Rob Chapman

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2010-06-26

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 

2010-07-03

Syd meets... a lot of people

Meic Stevens
Meic Stevens.

Syd meets Meic

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

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

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

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

Spike Hawkins
Spike Hawkins.

Syd meets Spike Hawkins

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

Syd meets Dominique

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

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

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

A mysterious brunette.
A mysterious brunette.

Syd meets Carmel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syd almost meets R.D. Laing

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Syd was actually surrounded by mad people.

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

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

Mini Cooper (based upon a remark from Dark Globe)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):

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

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

2010-10-16

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.

2011-01-30

Bonhams Sells Fake Barrett Poem

Bonhams Sells Fake Barrett Poem

Perhaps that is not entirely true, but at least we've got your attention.

Terrapin 9
Terrapin 9.

Terrapin

Terrapin was a Syd Barrett fanzine appearing from the early till the mid-Seventies. The alternatively wired Bernard White was one of the few who used to run the legendary magazine although it has mainly acquired this status through the amnesic mist of time. The magazine was badly written, badly styled, badly distributed and, to add insult to injury - somewhere in between - the different editors used the scarce pages of their own magazine to fight out some internal editorial wars. Call it a Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit avant la lettre, quoi.

But of course Terrapin occasionally had its peak moments. A young Robert Chapman, whom we all know from his excellent work of fiction A Very Irregular Head, debuted in Terrapin number 2 with his review of the February 1972 Stars gig at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge. He had it mainly wrong, so he was already creating a habit there.

A smart trip

The most intriguing piece in Terrapin did not come from Rob Chapman, nor Bernard White, but from the mad bard himself. Issue 9 (July 1974) had a previously unpublished poem, written by Syd Barrett, titled: A Rooftop Song In A Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point. Several weird theories have surfaced about it and one of them goes that the starting letters of its title form the witty anagram 'a smart trip'. Not all Barrett fans believe the poem was written by Syd, but - and otherwise this article would have no reason at all - let's assume he did. The poem, as it appeared in 1974, can be found in our Rooftop gallery. It is in Bernard White's handwriting, as are most pages of Terrapin, because there was no typewriter around when he created the fanzine.

Bonhams

Fast forward to 2010. On the 4th of December Barrett scholars found that the Bonhams auction house was going to sell the following: Sale 17974 - Entertainment Memorabilia, 15 Dec 2010 - Lot No: 148:

A Syd Barrett poem, circa late 60s/early 70s, signed, in black ballpoint on a small piece of paper, entitled 'A Rooftop Song In A Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point', thirteen lines, beginning, 'With yellow red and foomy food, and quivered / crouching on a golden cushion / Undressed himself to dissapear (sic) through an infinity of pleasure...', the reverse with part of a question/answer piece, one side covered in tape, 12.5 x 13cm (5 x 5in) approx. Estimate: £2,000 - 3,000, EUR 2,300 – 3,500.
(Note: a facsimile can be found at our Rooftop gallery.)

But what was most interesting, intriguing and salivating was the footnote at the bottom of the Bonhams page:

This will feature in a book about Syd to be launched in March 2011, with an exhibition at Idea Generation, and the Barrett family have confirmed this is in Syd's hand.
See Emily Play lyrics (Syd Barrett)
See Emily Play lyrics (Syd Barrett).

Almost immediately the allusion that the piece was in Syd's handwriting was questioned by some fans. At the left side there is a snippet of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play and that is how Syd Barrett's handwriting looked like. Late Night member Dark Globe did a fine job by comparing Barrett's and White's handwriting and concluded:

To me, the handwriting on the Bonhams poem itself looks closer to BW's handwriting than to Syd's. (Syd's handwriting tended to slope to the left all throughout his life). I'd guess that the Bonhams item is actually a draft written in a looser hand by Bernard White for the final version which appears in the fanzine. (Taken from: Rooftop for Sale.)

Brettjad at Madcaps Laughing remarked: “I don't get it. If it's Syd's, then why did he write that interview on the reverse?”

A pertinent question indeed. The Anchor took the liberty of taking a closer look at the backside of the document (see gallery). One of the first assumptions the Anchor can make is that the sold snippet was cut out of a larger piece of paper as the top of the backside horizontally slits a sentence in half. But that is not all there is to see.

Giovanni Dadomo

The backside text contains a Syd Barrett interview, taken by Giovanni Dadomo, probably in 1971, but only published three years later in Terrapin. And still that is not all.

The backside transcript is (partly) page 5 of Terrapin 10. In other words: here is the original page, in Bernard White's handwriting, before it was printed and distributed to its subscribers in August 1974. The underneath illustration hopefully proofs that both are identical (first line: Terrapin 10; second line: Bonhams poem - back side).

Terrapin vs. Bonhams
Comparing Terrapin with Bonhams.

Missing the point

Let's digest this for a while, while we have a go at the poem itself. According to Bonhams, Barrett's family has confirmed it is in Syd's hand although they fail to produce a certificate of authenticity or to simply name the family member who has testified this. If they can't it is hearsay, to say the least.

For the sake of argument, let's believe the poem is in Syd's handwriting. Why then did super-fan & collector Bernard White prefer to publish a copy of the poem in his handwriting rather than to publish Syd's original? Surely someone must have been missing a point?

In Terrapin 9 White thanks 'Hypgnosis for the poem and photos'. Still following Bonhams train of thought this means that Po (Aubrey Powell) or Storm (Thorgerson) gave Bernard White an original Syd Barrett document without asking for a receipt. That's not how we know them, especially not in 1974.

Anoraks have of course spotted the mistake in the previous paragraph. Bernard White thanks Hypgnosis, not Hipgnosis. As legendary as his fanzine are his spelling errors (in one issue he jokingly described himself as 'Bernard M White: spelling mistakes and all other errors'). The Rooftop paper has got two: 'your writting' and 'to dissapear'. White's spelling errors are as unique as his handwriting and the 'dissapear' error is repeated in both versions of the poem. Oops!

Bonhams' Barrett vs Terrapin's White

To end the discussion, once and for all, let's have a look at the two known Rooftop copies: blue is Bonhams (Syd Barrett), red is Terrapin (Bernard White). Hmmm...

Terrapin vs. Bonhams
Comparing Terrapin with Bonhams.

It is in a book, ergo it must be true

Not only does Bonhams claim that the poem is in Barrett's handwriting, they also maintain that their version is going to be published 'in a book about Syd to be launched in March 2011, with an exhibition at Idea Generation'.

Who could be better situated to acknowledge this than Russell Beecher, the editor of Barrett, The definitive visual companion to the life of Syd Barrett. Unfortunately he told the Anchor:

We also thought that the poem wasn't written in Syd's hand so we haven't included it in the book. I am not sure about the family authentication but I think, as you and we have worked out, that point is irrelevant as we know it's not Syd's writing. (…) A shame though - would have been a great find!

Indeed, there must still be a third version of the Rooftop poem somewhere, the one - (perhaps) in Syd's handwriting - that Bernard White copied in the Hipgnosis headquarters. But that is not the one that was recently auctioned.

It's a gas!

On the 15th of December of 2010 a collector paid 2,160 £ for this original piece of Bernard White's handwriting, probably believing that it was Syd's. (Some information has now been removed from the Bonhams website but the Anchor has a screenshot.)

It was then when the Anchor decided to contact Bonhams to ask them if, perhaps, an eeny weeny teeny meeny mistake had been made.

An automated reply from Leonora O. learned us that she was out until the 5th of January and that for all queries we should try another mail address, that happened to be exactly the same address than the one we had send our questions to. So we waited, until the year was finally over...

In January we contacted Bonhams a second time. We got a reply from Katherine B. who was so friendly to inform us that Stephanie C. was going to answer us immediately.

Just before this article went into print (or should we say: upload) we informed again if Stephanie C. finally had any comments. Alas, she was too busy waiting for the ink to dry on a recently found Apple iPod that has John Lennon's signature on it and couldn't come to the phone.

Bernard White and Syd Barrett, sharing a Guinness at the great gig in the sky, are probably laughing their arses off.


The Anchor wishes to thank:
Russell Beecher,
Dark Globe who made an excellent comparison of Barrett's and White's handwriting at Late Night. Further analysis shows that the letter d in 'seasoned' (from the Bonhams poem) and the letter d in 'Bernard' (as in White's signature) are coming from the same person (post #9).

The documents, discussed above, can be consulted in our Rooftop gallery.

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.

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.

2012-03-26

Formentera Lady

Formentera Magical Mystery Tour
Formentera Magical Mystery Tour.

Despite the fact that the sixties children of the revolution all wanted to express their individualism and refused to be a part of the square 9 to 5 world they all managed to show up at the same places, dress virtually the same and take the same chemical substances.

This also applied for their holidays. Although they had been seeing each other the whole year in old rainy England, in summer they would pack their bags and flee – en masse – to the same cool (but sweaty) locations, following the so-called Hippie Trail.

The Hippie Trail extended to the Himalayas and several Cantabrigian hipsters made it to the Indies, looking for a guru who would teach them things a local vicar couldn't teach them. Paul Charrier, one of the Cantabrigian mods, beats or whatever denomination they liked that week, was one of the first to witness this. When he returned to England and opened his bag of tricks, he managed to convert a few others to the narrow path of Sant Mat, but others, like Storm Thorgerson and Matthew Scurfield, opposed to this 'wave of saccharine mysticism hitting our shores' (see also: We are all made of stars).

India and Pakistan were long and hazardous journeys and for those who only had a few weeks to spend there were always the Balearic islands where they would meet at La Tortuga or La Fonda Pepe.

Some 700 hippies arrived in Formentera in 1968 and by the summer of 1969 there were already 1,300, almost one for every 2.5 islanders. They didn’t stay all year round but were usually university students spending their holidays on the island. In 1970, Franco’s regime threw all 3,000 of them off Ibiza and Formentera. According to the regime, the hippies gave the place a bad name, but the islanders didn’t agree – for them the hippies were simply tourists. (Taken from: Thinkspain.)

Of course the islands of Formentera and Ibiza (Balearic Islands) already had some reputation of their own. The place not only gained popularity by (American) writers and artists after the second world war for its mild climate, but also because it was a central drug smuggling point. The heroes of Beat literature not only liked the bohemian's life, but in their quest for nonconformity they also actively sought contact with 'the perilous margins of society - pimps, whores, drug dealers, petty thieves'.

Quite some Dutch artists visited the place, for one reason or another. The proto-hippie-folk singing duo Nina & Frederik (Dutch-Danish, in fact), who had some hits in the fifties and early sixties, lived there. In his later life Frederik Van Pallandt attempted a career as drug smuggler and his murder in 1994 may have been a direct result. Other artist included poet Simon Vinkenoog, author Jan Cremer and Black & Decker trepanist Bart Huges. The sixties saw visits from the Beatles, the Stones and in their wake some beautiful people from London (for a more detailed list: Ibiza in the beatnik & hippie eras.)

1963

David Gale, his girlfriend Maureen, Dave Henderson, Storm Thorgerson and John Davies went to Ibiza in 1963 for their holidays where they visited Formentera island for a day. Back at home they all decided to have another holiday there.

1965

Mary Wing (and her friend Marc Dessier) found Formentera so beautiful that in 1965 they decided to stay there.

Syd Barrett, Formentera 1967.
Syd Barrett, Formentera 1967.

1967

Nick Mason acknowledges that after the '14 hour technicolour dream' (29 April 1967) the band was very tired and that Syd showed more severe symptoms than the others. Despite all that the continuous, eight days a week, gigging went on with the mythical Games For May concert two weeks later (12 May), the memorable Hans Keller BBC interview (14 May) and the See Emily Play recording session (18 May). There were nearly daily concerts or recording sessions between May and June of that year, but little by little cracks started to appear in their overcrowded agenda.

