Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
The Laughing Madcaps Facebook Group

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Syd Barrett Facebook Group Coming Up on 3,000 Members!

Syd Barrett Facebook
Syd Barrett Facebook
The Laughing Madcaps, Syd Barrett Facebook, Group is coming upon 3,000 members! The original group started waaaay back in 1998 on Yahoogroups. A few years ago, the group was moved to Facebook and has taken off. Laughing Madcaps is the source for Syd Barrett information in the world. 

Laughing Madcaps has put out THE unreleased Syd Barrett music collection for the fans. They did this for free. That's the world famous Have You Got It Yet?, 19 CD, collection. They have also assembled every single Syd Barrett, early Pink Floyd, picture and burned them to DVD for free. Pink Floyd themselves have consulted LM about images. Not only that, but their own Mark Jones has taken the time to create Folders in this group and copy all of these images into the Photos section so you can enjoy them. To list all of the accomplishments of this group, all that LM have done for the fans, would take a long, long time. And it's all been done for free. You have a lot to be thankful and grateful for.

Click on the image in this post to go and join!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pink Floyd's Bike: the Provo Influence

The Provo movement (1963-1972) was directed by a "playful anarchist" group which combined non-violence and absurd humor to create social change. The name Provo was coined by Dutch sociologist Buikhuizen to describe, in a condescending way, post-war disaffected Dutch teens who spent their time provoking the authorities. Provo is loosely defined as: a creature of my own making. Provo has also been co-opted to mean: hippie though it pre-dates it. The term was used for the movement as a whole and for individual members. It was preceded by the Nozem movement and followed by the hippie movement.

Provo was founded in 1963. The Provos believed and espoused that the Revolution would not come from the Proletariat (working class) but from the “Provotariat”. On 25 May 1965, the first Provo Pamphlets were handed out by Robert Jasper Grootveld, an anti-smoking activist and the anarchists Roel van Duijn and Rob Stolk. These political pamphlets were some of the first, that came to be later called, mass produced psychedelic writings and images of the Sixties. Provo was officially disbanded on 13 May 1967.

Provo fused three countercultural elements: an emerging group of angry, alienated young people; the provocative methods of the performance artist Robert Jasper Grootveld; and the revolutionary ideas of philosophy student Roel Van Duyn.

Provo used pranks to provoke the police into action - and usually overreaction. In fact Provo considered the police to be an essential element of a happening; the happening would provoke the police and the police's response would fire the crowd's resentment which would eventually erupt into revolt. The media were also central players and could fuel a provocation with outrage and panic. 

The theatrical street happenings organized by the Provos attracted huge crowds and often resulted in over-reaction by the police. The group found great sympathy among Amsterdammers and at one point obtained five seats on the City Council. Its ideas influenced urban planning, social housing, and cultural life in general. It campaigned against marijuana prohibition, air pollution from urban traffic congestion, and the tobacco industry, and it created numerous anti-royal events and literature. Despite the flippancy of some of their methods Provo's direct actions usually had a serious motivation. Their 'White Plans' are a particularly good example of provocation for public good.

The original Witte Fietsenplan (White Bike plan) was an anarchic free transport programme and the most famous manifesto of the Provos. It proposed that cars be banned from the city centre to be replaced by twenty thousand free bicycles provided by the city. These would be painted white and always left unlocked. Provo released 50 or so, free to use, specially painted white bikes which were scattered across the city of Amsterdam.

This was done as a statement against the rise of consumerism, pollution and congestion caused by the privately owned vehicle. Although the action was short-lived due to theft and vandalism, Provo members used seats on the local council to propose further large-scale white bike plans. The initiative stands as the source inspiration for the (PUB) Public Use Bicycle systems which have been updated and ‘officially’ replicated in cities worldwide.

Both: My White Bicycle, by Tomorrow, and Bike, by Pink Floyd are thought to be inspired by the White Bicycle Plan. According to Tomorrow drummer John Alder, it was inspired by an anarchist group called the Dutch Provos who “had white bicycles in Amsterdam and they used to leave them around the town. And if you were going somewhere and you needed to use a bike, you’d just take the bike and you’d go somewhere and just leave it.”

