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I can personally testify that Pink Floyd was a mythical band in the
mid-Seventies, even in dreary Belgium. During the breaks in the school
yard, where we would try to hide the cigarette smoke from the teachers,
we invariably discussed serious rock music business, and you couldn't
get more serious than Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis, Van Der
Graaff Generator and occasionally Kraftwerk. But the top band on the
mythological scale was without doubt: the Pink Floyd.
Not only was their band name medieval English for 'pink flute'
(in medieval Dutch a flute was written and pronounced 'floite' or
'fluyte') and as such a mild euphemism for a certain male body
part we were slightly getting aware of, but it was also rumoured that
Pink Floyd was largely a psychedelic drugs-band. They had a mansion on a
Greek island where anybody could go on a holiday and get all the sex,
drugs and rock'n roll you wanted for free. Which was pretty close to
heaven for the 14-years old hormone driving things we were.
I guess that every country must have their own local Floydian legends.
This blog has already written a couple of times
about the French who thought until the mid-Nineties (!) that Pink Floyd
was the English for pink flamingo. All this can be traced back to a
uni-lingual journalist, Jean-Marie Leduc, who mistook the Pink Flamingo club
for the Pink Floyd band, probably in 1967. Another one of this
man's silly mistakes was to note down in the Floyd's first biography
ever that they had recorded a single called 'Apologies', a Frenglish
misunderstanding of 'Apples and Oranges'. A decade later people were
still looking for this non-existing track, including yours truly. (More
info here: Si
les cochons pourraient voler...)
Obviously Syd participates a great deal in these Floydian myths. A very
ardent one was the strong belief that there was a third Syd Barrett solo
album lying in the vaults of EMI. I still have a vinyl bootleg that
promised to be just that although it was quite disappointing when I put
it on my turntable.
But this week, thanks to Babylemonade Flowers, I came across an
Iberian Floydian legend about a third Barrett album recorded in a
Spanish monastery. It is an urban rock-legend over there (and also in
South America) and as far as I know it has never crossed the language
barrier. I was totally unaware of it but a few Spanish, Galician (and
even Italian) blogs and forums have dedicated some space to it. The
following text is an adaptation / translation of what could be found so
far and they are presented here as such. Not one single letter has been
verified for its authenticity. The copyrights of these texts belong to
the original authors (see source listing at the bottom). Translation
mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely the responsibility
of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit and/or the Anchor.
Lunatic on Spanish grass
In 1978 a bootlegger from A
Coruña pressed 20 vinyl copies of a tape that was handed over
to her by a monk of the Monastery of Santa
María la Real of Oseira. The (original) tape in question
contained some unreleased Syd Barrett songs, given to the monk by the
madcap himself when he stayed there in 1976 or 1977.
The album was titled 'Spanishgrass - veinte canciones sobre el
espacio y la siesta'. Apparently that was the explanation Syd
Barrett gave when the monk asked him what the songs were about: twenty
songs about 'space' and the daily siesta.
Unfortunately Spanishgrass is nowhere to be found. The only edition of
the album, limited to 20 copies on the Nonsense Music record
label, was a present from Gem Noya to her closest friends. Before
they received the record they had to sign a letter promising they would
not distribute or duplicate the material. Noya gave the record as a
leaving present, before retiring to a Buddhist community in Pokhara
(Nepal), where she possibly still resides.
According to sources close to her family, she burned the original (and
only) tape and threw the ashes on the beach of Carnota,
near the Monte
Pindo mountain. In 1983, three of the songs from the Spanishgrass
album were exceptionally played on 'El Lado Salvaje' (The Wild Side), a
radio show produced by a local FM radio station in A Coruña. (Note:
nobody seems to remember the name of that radio station apparently.)
The album's songs are musically innocent, with simple guitar
arrangements. Barrett is almost always strumming a single chord, but the
lyrics are interesting: ranging from surreal humour on 'Mouse After A
Fête' and 'Two bangers + mash' to pentecostal mysticism, with quotations
from ancient Welsh bards songs and extracts from Robert
White Goddess, a work the English musician consulted in the Oseira
Although it has not been confirmed and the monks of Oseira keep quiet
out of respect for their guests, Barrett met and befriended the British
Greene, a regular visitor of the monastery from the early seventies
until his death in 1991.
The madcap trails
It is believed Barrett went to Spain for two consecutive years (1976 and
1977). He travelled anonymously, often hitch-hiking or using public
transport through Andalusia,
He was on his own and his luggage was as scarce as revealing: a
backpack, an acoustic guitar and the complete works of William
Blake. In one of his travels he discovered what would become his
private retreat in the north-west of the Iberian peninsula, the
Monastery of Oseira.
Nestled in a solitary canyon at the municipality of San
Cristovo de Cea (Ourense), the twelfth century Royal Monastery of
Santa Maria de Oseira was the first Spanish monastery of the Cistercian
monastic order, founded in 1098 as a radical alternative to the
aristocratic order of Cluny. The Cistercians practised Christian
friendship, poverty and mythic culture, and retreated from the world, in
locations far from roads and towns.
Syd Barrett was immediately fascinated by the charm of the secluded
place, the silent evolution of the monastic life and the monks'
hospitality. He stayed in one of the monastic guest-cells during four
months of 1976 (September-December) and three months in the following
year (April to June). He only left the monastery to wander the hills
nearby where he liked two places, Chaira, a wide panoramic grassy
terrace situated on nearly 1,200 feet high, and Penedo, a ridge
shaded by chestnut trees.
In Oseira, Barrett wrote and recorded numerous songs on a cheap cassette
player. He sat in the courtyard of the monastery, often at siesta time,
and sang softly, accompanied by his guitar, afraid to disturb the monks.
The sound of the recording is technically weak, but is appealing from a
poetic perspective: his voice is filtered through the wind and the
bubbling of the water in the nearby well.
Simone Saibene: an investigation in 2011
In 2011 Simone Saibene decided to investigate this myth and he
has published his findings on the Duellanti
blog. The underneath text is a (shortened) rendition, the parts were the
author just repeats the above story have been omitted:
Some time ago a Carballiño friend told me that this story was not an
urban legend as it would seem at first. I was perplexed and intrigued,
and after a couple of months I decided to try to find out the truth.
Syd Barrett seems to have spent two holidays in the Cistercian monastery
of Oseira (Ourense), the first between September and December of 1976
and the second between April and June, the following year. Influenced by
the archaic beauty of the place, Barrett wrote "twenty songs about its
location and the siesta". The tracks are yet unreleased and have been
recorded in a very rudimentary way.
3 songs from Spanishgrass have been aired in the early eighties by a
radio station and those listening that day have declared that the
one-chord songs had no arrangements and were not particularly bright.
In contrast, the texts were more interesting, ranging from surrealist
humour to mysticism. What you can find on the net is the transcript of
the story that circulated in pubs at Carballiño
in the eighties. It seems an urban myth, but over the last twenty years
a couple of journalists of La
Voz de Galicia have dealt with the case without finding
confirmations but no denials either. I decided to go hunting for
information and I headed for Oseira.
The monastery is in a secluded valley, about a three-quarters drive from
Ourense. The nearest town in the vicinity is San Cristovo de Cea, famous
for its local bread, with just over 2000 inhabitants and about 10 km of
the monastery. In an atmosphere that invites contemplation and
meditation, I meet a Cistercian monk who is sprinkling the bushes with a
hose. I introduce myself and using the excuse of taking a picture, I ask
him some questions.
I ask him about celebrities who have visited Oseira in the past. He
speaks of the writer Graham Greene and father Leopoldo
Durán, author of a doctoral thesis on power and glory, who
spend some time together. Another guest of the monks was Eduardo
Pérez Maseda, a Spanish composer and essayist. When I ask a
direct question about Syd Barrett the monk smiles:
"I remember him. He was a young Englishman, not Catholic, who always had
a guitar with him." I ask for other details. "When I met Barrett," he
says, "I had only recently entered the community of the Oseira monks. I
saw him for the first time when I passed the cell where he was staying.
He had left the door open. As I walked through the hallway, I peeked
Syd Barrett sat in front of his desk, he was writing, there were papers
scattered everywhere... He did not turn around after my greeting. I
guess that he was composing at the time. A few days later, he showed up
and told me he was English and a musician.”
I ask the monk if Barrett recorded songs in those days. He replies that
he has never witnessed that, but notes that he had no idea who Barrett
really was at that time: "A few years later some youngsters arrived at
the monastery, asking around... that's when I realized that he was a
famous person..." He continues: "None of these fans were Catholic, they
took drugs and were convinced that the monastery was a fun place to be,
like a nightclub to smoke marijuana. That's not how you act... are you
Before the conversation takes another turn, I ask for permission to use
his name for my article. "Absolutely not! I should not even be here
talking to you about these things! This is up to the abbot, my
We greet each other cordially. I continue my visit with the guide who
takes tourists (there aren't that many, to be honest) into the
monastery. He is a monk of more or less my age. At the end of the visit
I ask him for news about Barrett. He replies: “Yes, there is
documentation that proves he stayed here.", but adds that "The monks
have stored everything away." They have been forced to deny the reports
circulating on the former Pink Floyd member because of the numerous fans
who had begun to siege the monastery in the eighties and nineties.
