Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.
In 2023 the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit celebrates its 15th anniversary.
Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.

April 2009

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Barrett: first in space!

Image by Synofsound
Image by Synofsound.

The first Floyd

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

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 I give you an unpublished exclusive excerpt from my first draft:

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

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

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

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

Le premier Pink Floyd
Le premier Pink Floyd.

Legendary nonsense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration (top left) by synofsound - thanks syn!

Seedfloyd has (had?) some articles and an audiolink concerning this book at the following pages:
Radio Canada interview.

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