The Provos had a series of other "White" Programs:

  • The White Chimney Plan proposed that air polluters be taxed and the chimneys of serious polluters painted white.
  • The White Housing Plan proposed that the city legalize and sponsor squatting: the revolutionary solution to the housing problem.
  • The White Wives Plan proposed a network of women's sexual health and family planning centers and sex education in schools.
  • The White Kids Plan proposed shared parenting in groups of 5 couples who would take it in turns to care for the group's children on a different day of each week
  • The White Chicken Plan was a statement against increasingly violent police responses to happenings and demonstrations. It proposed that the police force (then known in Amsterdam as blue chickens) changed its image by disarming, riding white bicycles and handing out free first aid, fried chicken and contraceptives.
Left wing student groups began to unite with Provo to protest against the war in Vietnam. Demonstrations were banned and grew in size and popularity as a direct result. The police responded with increasing force. By the middle of 1966 hundreds of people were being arrested every week. The public began to condemn the police and express sympathy for the Provos and anti-war demonstrators. An official investigation into the crisis was opened in August 1966 and the police commissioner, and eventually the mayor, were fired as a result of its findings.

The Provos had a sting influence upon the Diggers, a well-known counterculture collective in San Francisco. This, in turn, had great influence upon other such organizations at the time.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Syd's Departure from Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd's first performance as a five-piece was Aston University, on January 12th. Following that, they played: Weston Super Mare 13 Jan, Lewes Sussex 19 Jan, Hastings Sussex 20 Jan. Syd Barrett played his last ever gig with Pink Floyd on Jan. 20, 1968. Barrett was the main songwriter, lead singer, guitarist and focal point for the psychedelic pioneers from their formation through the end of 1967, at which time, various issues led to his exit from the band. For that handful of shows David played and sang while Barrett wandered around on stage, occasionally deigning to join in playing. The other band members soon tired of Barrett’s antics.

The next show, at Southampton University on January 26th, was the one Syd was not picked up for. They were supported by Tyrannosaurus Rex, featuring Marc Bolan. Following this, the band hoped to keep Syd on as a songwriter, but have Gilmour be their performing guitarist. But Syd’s songwriting efforts (notably “Have You Got It Yet?”) seemed destined for commercial failure, and the rest of the band didn’t agree with his plan to add banjo and sax players to the group. So it was decided, on March 2, to break up the management partnership of Blackhill Enterprises, and Syd was thus formally and officially out of the group.

On February 1, 1968 Pink Floyd spent the day at Abbey Road studios working on what would become their second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets. Sessions had previously taken place with Syd Barrett and continued with David Gilmour throughout the rest of the month. On February 17, 1968 the band began a five-date tour of the Netherlands and Belgium. The trip also included a TV appearance for RTB in Brussels (performing new songs, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and Corporal Clegg, among others) and two performances for ORTV in Paris, including a mimed performance of the single B-side Paintbox.

March 1, 1968 Pink Floyd's partnership with management company Blackhill Enterprises was formally dissolved. The band acquired a new manager, Steve O'Rourke, who was initially employed by their booking agents, the Bryan Morrison Agency. On March 16 Pink Floyd played London's hippest nightspot, Middle Earth in Covent Garden. Syd Barrett was among the audience. On March 28 Pink Floyd were filmed playing Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun for the BBC TV arts programme 'Omnibus'. The documentary, about pop music and politics, was later released as a video/DVD entitled All My Loving. On April 4 Pink Floyd began recording background music for the film noir The Committee, featuring former Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones.

It wasn’t until April 6, 1968 that the Floyd officially announced that Syd had left the band. Barrett friend, poet Spike Hawkins, remembers Syd telling him about the early Floyd recordings, and how he “wanted to go much deeper, using music and lyrics as a key to opening doors.” Hawkins told Barrett he had in fact opened doors for the band, Barrett replied, “Yeah, with cheap keys.”