Moreover, according to the archives, Barrett may not have been visiting
Oseira in the seventies, but in the early eighties. Then he confirms
that "...in the monastery there are unreleased recordings of Barrett." I
thank the young monk for the information and head back to Ourense.
The day after I still doubt whether this is a legend or not, even if the
witnesses that I found seemed to be convincing. Truthful or not, the
story is almost unbelievable but still worth of being reported.
Too much monk's business
Here is a list of alleged tracks (some in Galician) on the Syd Barrett Spanishgrass
album. (Note: it has not been revealed where this information
1 Manantial. (Translation: Spring) 2 Reverential mourners. 3 Black
maid. 4 Plastic gunpowder. 5 Mouse after a fête. 6
Breakwater and tea. 7 Grey tress. 8 Two bangers + mash. 9
Whining at the moon. 10 Greenland. 11 Eu son Dhaga. (Translation:
I am Dhaga) 12 Na outra banda. (Translation: On the other hand) 13
Un poeta esquece os días de chuvia. (Translation: A poet forgets the
rainy days) 14 Saturnalia. 15
William Phips. 16 Stede Bonnet. 17 Gabriel Spenser. 18 Gospel
at noon. 19 Waste deep. 20 Frog.
Ramjur: a visit in 2006
On the Infomusic
forum Ramjur wrote about his visit to the monastery. Some parts
that are merely repeating the above facts have been omitted.
One day in a relaxed talk with Zappamacías (?!) we started about Syd
Barrett, who is believed to have had an extraordinary adventure in
Spain. This is a personal experience rather than precise information or
a review from a a non-existent disk.
In summer 2006 we went on holiday with a couple of families from Malaga
to the north of the peninsula: Salamanca, Leon, and Cantabria, Orense,
Oseira. We spend three days in a fantastic and huge Cistercian monastery
in a wonderful mountainous enclave.
There were about 20 visitors and we got together for lunch and – for
those willing to join - religious services. This was the only time we
could meet with the monks. Among the visitors were also some people who
were there for religious or meditating reasons. During the meal I got
into conversation with a priest on the most diverse issues, including
music. I can't remember all details any more but suddenly he asked: “Do
you like Pink Floyd?”
I was amused and I said 'naturally' as I have their records and stuff
but his next question was: “Do you know Syd Barrett then?” I stopped
eating and looked at him closely. That he knew Pink Floyd was not so
strange in itself, he was a man of the world and Pink Floyd are well
known after all, but Syd Barrett?
I began to inquire what he knew and talked about Barrett's solo albums,
but then he surprised me: “Do you know his record Spanishgrass?” I asked
if it was a live bootleg, and he said 'no', these were new songs and
some were sung in Galician! (I had to laugh - the monastery wine was
I told him I was totally unaware of that record. Then he dropped the big
one: “Do you know that Syd Barrett was here twice?” From my facial
expression he realized that I no longer believed him. I had read
somewhere before that there had been rumours of Barrett staying in a
Spanish monastery, but all that seemed far-fetched. But he said: “If we
meet at the next meal I'll show you an article.”
The next day he showed me an article from a newspaper that told the
history of Barrett and his album Spanishgrass, he gave it to me and I
have it at home, but I cannot find it! (Note: it has been
confirmed to the Anchor that articles have indeed appeared in the
Spanish (music) press about this.)
Needless to say that after this nice story (which still doesn't mean it
is real) I was very impressed. I noted with some certainty that the
monks were quite reserved on the matter of Syd Barrett and the pilgrim
who gave me the newspaper article did not know much more (or would not
tell me). But one guide showing visitors around that day said that Syd
Barrett had been one of the 'distinguished visitors' of the monastery
together with Graham Greene.
There is a legend that says that Syd Barrett visited the monastery of
Oseira after retiring from the music business. The story circulated
quietly in Carballiño in the eighties and, to add some extra
confirmation, everyone noted that in the bar next to the monastery there
was a Pink Floyd album that had been given by Syd Barrett himself to the
So far for the story... that may well be continued in later articles...
The above article is entirely based upon unverified 'facts' or rumours
that have been published in Spanish, Galician and Italian articles. Many
thanks to: Babylemonade Flowers, Antonio Jesús and the correspondents at
the underneath forums and blogs.
When the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit got hold of an Iberian Floydian
legend, thanks to a Mexican Syd Barrett fan, the Reverend's alter ego, Alex
Fagotin, spend a couple of days searching the Internet for clues and
started to translate half a dozen of Spanish, Galician and Italian
webpages about the subject. According to these articles Syd Barrett had
stayed in a Spanish monastery where he had recorded a third solo album
If you missed it, you can still consult the original article here: Spanishgrass
or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record.
In May 2012 the Holy Church published excerpts from these articles 'as
such' under the satirical 'The
Anchor' banner. Authenticity warnings were put at the beginning and
end of the article and it was made clear throughout the text that the
story was an urban
legend that had thrived in Spain around the Eighties and was still
discussed on Internet fora today.
Only a fool would believe this was a true story, but unfortunately the
Internet ans especially Syd Barrett's anoraky fandom is a fool's oasis.
Some airheads immediately accused the Church of deliberately spreading
around false information, even going as far as claiming it had a hidden
agenda. As if blogging about 'Paul
is Dead' would automatically mean that you believe it. Several
Spanish speaking friends, however, were glad about the article and
informed the Reverend that the Spanish press had indeed written about
Syd Barrett overwintering in a monastery in Oseira.
Once again we repeat for those pigheaded readers that The Anchor, the
Church's satirical division, didn't start this hoax. The Anchor
merely reported about it, with a twenty five years delay. Unfortunately
nobody could lead us to the origin of the hoax and our research lead to
This is when Barrett investigator Antonio Jesus, of Solo
En Las Nubes, came into the picture. He decided to get to the bottom
of this using his (Spanish) network of Barrett and Pink Floyd fans.
After some exhaustive research he not only found the article that may
have started the Spanishgrass
legend but even contacted the journalist who wrote it. This first
follow-up article is largely based upon his findings.
A warning for our fast food readers, what follows is rather long, even
for people who are used to The Anchor's long-windedness.
Un canto a Galicia
In 1978 (ratified in 1981) Spanish region Galicia
acquired a partial self-governance with its own president, parliament
and court. This created a change in cultural and political awareness,
fed by local television, press and organisations who wanted to cut the
umbilical cord with Madrid. This was later baptised the Atlantic
Journalist and musician of the influential Galician post-punk band Radio
Manuel Pereiro, better known as Johnny Rotring, witnessed the
birth of it: “Everyday new things were happening and you had the feeling
that everything could pass.” A crucial turning point seems to have been
a concert of The
Ramones in November 1981 that showed that there was a growing
contemporaneous underground scene outside traditional Spanish folklore.
Leading Spanish newspaper El País wrote that it was a cultural awakening
that buried 40 years of ostracism and dictatorship.
In 2013 it seem weird that a concert of The Ramones would mark a turning
point in the cultural history of a European country. To better
understand this we have to start with a brief history lesson.
After the second world war fascism was abolished in Europe with one
exception, Spain, where dictator Francisco Franco would rule until his
death in 1975. Although Richard Nixon called General Franco 'a loyal
friend and ally of the United States' it can't be denied that the
dictator ruled harshly over his country, helped by the influential
Catholic Church, the army and the police. European and American
politicians however opportunistically regarded Franco as an enlightened
leader and closed their eyes for the less friendly aspects of the regime.
This included the systematic suppression of dissident views through
censorship and coercion, the imprisonment of ideological enemies in
concentration camps, the implementation of forced labour in prisons, and
the use of the death penalty and heavy prison sentences as deterrents
for the opponents of the regime. (Taken from Wikipedia.)
After Franco's death democracy slowly settled in, including freedom of
speech, freedom of press and the freedom to listen to subversive music.
Before that, having long hair had been reason enough to be arrested by
the Guardia Civil and be beaten in their cells (with wet towels, to
leave no marks) just for the fun of it, like it was told to the Reverend
by a young dissident who had fled Spain for Belgium in the seventies.
From rock'n roll awareness, with alternative radio stations and Galician
new wave and post punk bands, the Atlantic movement shifted towards more
critical and political viewpoints, often with an ironic wink. This
resulted into several alternative publications but the one that became
the Atlantic manifesto was La Naval that appeared twice a year in
a circulation of 5000 copies.
La Naval managed to unite most participants of 'Atlanticism', from Miguelanxo
Prado over Enrique Ordovás to José Manuel Costa. It only existed for
two years, between 1984 and 1986, but each number announced 'una
visión crítica e irónica de la cultura y la actualidad '
to quote poet Louis
Pereiro, one of its creators.
Its pages offered not only avant-garde Galician samples in art,
literature, music or journalism, but it published self-confident,
humoristic and hilarious articles about non-existent rock bands asking
for parliamentary support, the 'National Cocho Front' forbidding
all derogatory meanings of the word 'pig' and... the diary
entries of a certain Syd Barret (with one T) who allegedly stayed at a
monastery in Oseira.
La Naval, Revista Atlántica, appeared at least four times between 1984
and 1986 (and may not be confused with a few other Spanish magazines
that carry the same title). Not only its countenance was alternative,
but also its dates of apparition and the numbering. Number 0 came out in
November 1984, followed by number 1 in March 1985, a third issue was
numbered 00 in September 1985. The final issue had number 500 and was
released somewhere in Autumn 1986.