June, 11: two cancelled concerts in Holland
June, 18: public appearance on a bikini fashion show for Radio London, cancelled
June, 24: two cancelled concerts in Corby and Bedford
June, 25: two cancelled concerts in Manchester

On Thursday, July the 27th 1967, the Pink Floyd mimed (for the third time) on the Top Of the Pops show although Barrett was rather reluctant to do it. The next day they had a recording session for the BBC, but apparently Syd was seen leaving the block when it was their turn. This time the band and its management took Syd's behaviour seriously and decided to cancel all August gigs (with the exception of some studio recording sessions).

Update September 2012: one of these cancelled gigs was the 7th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival that was visited by Iggy the Eskimo: Iggy - a new look in festivals.

Now what would you do when the lead singer of your band has got mental problems due to his abundant drug intake? You send him to a hippie, drug infested, island under the supervision of a psychedelic doctor who thinks that LSD has been been the best invention since masturbation.

Sam [Hutt, aka Smutty] was the underground's very own house doctor, sympathetic to drug users and musicians: as Boeing Duveen And The Beautiful Soup and later Hank Wangford, Sam was able to introduce a performer’s perspective. (Nick Mason)

In 1969 Smutty would have his medical office at Jenny Fabian's apartment: “I did find it a bit weird though, trying to lie around stoned listening to the sounds of vaginal inspections going on behind the curtain up the other end of the sitting-room."

Hell O Formentera © Stanislav
Hell O' Formentera © Stanislav Grigorev.

After a first attempt in the studio on Scream Thy Last Scream, Pink Floyd finally went on holiday for the second half of August. Syd Barrett, Lindsay Corner, Rick Wright, Juliette Gale (Wright), Dr. Sam Hutt, his wife and baby went to Formentera while Roger Waters and Judy Trim (Waters) headed for Ibiza. They all had a good time, except for Barrett who – during a storm - panicked so hard he literally tried to climb the walls of the villa, an anecdote that is so vehemently trashed by biographer Rob Chapman that it probably did happen.

In retrospect the decision to take a hippie doctor on holiday wasn't that stupid. One of the underlying ideas was that he would be able to communicate with Syd on the same level. The band, conscientiously or not, were also aware that 'there was a fear that sending Syd to a [traditional] doctor for observation might lead to his being sectioned in a mental hospital'.

In those days most care centres in Great Britain were still Victorian lunatic asylums where medical torture was mildly described as therapy. At least these were the horrid stories told by the people who had been so lucky to escape.

He showed me to the room that was to be mine. It was indeed a cell. There was no door knob on the inside, the catch had been jammed so that the door couldn't be shut properly, the window was high up in the wall and had bars over it, and there was only a standard issue bed and locker as furniture. (William Pryor)

Nobody wanted this to happen to Syd, but a less prosaic thought was this would have meant the end of the band, something that had to be carefully avoided. “The idea was to get Syd out of London, away from acid, away from all his friends who treated him like a god.”, Rick Wright explained but in reality Dr. Hutt, and the others, merely observed Syd Barrett, catatonic as ever and still 'munching acid all the time'. Nick Mason, in his usual dry style: “It was not a success.”

Whoever thought that giving Barrett a few weeks of rest was going to evaporate the demons from his brain must have been tripping himself and on the first of September the agenda was resumed as if nothing had happened. The first 6 days were filled with gigs and recording sessions. Three days later a Scandinavian tour with the legendary Gyllene Cirkeln and Starclub gigs, followed by an Irish Tour and later, in October, the disastrous North American Tour...

Although the previous paragraphs may seem harsh they are not meant to criticise the people nor their actions. It is easy to pinpoint what went wrong 45 years ago, but as it is impossible to predict an alternative past we will never know if any other action would have had a different or better effect. The Reverend is convinced that Syd's friends, band members and management tried to do their best to help him, but unfortunately they were running in the same insane treadmill as he was. Syd wasn't the only one to be exhausted and at the same time the atmosphere was imbibed with the 'summer of love' philosophy of respecting someone's personal freedom, even if it lead to self-destruction...

1968

In 1968 Aubrey 'Po' Powell (Floydian roadie and later Hipgnosis member) visited the Formentera island together with some friends.

I first came here forty-one years ago [interview taken in 2009, FA] with David Gilmour, and then the year afterwards with Syd Barrett. The first year I came to Formentera I stayed about four months living like a hippie, and I just fell in love with it. (…) Also it was kind of difficult to get to. You had to get the plane to Ibiza and then the ferry which at that time was the only ferry that went between Ibiza and Formentera and that took about two hours to get across and it only went twice a day. So it was an effort to get there, you know, it was a rather remote place. But a lot of writers, painters and musicians gravitated there. (Taken from: Aubrey Powell: Life, light and Formentera’s influence on Hipgnosis.)
a smile from a veil
A smile from a veil.

1969

Shortly after Syd Barrett watched the first moon-landing (that had been given a Pink Floyd soundtrack on the BBC) he panicked when he found out that his pal Emo (Iain Moore) and a few others (Po, John Davies) had left Albion for sunny Formentera. He literally grabbed a bag of cash and dirty clothes and headed to Heathrow, driven there by Gala Pinion.

The story goes that Syd tried to stop an aeroplane taxiing on the tarmac. In at least one version the plane actually stopped and took him on board, but other say he had to wait for the next departure. Again it is biographer Rob Chapman who categorises this anecdote as 'unsubstantiated nonsense', on the weird assumption that it failed to make the newspapers, but other biographies have also omitted this story for simply being too unbelievable.

Anyway, somewhere in July or early August 1969 Syd arrived in Ibiza and met Emo who was on his way to San Fernando (Formentera). The biographies Crazy Diamond (Mike Watkinson & Pete Anderson), Madcap (Tim Willis) and Dark Globe (Julian Palacios) all add bits and pieces to that particular holiday.

Iain Moore: “He had a carrier bag of clothes that I could smell from where I was standing.”

Emo says Syd's behaviour was pivoting like a see-saw. One moment he could be seen laughing, joking and singing with the gang; the next moment he could snap into an emotional freeze. It was useless to warn him for the blistering sun and in the end his friends 'had to grab him, hold him down, and cover him from head to toe in Nivea'.

At Formentera Syd stayed with Mary Wing, who had left Great Britain in 1965 to live on the island with Marc Dessier. According to them Barrett was a gentle soul but 'like a little brother who needed looking after'. Barrett was in good form and to an audience of European hippies he claimed he was still the leader of Pink Floyd.

Barrett borrowed Dessier's guitar: “Then he sat there, chose a letter of the alphabet and thought of his three favourite words starting with the same letter. He wrote them on three bits of paper, threw them in the air and wrote them again in the order that he picked them up.” This technique was not uncommon for beat poets and Syd may have been inspired by Spike Hawkins who showed Barrett his Instant Poetry Broth book the year before.

One Formantera picture shows Syd with an unknown girl who hides her nudity behind a red veil. The (copyrighted) picture can be found on John Davies MySpace page (image link) and has been published in the Crazy Diamond biography and on A Fleeting Glimpse.

For Pink Floyd buffs the picture shares a resemblance with the red veil picture on the Wish You Were Here liner bag, that actually exists in a few different versions. Storm Thorgerson has used the past from the band and its members for his record covers, backdrop movies and videos on several occasions, like the Barrett vinyl compilation that had a cover with a plum, an orange and a matchbox.

Hipgnosis collaborator 'Po' Powell was with Syd in Formentera in 1969, but what does Storm Thorgerson has to say about it all? He reveals that the idea for the veil came from John Blake, and not from Po:

John Blake suggested using a veil – symbol of absence (departure) in funerals ans also a way of absenting (hiding) the face. This was the last shot (…) which was photographed in Norfolk.

And in Mind Over Matter:

The red muslin veil is an universal item, or symbol, of hiding the face, either culturally as in Araby, or for respect as in funerals. What's behind the veil?
Sarah Sky, Formentera 1969
Sarah Sky, Formentera 1969.

Formentera Lady

According to Nick Mason a female nude can be seen on the Wish You Were Here inside cover but of course this doesn't say anything about the unknown woman on Formentera. Who is she?

Nobody knows. And that secret remained a secret for over 40 years.

Now let's suppose a witness would show up who remembers she has been seen walking near Earl's Court.
And that she was called Sarah Sky although that probably was not her real name.
And that she spoke with a foreign accent and lived in London.
And that Sarah Sky vanished around the late 1970's and has never been heard of since.

Partially solving a problem only makes it bigger. A new quest has begun.

Updates

Iain Moore

Update 2012.05.26: According to Emo (Iain Moore) Sarah Sky may have been one of the girls who went with them to Formentera. The Syd Barrett Archives (Facebook) have the following quote:

Actually, I spoke to Emo last night and he said she was just another person who was staying at the house they rented. It was a nudist beach, lol. At least Syd kept his pants on this time! (…)
Anyway, Emo said they didn't know her and he couldn't remember who she was with. (...)
The girl in this photo is name unknown. She was American and staying in a house in Ibiza. She was visiting Formentera for the day.

Iain has, since then, reconfirmed that the Formentera Girl was an American tourist. He has also posted a new picture of Syd and the girl.

Nigel Gordon

Update August 2012: Author and movie maker Nigel Gordon does not agree with a quote in the above text, taken from Matthew Scurfield:

I just want to respond briefly to your article on Formentera etc where you wrote or quote that Santmat is ‘saccharine mysticism’. I don’t agree with you. Santmat recommends that we meditate for two and a half hours a day. It’s pretty ‘salty’!

Uschi Obermaier

Update February 2015: Some 'sources' on the web pretend the Formentera girl is none other than German photo-model Uschi Obermaier. Obviously this is not true and if you want to know how the Church came to this conclusion you can read everything at Uschi Obermaier: Proletarian Chic.


Many thanks to: Nina, ebronte, Julian Palacios, Jenny Spires.

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 90, 131.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 228, 341.
Davis, John: Childhood's End, My Generation Cambridge 1946-1965.
De Groot, Gerard: The Sixties Unplugged, Pan Macmillan, London, 2009, p. 27.
Gordon, Nigel: Santmat, email, 18.08.2012.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 286.
Green, Jonathon: All Dressed Up, Pimlico, London, 1999, p. 255.
Mason, Nick, Inside Out, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 95-97.
Palacios, Julian: A mile or more in a foreign clime': Syd and Formentera @ Syd Barrett Research Society, 2009 (forum no longer active).
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 265, 353.
Pryor, William: The Survival Of The Coolest, Clear Books, 2003, p. 106.
Scurfield, Matthew: I Could Be Anyone, Monticello Malta 2009, p. 176.
Spires, Jenny: The Syd Barrett Archives, Facebook, 2012.
Thorgerson, Storm: Mind Over Matter, Sanctuary Publishing, London, 2003, p. 80.
Thorgerson, Storm: Walk Away René, Paper Tiger, Limpsfield, 1989, p. 150.
Thorgerson, Storm & Powell, Aubrey: For The Love Of Vinyl, Picturebox, Brooklyn, 2008, p. 104 (essay written by Nick Mason).
Watkinson, Mike & Anderson, Pete: Crazy Diamond, Omnibus Press, London, 1993, p. 90-91.
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 113-114.

2013-09-27

Making it clear...

I am him
I am him?

Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten message, somewhere in 2003? It might be true, or not, depending from your point of view.

Food and drink

The story of Syd turning into an involuntarily hermit may be correct to a certain extent, but this doesn't mean the man didn't interact with the world around him.