Barrett did not contribute any material to the band after A Saucerful of Secrets was released in 1968. Of the songs he wrote for Pink Floyd after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, only one (“Jugband Blues”) made it to the band’s second album; one became a less-than-successful single (“Apples and Oranges”), and two others (“Scream Thy Last Scream” and “Vegetable Man”) were never officially released. Barrett supposedly spent some time outside the recording studio, waiting to be invited in (he also showed up to a few gigs and glared at Gilmour). Barrett played slide guitar on “Remember a Day” (which had been recorded during the The Piper at the Gates of Dawn sessions) and also played on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”. His main contribution to the album, “Jugband Blues,” is often seen by Pink Floyd fans as Barrett’s admission that his days in the band were probably numbered (“It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here/And I’m most obliged to you for making it clear/that I’m not here”, the song opens). In April of 1968 it was officially announced that he was no longer a member of Pink Floyd.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pink Floyd - Games for May 1967

Space Age Relaxation for the Climax of Spring

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 5/12/67

Games for May
Games for May
Pink Floyd performs the first-ever surround sound concert at “Games for May”, 12th of May 1967, a lavish affair at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall where the band debuts its custom-made quadraphonic speaker system. The technological breakthrough not only amazes and confuses the mass of stoned concert-goers, but it goes on to raise the standard of what audiences would come to expect from a live rock performance.

Billed as a unique show, this event was based closely on the 12th May 1967 outing at its original venue, the intimate Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. This Hall was only opened in March 1967 by HM Queen Elizabeth so Pink Floyd were indeed unique in not only securing this brand new classical establishment but also in presenting the first rock concert in a ‘proper’ concert hall ever!

Games for May
Games for May
The concert (setlist below) featured material from the band's debut album, "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" (which came out later that year) and was a ground-breaking multi-media event. With a primitive yet revolutionary sound mixer, quadraphonic sound was used to wow an audience whose senses were already being assaulted by a light show, taped effects, on-stage carpentry, the distribution of hundreds of daffodils (which were trodden into the carpets) and bubbles filling the air (and stained the upholstery!).

Games for May
Games for May
It was the first concert in Britain to feature both a complex light show and a quadraphonic sound system. The show was introduced with a series of tape recordings. Roger Waters created the opening dawn tape effects by using bird calls and various natural sounds (an effect he would use in both "Cirrus Minor" and "Grantchester Meadows"). The bubbles at the end of the show were created by Rick Wright while the ending piece was constructed by Barrett.[1] At this time "See Emily Play" was known as "Games for May."

Games for May
Games for May
The Floyd were in the middle of recording sessions for their debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, when their management team was approached by Christopher Hunt, a music promoter with a taste for avant-garde theater. Pink Floyd had been assaulting their audiences with both sound and light, incorporating rudimentary light shows, complete with abstract films and bubbling, psychedelic oil slide projections, into their live sets, so Hunt figured they were the perfect band to break new ground by offering a true multimedia event.

Games for May
Games for May
The show was given the name “Games for May” and set for May 12. Hunt described it in press materials as “Space age relaxation for the climax of spring — electronic compositions, colour and image projections, girls and THE PINK FLOYD.” The chosen venue, the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s upscale South Bank performing-arts district, complete with suited ushers and upholstered seats, was usually only used for classical concerts, so the whole affair took on a peculiar whiff of high art. With the appropriate hype in place, Pink Floyd knew they had to produce something special to rise to the occasion.

Games for May
Games for May
Roger Waters remembers, "I remember the Games For May concert we did at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in May 1967. I was working in this dank, dingy basement off the Harrow Road, with an old Ferrograph. I remember sitting there recording edge tones off cymbals for the performance - later that became the beginning of Saucerful Of Secrets. In those days you could get away with stuff like chasing clockwork toy cars around the stage with a microphone. For Games For May I also made "bird" noises recorded on the old Ferrograph at half-speed, to be played in the theatre's foyer as the audience was coming in. I was always interested in the possibilities of rock 'n' roll, how to fill the space between the audience and the idea with more than just guitars and vocals." 

Games for May
Games for May
The group returned to an idea it had first experimented with at EMI’s Abbey Road studios a few weeks earlier. An engineer had hooked up an additional set of speakers to the usual stereo pair and set them at the back of the room, creating a surround-sound effect. The band was eager to test how this four-speaker setup would work in a live context — most concert clubs in London were only rigged for mono — so they asked one of Abbey Road’s techies, Bernard Speight, to pull together a system they could throttle up to full gig volume.

