist. For collectors The Wall Immersion was the most disappointing of the series and the presence of a scarf, some marbles and a few coasters only helped to augment that feeling.

Am I too old, is it too late?

In 2010 Roger Waters started a three years spanning tour with a live Wall that promised to be bigger and better. It was certainly more theatrical and if we may believe the Reverend, who watched the show as interested as Mr. Bean on a rollercoaster, boring as fuck. But with 4,129,863 sold tickets it set a new record for being the highest grossing tour for a solo musician, surpassing Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.

So it is no wonder that the show would be turned into a movie. It needs to be said that Roger Waters should be thanked for stepping outside the concert movie concept, adding a deep personal touch to the product. Those people who already saw the Blu-ray praise its sound quality that is conform to what we expect from a Floydian release, despite Waters' obvious lip-synching on about half of the tracks.

And that is why the CD-version of The Wall live is such a disaster. There are serious indications that some sound studio jerk took the superior Blu-ray surround mix and simply downgraded it to stereo without reworking the parts that make no sense when you only have got the audio to rely on. Apparently making 459 million $ with The Wall tour didn’t give Roger Waters enough pocket money to make a proper CD mix for this release.

Riding the gravy train, or as the Sex Pistols named it: doing a rock 'n' roll swindle, is something we are already familiar with in Pink Floyd (and former EMI) circles. The Anchor wrote in the past about scratched and faulty discs that were put in those expensive deluxe sets (Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd. – 2011 12 02) and how the band and its record company pretended to sell remastered albums while the music on the CD was just goody good bullshit taken from an old tape (What the fuck is your problem, Pink Floyd? – 2014 11 08). It makes us a bit sad for all those fans who have bought the super deluxe set of The Wall at 500 dollars a piece. The show must go on, n'est-ce pas?

But anyone familiar with the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit knows lengthy introductions are our trademark and it will not come as a surprise that this article isn't about The Wall at all.

1965: their first recordings
Pink Floyd 1965: their first recordings.

Buzz all night long

On Black Friday, the 27th of November 2015, sightings were published on the social media of an unannounced Pink Floyd 7-inch-vinyl-double-set that had hit records shops in the UK. It was named 1965: Their First Recordings and claimed to have the following tracks.

Record 1A:
Lucy Leave

Record 1B:
Double O Bo
Remember Me

Record 2A:
Walk with me Sydney

Record 2B:
Butterfly
I’m a King Bee

Composers:
1, 2, 3, 5: Syd Barrett
4: Roger Waters
6: Slim Harpo

Personnel:
Syd Barrett: Vocals, Guitar.
Bob ‘Rado’ Klose: Guitar.
Nick Mason: Drums.
Roger Waters: Bass, Vocals.
Richard Wright: Keyboards.
Juliette Gale: vocals on Walk with me Sydney.
(Some pictures of the 'first' five man Floyd can be seen here: Pink Floyd 1965.)

It was soon confirmed that the records were official, contrary to the many bootlegs that already exist of the first and last track of the set, and that it was a so-called 'copyright extension release'. According to European law, sound recordings have a seventy years copyright, provided that they are released within five decades. If the recording fails to be published within 50 years it automatically becomes public domain, the 'use it or loose it'-clause, and that is something that The Floyd didn't want to happen, especially not as there seems to be an Early Years Immersion set on its way, predicted for the end of 2016.

That six tracks were released from the Floyd's first session(s) was something of a surprise. Up till now, every biography only spoke of four tracks put on tape. Let's see what Nick Mason had to say about it:

Around Christmas 1964, we went into a studio for the first time. We wangled this through a friend of Rick’s who worked at the studio in West Hampstead, and who let us use some down time for free. The session included one version of an old R&B classic ‘I’m A King Bee’, and three songs written by Syd: ‘Double O Bo’ (Bo Diddley meets the 007 theme), ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Lucy Leave’.

This was repeated in an August 2013 interview for Record Collector.

Nick Mason in Record Collector
Nick Mason in Record Collector, August 2013.

In Latin in a frame

However, in a letter to Jenny Spires, presumably from late January, early February 1965, Syd Barrett speaks about five tracks:

[We] recorded five numbers more or less straight off; but only the guitars and drums. We're going to add all the singing and piano etc. next Wednesday. The tracks sound terrific so far, especially King Bee.

At the bottom of this letter Barrett also drew the studio setup with Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Robert 'Rado' Klose and himself ("Me. I can't draw me.").

The early sessions also appear in an (unpublished) letter to Libby Gausden:

Tomorrow I get my new amp- Hooray! - and soon it's Christmas. (…) We're going to record 'Walk With Me Sydney' and one I've just written ' Remember Me?', but don't think I'm one of those people who say they'll be rich and famous one day, Lib.

In another letter he writes:

We just had a practice at Highgate which was OK. We're doing three of my numbers – 'Butterfly', 'Remember Me?' and 'Let's roll another one', and Roger's 'Walk with me Sydney', so it could be good but Emo says why don't I give up cos it sounds horrible and he's right and I would, but I can't get Fred [David Gilmour, note from FA] to join because he's got his group (p'raps you knew!). So I still have to sing.

Tim Willis concludes in his Madcap biography that:

Sydologists will be astounded to learn that by '64, Barrett had already written 'Let's Roll Another One', as well as two songs 'Butterfly' and 'Remember Me'.

This is slagged by Rob Chapman in A Very Irregular Head. According to Chapman the letters date from December 1965, and not 1964, for reasons that are actually pretty plausible.

Bob Klose told Random Precision author David Parker that he only remembers doing one recording session with the Floyd late Spring 1965 and that he left the band in the summer of that year.

In other words, dating these tracks is still something of a mess. At the Steve Hoffman forum the tracks were analysed by Rnranimal and he concluded that the 6 tracks do not origin from the same source either, so they could originate from different recording sessions. According to him; tracks 1, 2 and 6 sound like tape and 3, 4 & 5 like acetate.

Legally all songs need to be from 1965, and not from December 1964, as Mason claims in his biography, because... that would make these 1964 songs public domain and free to share for all of us. Perhaps the band started recording in December 1964 but added vocals and keyboards a couple of weeks later, in 1965. Surely an army of lawyers must have examined all possibilities to keep the copyrights sound and safe.

1965 (silly front sleeve)
Pink Floyd 1965 (silly anachronistic front sleeve).

Good as gold to you

1965: Their First Recordings is exactly what the title says. Never mind the cover with its psychedelic theme as it is obviously misleading. In 1965 The Pink Floyd were still a British Rhythm & Blues outfit and not in the least interested in psychedelic light shows. Barrett tries hard to impersonate Jagger and even uses an American accent on the songs. And not all songs are that original either. We skip Lucy Leave and I'm a King Bee for the following short review as they have been around for the past few decades.

Double O Bo is a pastiche of Bo Diddley's signature song, but has a weird chord change that is inimitably Syd Barrett. Baby Driver:

It's a straight forward enough tip of the hat to Bo Diddley musically, but then he throws in those two chords: F, G# which is something Bo Diddley NEVER would have done. Syd was a genius. what would otherwise be throwaway songs from a band in its infancy, make for compelling listening due to his voice and his unique lyrics.

In Remember Me, the weakest song of the set, Syd strains his voice so hard that it nearly sounds that someone else is singing (some people claim it is Bob Klose and not Barrett). As Marigoldilemma remarks:

To me this one sounds like Syd trying to sound like Eric Burdon of the Animals.

Walk with me Sydney, from Roger Waters and with Juliette Gale on vocals, is a spoof of Roll with me, Henry aka The Wallflower, written in 1955 by Johnny Otis, Hank Ballard and Etta James. As it is not sure yet when Walk With Me Sydney was exactly recorded this could – perhaps – even be a track without Bob Klose. It is also the first time that we have a Roger Waters lyrical list, a trick that he will repeat for the fifty years to come:

Flat feet,
fallen arches,
baggy knees and a broken frame,
meningitis,
peritonitis,
DT's and a washed out brain.

Medical Product Safety Information: Don't listen to this song if you don't want it continually on repeat in your brain.

Butterfly is the surprise song of the set. This track shows the potential Barrett had in him and could have been included, in a slightly more mature version, on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The lyrics are pretty dark as well and typical Syd:

I won't squeeze you dead.
Pin things through your head.
I just want your love.
Bob Klose by Syd Barrett
Bob Klose. Drawing: Syd Barrett.

Catch you soon

Not only was Parlophone pretty vague about the recording dates, the record was also released without any publicity and in very limited quantities, only 1050 copies for worldwide distribution, including 350 for the UK. Not one of the serious Pink Floyd fansites knew about the release and they were pretty late diffusing the news, further proof these websites only publish what Pink Floyd Ltd allows them to publish.

Pretty remarkable is that the Floydian fan-forums didn't really go into overdrive about this set either and that the best comments and information could be found on Steve Hoffman's Music Corner. Yeeshkul had a pretty interesting thread as well, but this was removed when people started discussing alternative ways of requiring these tracks. It just makes one wonder how tight the grip is of the Pink Floyd Gestapo Legal Council around Yeeshkuls' neck.

When it became clear that this edition was
a) genuine and
b) rare,
prices sky-rocketed. Hundreds of dollars were offered for a set and there have been cases of record shop owners raising the prices for the copies they still had in their racks. It needs to be said that a thousand copies for a new Pink Floyd product is ridiculously low, even if it only interests a small part of the Floydian fanbase.

Luckily for all those who didn't get a copy this is the age of the internet and needle-drops can be found in harbours in silent waters around us. Mind you, this is not psychedelic, nor classic dreamy Floyd, but an R'n'B band in full progress, still looking for its own sound. Vinyl collector Rick Barnes:

What I heard earlier was amazing ! Like the stones but sharper and more original. They were a lot more together than I ever gave them credit. I'm surprised they were not discovered in '65. Had they met Giorgio Gomelsky or someone similar things might have been very different...

 We end this post with an opinion from Mastaflatch at Neptune Pink Floyd:

With many bands such as Pink Floyd, who had been there for very long, some people tend to forget the real crucial points when the band was struck by genius and only find comfort in the familiar songs or familiar patterns or familiar guitar solos. Between 1965 and 1967, something major happened to PF and it's plain as day here. If not for Syd, it's pretty likely that NOTHING of what we know and love from this band would have reached our ears.
But, if you listen closely, the weirdness was already there in Syd's chord changes and lyrics. (...) To get a band going though, especially in the 60s when you had The Beatles leading the pack, you couldn't only rely on blobs and gimmicks and Syd had what it took in spades: great songs, fierce originality and a tendency to NOT rest on his laurels and go forward.
I think that Pink Floyd, somewhere in the 70s ended up lacking at least one of those attributes - mostly the latter and it only got worse as time went on. I'm not saying that their later stuff wasn't good but at some point, Pink Floyd ceased to invent its sound and became content to play within its previously defined boundaries. Good music but far less exciting.