That last issue had an article by José
Ángel González, titled: Syd Barret busca en Oseira la
armonía celeste and Antonio Jesús from the Spanish Barrett blog Solo
En Las Nubes was so friendly to scan it in.
So here is, ladies & gentlemen, for the first time translated into
English, the text that probably started the Spanishgrass hoax... (the
scans of the original (Spanish) article can be consulted at our Spanishgrass
SYD BARRET LOOKING FOR CELESTIAL HARMONY IN OSEIRA
they are getting used to them, both are British, with blue eyes, and
they annually visit the monastery. The novelist Graham
Greene, who prefers the summer and the dry smell of the ground,
scattered with crevices, perhaps mimicking his far-away tropical
experiences when he was working for the Foreign Office. His annual
visits to Oseira, where he is awaited by the monk Leopoldo
Durán, confidant and cicerone of the British master, are
reflected in the novel "Monsignor
Quixote". In one of its pages Greene defines Oseira as "a deserted
island colonized by just a handful of adventurers determined to build a
home on the ruins of a bygone civilization."
Perhaps this same idea was playing in the mind of the monastery's other
annual guest: Syd
Barrett, founder and leader of the group Pink
Floyd that coloured the sixties. One of the legends that
periodically amused the world of 'pop' referred to the premature
retirement of Barrett to a 'Spanish monastery', but hardly anyone
decided to check this at the actual place. Barrett, more wintry than
Greene, annually visited Oseira in the month of December and that since
The author of the two 'most genuine psychedelic albums of pop', as
quoted by John
Peel when describing 'The Madcap Laughs' and 'Barrett', searched
each year for celestial harmony in Oseira that neither fame nor LSD
could give him.
The village is gloomy, with that special, deep and captivating sadness
that is standard for the northern beauty of Spain. However, the
exception is the monastery 'El Escorial de Galicia', in the great plains
surrounding the sandy slopes of Serra do Faro. For the monks in cyclic
retirement the maelstrom of Oseira is a spiritual refuge.
There is also a pub, of course. The 'Sabadelle' is a sad café, with its
original walls in rough granite that have been cemented by poorly
masons. It is a sad place that is in tune with the landscape and its
owner, Arcadio Mourin, admits with watery eyes that he 'has lived for
thirty years in Galicia but has been homesick for Catalonia for at least
From his two Mediterranean decades Mourin keeps a firm disgust for 'Pa amb tomàquet' [traditional dish with bread or
toast with tomato rubbed over and seasoned with olive oil and salt, the
Anchor] and a no less vehement passion for Football
Club Barcelona, evident on the walls of the 'Sabadelle', that is
covered by Blaugrana flags and pictures of 'Lobito' Carrasco.
The bar's decoration is further completed with calendars from Carballiño
and Chantada ironmongers and bazaars that are nailed into the wall next
to a tattered rag that announces a big 'fiesta' in Villamarin.
In a small shed, with a green semi-transparent corrugated plastic roof,
attached to the 'Sabadelle' Arcadio Mourin has installed a youth club
for the town youngsters. They meet on Saturday afternoons to play table
soccer, seven balls for a peseta. Next to the wall is a stack of soft
drink cases and at the other end stands a jukebox, a 'Wurlitzer'
made in 1966, adorned with abundant chrome and painted fuchsia and blue,
a nod towards the preferred soccer team of the owner.
The musical menu of the 'rockola' is renewed every Blue Monday by an
Orense salesman, who also represents a famous brand of biscuits, and his
choice is colourful but commonplace. For a peso you can musically
acclimatise the place with songs of Georgie
os Ventos, Azul
y Negro, Golpes
Rubia or Duran
Duran. The least heard song of the entire repertoire of the machine
is identified by the letter B and number 7. Rarely a young man will
decide to spoil a coin on it, perhaps because the small piece of paper
with the title and performer is illegible. But when Arcadio Mourin
permits it, visitors can open the plastic dome of the Wurlitzer and
examine the single in question. It is the only one not coming from the
travelling salesman from Orense and is a British 1967 edition of 'See
Emily Play' and 'Scarecrow', two songs written by Syd Barrett and
performed by the group Pink Floyd.
Jose Ángel González
To add further credibility to the article several small interviews and
quotes were added from people who testify about Barrett's yearly trip to
the monastery: Arcadio Mourin (pub owner), Francisco Gasalla (Spanish
friend of Syd Barrett), Leopoldo Durán (Oseira monk), Joe Boyd
(producer), Kurt Digger (journalist), Jo Cannon (lightshow designer),
Robert Wyatt (musician) and Rodney Bennett (movie maker).
Oseira. 1985 by Arcadio Mourin
We thought he could not speak our language or that he was dumb. Coming
down here almost daily, at nightfall, he took a few glasses of wine
while watching television. (...)
We knew that he lodged at the monastery and that he was an English
countryman and novelist... Sometimes he headed towards Povadura to walk
in the mountains in silent solitude. I think he came here the first time
in '68 or '69 and after that we got used to see him arriving every year,
in early December. Today he is liked much more and he relates more to
the people, but he still leaves after a short time. He gave me a single
for the machine that is there and it will continue to stay there,
because the youngsters will not spend a peso on it. (...)
His best friend here is Paco Gasalla, from the Chamber of Agriculture,
who was an immigrant in England and speaks the language.
Comments: A search on Arcadio Mourin or on the Sabadelle pub
was without results.
Oseira. 1985 by Francisco Gasalla
I personally met Syd when I paid a visit to Father Durán, a long time
family friend. It was in the monastery at Christmas 1975... Barrett and
the Father spoke of Graham Greene. (...)
I thought he was a painter because I saw him walk on the mountain,
carrying a large book, the kind of book to put sketches in, and a case
of coloured pencils. At first he did not speak a Castilian word. With
the monks he spoke in English, especially with Father Durán, and with
others in French. (...)
I still don't know him very well, I did not even know he was a musician
until an English journalist came by. We see him every year with the
Christmas holidays. He always brings something from Cambridge and I use
the opportunity to practice my English, because I miss that. And he asks
me things about the people of the village, things about people's lives.
He is very shy, very artistic.
Comments: A search on Francisco Gasalla was without results.
Oseira. 1985 by Leopoldo Durán, Oseira monk and a personal friend of
Syd Barrett and Graham Greene.
Mr. Barrett, whom I have known for many years, has asked me to be
discreet and not to have contact with the press. Year ago a British
weekly published a sensationalist story full of exaggerations and we
would not want something similar to happen.
Durán, 1917-2008, was a professor in theology, philosophy and
literature and a close friend (and biographer) of Graham Greene. There
is no proof he ever met Syd Barrett. In over 35 years of Pink Floyd
research the Reverend has never encountered an English press article
mentioning Syd's annual retreats into a Spanish monastery, neither has
it been cited in any of the biographies.
Oseira. 1985 by Francisco Gasalla
Once we went to Carballiño.
We especially invited Syd because the annual Film Festival had put a
film with Pink Floyd music on the agenda. It was called "The Valley", it
was an African adventure film, made by some Germans. Syd had not seen it
before and was very quiet, chewing 'Sugus'
sweets, a sight I will not forget. Every year he would take several
packages back to England. "They're for my hippie friends"; he once said.
I asked him if he liked the movie and he said: “only the music”. (...)
I proposed him to come to my house if he wanted to grab a guitar or the
Casio that my daughter's grandparents had given her for her name day,
but he always said no. He said he had done 'too much music'.
San Francisco (USA). 1983 by Joe Boyd, record producer and film maker
in an interview for the magazine Cult
My first job as a record producer was in 1967, in London, a city that
went through a musical frenzy. I did several singles with Pink Floyd, a
group of Cambridge that had very little to do then with the band they
are today. They were crazy, really crazy, continuously taking all kinds
of drugs, but they were really creative, especially Syd Barrett, singer,
guitarist and principal songwriter. (...)
I lost their track for a while, but Barrett once wrote me to ask for a
copy of 'See Emily Play'. I sent it to Cambridge and I knew nothing more
of it. The letter said he wanted to give the disk to a good friend.
Boyd is of course known by Pink Floyd admirers, he opened the UFO
club and produced the Floyd's first single Arnold
Layne. In contradiction with the above 'quote' he was not involved
with the Floyd's second single, See
Emily Play. Several magazines called 'Cult' have existed throughout
the years but no interview with Joe Boyd for one of them could be found.
London. 1982 article signed by Kurt Digger in the weekly Sounds
magazine, headlined "Barrett: Mad as Always"
The darling son of psychedelia has found peace in the arms of
contemplative Catholicism. In the monastery of Oseira (Galicia,
geographically the closest Spanish region to the UK), Syd Barrett,
founder of Pink Floyd and 'enfant terrible' of the London 'underground'
66-67 years, has retreated for a long stroll through the wastelands. (…)
Surrounded by monks Barrett showed himself proud, arrogant and even
"You are still waiting for me to return, vultures", he yelled
No wonder his mother expels him annually from his home in Cambridge,
thus the patient lady can enjoy a pleasant Christmas.
magazine did exist in 1982, but a search on the title or the author
didn't give any results.