Games for May
Games for May
Speight also designed a unique device for controlling how the sound was to be distributed among all the speakers in the proto-quadraphonic rig. He built a box with four separate 90-degree potentiometers, one for each speaker, all controlled by a single joystick. This invention was given the fittingly futuristic name of the Azimuth Coordinator.

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason described how it worked once it was placed on top of keyboardist Richard Wright’s organ, “If the joystick was upright, the sound was centered, but moving it diagonally would dispatch the sound to the speaker in the equivalent corner of the hall,” Mason writes. “Rick could send his keyboard sounds swirling around the auditorium, or make footsteps — supplied from a Revox tape recorder — apparently march across from one side to the other.”

Those footsteps, among other effects, were supplied by the band, who prepped special four-track tapes to feed through the Azimuth Coordinator. The various members recorded passages filled with electronic blips and backwards cymbal crashes. Bassist Roger Waters supplied maniacal laughter and synthetic bird sounds.

The band played for a full two hours that night — an exceedingly generous amount of time for a musical act in those days. The show began with an artificial sunrise created by the Floyd’s lighting crew, who bathed the stage in red. The set was mostly made up of originals from the “Piper” album including the stretched-out jam vehicles “Interstellar Overdrive” and “POW R TOC H.” Barrett even wrote a new original for the gig titled “Games for May” — it would soon be renamed “See Emily Play” and go on to become the band’s next hit single.

The proper songs were intercut with bursts of taped sounds and organ swells, all fed through the quad system and sent bouncing around by the Azimuth Coordinator.

“The sounds traveled around the hall in a sort of circle, giving the audience an eerie effect of being absolutely surrounded by this music,” Roger Waters later remembered.

There was also a theatrical element to the show. Mason sawed through a log with a microphone attached to it, Waters threw potatoes at a large gong and arranged bouquets of flowers in various vases, and Barrett went to town with a plastic ruler, feverishly sliding it up and down the neck of his guitar with his amplifier cranked all the way up. Organist Wright operated a bubble machine that complimented the pulsating lights and projections with gigantic soap bubbles. The band’s roadies tossed daffodils into the crowd.

Games for May
Games for May
The administrators of the Queen Elizabeth Hall were less impressed. The bubble machine and the flower petals had made a mess of the seats and carpet, and the venue banned Pink Floyd from ever playing there again. Worse yet, the Azimuth Coordinator was stolen after the show.

Nevertheless, everyone involved recognized a bar had been raised.

Games for May
“In the future, bands are going to have to offer more than a pop show. They are going to have to an offer a well presented theater show,” Syd Barrett said after the fact.

“I think Games for May was one of the most significant shows we ever performed,” Nick Mason said.


1) Tape Dawn, Taped sound effects of birds etc. recorded by Roger Waters. Served as introduction to the show and was played in the foyer of the theatre prior to the show.
2) Matilda Mother
3) Flaming
4) Scarecrow
5) Jugband Blues
6) Games for May (Written for this occasion and later rewritten and retitled to See Emily Play)
7) Bike
8) Arnold Layne
9) Candy And a Currant Bun
10) Pow R Toc H
11) Interstellar Overdrive
12) 'Tape Bubbles' Taped sound effects by Rick Wright to accompany soap bubbles filling the theatre (Later used on "Sysyphus")
13) 'Tape Ending' Taped instrumental piece by Barrett (Later used on "Grandvizer's Garden Party" by Nick Mason)
14) Encore: Lucifer Sam

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series (and 2)


Second (and last) part of The Making of Have You Got It Yet? series, the definitive compilation of unreleased material of Syd Barrett with and without Pink Floyd.
Click HEREin order to have a look at Part 1.

Steve Czapla speaks

What did you do for HYGIY?
I did a lot of the grunt work. I was involved in the music, had nothing to do with the visual end, but I determined how most of the audio would go:Kiloh had conceived the project, had gotten people to send in their best material (or so they thought), and found someone to put it together. It turned out he wasn't quite up to the job, and so I was recruited. I got the mass of discs that had been submitted to him and had to make some sense of it. Much of it was unlabeled, mislabeled, redundant, in varying quality, and there were some hoax tracks. It took a fair amount of time just sorting and comparing before there was a rough idea of what would fit together and how.

