Spanishgrass

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2012-05-25

Spanishgrass or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record

Spanishgrass
Pink Flamingo
Pink Flamingo.

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.

France

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.

Spain

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.

Oseira
Oseira.

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 the place itself 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 Graves' The White Goddess, a work the English musician consulted in the Oseira library.

Another book that influenced Barrett for his song-cycle was Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob. Three songs are about characters that can be found in the book: William Phips, Stede Bonnet and Gabriel Spenser. On top of that, Barrett was captivated by the poems of Alvaro Cunqueiro in his book Herba aquí­ ou acolá and recorded some tracks in Galician: 'Eu son Dagha', 'Na outra banda' and 'Un poeta esquece os dí­as de chuvia'. (Note: it is not explained how Barrett learned to read and speak Galician.)

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 writer Graham Greene, a regular visitor of the monastery from the early seventies until his death in 1991.

Oseira monastery
Oseira monastery.

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, Extremadura and Galicia. 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.

Graham Greene in Oseira
Graham Greene with Leopold Durán in Oseira.

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 and Ourense 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.

Oseira monastery.
Oseira monastery.

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 inside.

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 Catholic?"

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 superior..."

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.

Oseira monks
Oseira art.

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 comes from).

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.

Oseira Well
Oseira well.

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 really good.)

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.

A Genius At Oseira

We end this post with a 2006 article from the Galician newspaper La Voz de Galicia:

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 innkeeper.

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.

Sources (other than the above internet links):
The mother of all Oseira articles seems to be one that was posted in 2003 by a certain Eric Burdon, but that has disappeared from the web:
Discos perdidos - Spanish Grass- Syd Barrett (2003, Eric Burdon, deleted page)
Syd Barret en Galicia (monasterio de Oseira) @ Ipunkrock (2006, Charlas Bronson quoting Eric Burdon)
SYD BARRETT SPANISHGRASS (1979, NONSENSE) @ Plunderphonics (2007, Little Turtle quoting Eric Burdon)
Spanishgrass: Syd Barrett in Galizia @ Duellanti (2011, Simone Saibene, Galizia dentro)
Spanishgrass el disco "fantasma" de Syd Barrett @ Sinfomusic (2009, Ramjur)
Oseira e o xenio @ La Voz de Galicia (2006, Camilo Franco)

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.

2013-05-25

Spanishgrass, one year later

Acid in Oseira
Oseira Monastery
Oseira Monastery.

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 called Spanishgrass. 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 is a fool's oasis.

La Naval
La Naval.

Investigative Journalism

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 in 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 nothing.

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.

Solo en les Nubes
Solo en las Nubes.
La Naval
La Naval.

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 movement.

Journalist and musician of the influential Galician post-punk band Radio Océano, Xosé 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.

Franco's Legacy

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.

Atlanticism

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
La Naval.

La Naval

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 library)


Syd Barret busca en Oseira la armonía celeste
Syd Barret busca en Oseira la armonía celeste.

SYD BARRET LOOKING FOR CELESTIAL HARMONY IN OSEIRA

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 1968.

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.

La naval: original artwork
La Naval: original artwork.

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 twenty'.

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 Dann, Fuxan os Ventos, Azul y Negro, Golpes Bajos, Xoán 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


Interviews

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 Bar
A bar in Oseira.

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.


Leopoldo Duran with Graham Greene
Leopoldo Durán with Graham Greene.

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.

Comments:
Leopoldo 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'.

Comments:
La Vallée is a (horrible and pretentious) 1972 French film written and directed by Barbet Schroeder. The most notable point of the movie is its soundtrack by Pink Floyd, resulting in one of their finest albums ever (Obscured By Clouds). A trifle more (satirical) info at: Careful with that stash, Gini.


Joe Boyd
Joe Boyd.

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.

Comments:
Joe 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 rude. (...)

"You are still waiting for me to return, vultures", he yelled semi-hysterical. (...)

No wonder his mother expels him annually from his home in Cambridge, thus the patient lady can enjoy a pleasant Christmas.

