Thursday, February 27, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series (and 2)
How did you end up designing the covers of HYGIY? Did you offer your services?
|Syd in the times of Those Without|
Friday, January 10, 2014
Norman Smith and Syd Barrett
For the next six years, Smith worked closely with the producer George Martin, most famously as engineer on all of the Beatles' sessions, from their audition in June 1962 up to the Rubber Soul album at the end of 1965. Although he didn't take part in the Sgt Pepper sessions, Smith went on to produce several albums which helped define British psychedelia. Between 1967 and 1969 he produced Pink Floyd's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets and Ummagumma , and helped the band experiment as they sought a way out of the chaos following the departure of the founder member Syd Barrett.
In the Spring of 1967, the band was the toast of the London underground, famous for its freeform, freak-out style of instrumental improvisation and throbbing, hallucinogenic light shows. It was all a little overwhelming for Smith, who was one of the more senior staff members at Abbey Road. But he knew he was on to something.
“I’m an old jazz man myself,” he says, laughing. “I didn’t know anything about psychedelia. But I could see that Pink Floyd were extremely popular, so I thought, Well, it looks as though we can sell some records here.”
Although Smith was still able to dabble behind the console after moving into production, once he began working with an underground, London-based, psychedelic rock outfit known as the Pink Floyd in early 1967, he "had too many other things to worry about such as Syd Barrett". And, having first seen the band at London's UFO Club, he also had to get to grips with their material.
Recording began almost immediately after signing to EMI in March 1967 and continued during an intense touring schedule through June and early July. Though Syd was still lucid and maintained a strong artistic control, he was, by the end of the sessions, becoming more withdrawn and difficult to communicate with. Norman Smith, called 'Normal' by John Lennon, found Syd especially tiresome. Sceptical of the band's musical ability and inclined to dismiss Barrett's songs as infantile, the sessions were not an altogether happy affair for Smith.
“I realized as time went on that Syd really and truly, in my opinion, didn’t get any pleasure out of recording,” Smith observes. “Syd’s thing was he would write these songs; he would go to an underground club, or something of that nature, and perform these songs. And that was really it for him.”
"When I look back I wonder how we ever managed to get anything done," Smith said. "It was sheer hell. There are no pleasant memories. I always left with a headache. Syd was undisciplined and would simply never sing the same thing twice. Trying to talk to him was like talking to a brick wall because the face was so expressionless. His lyrics were child-like and he was a child in many ways; up one minute, down the next."
Faced with the unreceptive Smith, Syd found another line of communication into the control room via Peter Bown. The eccentric Abbey Road engineer, then in his early forties, struck up an unlikely friendship with Barrett, resulting in some of the more unusual sounds on the album. "Bown was as loopy as they come," remembers King. "He'd sit at the mixing desk painting plastic skin on his fingers because he was worried they'd wear out through overuse."
"Syd's guitar was always a problem because he would not keep still and was always fiddling with his sound," says Bown, who retired in 1991. "He used to go and kick his echo box every now and then, just because he liked the sound it made. We wrecked four very expensive microphones that first night. They got louder and louder until everything was overloading and the mics just gave up the ghost. "With Syd you just never knew what was going to occue. We all knew he was taking drugs fairly heavily but, nevertheless, he was very creative. The fact that he didn't understand the recording process terribly well meant that he was less rigid about what could and couldn't be done. No-one really understood Pink Floyd, particularly Norman. Pink Floyd were different and they were meant to be different."
"I can't in all honesty say that the music meant anything at all to me," Smith confessed. "In fact, I could barely call it music, given my background as a jazz musician and the musical experience that I'd had with the Beatles. Still, there was something about Syd Barrett's songs that was indescribable — they were nondescript, but obviously had that Barrett magic for an awful lot of people. Nevertheless, I got along as well as anybody could with Syd Barrett. He really was in control. He was the only one doing any writing, he was the only one who I as a producer had to convince if I had any ideas, but the trouble with Syd was that he would agree with almost everything I said and then go back in and do exactly the same bloody thing again! I was really getting nowhere.
"I never actually saw Syd taking drugs in the studio, but he had the kind of character that, even if he hadn't taken any, you'd think he was on drugs. He was a peculiar person. You couldn't really hold a sensible conversation with him for longer than 30 seconds. Roger Waters had the best rapport with Syd, but even he found it difficult. I remember them being on [BBC TV's] Top Of The Pops with 'See Emily Play', and beforehand I took them into Number One Studio purely to rehearse what they would do on television for the first time. I was almost choreographing them, silly little old me, thinking they would actually stick with my choreography! Of course, that all went out of the window, thanks to Syd.
