The Basement Tapes
While the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit is more and more becoming a recluse, living in a corner of a foreign field, it is cool to notice that the Syd Barrett community keeps on attracting new souls.
The authoritative Birdie Hop group, with its 7300 members (August 2020) attracts new members every day. The only negative point is that – due to Facebook’s business model – really interesting topics (for the extreme Sydiots amongst us) get pushed down, making them virtually invisible after a couple of days.
New members, and who are we to blame them, will ask the same questions, will post the same pictures and publish the same songs, due to their enthusiasm and relative unfamiliarity with the subject.
Quite a few Syd Barrett sites and fora have disappeared over the years. You may think whatever you want from Barrett-foghorn Kiloh Smith, but his sydbarrettpinkfloyd blog was an almost endless source of information, written by him and his many collaborators. The Late Night forum from Eternal Isolation, officially called the Late Night Syd Barrett Discussion Room, has 98000 threads but less than a dozen regular visitors nowadays. And don't let us get us started about the exclusive Syd Barrett Research Society that was such a creative pool of information, once upon a time.
But here’s that old fool on the hill pondering again that the good old days were much better, while the now and the here is in the hands of the young. But sometimes it is good to have a few dinosaurs around.
Bob Martin is a veteran of Birdie Hop who, end of August 2020, threw a little bomb in the community with an anecdote he got from Ginger Gilmour, David’s ex-wife.
I just had a bit of a chat with Ginger Gilmour and she mentioned that Syd would visit their home in Woodley and record at David's studio. The interesting bit is it would have been 1971 or later… How cool is that? And I would like to thank Ginger Gilmour for letting me share this story. I was not aware that Syd and David spent time together well after the recording of Syd's solo albums.
This is something new and exciting indeed. The obvious question some people were and are asking was if these recordings have been saved for eternity and are still somewhere hidden in Gilmour's archives. That these archives have some unpublished (Pink Floyd) goodies is well known. Gilmour used to have the Bob Dylan Blues reel that allegedly also contains demo versions of Wolfpack, Waving My Arms in the Air, Jigalo Aunt (sic) and an unreleased song called Living Alone (aka I Get Stoned).
Bob Martin, however, is prudent.
No one is saying anything came of these recordings, even if they were kept. But wouldn't that be grand if David did have some jams recorded?
The Geeky Stuff
Let’s try to put a date on these sessions, shall we? The Syd Barrett anecdote has not been put in Ginger’s ‘Memoirs of the Bright Side of the Moon’, but she is pretty accurate on dates and places. (Read our review here: The Ballad of Fred & Ginger.)
Virginia ‘Ginger’ Hasenbein met David Gilmour backstage on the 28th of October 1971, at the Hill Auditorium (University of Michigan, USA) and it was pretty much love at first sight. Ginger followed the band for the rest of the tour that would go on till the 20th of November, meeting Gilmour’s parents, who were living in the USA, on the 15th. After the tour, she emigrated to England where she lived with David in a farm near Roydon, Essex. Pink Floyd road manager Pete Watts and his girlfriend Patricia ‘Puddy’ Gleeson stayed with them for some time.
David and Peter spent a lot of time in his studio, which was downstairs next to the living room.
The two couples didn’t have much free time as the UK Tour ‘72 was starting in January. But even with Gilmour on the road, the house was never empty.
I was alone with the BOYS - David’s friends from Cambridge. Most evenings I got stuck doing the washing up and keeping them filled with Tea as they smoked their spliffs and watched telly.
Those boys probably were Emo and a couple of others, but Syd was not among them. There was also Warwick, the housekeeper, doing the odd job and taking care of the duck Digby, the cats Gretel and Naomi and a retired Shire horse, Vim. Emo:
Ginger moved in when she came over. I remember Ginger telling me she met Syd when he came to the house at Woodley, Essex.
Through Emo we got some extra information from Ginger:
He came to Woodley and David helped him record some music. Syd had to sit on a stool and David stood behind him and helped him play the guitar… arms around him… (date forgotten).
And from Bob Martin, we know that Ginger added that Syd would stop by the house in Woodley quite often.
So if Syd attempted some recordings it may have been in that two months ‘calmer’ period, from November 1971 to January 1972. At the end of January, the Floyd had a British tour, followed by the Obscured By Clouds sessions, followed by a Japanese tour, an American tour, another American tour and a French tour. And in between, they had some recording sessions for what would become The Dark Side Of The Moon.
It is not that weird that Barrett tried to put his career back on the rails. His previous album, Barrett, dated from November 1970 and he hadn’t been doing a lot since. As a matter of fact, he had been doing nothing.
February 1971 had seen his last gig, 3 songs only, for BBC radio, probably with David Gilmour in the band. There were a couple of interviews, with Syd invariably trying to convince the journalist that he was still in shape and that a third album was in the works.
I’ve been writing consistently for two years now and I have lots of undeveloped things lying around. I’m still basically like I’ve always been, sitting around with an acoustic getting it done. I never get worried about my writing. (1971 interview in Terrapin 17, 1975.)
