The Last Minute Put Together Reel Story
November 2005 was a pretty busy month for Floyd aficionados. John Harris' eagerly awaited book 'The Dark Side of the Moon, The Making Of The Pink Floyd Masterpiece' was published, but it failed to fulfil the high expectations of those nerdy Floyd fan who already knew more about the album than any author could ever write (for a short critical review, go here: John Cavanagh, so much to do, so little time). Rick Wright missed the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony, because he had a cataract operation. However, David Gilmour and Nick Mason were there. Roger Waters gave a small speech on video from Rome, where his Ca Ira opera was premièred, with much acclaim from those who managed to stay awake. The French Rock 'n Folk magazine causing something of a stir by revealing the first dates of a 2006 European David Gilmour tour...
With all these exciting things one would almost forget that Brain Damage had an article called 'Lost Syd Barrett concert recording - found!'.
An incredibly rare recording of Syd Barrett, performing live on 27th January, 1972, with the Last-Minute Put-Together Boogie Band, at a show in Cambridge, has recently been unearthed, and plans are underway for a release!
The article further stated that Alan Barrett (on Syd's behalf) had contacted Pink Floyd Music Publishing to have this tape released. But the full story behind this story was, to say the least, an intriguing one and could be found on the – now defunct – blog of FraKcman and the (since then renewed) website of Spaceward Studios.
On 27 January 1972 a music festival was organised in Cambridge called Six Hour Technicolour Dream. It was organised at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, was advertised with an almost unreadable poster (orange on brown, yuck!) and had the following bands: Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band (or LMPTBB or Boogie Band, for short), featuring Bruce Paine, Twink, Jack Monck, Fred Frith and a certain Syd Barrett.
The entire festival was taped, then forgotten, then (in 1985) found back, then seized by Pink Floyd Ltd., then forgotten, then (in 2005) found back and then shelved for 9 years with various people and companies trying to resolve copyright issues.
This article (in a LMPTBB series that will culminate in an interview with Mohammed Abdullah John 'Twink' Alder and perhaps some others) will try to reconstruct these steps. We warn you that it is not always an easy read, where we quote FraKcman and others we have not altered their testimonies, so Sydiots will find some irregularities and mistakes here and there in dates, group names etc..
In September 2005 Mark Graham, aka FraKcman, works on a 'recently rescued tape archive' from the Cambridge Spaceward Studios, trying to reconstitute their discography, set up a database and eventually re-release some of their hidden gems. What he finds is interesting indeed, to say the least:
Spent yesterday in the studio with Gary Lucas making a 96kHz, 24 bit digital transfer of Spaceward's first recording which I found in Gary's attic recently. It's a recording of a concert held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 27/1/72. The bands were Hawkwind, Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band (featuring Syd Barrett) and Pink Fairies. Much to our amazement the tape sounded just as good (or bad) as it did when last played 33 years ago - and no gunk left on the tape heads!
Gary Lucas tells about this discovery on the Syd Barrett Under Review DVD:
FraKcman is aware that the Barrett Boogie Band recording is an important one and wants to include at least one track on a compilation album. On 17 October 2005 he notes, not without irony:
I just got a phone call from Le Grand Fromage at Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd in response to the message I had left 3 weeks ago. I pitched my idea of releasing an improv from the Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band's set at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, 27/1/72 on a putative Spaceward Studios retrospective album on Gott Discs. I'd been expecting him to say "Cease & Desist" but... he bought it! He said he'd sanction it on behalf of Syd provided the other musicians accept equal terms :) Yippee!!!
It is in November, and after the Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett communities have digested the news and bombard him with questions, that FraKcman tells the full story.
On the 27th January 1972, Mike Kemp, Secretary of the Cambridge University Tape Recording Society, received a telephone call from Gary Lucas, CUTRS member and undergraduate at Pembroke College, requesting microphones. He'd been seen earlier in the day unloading a Revox tape recorder from his car into his lodgings (it happened to be the start of term) and had been asked if it could be used to record a concert that was taking place later in the Corn Exchange.