In 1965 these boys were hungry, literally sometimes, and that is what you hear. Their main preoccupation wasn't how to earn some 459 million $ turnover on a pre-recorded jukebox show from some 30 years before and it shows.


Many thanks to: A Fleeting Glimpse Forum, Baby Driver, Rick Barnes, Goldenband, Steve Hoffman Music Corner, Late Night Forum, Marigoldilemma, Mastaflash, Göran Nyström, Neptune Pink Floyd Forum, Rnranimal.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Links and things:
Steve Hoffman Musical Corner: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/pink-floyd-1965-double-7.481968/
A Fleeting Glimpse: http://s7.zetaboards.com/Pink_Floyd/topic/9263411/1/
Neptune Pink Floyd: http://www.neptunepinkfloyd.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=24366
Yeeshkul (second thread): http://yeeshkul.com/forum/showthread.php?36451-What-Official-1965-recordings-released

Pink Floyd 1965 at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit Tumblr page.

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Beecher, Russell & Shutes, Will: Barrett, Essential Works Ltd, London, 2011, p. 152-153.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 56-57.
Gausden Libby: Syd Barrett Letters. Photographed by Mark Jones and published at Laughing Madcaps (Facebook).
Geesin, Joe: Acid Tates, Record Collector 417, August 2013, p 79-80.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 29.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 1.
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 43-44.


2016-01-10

New Syd Barrett Website Launched!

Barrett (1967)
Syd Barrett (1967).

(Warning: this blogpost contains gratuitous nudity.)

Happy New Year, dear sistren and brethren, followers of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, we know these wishes come a tad too late, but for us, Sydiots, the sixth of January is all that more important, isn’t it?

Barrett’s seventieth birthday, as you probably know, was going to be remembered with the launch of a renewed official website at www.sydbarrett.com, under the supervision of Ian and Don Barrett and the help of some fans who want to stay anonymous, except the one bloke who bragged about it on that particular Whining Madcaps group we have long been blocked from.

Who is it who’s credited in 4 Syd books, spent months of (…) free time collating photos of Syd and the early Floyd cos NO ONE else had done it before, (…) has a credit at the end of the Technicolour Dream documentary, was interviewed by Storm for his Syd film, helped Pink Floyd’s manager with the original Syd website THEN was asked by Ian and Don Barrett for (…) help with the new one.

Who you gonna call?
Syd-busters!
The rant goes on after that and we seriously wonder why the man still hasn’t got a statue in that cultural indifferent town that is Cambridge, instead of the one that is going to be erected for Syd.

Antonio Jesus in Brussels (with ginger cat)
Antonio Jesus in Brussels (with ginger cat).

Caturday

Saturday the ninth saw two magical gatherings, one at the Geldart in Cambridge and one at the Cirio in Brussels. The one in Cambridge had the usual gang of Sydiots who don’t want to be remembered of the madcap’s London exploits. The one in Brussels was just an alcoholic debauchery between two webmasters and their mutual adoration for ginger pussies, which is a far more interesting starting point to, uhm..., start a conversation.

But, like we said, on the sixth of January of the year 2016 a new official Syd Barrett website was launched. It also immediately crashed which means that it either was inundated by the amount of hits or that the chosen internet provider happens to be a cheap and cheerful one who can’t handle more than a dozen clicks per minute.

Apart from that the website is a nice surprise, compared to the old one that already looked outdated the day it was uploaded (and that had many wrong entries, including wrong release dates for Syd's solo albums and examples of Stanislav's dadaist fanart that crept into several sections). See: Cut the Cake (2011) and/or Syd's Official site gets a makeover (2010).

Much effort has been put into a short biographical Introduction that tries to condense Syd's life into a readable article that won't scare the fans away. While every Barrett scholar would probably highlight other aspects of the madcap's life it is a nice treat, written by someone who cares.

The Photo section is what probably will attract most of the fans to the new site, publishing many unseen portraits of the artist as a young man, hidden – up till now - in private family albums. Obviously there are also sections of the early Pink Floyd and Syd's solo years, nothing really earth-shattering can be found in there (for the anorak, that is) but it is a nice touch though that the pictures with Syd and Iggy (by Mick Rock) have lost the legend that they were taken during the autumn of 1969. We don't see any Storm or Hipgnosis pictures in there but this could be a coincidence...

A ridiculously wide menu banner (it looks cool on a smartphone though) brings us to the Music page where different songs will be analysed. For the launch it is Octopus that gets the geek treatment, with – next to an introduction – Paul Belbin's Untangling the Octopus essay, in a Julian Palacios revision. It is great to see this 'Rosetta stone for decoding the writing inspirations for one of Syd Barrett's most beloved songs' appear on an official website.

Hidden underneath the introductory Syd Barrett Music page are four sub-sections that are, at first sight, not entirely coherent and can be easily missed.

Octopus (compilation)
Octopus (compilation).

Rocktopus

Syd's Recordings gives an overview of his discography, Pink Floyd and solo, including compilations and different formats. This list omits the 1992 Cleopatra Octopus CD compilation (although you can mysteriously find its cover on a different page) and also two early Pink Floyd compilations: The Best Of The Pink Floyd (1970) and Masters Of Rock (1974). Obviously the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band release that was confiscated by Pink Floyd, unaware of the fact that a second copy of the tape was still hiding in a Cambridge cupboard, is nowhere to be found either.

Syd's Songs publishes a complete list of Barrett's compositions, released and otherwise, and it is a section that gives already much food for debate, especially as an early Pink Floyd Immersion set could be in the make.

Dedicated Albums tends to give an overview of tributes. It is a bit a superfluous (and very incomplete) list, perhaps only added to do Men On The Border the favour they deserve. Personally I don't understand why the pretty ridiculous Vegetable Man Project is listed 6 times, but the equally ridiculous Hoshizora No Drive not. Closer to home I don't see Rich Hall's Birdie Hop And The Sydiots, nor Spanishgrass by Spanishgrass, appearing in the list.

Concert Posters gives what the title says, but also here the list is pretty random, although (early) Pink Floyd poster collectors are known to the people coordinating this section of the website.

But we've seen things change rapidly, even for the past few days, so when you read this some of these glitches may already have been repaired.

Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966
Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966.

Enjoy (f)Art

Obviously there is also an Art section on the site, divided into several sections: Student Days, Later Art, Notebooks & Sketches (this section has some unseen pictures of Roger's notebooks) and Syd's DIY furniture (and his bike). The Fart Enjoy art-book is published as well, but mentions that it was made in 1965, while it contains a pin-up from a 1966 Playboy (don't pretend you didn't see it!) and refers to a March 1966 Pink Floyd gig (see: Smart Enjoy). But here we are meddling with muddy Sydiot territory again.

Last, but not least, there is a Barrett Books entry. Also here it is all in the mind of the webmaster. Needless to say that the 'classic' biographies in the English language have all been mentioned, as well as other publications in a pretty arbitrary way.

London Live by Tony Bacon still makes it to the list. Other than the picture on the front, this book has got no real connection to Syd Barrett. It contains a history of London Clubs and the bands who played there. Pink Floyd is mentioned, obviously, but so are a couple of hundred other bands and artists.

The first two Mick Rock Syd Barrett photo books are included but not the third one: Syd Barrett – Octopus - The Photography Of Mick Rock, EMI Records Ltd & Palazzo Editions Ltd, Bath, 2010. There are other things as well, like the weird way some Italian and French books make it to the list and others don't, but this review is already messy enough.

Oh, by the way, there is a Links page as well (that we nearly missed) but we will not spend another word on it. Just check it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

But it is a start all right, and one in the good direction. Things can only get better.


Many thanks to: Anonymous, Paul Belbin, Mary Cosco, Stanislav Grigorev, Rich Hall, Antonio Jesús, Göran Nyström, Julian Palacios.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2016-07-29

Coming Back To Life (David Gilmour, Tienen)

Yesterday I had the privilege of watching David Gilmour perform at the historical marketplace of the small city of Tienen. I'm very glad my LA-girl pushed me to get tickets as I was so disappointed in his solo album I didn't even wanted to go. You can read my review of the Rattle That Lock (RTL) album at: Attack the troll!

David Gilmour, Tienen
David Gilmour, Tienen.

First Set

The concert started with three RTL-tunes and although they certainly have more balls in a live rendition, it didn't really help me to get in the mood. Actually I found the ambient-soundscape before the concert way better. Rattle That Lock had lost the annoying sample it was build around but that still doesn't make it a good song. What Do You Want From Me gave the concert a necessary kick-start, but as it was followed by The Blue the flow sank down like a soufflé that has just been taken out of the oven. So far the concert had just been hot air.

There was a second highlight with The Great Gig In The Sky with excellent vocal work by the backing singers, two ladies and a man. David Gilmour used the opportunity to say that the song had been written by Rick Wright, forgetting the little fact this the concert was actually taking place on Rick's birthday, but perhaps he had a valid reason as he also had his wedding anniversary to remember the next day. Understandably Great Gig was followed by A Boat Lies Waiting, Gilmour's musical eulogy to his old friend, but although I appreciate his honest effort to commemorate his friend it still is pretty average.

The set kept yoyoing between classics and RTL. Wish You Were Here, followed by Money, then In Any Tongue, the only song on his latest album that shows a momentarily glimpse of Floydian grandeur. High Hopes finished the first set.

As far as I was concerned, I couldn't call this a good concert by now. The general flow of the music was spoiled by the lesser RTL tracks, dragging the Floydian classics down. I gave it a 65% rating and was getting a bit depressed.

David Gilmour, Tienen
David Gilmour, Tienen.

Second Set

But I also remembered my previous David Gilmour concert, in Amsterdam, in 2006, where the public politely applauded after the obligatory bunch of On An Island, but not with much gusto. The second set, however was an eargastic spectacle with Echoes. Of course, in those days, Rick was still moving the Moog, getting a standing ovation from the crowd.

The second set could only be better, I braindamaged myself. Luckily, it was.

Astronomy Domine hit my body like a cocaine snort. Fuck, fuck and triple fuck. This was an entry with a big E. Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Fat Old Sun. Then a drop down with Dancing Right In Front Of Me, one of the unnecessary fillers on RTL. But the upward momentum couldn't be stopped. Coming Back To Life was a treat and On An Island couldn't spoil the good mood I was in (that album is quite an intimate and exquisite jewel compared to Rattle, if you ask me).