Now and then some anecdotes sip through, almost accidentally, like MvB who told the Church that Syd Barrett had dinner at her parent's home one day, probably in 1970. These were strange psychedelic days and her parents, journalists who must have been groovy folk, allowed her to go on her own to Syd's apartment afterwards. She wasn't really impressed with what was happening there, which is slightly understandable, as she was still more or less into Barbie dolls.

It's also weird how this Earth has changed for the past 40 years, because sending a young girl into something that has been described by others as a notorious free drugs & free sex den isn't something we would approve of nowadays, unless that description was an exaggeration as well. But like we said, these were different times.

We all know that Syd Barrett liked a good beer or two. So from time to time he would jump on the tube from Earl's Court, pass Gloucester Road and get off at South Kensington, where he would walk to a pub nearby. All highly irrelevant stuff that Sydiots like to collect, like Panini trading cards.

It is because there is this Barrett's lost weekend which, in his case, took three decades. That is why we cling to every little detail we can get hold of and extrapolate it as being emblematic for his entire life.

Sometimes an anecdote gets to lead its own life like the story that Barrett was writing The History Of Art, a titbit that has been reheated by fans and books and articles for nearly two decades, that can be traced back to a quote from his sister and that was nothing more than a chronological list of painters.

Radharani Krishna (blurred)
Radharani Krishna (intentionally blurred).

Radharani Krishna

Often we are simply willing to believe an unconfirmed anecdote because it is the only thing we can relate to. Rob Chapman in his Irregular Head biography vehemently wanted to debunk the false rumours and 'unsubstantiated nonsense' about the man but quite a few readers feared he might have created one himself.

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. (Taken from: The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory.)

Chapman didn't materialise this witness from his high hat though as she was originally a Laughing Madcaps group member. Kiloh Smith wittingly observes that this is another proof that Rob Chapman was 'skimming off original material' from forums and mailing groups for his biography. Nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as you give a friendly nod here and there. Radha's first message appeared on the 13th of March 2007:

My name is Radha, and I wanted to say a personal "hello" to everyone in this group as I've just joined today. (Radharani, Laughing Madcaps, 13 March 2007)

Soon Radha (short for Radharani Krishna) added some pretty innocent anecdotes:

I remember he used to walk to the shops in town and sometimes stopped to tell us little kids some silly nonsense rhyme or listen to ours and laugh with us. I never knew he was anybody other than a sweet older fellow who lived up the road and never went to work! (Radharani, Laughing Madcaps, 16 March 2007)

It's a pity really that Radharani's comments, about 40 in total, can only be consulted by accessing the Yahoo Laughing Madcaps group, that for one reason or another has been declared a no tress-passing area for the Church. In 1998 she left Cambridge for London to be 'rich and famous' and that is when she said goodbye to Roger:

He said Cambridge'd be dull without me (…) and we had a long talk that, knowing what I know now, really gives me the old throat-lump. I didn't realise it at the time, but he was really giving me a lot of himself. I think he must have done this with some of the other kids I grew up with who left home the way he had done, with big dreams and not much experience. I think it was his chance to be a dad. (Radharani, Laughing Madcaps, 20 March 2007)

It was at this point when Radha was first accused, in the group's typical cynical style, of being a fraud, she published less and less and finally disappeared in 2008.

I think the myth of RKB as a mean-spirited old curmudgeon or some sort of vacant-eyed schizo burnout is dreadfully one-dimensional and out of touch with the reality and intricacies of human nature. I cannot speak for his interaction with people who came in from the outside, but he was always polite to people in town. Some days he had more time to give than others, but he always waved or smiled as he passed our gate. (Radharani, Laughing Madcaps, 21 March 2007)

When Rob Chapman was researching for his book Radha's existence was confirmed to him by Ian Barrett, who may have met her and who confirmed she had lived two doors away from Roger.

As in all good stories this isn't all. A nice overview of the Radha controversy can be found on the Syd Barrett Pink Floyd blog and if you really want to delve into the sore details you can always check the Neptune Pink Floyd forum.

It's awfully considerate

But people who are accustomed to the Church's customs probably know that the previous was just a lengthy introduction to today’s sermon.

Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten message, somewhere in 2003? Here is the story that is so unbelievable it could be true.

10 years ago, at 15, Jonathan Charles was a bit Syd Barrett obsessed. He would sit at the computer after school and do tons of research on Syd & early Pink Floyd. Collecting photos, reading articles and interviews, looking for items on eBay. Like the rest of the world he also tried to find out where Syd lived, but Barrett's address was impossible to find. But from time to time he would look for it again and one day a certain Roger Barrett in Cambridge turned up.

I really can't remember exactly where I found it though it was not a typical yellow pages or similar site. I searched the address on a map online to check it out further. I'm pretty sure these were the days before Google street view so I wasn't sure if it really was his place. I decided to send a letter even though I thought I probably wouldn't get a response. I did feel I should leave him alone but my curiosity got the best of me I guess... (Taken from: I sent a letter to Syd in 2003 - was returned with a note.)

In his letter Jon asked a number of things but he mostly wanted to know details about Roger's current life and of course there was the obligatory 'I'm a big fan' stuff. One day an envelope from the UK arrived but with no return address on it. Inside was Jon's original letter with a note added at the bottom. It read:

note at bottom of letter
Note at the bottom of the letter.
DEAR JONATHAN,
NOT ME – I AM NOT THIS MAN – I AM
AN OLD AGE PENSIONER – AND NOT HIM.
SORRY TO DISSAPPOINT YOU.

The note, written in capitals and with several words underlined, stressed several times that the man who had received the letter was not Syd Barrett, all in all a strange way to react. At 15 Jon thought nothing more of it and the letter landed in a drawer until it was rediscovered a few weeks ago.

Jon decided to compare the handwriting of the note (also from the address on the envelope) with that of Syd at a later age and concluded there are some similarities, especially in the M's, N's and T's.

Jon's comparison
Jon's comparison.

As usual in these kind of matters there are opposite views. Alexander, who has some originals from Barrett in his collection, remarked that the capital 'D' is not at all the capital 'D' we know from Syd, but Younglight, at the other hand, also discovered that, in this note, Barrett uses a lowercase-type 'U', just like he had done in the sausage-thief letter from 1963.

sausage thief
Barrett's sausage thief.

A quick check by the Church confirms indeed that Barrett often wrote a lowercase 'U' in uppercase sentences. Examples can be found on a letter to Libby from 1963 or on the 'deddly dumpty' part of the Fart Enjoy booklet.

Although short, a lot can be told by analysing the message. Wolfpack did this at the Late Night forum and returned with a couple of observations.

1. For someone just getting a wrongly addressed letter, this answer is quite long.

The return note is indeed not logical. A normal response would have been: “Sorry Jon, you've send this letter to the wrong address so I am returning it.” There are several stories of how Roger Barrett told visitors that Syd wasn't there and this note surely reflects the same style.

2. The word 'NOT' is used 3 times: two times underscored, the 3rd time double underscored. The writer seems to put a lot of emotion in not being this man.

The note is almost a distress call, all in capitals and stressing several times he is not the man Jonathan thinks he is. But by denying it once too many the author unwillingly admits the opposite.

3. The old age pensioner might hint at being an old retired rock star.

Probably Jon mentioned Syd the rock star in his letter and a logical answer would have been: “Sorry mate, but I have been a bus driver all my life.” Or a teacher, a farmer, an undertaker. But none of that in the answer, an answer that seems to imply: I am an old age pensioner now and not the young music god you take me for but who I once was.

4. The spelling of 'dissappoint' matches with another unverified text, which is certainly in a fan's handwriting.

Wolfpack hints at the Rooftop In A Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point poem where 'dissapear' is written with a double 'S'. Unfortunately an original in Syd's handwriting didn't survive (or went missing) and we only have two (handwritten) copies made by Bernard White, that can be consulted in our Rooftop gallery: Rooftop 1, Rooftop 2.

It leaves us with the puzzling question: did Syd Barrett really write 'dissapear' or did the copier made an error? We will never know until the original shows up that might still be in Storm Thorgerson's psychedelic ordered archives.

Bonhams once tried to sell this copy as a genuine Syd Barrett piece and when the Church revealed this (with the help of many Late Night members) they didn't even thank us for pointing this out to them, read all about that in Bonhams Sells Fake Barrett Poem.

5. The writing style is poetic. The writing style is melodic. The visual composition (text layout) is aesthetic.

This is entirely Wolfpack's point of view and you can check his ideas and theories on the Late Night forum, if you want.

Jon, I'm only dancing...
Jonathan Charles .

I'm not here

The Holy Church asked Jon to get a closer look on the envelope, but all we have obtained so far is that it had two 2 stamps, one of 1£ and one of 5 pence. Jon further explains:

I ended up looking very closely at the post office ink stamp on the envelope and found a date. It should be correct because there is another stamp on the other side that says AU10P. The one on the front is 030810. August 10th, 2003.

So is this note the real deal, or not?

A look at the handwriting seems to point to that direction and the message itself is in accordance with the anecdotes of the mad bard as we know him.

On the other hand this could all be an intelligent and very elaborate hoax, done by someone who admits he was (and still is) somewhat of a Barrett obsessed fan. The comparison of the letters (see image above) could have been made as a 'visual aid' to imitate Syd's handwriting, rather than to prove the opposite.

Adding the deliberate spelling error 'dissapoint' (thus repeating the mistake on the Rooftop poem) could be an indication that the forger thought this spelling error was Barrett's and not Bernard White's.

And then there is still a third possibility, as proposed by Alexander:

...there were not many Roger Barretts in Cambridge which is a small city. And (it is) quite possible that Syd has asked somebody to write something and send it back.
It´s a male longhand, I´m sure. So, not Rosemary, but a brother or the postman or a shop owner etc... etc...

What exactly is a joke

But at then end, does it really matter? If enough people believe this is real, it is real, even if it isn't.

Did Roger Keith Barrett send a Canadian fan a handwritten message, somewhere in 2003? It might be true, or not, but it makes a nice story and adds to the kaleidoscopic viewpoint we have of the man who once was Syd.


Notes:
Radha went to America where she attempted a brief modelling career. She has published some well written slash fiction about the early days of Pink Floyd. Since 2008 she has completely disappeared from the Barrett spectrum.
Jonathan also send a copy of the 'Barrett' note to Mojo where it was (apparently) published in Issue 240, November 2013. Many thanks to Michael Rawding for finding this. This seems to indicate, in our opinion, that a hoax can be ruled out.

The Church wishes to thank: Alexander, Jonathan Charles, Late Night, Laughing Madcaps, MvB, Psych62, Radharani Krishna, Michael Rawding, Wolfpack, Younglight. ♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Barrett, Ian: personal message on 11 March 2011.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 365-366.

2013-11-02

If you're going to Sausalito

Roger Barrett (photoshopped)
Roger & Syd (shopped by Felix Atagong).

Is there really a Barrett revival going on, or are we just seeing more Syd fans because our global village is getting smaller and smaller? I do remember the early seventies when the only guy you could speak to about Barrett was a freakish weirdo who smoked pot in the school toilets and who was generally avoided by everyone, including the school teachers.

The vibrant Birdie Hop Facebook group is sky-rocketing with over 1200 members and a dozen new threads a day, but the traditional forum has come to a standstill and survives on its three posters a day, so the feeling is a bit ambiguous.

Facebook may be here to stay (but that was once said from MySpace as well, remember?) but basically it sucks if you want to find information and you are not employed by the NSA. While traditional forums have this newbie rule to go looking in the archives before asking a question this is virtually impossible on Facebook, because their search system simply doesn't work and links are automatically made redundant after a certain time. The whole 'group' concept of Facebook is a laugh, especially for administrators. Underneath is a screenshot of an actual search on Facebook, trying to locate the thread (Facebook link no longer active) this article is about...