The whole point was to present the material more or less chronologically, in the best possible quality, to give the clearest possible picture of Syd's career. It wasn't to be just another bootleg recycling the same old stuff; we wanted the definitive historical document, all under one roof. That hadn't been done before, that I'm aware. The closest I'd ever seen was "The Afterhours Tapes" by the Velvet Underground Appreciation Society. (I did some work on those back in the 80s). They put out pretty much everything available, but things were a bit scattered and a lot of solo material was mixed in. They weren't chronological; each cassette had a theme or two. History doesn't fit easily into 45-minute segments; they didn't have any wiggle room. Around 2000, suddenly we had the freedom to burn our own CDs, and that was a revolution. And so, once we had a rough template, it was my job to process the audio as well. This might involve declicking acetates, noise reduction (a controversial topic), EQ, sound levels, and sometimes speed correction as well.

There are a handful of Syd tapes that had never been heard in the proper pitch, because somebody's tape recorder had been wrong from the beginning. I've been a musician all my life and I know all the chords to the songs. I've even been known to play them in public. And if I hear a note, I can name it. So I knew for a fact that, say, "Terrapin" from (6/6/70) had to be brought down 10%, because Syd would only ever have played or sung it in E, not in F#. And if the tempo is slower than we were used to? That is what they played, so get used to it. We'd fight among ourselves over things like that. That was one particular skill I could bring that someone else couldn't, and I'm glad we got it right.

So anyway, that's essentially what I did. I organized the material, selected the best tracks, processed them, and compiled the audio discs. I had help, of course. Early on there was a member of the Yahoo Group, he went by the name SwanLee. He had compiled and processed his own ten CD set of Syd and early Floyd, called Early Effervescence. He donated that, and we borrowed a fair amount of material. His audio processing involved some fairly radical techniques. He's very talented but there was some controversy around that. (In the second edition of HYGIY? we phased out the SwanLee tracks from the core volumes, but much of it will be found on the later discs.) He was an essential collaborator at the beginning, though, and helped us get off the ground.

I also had invaluable input from Pschnob and ChrisM, bouncing ideas off of them, sending them proto discs to critique, that sort of thing. One pair of ears is never enough, and I'll usually defer when somebody sees a flaw I might have missed. I worked closely with Pschnob. He is a professional engineer, and a little "bootlegging" on the side might not look so good. He is responsible for the video discs though. ChrisM had a lot of input as well. He's always had his ear to the ground, trying to locate material.

Mark Jones, from Manchester, speaks: 
How did you end up designing the covers of HYGIY? Did you offer your services?
I was always interested in doing some covers for bootlegs but didn't really know how. It just so happened that I'd not long just got a PC and had just started a full time college course studying Graphic Design so by the time it came for some covers to be made I'd had a little bit of practice. At the end of first year I had to pick a biggish project to do and it so happened to tie in that it was at the same time as the first batch of CD's being finished, so I volunteered my services and did the first four covers as my end of year project.

Were you alone in the task?
Yes I did them all myself, but I did get a guiding hand from my college tutors.

Did you follow any pattern for the design?
I love doing collages and had a huge collection of photos to work from so used that as a starting point. I learnt a lot making them and if I did them now they would be much better. I've got better since then! For instance, looking at them now, I would have used a bigger main image for each cover then surrounded them with smaller ones, instead of just using smallish pictures all over. I would do that differently now. I had sort of got the idea by Volume 4, where I used a bigger image of Syd in the middle.

How did you find the Syd Yahoo group?
It's so long ago now I don't really remember. It most probably would have been just me typing in 'Syd Barrett' into Google.

Once you had the first volumes on your hands, and listened to it… what did you think?
It was amazing. There was so much stuff all over the place that it was brilliant to have it all in one place. For instance, I had the song 'Lucy Leave' on a bootleg called 'Magnesium Proverbs', it was great quality but the very beginning was missing. I had the same song on another bootleg but in lesser sound quality, but the start was there. I didn't want two versions that each had something the other different. I sent off my complete 'Lucy Leave' to the compilers and they grafted the missing beginning on to the better quality version from the 'Magnesium Proverbs' version so there you had it, the most complete and best quality version. That's why 'Lucy Leave' now starts off a bit murky then becomes clearer a few seconds in. It was great to have the best quality and most complete versions of all these unreleased tracks in one place. Then there was the discovery of the backing track of “In the Beechwoods” and the “Vegetable Man” jam. Those had NEVER been on any bootlegs before. For Kiloh to unearth them and put them on these CDs was the cherry on the cake. It was brilliant to be able to hear them for the first time. [The story of these tracks are in part 1]

Volume 11 has every Syd picture available, from childhood to retirement, including articles,
clips and his paintings. Hard work, indeed, and in constant updating. Are you still working on it?