The Girl In The Yellow Dress is just a San Tropez throw-it-away kind of song, so I just put my attention on things I could pick in my nose.

It was finally time to work towards an apotheosis. First with the obnoxious floor-filling disco of Today, that I loathed on the record, but that seemed more or less to do its work here. If you have to pick one memorable tune from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, it is without a doubt Sorrow. Feeling the bass tones tremble in your stomach is a goosebumps experience. Run Like Hell is one of the worst Pink Floyd tracks if you ask me, but as a concert highlight it is.. well, a highlight. This was not a Pink Floyd tribute band, this was the real deal, helped by Mr. Brickman's fabulous light and laser show and an ear-splitting volume that you normally only have at Iron Maiden shows.

The second set also had its deal of yoyoing, but the last quarter made my rating rise to 80%

David Gilmour, Tienen
David Gilmour, Tienen.

Encores

The encores started with some ticking clocks, enough for the public to go berserk. A drizzle had started at exactly the moment when Gilmour sang 'outside the rain, fell dark and slow', but now it was pouring. (A proof that this man has some connections at Valhalla.)

Lucky for me because so nobody could see the tears running from my face. Time was given the full treatment with Breathe (Reprise) and that seeded without a break into the song everyone was waiting for: Comfortably Numb.

What can one say about Comfy? Let's say nothing about it as mortal beings have not the words for it. Tongue-tied and twisted this earth-bound misfit rated the encores at a whopping 110%.

Oops, you did it again, Gilmour. See you again in a decade.

David Gilmour, Tienen
David Gilmour, Tienen.

Setlist

First set: 5am, Rattle That Lock, Faces Of Stone, What Do You Want From Me, The Blue, The Great Gig In The Sky, A Boat Lies Waiting, Wish You Were Here, Money, In Any Tongue, High Hopes.

Second set: Astronomy Domine, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Fat Old Sun, Dancing Right In Front Of Me, Coming Back To Life, On An Island, The Girl In The Yellow Dress, Today, Sorrow, Run Like Hell.

Encores: Time/Breathe (Reprise), Comfortably Numb.

Pictures

A photo-impression of the show can be found at the Church's Tumblr, this page will be daily updated for about a week, so keep on visiting: David Gilmour, Tienen.


♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2016-11-18

Supererog/Ation: skimming The Early Years

Pink Floyd Recycling
Pink Floyd Recycling. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

Anticip/Ation

Nine years ago the Reverend made the remark that any new Pink Floyd release will create some 'controversy between the fans, the (ex-)band members and/or record company' (Fasten Your Anoraks).

Almost a decade later, with the release of Pink Floyd The Early Years 1965-1972, nothing has changed. Actually it only got worse.

Pink Floyd have always been a pretty hypocritical band when it comes to making money. There is nothing bad about trying to make a good living, obviously, but when you start selling inferior material for overabundant prices it's like spitting the fans in their face. Not that anyone of them would do that.

Of course nobody is obliged to buy The Early Years box (approx. 500 Euro and limited to 28000 copies) but I duly admit: I am an absolute sucker for anything with the Floyd name on it. And perhaps it's a nice pick-up line: “Wanna see my Early Years box?”

Summaris/Ation

The Early Years is a somewhat directionless, but nevertheless interesting, 28 CD, DVD and Blu-ray box containing demos, live tapes (some of bootleg quality), unreleased tracks, rarities, vinyl singles, movies and a 2016 remix of Obscured By Clouds. Someone must have said at a direction committee: 'you know what, we haven't got enough material on our Obfusc/Ation disk, let's throw in an Obscured By Clouds-remix'. Not that you hear me complain, Obscured By Clouds is in my personal top three, before Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall, but it does feel a bit awkward.

1965
1965.

Conceptualis/Ation

For this box, Pink Floyd didn't make the silly mistake of adding marbles, scarves or toasters, like in the Immersion sets. There are plenty of mini-posters, postcards, ticket replicas and other printed items though, for those who like that. (Personally, I tend to ignore that rubble.) An image of some of those, thanks to RobNl, can be found on Imgur. Another shot can be found at the Church's Tumblr: (Un)Packing The Early Years #12.

The box has a simplistic, black and white theme, but is... too big. The outside box is about 41 x 22 x 31 cm, but the actual set tucked inside only takes 19 x 20 x 14.5 cm. It doesn't take an Einstein to calculate that 80% of the box is made of... empty spaces. (Sorry, I really couldn't resist that pun.) I have put the outside box on top of a wardrobe, where it will probably stay for the rest of my miserable life. Picture: (Un)Packing The Early Years #6.

The 'inner box' contains 7 book-boxes, with ridiculously bombastic cut/up names. 6 of those will be sold separately over the next few months, the seventh is a bonus set, exclusive to this release alone. That's why I was waving so enthusiastically with my wallet. Picture: (Un)Packing The Early Years #14.

The one gadget everyone I have spoken to really wants, me included, is the Pink Floyd 'matchbox' miniature van. Alas, these have been made for promotional use only and will probably fetch high prices on eBay.

Update November 2016: meanwhile a Pink Floyd miniature van has been sold on eBay for the whopping price of 310£ (385$, 364 €), Tumblr link.

Pink Floyd Van
Pink Floyd Miniature Van.
1968
1968.

Miscre/Ation

The quality of the book-boxes is not optimal. On the web are already circulating pictures of pages that are falling out of the sets. Apparently they have been glued rather flimsily to the spine. Taking out a disk is always a matter of trial and error, and the first CD I picked broke one of the plastic 'teeth' holding it.

The inside pages contain pictures of the band, unfortunately the printing is rather average, although the 'later' sets in my box seem to be slightly better. Each set also contains a booklet with 'copyrights', thank you notes, a brief introduction by Mark Blake and seven times the same text by film archivist Lana Topham, for whatever reason, although I suppose sloppiness from the editor. These texts are printed in grey on brownish paper, making it nearly impossible to read them anyway.

If it breathes something, it breathes cheap instead of zen.

Expurg/Ation

When the box was announced, a couple of months ago, in the same amateurish way The Endless River was made public, the track-listing had some important differences, as it listed 5.1 mixes for Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. These can't be found on the released set (well, kind of) for reasons that seem to be taken out of a Neighbours episode.

It all starts with the fact that Pink Floyd has had several re-mixing specialists over the years, notably James Guthrie and Andy Jackson, who, in true soap-series tradition, hate each-other's guts as they belong to rivalling factions.

Andy Jackson, from the David Gilmour camp, was asked to create the 5.1 mixes for Meddle and Obscured By Clouds and handed these over to Mark Fenwick, who is Roger Waters' manager. Mark was a good dog and passed these to Roger, for approval.

Roger Waters remembered that these remixes had originally been promised to his protégé James Guthrie and when he found out that the 'other side' had done these, without consulting him, he threw a tantrum like a kicked poodle.

So this is, in a nutshell, why the genius of Pink Floyd vetoed against the inclusion of the Andy Jackson 5.1 mixes, although liner notes and promotion material had already been printed. All that had to be redone and the 5.1 disks that had already been pressed were for the dustbin.

Before somebody could say 'several species of small furry animals' the rift between the David Gilmour and Roger Waters camp was back in place and it seems that it won't be solved in the near future.

1969
1969.

Exacerb/Ation

So the Obscured By Clouds and Meddle 5.1 mixes are not in the box, right? Wrong. Well, partially wrong.

It was found out that the 1971 Blu-ray contains a hidden segment with the complete Meddle 5.1 mix. However, you can't play it on a regular Blu-ray player as one needs to extract the files to a computer first (or burn them on another Blu-ray with the hidden files set to visible).

Apparently this is not an Easter egg but a simple mistake. Or an act of Insubordin/Ation. Take your pick. Instead of deleting the Meddle 5.1 mix from the disk the Floyd's technical leprechaun only deleted the shortcut from the menu.

Keep on smiling, people.

Tergivers/Ation

The week before the box got released there was an impromptu announcement of the record company.

Pink Floyd fans ordering 'The Early Years 1965-1972’ will get an extra piece of the band’s history.
The box-set will now also include a supplementary disc featuring the band’s seminal Live At Pompeii concert as a 2016 audio mix.
The 6 tracks totalling over 67 minutes include live versions of 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene', 'Set the Controls For The Heart Of The Sun', 'One of These Days', 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', ‘Echoes' and an alternative take of 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene’.

The truth is slightly different. When the sets were already made and put in the boxes for shipping a bright brain decided it was about time to check if the disks really contained what was printed on the booklets. Only then it was found out that the Obfusc/Ation set did not have Obscured By Clouds, but the Pompeii soundtrack. By then it was too late to open 28000 shrink wrapped boxes and replace the disks, so the Obscured remix was put in a carton sleeve and thrown on top of The Early Years box set, before closing the brown shipping parcel. Picture: (Un)Packing The Early Years #2.

At least the carton sleeve has the guts to say the truth:

REPLACEMENT CD DISC FOR OBFUSC/ATION
PFREY6 – CD
(STEREO 2016 MIX OF PINK FLOYD 'LIVE AT POMPEII' CD SUPPLIED IN ERROR)

Some quality control, huh? By the way, the 5.1 Obscured By Clouds mix is not in the box, but you probably already figured that out.

Update: some boxes seem to come without the Obscured replacement disk, as was expected...

(For those interested, the Pompeii CD contains an extra take of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, but no Mademoiselle Nobs. The box also has the Pompeii movie, without the interviews, without the singing dog, but in the director's cut version, so I have read. Another Indic/Ation that the Floyd team doesn't seem to know what lives in the fan community as that version of the movie is mostly regarded as inferior to the original.)

Update: the new 'mix' of Obscured By Clouds is (to quote Cenobyte) 'too top endy'. The mix generally repairs the muddiness of the original mix and brings everything out in a brilliant way, but adds this layer on top and that kind of ruins it. Some posters even think that something went wrong during the mastering process. (The same applies to the new Pompeii mix as well.)

1970
1970.

Overvalu/Ation

Several Floydian movies can be found in the box, but some come without English subtitles. This may not be a very big problem for More but La Vallée is basically spoken in Frenglish. And of course these boxes are shipped all over the world, to places were people are not familiar with the English language and could use subtitles.

It only feeds the rumour that the Floyd randomly added things onto the disks, just to fill them up, regardless of quality.

(Note: in my box, The Committee, that is on another Blu-ray than More and La Vallée, does have subtitles, even in Dutch.)

Extenu/Ation

The Committee's soundtrack does not contain music from Pink Floyd alone. One, pretty famous scene has underground colleague Arthur Brown singing Nightmare, but his name is not mentioned at all in the booklet. It is weird that a band that scrutinises YouTube looking for copyright infringements neglects Mr. Brown's rights.