LONDON. 1969 by Jo Cannon, head of the light show of the first
concerts of Pink Floyd, in an interview published in the magazine Oz.
Late last year I received a postcard from Syd. It was a tourist view of
a Spanish monastery called Ossarium (sic). Written on it were two
stanzas of 'See Emily Play': “There is no other day. Let's try it
another way. You'll lose your mind and play. Free games for May." Since
then I've heard nothing more."
Comments: Syd Barrett was already interested in light
experiments before he hit the charts with Pink Floyd. Anthony Stern has
told how he and Syd had been fascinated by Reg Gadney at King's College
who made light projections (1964-ish) and later Syd tried to repeat
these at home with John Gordon. In the early days of Pink Floyd the band
lived in the house of Mike Leonard, who experimented with oil slides,
rotating mirrors and lights. When the Floyd went professional in 1966
their first light show came straight from Haight-Ashbury, thanks to a
couple of hippies, Joel and Toni Brown. Unfortunately they returned to
the USA and Peter Jenner (and his wife Sumi) had to improvise a
At one point seventeen years old Joe Gannon was hired who became their
first lighting tech, but he had already left when the Floyd started
hitting the market.
It is improbable that Joe Gannon (not Jo Cannon) would have
received a Spanish holiday card from Syd Barrett in December 1968. That
month Syd, Duggie Fields and Jules moved into Wetherby Mansions and
according to Jens she visited Syd there before year's end.
LONDON. 1968 anonymous entry, inserted in the journal 'International
Times', part of the British Underground.
The sorcerer's apprentice can't stand 'speed'. Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's
first singer, lived for two lost months a monastic life in a small place
in north-western Spain. Barrett's mother confirmed a few days ago that
her son is 'travelling', but denied that it had to do with any physical
or mental problems. “He simply is doing some sightseeing.", said Mrs.
Barrett, who owns a pottery shop in Cambridge. (…)
After his final separation with Pink Floyd, Barrett travelled last
January through various countries on the continent and finally settled
in a monastery in Galicia, in north-western Spain. This was revealed by
light expert and close friend of the singer, Jo Cannon.
Comments: As far as we know Syd's mother didn't have a pottery
shop. It is also weird that the same wrongly named person, Jo Cannon,
surfaces in two different articles in the English press. A search for Jo
Cannon on the extensive IT database didn't give any result, neither did
Joe Gannon, by the way.
MENORCA. 1975 by Robert Wyatt, British musician and inhabitant of the
Balearic Islands, in an interview by Claudi Montaña and published in the
I knew that Syd Barrett was going through a bad time and invited him to
spend some time at home, here in Menorca. He wondered where this place
was and I answered that it was in Spain, next to Ibiza. "In that country
only one place interests me," he replied but I had never heard of it.
A few months ago he sent me a tape with traditional music of that
Spanish region. It was similar to Scottish bagpipes but with more
emotions. Something really spiritual.
Comments: The Spanish magazine Vibraciones
did have a Robert
Wyatt article in its issue of November 1975 called En Menorca, de
week-end con Robert Wyatt. Unfortunately the article itself could
not be consulted.
LONDON. 1985 by Rodney Bennett, director of the 'Monsignor Quixote'
production for Thames Television, filmed partly in Oseira and based on
the novel of the same name by Graham Greene. Published in the magazine
I knew that Syd Barret was a regular of the Oseira monastery and I wrote
to Cambridge offering him to compose the music of 'Monsignor Quixote'.
Graham Greene and the producers knew of the agreement. However, Barret
declined the offer in a very nice letter. He wished me luck and success
with the series, admitted being a fan of Greene and a "staunch defender
of the purity of Oseira".
Comments: The American magazine Filmmaker only started in
1992, but it is possible that a magazine with the same name existed
before, although the Church didn't find any trace of that. Rodney
Bennett did make a Monsignor
Quixote television movie but nowhere he has mentioned Syd Barrett as
a possible collaborator. Neither does any of the Barrett biographies
The La Naval Barrett article could be the source of the Oseira Floydian
legend. It needs to be remarked though that in this article there is no
word of an unpublished Spanishgrass album. That part of the story
seems to have been added in a later stage when the story mushroomed in
the pubs around A Coruña by people who failed to see the satire of it
Seventeen years later, in 2003, a certain Eric Burdon (obviously a
nickname) published a Spanish Internet article called 'Discos
perdidos - Spanish Grass- Syd Barrett' that has been quoted ever
since... And perhaps more solutions will be revealed by Antonio Jesús
when he will publish his investigations at Solo
En Las Nubes.
Jose Ángel González (no accent on the first name, please) was born in Santiago
de Compostela on February 28, 1955. Spending most of his youth in Venezuela
he returned to Spain at the age of 17.
For the past 30 years he has been a free-lance journalist, covering a
broad range of the classic and modern media: spoken and written word,
video and television, electronic adventures in cyberworld for official
and private institutions or companies. In those three decades he has
witnessed successive births, deaths and resurrections of magazines and
papers but this hasn't taken away the fun and inspiration to go on
writing. In his own words: telling a story, whatever the medium, is the
most beautiful of the story.
Jose Ángel González is also a photographer, has exhibited his work in
Madrid, Barcelona and San Francisco and has published some work in
magazines. He likes photography as an expressive medium as pictures can
be a workaround for when words aren't telling enough.
In 1986 he published a mockumentary
in La Naval, a shortlived 'Atlantic movement' journal that he
founded. It was a fable about Syd Barrett's alleged stay at the Oseira
monastery. Throughout the entire piece the protagonist's name is
misspelled as Barret, not Barrett. Not that anyone noticed. See: Spanishgrass,
one year later.
Unknown to him the story turned into an urban legend and the Syd in
Oseira rumour was repeated and extrapolated among Spanish Syd Barrett
In 2002 he published a follow-up article on a (disappeared) blog in a
series of hypothetical records. Here is where the Spanishgrass
album was named for the first time.
This added extra fuel on the urban legend and blogs and forums picked up
the 'news'. According to González he was not aware of this until he was
contacted by Antonio Jesús from Solo
En Las Nubes who made it his quest to search for the origins of the
Antonio Jesús has lived in Cambridge where he helped at The
City Wakes festival (2008, already) and met several people of the
pre-Floydian incrowd. His blog Solo
en las Nubes is the starting point for Spanish speaking Barrett fans
all over the world. In a series of so-called Self-Interviews
he has highlighted several personalities of the past and present Syd
As a close collaborator of the Holy Church he decided to investigate the Spanishgrass
hoax, go to the bottom of it and find the source of the urban legend.
Not only he traced back the articles that started the legend but managed
to interview the author, Jose Ángel González.
He is the author of much more than "Syd Barrett looking for celestial
harmony in Oseira" and "Monastic Syd" (aka Spanishgrass).
Once we had found Jose Ángel González, we had no other choice then to
ask about his article of La
Naval... However, there were many other things to talk about as we
had only seen the tip of an artist's iceberg.
What follows are the questions, what follows are the answers ...
About the [Atlantic] movement that started in Vigo... when was the
time when you realized that those changes were going to stay forever?
Have they "stayed forever"? Their remembrance should be personal and not
entrenched in a historical museum. I think that all these changes have
now been usurped by the professionals of recuperation: politicians,
artists in search for the holy grail of early retirement, mediocre
artists, professional curators looking for patronage... They want to be
awarded with an approved nostalgic blessing, they want to give
expression of a comfortable and comforting situation...
I'm thinking of the shameful and manipulative exposition Desembarco
de los 80 (Disembarking of the eighties, 2011 exposition
remembering the Atlantic movement) that was mounted on lies for the
greater glory, also financial, of its survivors... I don’t like the
durability of this idea, although of course I am a human being and I
have the right to worship my private saints.
When the Vigo
movement hatched in the media I was living in Coruña.
I don't call her the Galician A Coruña nor the Spanish La
Coruña, I only use the feminine surname of the city, as she is the lady
whom I love. I was working for the only Galician FM radio-station that
played the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Television, Patti Smith or the
First the show was called Frenesí (Frenzy), later El lado salvaje (The
wild side) and it was diffused by Radio Popular in Ferrol,
but recorded in Coruña. Much later the show changed into Vuelo nocturno
(Nightflight) on the FM station Radio
In 1980 I had returned from Madrid where I had been lucky enough to
witness the first concerts of the groups that were liked by the
[Atlantic] movement and I found out that Coruña was a wasteland where
the people of my generation where listening to Emerson,
Lake & Palmer in the best case and to Mercedes
Sosa in the worst.
La Naval [the semi-official magazine of the Atlantic movement]
was not the only project I was involved in. I also organised weekly rock
concerts in a discotheque and co-managed two official rock contests for
The initial musical tristesse that I had found was ameliorating, but not
From the artists of that fruitful era, which one do you prefer?
There is no doubt for me: Siniestro
Total (Total Sinister). They were provocative and cultivated
despite their rudeness and they liked black American blues, which was
quite strange in Galicia, where everything coming from the USA was
considered imperialistic, influenced as we were by our nationalistic
How did La Naval come into place? Where there other competing
magazines? What made it so different?
