Gretta Speaks (Pt. 2)
In a previous post the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit published an interview with Margaretta Barclay, her first in 40 years, remembering the Syd Barrett days of 1969.
Margaretta (Gretta), her boyfriend Rusty, JenS, Iggy and the French Dominique were regular visitors at Wetherby Mansions, the flat where Syd Barrett lived. Some stories, legends and rumours surrounding Syd can be traced back to painter Duggie Fields, who still lives in the flat he co-rented with Syd and Jules (nobody seems to remember Jules, apparently he disappeared already after a couple of days).
Gretta (as quoted in: Gretta Speaks):
Syd was a very dear friend of ours and we did a considerable amount together in the 60's.
He was a highly sensitive, almost delicate person, who was well aware of his constitution where drugs were concerned and perfectly capable of not being cajoled in to anything he did not want to do. To my knowledge, he did not take vast quantities of drugs.
This could be correct. Early 1969 Syd Barrett was very well together, at least compared to the year before where he – if one may believe those unverifiable rumours again – even added heroin to his daily stash of hash and mandrax. Recovering his sanity was one thing, tidying up his love life another. Tim Willis (in Madcap) writes:
While keeping Gala (Pinion, who moved in at the spare room, FA) as his serious girlfriend and Gilly Staples as a girlfriend Barrett began an affair with Iggy the Eskimo.
Iggy (or Evelyn) seems to hint this as well in the reluctant interview she gave to The Croydon Guardian:
Syd was so beautiful looking.
We had a relationship,
I lived with him for a while.
But not everybody seems to be certain of this. Duggie Fields told so in various biographies. And to the Church JenS and some anonymous witnesses maintain that Ig and Syd were never an item. Perhaps Gretta Barclay can shed a light on this?
I would not say that Syd and Iggy were girlfriend and boyfriend. She was his ‘chosen’ model for the Madcap Laughs Album cover.
Whatever may have occurred between Syd and Iggy was kept to themselves.
Neither was Ig the person to stay long at on place.
Iggy moved about and stayed with all sorts of people in all sorts of places without declaring her intention to do so.
To my knowledge there was no ‘when Iggy left Syd’ moment. We were all free spirits then, who moved whenever and wherever a whim took us.
There is an intriguing paragraph in Mick Rock's Psychedelic Renegades book. When the photographer visits Syd to show him the pictures of The Madcap Laughs photo shoot Iggy is no longer there.
Once I’d developed the film, I went round to show Syd the pictures. He took this one opposite and scratched some lines and his name to it. I think there was a bit of negativity towards Iggy. He just started scratching the print, with a big grin on his face. There was that other side to Syd which could be a bit mean and malicious, especially towards women, and this was one occasion when I saw that.
The Church has always found this comment from Mick Rock a bit over the top (but the Church has been wrong on more occasions). A while later Margaretta Barclay received one of the original Mick Rock pictures that were lying in Syd’s room.
This picture of Iggy was given to me by Syd but for some unknown reason she had been torn off it.
This is the second documented case where we learn that Syd had taken ‘care’ of an Iggy photo after her departure.
Since a couple of weeks we know Iggy’s real name: Evelyn. Jeff Dexter, Anthony Stern nor JenS ever knew her real name. How about Margaretta?
Iggy was ‘Iggy’ for me also.
Last year the Church tried to pinpoint the date of The Madcap Laughs photo shoot. With JenS’s help and after blowing up the photo of the ‘dangerous litter’ sticker on Syd Barrett’s Pontiac the Church concluded that the pictures had probably been taken shortly after the 14th of April, but before the 21st, as the sticker only gave a 7 days notice to get rid of the car. But Gretta disagrees:
The ‘Madcap’ photo shoot dates are probably incorrect as I have a postcard from a friend addressed to me, Rusty, Syd and Iggy at the Wetherby Mansion address dated June 1969.
The Magic Christian
Around about that time we did some film extra work for The Magic Christian. I have a feeling Iggy came with us? But I cannot confirm this.
The Magic Christian is a quite nice satirical (but very sixty-nine-ish) movie, starring Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and a bunch of (uncredited) 60-ies icons: Christopher Lee (as – what else – a vampire), John Le Mesurier, Peter Graves, Raquel Welsh (as priestess of the whip), Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski, Spike Milligan and Yul Brynner (as a transvestite cabaret singer). Fans will also notice the presence of John Cleese and Graham Chapman who independently wrote scenes for the movie (and before they teamed up as Monty Python members).
The movie’s main message is that everything can be bought for money and has scenes of Peter Sellers, an eccentric billionaire, smearing beluga caviar over his face in a posh restaurant or cutting up a Rembrandt painting because he is only interested in the nose. His final trick (minus one) is to make people dive into a big tub filled with blood, urine and excrements to fish the thousands of pounds that float in it (although by all means gross this scene is not so far from what has been shown in some Endemol TV game shows for the last couple of years).