As a matter of fact Pink Floyd even censored Nightmare from Arthur Brown's personal YouTube place, a few months ago, because they claimed his song hurt their copyrights. Unfortunately Arthur Brown doesn't have a legion of lawyers to fight this.

Don't ask a slice of my pie, how utterly convenient.

Inculp/Ation

Some of the tracks on this Compil/Ation are from inferior or bootleg quality. We know that and can live with that.

But what if we say that the Pink Floyd mastering team deliberately ignored some good takes and put inferior ones in the box?

Seems unthinkable for a band that used to flirt with high-end quadrophonic effects.

The 1967 BBC radio sessions, for instance, are in a bad quality, examples are 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun', 'Reaction in G' and 'Pow R Toc H' that is even incomplete.

It needs to be said that Pink Floyd consulted the official BBC archives but these are in a bad state. The BBC had a habit of erasing their own masters and only has copies of the Pink Floyd 1967 gig 'taken' from the air.

Top collectors, those that have the 'holy grails', informed the Floyd that (a copy of?) the masters of the 1967 recording are in a private collection but the Floyd didn't find it necessary to check this out. Andy Jackson received high quality stereo copies of the BBC recordings from at least two sources but the powers that be decided to use the inferior mono tapes instead.

Isn't is ironic that the 'bootleg' community has better versions of these Pink Floyd live tapes and early acetates than the band itself and that they are giving them away for free? The Floyd has thanked them by shutting down Harvested and threatening to shutdown Yeeshkul in the past. (More of these vicious rumours at: The loathful Mr. Loasby and other stories... )

1971
1971.

Finalis/Ation

Just as with the Immersion sets some Blu-rays come with errors, in this case (as far as we know): the 1972 'Obfusc/ation' Blu-ray and bonus package 'Continu/ation' Blu-ray 1. According to several testimonies the menu screen loads, but halts there. You better check out your version before it is too late.

Promulg/Ation

Fans were happy to find out that Seabirds was finally going to find a place on this collection. Seabirds is a song written by Roger Waters for the More movie, where it can be heard during a party scene, but it does not appear on the soundtrack album.

The song in the box though with the same title is not the one fans were looking for but an alternate take of the instrumental Quicksilver. God knows why this was erroneously labelled, but once again it seems that the Floyd historians didn't do their homework right and just threw songs on a CD without checking them out first.

Pink Floyd itself issued a statement, trying not to make it sound as an apology. It appears that the master tape of the 'real' Seabirds was given to the movie producers who used it for their final cut and who destroyed the only copy afterwards.

While Pink Floyd is not to blame for that mishap we can at least say they have been badly communicating to their fans about this track, but Communic/Ation has never been the Floyd's strongest point.

(Another possible mistake can be found on the Stockholm disk where the first instrumental number is titled Reaction In G while most scholars think it is another 'untitled' instrumental, loosely based upon Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk. This was already published by the Church in 2011 so the Floyd had plenty of time to correct this. See also: EMI blackmails Pink Floyd fans!)

1972
1972.

Evalu/Ation

At 500 Euro a box this is a pretty hefty Christmas present, especially when you realise that at least 85% of the box has been circulating before, on bootlegs. Of course it is true that some visual material has been beautifully restored and some audio tracks sound crispier than ever. Other tracks have just been added for the sake of adding them, so it seems. Anything in the bin we can still use?

There are still plenty of tracks not in the box that the fans were hoping for. It has already been confirmed that one of these will be issued as a Vinyl Record Store Day exclusive.

Somehow I have the feeling that during the Cre/Ation of this set, that took twenty years, the energy went lost, or the interest. Perhaps there was a lack of time when the deadline came closer. Perhaps a greedy manager decided that they had already spend too much money on it. Perhaps Waters and Gilmour, and their servants Guthrie and Jackson, have been busy rolling over the floor fighting, rather than working together, in a cooperative way.

This could have been such an exquisite rarities box, an example for other bands to follow, if only the Floyd had put some extra effort in it, if only the Floyd had consulted their fanbase that gathers at specialised music forums.

Nick Mason, the gentleman drummer, probably takes better care of his cars than he takes care of his musical legacy.

"Those ungrateful fans, it took us 20 years to make this box and Felix Atagong, the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, just needed 20 minutes to trash it."

Update: this post was only published for about an hour when a new 'error' was published on one of the forums.

Belgian TV footage (1968): while the image transfer is great, Pink Floyd made a stupid mistake by overdubbing the video with the regular stereo versions instead of the original 'mono' sound. This leads to the following errors:
1. The stereo Paintbox is about 15 seconds shorter than the mono version, the last seconds of the clip are almost silent while there was still music during the original TV broadcast.
2. An unique early version of Corporal Clegg with an alternate ending has been replaced with the common stereo version.
3. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun has lost the early mono mix that was used instead of the album version.

Video transfers. Frame rates differ between 'vintage' movies and digital technologies like DVD and Blu-ray. When old movies are transferred to digital they have to be 'stretched' which is a pretty straightforward process. However, one may not stretch the soundtrack the same way because it will result in a sound distortion. Guess what, at least one movie in the box runs with half a tone difference than originally recorded.

So here is another case where bootlegs have it right and the official version has it wrong. Bunch of amateurs!


There are really too many people to thank for this article, but much kudos go to Ron Toon and the dozens of others who gave valuable information on the Steve Hoffman Music Forum (304 pages!), another thread on the Steve Hoffman Forum (72 pages!), Yeeshkul (161 pages!) and A Fleeting Glimpse (106 pages!). Sleeve illustrations by a forum member whose post I can't find back any more, anyway thanks!

20 pictures of the (un)packing of the box can be found at the Church's Tumblr: The Early Years.

♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥


2017-02-03

Psychedelic Celluloid

This article started as a review of Psychedelic Celluloid by Simon Matthews but ended up as a long-read about Pink Floyd at the movies. Sorry, I can't help it. (This article does not pretend to describe all Pink Floyd related movies.)

Contents: • Psychedelic CelluloidThe Big BossConfessions of a Chinese CourtesanMore Sound DelinquentsPsychedelic Celluloid (reprise)À Coeur JoieThe TouchablesThe CommitteeThe Magic ChristianMoreThe BodyEntertaining Mr. SloaneLa ValléePsychedelic Celluloid (listomania)SalomePsychedelic Celluloid (conclusion)La MargeKindle rant

Psychedelic Celluloid by Simon Matthews
Psychedelic Celluloid by Simon Matthews.

Psychedelic Celluloid

I got a mail, a couple of months ago, from Simon Matthews, saying that he was working on a book that would explore the interaction between (psychedelic) pop music and British movies, in the golden era that was Swinging London. Not really coming as a surprise he added that Pink Floyd would figure in it a couple of times. I made a mental note to check it out, but like so many things it got lost in the dark corners of my soul. Call it divine intervention, or just a case of serendipity, but when Brain Damage did a short write-up of the publication it all came back to me and ten minutes later my Kindle was purring with joy.

Matthews starts his book by mentioning George Melly’s Revolt Into Style, a collection of sixties essays that has been borrowed from in all self-respecting Swinging London books in the past forty years. His introduction ends with the ad-hoc announcement that the most prominent ‘movie’ music performers between 1965 and '74 were not The Beatles, nor The Rolling Stones, but, yes, you’ve already guessed it: (The) Pink Floyd.

During my four decades long love/hate relationship with the band I have trodden many paths, some narrower than others, and so it may not come as a surprise to you that I have also tried to acquire some information on the lads in movieland. We all know that several members of the Cambridge mafia, revolving around the band, were dabbling into film: Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, Mick Rock, Anthony Stern, Storm Thorgerson to name just a few.

It happily surprised me that, in the chapter ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of W1!’, Matthews is casually mentioning that the Floyd’s music can also be found on two kung fu flicks: ‘Fist of Fury’ and ‘Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan’. I am familiar with those as well as my quest into Floyd in filmland has brought me to the weirdest places. Did you know there is a Syd Barrett presence in a Freddy Mandingo movie? Well, let me tell you, you really don't want to know.

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The Big Boss
Die Todesfaust Des Cheng Li (The Big Boss).

A fistful of Floyd

唐山大兄 Tang Shan Da Xiong (The Big Boss) is a (fairly stupid) 1971 Hong Kong movie that put a fairly unknown martial artist into the spotlight. Bruce Lee plays a somewhat dorky fellow, revenging the murders on his relatives, who found out the local ice factory is being used for drugs smuggling.

When the movie arrived in an American version it was retitled as Fists Of Fury, creating a mess for generations to come as there would be another Bruce Lee movie the next year called Fist Of Fury (without the s). Perhaps it was the other way round, as even Wikipedia isn't really sure which is which (and neither does Simon Matthews). Most of the world calls the movie The Big Boss, except for Germany, who like to give the plot away and baptised it Die Todesfaust des Cheng Li (The deadly fist of Cheng Li).

Not only the title gives food for confusion. The movie has been issued in half a dozen of different versions with entirely different soundtracks.

A first music score was composed by Wang Fu-ling for the (original) Mandarin release. It is believed Cheng Yung-yo assisted with that soundtrack, although uncredited. This movie was horribly dubbed into English for a limited run in the Anglo-Saxon world.

A second soundtrack was made by German composer Peter Thomas when the movie was re-cut and re-dubbed for the international market. This 1973 westernised version had several erotic and gory scenes deleted, including the legendary scene where Bruce Lee cuts an adversary's head in two halves with a saw.

A third soundtrack, using the international cut, was arranged by Joseph Koo, for a Japanese release, probably around 1974.

A fourth soundtrack for a Cantonese release in 1983 combines the Joseph Koo score (#3) with the one of Peter Thomas (#2) and adds incidental 'stock' music. This one includes snippets from Pink Floyd and King Crimson (Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two).

Peter Thomas (2016). Picture courtesy Stanislav Gregorev.
Peter Thomas (2016). Picture: courtesy Stanislav Gregorev.

Cut Into Little Pieces

An overview of Pink Floyd music in The Big Boss, thanks to the Martial Arts Music Wiki, with links to the exact sequence. Contains some minor spoilers.

Obscured by Clouds (1972, Obscured by Clouds)
Cheng Chao-an (Bruce Lee) and his cousin Hsiu are being followed by casino bouncers (13:05).
Repeated when Hsiao Mi (the big boss), his son Chiun and some henchmen are training (26:35).