Mike agreed to help, went along to the concert and thus met Gary Lucas for the first time. Their collaboration that night was the start of what would become Spaceward and, fifteen years later, a business with a turnover of £5m, a staff of over 100, and offices in 6 countries. (...)
The line-up (in order) for the concert was Hawkwind, Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band (featuring Syd Barrett) and Pink Fairies. Hawkwind played first - 7 or 8 songs including "Silver Machine".
Next on was LMPTBB. It should be noted that this was NOT a "Stars" or "Syd Barrett All-Stars" gig - the line-up is different. There were several gigs by Stars at around this time including (I think) one at the Cambridge Corn Exchange with Eddie "Guitar" Burns. (...) The line-up was: Bruce Paine (vocals & guitar), Jack Monck (bass), Twink (drums), Fred Frith (guitar) and Syd Barrett (guitar). The set lasts an hour. Syd is introduced on stage after 30 minutes. He plays on 5 songs, 4 of which are blues numbers and there is one 9 minute jam (improvisation) which is fairly loose and free-form.
Pink Fairies played last and perhaps benefit from the best sound.
At one point there was a fight and, more than once, one mic or another became disconnected from the mixer.
Note: a Syd Barrett All Stars group never existed, although this name will be used several times by FraKcman. The Eddy "Guitar" Burns gig (that had Syd Barrett jam on stage with Twink and Jack Monck) was held on the previous day, the 26th of January 1972. This was not a Stars gig, but a LMPTBB one who were also Eddy "Guitar" Burns' backing band. Some info posted here could already be found in a 2010 Syd Barrett Pink Floyd (aka Laughing Madcaps) article: Syd Barrett Stars - Everything (So Far).
The tape is found back... and disappears
Mark Graham, aka FraKcman, continues:
After the gig, copies of the 'master' were made and distributed. Mike and Gary each retained a copy for personal use. I did not know this - I wasn't even at the gig. I don't come into the story until 1985 when (what turns out to be) Mike's copy is found. Here's what I wrote (in 2003) about the finding of it.
"I think it was during the Summer of 1985 when we were clearing out the space above the Control Room roof that I came across the Syd Barrett All Stars tape. It was just one among hundreds that were languishing there, pretty much forgotten that Owen Morris and I were sorting through - our task was to phone the bands or record labels concerned and get them either to collect their tapes or allow us to wipe them.
I admit that it was with a trembling hand that I descended the ladder clutching the tape and then threaded it on the Revox. We listened to it once, all the way through, and, though it pains me to say so, it was an absolute load of old shite.
It was awful. Truly. The sound itself was poor and the onstage tuning was non-existent. It was painful to listen to. Stoned, out-of-key noodlings - remarkable only for how dreadful it was. If I remember correctly parts of the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind sets were also on the tape.
What my response would have been had the recording been brilliant, or even good, of course we'll never know (might I have stolen a copy?) but it was clear to me that this could only ever be of historical (or forensic) interest - you'd NEVER want to actually listen to it - so, not having Syd's phone number to hand, I rang EMI.
The very next day a big car swished into the yard and out stepped a suit. I don't remember the gentleman's name - only his suit. He was from EMI and he'd come to listen to the Syd Barrett tape. I explained the history to him, made him coffee and then played him the tape.
He said nothing until the end.
"This recording can add nothing to Syd's legend - it can only detract from it. It must never be made public".
He took the tape away in his big car and, as far as I know, no copies exist."
Regrets, we have a few
But was the 1985 really that bad, FraKcman reconsiders:
By 2003 I was thinking that I'd been somewhat dumb in 1985. For example, take my description: "Stoned, out-of-key noodlings" I realise now that, in 1985, I simply did not 'get' what Fred Frith was doing. Today, with perhaps greater insight and, setting aside vested interest, I might perhaps better describe Fred's playing as "extemporising atonally" - in other words, free improvisation. I didn't understand it and I didn't like the sound of it at all. Also, and please forgive me, It wasn't exactly in my best interest, looking back in 2003, that the tape might or could have been of any interest or quality since I'd voluntarily surrendered it to the MIB. I didn't want to go down in history as someone who'd dumped a treasure. But, in truth, I bitterly regretted having given it away.