A new style of magazines was more or less created out of boredom with
the old ones. We worked for newspapers and radio-stations of A Coruña
but it was hard to get some media attention in the city and to have our
alternative agendas published. The La Naval magazine began with 100.000
pesetas I had put aside on a long-termed bank account, the result of an
apartment sale belonging to my parents. I think it will be obvious what
followed: I never recovered the money.
[Note: 100.000 pesetas is roughly 601€, 802$ or 510£. The value today
would be at least the double as in the mid-eighties.]
How was the atmosphere between the collaborators of La Naval?
Although I stayed on the editorial board for all numbers it was not my
thing. The magazine's editorial line was based on the alleged
alternative Atlantic culture, as opposed to the Mediterranean one. It
soon led to an attempt to make a sales brand out of Galicia and to sell
it to the mainland. It gave expression to nationalism, rascally and
low-fi perhaps, but nationalism after all.
And how did La Naval end?
In my case, with a hole in the bank, but others took profit out of it.
For example, Radio
Océano, a band created by two of our founding members, recorded
an album that was paid by national radio, where its leadsinger was
working, by the way.
What do you miss most about the movement?
There was a clan feeling that was not bad, but it was limited to our own
small tribe with mutual masturbation among participating journalists. We
were a Mafia, like any other.
Number "500" had the article about Syd Barrett visiting the Oseira
monastery. Was this based on some urban... or better said: rural legend?
How was the article conceived?
The story was born in me with the fascination I felt for Syd Barrett and
his work. The article uses no legend as a starting point. It is my own
A few years ago the story, without direct references to the original
article, resurfaced on the Internet. How did you react to that?
None whatsoever. La Naval only had a limited impact. Only now I have
learned through you about the impact of the article, and I'm interested
and proud. I find it very funny that an urban legend grew out of it that
has been further associated with others or confirmed by others.
A few years after the publication of the La Naval article I wrote an
extended and corrected version for a series about hypothetical records.
It was published on a blog that eventually ended and added the lyrics of
some of the songs from Spanishgrass.
Why did you choose Syd Barrett as the protagonist of this monastic
adventure? And why Oseira?
Because Syd Barrett is one of my preferential musicians. Because Oseira
is a place of great tellurian force and it seemed appropriate as a
setting for this fiction. The summers of the English author Graham
Greene in the monastery, the power of nature, the retirement, the prime
nobility of those Cistercian monks... All that, my fragile memory
recalls, had to do with the initial idea.
What music are you currently listening to?
I've never stopped listening to old blues (Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf,
Bessie Smith...), Bob Dylan, King Crimson, David Bowie, The Beatles...
I'm not seeking for new things. But what has excited me most recently is
How did you get into photography?
I started taking pictures and developing them in a dark room in my
teens, but I had never any other intention than doing some family
snapshots. A few years ago, while recovering from an illness and with my
first digital reflex camera, I started using photography as a form of
therapy, to try to find the humanity that was fleeing from me. Quite
naturally I went back to analog photography. And here I am: I have
already stated a few times that I would like to have more time to pursue
photographic projects. It is not easy ...
What brought you to the USA and San Francisco in particular?
To make a long story short, I was keen to leave Spain and its sadness
In the 'Strike' collection your photos seem not to capture the moment
but the spirit of those who appear in it. Is that the magic 'analog'
touch? And in the 'Her Name is Holga' series you seem to carry away the
dream. Were these pictures taken in th USA? What inspired you?
I can rarely explain a photo, and especially those on the street have
been taken instinctively. Someone said that the photographer is, or
should be, an emissary of his own sadness. I apply that story.
Your blog is superb, in photographic work and in the texts you write.
Do you think there is something in common? What accounts for your
preference for black and white? When do you choose colour instead?
I see in black and white. Always has been. I do not pretend to be better
or more arty: it's a spiritual condition.
And that romance with Holga? What does she has that others do not
camera is a simple, plastic toy, cheap and unsophisticated. I love
flirting with her and I think she fancies me, as she returns miracles. I
have over 50 cameras: if I have to choose just one, it would be the
What is Oraciones sucias (obscene prayers)?
It's a Tumblr,
a scrapbook, a microblog... I have another as well: Hot
Parade, dedicated to photos only. I also have two websites: joseangelgonzalez.com
is my official site, I have recently rebuilt it after an accidental file
loss. On joseangelgonzalez.net
are those photos that embarrass me the least.
Do you have any artistic ambitions to further develop?
Just living and trying to be happy, which is already something.
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit receives many letters from believers
all over the world and on the 23rd of may 2012 at 04:31 AM (UTC+1) Babylemonade
Aleph asked the following to the Reverend:
I have read that Syd made a trip to A Coruña, who was in a monastery,
and recorded some songs that formed part of a recording entitled,
"Spanishgrass, songs for the space and the nap". What you know about
Frankly this didn't ring a bell, but the Church decided to look further
into the matter. As the story of Syd Barrett recording a partly Galician
album in a monastery in Spain seemed rather improbable an article was
published in the satirical The
Anchor division (Spanishgrass
or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record).
Normally this should have been it. But some dull boring people didn't
like that the Holy Church, always in for a bit of controversy – we duly
admit, had thrown a stone into the quiet Barrett-pond, where
self-proclaimed fisher-kings have been angling for the same fish for the
last four decades. One of them even found it necessary to comment as
Wierdos (sic) come on here presenting this sort of stuff as FACT,
fake pictures, stupid stories about Syd recording an album in a Spanish
monastry (sic). All balls.
Jose Ángel González reveals that there has been more than one Oseira
article and that he also invented the Spanishgrass album:
A few years after the publication of the La Naval article I wrote an
extended and corrected version for a series about hypothetical records.
It was published on a blog that eventually ended and added the lyrics of
some of the songs from Spanishgrass.
And so, without further ado, here it is... (for the original, Spanish
version, please click on the image below)
Syd Barrett "Spanish grass (twenty songs about space and siesta)" Nonsense
Manantial (Spring) / Reverential mourners / Black maid / Plastic
gunpowder / Mouse after a fête / Breakwater and tea / Grey trees / Two
bangers + mash / Whining at the moon / Greenland / Eu son Dhaga (I am
Dhaga) / Na outra banda (On the other hand) / Un poeta
esquece os días de chuvia (A poet forgets the rainy days) /
Saturnalia / William Phips / Stede Bonnet / Gabriel Spenser / Gospel at
noon / Waste Deep / Frog
Before leaving the world to enclose himself at Hotel Schizophrenia, Syd
Barrett (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1948), the founder and evicted
leader of Pink Floyd, traveled to Spain for two years (1976 and
1977). Suffering from dromomania,
the same paranoid ambulatory psychosis Rimbaud
and other chronically restless people endured, Barrett toured
anonymously, using public transport or by hitchhiking, through
Andalusia, Extremadura and Galicia. No one was with him and his luggage
was scarce and revealing: a backpack, a Martin acoustic guitar and the
complete works of the visionary William
During one of his wanderings he discovered what would become his private
retreat, the Oseira monastery in the north-west of the Iberian
Nestled in a secluded canyon of the City of San Cristovo de Cea
(Ourense), the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Oseira is the first
establishment in Spain (twelfth century) of the Cistercian monastic
order, founded as a radical alternative to the aristocratic congregation
of Cluny. The Cistercians practice Christian friendship, revere poverty,
adhere mythical culture and establish themselves remotely from the
world, in places away from roads and population.
Caught by the sturdy charm of the place, the quiet floating of monastic
life and the hospitality of the monks, he was at peace with himself,
perhaps for the first time since the wicked years of psychedelia.
Barrett stayed in one of the Oseiran guest cells for four months in 1976
(September-December) and for three months the following year (April to
June) and only left the monastery to roam the nearby hills. He liked in
particular two nearby sites: Loma Chaira, a wide panoramic grassy
terrace situated nearly 1200 metres high, and Penedo de Cuncas, a
ridge shaded by an abundant mass of chestnut trees.
During his stay the visitor wrote and recorded a dozen songs. He sat in
the courtyard of the monastery, usually at the siesta time, and softly
sung accompanied by his guitar, afraid to disturb the community. The
sound of the recordings is technically bad, but from a poetic viewpoint
very suggestive: Barrett's voice is hushed, like it would never be
recorded in a studio, by the wind blowing and the effervescing water
fountain. Perhaps this was the 'untanned arms' and forestry environment
he vainly had tried to outline in his two solo works "The Madcap Laughs"
(1970) and "Barrett" (1971). [Note: this seems to be a
Spanish poetical description the Reverend frankly doesn't understand.]
Late 1978 twenty songs were released on vinyl by a bootleg record
company in A Coruña, called Nonsense Music, using the unique tape
recording made by Barrett and smuggled outside by a deserting Oseira
novice. The album was titled "Spanishgrass" ("Hierba española")
accompanied by the subtitle "twenty songs about space and siesta," a
phrase the artist used when the monks asked him about the meaning of his
"Spanishgrass" is currently unavailable. The first and only edition of
the record - about 20 copies – wase not made for profit. All copies were
given away by Gema Noya, the Nonsense Music manager, to her closest
friends, under the promise that they would not distribute or duplicate
the material, a pact that was fulfilled to the letter thanks to the
loyalty of these good hippies. Noya used the record as a farewell gift
before retiring to a Buddhist community at Pokhara (Nepal), where
she still resides. According to sources close to her family, she burned
the original tape and scattered the ashes on the beach of Carnota, close
to the Pindo mountain, the Celtic Olympus, after she had sent a copy to
Barrett, who lived in Cambridge since 1978.