Time (1973, The Dark Side of the Moon)
Hsiu and his brother visit the big boss at his mansion, trying to find out why two of their family members have disappeared (29:05).
Chen Chao-an (Bruce Lee) is invited for a meeting with the ice factory's manager (47:50).
Chen Chao-an visits the big boss to find out why four of his relatives have disappeared (01:06:14).

Time / The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Entertainment) (1969, Ummagumma)
Mixed together this can be heard when Hsiu and his brother try to escape from Mi's killer squad (31:58).

As far as we know, the Floydian soundtrack was only available on a Cantonese 1983 re-release, explaining that a 1973 song anachronistically appears on a 1971 movie. It isn't certain if the Pink Floyd tracks were properly licensed as they are not mentioned on the end credits. To add insult to injury other cuts of the movie - with alternative 'hybrid' soundtracks and extra or longer scenes - have circulated, so it is all rather messy. For a (partial) comparison of the different versions: Big Boss @ Movie Censorship.

Bruceploitation

Bruce Lee died unexpectedly in 1973 and the posthumous documentary The Man and the Legend (original title: Li Xiao Long di Sheng yu si) contains next to the King Crimson piece that was already mentioned above, Pink Floyd's One of These Days (1971, Meddle) and On The Run (1973, The Dark Side of the Moon).

After 1973, several Bruceploitation movies were made, often with a conspiracy theme. Tian Huang Ju Xing (Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger) from 1976 is not different and has actor Bruce Li (real name: Ho Chung Tao) fighting his way through some shady drug deals in something that will not be remembered as a great martial arts movie. Even the soundtrack borrows completely from others and has next to Isaac Hayes and John Barry, Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1975).

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Ai Nu
Ai Nu.

Trouble in the brothel

A decade before The Big Boss (1983 cut) another kung fu movie had found out about the martial strength of Pink Floyd.

愛奴 Ai Nu, awkwardly renamed for the western market as Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, is a 1972 Hong Kong movie about the 18-year old Ai Nu who is kidnapped from her family and brought to the governor's brothel.

After the default set of humiliations and punishments she apparently accepts her fate and learns the noble art of self-defence from 'madam' Chun Yi. Once a kung fu champ she uses her seductive powers to eliminate her wrongdoers, one by one.

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan is a mixture of blood vengeance, lesbian sensualism (in covert seventies style) and it has been named as one of the inspirational landmarks for Quentin Tarantino's Killl Bill. Every scene looks so artificially crisp it nearly hurts the eyes and if Walt Disney ever makes a movie set in a brothel this is certainly how it will look like. Undoubtedly a seventies classic, director Yuen Chor (Zhang Baojian) can, without doubt, be placed next to Borowczyk, Fellini or Pasolini.

Another one bites the dust

Unfortunately the original soundtrack can't really decide between traditional Chinese and Tex-Mex western style tunes. Two Pink Floyd tracks of the 1970 Zabriskie Point soundtrack are prominent in three decisive scenes. (The links given here point to a very bad copy, dubbed in English, with terrible sound.)

Come In Nr. 51 (Your Time is Up)
Ai Nu has just been tortured by Chun Yi, who promptly falls in love with her (link).
After the final duel, when Ai Nu kisses her dying lover goodbye (link).

Heart Beat, Pig Meat
A few seconds of Heart Beat, Pig Meat at 43 minutes when Ai Nu and her lesbian lover openly discuss the first murder (not present on the YouTube version).
(The DVD has a documentary about the movie that uses the Zabriskie soundtrack even more, by the way.)

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Fen Nu Qing Nian (Street Gangs of Hong Kong or The Delinquent)
Scene from The Delinquent.

More Sound Delinquents

In Psychedelic Celluloid, Simon Matthews writes that Pink Floyd can be heard in two kung fu movies, but there is more, much more...

The Kung Fu Magazine forum has a 27-pages thread with, at the time of writing, 386 verified tracks (of different composers, bands and artists) that have been used, legally or illegally, in dozens of films. Sometimes the songs are used in its entirety, but often snippets of a second or less have been 'sampled' into the soundscape. Venomous Centipede at shaolinchamber36.com came up with the following impressive Pink Floyd list. All Hong Kong or Taiwan movies with a Pink Floyd soundtrack:

April Fool Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up - Zabriskie Point
Bedevilled, The Echoes - Meddle
Chinatown Capers The Grand Vizier's Garden Party – Ummagumma
When You're In - Obscured By Clouds
Delinquint, The The Grand Vizier's Garden Party – Ummagumma
Astronomy Domine - Ummagumma
Fist of Unicorn * One of These Days - Meddle (* Added by: OldPangYau.)
Gambling For Gold The Grand Vizier's Garden Party - Ummagumma
Astronomy Domine - Ummagumma
Atom Heart Mother - Atom Heart Mother
Happenings, The Echoes - Meddle
Absolutely Curtains - Obscured By Clouds
Hunchback, The One of These Days - Meddle
Kung Fu Inferno Echoes - Meddle
Legends of Lust Heart Beat, Pig Meat - Zabriskie Point
Operation White Shirt Time - Dark Side of the Moon
On the Run - Dark Side of the Moon
Pier, The Time - Dark Side of the Moon
Roaring Lion, The One of These Days - Meddle
Tales of Larceny Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Tiger Jump Time - Dark Side of the Moon
Training Camp Atom Heart Mother - Atom Heart Mother
Young Rebel, The Time - Dark Side of the Moon
On the Run - Dark Side of the Moon
Operation White Shirt Time - Dark Side of the Moon
On the Run - Dark Side of the Moon

So prepare a big bag of popcorn if you want to check these out.

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Blow Up in Psychedelic Celluloid.
Blow Up in Psychedelic Celluloid.

Psychedelic Celluloid (reprise)

Let’s get back to Simon Matthews’ Psychedelic Celluloid. After the introduction and a chapter dedicated to Pink Floyd the main bulk of the book consists of a chronological listing of about 120 movies, starting with Richard Lester’s The Knack (1965) and ending with Stuart Cooper’s Little Malcolm and his struggle against the Eunuchs (1974), described by some as the most expensive home movie ever made as it could only be seen at George Harrison’s place.

There is nearly a movie on every page, with a picture, a short description, some info on the director, the actors and its soundtrack, but that is exactly where the cookie crumbles, as this information is almost identical to what you can already find on IMDB and Wikipedia. The author could've added more anecdotes or juicy rumours if you ask me. Take Performance, for instance, not a word about the orgies and the drugs in front and behind the camera, as Iggy Rose once testified on this holy place (see: Iggy & the Stones). But of course, books have already been written about that movie alone.

Several times when I was at the point of saying 'this is starting to get interesting' the article ends and makes place for another one, leaving my hunger unsatisfied. The intriguing story of the (disappeared) movie Popdown is a perfect example. Starring Zoot Money, with music of Brian Auger, Blossom Toes, Dantalion's Chariot, Julie Driscoll, Gary Farr and a couple of others, its history is so fascinating that it could easily have taken six pages, but it stops at two. After reading that entry I spend a good hour browsing the Internet for more information, reading about a maniacal fan, Peter Prentice, who nearly spend a fortune trying to locate a surviving copy. Unfortunately I never found out if he succeeded in his mission, or failed. Perhaps that is what Simon Matthews really wants as I'm pretty sure he knows more about these movies than he was allowed to write. And the beauty of this guide is that it assembles a list of 120 'flower power' films in the first place.

Two Weeks In September
Two Weeks In September, French-Dutch poster.

The Pink Jungle

Pink Floyd are the uncrowned champions of the 'pop' movies during the psychedelic heyday, roughly from the mid-sixties till the mid-seventies, and that despite the fact that they even rejected a soundtrack for Kubrick. (Even more of a surprise is that Amon Düül ends second.) I count 26 Pink Floyd entries in the book and 5 for Syd Barrett. Let's have a nerdy look through our pink tinted glasses, shall we?

À Coeur Joie (1967), aka Two Weeks in September

This movie is only mentioned in one of the appendixes of the book. Starring Brigitte Bardot it is the story of a model, with a photo shoot assignment in London, who has to choose between her husband and a much younger passionate toy boy. This was Bardot's first attempt to excel in a serious movie, away from the sex kitten romantic comedies she had done before. Probably that could be the reason why the public didn't want to see it, but critics say the movie tried to look sophisticated but ended up pretty dull. Next to BB two English popstars play a small role: Murray Head and Mike Sarne, who had a number one hit in 1962 with Come Outside.

In a 2015 BBC documentary 'Wider Horizons' it was revealed that David Gilmour sang two tracks for the movie, composed by Michel Magne: Do You Want To Marry Me? and I Must Tell You Why. This was before he joined Pink Floyd and that is perhaps why Psychedelic Celluloid isn't aware of this.

The Holy Church Tumblr blog has several links to the songs and the movie itself: À Coeur Joie.

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The Touchables.
The Touchables.

The Touchables (1968)

Simon Matthews throws an ace with the news that The Touchables has Interstellar Overdrive during one of its scenes, something that – as far as I know – has never been put in a Floydian biography before. It is one of those thirteen in a dozen, throwaway, sex comedies with a plot 'thinner than a paper towel'.

Four good-looking beauties, who like to walk around in their underwear and who are literally living in a bubble, kidnap a wax sculpture of Michael Caine and then repeat the act with a popular pop singer, whom they abuse as a sex slave, not that he resists a lot. After having a go at the four of them he finally tries to escape but they shoot him down. The situation looks grim for a minute, but even that can't spoil the fun. It all looks like one of the less interesting Monkees shows.

Add a subplot with a few gangsters and, for an incomprehensible reason, some professional wrestlers and you have a product that creates immediate amnesia after watching it.

The story was written by Donald Cammell who would later enlarge some of its situations for Performance.

Dumb movie. Great find.

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The Committee.
The Committee.

The Committee (1968)

The Committee entry has one of Mick Rock's pictures with Syd Barrett standing in front of his Pontiac Parisienne - more of that car later (obviously) - which I found a bit weird, even for a Barrett buff like me.

Then it occurred to me that Barrett had first been asked to compose its soundtrack, without the Floyd. The reason is not entirely clear, maybe Barrett was thought to be cheaper than the entire band, maybe Peter Jenner wanted to give Syd's solo career a boost (although he was officially still in the band), maybe it was believed that Syd would better understand the movie's philosophy, inspired by the theories of R.D. Laing. Whatever...

On the 30th of January 1968, a couple of days after the Floyd – now with David Gilmour - 'forgot' to pick Syd up for a gig, he arrived one and a half hour late at Sound Techniques without a guitar and without a band. A guitar was found, Nice-drummer Brian 'Blinky' Davidson and Barrett-buddy Steve Peregrin Took were presumably called in and five and a half hours later a twenty minutes music piece was in the can. Unfortunately Barrett thought it sounded better backwards so at midnight they called it a day and all went home.