Sausalito Facebook Search
Sausalito Facebook Search Results.

So, by design, Facebook groups are condemned to have a flow of 'continuous repetition' to paraphrase the wise words of Dr. Hans Keller while the one interesting thread is floating down around the icy waters underground. (Wow, this is a good cigarette.)

Waiting for the man

A couple of weeks ago Baron Wolman's picture of Pink Floyd toying around at the Casa Madrona hotel in Sausalito (CA) was posted again and as usual there was that one individual asking if anybody knew who the bloke was standing behind the boys.

Picture by Baron Wolman, 11 November 1967
Picture: Baron Wolman, 11 November 1967."

As a matter of fact nobody remembers, not even Nick Mason, who writes in the coffee-table edition of Inside Out Note:

Tea on the terrace at our hotel in Sausalito on the hillside above San Fransisco Bay (…) I have no idea who our tea-time partner was – the hotel manager, an under assistant West Coast promotion man, or a vendor of Wild West apparel? We eventually acquired enough cowboy hats for the entire population of Dodge City, and Roger commissioned a six-gun holster in which he carried his wallet.

So here was another quest for the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, that splendid non-profit organisation, lead by that fantabulous mastermind Reverend Felix Atagong who has already solved several Barrettian riddles in the past.

Hotel California

The obvious first step was to contact the hotel that doesn't hesitate to put on its website that it is a legend since 1885 and that it drew celebrities such as Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, Warren Beatty and the rock band Pink Floyd.

We got a very friendly answer from Stefan Mühle, the general manager, that our guess was logical but that he didn't know either. Since 1967 the hotel changed hands a couple of times and the finer side of these anecdotes, that only seem to bother the Sydiots in the world, got lost in the mist of times.

Concert Poster 1967
Concert Poster 1967.

Before we continue with our quest, let's have a small history lesson.

In the summer of 1967 Syd Barrett suffered from something that was euphemistically referred to as over-fatigue. The band scrapped some gigs and send Barrett over to sunny Formentera under supervision of doctor Sam Hutt, the underground's leading gynaecologist. Unfortunately Smutty, as he was invariably called by his female patients, was the kind of doctor who rather prescribed LSD than aspirin. After some holidays in the sun Syd (and the rest of the boys) returned to England where the endless treadmill of gigging, recording, gigging, recording started all over again. (You can read more about the Floyd's holiday at Formentera Lady.)

In retrospect this was the moment that someone should've grabbed Syd by the balls, whether he wanted it or not, drag him back to Cambridge, cold turkey him and give him some proper therapy, although that was kind of non-existent in those days. William Pryor, a Cambridge beat poet who descended from the underground into a heroine maelström, describes the Cane Hill drug rehabilitation centre as a 'redecorated ward of a huge Victorian lunatic asylum village that had been given a coat of paint and a fancy name' where it was almost easier to score H than in the outside world.

This is not America

Pink Floyd's first American tour was planned between 23 October and 12 November 1967 but because there was a rather Kafkaesque bureaucratic system to get work permits up till 15 possible gigs had to be cancelled (according to Julian Palacios 8 had already been booked, Mark Blake sticks to 6 and Syd Barrett Pink Floyd dot com counts 10).

The trustworthy biographies all have (slightly) different stories but it is safe to say that the Floyd left for America with at least a week delay. Unfortunately they still couldn't enter the country and had to wait in Canada until their permits arrived while the management frantically tried to reschedule the gigs that had already been confirmed.

Concert Poster 1967
Concert Poster 1967.

Pink Floyd had been nicknamed 'The Light Kings of England' by Tower Records, but they had only played in small clubs up till now. When the Floyd had their first gig at San Francisco’s Winterland Auditorium on the 4th of November their light show was ridiculously small and amateurish compared to Big Brother and The Holding Company. But it was not only Janis Joplin's whiskey breath that blew Syd away.

The 1967 American tour was disastrous, to say the least, and quite a few gigs went horribly wrong. Luckily the natives were friendly, so friendly that at least one band member had to visit a venereal disease clinic back in the UK. Syd and Peter Wynne-Willson learned the hard way that American grass was much stronger than at home, leading to another ruined gig as Syd was apparently too stoned to handle his guitar. It is an educated guess that Syd tried some local drug varieties like DMT and STP that were much stronger than their British counterparts. DOM or STP or Serenity, Tranquility and Peace allegedly gave synaesthetic trips that could last for 18 hours and from testimonies by Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Mick Farren it is known that it could take a week for some (frightening) hallucinatory effects to disappear. Julian Palacios, who dedicates 11 pages to the Floyd's first American tour in Dark Globe, writes:

Associated with the downfall of Haight-Ashbury, on 11 November pink wedge-shaped pills containing 20-micrograms of DOM hit the Haight. Haight-Ashbury Medical Clinic treated eighteen cases of acute toxic psychosis in five hours. When Barrett and Wynne-Willson took STP in San Francisco, this was in all likelihood the same ‘pink wedge’.

Result: if Syd Barrett had been mad before, this tour only made him madder. At the Cheetah club he received an electroshock from his microphone and he reacted by looking around on stage for the next hour and a half, not singing, not playing his guitar. He would be incommunicado to the others for the rest of the tour, who weren't very keen to talk to him anyway. It needs to be said that not all gigs were catastrophic and some reviewers actually found the band interesting, but we wouldn't go that far by calling Syd's erratic behaviour a cleverly performed dadaist statement like Rob Chapman suggests.

Rolling Stone 1
Rolling Stone 1.

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

A brand new music magazine, called Rolling Stone, whose first issue had just appeared a couple of days before, wanted to do a feature on the new English underground sensation. They send over photographer Baron Wolman to the Casa Madrona hotel in Sausalito who found the lads in a good mood and joking around. But when the band performed at Winterland that night, the 11th of November, Ralph Gleason of Rolling Stone was so disappointed he decided not to publish the cover article and just reviewed the concert saying that 'Pink Floyd for all its electronic interest is simply dull in a dance hall'. This was also the gig where Syd detuned the strings of his guitar until they fell off, de facto ending his contribution for the rest of the show. The next day, on the last gig of the American tour, the band saw Syd walking off stage and for the first time voices were raised to kick him out.

In retrospect this was another moment that someone should've grabbed Syd by the balls, whether he wanted it or not, and drag him back to Cambridge, but the management insisted to immediately fly to Holland. Thirty-seven years later, Nick Mason more or less apologises:

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

This is the house

William Barrett Plaque
William Barrett Plaque.

Casa Madrona was build in February 1885 for (isn't it ironic?) William G. Barrett, a wealthy Vermont born lumber baron and Secretary-Treasurer for the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company. He and his family lived high above the town in his beautifully designed Italian Villa country home.

Architecturally, it was a mastery of craftmanship, a tall and stately mansion which stood upon the hill-side. Its three stories, with handsome porticos and verandas, projecting cornice with curved brackets, and hooded windows, received prominent recognition from the community. This resulted in an article in the Sausalito News in 1885, which praised Mr. Barrett's "New Mansion... its fine appearance, magnificent view", and called the Barrett place "one of the finest improved sites in Sausalito." (Taken from the National Register of Historic Places.)

In 1906 the house was sold to attorney John Patrick Gallagher who converted it into a successful hotel. For the next three decades Barrett House (and its four outbuildings) would be a hotel, a bar 'the Gallagher Inn' and a brothel, but that last is something you won't find at the hotel's website.

Barrett House
Barrett House.

During World War II, the property was used as temporary lodging for military families in transit and for the labourers of the nearby (military) shipyard. After the war it fell into disrepair and became known as a crash pad for the city’s burgeoning beatnik population.

In February 1959 Robert and Marie-Louise Deschamps, who had just immigrated from France, responded to an ad to run a 'small hotel'. Their children Marie-France and 24-year old Jean-Marie were there when they opened a nameless bar on the 27th of April 1959:

The building was in ruins. Mattresses on the floor, broken furniture - and very little of that. It was not ‘bohemian’ - it was a flop house!

The Deschamps family had no hotel experience and were rather unpleasantly surprised by the beatniks who rarely paid their bills. The bar was not an immediate success either, they would often find that the door had been smashed in at night and the beer stolen. The logical plan was to close the hotel, evict the hobos and start all over again.

San Mateo Times 1963-06-28
San Mateo Times, 1963-06-28.

When the renewed hotel, in exclusive French style, and an excellent restaurant 'Le Vivoir' were opened about a year later Jean-Marie left the parental home to sail the seven seas, working as a cook on Norwegian and Swedish ships. He returned to the hotel around the mid-sixties and moved into Cottage B. Several guests, from the pre-sixties bohemian days, were still living in the 'attached' cottages, including a Swedish baron who had served in the Waffen SS, an ex-CIA agent who claimed to have been a spy in Vienna, a mostly drunk beatnik writer and adventurer and, last but not least, a continuously depressed crew member of one of the planes that dropped the atom bomb on Japan.

In 1973 Casa Madrona was damaged by a series of mudslides and scheduled for demolition, but it was saved in 1976. Since then it changed owner several times and went even bankrupt in 2009. With the opening of a spa resort the hotel was, hopefully, given a new life and history.

Jean-Marie Deschamps

It is believed that Jean-Marie Deschamps, the owner's son, was living and working at the hotel when the Pink Floyd stayed there in November 1967, 2 months before his 32nd birthday. We contacted Baron Wolman who told us:

While I'm not entirely certain that he was Deschamps himself, for sure he was a principal in the hotel - owner, manager, chef, etc. Given the look, however, I would say your educated guess is probably correct...

Comparing the Floydian picture (1967) with one from 2005 it seems pretty safe to say there is a certain resemblance.
Update January 2014: The Deschamps family have confirmed it is Jean-Marie standing behind Pink Floyd.

JM Deschamps, 1967 and 2005
J.M. Deschamps, 1967 and 2005. Pictures: Baron Wolman & Yves Leclerc.

Jean was born on January 20, 1936 and passed away on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. In a (French) obituary it is written how Jean-Marie was an 'incorrigible globe-trotting vagabond' whose home was always 'elsewhere' and an anarchistic supporter of lost causes, like the rights of native Americans. Later on, despising the Bush administration, he was an ardent critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...

But once a cook, always a cook. The night before he died he asked his (fourth) wife Monica to note down the Christmas menu for his children and grandchildren, probably knowing that he wouldn't be there to attend. January 2010 saw a 'sumptuous feast' at the Barrel Room of the Sebastiani Winery in Sanoma (CA) where 150 guests honoured their friend, husband, father, grandfather. The place was a gathering of artists, writers, businessmen, hosts, globetrotters and vagabonds.

If only someone would have had the guts to find out earlier who was the man standing behind the band. It would've been swell to ask him about his meeting with the Floyd in 1967, but unfortunately now it is too late for that. We are pretty sure that it would have led to a tsunami of anecdotes as Jean-Marie Deschamps had always been a sailor and a vagabond at heart.

And we will never know what Syd thought of staying in Barrett House.

Alan Styles
Alan Styles & Iggy. Picture: Mick Rock.

An Ending In Style (or not)

We need an addendum as the Pink Floyd in Sausalito saga isn't over yet.

When Pink Floyd roadie Alan Styles, who used to be a punter on the river Cam, saw the house boats community in Sausalito he fell in love with the place and decided not to return home after the 1972-1973 Dark Side of the Moon tour. Alan, who was some kind of celebrity in Cambridge before anyone had heard of Pink Floyd, can be seen on the rear cover of the Ummagumma album and makes out the bulk of the 'musique concrète' on Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (Atom Heart Mother).