The tape is found back (reprise)
Anyway, let's move the story on to 2005...
On the 8th September, as is told in my blog for that date below, I climbed into Gary Lucas' loft/attic and recovered around 50 tapes, including the one in question, though I didn't know this at the time. Later, when I did discover it, I immediately booked a studio session to make a 96khz, 24bit digital transfer.
Mick, the studio engineer for the digital transfer, judged the audio quality to be variable but better than most bootlegs. He thought that with time spent on restoration and sweetening he could certainly produce something 'release-able technically' if not of ideal quality. Gary Lucas, also present, agreed. I was beginning to think my judgement of 1985 may have been coloured by the fact that, at that time, the engineers at (and clients of) Spaceward were all dedicated perfectionists and audiophiles (E.G. Ted Hayton, Owen Morris, Dave Stewart etc etc). Nowadays things like "The King Crimson Collectors' Club" have shown what it is possible to achieve with old recordings. Technology changes everything.
My own aim was to tell the Spaceward Story - it's a good story and deserves to be told (as the discography attests) I could imagine this as part of a series of releases on Gott Discs - all compilations of various artists - Psyche Folk, Punk etc etc. Gary and Mick preferred the idea of the presenting the whole gig - as an event with all 3 bands' sets (or as much of) - and Gott Discs were of the same opinion.
Permission found and granted
We decided that I should set about trying to contact everyone involved and at least ask them nicely for permissions. What was there to lose? After a week of diligent searching and a lot of help from person or persons unmentionable, I managed to acquire the contact details for all the relevant parties, except Syd. So I wrote to them all, explaining who I was, what I'd got and what I wanted - I.E. to release it (or parts of it) as "The Spaceward Story - Volume 1- the Corn Exchange, Cambridge - 27/01/72". To my surprise and delight, no-one objected outright though all wanted to hear it first and agree terms before granting permission. It is fortunate that at least one song/number is an improvisation as this means that, in addition to a fee, all performers are entitled to a fair share of composers' royalties as administered by PRS/MCPS Alliance licencing in the UK. I also spoke with Twink (for the Pink Fairies) and Dave Brock (for Hawkwind) and it was the same story for them - no immediate objections but they want to hear it first.
Note: asking John 'Twink' Alder was actually not the right move. In 1972 he was no longer a member of the Fairies (but of LMPTBB).
In search of Syd
So now it was time to contact Syd's people. The first thing I did was to ask my friends for help - who should I call? I was given a number and a name: Alan Barrett, Syd's brother. So, rather nervously, I rang Alan and I pitched my story in a open and (I hope) courteous way that seemed to get his approval - anyway he told me to leave it for a few days and then call Pink Floyd Music Publishing Ltd and ask them. When I rang them and explained myself again, I was told that the project had already been green-lighted - provided only that the other musicians agree "equal terms".
So that's where we are now. I must go back into the studio and produce something that I can send to all the performers (along with a contract) that sounds good enough to persuade them all to grant permissions for a release.
The two tapes
Interesting in FraKcmans' story is that two Barrett tapes were unearthed at Spaceward. The first in 1985, now safely in the hands of EMI (or perhaps Pink Floyd, his story will change underneath) and one in 2005. It is not certain if the content of the two tapes are different, but FraKcman certainly thinks so (20 August 2006):
It seems obvious now, but it's taken me a long time to get to the point when I feel absolutely sure that there were two Syd Barrett live recordings made by Spaceward in early 1972.
Recording One was the Last Minute put-Together Boogie Band featuring Syd Barrett, Fred Frith and Eddie Guitar Burns at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 27/1/72.