The collaboration with Barrett was stopped because his studio time was too expensive and their budget was practically zero. Syd didn't show any further interest for the project either and when a studio employee tried to phone him there was 'nobody home'. Roger Waters heard about the fiasco and agreed to do the soundtrack with the rest of the band, minus Syd, in an improvised studio for practically nothing. Max Steuer in Sparebricks:

The address was 3, Belsize Square, London NW3, the basement flat of the painter Michael Kidner and his wife Marion. (…) It was amazingly professional.

Steuer remembers that Syd's piece was 'jazzy, with a groove' and that Peter Jenner took the tape with him. In 2014 we asked Jenner about the whereabouts of this 'holy grail'. Peter Jenner in The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit innerview:

As far as I know I am not in possession of these tapes, I might have been given a copy, but surely not the masters. (…) Many things disappeared with the sudden collapse of Blackhill. My recollection is that they were less than amazing. However if I come across anything I will let you know.

The Committee is now part of Pink Floyd's Early Years box set, without – of course – the Syd Barrett tape. Unfortunately Psychedelic Celluloid was already in the can when that set was released and several times the author states that a Pink Floyd soundtrack has not been officially released, while some of it can now be found on the luxury box set (The Committee, Amougies 1969 with Frank Zappa, Kralingen 1971, Pompeii 1972).

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The Magic Christian (1969)

There is no immediate link with Pink Floyd in The Magic Christian, but Gretta Barclay and her boyfriend Rusty Burnhill worked on it. Gretta Barclay in the interview she gave at the church:

We did some film extra work for The Magic Christian. I have a feeling Iggy came with us? But I cannot confirm this.

As the movie was shot in March 1969, Iggy could indeed have been around. It wouldn't be the first time that Iggy was on a film set, nor the last. Another Syd Barrett friend made it even in front of the camera. One of Raquel Welsh's topless slave girls in the galleon scene was none other than Jenny Spires, but she didn't make it to the final cut, so don't ruin your eyes looking for her.

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More.
More.

More (1969)

How could we forget More? This Barbet Schroeder movie follows the hippie trail to Ibiza, but instead of sea, sun and illicit sex it adds the deadly ingredient of heroin. Pink Floyd wrote the soundtrack.

There are some differences between the music on the album and the songs in the movie. 'Main Theme' lacks some guitar and 'Cymbaline' has alternate lyrics and is sung with a 'head voice'. The movie also contains a short instrumental 'Hollywood' that is not on the album. The Early Years compilation includes an early version of this track, titled 'Song 1'.

The song that has made fans go crazy for almost five decades is 'Seabirds'. It is a pastoral hymn à la Grantchester Meadows, but unfortunately it can only be heard during a party scene in the film. When Pink Floyd announced that 'Seabirds' was included in The Early Years box this was considered as one of those great revelations everyone was hoping for. Unfortunately the song in the box was not 'Seabirds', but an alternate take of the instrumental Quicksilver. Apparently the master tape of the 'real' Seabirds was given to the movie producers who used it for their final cut and who destroyed the only copy afterwards.

Seabirds is probably lost forever. (For our critical review of The Early Years compilation, see: Supererog/Ation: skimming The Early Years.)

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The Body.
The Body.

The Body (1970)

Simon Matthews overzealously implies that Pink Floyd did the soundtrack for The Body, although it was a co-operation between Ron Geesin and Roger Waters (who can be found on 8 tracks of 22). One of these, Give Birth To A Smile, was recorded with the entire band, but it was credited as a Roger Waters solo effort. (Give Birth To A Smile was considered for inclusion on The Early Years box, but at the end it didn't happen.)

Psychedelic Celluloid also states that:

The majority of the music was assembled from sounds made by the human body – burps, farts, coughs, sneezes, heartbeats, human voices, general stomach noises, etc. (p. 132)

This is only the case on two numbers (from 22), Our Song and Body Transport.

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Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970)

Described by the author as a considerable tour de force of bad taste he rightfully notes that Georgie Fame wrote the soundtrack, but he fails to say that the most important actor of the film, a Pontiac Parisienne with numberplate VYP 74, first belonged to Mickey Finn and later to Syd Barrett. It would have been a fun anecdote.

Check some pictures of the movie on our Tumblr page: Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

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Miquette Giraudy (2016).
Miquette Giraudy, with The Orb (2016).

La Vallée (1972)

During the making of the soundtrack of La Vallée, so tells us Nick Mason, there was a (financial) misunderstanding between Pink Floyd and the film company. The band removed the title from the album and called it Obscured By Clouds instead. But for once Pink Floyd didn't have the last laugh as the movie was immediately sub-titled Obscured By Clouds for the English market.

Perhaps the weirdest thing is that Matthews finds La Vallée (Obscured by Clouds) a well made film with excellent photography. That last one is certainly true but most of the world is still trying to find out what the hell the story was all about. La Vallée regularly makes it into 'worst movies of all times' lists.

Throughout Psychedelic Celluloid the author duly notes when a rock or pop star occupies a (minor) role in a film. However, for La Vallée he overlooked the fact that Miquette Giraudy, wife of Steve Hillage, member of Gong and System 7, is playing the part of Monique.

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Listomania

The last part of the book has several entries that didn't make it to the central part, for one reason or another.
Appendix 1 (fiction) mentions Zabriskie Point, not a London based movie, and the French À Coeur Joie (see above).
Appendix 2 (documentaries and concert films) has Pink Floyd in Dope (1968) and Sound Of The City (1973).
Appendix 3 (shorts) lists Peter Whitehead's London '66-'67 with Pink Floyd playing the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream.
Appendix 4 (TV specials, documentaries & concerts) mentions the Belgian 'Pink Floid' special that has been unfortunately released on the Early Years with the wrong soundtrack.

One category that can't be found in this pretty coherent and detailed work are the many (perhaps too many) underground and avant-garde movies, for instance from the London film-makers' co-operative LFMC, started in 1966 by Stephen Dwoskin, Bob Cobbing and others in the legendary Better Books shop. Carolee Schneemann's Viet Flakes (1965) that puts happy pop songs over Vietnam images isn't there, nor is Malcolm Le Grice's Berlin Horse (1970) with a Brian Eno soundtrack and – oblesse oblige - neither is Iggy, Eskimo Girl from Anthony Stern that has See Emily Play. But avant-garde art movies probably belong more in specialised studies for a specialised clientele (and at special rates, Oxford University wanted me to pay £119 to consult an article).

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Salome.
Salome.

Salome (1970)

On three different occasions Simon Matthews mentions a Spanish movie that claims to include on its soundtrack a rearrangement by Jorge Pi of a Pink Floyd arrangement of Richard Strauss' Salome. Somewhat exasperated he adds 'if anyone ever finds a copy and manages to investigate'...

Well it is not that the Church didn't try.

In 1970 Rafael Gassent, the 'father' of indepent Valencian cinema, made a 51 minutes adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play and Richard Strauss opera Salomé. According to the IMDb movie database the soundtrack is composed by Richard Strauss, arranged by Pink Floyd and re-arranged by Jorge Pi.

Rafa Gasent, also known as Rafael Gassent and all combinations in between, is an experimental Spanish movie maker whose 23 and some movies are even more difficult to track down than those of Anthony Stern. Salome was allegedly shot in the Sagunto castle, inspired by the Andy Warhol school of filming and is apparently a blend of the hippie era and Spanish avant-garde 'grunge' from the early seventies. No wonder that these experimental directors weren't liked by general Franco and his Opus Dei cohorts and that these movies were only shown in underground clubs. Rafael Gasent would later work for Spanish television and his cinematographic work is now and then shown on movie festivals.

Obviously the Holy Church tried to find out what this 'arranged by Pink Floyd' means at the end credits of the Salome movie, but we couldn't find a copy to check if it is really there or not. The Church also asked Rafael Gasent Garcia for information, in English and in Spanish, but unfortunately posting holiday pictures is a more interesting activity for him than sparing a minute for some quick comment.

So until somebody clears this up, there is a kind of enigma here. Unless...

Rafael Gasent.
Rafael Gasent (2014).

Pinfloy

This doesn't mean that the Church doesn't have a theory. Personally I think it was nothing but a youthful joke, like the Spanishgrass hoax, and that Gasent didn't use Pink Floyd as a bandname but 'pinfloy' as a noun.

Just like the Dutch language had the term 'beatle' in the sixties, for a long-haired no-good (my mother used it all the time to shout at me), the term 'pinfloy' was introduced in Andalusia in the seventies as an equally pejorative term. A 'pinfloy', to paraphrase Antonio Jesús, is somebody who acts silly, crazy, or who is quite gullible, naive and/or a bit rare.

In underground and artistic circles however, 'pinfloy' may have been re-appropriated and stripped from its derogatory meaning although it was still used for alternative people from the wackier side of the spectrum.

If Jorge Pi (or Jordi Pi) is indeed the musician of the Desde Santurce a Bilbao Blues Band, as Simon Matthews writes, this all starts to make sense. The DsaBBB were a satirical band, who weren't from Bilbao to start with and who didn't play the blues either. The band mixed rock, charleston, folk, tango and forms of classical music, combined with humorous lyrics. This was not always appreciated by the Franco regime and in one case they were even arrested.

So, to get this over with once and for all, the Salome soundtrack may not contain a Pink Floyd arrangement but a Jorge Pi 'pinfloy' treatment of Richard Strauss, meaning that the Richard Strauss melody was given a goofy swing.

Case closed then, unless somebody else comes up with a more coherent theory.

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Psychedelic Celluloid (conclusion)

Psychedelic Celluloid is an excellent vade mecum, a quick reference book, for those that are interested in the interplay of British bands and movies of the psychedelic years. The description of the individual titles could have been more detailed at points, but somewhere I have the feeling that the author wants us, the reader, to move our lazy ass and go look for it ourselves. As a whole, bringing these 120 titles together in one volume is already a gargantuan task. Mission accomplished then.

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Sylvia Kristel in La Marge.
Sylvia Kristel in La Marge.

La Marge (1976) aka The Streetwalker, aka Emmanuelle '77, aka Emanuela '77.

Here is a movie that isn't mentioned in Psychedelic Celluloid, for obvious reasons. First: the setting takes place in Paris, not in London. Second: it was made outside the 'swinging London' decade, covered in the book. Still it is a must-see for people who want to know more about Floyd in film.

There is a French comedy about a film director who sells his dramatic script to a movie studio and finds out that he is expected to make a porn flick instead. This is exactly what happened to Walerian Borowczyk whose filmography evolved from art-house avant-garde to European soft-core, including the almost parodical Emmanuelle V in 1986.