In 2000 a short movie was made about Style's life in Sausalito, but it was only released after his death in 2011. It is the story of a man wanting to be free in a world that keeps on abolishing freedom. In a nice gesture to their old friend Pink Floyd Ltd cleared the copyrights for the movie, as told by Viper:

Nick Mason messaged me on FB as I'd been asking on his site about permission to release the video about my uncle. Nick gave me PF's management details and in turn David Gilmour gave us permission to release the video as it contains original PF music.

But when the Reverend visited Jon Felix's YouTube channel this is all he got, apparently EMI (and a lot of other acronyms) don't give a fuck about what Nick Mason or David Gilmour are deciding or what friendship, compassion, remembrance and especially respect is all about:

blocked
Blocked Youtube movie.

In some kind of weird Floydian cosmic joke Alan Styles died on the same day as Jean-Marie Deschamps, but two years later, on the 8th of December 2011.

Somewhere we think we should try to make a point, but we can't think of anything right now.


Note: The memoires of Nick Mason's Inside Out are (90%) identical between the different editions. However, the hardcover 'deluxe' edition contains hundreds of photos that aren't in the cheaper soft-cover versions. These pictures all have funny and informative notes that aren't present in the paperback editions. Back to top.

Many thanks to: the Deschamps family, Jon Felix, Yves Leclerc, Stefan Mühle (Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa), Viper, Baron Wolman, USA National Register off Historic Places.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 95-96.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 198.
Leclerc, Yves: Bum Chromé, Blogspot, 9 décembre 2009, 10 janvier 2010.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004, p. 93.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 98-102.
Mühle, Stefan: JM Deschamps on Baron Wolman picture?, email, 21.10.2013.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 289-290, 298.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 45-46, 69.
Pryor, William: The Survival Of The Coolest, Clear Books, 2003, p. 106.
Wolman, Baron: Casa Madrona - Pink Floyd + unknown man, email, 14.10.2013.

Baron Wolman
Baron Wolman Photography
The Rolling Stone Years by Baron Wolman

Casa Madrona & Sausalito
Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa
Casa Madrona AKA William G. Barrett House @ National Register of Historic Places in Marin County.
Casa Madrona @ United States Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, National Register of Historic Places.
Casa Madrona, 1959 @ Marinscope, an interview with Jean-Marie Deschamps.
Colorful Casa Madrona Tales Keep Spilling Out @ Northbay Biz

Solo En Las Nubes
Curiosidades - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn de Tower Records, an interesting post about the Tower release of Pink Floyd's first album.

2014-03-07

Smart Enjoy

Andrew Rawlinson
Andrew Rawlinson.
NSFW warning: this article contains pictures of naked b⊚⊚bs which may result in temporary blindness for minors.

On the 5th of March 2009 the Syd Barrett Trust received Fart Enjoy, a one-off book, created and illustrated by Syd Barrett, believed to be made late 1964 or during 1965. It was donated by Syd's school friend Andrew Rawlinson who had kept it all these years. The day after it was put for auction on eBay. On Monday the 23rd March the highest bid reached £27,323 but this was rejected and brought back to £12,100. Eventually the book sold for £12,600.

Black Holes

The Trust published all the pages of the (f)art-book and a moving essay of Andrew Rawlinson about his friend. Unfortunately this has all disappeared. The trust was constructed around Barrett's heritage, estimated at about one million seven hundred-thousand pounds. Barrett's household articles and furniture made £119,890 for charity, the Two Warriors mosaic went for £10,700 and three (big) Mick Rock prints were auctioned as well, half of the proceedings going to the Fund. (Mick Rock always needs to have a slice of the pie.) And yet, 12 pounds a year to keep their website running was too much to ask, http://www.syd-barrett-trust.org.uk now points to a Japanese website trying to find nurses in Saitama city. (Update 2017: it now simply points to a blank page.)

All related websites (and organisations) seem to have vanished: Syd Barrett Trust, Syd Barrett Fund (the change of name took place at the request of the Barrett family), Interstellar, The City Wakes, Escape Artists,... We came across the rumour that Escape Artists was, and we quote: 'a financially incompetent group'. The Syd Barrett Fund was probably conned by 'useless PR men and bullshitters', but as we can't verify this we'll leave it like that. Eventually Escape Artists dissolved and Rosemary Breen, Syd's sister, teamed up with Squeaky Gate that seems seemed to be a more reliable charity.

Update 8 April 2014: The metaphorical ink on this page wasn't even dry or we were informed, on 30 March 2014, that Squeaky Gate may need to close the books. While chief executive Simon Gunton told the Cambridge News (on the 7th of April) that the fundings, coming from the government, were running dry, the rumour pit in Cambridge has a slightly more salient story of several ten thousands of pounds disappearing from its bank account. Syd Barrett & charity: it's no good trying.
Update 9 April 2014: We have had confirmation that Squeaky Gate is now history.

Fart Enjoy, missing page
The Fart Enjoy missing page.

Piper Gates

Luckily Fart Enjoy was reprinted in its entirety for the 40th anniversary edition of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn CD-box (2007).

In its entirety?

Well not exactly. Page 13 was missing and replaced by the following cryptic text:

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

For many fans the abundance of the 'fuck' word (9 times) and the presence of a pin-up might have had something to do with that. Especially in America big chains do not like to sell records that may potentially besmirch the frail American psyche with swear words and naked boobs. Going to the official Pink Floyd website obviously didn't explain anything at all, so Keith Jordan of Neptune Pink Floyd contacted the band's management:

Pink Floyd's manager told me earlier that the page is missing from the album booklet because of copyright issues. EMI are not willing to face unlimited litigation against them for including it! So it's not about censorship at all!

Which is weird as the missing page had been published in Tim Willis's Madcap book before and it can be still found on the NPF website (and numerous others) as well.

Fart Enjoy Pin-Up
Fart Enjoy Pin-Up.

Scribbled Lines

Should you not know what all this hassle is about, at the left is the picture in question. It surely gives the impression that Roger Keith Barrett, like most pimpled adolescents, had a rather debatable sense of humour and was overtly sexist, putting raunchy graffiti (FUK, SUK, LIK, TIT, NIPL and a hard to find CUNT), including a stylised penis, all over the picture. Rob Chapman describes it as:

a porn-mag photo of a topless woman encrypted with toilet-wall graffiti daubs.

And Julian Palacios adds that the page reveals Barrett's:

misogynistic adolescent fear and a fascination with naked women.

In Will Shutes' excellent Barrett essay, that like all art essays meanders between the sublime and the slightly ridiculous, he cleverly remarks that the BOYS FUCK GIRL word permutations - on the same page - form 'two tip-to-toe penises'.

  BOYS      FUCK      GIRL
  BOY   FS   UCK      GIRL
  BO   FYUS   CK      GIRL
  B   FOUYCS   K      GIRL
  F   BUOCYK   S      GIRL
  FU   BCOK   YS      GIRL 
  FUC   BK   OYS      GIRL
  FUCK      BOYS      GIRL
  FUCK      BOY   GS   IRL
  FUCK      BO   GYIS   RL
  FUCK      B   GOIYRS   L
  FUCK      G   BIORYL   L
  FUCK      GI   BROL   YS
  FUCK      GIR   BL   OYS
  FUCK      GIRL      BOYS

As if two penises isn't serious enough he has also the following to say about the pin-up:

The voyeuristic theme evident in Fart Enjoy relates to the omnipresence of the sexualized image, and is humorous in its deliberate childishness. In Barrett's most prominent foray into Pop Art, he illustrates the anatomy of an anonymous topless model with tears and glasses, snot, spiders, a cyclist ascending her left breast, and some sort of discharge from her 'NIPL'.
Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966.
Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966.

Beat Girl

For another observer the snot under her nose could also be a moustache, the nipple discharge could be some sort of surrealistic fart (enjoyed or not) and the anonymous topless model could be someone who ran for miss Great Britain in 1955 and who played roles in the cult-horror movie Peeping Tom (1960) and in the ultimate sixties sex comedy Alfie (1966).

In 1963 Playboy called this actress a sex siren who was:

for years exploited as English grist for run-of-the-mill pin-up roles, until her portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier's mistress in The Entertainer proved she could deliver lines as well as show them.

She must have left an everlasting impression because in the March 1966 issue this 'perky, pretty Lancashire lass' was portrayed by none other than the British photographer of the stars, David Bailey. One of these pictures is the one that was massacred by Syd Barrett for his Fart Enjoy booklet.

As a movie star Shirley Anne Field disappeared in the mid seventies but eventually she returned in My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), stayed for 42 episodes in the Santa Barbara soap (1987) and was last seen on the silver screen in the 2011 comedy The Power Of Three. IMDB lists her impressive career, Shirley Anne Field starred in 70 different movie and TV productions (not counting individual episodes) in nearly 6 decades.

Time Lord Syd
Time Lord Syd. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

Time Lord

Andrew Rawlinson writes the Fart Enjoy booklet is probably from 1965.

I’m not sure about the exact date. I know where I was living, so that places it between the end of 1964 and the summer of 1965. He was in London (Tottenham Street I think, not Earlham Street) and I was in Cambridge.

But unless somebody unequivocally proves that Syd Barrett really was a Time Lord (now here's a daring subject for our satiric The Anchor division, we might say) we seem to have a problem as the David Bailey pictures of Shirley Anne Field date from March 1966 and not from the year before.

How on Earth did Syd Barrett happen to insert a picture from a March 1966 Playboy into a 1965 (f)artwork?

All seems to turn around the exact moment in time when Syd Barrett moved from Tottenham Street to Earlham Street. Mark Blake and others put this in 1965 but Rob Chapman in A Very Irregular Head writes:

During the summer of 1966 Syd moved out of Tottenham Street and with his new girlfriend, fashion model Lindsay Corner, took up residence in the top-floor flat at 2 Earlham Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue.

One chirping biographer doesn't make spring, especially not this one, so isn't there another way to date Fart Enjoy?

Actually there is.

Dear Roge, Fart Enjoy
"Dear Roge" letter, Fart Enjoy.

Rogue Roger

Page 10 in the booklet has a transcript from a letter (postcard?) from Syd's mother to her son. Some biographers call it a spoof although this, nor the authenticity, can be proven. But made up or not, it contains three interesting sentences.

I hope you are having a nice weekend.
How did the group get on at Essex?
Shall we reckon to set off – Devon-wards – on Sat. 26th?

Let's start with the last line, the one that carries a date. Browsing through calendars from nearly 50 years ago we can see there have only been a few Saturdays the 26th between 1964 and 1966: two in 1964 (September and December), one in 1965 (June) and three in 1966 (February, March and November).

1964
Syd Barrett, as a member of The Hollerin' Blues, didn't have that many gigs in 1964, and these were all around Cambridge. In the autumn of that year he joined the proto-Floyd, who where probably still called The Spectrum Five, but they only had about 3 concerts in London.

1965
Pink Floyd and/or The Tea Set had a slightly busier schedule in 1965, but all in all there were only a dozen of gigs. None of these were in Essex or happened around the only Saturday the 26th of that year.

Playboy March 1966
Playboy March 1966.

1966
"By early 1966 Pink Floyd's fortunes were taking a dramatic turn for the better", writes Glenn Povey in Echoes, but frankly their career only started to mushroom end of September. The Tea Set's first claim for fame was when they were billed, thanks to Nick Sedgwick, for three sets on a two-days festival on Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th of March 1966, next to real FAMOUS people and bands. Nick Mason remembers:

The only gig that might have brought us to wider attention had been at Essex University. At their rag ball, we shared the bill with the Swinging Blue Jeans, who did appear, and Marianne Faithfull who was billed as appearing – if she managed to return from Holland in time. It didn’t sound hopeful. We were still called Tea Set at the time although we must have given the impression of being in transition to psychedelia, since in spite of having ‘Long Tall Texan’ in our repertoire, where we all sang to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars, somebody had arranged oil slides and a film projection.