Comments:
Sounds 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 copycat-light-set.

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.


Robert Wyatt
Robert Wyatt.

MENORCA. 1975 by Robert Wyatt, British musician and inhabitant of the Balearic Islands, in an interview by Claudi Montaña and published in the magazine 'Vibraciones'.

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 Film Maker.

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 mention him.


CONCLUSION

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 all.

Seventeen years later, in 2003, a certain Eric Burdon 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.


This is a follow-up of the 2012 post: Spanishgrass or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record 

Scans of the original La Naval article, in Spanish, can be consulted at our Spanishgrass gallery.

Many thanks to Babylemonade Aleph for rolling the ball in the beginning and Antonio Jesús for his incredible research.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Sources (other than the links above):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2007, p. 32, 40-42, 60, 65.
La 'movida' que rompió con el 'telón de grelos' @ El Mundo
La efervescente esquina atlántica @ El País

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.

2013-06-15

Jose Ángel González, Spanishgrass & more

Jose Ángel González. Photo by Rafa Alcacer.
Jose Ángel González. Photo: Rafa Alcacer.

Jose Ángel González

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 fans.

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 Spanishgrass myth.

In 2001 Jose Ángel González published a book: Bendita Locura, la tormentosa epopeya de Brian Wilson y los Beach Boys (Editorial Milenio, 2001) [Blessed Madness, the stormy epic of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys].

Since March 2011 he lives in San Francisco (USA).

Antonio Jesús
Antonio Jesús.

Antonio Jesús

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 Barrett world.

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.

Antonio Jesús is co-author of El Tormento del Erizo (2012).

Solo en les Nubes

Jose Ángel González, a journalist

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 ...

Jose Ángel González
Holga. © Jose Ángel González.

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.

[Note: for an explanation what the Spanish cultural and political Atlantic movement was about, please see: Spanishgrass, one year later.]

Where did you live and what did you do then?

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 Ramones...

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 Coruña-Cadena SER.

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 my city.

The initial musical tristesse that I had found was ameliorating, but not much.

Jose Ángel González
Holga. © Jose Ángel González.

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 blindness.

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.

Jose Ángel González
Holga. © Jose Ángel González.

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 personal fiction.

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 Wilco.

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 ...

Jose Ángel González
Holga. © Jose Ángel González.

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 behind.

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.

Strike photo series: http://joseangelgonzalez.net/section/303188_strike.html
Her name is Holga photo series: http://joseangelgonzalez.net/section/303026_her_name_is_holga.html

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 have?

The Holga 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 Holga.

Jose Ángel González
Holga. © Jose Ángel González.

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.

To be continued...

© 2013 Antonio Jesús, Solo en las Nubes. Pictures courtesy of Jose Ángel González, Rafa Alcacer & Antonio Jesús. Notes & Introduction : the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Translation mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely the responsibility of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.


Many thanks to Babylemonade Aleph for rolling the ball in the beginning and Antonio Jesús for his incredible research. All (interview) pictures © Jose Ángel González.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Jose Ángel González can be found at the following places:
Blog: http://joseangelgonzalez.com/
Photography: http://joseangelgonzalez.net/
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bichito/
Oraciones Sucias: http://oracionessucias.tumblr.com/
Hot Parade: http://hotparade.tumblr.com/
Canto de Caza (2010): http://cantodecaza.wordpress.com/

Soy padre de un hoax (I am the father of a hoax)

2013-06-22

Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed...

Previously on Spanishgrass...

Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed
June 2013: Syd in Spain. Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed.

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 that, friend?

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 follows:

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.

Just when the Reverend was going to go into zen-therapy to recover from that vicious blow help came from the Iberian peninsula in the form of Antonio Jesús from Solo En Las Nubes. Not only did he find back the original article that started the Syd In Oseira rumour (Spanishgrass, one year later), he also managed to interview the author of the article (Jose Ángel González, Spanishgrass & more).