I've got some songs in the studio, still. And I've got a couple of tapes. It should be 12 singles, and jolly good singles. I think I shall be able to produce this one myself. I think it was always easier to do that. (Melody Maker, Mar 27 1971, Michael Watts.)
Another trigger might have been the release of the Pink Floyd compilation Relics, in May 1971, that contained four Barrett tracks (and 6 with him in the band). Syd had a copy of the album and bragged about it to Mick Rock that it had reached the top 10. Probably his management must have thought this was the ideal moment to get the third record in the can and surf on the Pink Floyd wave of fame.
That Syd Barrett was trying to get back in shape could be seen on the 26th and 27th of January 1972. Invited by Jenny Spires Syd went to an Eddie ‘Guitar’ Burns gig at King’s College Cellars (Cambridge), bringing his guitar with him. After the official gig Syd, Twink (John Alder) and Jack Monck (who was Jenny’s husband) had an impromptu jam.
Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band
Barrett liked the experiment and joined the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band the next day on three numbers. LMPTBB was a power blues outfit built around Twink, Jack Monck and the American singer Bruce Paine. That day they also had Fred Frith with them, who was less enthusiast about Barrett than the others. (Read our Fred Frith interviews at: An innerview with Fred Frith.)
The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band gig was recorded and officially released, after a long battle, in 2014. You can read all about it in our LMPTBB series: LMPTBB.
When Syd Barrett showed interest to start performing again singer and guitarist Bruce Paine was thanked for his services and a new band was formed: Stars. Bruce Paine continued as the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band and had at least one gig with Rick Fenn, Bill Gray and someone called Gary, before joining Steamhammer.
All of a sudden, Syd Barrett had become the leader of a new band, something he wasn’t really ready for. Stars did six gigs in Cambridge and somehow the music press got hold of it.
When a Melody Maker journalist published a critical review of one of the lesser shows, Syd Barrett called it quits. Apart from a jam with Jack Bruce in the summer of 1973, he would never perform again in public.
Stars, without Syd, still played a few gigs but was disbanded soon after.
The Basement Tapes
That we have never heard of the Barrett-Gilmour home tapes before is weird, and perhaps not. The Floyd nicely cultivated the Syd Barrett myth over the years, keeping it mysterious. Take for instance the different Syd Barrett visits during the Wish You Were Here sessions, with Gilmour denying that Syd was there on his wedding day, although ten witnesses, including his ex-wife, tell the opposite. Read all about that at: Shady Diamond.
David Gilmour has never been the most talkative kind of guy, especially when it comes to his relationship with Syd.
This was proven once again during the A Theatre For Dreamers / Von Trapped Family live stream #6 (9 May 2020), that was mainly David Gilmour sharing some thoughts about Syd Barrett. When asked who was the culprit not wanting to take Syd Barrett on a gig in January 1968 David Gilmour stays very discreet, even when pushed by Polly Samson.
David: “...as we were driving around West-London picking people up about to head off to some, like Southampton for a gig. Someone said shall we pick Syd up? Someone else said no, let’s not bother.” (Meanwhile, Polly keeps on yapping at her husband.)
Polly: “Come on, you know who said that!”
David: “Uhm, stop fishing… I actually don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that.”
The Syd Barrett Lyrics Book
The main bulk of the conversation was about the Syd Barrett lyrics book that David Gilmour is proofreading, comparing the master tapes with the lyrics that have been written down. Not an easy task so it appears as the Barrett little black book with his poems in has disappeared.
Another contributor to the Syd Barrett lyrics book will be Rob Chapman and he had the following to say on Twitter about it:
No doubt publishers will announce this in due course but the Syd Barrett lyric book has been put back to next year due to the Virus. A pity because there is going to be an exclusive in there which will make all Syd fans gasp and spontaneously combust when they read it. (Rob Chapman April 29, 2020.)
What makes us wonder what this exclusive might be. Perhaps the fact that David Gilmour still has a few unpublished demos or pictures in his possession?
If we have learned something from our decades-long Pink Floyd admiration it is that ‘spontaneous’ scoops like this mostly have been organised by the Floyd’s management. The first 1975 Syd Barrett picture was coincidentally found when Nick Mason had a book to promote. Years later a second photo was accidentally revealed on the Pink Floyd exhibition.
But for the exclusive in the Syd Barrett lyrics book, we will still have to wait a bit.
Many thanks: Rob Chapman, Ebronte, Ginger Gilmour, Bob Martin, Iain
‘Emo’ Moore, Lisa Newman, Ken Sutera Jnr, Swanlee, Wolfpack, Syd Wonder
and the friendly people of Birdie Hop and Late Night. Some pictures and
stuff at our Tumblr: Stars.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Gilmour, Ginger: Memoirs of the Bright Side of the Moon, Angelscript International, 2015, p. 31.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 164.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 149.