Roger Waters (as quoted in Palacios' Dark Globe):

‘We’d already become interested in mixed media,’ recalled Roger Waters. ‘Some bright spark there had given this paraplegic a film camera and wheeled him round London filming his view. Now they showed it up on screen as we played.’

The avant-garde movie lovers at the Church sometimes wonder if this cinematographer wasn't an American who had recently moved to England. Later he would play an important part in the London's Film-Makers' Co-op, that grew out of film screenings at Better Books. But looking into that would take us too far, actually.

The Essex University Rag Ball was the Floyd's first event to be proud of and something Syd would have been bragging about to his mother and friends. Not only was this their only Essex gig in the 1964 – 1966 period, but it also perfectly matches the 'spoof' letter in Fart Enjoy.

I hope you are having a nice weekend.

Refers to the week after the Essex gig when Syd hypothetically received the letter (around 19 March 1966).

How did the group get on at Essex?

Syd's mum asks about the concert of the week before, when The Tea Set had their first breakthrough (12 March 1966).

Shall we reckon to set off – Devon-wards – on Sat. 26th?

Points to a date in the immediate future, Saturday the 26th of March 1966.

Bob Dylan in Playboy, March 1966
Bob Dylan in Playboy, March 1966.

Bob Dylan Schmooze

It's a shame EMI couldn't track down the owner of the copyright of the woman with her boobies out which Barrett cut from a magazine. EMI chose not to include it in the reproduced Fart Enjoy book in PATGOD.

So writes Neptune Pink Floyd on their Facebook page, about a year ago. Well, now that the Holy Igquisition has settled this matter, once and for all, EMI will have no excuse any more not to include the complete Fart Enjoy booklet in - let's say - a 50 years anniversary Immersion set of Pink Floyd's first album.

We think we have gathered enough evidence to bring back the creation date of the Fart Enjoy booklet from a two-years period to roughly one week in 1966. The Church managed to identify the pin-up Syd Barrett drew Kilroy on, as well as the photographer and the magazine it appeared in.

The only question that stays unanswered is: Why did Syd Barrett have this particular Playboy?

Easy.

The Playboy of March 1966 not only had topless pictures of Shirley Anne Field. Pages 41 to 44 and 138 to 142 make room for a 'candid conversation with the iconoclastic idol of the folk-rock set'. Syd Barrett, like all Cantabrigian beatniks, admired Bob Dylan and discussed his records, he had written a parodic song about him, and took Libby Gausden to the Royal Festival Hall on 17 May 1964 to see him.

If we can be sure of one thing, it is that Syd Barrett really bought this Playboy for the interview.


Many thanks to: Anonymous, Giulio Bonfissuto, Mick Brown, Warren Dosanjh, Rich Hall, Alexander Hoffmann, Keith Jordan, Göran Nyström, Neptune Pink Floyd Forum, Vintage Erotica Forum. Update July 2017: images and some text.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the above links):
Atagong, Felix: Fasten Your Anoraks , The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, 8 September 2007.
Beecher, Russell & Shutes, Will: Barrett, Essential Works Ltd, London, 2011, p. 165. (This book has the complete Fart Enjoy.)
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 62, 111.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 35.
Palacios, Julian: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 92, 98.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 32, 48.
Rawlinson, Andrew: Syd Barrett - His Book @ Syd Barrett Research Society, 15 March 2009 (forum no longer active). Rawlinson, Andrew: Syd Barrett - His Book, 20 March 2009 (mirror).
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 53-55. (This book has a few pages of Fart Enjoy.)

Neptune Pink Floyd forum:
Piper Re-Release - The Missing Page from Fart Enjoy!, started August 31, 2007.
Syd Barrett "Fart Enjoy" work on eBay, started March 16, 2009.
Page missing from the "piper" deluxe edition, started April 13, 2010.

NSFW sources (Warning: porn banners and/or pop-ups!):
Playboy, Europe's New Sex Sirens, September 1963, p. 136.
Playboy, Trio Con Brio, Playboy, March 1966, p. 112-113.
Vintage Erotica Forum: Shirley Anne Field, May 2007 - December 2013.

2014-06-14

The Last Minute Put Together Reel Story

Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band
Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band.

November 2005

November 2005 was a pretty busy month for Floyd aficionados. John Harris' eagerly awaited book 'The Dark Side of the Moon, The Making Of The Pink Floyd Masterpiece' was published, but it failed to fulfil the high expectations of those nerdy Floyd fan who already knew more about the album than any author could ever write (for a short critical review, go here: John Cavanagh, so much to do, so little time). Rick Wright missed the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony, because he had a cataract operation. However, David Gilmour and Nick Mason were there. Roger Waters gave a small speech on video from Rome, where his Ca Ira opera was premièred, with much acclaim from those who managed to stay awake. The French Rock 'n Folk magazine causing something of a stir by revealing the first dates of a 2006 European David Gilmour tour...

With all these exciting things one would almost forget that Brain Damage had an article called 'Lost Syd Barrett concert recording - found!'.

An incredibly rare recording of Syd Barrett, performing live on 27th January, 1972, with the Last-Minute Put-Together Boogie Band, at a show in Cambridge, has recently been unearthed, and plans are underway for a release!

The article further stated that Alan Barrett (on Syd's behalf) had contacted Pink Floyd Music Publishing to have this tape released. But the full story behind this story was, to say the least, an intriguing one and could be found on the – now defunct – blog of FraKcman and the (since then renewed) website of Spaceward Studios.

Legend

On 27 January 1972 a music festival was organised in Cambridge called Six Hour Technicolour Dream. It was organised at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, was advertised with an almost unreadable poster (orange on brown, yuck!) and had the following bands: Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band (or LMPTBB or Boogie Band, for short), featuring Bruce Paine, Twink, Jack Monck, Fred Frith and a certain Syd Barrett.

The entire festival was taped, then forgotten, then (in 1985) found back, then seized by Pink Floyd Ltd., then forgotten, then (in 2005) found back and then shelved for 9 years with various people and companies trying to resolve copyright issues.

This article (in a LMPTBB series that will culminate in an interview with Mohammed Abdullah John 'Twink' Alder and perhaps some others) will try to reconstruct these steps. We warn you that it is not always an easy read, where we quote FraKcman and others we have not altered their testimonies, so Sydiots will find some irregularities and mistakes here and there in dates, group names etc..

2005

In September 2005 Mark Graham, aka FraKcman, works on a 'recently rescued tape archive' from the Cambridge Spaceward Studios, trying to reconstitute their discography, set up a database and eventually re-release some of their hidden gems. What he finds is interesting indeed, to say the least:

Spent yesterday in the studio with Gary Lucas making a 96kHz, 24 bit digital transfer of Spaceward's first recording which I found in Gary's attic recently. It's a recording of a concert held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 27/1/72. The bands were Hawkwind, Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band (featuring Syd Barrett) and Pink Fairies. Much to our amazement the tape sounded just as good (or bad) as it did when last played 33 years ago - and no gunk left on the tape heads!

Gary Lucas tells about this discovery on the Syd Barrett Under Review DVD:

FraKcman is aware that the Barrett Boogie Band recording is an important one and wants to include at least one track on a compilation album. On 17 October 2005 he notes, not without irony:

I just got a phone call from Le Grand Fromage at Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd in response to the message I had left 3 weeks ago. I pitched my idea of releasing an improv from the Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band's set at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, 27/1/72 on a putative Spaceward Studios retrospective album on Gott Discs. I'd been expecting him to say "Cease & Desist" but... he bought it! He said he'd sanction it on behalf of Syd provided the other musicians accept equal terms :) Yippee!!!

It is in November, and after the Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett communities have digested the news and bombard him with questions, that FraKcman tells the full story.

On the 27th January 1972, Mike Kemp, Secretary of the Cambridge University Tape Recording Society, received a telephone call from Gary Lucas, CUTRS member and undergraduate at Pembroke College, requesting microphones. He'd been seen earlier in the day unloading a Revox tape recorder from his car into his lodgings (it happened to be the start of term) and had been asked if it could be used to record a concert that was taking place later in the Corn Exchange.
 
Mike agreed to help, went along to the concert and thus met Gary Lucas for the first time. Their collaboration that night was the start of what would become Spaceward and, fifteen years later, a business with a turnover of £5m, a staff of over 100, and offices in 6 countries. (...)
 
The line-up (in order) for the concert was Hawkwind, Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band (featuring Syd Barrett) and Pink Fairies. Hawkwind played first - 7 or 8 songs including "Silver Machine".
 
Next on was LMPTBB. It should be noted that this was NOT a "Stars" or "Syd Barrett All-Stars" gig - the line-up is different. There were several gigs by Stars at around this time including (I think) one at the Cambridge Corn Exchange with Eddie "Guitar" Burns. (...) The line-up was: Bruce Paine (vocals & guitar), Jack Monck (bass), Twink (drums), Fred Frith (guitar) and Syd Barrett (guitar). The set lasts an hour. Syd is introduced on stage after 30 minutes. He plays on 5 songs, 4 of which are blues numbers and there is one 9 minute jam (improvisation) which is fairly loose and free-form.
 
Pink Fairies played last and perhaps benefit from the best sound.
 
At one point there was a fight and, more than once, one mic or another became disconnected from the mixer.
 

Note: a Syd Barrett All Stars group never existed, although this name will be used several times by FraKcman. The Eddy "Guitar" Burns gig (that had Syd Barrett jam on stage with Twink and Jack Monck) was held on the previous day, the 26th of January 1972. This was not a Stars gig, but a LMPTBB one who were also Eddy "Guitar" Burns' backing band. Some info posted here could already be found in a 2010 Syd Barrett Pink Floyd (aka Laughing Madcaps) article: Syd Barrett Stars - Everything (So Far).

The tape is found back... and disappears

Mark Graham, aka FraKcman, continues:

After the gig, copies of the 'master' were made and distributed. Mike and Gary each retained a copy for personal use. I did not know this - I wasn't even at the gig. I don't come into the story until 1985 when (what turns out to be) Mike's copy is found. Here's what I wrote (in 2003) about the finding of it.
 
"I think it was during the Summer of 1985 when we were clearing out the space above the Control Room roof that I came across the Syd Barrett All Stars tape. It was just one among hundreds that were languishing there, pretty much forgotten that Owen Morris and I were sorting through - our task was to phone the bands or record labels concerned and get them either to collect their tapes or allow us to wipe them.
 
I admit that it was with a trembling hand that I descended the ladder clutching the tape and then threaded it on the Revox. We listened to it once, all the way through, and, though it pains me to say so, it was an absolute load of old shite.
 
It was awful. Truly. The sound itself was poor and the onstage tuning was non-existent. It was painful to listen to. Stoned, out-of-key noodlings - remarkable only for how dreadful it was. If I remember correctly parts of the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind sets were also on the tape.
 
What my response would have been had the recording been brilliant, or even good, of course we'll never know (might I have stolen a copy?) but it was clear to me that this could only ever be of historical (or forensic) interest - you'd NEVER want to actually listen to it - so, not having Syd's phone number to hand, I rang EMI.
 
The very next day a big car swished into the yard and out stepped a suit. I don't remember the gentleman's name - only his suit. He was from EMI and he'd come to listen to the Syd Barrett tape. I explained the history to him, made him coffee and then played him the tape.
 
He said nothing until the end.
 
"This recording can add nothing to Syd's legend - it can only detract from it. It must never be made public".
 
He took the tape away in his big car and, as far as I know, no copies exist." 