Borowczyk started with ingenious stop motion and animations and shocked the public (and the censors) with the live action Immoral Tales (1974), The Story of Sin (1975) and The Beast (1975), movies that acquired a cult status and that placed him next to contemporary directors as Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski. These directors didn't avoid experiment either but were popular while Borowczyk was only known to a small circle of critics and movie buffs. For his next production he wanted to go for something less shocking and more accessible...

All the necessary ingredients for a successful product were there:
• Andy Warhol superstar and beautiful boy Joe Dallesandro, hot in France after appearing in Serge Gainsbourg's movie Je t'aime moi non plus, was hired for the male lead role.
Sylvia Kristel was the female lead. Although remembered as a sex-goddess, she was actually an excellent much-wanted actress and Europe's box-office queen (thanks to the Emmanuelle franchise).
• A top-score soundtrack was assembled with French songs, old and new, and international hits by 10CC (I'm Not In Love), Elton John (Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)), Sailor (Glass of Champagne) and Pink Floyd (Shine On You Crazy Diamond).
Bernard Daillencourt was the cinematographer and his work for Borowczyk was so appreciated that David Hamilton hired him for his flimsy but utterly lucrative erotic trilogy: Bilitis, Laura and Tendres Cousines. Actress Camille Lariviere would also figure in Bilitis.
• The original novel, from writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues, had won the Prix Goncourt for the best novel of 1967. He had also written The Girl on a Motorcycle, put to film with Alain Delon and a young Marianne Faithfull.

Joe Dallesandro in La Marge.
Joe Dallesandro in La Marge (screenshot).

Warning: spoilers ahead.

La Marge is a dramatic mixture of love, death, adultery, suicide and full frontal Euro-chic. A rich and handsome vine-grower, madly in love with his family, visits a brothel on a business trip to Paris. After the obligatory nookie he receives a letter that his son has drowned in the swimming pool and that his wife has taken her own life. Instead of returning home for the double funeral the widower tries to cope with the tragedy by visiting the prostitute who feels that something basically has changed in his, and her, attitude.

About everything was present to make this movie the autumn box-office hit of 1976 but La Marge sank without a trace. The blowjob scene, with Shine On You Crazy Diamond on the background, should have been tattooed in our brains, like Marlon Brando's butter extravaganza in Last Tango In Paris. To cash in on Kristel's fame the movie was renamed (and re-dubbed) as Emmanuelle '77 (or Emanuela 77) but that only added to the confusion. It has been rumoured that new scenes, filmed by another director without the knowledge of Borowczyk, were added for an American cut, known as The Streetwalker, but nobody has ever managed to compare both versions.

The soundtrack, with 10CC, Elton John and Pink Floyd, may have been the reason why the movie has never became a cult classic in later years. Pink Floyd's legal stubbornness, so is whispered, has prevented a general release on DVD. A Japanese version does exist, with several blurs at strategic places, and there also floats a French Canal+ copy around, omitting a few (voyeuristic) scenes.

The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit Tumblr has some pictures: La Marge.

(Back to contents, top of the page.)

The Magic Christian in Psychedelic Celluloid.
The Magic Christian in Psychedelic Celluloid.

Kindle rant

While I would give the book Psychedelic Celluloid a seven rating (out of ten) for its contents, I am somewhat disappointed in the Kindle edition.

The book, as a traditional book, is beautifully printed, with a lot of white-space next to the text to include pictures in a separate column or to interact with the text as in the 'Magic Christian' example at the left.

However, the Kindle version does not allow in-text searching, nor adding notes, nor changing the font size. On my medium sized tablet screen (10.81 by 6.77 inches / 27.46 × 17.20 cm) the letters are the size of miniature ants due to the fact that every page can only be shown in its entirety. The picture legends have golden letters on a white background and are completely unreadable (you can't change the background colour either, as in other Kindle books).

Reading the Kindle version of Psychedelic Celluloid is like reading a badly xeroxed book but with the one difference that on good old photocopies you could still scribble some notes.

I would like to say to Oldcastle Books and/or Amazon this is a fucking disgrace and that you only bring the author's reputation down with this kind of crap.

Still a good book though.

Simon Matthews
Psychedelic Celluloid
Oldcastle Books, 2016.
224 pages.

(Back to contents, top of the page.)


The Church wishes to thank: Gretta Barclay, Vanessa Flores, Stanislav Grigorev, Rich Hall, Peter Jenner, JenS, Antonio Jesús, Göran Nyström, OldPangYau, Dylan Roberts, Venomous Centipede.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Jesús, Antonio: Curiosidades - Pinfloy, un vocablo del sur, Solo En Las Nubes, 16.09.2011.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 169.
Muños, Abelard: Rafa Gassent, director de cinema, La Veu, 07.01.2014.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 320.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 119.

Our Tumblr page contains a description of another movie with Pink Floyd music, that we deliberately didn't include here: Alex De Renzy‘s Little Sisters (1972).


2017-06-04

Louder than Words

Is This The Life We Really Want?
Is This The Life We Really Want?

Perfect Sense

I'll start this Roger Waters solo history in 1983 and pretend The Body soundtrack (1970) never happened (it's definitively worth checking out and not only for the Waters compositions, if you don't mind the seventies tomfoolery).

The Final Cut (1983) was issued as a Pink Floyd album but is considered a virtual Roger Waters solo work with some guitar solos by David Gilmour and occasional percussion by that playboy drummer. Originally intended as a Wall spin-off it grew into a political manifesto against the Falklands crisis. And if that wasn't already mind-boggling enough Waters also recycled some early-Wall melodies that never made it on the double album because they weren't considered good enough by Bob Ezrin and co.

The Final Cut set the standard for his future solo projects that invariably contain a few good to excellent tracks, but unfortunately also a lot of monotonous rubble. Most of them are also packaged in puke-ugly covers.

The Pros And Cons of Hitchhiking (1984) is the third part in the Wall series, it even borrows some musical themes from that one. But just like in the original Planet Of The Apes franchise quality gradually degrades from sequel to sequel, from solo project to solo project.

Blowing in the Wind

Waters' contribution to the When The Wind Blows soundtrack (1986) takes a complete vinyl side. It contains roughly 12 minutes of experimental synth drones, sound effects and movie samples, sandwiched between one excellent and one just OK song. Towers of Faith has Waters at his best with vitriolic and sarcastic nags at the Pope and his former bandmates: "this band is MY band…" It’s a pity the track was put on a rather obscure soundtrack of a rather obscure movie, not the last time this would happen with his songs. (For the completists who will otherwise correct me: it can also be found on the Flickering Flame compilation.)

Radio KAOS
Radio KAOS.

Radio KAOS (1987) is an even weirder one. It is built around a radio show and features poppy songs with a typical eighties rock radio sound. Although it sounds dated nowadays it is not half as bad as everyone pretends. One of the good things is that it is a single album. Roger Waters wanted to make it a double but this was vetoed against by the powers that be. Some of these rejected demos were put on B-sides, remember singles?, and I can only agree with those record executives. The only thing that suffered from the weeding is the concept, Radio KAOS is as odd and incomprehensible as one of those eerie second series Twin Peaks episodes.

When you can’t sell new records, sell old ones, Waters must have thought and The Wall Live in Berlin (1990) was born. It’s The Wall all over again, this time with guests, Bier und Bratwurst.

Not Amused at all

All this was just a general repetition for what Waters considers his magnum opus. When a colleague at work told me, 25 years ago, that the latest Waters record had a lot of explosions, I was not impressed at all. A record is not judged by the amount of sound effects, especially not when they interfere with the music. Amused To Death sounds as if a piano player is playing in the far corner of a crowded restaurant and all you hear is the rhubarby mumbling of the people, the clashing of cutlery, falling plates, waiters taking orders... Many will disagree but Amused to Death (1992) is Waters equivalent of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, it even has got a monkey on its fart-smelly cover. That record has all the tricks Waters is famous for: over the top shouting, tracks that are repeated over several parts, lists instead of lyrics and the drowning of the melody under a layer of sound effects… If Waters sings about a nuclear attack, you can bet your ass there will be missiles wooshing through your surround system for the next three minutes.

Amused to Death.
Amused to Death.

People might think I hate Waters, but this is not really the case. He genuinely surprised me with his In The Flesh tour and the highlights of The Final Cut, Pros And Cons and Amused to Death he brought there proves that Waters has some good songs in him.

This introduction has been going on too long, it fucking starts to sound like one of his albums, so we’ll skip his opera (everyone did) and the few excellent (Hello, I love you) and bad singles (Leaving Beirut) he made over the years.

Did I tell you that Waters is a man of continuous repetition…

When you can’t sell new records, sell old ones, so Waters had another go at The Wall, basically a lip-synch show with a video screen the size of a football field. For me this was the lowest point in his career despite the fact that he sold over four million tickets to the masses. (Read more at: Skeletons from the Kloset.)

But now, after some 25 years, there is a new Roger Waters record, and it's excellent.

Is This The Life We Really Want?

When We Were Young: a garbled introduction, taken from a Waters interview or monologue that gradually becomes clearer to understand. Personally it makes me think remotely of the Wish You Were Here radio introduction. Pink Floyd has of course a tradition of ambient opening tracks. Their last album had Things Left Unsaid that started with (equally garbled) Rick Wright and David Gilmour quotes, but borrowing is allowed among friends.

The intro segues into Déjà Vu that has been known since 25 September 2014 under the title Lay Down Jerusalem (If I Had Been God) when he performed it at the Russell Tribunal at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, in support of the Palestinian people.

A certain president.
A certain president.

Luckily it is a far better opening song than What God Wants was (on his previous rock album), although it is pretty snotty to compare yourself with a deity. Waters would have been a pretty solid Roman emperor, he seems to think of himself. Rogergula.

The song itself is wonderful and reminds me of the best of The Final Cut with its piano and violin arrangement and some scarce sound effects that for once don't ruin the song. Probably producer Nigel Godrich is to thank for that. An anonymous source gave us the following snippet of a dialogue between the artist and his producer.

Roger Waters: "How many explosions can I have?"
Nigel Godrich: "One."
RW: "One per song, cool."
NG: "No, one in total."
RW: "Only one? Can I have some fucks then?"
NG: "You can have as many fucks as you like."

(Despite the critique at several reviews and fora that there are too many swearwords on the album, I could only count seven fucks.)

The Last Refugee starts as an uncomplicated love song and has incredible beautiful and yet simple lines:

Show me the shy slow smile you keep hidden by warm brown eyes.