Update: Margaretta and (perhaps) Iggy weren't the only Wetherby-visitors who got involved with the movie. JenS commented, after reading this entry:
I was also an extra in the Magic Christian, I was one of Raquel's slave girls in the Galleon scene, but fortunately taken out in the cutting room, however this tiny scene took two days to shoot. I had done my piece the previous year, in 1968! It was interesting for me to see the others had done some for it in June 69. Films do take a long time in production! (mail to FA, 29th of April 2010)
But according to the BFI work on the movie started on the 24th of February 1969 and ended on the 14th of May. This still quite fits the dates we have been proposing for the photo shoot, but the testimony from Gretta that Ig was still around in June is intriguing to say the least and will have to be further investigated..
In the first part of this series it was told how Gretta, Rusty, Syd and Gala Pinion visited a brilliant musician who lived in Solva, Haverfordwest, Dyfed. The Church wrongly assessed it was a certain Mike Stevens and found some very scarce information on him.
It took not long before several churchgoers made it clear to the Reverend that the Welsh singer-songwriter in question is better known as Meic Mortimer Stevens.
Meic Stevens was discovered by DJ Jimmy ‘Jim‘ll Fix It’ Savile, who saw him performing in a Manchester folk club in 1965. It is believed that he was a session man on several recordings (Gary Farr springs to mind) and he may have issued a solo single for Decca, but without success.
In 1967 Stevens left ‘England’ and retreated to his home village of Solva and started to write and record songs in Welsh. From 1967 till 1969 several EPs were issued, first under the name Mike Stevens, later Meic Stevens. (These ultra rare EPs that according to Record Collector are searched for against exorbitant prices have been re-issued on CD by Sunbeam records.)
In 1970 Meic Stevens made an English mildly psychedelic rock & folk album – Outlander - for Warner Bros. On several of its tunes it is pretty clear why he was nicknamed the Welsh Bob Dylan (acoustic guitar and mouth organ included), although the first and by far the most powerful track of that album - Rowena - reminds the Reverend of a Roy Harper in the midst of one of his legendary fits. Obligatory to the spirit of those days there are some tabla and sitar inspired pieces as well. Amongst the people involved on that album are Ian ‘Sammy’ Samwell (a Shadow before Cliff Richard(s) came into the picture and later manager of the folk-rock band America) and all-round session guitarist Bernie Holland (but as far as we know, no Syd Barrett).
The record didn’t sell as hoped, but of course - and this isn’t meant as a pejorative comment - Meic Stevens was fishing in about the same pond as Kevin Ayers, Michael Chapman, Donovan, Roy Harper and of course Syd Barrett himself.
It has come to the Church’s ears that Meic Stevens visited Syd on several occasions at Wetherby Mansions and that he 'recalls the bare room with one Telecaster and little else'.
Update: Prydwyn was so kind to translate the Syd Barrett related parts of Meic Stevens Welsh autobiography into English: Meic meets Syd. A photograph of Meic Stevens with Syd Barrett (and perhaps Rusty and Gretta) has also surfaced.
In an old post we had JenS talking about her friends Gretta and Rusty. However there is a mistake in the following quote:
You may be inferring that Rusty and Greta were from Cambridge but they were from Suffolk and went to Colchester Art School (50 miles from Cambridge and London respectively), and had only recently come to London.
Rusty did not go to Colchester art School, he went to Ipswich Art School. His parents eventually moved to Cambridge and he considered it his base from that point on.
After a while Rusty and Margaretta went separate ways. Rusty apparently traveled a lot before settling down on a North Frisian island (Germany) from 1978 till 1993. After a brief stay in a village in the North of Germany, where he participated in a few art exhibitions, he moved to a Hamburg suburb and it is believed he is living there since 1995.
Update: the Church managed to contact Mr. Burnhill, but he
refused to talk about the past.
Update 2016 11 26: RIP Rusty Burnhill
We leave the final words to Margaretta Barclay:
I feel that Syd has, in the main, been portrayed wrongly as a drug orientated and mentally deranged musician.
My impression of Syd was that he was an intelligent, finely tuned artist and extremely sensitive artist who could not stand the pressure of the attention his unique talents attracted.
If he locked himself in his room for days on end, he was entitled to do so - he certainly was not mad - he did it to preserve his 'genius sanity' and maybe that is why the album is titled the Madcap Laughs.
A word of the editor
The posts at The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit are not read by a lot of people. The topics presented here only trigger a small niche market, to use the marketing vernacular of today and the blog’s harebrained title may not really invite readers to click.
The amount of people consulting each topic will lie closer to 100 than to 500 (and these are totals, not clicks per day). But quantity doesn’t matter, quality does.
It is clear that The Church is consulted, not only by hardcore Syd fans, but also by newspaper and music magazine journalists and authors of Syd Barrett related books that have appeared in the past, that will appear in the (near) future and even some that are still on the author’s laptop.
Furthermore, several people whose name and fame have been discussed here (and recently in other places) have visited the Church, so tells us The Holy Igquisition.
And perhaps, one day, some of them will agree to see their story published here as well.
So long my sistren and brethren, and don’t do anything that Iggy wouldn’t have done!
The Church wishes to thank: Margaretta Barclay for her invaluable testimony about what really happened in those early days of 1969. JenS. Anonymous.
Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above):
Rock, Mick: Psychedelic Renegades, Plexus, London, 2007, p. 20.
Willis, Tim: Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 107.