Stanislav Grigorev

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2010-11-26

Dark Blog

Sad Barrett
Sad Barrett, by Felix Atagong.

Dark Globe by Julian Palacios.

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

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

Mojo January 2011 review
Mojo January 2011 review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postman Syd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arnold Rainey

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

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

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

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

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

Rollodex

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

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

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

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

Alternative timeline
Alternative timeline, by Felix Atagong.

No 4 Yes

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

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

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

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

Dysfunction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trip to Sanity

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

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

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

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

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

Spot the 1 difference
Spot the 1 difference.

Atagong Strikes Again

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks: Göran Nyström.


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

2011-08-08

Cut the Cake

Iggy Rose,April 2011 (picture by Gianna)
Iggy Rose, April 2011 (picture: © Gianna)

Sistren and brethren, behold!

On the eight day of the eight month of the eight year of the third millennium the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit saw the light of day (read our first article: Iggy).

Its initial function, goal or intention wasn't really clear from the start as has been revealed in an intriguing interview the Reverend had on the Syd Barrett blog: Solo en las Nubes. The (Spanish) interview can be read at Autoentrevista - Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero" but for those ignorants who aren't fluent in the language of Cervantes an English version can be found at The Anchor: Felix Atagong: an honest man.

La Iglesia empezó como una especie de diablura. Discutiendo la (teórica) posibilidad de una religión con Barrett como centro en el foro de Late Night, mencioné la existencia de una congregación de Santa Iggy.
(Translation) The Church more or less started as a prank. Discussing the (theoretical) possibility of a Barrett religion on the Late Night forum I mentioned a Saint Iggy Congregation.

That was in May 2007, but it would take until August 2008 before the Church published a first article, triggered by Argentinian Dolly Rocker. In those past three wonderful years magical things happened to the Church and its Reverend. JenS and Margaretta Barclay added some missing puzzle pieces to the mystery of the singer and his Eskimo Girl (the Church was less lucky with Rusty B. and one of Syd's 1969 temporarily girlfriends Dominique H., but our first rule is to respect their wish for privacy). The support from Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake and Mojo magazine made it possible to locate the mystery woman who had posed on the rear cover of The Madcap Laughs and – en passant – to debunk several myths about those days (although it is not always that easy to revive situations that happened in 1969).

Dozens of contributors and fans of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit have helped with our quest but aren't mentioned here, let it be known that their names have been encrypted in solid gold in the Church's secret archives.

Even more: real friendships emerged out of this, not least from Iggy Rose, whose phone calls to the Reverend are a mixture of roaring laughter, psychedelic tomfoolery and do sometimes contain, but luckily not very often, an odd tear drop about long-lost persons and situations. The future looks bright for the Church although this will not always result in articles on this place. Our apologies for that. (In the meantime, you can always check the Holy Church Facebook page, that publishes unassorted bits and pieces now and then.)

It sparkles and shines

The sparkle that lit the Church's fuse was a 2007 Late Night forum post: Possibility of new religion, asking if a religion could be based upon the writings of Barrett. That thread was started by Stanislav (alias ~SVG75~) a Russian Barrett fan who has always flirted with the boundaries of reality. As a computer graphics programming teacher he has published several Syd Barrett parodies in the fine (Belgian) tradition of surrealism and dadaism and this at several places on the web.

Not unlike Marcel Duchamp, who painted a moustache on the Gioconda and gave the ready-made its bawdy title LHOOQ, Stanislav took existing pictures of Barrett and electronically modified them, thus creating alternative but non-existent realities in the life of Syd Barrett.

Stanislav's work has not always been appreciated by the Syd Barrett community. The average (read: non-anoraky) fan could easily be misguided by the near-authenticity of some of his pictures and stories and sometimes only those 'in the know' were able to distinguish the parody from the original.

Book covers that picture Syd Barrett
Book covers that picture Syd Barrett.

Syd Barrett dot CON

Stanislav's most spectacular guerilla art attack was when his subverted graphical work infiltrated the official Syd Barrett website. He fooled the Syd Barrett Estate and Pink Floyd Ltd. by making them believe his creations were genuine Barrett related artworks or publications.

The official Syd Barrett website started on the 19th of February 2010 (not taking into account the test page that had been present several months before) and in the next couple of days different Late Night punters tracked down several mistakes ranking from the silly to the stupid.

Dark Globe was the first to spot a non-existent biography that had crept into the book section:

The books section of the new site lists a book called 'Crazy Diamond' by Tony Bacon.
The cover looks like a Stanislav design.
I'm wondering - is it for real?
I can't find reference to it anywhere else.
(Taken from: Syd's Official site gets a makeover.)

Well spotted.