Regrets, we have a few

But was the 1985 really that bad, FraKcman reconsiders:

By 2003 I was thinking that I'd been somewhat dumb in 1985. For example, take my description: "Stoned, out-of-key noodlings" I realise now that, in 1985, I simply did not 'get' what Fred Frith was doing. Today, with perhaps greater insight and, setting aside vested interest, I might perhaps better describe Fred's playing as "extemporising atonally" - in other words, free improvisation. I didn't understand it and I didn't like the sound of it at all. Also, and please forgive me, It wasn't exactly in my best interest, looking back in 2003, that the tape might or could have been of any interest or quality since I'd voluntarily surrendered it to the MIB. I didn't want to go down in history as someone who'd dumped a treasure. But, in truth, I bitterly regretted having given it away.

The tape is found back (reprise)

Anyway, let's move the story on to 2005...
 
On the 8th September, as is told in my blog for that date below, I climbed into Gary Lucas' loft/attic and recovered around 50 tapes, including the one in question, though I didn't know this at the time. Later, when I did discover it, I immediately booked a studio session to make a 96khz, 24bit digital transfer.
 
Mick, the studio engineer for the digital transfer, judged the audio quality to be variable but better than most bootlegs. He thought that with time spent on restoration and sweetening he could certainly produce something 'release-able technically' if not of ideal quality. Gary Lucas, also present, agreed. I was beginning to think my judgement of 1985 may have been coloured by the fact that, at that time, the engineers at (and clients of) Spaceward were all dedicated perfectionists and audiophiles (E.G. Ted Hayton, Owen Morris, Dave Stewart etc etc). Nowadays things like "The King Crimson Collectors' Club" have shown what it is possible to achieve with old recordings. Technology changes everything.
 
My own aim was to tell the Spaceward Story - it's a good story and deserves to be told (as the discography attests) I could imagine this as part of a series of releases on Gott Discs - all compilations of various artists - Psyche Folk, Punk etc etc. Gary and Mick preferred the idea of the presenting the whole gig - as an event with all 3 bands' sets (or as much of) - and Gott Discs were of the same opinion.

Permission found and granted

We decided that I should set about trying to contact everyone involved and at least ask them nicely for permissions. What was there to lose? After a week of diligent searching and a lot of help from person or persons unmentionable, I managed to acquire the contact details for all the relevant parties, except Syd. So I wrote to them all, explaining who I was, what I'd got and what I wanted - I.E. to release it (or parts of it) as "The Spaceward Story - Volume 1- the Corn Exchange, Cambridge - 27/01/72". To my surprise and delight, no-one objected outright though all wanted to hear it first and agree terms before granting permission. It is fortunate that at least one song/number is an improvisation as this means that, in addition to a fee, all performers are entitled to a fair share of composers' royalties as administered by PRS/MCPS Alliance licencing in the UK. I also spoke with Twink (for the Pink Fairies) and Dave Brock (for Hawkwind) and it was the same story for them - no immediate objections but they want to hear it first.

Note: asking John 'Twink' Alder was actually not the right move. In 1972 he was no longer a member of the Fairies (but of LMPTBB).

In search of Syd

So now it was time to contact Syd's people. The first thing I did was to ask my friends for help - who should I call? I was given a number and a name: Alan Barrett, Syd's brother. So, rather nervously, I rang Alan and I pitched my story in a open and (I hope) courteous way that seemed to get his approval - anyway he told me to leave it for a few days and then call Pink Floyd Music Publishing Ltd and ask them. When I rang them and explained myself again, I was told that the project had already been green-lighted - provided only that the other musicians agree "equal terms".
 
So that's where we are now. I must go back into the studio and produce something that I can send to all the performers (along with a contract) that sounds good enough to persuade them all to grant permissions for a release.

The tape

the tape
The tape of the Cambridge Technicolour Dream gig.

The two tapes

Interesting in FraKcmans' story is that two Barrett tapes were unearthed at Spaceward. The first in 1985, now safely in the hands of EMI (or perhaps Pink Floyd, his story will change underneath) and one in 2005. It is not certain if the content of the two tapes are different, but FraKcman certainly thinks so (20 August 2006):

It seems obvious now, but it's taken me a long time to get to the point when I feel absolutely sure that there were two Syd Barrett live recordings made by Spaceward in early 1972.
 
Recording One was the Last Minute put-Together Boogie Band featuring Syd Barrett, Fred Frith and Eddie Guitar Burns at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 27/1/72.
 
Recording Two was Starz at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on either 24/2/72 or 26/4/72. [Note from FA: should be 26/2/72, probably a typo] This I believe was the tape that I handed to Pink Floyd Management in 1986.

There are some serious memory holes and contradictions in the blogpost above, what is understandable after all these years. On top of that it needs a certain amount of Sydiocy to immediately recognise these.

First: Eddie Guitar Burns did NOT play on the Six Hour Technicolour dream, he played the day before (but also with Syd Barrett on stage, hence the cockup).
Second: if the 1985 tape was a Stars (not Starz) one, why then did FraKcman note before that it contained 'parts of the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind sets'?
Third: if the 1985 tape was a Stars one why then did FraKcman note that he did not 'get' what Fred Frith was doing on it. Fred Frith never played with Stars, although he rehearsed with them, was asked to join even, but declined.

'Rehearsals were difficult, because Syd had pretty much lost any capacity to focus,’ says Frith. ‘Everyone was in awe of him, and we wanted him to lead us in a way, but he couldn’t. Jack kind of took charge and we did the best we could, but at the only concert that I did with them, Syd played “Smokestack Lightning” or variations thereof in every song, and didn’t really sing at all. To say I was hugely disappointed is maybe the wrong way of putting it. I was shocked, angry, devastated, that it had come to that. I didn’t know what to do or how to be in that situation. I always had a lot of difficulty being around “famous” people and especially famous people who I really looked up to, and this was even by my own standards of social ineptitude, a painful experience, and overwhelmingly sad.' (Fred Frith as quoted in Rob Chapman's A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 284.)

In a previous post FraKcman writes he contacted EMI about the tape, but here he says someone of Pink Floyd confiscated it, although this could not be contradictory if EMI contacted the band. But this whole story is a bit dodgy, to say the least, it smells. Handing over a tape (that, by the way, also contained a Hawkwind and Pink Fairies concert) to a competitor, without even asking for a receipt? It seems that not only Syd Barrett fried his brain on drugs.

The recording

Back to the Six Hour Technicolour Dream recording. Mike Kemp is the man who engineered it (Spaceward Studios):

The recording of the concert was organised at the last minute and the equipment was poor as all that was available was a rather poor mixer so we just stuck a stereo mic pair across the stage for drums/backline and mixed in some PA mix for front. We were positioned on the top of a sort of cloakroom arrangement in a corner near the stage (in about an inch of thick dust) but had a bad view of the stage from the equipment area due to columns in the building. I spent most of my time with headphones at the troublesome mixer so saw little.
 
The whole affair was a shambles with a fight breaking out around the stage at one point destroying at least one of the mics. I was pretty naive at the time and can not say I saw Syd Barrett but everyone was saying he was there. There were a number of rambling untogether acts and I am pretty convinced that the Syd Barrett All Stars was mentioned at the time, as well as "The last minute put together boogie band".

There we have that Syd Barrett All Stars band again! Jim Gillespie was present at the two Boogie Band gigs with Barrett (July 24, 2005):

The Cellar at King's College was always a venue for jamming and always had lots of people there from the Town and not just University. I played there myself lots of times between November 1969 and June 1971.
 
I was present at Kings Cellar on 26th January 1972. Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band played a first set with Twink on drums, Syd Barrett on guitar and Jack Monck on bass. Then Eddie "Guitar" Burns played and at end there was a jam with Eddie, Twink, Jack Monck and a guy called Bruce on guitar (sorry I have no other information on who this is apart from his first name but I wrote this down the next day so I figure it is correct).
 
I also went to what was billed as "Six Hour Technicolor Dream" at Corn Exchange in Cambridge the next day 27th January 1972. Hawkwind definitely played as did Pink Fairies and also I can confirm, as I wrote it down, that Fred Frith did indeed play guitar alongside Syd and Twink as part of Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band at that gig.
 
I also saw an outdoor gig in streets of Cambridge with Twink and Syd and this took place on 12th February 1972.

The mysterious Bruce is probably Bruce Paine who had to gig with LMPTBB the next day anyway. So the jam might have been some kind of an on stage rehearsal.

The sound of silence

Then it became silent around the tape. We suppose that clearing the copyrights wasn't as easy as expected and that the project was continuously postponed until the owner got enough of it. In June 2010 the reel was up for auction at Bonhams but the minimum bid (of 5000£, so was rumoured) was not reached and the auction was withdrawn.

We may only be happy that Pink Floyd, nor EMI bought it, as they were of the opinion they already had it (and probably they were right). This is just a theory but they were pretty certain they could delay this release forever. On top of that they were so parsimonious they didn't find it necessary to buy the second copy and have the opportunity to bury it, once and for all.

Anyway, good news for us, the fans!

Easy Action

In January 2011 there was again some hope when it was found out that Easy Action had bought the Six Hour Technicolour festival tape. They are are a (small) record company, specializing in rare and alternative recordings, demos, live versions and anything that falls in between the chairs of the big music publishers, but that can still be legally published. Looking at their catalogue you will find releases that seem to be destined for completists alone, like Marc Bolan home recordings or interview discs.

For a while they put up the following cryptic message on their website:

Easy Action has purchased a number of reels of master tape capturing a performance by Hawkwind, Pink Fairies and a band hastily assembled featuring Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett NOT Stars!
 
Recorded in Cambridge in January 1972, we will be investigating further copyright clearances and one day hope to produce the whole lot for your listening pleasure!

That Easy Action wanted to have a return on their purchase was proven in August 2011 when the Hawkwind concert was published as Leave No Star Unturned.

On 27th January 1972, Hawkwind, their comrades in Notting Hill / Ladbroke Grove psychedelic proto-punk agitprop The Pink Fairies, and what would be labelled as The Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band featuring the elusive Syd Barrett were brought together at The Cambridge Corn Exchange under the title The Six Hour Technicolor Dream by local music promoter and ‘Head Shop’ proprietor Steve Brink.
 
If we’d had the technology of today way back then, then for such a line-up we’d most certainly have on our shelves the DVD with its 5.1 stereo soundtrack, the CD box set, and the Blu-ray package.
 
Instead, what we have is something previously shrouded in mystery and rumour; quarter-inch ReVox open reel sourced recordings that have been whispered of in the circles of those who know.
 
One of only two known copies of this show surfaced in the mid-80s, promptly to vanish into the vaults unheard and unreleased. Thankfully, the other finally emerged from a forgotten loft space in 2005 and made its way into the hands of Easy Action Records via a circuitous route which included an appearance at the famous Bonham’s auction house in London’s affluent Knightsbridge - what a contrast to the anarchic ‘peace and love’ characters decrying the evil tentacles of ‘The Man’ who play on these recordings.

Did you notice that Easy Action also thinks that there is only one recording, but two tapes? They have probably contacted EMI and/or Pink Floyd Ltd and did the comparison.

Slow & easy

However, releasing the Boogie Band album seemed much more difficult than the Hawkwind gig (but easier than the Pink Fairies one, apparently). The album was announced a couple of times, first for 2013, then for 2014. Here is what a music industry insider once told us:

Carlton (from Easy Action) has been burned before by putting things out prior to getting all the clearence needed to do such a project. He has learned a very "valuable lesson" in that.

Green light or not, it would take until 2014 to get things settled, and finally, here it is... the Syd Barrett recording everyone has been hoping for since nearly a decade.

(End of part one of our LMPTBB series, part two will have more of the same: Syd's Last Stand. You have been warned.)