"He wasn't happy about doing Top Of The Pops; he didn't like singles — he only liked doing albums — and it was while waiting around for an appearance on [BBC Radio's] Saturday Club that he walked out of the door and went missing. That really was the first sign of his complete mental breakdown, and he never did come back into the studio any more after that, meaning that I had a hell of a hard time with the recordings."
Smith's input did help the band create an accessible album. As bootlegs of the rough mixes made by Syd attest, if Barrett had had his way the album would be full of phase-shifting and heavy reverb. One can only speculate how it might have sounded if Joe Boyd had produced it as originally planned.
"As musicians, the Floyd were capable enough, but again Nick Mason would be the first to agree that he was no kind of technical drummer. In fact, I remember recording a number — I can't now recall which one — and there had to be a drum roll, and of course he didn't have a clue what to do. I had been a drummer, and so I had to do that. Nick was no threat to Buddy Rich! Roger Waters, on the other hand, was an adequate bass player for what they did, but to be honest he used to make more interesting noises with his mouth. He had a ridiculous repertoire of mouth noises, and we used that on one or two things."
"So, they were capable, but I had a great struggle with them after Syd Barrett went funny and left. They tried very hard to write material — I remember them writing a song about apples and oranges, which I dressed up and released as a single, and that sold about six copies. It was around the time of the Saucerful Of Secrets album, and I really did think that it was all over. We still had to keep the singles coming for the audience that they had established, but the songs that were being composed by the other three guys were, to say the least, lacking in commerciality. Their recording career was going down the drain fast, and then along came Dave Gilmour and things started to pick up again."
After producing 1970's Atom Heart Mother, Norman Smith was the executive producer of Meddle the following year, yet he was about to exit the Pink Floyd story.
"These guys now knew what they wanted, and so it was silly for me to contribute any more," he explained. "I thought I'd done my bit with them and encouraged them to produce themselves — they were producing tape loops at home and bringing them in to me — as well as to be resourceful in the studio. Having done that, it was time for me to retire gracefully and offer to help them if they needed my advice at any time. However, they didn't, because Roger Waters — a bit like Paul McCartney — had the makings of being a good producer, and Dave Gilmour showed this ability as well, and I personally think that the two of them together were a greater force than Syd Barrett ever was. They were able to get back to what Pink Floyd was all about, and the rest is history."
Labels: Norman Smith
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series (1)
At the beginning of the nineties, a project from a Yahoo Group called Laughingmadcaps began. Fans and collectors got together in order to compile any unreleased piece of music of Pink Floyd’s founder member Syd Barrett. The man behind the curtain of this Project was Kiloh Smith: “We wanted to leave the listener wanting less not more”. Have You Got It Yet?, the name that was given to the collection, contains songs in which Syd Barrett participated with and without Pink Floyd: Studio outtakes, live recordings, homemade sound mixes, interviews, pictures, articles, essays, TV documentaries, song covers recorded by fans, design covers for the (so far) nineteen discs, all kinds of unreleased video material, songs dedicated to Syd Barrett, and even tracks in which his participation was put into question. No one earned a single penny; the fans traded bootlegs or just sent blank CDs in exchange… and sometimes they received them as presents from someone unknown from the other side of the world. The team who made this possible was interviewed for this article.
But anyway, I got Rick on board and then we had a place to mail submissions to. That went on for several months. And I even went to visit Rick in Connecticut. Rick is also Jefferson Starship's Webmaster. After awhile, it became clear that Rick wasn't into going through all the material and picking out the best quality. He had a different vision for the project which involved just putting everything out and letting the fans assemble their own collection. That wasn't going to work and so I removed the project from Rick, which had grown to almost a hundred discs of submissions. I took my toys and went home.
11. What was the biggest surprise among the material?
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Syd Barrett - Barrie Wentzell "Stoned Tramp" Photo Session 1971
Barrie Wentzell "Stoned tramp" photo session 1971
Photos taken at his manager's office in Mayfair, London; probably in late 1970 or early 1971 for promotion of his new album "Barrett", released in November 1970.