It was hard work but didn't feel like it when I was doing it. I loved piecing together the photo shoots, finding black and white photos in color and discovering new photos. I loved every minute. I'll ALWAYS be working on it, I think, but since the “Barrett” book came out, unearthing some brilliant unseen shots, the well has sort of dried up for now. There's not been many new pics come to light since that book came out. I'm sure they'll be some more though. I'm still here, waiting for them to surface! Oh, and then to be asked to help with the official Syd Barrett website by Pink Floyd's managers was amazing. Justification that I hadn't been wasting my time for all those hours I'd put in collating this stuff. That was great!

What is the most unexpected picture you’ve ended up receiving?
One sent to me by one of Syd's girl friends that had never been published anywhere!

Syd in the times of Those Without
Any favourite one?
The one of the band performing on a Dutch TV in colour performing “Arnold Layne”! Just makes you wish the TV station had saved the clip and we had a video of it to watch!

Will there be a new release of Volume 11?
Yes there will. The only thing I have left to do is check that the new photos that have surfaced in the last few years are all in place. I didn't want to do that so soon after the book came out, but that's a few years ago now.

In order to download Have You Got It Yet? click HERE
In case you want an introduction to this collection, click HERE

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Norman Smith and Syd Barrett

Norman Smith
When Norman Smith, a former Royal Air Force glider pilot and failed jazz musician, saw an advertisement in The Times in 1959 stating that EMI were looking for apprentice engineers under the age of 28, the 35 year old decided to lie about his age. At the interview, his cheeky criticism of Cliff Richard, the label's rising star, chimed with his interlocutor's views and also made Smith stand out among the hundred or so applicants. He was one of the three apprentices hired on the spot and began work at EMI's Abbey Road Studios.

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.

Norman 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.

Norman Smith

"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.

Norman Smith

"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."

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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.

Kiloh Smith and Pschnob speak:

1. In order to begin a Project like this, you must love music. How was your first contact with Syd’s music?
Kiloh: My first contact was the live part of the Ummagumma album. Then, A Nice Pair. I came of age during the great progressive rock explosion of the seventies. Groups like Yes, ELP, UK, Gentle Giant and King Crimson were popular. King Crimson was already like... a legend because they had broken up and left all of this amazing music. However, in my neck of the woods, the people who really had the prog thing together listened to Syd Barrett. My friend, Robert Jewell, bought the double LP issued in the USA and I immediately fell in love. As with all artists who I REALLY like, I began collecting bootlegs and trying to learn about them as much as I could. Around 1985, I met Steve Czapla and we began trading bootleg tapes in earnest. This went on for over fifteen years. I still have all of my bootleg cassette tapes and recently purchased a Nakamichi tape deck to continue to enjoy them on. Analog!

Pschnob: I got a copy of piper as a teen and didn't care for it. I was more in a (hard) rock/alcohol phase and didn't sync with gnomes and fairies etc… until after I'd started to use drugs. Sometime in college (or late high school) I first heard Syd's solo work and quite liked it as the madness of it synched with the madness of my drug experiences :) I'm still a bit aberrant amongst Syd fans in that I prefer Syd solo and Pink Floyd post-Syd (before The Dark Side of the Moon), that said, of course I've come to love The Piper at the Gates of Dawn but it wasn't my first love. On a visit to a friend in Harvard I found my first Syd bootleg, the Vegetable Man LP in a Cambridge MA record store. When Opel came out it was my first CD purchase; I had to wait a few weeks until I could afford a player to listen to it.