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)

Solo En Las Nubes

Syd Barrett
"Spanish grass (twenty songs about space and siesta)"
Nonsense music, 1978

Spanishgrass (original cover)
Spanishgrass (original cover).

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 Blake.

During one of his wanderings he discovered what would become his private retreat, the Oseira monastery in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula.

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.

Jose Ángel González
© Jose Ángel González.

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 songs.

"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 chuvia).

© 2003 Jose Ángel González (parts of the above text have already been published in: Spanishgrass or Syd Barrett's lost Spanish record.


Lyrics

Jose Ángel González
© Jose Ángel González.

Black Maid

Little cloud,
the grass is green,

look at the time
of the black skirts.

An extra life,
among the flowers,

and saffron
wet with tears.

Pale
pale light,
I'm hungry,
hungry for tomorrow.

Maid
black maid,
detached
like a dry leaf.

© Jose Ángel González
© Jose Ángel González.

Breakwater and tea

A gift of the night from the black tie
starting the rumour of my breath
for ink waltz
with smoke
teacup.

Breakwater and tea
nothing more.

Breakwater and tea.

Saturnalia

King
of the Habichuelas,
Mister
Disorder,
Bishop
of Fools,
Abbot
of Unreason,
expelled of
time.

© Jose Ángel González
© Jose Ángel González.

Gospel at noon

The moon is my constant mistress
and the lonely owl my marrow.

The Mallard brand
and night raven

make music
for my affliction.

Amen.

Plastic Gunpowder

Praise the Lord
of heaven,

Kids say
with eyes of soot
and pockets full of
plastic gunpowder.

I sleep in peace.

Grey trees

Thorny
trees
shelter
against
the wind

Under the Milky Way.

© 2003 Jose Ángel González. Pictures courtesy of Jose Ángel González. Notes & Introduction : the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Translation mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely the responsibility of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.


Many thanks to Babylemonade Aleph for rolling the ball in the beginning and Antonio Jesús for his incredible research. All pictures © Jose Ángel González.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥

Jose Ángel González can be found at the following places:
Blog: http://joseangelgonzalez.com/
Photography: http://joseangelgonzalez.net/
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bichito/
Oraciones Sucias: http://oracionessucias.tumblr.com/
Hot Parade: http://hotparade.tumblr.com/
Canto de Caza (2010): http://cantodecaza.wordpress.com/

Soy padre de un hoax (I am the father of a hoax)

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

2014-01-01

Love, Pain & Sorrow

Lindsay Corner, 1969
Lindsay Corner, 1969.

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 hair basically.

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

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 Road Chic(k).

For Easter Iggy and the Reverend were remembered in a song from Rich Hall (Songs of Praise) whose concept album Birdie Hop and The Sydiots was released around the Church’s fifth birthday: Reverends and Sydiots. Thanks Rich!

Among the monks

The Church's biggest scoop this year was made in collaboration with the Spanish Sole 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 it clear... 

2014

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?

♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ Rich ♥ Alexander ♥ Liza ♥

2014-08-31

Spanishgrass, the myth continues...

Spanishgrass: Redux 2014
a mysterious package
A mysterious package...
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.
two boxes
Two boxes.
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 GCA-19B 4A'.
a real reel
A real reel.
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 (1:01)

The big box contained several wrapped packages, a CD and a letter, signed and sealed by Leopoldo Duran.

the interior of the big box
The interior of the big box.

Here it is.

partial scan of the Galician letter
Partial scan of the Galician letter.

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.

One 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 tape.”

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.

Leopoldo Duran

(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 Tumblr gallery.)


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 Stuff.

2014-09-06

Spanishgrass, or the Duran Durán mystery...

Spanishgrass Redux 2014
Spanishgrass Polaroid cover
Spanishgrass Polaroid cover.

Last week, dear fanoraks, we wrote how a mysterious package arrived at Atagong mansion: Spanishgrass, the myth continues... 

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.

GCA Sound letter
GCA Sound letter.
Mastering Report:

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.

Project Engineer Notes:

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.
Reel 1, courtesy Rick Barnes
Reel 1, courtesy Rick Barnes.