The tracks on the secret record are musically blunt with guitar
arrangements that are stripped of all artificiality, almost always
orbicularly strumming a single chord, but the lyrics are, in contrast,
very dense. They range from the usual surreal Barrett humour (Mouse
after a fête, Two bangers & mash) to Pentecostal mysticism, with
quotations from ancient Welsh bard songs taken from “The
White Goddess", Robert
Graves's work that the English musician consulted with interest at
the Oseira library.
Also other books Barrett read at the monastery seized him deep in his
mind. He dedicates three songs (William Phips, Stede Bonnet and Gabriel
Spenser) to the flamboyant characters described by the extravagant Marcel
Schwob in "Imaginary Lives". But above all, Barrett was seduced by
the medieval-sounding poems "Herba aquí ou acolá" from the fabulist Alvaro
Cunqueiro. He put music and sings three poems of the book in
Galician (Eu are Dagha, Na outra banda and Un poeta esquece os días de
Happy New Year, sistren and brethren of the Holy Church of
Iggy the Inuit. Another year has passed by, with ups and downs, with
happiness and grief, with joy and pain... In our Inuit realm some people
passed away unfortunately, and luckily some new ones were born...
welcome Vasilisa Alla... to this world of magnets and miracles...
Browsing through our scrapbook with unfinished articles, pictures and
movies for the Church we noted this report from our fashion department.
It is a 1969 documentary about Ossie
Clarke with Lindsay Corner as one of the models.
To quote our fashion specialist:
In the first bit Lindsey Corner is on the left, then in the yellow dress
with the blonde in blue, then in the middle with a long pink thing, then
again in yellow with the blonde. She's the one with darker blonde wavy
And yes we are aware of the rumours that circle about Lindsay Corner and
Gala Pinion since a year or two. And no, we don't know when this will
see the light of day...
2013 was a weird year for the Church and its Reverend. Again we thought
we would not be able to write anything for our lustrum, but in the end
we clocked down at 20 slightly stupendous articles.
We started anoraky enough with an article about Syd's hair-length in the
early Seventies, this to please the female audience of our little cult: Hairy
Mess. Sometimes the Reverend regressed into Brian
Eno mood and then he wrote some ditty texts about sweet nothings: King's
The Church's biggest scoop this year was made in collaboration with the
En Las Nubes blog. Not only did Antonio Jesús find back the article
that started the infamous Oseira rumours, but he also managed to
interview the author of the hoax, Jose Ángel González. The Church merely
harvested Antonio's excellent work, like churches mostly do: Spanishgrass.
Facebook's thriving Syd Barrett community, Birdie
Hop, organised a meeting in Cambridge with several young and less
younger Barrett fans, friends and lovers. It was a most amazing meeting
in remembrance of a man who wrote the most peculiar kind of tunes: Birdie
Hop: wasn't it the most amazing meeting?
Did Syd leave us a message in a letter from a decade ago? Sometimes the
truth is more beautiful than the legend: Making
And that is what we will continue to do in 2014, make it a fantastic
year, boys and girls! And everything seems so much brighter... Let's
party! Thanks Men
On The Border!
Many thanks to Alexander, Amy Funstar, Anonymous, Antonio Jesús,
Babylemonade Aleph, Baron Wolman, Birdie Hop, Bob Archer, Brett Wilson,
Cambridge News, Christopher Farmer, Col Turner, Dion Johnson, Elizabeth
Voigt-Walter, Stanislav, Euryale, Göran Nyström, Herman van Gaal, HYGIY,
Joanne 'Charley' Milne, Joe Perry, Jon Felix, Jonathan Charles, Jose
Ángel González, Julia, Kiloh Smith, Kirsty Whalley, Late Night, Laughing
Madcaps, Lori Haines, Mark Blake, MAY, Men On The Border, Michael
Rawding, MvB, No Man's Land, Phil Etheridge, Psych62, Radharani Krishna,
Rich Hall, Rod Harris, Ron Cooper, Simon Hendy, Stefan Mühle, USA
National Register off Historic Places, Viper, Vita, Wolfpack,
Younglight, Yves Leclerc... Love you Swoonies!
And if I go insane, And they lock me away, Will you still let me
join in the game?
It was on the sad last week of August that a mysterious package from
an unknown sender arrived at Atagong mansion. Packed in a brown
plain cloth with a just distinguishable flowery motive, it was held
together with thin brown rope and sealed with red wax.
After breaking the seal and removing the cloth, two carton boxes
were revealed. One 7 inch (7-1/4 x 7-1/4 x 1/2" - approx.
185 x 185 x 16 mm) containing the text 'REEL FOUR' and, on the
spine, 'SPANISHGRASS GCA-19B 4B4.
A bigger 11 inch (11 x 11 x
3/4" - approx. 280 x 280 x 20 mm) is titled 'SPANISHGRASS 20 SONGS
ABOUT SPACE AND SIESTA GCA-19B 4/4', on the spine 'SPANISHGRASS
The small box contained a tape all-right. On an inlay from High
Fidelity GCA Sound, Purveyors of Fine Audio Equipment, are written
the following titles: William Paips (1:10) Stede Bonnet (2:08) Gabriel
Spenser (2:39) Gospel At Noon (3:00) Waste Deep (2:52) Frog
The big box contained several wrapped packages, a CD and a letter,
signed and sealed by Leopoldo Duran.
Here it is.
Written in the Galician language, we managed to scan, OCR and translate
it as good as were able to.
Dear Felix Atagong,
I hope this letter finds you well. My name is
Leopoldo Duran. I serve as a monk at the Monastery of Santa Maria de
Oseira. If you are reading this, it means I'm dead, and that my heirs
followed the instructions in my will to send you this parcel. Our abbey
is a beautiful monastery dedicated to Our Lord and has been around for
almost 900 years. Unfortunately. the weather was not so kind to our
abbey as we had expected from our Lord; as such, a number of necessary
repairs had to be carried out in many sections of several buildings.
such recent repair involved a rarely used room that belonged to an old
and dear friend of mine, who at the time expressly proclaimed his desire
to remain forever anonymous. My friend would spend the morning hours of
the Vespers in our yard, quietly and respectfully playing his guitar,
singing songs that were inspired by his stay. I have many memories of
him taking his reel-to-reel tape recorder very early in the morning,
while the rest of us went to mass. In fact, I told him and his friends,
many non-Catholics, who would also visit us that if they wanted to
confess at any time, they could talk to me, instead of talking to this
tape machine that didn't listen. None of them ever thanked us, but
that's another topic.
My apologies, but my mind begins to wander
at this age... we were talking repairs. A worker found a box embedded in
the corner of the room of my friend, initially thought to be rubbish, as
on top of the disorganized pile there was a note saying 'please burn
this'. It appeared that it contained four tape reels from my old friend,
along with a pile of old photographs and other things. As they were old,
I thought it would be best to send these tape recordings to an expert to
have them restored. A non-Catholic boy in the village told me about
something called 'web'. This 'web' apparently has information and on my
demand the 'web' found a place in the United States of America where
they agreed to take the music performed on these four reels and produce
one copy of something called 'digital'.
This American assured
that these 'digital' music storage techniques are much more preferred
for these older reels. He also said that to extract the music from these
very old tapes, he had to 'feed' the reels. This made sense to me,
because I suddenly remembered my dear old friend, explaining how he
'roasted' these tapes. Apparently, the process can be repeated many
times but the tape starts to degrade; therefore, the American issued the
following warning. ”Play this on a clean machine and make sure to
register the first playing, as each additional playing will degrade the
Once again, after the North-American information
about these 'records' I was at a loss about what to do next. I wanted to
share this wonderful discovery to someone who wants it. Unfortunately,
time makes disappear all things, and I think less and less people will
recognize the name of my dear friend.
Also, next to my unyielding
desire I was reminded of the promise to my friend to remain anonymous.
"I would remain silent until my death...”, I said nothing then! I made
the non-Catholic village boy do another search on this 'web' and let him
come with four names. In my will I am instructing my heirs to send each
one of the reels. Due to a communication error four 'albums' that
contain the complete content of all four reels combined were put on a
disc. Each 'disc' includes the content of the four combined reels that
the American produced for me. I remember my friend saying at the time
that these recordings are called 'Spanishgrass' and that they were
'twenty songs about space and siesta'.
It is my wish that this
answers any questions you may have regarding this package you received
unsolicited. If it gives you more questions, I can only tell you what I
tell everyone. So Jesus and the Holy Church know it's true.
(This is part one
of the Spanishgrass,
the myth continues... series. Hi-def scans and pictures will be
revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass
Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package. ♥ Iggy ♥
Libby ♥ Babylemonade Aleph ♥
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
It contained, next to a CD and several goodies, a tape reel, marked
'reel four'. An undated letter from High Fidelity GCA Sound, Purveyors
of Fine Audio Equipment, explains how the four reels have been
transferred to CD.
Project instructions: Leopoldo Duran
(customer) provided four reel to reel tapes. Customer stated reels have
been left unprotected in a drafty room. Customer would like archive
copies made from whatever is on tapes. No alterations to the sound are
to be made. Please deliver transferred files on to a compact disc.