Many thanks to: Mohammed Abdullah John 'Twink' Alder, Rick Barnes, Easy Action, FraKcman (Mark Graham), Jim Gillespie, Alexander P. HB, Mike Kemp, Gary Lucas, Spaceward Studios and the Wayback machine.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

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.

2015-10-10

Iggy - another festival, another look

Festival of the Flower Children
Festival of the Flower Children.

The Church closed its door at the end of March 2015, but promised to keep an eye open for all things relatively Syd-and-Iggy-related. Obviously serendipity meant that, from that moment on, Syd-and-Iggy related matters would regularly smash against the Church's closed windows at the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, making this one of our busier seasons.

Iggy Rose was a guest on American Dazed (talk) Radio, her first radio-interview ever. The condensed version still is 47 minutes but what an intense 47 minutes they are: Iggy Rose Radio Interview.

In June Iggy was invited to the biennial, second and probably last Birdie Hop Cambridge meeting where she met with Libby Gausden, Jenny Spires and a bunch of Barrett-fans: Iggy Rose in Cambridge.

And then, when you're least expecting it, there is a brand new Iggy picture that make our hormone levels go crazy.

This article follows the same steps as that other one of 2012 that published the discovery of Iggy's 'Pocahontas' picture, that has been an inspiration for so many Iggy fans and their fanart creations: Iggy - a new look in festivals.

The 1967 Festival of the Flower Children

Poster courtesy Oscar Wilson
Festival of the Flower Children. Poster: courtesy Oscar Wilson."

Two weeks after Iggy had visited the National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival at the Royal Windsor Racecourse, where she had her picture taken for Music Maker magazine (see: Iggy - a new look in festivals), there was the first Woburn festival with an equally appealing title: Festival of the Flower Children. Wanting to cash in on the Summer of Love (and the Bank Holiday Weekend of 26-28 August) it tried to be a direct competitor for the first one that was already well established and in its seventh edition. Flower Children also went on for three days but its bill was less abundant, less adventurous and clearly directed at the general public or 'weekend' hippies, rather than the underground elite. The host, the Duke of Bedford, one of those examples the French invented the guillotine for and the living proof that the posh establishment will temporarily adhere an alternative lifestyle if there is a buck to earn, sneered:

Only flower children are allowed in. They are nice peaceful young people who like beat music and coloured lights. They are very different from hippies who take drugs and make trouble. Hippies will definitely be barred.
Dancing Flower Children (The Australian Women's Weekly)
Dancing Flower Children (The Australian Women's Weekly).

The Duke of Bedford apparently grabbed 10% of the entrance money estimated at £50.000, according to an article in The Australian Women's Weekly, but the promoters, the Seller brothers, apparently weren't that happy and the financial debacle may have quickened the demise of their mod nightclub Tiles, where Jeff Dexter was the house DJ. The Daily Telegraph, however, wrote that the festival made the nice profit of £20.000. (Much of the information and some of the pictures in this article come from the excellent UK Rock Festivals.) For snobbish left-elitist underground circles and their affiliated magazines is was all a sell-out. Peter Jenner:

Gradually all sorts of dubious people began to get involved. The music business began to take over. (…) There were things like the Festival of the Flower Children.

That the Seller brothers were thinking more in the terms of profit than music or mod culture was perhaps proven by their nightclub Tiles that was described by Tom Wolfe as the 'Noonday Underground'. In the middle of the day, during lunch hour, the club opened and was visited by 'office boys, office girls, department store clerks' and teenagers who had left school at fifteen, for their daily dose of mod music and a Coca-Cola. Tiles aimed for an easy-going public and although it lacked style and personality it did have a proper bar, a good dance floor, a fancy stage and an excellent sound system.

Sleeping Flower Child (The Australian Women's Weekly)
Sleeping Flower Child (The Australian Women's Weekly).

The Flower Children festival aimed at the masses as well, and not to the hardcore underground, promising bands and artists as Jeff Beck, The Bee Gees, Eric Burdon & The New Animals, The Kinks (not confirmed), Denny Laine (from The Moody Blues), Marmalade, Zoot Money & The Big Roll Band, The Move (not confirmed), The Alan Price Set, The Small Faces, Al Stewart, The Syn (a precursor of Yes) and less known bands as Blossom Toes, Breakthru, The Dream (some claim an early incarnation of Tangerine Dream?), The Gass (not confirmed), Tintern Abbey and Tangerine Peel (not confirmed and perhaps this is where the Tangerine Dream rumour comes from).

With the exception of perhaps Dantalian's Chariot (another band led by Zoot Money) and Tomorrow (with drummer Twink) the bill wasn't really underground, nor psychedelic. Pink Floyd was never considered to appear at the festival, although Rob Chapman pretends the opposite in his immaculate biography. Not that the band would've come as they had already cancelled the Windsor Racecourse gig due to Barrett's erratic behaviour.

For the press the festival was gefundenes fressen and news photographers seemed to outnumber groovers. And now we let you guess, who can be found on one of those pictures, you think?

Flower Mother and Child (The Australian Women's Weekly)
Flower Mother and Child (The Australian Women's Weekly).

Inside heroes

On the 21st of September the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit was asked the following by Jacinta Storten:

Hi there, do you know if Iggy attended the Festival of the Flower Children love-in at Woburn Abbey in 1967? I have some photos of attendees and one of them looks just like her, on the other hand the photo could be from the Woburn Festival that Fleetwood Mac headlined which I think Pink Floyd were also billed from memory it was 67 or 68. [Note from FA: for the record, at the 1968 version of the Woburn Abbey festival, Fleetwood Mac never showed up, although they were billed. Pink Floyd never played the festival either as they were touring North America on that day.]

Such a mail obviously has the same effect on the Church as a red rag to a bull. We immediately contacted Iggy Rose who wasn't aware of ever being at the festival, but you know the saying 'if you remember the sixties, you weren't there'. We wrote back to Jacinta, asking for a copy of the picture so that we could send it over to Iggy, but due to the quirky way Facebook messaging works sometimes (or should we say: not works) that was ignored. (We have that effect on many people.)

Luckily on the fifth of November the picture appeared on the HeroInSight Tumblr blog:

Iggy the Eskimo, Festival of the Flower Children, 1967.
Iggy the Eskimo, Festival of the Flower Children, 1967.

'Iggy ”The Eskimo” Rose at Festival of the Flower Children Love-in, Woburn Abbey UK, 1967.

As soon as we got hold of the picture we send it to Iggy who confirmed it was indeed her:

My goodness, where did you find that?
I look stoned.
Haha. I can't even remember being there. Lol xxx.

An internet search revealed that the picture is currently hosted at Photo Inventory France, that seems to be owned by an Ebay seller called Photo Vintage France. The picture (30 x 19.5 cm) was put several times on sale before, between June 2012 and August 2015, for the price of 159 Euro, but apparently no buyer has ever been found. Lucky for us, otherwise the picture had perhaps never been found.

We contacted the owner of the Ebay shop, Bruno Tartarin, asking if he could give us more information about this picture. We got a reply pretty fast, but it didn't really give us info we didn't know already:

Cette image vient des archives Holmes-Lebel.
Flower Children, Hippies Rally, Woburn Abbey, Angleterre, circa 1967. RE2173
Tirage argentique d'époque tamponnée.
Translation:
This image comes from the Holmes-Lebel archives.
Flower Children, Hippies Rally, Woburn Abbey, Angleterre, circa 1967. RE2173
Authentic gelatin-silver photography, stamped.

Internet searches for the Holmes-Lebel company didn't lead to anything substantial apart from the fact that they created / sold pictures for advertisements, movie posters, record and book covers and magazines in the sixties. Also the photographer who took Iggy's picture is a mystery as the agency had several internationally renowned people working for them like Rona Jutka, Raymond Voinquel, Inge Morath, Christian Simonpietri...

Update 2015 12 22: Meanwhile the picture has mysteriously landed at Atagong Mansion, and for once, the Reverend isn't interested in the front of the picture, but wants to study the different marks on the back. There are four in total:
1. a blue stamp of the Holmes-Lebel company with the remark that the document has to be returned after publication: 'document à rendre'.
2. another stamp with the warning that four times the copyright amount will be asked if the document gets lost or damaged: 'en cas de perte ou détérioration des documents il sera perçu quatre fois le prix de cession des droits'.
3. a sticker describing the picture in English:

HIPPIES RALLY (THE FLOWER CHILDREN), WOBURN ABBEY, ENGLAND
Hippy girl dressed in the Indian way.
Copyright HOLMES-LEBEL/I.M.F. n) 3008

4. a remark written in pencil, reading 'woodstook'.

Scans of the stamps, stickers and marks on the back can be found on our Iggy Tumblr page: Hippy Girl.

Jean Straker (taken from Oz 6, 1967)
Jean Straker (taken from Oz 6, 1967).

Porn and the Englishman

A photographer who certainly was present at the Flower Children festival was Londoner Jean Straker whose photo studio was in Soho and who was interviewed in the 6th issue of Oz because his pictures were considered pornographic in the prude interpretation of the English law.

In 1951 he founded the Visual Arts Club where he gave lectures, sold his pictures and where he would have 'photographers, amateur and professional, studying the female nude'. Straker's pictures were considered pornography under the Obscene Publications Act and in 1961 over 1600 of his negatives and 233 of his prints were confiscated. While Straker claimed his pictures were of artistic value the judge didn't follow this explanation. In appeal, Straker got many of his negatives back, but this was forced on a technicality, using a loophole in the law, and the official interpretation was still that his pictures were obscene.

This situation lingered on with Straker trying to fight censorship and in 1967 Jean Straker noted (in Oz 6):

Now, as most lawyers know, I been through all this jazz before; apart from a few thousand motorists, and a few hundred barrow boys, I must be the most prosecuted non-criminal in town.

Jean Straker also visited the Festival of the Flower Children were he might have taken over 220 pictures. Harper's Books currently sells a (partial) archive of 39 different 5 x 8 inch black and white photographs. However, at 3.000 USD for this collection, it is a bit expensive just to find out if the Iggy picture is part of it.

At 165 Euro the Holmes-Lebel piece is almost a bargain.

Flower Child by Jean Straker
Flower Child by Jean Straker.

The who, the what and the where?

There is a big chance we will never know who took Iggy's picture at the festival of the Flower Children. It could've been one of Iggy's froody friends, as we know she knew quite a few free-lance photographers, including the one who took her picture two weeks earlier at the National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival. If only she could remember his name! At the other hand, she could've been invited to the festival by Jeff Dexter, who had developed some interest in her and tried to record her in the studio.

It is possible that the picture was bought by the Holmes-Lebel agency in order to publish it in a French magazine. It would be nice to find that article back, if there ever has been one.

But the good news is that a new Iggy picture has been unearthed and that is was found – again – by one of her many fans. For that the Church (and Iggy Rose) will be eternally grateful to Jacinta 'HeroInSight' Storten...

The quest continues... good hunting my sistren and brethren... and don't do anything that Iggy wouldn't do...


Many thanks to: HeroInSight, Jacinta Storten, Iggy Rose, Bruno Tartarin, UK Rock Festivals.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Some pictures and articles, used for this post, will be published at the Holy Church's Tumblr blog under the Festival of the Flower Children-tag.

Sources (other than the above internet links):
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 179.
Green, Jonathon: All Dressed Up, Pimlico, London, 1999, p. 43, 221.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p. 112.
Palacios, Julian: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe, Plexus, London, 2010, p. 246.
Photo Inventory France: http://photoinventory.fr/photos/RE2173.png
Pullen, Bob: Photography and Censorship: The Photographs and Ideals of Jean Straker, Photography and Culture, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2008 (online pdf version).