Waters proves that he is an excellent lyricist and singer, alternating softly sung parts with pieces where he vainly tries to suppress his anger. The atmosphere of the song and the way Waters sings it makes me think of Johnny Cash's Solitary Man, that was an opus of withheld emotionalism (not only on this song, by the way). Up till now we haven't heard a single guitar solo yet and that can only be regarded as a good point. It seems that Waters has finally got rid of Gilmour's shadow, whom he tried to replace in vain with Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck. This is a hidden gem that grows on you with every session and if you don't get a tear in your eyes, nothing will.

Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.
Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.

Picture That has a Welcome To The Machine rhythm just before Waters starts with a set of 'shopping list' lyrics, a trick he has used in his entire career and that he will repeat here as well on several songs. Do not expect that Roger pictures himself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies, quite the contrary, in his imagination kids run around with their hands on the trigger of a gun carefully avoiding wooden legged Afghans. There are quite some Floydian references for the perceptive fan, musically to Sheep (and Welcome To The Machine) and lyrically to Wish You Were Here that is sardonically linked to Guantánamo Bay. Roger's voice sounds coarse and rough throughout the track but the synthesizer sounds thin and the guitar doesn't snap to the beat. Not a bad tune, but it has something lacking to make it really great. It may be contradictory to what I wrote before but this track would have benefited from the over-the-top grandeur that only a full Pink Floyd treatment can give. Let's have some of Rick's Turkish Delight, please. Unless it was Roger's or Nigel's wish to make it sound as Thin Floyd. Still a fucking great skeleton of a song though, with obvious nods to his musical past.

Broken Bones starts like one of those more intimate Final Cut tracks (Southampton Dock, Paranoid Eyes) and has the default Waters screams whenever the refrain hits. Great little folkie tune, with a certain Bob Dylan feel, nothing more, nothing less, with a foul-mouthed Waters who isn't afraid to express his opinion:

We cannot turn back the clock
Cannot go back in time
But we can say:
Fuck you, we will not listen to
Your bullshit and lies
The Final Cut.
The Final Cut.

Is This The Life We Really Want? Surely the message is of more importance than the melody here, Waters acts almost as a beat poet. It has Waters reciting a shopping list again, like the following strophe:

toothless hags,
supermodels,
actors, fags,
bleeding hearts,
football stars,
men in bars,
washer women,
tailors, tarts,
grannies, grandpas, uncles, aunts,
friends, relations,
homeless tramps,
clerics,
truckers,
cleaning ladies,
ants...

But believe it or not, it really works in the context of the song. Great poetic track, with a sudden splash of surreal humour.

Bird In A Gale. When this track lifts off after the default TV and radio samples, it turns into a Floydian Sheep-pastiche with Waters' shouting his lines. There is a dog in the lyrics, hopefully not one of those Gilmourian dogs of war, and is that a cash register at the end or just some weird machinery clicking away the moments that make up a dull day? Up till now the flow of the record has just been perfect, although this track is, in my opinion, of lesser quality. It simply tries to hard to mimic Floyd, including the repeating echoes at each line, line, line, line, line...

A certain refugee.
A certain refugee.

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, the six minutes track takes longer as its subject as she is already finished off in the third line of the song 'like a pearl crushed by a bulldozer'. A typical album track, not really one we'll remember as being the highlight of this album, but not bad either. A bit like Gilmour did on Rattle That Lock with the throwaway song The Girl In The Yellow Dress, but at least she managed to survive till the end.

This one needs some extra attention to really get into and should probably be listened to on its own. The lyrics are also quite hermetic and if someone can explains me what it is really about, then thanks. The last strophe is particularly moving with the I'm coming home, bit. Perhaps if I give it some time, it could grow into a favourite. (But who has time, nowadays, for that?)

Smell The Roses is the least original song of the album. It takes its melody from Have A Cigar, has a mad dog on a chain barking, an obscured by clouds guitar at the interlude and a Floydian girlie choir. But just because it sounds so familiar and is full of clichés it rapidly grows into an earworm.

Wait For Her / Oceans Apart / Part Of Me Died. The last song is a three-parter that has been given separate titles.

The first part undoubtedly is a poetic song about love (and for perverted minds: lovemaking), but in the last strophe there suddenly is a 'last fusillade' whatever that means. The lyrics are inspired by a poem (with the same title) from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and some lines have been taken literally from the original (Wait For Her by Mahmoud Darwish).

Songtitles.
Songtitles.

Oceans Apart is a short, one strophe, musical bridge between part one and three, making it clear that the woman he sings about is the love of his life.

Part Of Me Died has Waters listing again, this time it's a collection of his bad characteristics (or so it seems) that the woman he loves has made disappear. It is a very introspective Waters who ends the record with:

Bring me my final cigarette
It would be better by far to die in her arms
Than to linger
In a lifetime of regret

Roger Waters writing a dark love-song, who would ever guess that? It's simple, it's dumb, but Roger Waters has finally proven again he still is the pilot of the Pink Floyd airship.

I never thought I would come to this conclusion, but Is This The Life We Really Want? is a fucking good Roger Waters record, the best since The Final Cut if you ask me. Luckily it has a spit-ugly cover and almost undecipherable lettering so I can still end this review on a grumpy note.

An essential album.


♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥


2017-07-29

In The Pink hunt is open!

In The Pink - back cover
In The Pink - back cover

If the rumours arriving at Atagong Mansion are true - and why shouldn't they? - the relationship between Mr. Gilmour and Mr. Waters is again at a very low level, so low that they can't be bothered visiting the Their Mortal Remains exhibition together, or just making a mutual statement about it.

The Early Years

The last time they really had to cooperate, or that their lawyers and agents had to work together, was with the making of The Early Years box-set (and its satellite releases). For the average fan this seems a nice compilation, with many previously unreleased gems, although the average fan will not be immediately tempted, just try to listen to John Latham (parts 1 to 9) in its entirety or get through ten (10!) different versions of Atom Heart Mother. Unfortunately the editors lost interest in the project and the closer you get to the final tome, the less rare material there is to find. In the end they had to throw in a few movies that every collector already has and yet another remaster of Obscured By Clouds to get something, uh..., mildly significant.

The Early Years compilation is meant for those über-fans, those completists, who eat, breathe and defecate Pink Floyd on a daily basis. And these hard-to-please crusty old dinosaurs were hugely disappointed with the amateurish treatment. An unique mono soundtrack – never (officially) released - was replaced with the common stereo one, by a project manager who was on the job for two decades but who didn't give a fuck to glue the right sound to the right video. Things went wrong with the analogue to digital conversion and video soundtracks play at the wrong speed. The 'exclusive' (remixed and remastered) BBC live recordings are in a worse condition than the free footwear you can find on Yeeshkul... Basically, for Floydian super-geeks, it is a mess. (Read our review at: Supererog/Ation: skimming The Early Years).

Their Mortal Remains

About the same can be said about the London-based Their Mortal Remains exhibition. Now this is clearly a mass-event made to please the big public. Visiting a rock-band exhibition is a bit like fucking for peace, it's pleasant, no doubt about that, but in the end: what's the point, other than saying: 'look at all these guitars'.

Critical fans describe the exhibition as 'lots of show, with little substance' with posters and video clips and accessories that everyone has seen before. One room has been created especially for Sennheiser so they can promote their 379£ - 500$ - 425€ Pink Floyd headset. The main goal of the exhibition is to get as many people as possible into the shop that sells a lot of expensive goodies. Let's go to (a vitriolic) Peter At The Gates Of Dawn (A Fleeting Glimpse forum) for a precise description:

It gets worse and worse. What's wrong with the old gits? This V&A thing has been appallingly organised with dodgy overpriced die cast vans you can't buy, plush pigs with 'Pink Floyd Animals' printed on their arse in case you're not a Floyd fan and thought it might be just a plush pig and the Atom Heart Mother fridge magnet with Atom Heart Mother written on it so the current 'management' knows where it belongs and don't accidentally includes it as a Kate Bush item. (…)
Now a book die hards have been waiting 40+ years for, released in a manner which can only be an insult to its author. Definitely an insult to the fans but hopefully to Dave Gilmour too. Sneaked out exclusively so none of us can read it.
In The Pink - front cover
In The Pink - front cover

In The Pink

That last paragraph is about a curiosity that suddenly showed up in the V&A shop: Nick Sedgwick's long-promised 'In The Pink (Not A Hunting Memoir)'. It was already rumoured in April 2016 that the exhibition would eventually sell copies of that book, but it only showed up there (and at the webshop) on the 20th of July 2017, some say in a very limited quantity of 20 copies.

The story of that book is a pretty odd one, not an exception if you realise we are currently roaming in Floyd-land.

Nick Sedgwick was a close friend of Roger Waters in their Cambridge days and as such it was no surprise that he became part of the Cambridge mafia, circling in and around the band. In 1974 Waters ask his golf buddy to follow the band on tour and write a journal about it. That diary turned into a personal testimony of life on the road and its intrinsic problems. It (apparently) shows Roger Waters playing the alpha male of the band, bossing the others around and trying to cope with a failing marriage.

When the book was finished none of the other members were keen on it and it was shelved. Nick Sedgwick died in 2011 and Waters promised to finally release it, but for the next 6 years nothing happened with the manuscript (see: Immersion). It was believed that David Gilmour was behind the boycott because Nick Mason, after all these decades, couldn't be bothered any more. Eventually Roger Waters promised in 2016 and once again this year that the project was still on, but we all know how long it can take before he fulfils his promises.

But this week it was confirmed by fans that they had purchased the book at Their Mortal Remains. What is weird is that the book doesn't have an ISBN number, which is needed to sell it on webshops like Amazon and in regular bookshops. It does have the following mention though:

Design and layout copyright (c) Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd 2017
Published by Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd 2017

Meanwhile it seems that the book can also be bought at Roger Waters' concerts in the USA and V&A has allegedly received a new batch as well.

Page 14-15.
Page 14-15, with some handwritten lyrics by Roger Waters.

Many things can still be said about this important work, that was once described by Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake as 'dynamite', but as long as the Church doesn't have a copy we'll leave it like that. The problem is that it appears to be pretty limited and that the only place to get it is at a Waters gig or at the London exhibition (hint!).

Give us a sign if you have one too many! (another hint!)


Many thanks to: An@log, Azerty, Chris from Paris, Mob, Peter at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd 1977, TW113079. Pictures: Peter at the Gates of Dawn.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources:
A Fleeting Glimpse forum: In The Pink (Not A Hunting Memoir) - Nick Sedgwick RIP; In The Pink (Not A Hunting Memoir) Released
Yeeshkul forum: Nick Sedgwick "in the Pink"