Recording Two was Starz at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on either 24/2/72 or 26/4/72. [Note from FA: should be 26/2/72, probably a typo] This I believe was the tape that I handed to Pink Floyd Management in 1986.
There are some serious memory holes and contradictions in the blogpost above, what is understandable after all these years. On top of that it needs a certain amount of Sydiocy to immediately recognise these.
First: Eddie Guitar Burns did NOT play on the Six Hour Technicolour
dream, he played the day before (but also with Syd Barrett on stage,
hence the cockup).
Second: if the 1985 tape was a Stars (not Starz) one, why then did FraKcman note before that it contained 'parts of the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind sets'?
Third: if the 1985 tape was a Stars one why then did FraKcman note that he did not 'get' what Fred Frith was doing on it. Fred Frith never played with Stars, although he rehearsed with them, was asked to join even, but declined.
'Rehearsals were difficult, because Syd had pretty much lost any capacity to focus,’ says Frith. ‘Everyone was in awe of him, and we wanted him to lead us in a way, but he couldn’t. Jack kind of took charge and we did the best we could, but at the only concert that I did with them, Syd played “Smokestack Lightning” or variations thereof in every song, and didn’t really sing at all. To say I was hugely disappointed is maybe the wrong way of putting it. I was shocked, angry, devastated, that it had come to that. I didn’t know what to do or how to be in that situation. I always had a lot of difficulty being around “famous” people and especially famous people who I really looked up to, and this was even by my own standards of social ineptitude, a painful experience, and overwhelmingly sad.' (Fred Frith as quoted in Rob Chapman's A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 284.)
In a previous post FraKcman writes he contacted EMI about the tape, but here he says someone of Pink Floyd confiscated it, although this could not be contradictory if EMI contacted the band. But this whole story is a bit dodgy, to say the least, it smells. Handing over a tape (that, by the way, also contained a Hawkwind and Pink Fairies concert) to a competitor, without even asking for a receipt? It seems that not only Syd Barrett fried his brain on drugs.
Back to the Six Hour Technicolour Dream recording. Mike Kemp is the man who engineered it (Spaceward Studios):
The recording of the concert was organised at the last minute and the equipment was poor as all that was available was a rather poor mixer so we just stuck a stereo mic pair across the stage for drums/backline and mixed in some PA mix for front. We were positioned on the top of a sort of cloakroom arrangement in a corner near the stage (in about an inch of thick dust) but had a bad view of the stage from the equipment area due to columns in the building. I spent most of my time with headphones at the troublesome mixer so saw little.
The whole affair was a shambles with a fight breaking out around the stage at one point destroying at least one of the mics. I was pretty naive at the time and can not say I saw Syd Barrett but everyone was saying he was there. There were a number of rambling untogether acts and I am pretty convinced that the Syd Barrett All Stars was mentioned at the time, as well as "The last minute put together boogie band".
There we have that Syd Barrett All Stars band again! Jim Gillespie was present at the two Boogie Band gigs with Barrett (July 24, 2005):
The Cellar at King's College was always a venue for jamming and always had lots of people there from the Town and not just University. I played there myself lots of times between November 1969 and June 1971.
I was present at Kings Cellar on 26th January 1972. Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band played a first set with Twink on drums, Syd Barrett on guitar and Jack Monck on bass. Then Eddie "Guitar" Burns played and at end there was a jam with Eddie, Twink, Jack Monck and a guy called Bruce on guitar (sorry I have no other information on who this is apart from his first name but I wrote this down the next day so I figure it is correct).
I also went to what was billed as "Six Hour Technicolor Dream" at Corn Exchange in Cambridge the next day 27th January 1972. Hawkwind definitely played as did Pink Fairies and also I can confirm, as I wrote it down, that Fred Frith did indeed play guitar alongside Syd and Twink as part of Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band at that gig.