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 Barnes' VC Vinyl Community update on Youtube (skip to 20 minutes to watch the Spanishgrass bit.)

For the moment we still have no clue about the whereabouts of reel number 3.

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.

Reel 2, courtesy Antonio Jesus
Reel 2, courtesy Antonio Jesus.

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 author.

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.

Leopoldo Duran signature
Leopoldo Duran signature.

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...

(This is part two of the Spanishgrass, the myth continues... series. For part one press: Spanishgrass, the myth continues... Hi-def scans and pictures will be revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass Tumblr gallery.)


Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package.
♥ 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 Stuff.

2014-09-12

Spanishgrass by Spanishgrass, a review of the 2014 album

Spanisgrass reel 3, courtesy Stanislav
Spanisgrass reel 3, courtesy Stanislav.

Finally the fourth copy of Spanishgrass has been found. It is somewhere in that immense country that is Russia, in the hands of the slightly dadaist artist Stanislav, whom we happen to have met this summer in Brussels, the territory of Manneken Pis, Hergé and Magritte. If this was an episode of Crime Scene Investigation, where the actors have the uncanny habit of talking way too fast, we would say that the net closes around the Syd Barrett Facebook group Birdie Hop as all people who have received a copy are linked, one way or another, to that gang. On the other hand, as Birdie Hop undoubtedly is the best Syd Barrett group around on Facebook this is not really earth-shattering news either.

Oseira

The great grey edifice of the Osera monastery stretches out almost alone within a trough of the Galician hills. A small shop and a bar at the very entrance of the monastery grounds make up the whole village of Osera. The carved exterior which dates from the sixteenth century hides the twelfth-century interior – an imposing stairway, perhaps twenty metres wide, up which a platoon could march shoulder to shoulder, leads to long passages lined with guest rooms above the central courtyard and the cloisters. Almost the only sound during the day is the ring of hammers where half a dozen workmen are struggling to repair the ravages of seven centuries. (Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote)

Let's cut the crap, once and for all. Of course the 2014 Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta) 'immersion' set, that has only been issued in four copies, isn't Syd Barrett's lost Oseira record. Syd has never visited that monastery. The Spanish blog Sole En Las Nubes has dedicated some valuable webspace to investigate the Spanishgrass hoax and managed to trace it back to a Spanish journalist and photographer who decided to have some fun in a satirical underground magazine of the mid-eighties. (Thanks to Antonio Jesús for allowing us to publish his articles in English: Spanishgrass.) If you call yourself a decent Barrett-fan you should know that by now, so don't feel insulted.

But this doesn't mean that there isn't a 'Spanishgrass' record by a 'Spanishgrass' band. The numbered and limited deluxe sets have been sent to four extremely lucky people on 3 different continents. There also seems to be a regular CD release, but it is pretty limited as well, and probably you will have to ask for one if you want to receive it, but of course you need to puzzle out who is behind the record first. Luckily the set has been released this week on Bandcamp where you can listen to it, track per track, or download the album in its entirety on a 'name your own price' basis (0.00$ is an option as well).

Why don't you listen to the Spanishgrass album on Bandcamp while reading this review?

Direct link: Spanishgrass: Twenty Songs of Space and Siesta by Spanishgrass

Spanishgrass (CD), courtesy Antonio Jesus
Spanishgrass (CD), courtesy Antonio Jesus.

Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta)

Spanishgrass 2014 is a re-imagination of a record that never was in the first place. Its maker had to explore the unexplored, like those medieval cartographers who wrote hic sunt dracones (here are dragons) on uncharted regions of their maps and who drew mythological creatures, dragons and sea serpents on the empty spaces.

The record, 57 minutes in total, has 23 tracks (3 more than on the 'original' Spanisgrass), divided into 4 blocks and closely following the track-listing and the lyrics that have been published by the Solo En Las Nubes and Holy Church blogs (Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed). Supplemental lyrics have been taken from The White Goddess (Robert Graves, 1948) and Imaginary Lives (Marcel Schwob, 1896).