It was indeed a Stanislav mash-up deconstructing two existing books: Crazy Diamond by Mike Watkinson & Pete Anderson and London Live by Tony Bacon (see pictures at the left for the real covers). That last book is still on the biography list from the official Syd Barrett website although it is an inventory of bands who played London clubs from skiffle, rock'n roll and trad in the 1950s to progressive, pub-rock and punk in the 1970s, passing by at the London venues during the R&B, folk and psychedelia years (it does have Syd on the cover though, but isn't a Barrett biography as such).

Another proof that the website's authors didn't (and still don't) have a clue about what they are publishing. It is a damn disgrace that the best Syd Barrett biography that has appeared in the last decade, Julian Palacios' Dark Globe, isn't put there, but that is probably because the Barrett Estate are actively sponsoring an 'approved' biography from someone else.

Syd Barrett in Formentera by Stanislav
Syd Barrett in Formentera, Stanislav artwork.

Prior to the website launch Mark Jones, the (unofficial) Syd Barrett picture archivist, had been consulted by Pink Floyd Ltd. to render his expertise on Barrett and early Pink Floyd photo material. So he was quite surprised to find many dating errors and another Stanislav-readymade that had mysteriously placed itself in the art section of the official Syd Barrett website:

In the 'Paint' section, 1 across 3 down, Syd with the windmill, is another homemade job by Stanislav.
(Taken from: Syd's Official site gets a makeover.)

Mark Jones mailed the manager of the Syd Barrett Estate on Sunday, the 21st of February, and by Monday all the errors had disappeared. The makers of the website never did comment on their mistakes hoping that the matter would soon be forgotten.

Unfortunately the Holy Igquisition never forgets and the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit finds it among its tasks to praise Stanislav for his impromptu Banksy-like actions. The fact that his forgeries were published at the official Syd Barrett site give his works a meta-realistic certificate of authenticity. Syd Barrett, quite a jokester himself so we have heard, would probably have liked this very much and is laughing his arse off from the great gig in the sky.

Stanislav's Signature
Stanislav's signature.

When geniuses meet

It was written in the stars that on Friday, the 5th of August 2011, Stanislav and the Reverend would meet in front of the Brussels Magritte museum. On that occasion Stanislav handed over a present for the Church that was immediately digitally immortalised by hordes of visiting Japanese tourists. The Church and Stanislav will now be for ever bonded and Iggy Rose has commented on Stanislav's new artwork with the following unforgettable phrase:

Oh WOWEEEE that is FANTASTIC XXXX
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit poster by Stanislav.
The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit poster by Stanislav.

Let's end this article with the words of a wise man: “In the sunny land of Belgium Stanislav was forced to eat a Brussels waffle and there was much rejoicing.”
Happy Birthday, Stanislav!
Happy Birthday, Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit!


The Church wishes to thank all the fans and contributors of the Church, especially the lovely people of the Late Night community from the past and present. Stanislav and Dolly Rocker for sparkling the fuse, JenS and Julian Palacios for rolling the ball, Margaretta Barclay and Mark Blake for adding up to the Iggy Follies. The French connection for putting my feet back on the ground.
And, last but not least: ♥ Iggy ♥.


2012-03-26

Formentera Lady

Formentera Magical Mystery Tour
Formentera Magical Mystery Tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1963

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

1965

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

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

1967

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1968

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

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

1969

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in Mind Over Matter:

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

Formentera Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


2013-12-24


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 ♥


2016-01-10

New Syd Barrett Website Launched!

Barrett (1967)
Syd Barrett (1967).

(Warning: this blogpost contains gratuitous nudity.)

Happy New Year, dear sistren and brethren, followers of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, we know these wishes come a tad too late, but for us, Sydiots, the sixth of January is all that more important, isn’t it?

Barrett’s seventieth birthday, as you probably know, was going to be remembered with the launch of a renewed official website at www.sydbarrett.com, under the supervision of Ian and Don Barrett and the help of some fans who want to stay anonymous, except the one bloke who bragged about it on that particular Whining Madcaps group we have long been blocked from.

Who is it who’s credited in 4 Syd books, spent months of (…) free time collating photos of Syd and the early Floyd cos NO ONE else had done it before, (…) has a credit at the end of the Technicolour Dream documentary, was interviewed by Storm for his Syd film, helped Pink Floyd’s manager with the original Syd website THEN was asked by Ian and Don Barrett for (…) help with the new one.

Who you gonna call?
Syd-busters!
The rant goes on after that and we seriously wonder why the man still hasn’t got a statue in that cultural indifferent town that is Cambridge, instead of the one that is going to be erected for Syd.

Antonio Jesus in Brussels (with ginger cat)
Antonio Jesus in Brussels (with ginger cat).

Caturday

Saturday the ninth saw two magical gatherings, one at the Geldart in Cambridge and one at the Cirio in Brussels. The one in Cambridge had the usual gang of Sydiots who don’t want to be remembered of the madcap’s London exploits. The one in Brussels was just an alcoholic debauchery between two webmasters and their mutual adoration for ginger pussies, which is a far more interesting starting point to, uhm..., start a conversation.