I also saw an outdoor gig in streets of Cambridge with Twink and Syd and this took place on 12th February 1972.
The mysterious Bruce is probably Bruce Paine who had to gig with LMPTBB the next day anyway. So the jam might have been some kind of an on stage rehearsal.
The sound of silence
Then it became silent around the tape. We suppose that clearing the copyrights wasn't as easy as expected and that the project was continuously postponed until the owner got enough of it. In June 2010 the reel was up for auction at Bonhams but the minimum bid (of 5000£, so was rumoured) was not reached and the auction was withdrawn.
We may only be happy that Pink Floyd, nor EMI bought it, as they were of the opinion they already had it (and probably they were right). This is just a theory but they were pretty certain they could delay this release forever. On top of that they were so parsimonious they didn't find it necessary to buy the second copy and have the opportunity to bury it, once and for all.
Anyway, good news for us, the fans!
In January 2011 there was again some hope when it was found out that Easy Action had bought the Six Hour Technicolour festival tape. They are are a (small) record company, specializing in rare and alternative recordings, demos, live versions and anything that falls in between the chairs of the big music publishers, but that can still be legally published. Looking at their catalogue you will find releases that seem to be destined for completists alone, like Marc Bolan home recordings or interview discs.
For a while they put up the following cryptic message on their website:
Easy Action has purchased a number of reels of master tape capturing a performance by Hawkwind, Pink Fairies and a band hastily assembled featuring Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett NOT Stars!
Recorded in Cambridge in January 1972, we will be investigating further copyright clearances and one day hope to produce the whole lot for your listening pleasure!
That Easy Action wanted to have a return on their purchase was proven in August 2011 when the Hawkwind concert was published as Leave No Star Unturned.
On 27th January 1972, Hawkwind, their comrades in Notting Hill / Ladbroke Grove psychedelic proto-punk agitprop The Pink Fairies, and what would be labelled as The Last Minute Put-Together Boogie Band featuring the elusive Syd Barrett were brought together at The Cambridge Corn Exchange under the title The Six Hour Technicolor Dream by local music promoter and ‘Head Shop’ proprietor Steve Brink.
If we’d had the technology of today way back then, then for such a line-up we’d most certainly have on our shelves the DVD with its 5.1 stereo soundtrack, the CD box set, and the Blu-ray package.
Instead, what we have is something previously shrouded in mystery and rumour; quarter-inch ReVox open reel sourced recordings that have been whispered of in the circles of those who know.
One of only two known copies of this show surfaced in the mid-80s, promptly to vanish into the vaults unheard and unreleased. Thankfully, the other finally emerged from a forgotten loft space in 2005 and made its way into the hands of Easy Action Records via a circuitous route which included an appearance at the famous Bonham’s auction house in London’s affluent Knightsbridge - what a contrast to the anarchic ‘peace and love’ characters decrying the evil tentacles of ‘The Man’ who play on these recordings.
Did you notice that Easy Action also thinks that there is only one recording, but two tapes? They have probably contacted EMI and/or Pink Floyd Ltd and did the comparison.
Slow & easy
However, releasing the Boogie Band album seemed much more difficult than the Hawkwind gig (but easier than the Pink Fairies one, apparently). The album was announced a couple of times, first for 2013, then for 2014. Here is what a music industry insider once told us:
Carlton (from Easy Action) has been burned before by putting things out prior to getting all the clearence needed to do such a project. He has learned a very "valuable lesson" in that.
Green light or not, it would take until 2014 to get things settled, and finally, here it is... the Syd Barrett recording everyone has been hoping for since nearly a decade.
(End of part one of our LMPTBB series, part two will have more of the same: Syd's Last Stand. You have been warned.)
Many thanks to: Mohammed Abdullah John 'Twink' Alder, Rick Barnes, Easy
Action, FraKcman (Mark Graham), Jim Gillespie, Alexander P. HB, Mike
Kemp, Gary Lucas, Spaceward Studios and the Wayback
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