"Chris Welch and I went along to do a quick interview with Syd at his managers office. We were a bit apprehensive, as stories of Syd's behavior of late seemed bizarre. When we got there, we were met by a very upset guy who said Syd had locked himself into a room and he wouldn't come out. Oh dear! It seemed the stories were true. Chris and I spoke to him through the door and tried to convince him that we were his friends and that everything was ok. He slowly opened the door and ushered us in quickly shutting and locking the door behind us. He stood there looking very frightened, muttering, Those people out there are aliens, and are after me! We tried to tell him that they were his management and friends and they cared about him, as do we. He seemed unconvinced, and I took this dark side of Syd pictures and managed to persuade him to let Chris and I out and that wed send help. He took the key from his pocket, unlocked the door. We escaped and Syd locked himself back inside." ( Barrie Wentzell ).
Labels: Syd Barrett
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Syd Barrett Wolfpack Analysis
|Syd Barrett Wolfpack|
Wolfpack is about him being on that mental health ward in the hospital. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I lived directly across the street from the hospital and a community park. Every day, the Psych Nurses and workers would take the patients on a walk in the park. See where I am going with this? Syd was the lunatic on the grass. And they, the Nurses and workers, were always getting the group into formation; howling the pack back into formation.
He's in the pack, with the Psych Ward Nurses telling him to "GET BACK IN LINE!" (waving him back in formation). If I am not mistaken, they took the patients to the park to play cricket. "Bowling they bat" is a kind of perverted cricket analogy in my opinion. The loonies are playing cricket in the park; they are "on the grass".
The Last Stanza:
"Howling the pack back into formation, diamonds and clubs, waving us back into formation..."
The cricket game is over and the Psych Ward Nurses and Orderlies are getting everybody back together (in formation) to go back up on the Ward where the only thing to do is play card (Diamonds and Clubs) or dominoes.
Syd Barrett Wolfpack:
Howling the pack in formation appears
Diamonds and clubs, light misted fog, the dead
Waving us back in formation
The pack in formation
Bowling they bat as a group
And the leader is seen so early
The pack on their backs, the fighters
Through misty the waving
The pack in formation
Far reaching waves
On sight, shone right
I lay as if in surround
All enmeshing, hovering
The milder I gaze
All the animals laying trail
Beyond the bough winds
Mild the reflecting electricity eyes
Tears, the life that was ours
Grows sharper and stronger away and beyond
Short wheeling, fresh spring
Gripped with blanched bones, moaned
Magnesium, proverbs and sobs
Howling the pack in formation appears
Diamonds and clubs, light misted fog, the dead
Waving us back in formation
The pack in formation
Labels: Syd Barrett Wolfpack
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Syd Barrett Dominoes Analysis
OK, we know that Syd first spent time in a psychiatric ward right after Pink Floyd. I am guessing it was after the Jenner-Produced solo sessions in the Spring of '68 too but that's a GUESS. Maybe somebody can step up with further knowledge. But annnnnnnnnyway, Syd took to following Pink Floyd around England in his mini carrying enough drugs to get the whole North Korean Army loaded. He would get hopped upon speed and Listerine and then squirm down front and stare at David Gilmour; giving him those "dead fish eyes". Gilmour said it was quite unnerving.
After one of these gigs, Syd was speeding along in the cosmos, in his sunfighter space laser inducted ship, and a tree jumped out and hit him. He was removed from the wreckage a quivering, gibbering idiot and placed into a locked ward. I think this is where Dominoes comes from. See... I had a dear friend who went crazy and I used to visit him up on Cheney, at Hudson River State Hospital, Cheney was solid quarry stone and twenty stories tall. They said the higher you went, the longer you stayed. I will place a link to Cheney below the Dominoes link. Cheney is abandoned now.
Anyway, up in the locked ward my friend was on, the patients all used to sit around playing dominoes and staring out the window. That was Syd in the ward; staring out the window playing dominoes. The whole feel of the song has that psychotropic, mind numbing, calmness associated (so I am told) with being on shit like Thorazine and Haldol. My friend joked about walking the halls up in Cheney doing the "Haldol shuffle." He told me that, once, he got out and he walked up the stairs to the top floor. That's where they used to do all the "procedures" like orbital and frontal lobotomies. He said the metal tables with straps were still all there.
BTW, he's OK now and spent three weeks out in Phoenix visiting me last year. He has an apartment around Hyde Park, New York. He's a great guy and was a brilliant student AND Letterman in Track and Wrestling in high school. He became ill in college.
Labels: Syd Barrett Dominoes