Minor water damage to tapes. Main concern is
tape quality. Tape age is estimated to be mid 1970s. Due to the age of
the tape, the tape is oxidizing and showing wear. In order to achieve
the most optimum archival copy, the reel to reel machine heads were
cleaned and aligned before each reel. Tapes were baked to achieve
optimum quality from source. While a digital copy has been created from
the reels provided, certain audio defects remain present. Even with
adequate preventative measures, tape transfer achieved was not optimal.
Listener should expect audio imperfections. This is most noticeable as
minor distortions, speed inconsistencies, and subtle drop outs.
And then there were three
Our assumption that four tapes, each containing different tracks, have
been anonymously 'delivered' to people around the world seems right.
Last week boxes arrived in Spain at the Solo
En Las Nubes webmaster Antonio Jesús (reel 2) and in the USA at Birdie
Hop administrator and music collector (and professional) Rick Barnes
(reel 1). As a matter of fact the Spanishgrass set made it onto Rick
Vinyl Community update on Youtube (skip to 20 minutes to watch the
For the moment we still have no clue about the whereabouts of reel
Next to the music on tape and CD there are some Polaroids from the
Oseira monastery that further immerse the listener into the Spanishgrass
set. These will be published on a daily base at the Spanishgrass
section of our Holy
Church Tumblr page.
The question that troubles most anoraks though is: do the tapes (and CD)
really contain lost Syd Barrett tunes that have been recorded during his
alleged stay at the Oseira monastery, somewhere in the seventies? We
will only publish a review of the record next week, but this is what we
can already divulge.
Save a prayer
Leopoldo Durán, professor of (English) literature, philosophy and
theology, lived for three decades in Great Britain where he was
contacted by Graham Greene after Durán's doctoral dissertation about
priesthood. The two men became friends for life and the author annually
visited the priest at the Oseira monastery. Greene's humorous and
satirical novel Monsignor
Quixote was a direct result of the long religious and political
conversations both friends had, more triggered by visits to local
vineyards than for the need of philosophical discours. Graham
Greene died in 1991, after his final confession was taken by his Spanish
friend. Durán would still correspond with Greene's widow and family
until his dead in 2008 and published several biographical books about
The Durán archives, 48 boxes in total, containing letters, manuscripts,
pictures from Durán, Greene and others are archived at the Georgetown
University Library Special
Collections Research Center, Washington, D.C., but nowhere there is
a trace of a certain Roger Keith Barrett staying at Oseira.
Leopoldo Durán died in 2008, but the alleged Spanishgrass
tapes were only posted six years later to four Syd Barrett scholars, after
the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit and Solo En Las Nubes articles about
the 1986 hoax (and its follow-up, by the original author, Jose Ángel
González, in 2003). See: Spanishgrass
or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record, Spanishgrass,
one year later and subsequent articles on this blog.
Where did the tapes stay between 2008 and 2014? Surely, if Leopoldo
Durán would have had the Spanishgrass tapes, they would logically be in
his archive, but they are not.
Last but not least. In the letter that can be found in the four
Spanishgrass Immersion boxes (with one box still missing), Leopoldo
Durán misspells his own name consequently as Leopoldo Duran, without an
accent on the last a. On top of that Durán was a professor of English
literature, so it is weird that the letter, destined for an English
speaking audience, has been written in Galician.
Sometimes a hoax can be too elaborated...
So who or what is this Spanishgrass band or artist and what is on the
album? Be patient, sistren and brethren, all will be
revealed in due time...
Finally the fourth copy of Spanishgrass has been found. It is
somewhere in that immense country that is Russia, in the hands of the
slightly dadaist artist Stanislav, whom we happen to have met
this summer in Brussels, the territory of Manneken
If this was an episode of Crime
Scene Investigation, where the actors have the uncanny habit of
talking way too fast, we would say that the net closes around the Syd
Barrett Facebook group Birdie
Hop as all people who have received a copy are linked, one way or
another, to that gang. On the other hand, as Birdie Hop undoubtedly is
the best Syd Barrett group around on Facebook this is not really
earth-shattering news either.
The great grey edifice of the Osera monastery stretches out almost alone
within a trough of the Galician hills. A small shop and a bar at the
very entrance of the monastery grounds make up the whole village of
Osera. The carved exterior which dates from the sixteenth century hides
the twelfth-century interior – an imposing stairway, perhaps twenty
metres wide, up which a platoon could march shoulder to shoulder, leads
to long passages lined with guest rooms above the central courtyard and
the cloisters. Almost the only sound during the day is the ring of
hammers where half a dozen workmen are struggling to repair the ravages
of seven centuries. (Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote)
Let's cut the crap, once and for all. Of course the 2014 Spanishgrass
(Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta) 'immersion' set, that has only
been issued in four copies, isn't Syd Barrett's lost Oseira
record. Syd has never visited that monastery. The Spanish blog Sole
En Las Nubes has dedicated some valuable webspace to investigate the
Spanishgrass hoax and managed to trace it back to a Spanish journalist
and photographer who decided to have some fun in a satirical underground
magazine of the mid-eighties. (Thanks to Antonio Jesús for allowing us
to publish his articles in English: Spanishgrass.)
If you call yourself a decent Barrett-fan you should know that by now,
so don't feel insulted.
But this doesn't mean that there isn't a 'Spanishgrass' record by a
'Spanishgrass' band. The numbered and limited deluxe sets have been sent
to four extremely lucky people on 3 different continents. There also
seems to be a regular CD release, but it is pretty limited as well, and
probably you will have to ask for one if you want to receive it, but of
course you need to puzzle out who is behind the record first. Luckily
the set has been released
this week on Bandcamp where you can listen to it, track per track, or download
the album in its entirety on a 'name your own price' basis (0.00$ is an
option as well).
Why don't you listen to the Spanishgrass album on Bandcamp while
reading this review?
Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta)
Spanishgrass 2014 is a re-imagination of a record that never was in the
first place. Its maker had to explore the unexplored, like those
medieval cartographers who wrote hic sunt dracones (here are
dragons) on uncharted regions of their maps and who drew mythological
creatures, dragons and sea serpents on the empty spaces.
The record, 57 minutes in total, has 23 tracks (3 more than on the
'original' Spanisgrass), divided into 4 blocks and closely following the
track-listing and the lyrics that have been published by the Solo
En Las Nubes and Holy Church blogs (Spanishgrass,
the hoax revealed). Supplemental lyrics have been taken from The
White Goddess (Robert Graves, 1948) and Imaginary Lives (Marcel
Like in Eduardo
Galeano's Book of Embraces where every anecdote stands on its
own but interactively forms a complete chapter, each track has its own
merits but unites with the others. The record has been made to listen to
in its entirety, or at least part by part, 4 in total, each separated by
a 'division' Bells track (#1, 2 and 3). An interesting experiment would
be to play the record on shuffle and see what new auditive interactions
The music consists of evocative instrumentals and up-tempo tunes, with a
spacey, early Floydian, guitar sorrowing in the background, psychedelic
keyboards, fragile percussion and spoken word, whispered mostly in
English and sometimes Galician (Na Outra Banda). Soundscapes and musique
concrète are omnipresent: babbling brooks, chirping birds,
whistling teapots (Breakwater and Tea), a lawnmower (Waste Deep) and
some excited monks.
Do not expect an easy parcours, the music can be annoying,
harrowing, exhausting, cathartic, transcendental, repetitive. It is
impossible to fit the tracks into a single category other than that
melting pot that is avant-garde
There are traces of early and vintage Floyd (from Ummagumma to Obscured
By Clouds), haunting rhythms that stay remnant in your mind like those
Seer), seventies porn flick lounge tunes, Tarantinesque
Nyman's repetitiveness and even (cough, cough)... Spanish bluegrass
rockabilly (Grey Trees).
Either you find this record utterly irritating or utterly brilliant and
the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit seems to fall in the second category.
A masterpiece for non easy listeners, but we have never been easy,
Part One: Manantial (Spring) / Reverential Mourners / Black Maid /
Plastic Gunpowder / Bells 1 (approx. 14 minutes)
Part Two: Mouse after a fête / Breakwater and tea / Grey trees / Two
bangers + mash / Whining at the moon / Bells 2 (approx. 15 minutes)
Part Three: Greenland / Eu son Dhaga (I am Dhaga) / Na outra banda (On
the other hand) / Un poeta esquece os días de chuvia (A poet forgets the
rainy days) / Saturnalia / Bells 3 (approx. 16 minutes)
Part Four: William Phips / Stede Bonnet / Gabriel Spenser / Gospel at
Noon / Waste Deep / Frog (approx. 13 minutes).