2. How and when did the idea for Have You Got It Yet? started? How was the material gathered?
K: By the early nineties I had accumulated thousands of hours of bootleg cassettes. By the way, we only traded on metal particle, chrome dioxide, cassettes. Those were the best. Of that, I had a few hundred hours of Pink Floyd. Almost all of the Syd Barrett was filler on some tape or another. Filler was where the piece of music wasn't long enough to warrant its own cassette tape and so was tacked on as filler at the end of some other recording. All of my bootleg Syd Barrett was in my collection in this manner. I thought: "Wouldn't it be nice to record all of this Syd music onto its own tape(s) and then be able to enjoy it all at once?" And that's exactly what I did. I ended up with like... 3.5, 90 minute cassette tapes of Syd Barrett music in chronological order. I played the shit outta those tapes too.

After the Laughing Madcaps group was started (around 1998), and I had all of the fans and Sydiots under one roof, I began thinking back to those 3.5 cassettes of Syd. See... this was the dawn of being able to burn CDs on your computer. The discs had just gone to 80 minutes long and people were availing themselves of this wonderful new technology. Torrents were still years away. So, aaaaaaaanyway... the Roky CD Club was rolling along. That's where the original Roky Yahoo Group (then: Texas Psych) took rare recordings on tape and converted them to CD for free distribution. I thought: "Why not make a CD copy of my tapes and we will get people to all send in their recordings and then pick out the best quality?" I then pitched the idea on the group and... re-pitched it. And... re-pitched it. And... re-pitched it until I got this guy named Rick, with his own recording studio in Connecticut, interested in the idea. See, Syd Barrett fans are, basically, really, really lazy people unless it comes to fighting amongst themselves on some message board.

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.

Then I began lobbying my old friend, Steve Czapla to join the project. I was like: "Dude! I have over a hundred discs of Syd Barrett material and we need to percolate it down to the best shit! Also, I am running this Syd Barrett group full of crazy motherfuckers! Join up and I will make you a Moderator!" Steve didn't want to join anything that was being pitched to him as owned by me and full of crazy motherfuckers. I had to really work on him to join the group. I guilt tripped him, everything... Finally, he joined up.

So... the hundred discs were sent to Steve who had a bootlegged copy of Sonic Solutions which was like... a $5000.00 sound editing program back then. The idea came about that, not only would we pick the best recordings, but we would run them through Sonic Solutions. Then, Pinnacle Pschnob joined up and he had his own professional recording studio in Massachusetts. Then ChrisM joined up and some other guy named Swan Lee. These people: Steve, Pschnob, ChrisM and Swan Lee were true Syd Barrett Experts. They made copies of all the discs for each other and then began the long, hard, work of picking out the best version of each piece of material. After awhile, Steve and Swan Lee didn't see eye to eye anymore. Steve didn't like Swan Lee; said he was a douche. Swan Lee told me that Steve had committed the unpardonable sin of messing with his "work" on the project. Adios, Swan Lee.So we began to get a running order of the discs and comfortable working together. Basically, ChrisM and Steve slogged through the tracks and found other stuff. Then Steve and Pschnob would process the results through Sonic Solutions. Then, we would all listen to the various results to pick a “best" version of the processing.

Then we began getting discs together to release to the fans. This was before torrents, so we traded the discs via a tree and leaf network. I am the one that set all that up and I ran the networks too. Basically, a trunk was given a lossless version of the disc. He made lossless copies for the branches who made copies for the leaves. I set this whole thing up by continents and I ran the distributions too. This is where I invented the word Sydiot. This was for all the people who signed up to be branches who should have just stayed home sucking on their bong. They'd be like: "PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME!" and I would and then I would hand them the ball and they would throw the thing right into the dirt. Basically, the distributions, of hundreds of discs by continent, were like running gun battles but everybody got their discs.

3. Why is there still so much material unreleased?
K: I don't know what's still unreleased. We put out everything that was floating around and shut down the Syd Barrett Bootleg Industry.

P: That seems like a question better directed to the record company. I can only presume if Syd's solo records or Opel were big successes they'd have released much more… but we did get a lot of extra takes on Fish Out of Water... and “Bob Dylan Blues” and “Rhamadan”, so...there are trickles anyway...

4. Some volumes are being updated. Any plan on sight?
K: We are going to update everything. Ever since we put out HYGIY? that established us as THE Syd Barrett Audio People. So... we have gotten LOTS of upgrades and even some new shit. Yes, I want to put it out. It's up to Steve Czapla and ChrisM because they have the tapes and the track listings and all the upgrades. It's up to them. I want it to come out. The fans want it to come out.