Like in Eduardo Galeano's Book of Embraces where every anecdote stands on its own but interactively forms a complete chapter, each track has its own merits but unites with the others. The record has been made to listen to in its entirety, or at least part by part, 4 in total, each separated by a 'division' Bells track (#1, 2 and 3). An interesting experiment would be to play the record on shuffle and see what new auditive interactions are created.

The music consists of evocative instrumentals and up-tempo tunes, with a spacey, early Floydian, guitar sorrowing in the background, psychedelic keyboards, fragile percussion and spoken word, whispered mostly in English and sometimes Galician (Na Outra Banda). Soundscapes and musique concrète are omnipresent: babbling brooks, chirping birds, whistling teapots (Breakwater and Tea), a lawnmower (Waste Deep) and some excited monks.

Do not expect an easy parcours, the music can be annoying, harrowing, exhausting, cathartic, transcendental, repetitive. It is impossible to fit the tracks into a single category other than that melting pot that is avant-garde or art-rock. There are traces of early and vintage Floyd (from Ummagumma to Obscured By Clouds), haunting rhythms that stay remnant in your mind like those irritating Swans drones (The Seer), seventies porn flick lounge tunes, Tarantinesque exotica, Michael Nyman's repetitiveness and even (cough, cough)... Spanish bluegrass rockabilly (Grey Trees).

Either you find this record utterly irritating or utterly brilliant and the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit seems to fall in the second category. A masterpiece for non easy listeners, but we have never been easy, haven't we?

Reel three (by Stanislav)
Reel three (by Stanislav).

Tracklisting

Part One: Manantial (Spring) / Reverential Mourners / Black Maid / Plastic Gunpowder / Bells 1 (approx. 14 minutes)

Part Two: Mouse after a fête / Breakwater and tea / Grey trees / Two bangers + mash / Whining at the moon / Bells 2 (approx. 15 minutes)

Part Three: Greenland / Eu son Dhaga (I am Dhaga) / Na outra banda (On the other hand) / Un poeta esquece os días de chuvia (A poet forgets the rainy days) / Saturnalia / Bells 3 (approx. 16 minutes)

Part Four: William Phips / Stede Bonnet / Gabriel Spenser / Gospel at Noon / Waste Deep / Frog (approx. 13 minutes).

(This is part three of the the Spanishgrass, the myth continues... series. Hi-def scans and pictures will be revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass Tumblr gallery.)


Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package. Spanishgrass can be downloaded at Bandcamp.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ Babylemonade Aleph ♥

2015-01-01

Of Promises Broken

Sad Barrett
Sad Barrett. Artwork: Felix Atagong.

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.

Opel (upgrade) by Rich Hall
Opel (upgrade) by Rich Hall. Opens in a separate window.

Link: Opel (Rich Hall upgrade)

Rich Hall
Rich Hall.

Roger Keith Barrett Superstar

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.

The 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...

Tracklisting: Start
Boogie #1 (with a trace of Bo Diddley’s ‘Pretty Thing’) 0'00
Boogie #2 1'28
Boogie #3 2'58
If You Go #1 4'24
If You Go #2 6'38
Untitled 8'25
Slow Boogie 9'40
Fast Boogie 12'22
Ballad 13'30
John Lee Hooker (actually Lighting' Hopkins' Mojo Hand) 15'20
Chooka-Chooka Chug Chug 18'18

Endless Insults

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 thing.

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

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.

   

Event Person AFG BDA NPF
Goldtop 1957 auction Snowy White 2 1 0
Bombay Bicycle Club David Gilmour 1 1 1
Kirsty Bertarelli Nick Mason 1 1 1
Signal To Noise Andy Jackson 2 3 0
The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band Syd Barrett 0 1 0

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 compilation).

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 his One 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 Sandercock, Mohammed 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.

Spanishgrass album 2014
Spanishgrass album 2014.

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 bellies.

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 back home.

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.

Welcome to 2015.


♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