(This is part three of the the Spanishgrass,
the myth continues... series. Hi-def scans and pictures will be
revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass
Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package. Spanishgrass
can be downloaded at Bandcamp. ♥
Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ Babylemonade Aleph ♥
Happy New Year, sistren and brethren of the Holy Church of
Iggy the Inuit. 2014 is gone and again what a long strange trip it has
been, to quote – once again - musician, lyricist and poet Robert
Hunter. Syd Barrett is dead all right and unfortunately his
legacy hasn't been ageing gratefully at all last year. An enlightened
visionary once said that if you put two Barrett fans together they will
start a group and if you'll put three they will start a fight. This is
past year's history in a nutshell and enough reason for the Reverend to
say adieu to all Facebook Syd Barrett groups, without exception, even
the ones he co-founded. 2014 showed they are as unique as Pepsi is to to
Coca Cola, perfect clones and excelling in superfluous and sickly sweet
mediocrity. This crusty dinosaur needed to get rid of the bickering, the
hijacking of each other's members, the shouting to and fro, the arrogant
standpoint of people who never heard of Syd Barrett three months before
but who feel it their constitutional right to surpass their ignorance
and insult the old farts for the only reason they can.
Luckily there are still some free minds around who do the things they
do, unburdened, in all artistic freedom and who we can call our friends. Rich
Hall comes to mind, over the years this multi-instrumentalist has
acquired an impressive back catalogue of indie records, with of course
the impressive Birdie
Hop & The Sydiots that appeared in 2013.
This year he surprised the lethargic Syd Barrett world with an enhanced
version of the Barrett track Opel. Opal, as some people claim it should
be, is a haunting tune and has some of Barrett's finest verse (crisp
flax squeaks tall reeds) but it only exists as a demo. Hall added
additional layers of guitar, thus creating something that could be close
to the definitive Opel / Opal version.
In the privacy of the confessional Rich had already whispered into the
Reverend's ears that he was of the opinion that Barrett's seminal 1974
sessions could be turned into something more coherent and because nobody
believed him, the Reverend included, he decided to give these tapes the
Opel treatment as well.
Dark Side of the Moon had made Pink Floyd a supergroup and
their record companies decided to earn some quick cash, surfing on the
success of the million seller. The first budget release was A
Nice Pair (1973) that combined the Floyd's first two records, The
Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and A
Saucerful Of Secrets, although American copies had some alternative
mixes of some of the tracks. Actually this was not such a bad idea,
because in America Pink Floyd had been a relatively unknown band till
then. The compilation hit the Billboard top 40.
For the first time American kids heard of Syd Barrett and his two solo
albums, that had never crossed the ocean, were re-packaged in 1974 as a double
album with a 'founder member of Pink Floyd' sticker on the front.
The album rose to position 163 in the American charts, which was an
unexpected success and made the record executives hunger for more at
both sides of the Atlantic.
Bryan Morrison, who was still Barrett's agent, convinced Syd to get back
in the studio with Peter Jenner (who we interviewed this year: An
innerview with Peter Jenner) to start a third studio project, but it
only resulted in some hastily shambolic recordings. But now, in 2014,
Rich Hall took the 1974 demos, added extra guitar, bass, drums and
sleigh bells (where would rock music be without sleigh bells?) and here
is how it sounds. The result is still best described as your drunk uncle
torturing his guitar on Christmas eve after his fourth coffee cognac,
but kudos to Hall for enriching the demos. At least we hear now where it
could have led into if only Barrett would have had the balls...
Boogie #1 (with a trace of Bo Diddley’s ‘Pretty Thing’)
If You Go #1
If You Go #2
John Lee Hooker (actually Lighting' Hopkins' Mojo Hand)
Chooka-Chooka Chug Chug
Opposed to a band called Pink Floyd there is a company with the same
name that seems to have other interests than to serve the band it
represents, even going as far as insulting and legally threatening
webmasters and active forum members (read: über-fans)
because they dare to write something that doesn't fit into saint David's
money scheme, who thinks he is the caretaker of all things Syd Barrett,
which – in reality – means buying all possible Barrett-related items,
movies and recordings and hiding them in a storage place, out of sight
of the public and the fans. Ted Shuttleworth about his Crazy Diamond
movie script in 2011:
Presently, the script is with a guy who has been placed in charge of the
Syd Barrett estate. He is also David Gilmour's manager, and ostensibly
Pink Floyd's manager as well. I have no idea if he's ever read it. I
imagine he hasn't. But if a movie about Syd is ever going to seriously
happen, he is the man who is going to give the first OK. Maybe one of
these days he'll call me back. (Taken from: Ted
Shuttleworth and the "Crazy Diamond" Movie)
Well, in the case of the Crazy Diamond movie, that was equally trashed
down by Roger Waters and by David Gilmour, this might have been a good
The Last Minute Never Mentioned Boogie Band
Not that the webmasters of the Pink Floyd fan sites are any better. The
three big Pink Floyd fan-sites, two of them serious and a third who
copies all from the others, wet their trousers whenever a Floyd member
or Floyd collaborator does a 'thing' however trivial that 'thing' might
be. The Igquisition made a nice table about some recent Floydian
events, counting the times they have been mentioned.
Of course we don't mind that Snowy
White selling his 1957 Goldtop Standard Les Paul guitar
gets a mention, it can be heard on the 8-track version of Animal's Pigs
On The Wing (this track was later re-issued on Snowy's Goldtop
It is not more than normal that Nick Mason, sitting in on drums on a
(frankly dreadful) Kirsty Bertarelli Christmas single (The
Ghosts Of Christmas Past), or David Gilmour, joining
Bombay Bicycle Club at the last gig ever on Earls Court, is documented
on the fan-sites, that is what fan-sites are for.
But that Andy
Jackson's solo album gets mentioned 5 times more by the fan-sites
than the The
Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band, with Syd Barrett guesting on 3
tracks, is frankly unbelievable. The original tape of this concert was
confiscated in 1985, in a rather NSA-shaped way, by a Pink Floyd black
suit and then hurled into the maelström they call their archive (see: The
Last Minute Put Together Reel Story). Luckily a second copy of this
tape was found back in 2005 and issued by Easy
Action records after nearly a decade of legal struggle.
When I am A Good Dog They Sometimes Throw Me A Bone In
That Neptune Pink Floyd is not aware of this release is probably just a
sign of their overall ignorance. However it is more problematic for A
Fleeting Glimpse not mentioning it. Col Turner, by his own words a fan
of Pink Floyd since 1966, should be well aware of Syd Barrett's
importance and legacy. His website, that has attracted over 50 million
visitors and whose forum has over 13000 members, brags that it is the
most accurate, the most informed and the first to come out with
officially confirmed news. Not mentioning the Last Minute Put
Together Boogie Band could be a sign that Col T only publishes what
Fifteen puppet master allows him to publish, as the Endless River
incident has clearly proven past year (see: The
loathful Mr. Loasby and other stories...).
Update 2015 08 02: Browsing through the Late
Night forum we came across a post from Lee
Wood who made the Syd's Cambridge DVD Box Set, limited to 100
copies, in 2009. He send a copy of the box to one of the leading Pink
Floyd fan-sites but was informed by the webmaster that they would not
review the release. Lee Wood:
"The Management" of PF seems to like total control. I sent a review copy
of the box set to Brain Damage whom I always thought were a good source
of information but they couldn't run a review until they got permission
from official sources. Needless to say it's been several months and
nothing has appeared. So perhaps its not worth looking to them for
unbiased information or any form of news of interest to fans. (Source: Syd's
Cambridge Box Set.)
Oh by the way, the official Syd Barrett website
never mentioned the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band release either.
But they are a One Fifteen product as well, and as such only interested
in selling t-shirts, some of those are quite nice even.
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit published several articles
about this record, with interviews of Carlton
Abdullah John Alder (Twink for short) and Fred
Frith. Pearls for the swine, one might say, because even the
self-proclaimed Syd Barrett fans largely ignored this release and were
openly shouting for the tracks to be illegally published on YouTube.
Caca Del Toro
When a Mexican Syd Barrett fan asked the Church, in May 2012, if we knew
anything about a third solo album, allegedly recorded in a Spanish
monastery, we didn't know this old urban legend would rip the Barrett
community open like zombies with their entrails gushing out of their
All the Church did was looking into this (obvious) myth and reporting
about it. The research was taken a step further by Antonio Jesús from
the phantasmagorical blog Solo
En Las Nubes who not only tracked down the rumour to its source, an
article in a satirical magazine, but also managed to interview the
person who started this hoax. What we thought was a fine piece of
investigative journalism, taking months of research (the last articles
were published in 2013), was considered inappropriate by those people
who fill their time by studying the hair-length of Barrett (see: Hairy
Mess) on coloured photographs that were once published in magazines
However, the myth was far from over. In August of this year, four
reel-to-reel tapes were sent in a luxury 'immersion' box to 4 people on
3 continents containing a 2014 re-imagination of the record. Two of them
were the people who had published the Spanishgrass files on their blogs:
Antonio Jesús & the Reverend. The two others were Rick Barnes, record
collector, music investigator, administrator of the Facebook Syd Barrett
group Birdie Hop and Stanislav Grigorev, whose Floydian con-artistic
artwork even fooled the professionals that are Barrett's management.
Obviously the Church reported and commented about this (quite intriguing
and musically excellent) record and published a review when it was
streamed on Bandcamp (see: Spanishgrass
by Spanishgrass, a review of the 2014 album). Useless to say that it
was mostly disregarded by those fans who squawk orgasmically over
photoshopped Barrett images where it looks as if someone has just
vomited a bowl of three-coloured pasta all over him.
The general disinterest and the continuous backstabbing was a sign o'
the times, so thought the Reverend, to seek up new pastures and to say
goodbye with a cheerful bless you all.