RIP Anthony Stern: 1944-2022
Anthony Stern grew up in Cambridge, along with boyhood friends David Gilmour and Roger Barrett. He moved to London in the mid-sixties and worked as a photographer for the Immediate record label. As a film-maker, he worked with Peter Whitehead on several documentaries that captured the rebellious energy of a tumultuous decade, such as the documentary Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967).
LSD-pioneer Stern had been a part of the Cambridge set in the mid-sixties, with beat poets, aspiring musicians and artists meeting at the local coffee-bar El Patio. Ant and his pal Syd had a mutual art exhibition, in the summer of 1964, above the Lion and Lamb pub in Milton. Just like Peter Whitehead, Storm Thorgerson and Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon he was an aspiring photographer and would-be movie maker. Around 1967 he and Syd discussed co-writing and -producing a movie 'The Rose Tinted Monocle' but the project never materialised.
Was there something in the water? (…) How come it happened that in Cambridge, nearly everybody you met was already a sort of proto-eccentric by the age of fourteen? If you weren’t doing some mad beat poetry, or jazz or playing the trumpet or something by the age of fifteen you’d better get a move on, ’cos everyone else is doing something wacky.” (Irregular Head)
In the autumn of 1967 things weren’t going smoothly for the Floyd. One day Anthony Stern ran into Peter Jenner in the Drum City music shop in London. He was offered a place in the band as second guitarist but he turned down the offer: “Oh, no, I’m a film director.”
Anthony Stern made a few Floyd-related movies. One of those, using the Floyd's hit-single 'See Emily Play', was the legendary 'Iggy Eskimo Girl' (1968), a relic that has mostly been hidden for five decades. The movie is, to quote Stern, a short little film poem about a girl who was on the scene in London.
Iggy was my muse. I met her at a Hendrix gig at the Speakeasy. She was a lovely inspiration and free spirit. I never knew her real name. We used to hang out together, occasionally dropping acid, staying up all night, going for walks at dawn in Battersea Park.
Stern took many pictures of Iggy and some were shown as ‘triptychs’ at The Other Room, one of the exhibitions during the Cambridge City Wakes festival in 2008.
I re-discovered these photographs in my cellar in an old suitcase. All the optical effects were obtained in-camera. The colour images of Iggy were taken on a houseboat at Chelsea Reach. In the background you can see Lots Road Power Station. The distortions were achieved using a flexible mirror material called Malinex, as well as a magnifying Fresnel screen.
Iggy was terrific fun to be with and to photograph. I knew her before she was introduced to Syd by Jennifer Spires, and I remember walking through Battersea Park in the early mornings together.
Even more famous than the Iggy movie is Stern’s San Francisco, (1968) where he ‘attempted to duplicate the Pink Floyd’s light show’ through cinematography. The soundtrack of that short is an early version of 'Interstellar Overdrive', dating from the 31st of October 1966. Stern used his camera as a ‘musical instrument’. San Francisco was seen by him as a ‘jazz music performance’ using still images as notes.
Syd Barrett used to crash in at Stern’s apartment, during and after his Pink Floyd period, but not all was well.
You’d see his mood declining as the evening wore on. (…) Then he’d disappear into the lavatory and come back and his mood had changed. (Pigs Might Fly)
According to Stern it was not cocaine Syd Barrett was taking, but heroin.
Dark Side Of The Rose Monocle
When 'Dark Side Of The Moon' came out Stern was duly impressed, just like millions of other fans. He proposed to make a movie based upon the 'The Rose Tinted Monocle' script that he had worked on with Syd Barrett. He borrowed a projector from David Gilmour and showed a rough version to all members of the band.
They knew that Syd had been involved with the roots of the film, and on a purely aesthetic and creative level they all gave it the thumbs up. They all said, “Of course you can use Dark Side of the Moon for this.” (…) Roger, despite his immense ego, was incredibly friendly, warm and enthusiastic about the idea of me using this music in such an abstract, non-commercial way. (Pigs Might Fly)
The band’s approval was buried by the band’s manager, Steve O’Rourke, and the movie was never made. Pink Floyd now belonged to the high-fidelity first-class travelling set and no longer to the avant-garde underground.
Dancing with Glass
Making avant-garde movies doesn’t bring bread on the table. Around 1978 Anthony Stern found a new way to express his talent in glass blowing. Film-making and glass-blowing culminated in a short movie Anthony made: 'Dancing With Glass' (2013). Direct link: Dancing With Glass.
With the turn of the century there was some renewed interest in Stern’s film making. He joined forces with Chimera Arts, the production company from installation artist Sadia Sadia and music producer, composer and sound designer Stephen W Tayler. They salvaged some material from Stern’s archives. 'The Noon Gun', shot by Stern in Afghanistan in 1971, was released by Chimera in 2004.
Other rediscovered films had a premiere at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, June 2008. Amongst them: 'The End Of The Party', from 1969 and 'Iggy Eskimo Girl', from 1968. Stern was present and gave some valuable information that has been hiding for years in one of the dark corners of the Internet. Direct Link: Anthony Stern.