But, like we said, on the sixth of January of the year 2016 a new official Syd Barrett website was launched. It also immediately crashed which means that it either was inundated by the amount of hits or that the chosen internet provider happens to be a cheap and cheerful one who can’t handle more than a dozen clicks per minute.

Apart from that the website is a nice surprise, compared to the old one that already looked outdated the day it was uploaded (and that had many wrong entries, including wrong release dates for Syd's solo albums and examples of Stanislav's dadaist fanart that crept into several sections). See: Cut the Cake (2011) and/or Syd's Official site gets a makeover (2010).

Much effort has been put into a short biographical Introduction that tries to condense Syd's life into a readable article that won't scare the fans away. While every Barrett scholar would probably highlight other aspects of the madcap's life it is a nice treat, written by someone who cares.

The Photo section is what probably will attract most of the fans to the new site, publishing many unseen portraits of the artist as a young man, hidden – up till now - in private family albums. Obviously there are also sections of the early Pink Floyd and Syd's solo years, nothing really earth-shattering can be found in there (for the anorak, that is) but it is a nice touch though that the pictures with Syd and Iggy (by Mick Rock) have lost the legend that they were taken during the autumn of 1969. We don't see any Storm or Hipgnosis pictures in there but this could be a coincidence...

A ridiculously wide menu banner (it looks cool on a smartphone though) brings us to the Music page where different songs will be analysed. For the launch it is Octopus that gets the geek treatment, with – next to an introduction – Paul Belbin's Untangling the Octopus essay, in a Julian Palacios revision. It is great to see this 'Rosetta stone for decoding the writing inspirations for one of Syd Barrett's most beloved songs' appear on an official website.

Hidden underneath the introductory Syd Barrett Music page are four sub-sections that are, at first sight, not entirely coherent and can be easily missed.

Octopus (compilation)
Octopus (compilation).

Rocktopus

Syd's Recordings gives an overview of his discography, Pink Floyd and solo, including compilations and different formats. This list omits the 1992 Cleopatra Octopus CD compilation (although you can mysteriously find its cover on a different page) and also two early Pink Floyd compilations: The Best Of The Pink Floyd (1970) and Masters Of Rock (1974). Obviously the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band release that was confiscated by Pink Floyd, unaware of the fact that a second copy of the tape was still hiding in a Cambridge cupboard, is nowhere to be found either.

Syd's Songs publishes a complete list of Barrett's compositions, released and otherwise, and it is a section that gives already much food for debate, especially as an early Pink Floyd Immersion set could be in the make.

Dedicated Albums tends to give an overview of tributes. It is a bit a superfluous (and very incomplete) list, perhaps only added to do Men On The Border the favour they deserve. Personally I don't understand why the pretty ridiculous Vegetable Man Project is listed 6 times, but the equally ridiculous Hoshizora No Drive not. Closer to home I don't see Rich Hall's Birdie Hop And The Sydiots, nor Spanishgrass by Spanishgrass, appearing in the list.

Concert Posters gives what the title says, but also here the list is pretty random, although (early) Pink Floyd poster collectors are known to the people coordinating this section of the website.

But we've seen things change rapidly, even for the past few days, so when you read this some of these glitches may already have been repaired.

Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966
Shirley Anne Field by David Bailey, Playboy March 1966.

Enjoy (f)Art

Obviously there is also an Art section on the site, divided into several sections: Student Days, Later Art, Notebooks & Sketches (this section has some unseen pictures of Roger's notebooks) and Syd's DIY furniture (and his bike). The Fart Enjoy art-book is published as well, but mentions that it was made in 1965, while it contains a pin-up from a 1966 Playboy (don't pretend you didn't see it!) and refers to a March 1966 Pink Floyd gig (see: Smart Enjoy). But here we are meddling with muddy Sydiot territory again.

Last, but not least, there is a Barrett Books entry. Also here it is all in the mind of the webmaster. Needless to say that the 'classic' biographies in the English language have all been mentioned, as well as other publications in a pretty arbitrary way.

London Live by Tony Bacon still makes it to the list. Other than the picture on the front, this book has got no real connection to Syd Barrett. It contains a history of London Clubs and the bands who played there. Pink Floyd is mentioned, obviously, but so are a couple of hundred other bands and artists.

The first two Mick Rock Syd Barrett photo books are included but not the third one: Syd Barrett – Octopus - The Photography Of Mick Rock, EMI Records Ltd & Palazzo Editions Ltd, Bath, 2010. There are other things as well, like the weird way some Italian and French books make it to the list and others don't, but this review is already messy enough.

Oh, by the way, there is a Links page as well (that we nearly missed) but we will not spend another word on it. Just check it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

But it is a start all right, and one in the good direction. Things can only get better.


Many thanks to: Anonymous, Paul Belbin, Mary Cosco, Stanislav Grigorev, Rich Hall, Antonio Jesús, Göran Nyström, Julian Palacios.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