P: Steve has some long term plans; I don't really; I've been working on Roky material for some time now but getting very slow...approaching retirement...

5. Is there an ultimate HYGIY goal?
K: To put the best stuff into all the fan's hands.

6. Was it easy to make fans cooperate?
K: No, they were a bunch of idiots but I ended up assembling a good team.

7. Did everything follow the same path with the Roky Erickson material?
K: HYGIY? was more organized than the Roky initiative. Also, the Syd fans don't think that I am Satan for doing it.

8. Who decided the title Have You Got It Yet?
K: We had a contest on the Laughing Madcaps Group and some woman thought it up. She won the big NO PRIZE.

9. What do you think is EMI’s opinion about it?*
K: I think EMI put out more Syd material because of HYGIY?

10. Ewgeni Reingold made a superb DVD with every visual Syd/Floyd material. Are you in contact with him for future collaborations?
K: We were going to do a HYGIY? video collection and assembled a LOT of video. Steve Czapla is a perfectionist. Sometimes I think that he thinks that this Syd Barrett material is like fine wine or something. Like... it needs to be aged more or something. JUST PUT THE SHIT OUT!!! Anyway, Pinnacle Pschnob got tired of waiting around for Steve to decide something so he gave copies of all of our video work to this Weenie guy. He did a bit of his own work and then put it out as his project.

P: I sent Eugene a lot of that material, the first version contained a lot of flv/mpg1 sourced material but subsequent versions have been upgraded from more mpg2 sources; yes we communicate. Due to a lack of motivation and unique material (no point in duplicating releases others have already done) there are currently no plans to release a HYGIY? DVD (as you know there were several VCDs); that actually was what I was hoping Eugene would do but Kiloh and he got into some dispute so…

11. What was the biggest surprise among the material?

P: Yes, I suppose getting uncirculated material like the “Vegetable Man” and “Beechwoods” sessions recording with Nick [Mason],

About the finding of this particular track, designer Jean-Luke Epstein has first-hand information. He saw a projected tracklist for HYGIY, and noticed that he had something unique.

Jean-Luke: I went to the French Lycée in South Kensington in London. As a big Floyd fan, I'd often notice Nick driving around in his yellow Lotus Elan and Syd was also occasionally spotted too because he lived in 3-4 locations nearby as well ... The interview came about when I approached Nick after a very strange poorly-attended gig the Floyd did in February (1969). Suffice to say, that Nick was very amenable - we had friends in common - and he was up to giving an interview for my school magazine. He was living nearby in Sydney Street at the time. The meeting was very agreeable: he's a very pleasant individual - I met him again 5 years later, when he was living in Camden: he had no memory whatsoever of our '69 encounter but was still just agreeable to give you a sense of how fairly easy-going he is. The only pressure we had was that Nick was going to have to start recording that night - on what was to be the first of the recordings we now know as the More soundtrack. Though the film was still called The Last Drop then. I had a Philips cassette recorder for the interview and brought a friend called Nico Preston (who had first turned me onto Arnold Layne ...) So the recorder was just running when we talked, during which Nick played us some of his parts for Ummagumma which he'd recorder with his girlfriend / fiancée, Lindy, whom he shared the flat with. His recordings were played on an Akai 4-track he had. It was from that that he also played the Vegetable Man backing track - which I recognised from John Peel's broadcasts - and “Beechwoods” that little gem which it still amazes me we haven't heard more examples of ... And it's something of a miracle that the piece you know survived because: My original copy of that recording was stolen - with a few other rarities of that period - a few weeks later. If Nico, who was something of scientific whizz-kid, hadn't made a copy for himself, we wouldn't have had that copy of a copy we're talking about today. 

For my part, it was in 1997 that I was working on my Syd tribute album (Dream Divers: In My Infant Air), and, on its release, got to start exchanges with Steve Czapla and, in due course, Kiloh and their Laughing Madcaps project. Shortly after, David Parker published his Random Precision book. We got to exchanging too and, in the process; Steve produced a lot of clever strokes in extracting remarkable audio, in the circumstances, from the recording which Nico had, by now, digitized to preserve from his dub copy.

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The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series SOON!

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