The City Wakes festival in Cambridge (2008) created something of a Pink Floyd induced buzz, promoting Anthony’s pictures in The Other Room exhibition. Anthony Stern was also the subject of a 2008 documentary, shot by Sadia Sadia: 'Lit From Within'.
Get all that, Ant?
Stern was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and started revisiting his collection of photographs, 16mm film reels and Nagra sound tapes. A website was created in 2014, Anthony Stern Film Archive, that promised to release a book and a DVD containing Stern’s work: 'Get all from that Ant?' (later re-baptised to 'Get All That, Ant')
Although the 62 minutes documentary was shown on a Syd Barrett festival in October 2016 it never was released to the general public. Most of the relevant pages on the Anthony Stern Film Archive website have disappeared as well.
A condensed, 45 minutes, version was shown at BBC4 during Keith Richard’s Lost Weekend. 'Lost and Found: the Memory Marbles of Anthony Stern' made it on national television on Monday 26th of September 2016 at 01:25 in the morning. This documentary had some previously unpublished stills and snippets of Iggy and Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.
Chimera Copyright Issues
No Church article without some controversy, some people say.
'Memory Marbles' – the condensed version of 'Get All That, Ant?' – was the only program from Keith Richard’s Lost Weekend that didn’t make it on the BBC iPlayer and couldn’t be seen ‘on demand’. Copyright issues, so it seems.
The 'Iggy Eskimo Girl' movie was never generally released and when a ‘bootleg’ version was found by none other than Iggy herself (in 2016) it took less than 24 hours for Chimera Arts to delete it from Dailymotion. (See: Iggy The Eskimo Girl (full movie).)
Over the years Chimera has been as protective over Stern’s movies as Pink Floyd over the Syd Barrett tap dancing video. They prefer to show his work on avant-garde film festivals rather than release it to the masses. (Anthony Stern did send an Eskimo Girl DVD to Iggy Rose though.)
As such it is quite ironical that the Anthony Stern retrospective at La Cinémathèque Française was organised after they found one of his movies… on YouTube.
Sadia Sadia’s YouTube channel contained a biographical movie about ‘her friend, the glass artist Anthony Stern’. 'Lit From Within' (2008) is a cute documentary that has a mid-sixties cameo from none other than Libby Gausden. A few days after Stern’s decease, the movie mysteriously disappeared from the channel. It's probably an avant-garde way of honouring a friend who just passed away.
Another mystery is why Ant’s two Pink Floyd related movies never made it on The Early Years set. The 'Interstellar Overdrive' demo of the 1st of October 1966, recorded at Thompson Private Recording Studios, Hemel Hempstead can’t be found in the box, an unforgivable oversight. It was later released on one-sided vinyl for Record Store Day.
It is rumoured that Pink Floyd used a low quality tape to press the record. It is also believed that the original reel of the track belonged to Anthony Stern, who used it for the San Francisco movie. Just like with the BBC sessions the Pink Floyd archivists used low quality copies instead of trying to obtain the originals.
RIP Anthony Stern (1944 - 2022)
Stern died somewhere in the first or second week of February 2022. With Anthony we lose another cogwheel from the Pink Floyd time machine. He used to play with light, first as a gifted avant-garde movie maker, later as a glass sculpturer. Let’s hope ‘Get All That, Ant’ will get a release soon and that it will not stay in copyright hell like Storm Thorgerson’s ‘Have You Got It Yet’.
We are the Fishes
An Anthony Stern movie from 2014. Direct link: We are the Fishes.
Many thanks to: Iain 'Emo' Moore, Lisa Newman, Göran Nyström.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Links & Things:
Anthony Stern: Anthony Stern Glass.
Anthony Stern: BFI (incomplete).
Anthony Stern: Film Archive.
Anthony Stern: Film Archive (Wixsite).
Anthony Stern: IMDB (incomplete).
Anthony Stern: YouTube.
Chimera Arts: FILMS
and INSTALLATIONS MENU - (hidden) movie page, containing
descriptions of several Stern (related) movies.
Chimera Arts: Iggy.
Chimera Arts: The End of the Party.
Chimera Arts: Lit from Within (documentary).
Chimera Arts: San Francisco Redux (art installation).
Chimera Arts: The Noon Gun.
Sadia Sadia: YouTube (contains no Anthony Stern material).
THCoItI: Anthony Stern
THCoItI: Eskimo Girl (screenshots).
THCoItI: Iggy Triptychs.
THCoItI: The Other Room (Anthony Stern exhibition).
Tumblr: Chimera Arts.
Tumblr: Iggnet (Iggy magnet).
Tumblr: Iggy Triptychs.
Tumblr: Lion and Lamb.
Tumblr: Lost Weekend.
Tumblr: Memory Marbles.
Tumblr: Sydge (Syd Barrett magnet).
Tumblr: The Other Room.
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010.
Palacios, Julian: Darker Globe: Uncut and Unedited, private publication, 2021.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 7-8.