Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Syd's London Homes

September – December 1964
Tottenham Street,
Camden, W1

David Gale, quoted by Palacios “When we moved from Cambridge, Syd and I shared a bedsit in Tottenham Street off Tottenham Court Road. "
"Seamus O’Connell was at school with Syd and his mother was a strange bohemian lady who read palms. And she used to read our palms in her flat on Tottenham Street. Syd and I got a room in this hideous block full of deranged people, and the rent tribunal practically insisting the landlord give it to us for free, it was so dreadful. Syd and I lived in the same room for a number of months before I moved down to nearby Earlham Street, near Cambridge Circus.” Seamus O’Connell: “He had a bedsit there. My mother had set up house in this place, and various friends had gotten bedsits there. An appalling place, but it had an atmosphere to it. And Syd was getting interested in the occult, which my mother was also into. She would do tarot card readings for him.”

January – December 1965

39 Stanhope Gardens,
Highgate, London N6

At some point in 1964-65, every member of the original Pink Floyd line up lived at Mike Leonard’s house: hence the brief use of the name ‘Leonard’s Lodgers’. Mike even bought a Farfisa organ and sat in occasionally. Syd joined the band in December 1964 and moved to Stanhope Gardens in January 1965, sharing a room with Roger Waters. Describing the living room, Palacios writes: “Syd must have been thrilled. After the qualor of Tottenham Court Road, here was a fantastic room, an archive of ephemera. Reflecting the deeply English collector’s mentality, Leonard had assembled a veritable treasure trove of base materials from which Syd refined his aesthetics. It was here that he sat at the slightly out of tune grand piano working out primitive versions of his new songs.”
Mike Leonard still lives there.

Early 1966 –Early 1967
2 Earlham Street,
Covent Garden, London WC2

Syd followed David Gale to Earlham Street, in the heart of the West End, where Charing Cross Road intersects with Shaftesbury Avenue. He and Lindsay Korner took the attic room. Peter Wynne-Wilson (the owner) and Susie Gawler-Wright also lived there.
Peter Jenner: “Syd was the most creative person I’ve ever known. It was extraordinary, in those few months at Earlham Street he wrote nearly all of his songs for the Floyd and the solo albums. It was all very casual, done off the top of the head. No tortured genius sweating through the pain as far as I could see.”

The building Syd lived in has been demolished and replaced… the new No. 2 has the newsagent’s with the ‘Time Out’ logo on the ground floor. But the Marquis Of Granby pub is unchanged.
Cambridge Circus

The Marquis Of Granby faces the Palace Theatre, currently showing ‘Spamalot’ for all you Python fans ! The area between the two is known as Cambridge Circus. Joe Boyd recalls encountering Syd there in 1967: “One evening in May I ran into Syd and his girlfriend in Cambridge Circus. It is strange to recall that early on a weekend evening there was almost no traffic in the heart of London. Syd was sprawled on the kerb, his velvet trousers torn and dirty, his eyes crazed. Lindsay told me he’d been taking acid for a week.”

Pollo Bar, Soho
Just around the corner from the Palace Theatre, on Old Compton Street, is the Pollo Bar (continue along Old Compton Street a couple of hundred yards to Wardour Street, home of the Marquee). A more distressing piece of history associated with Old Compton Street is that in 1999 it suffered a nail-bomb attack aimed at the gay community.

Nicholas Schaffner describes Syd and Lindsay’s early months at Earlham Street with Peter and Susie: “The two couples enjoyed a relaxed, bohemian existence, sleeping all morning, lingering for hours at the Pollo Bar in Old Compton Street over sandwiches, and often playing the Oriental board game ‘Go’ well into the night. “

Early 67 : 101 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 4DN

Syd moved to 101 with Lindsay. Also living there at that time: Duggie Fields, Nigel and Jenny Lesmoir-Gordon .

101 was a place of underground myth and legend well before Syd got there: when Donovan described the scene in ‘Sunny South Kensington’, he name checked not just John Paul Belmondo, Mary Quant and Allen Ginsberg, but 101 itself.

“Come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man,
You got to spread your wings.
A-flip out, skip out, trip-out, and a-make your stand, folks,
To dig me as I sing.”

(Hmm. Some people question why I have limited time for Donovan)

Palacios writes that ‘The Cromwell flat, since 1965, had been a critical nexus for underground (and illicit) activities of every shade and stripe. Painters, musicians, eccentrics, mystics and freaks mixed with film stars, pop icons and slumming hip young aristocrats. Duggie Fields remembers when Syd moved in: “The Pink Floyd used to rehearse in the flat and I used to go downstairs and put on Smokey Robinson as loud as possible. I just remember being surrounded by the Pink Floyd and hundreds of groupies instantly”.’
Well, all this couldn’t be allowed to continue, and sadly 101 no longer stands: instead, the Holiday Inn is now 97 Cromwell Road. But the next row of townhouses gives you a good idea of how it would have looked.
Sunny South Kensington (Tube Station)
Late 67 - January 1968
Egerton Court, Old Brompton Road,
South Kensington, SW7 3HT
Late 67 – January 1968: Egerton Court is at the start of Old Brompton Road, directly opposite South Kensington Tube Staton. Syd moved there with Lindsay. Also there at this time: David Gale, Nigel and Jenny, Storm Thorgesen, Po Powell. It may not get a mention in a Donovan song, but if anything, Egerton Court gave birth to even more lurid tales than 101. David Gale told Palacios “We all embarked on an extremely acid-crazed period. We had this long thin flat, a long corridor with rooms off to one side only, just outside South Kensington tube station…” It was here that concerns first grew about Syd’s violence towards Lindsay, that failed attempts were made to put him in touch with R.D. Laing and where Jonathan Meades believes Syd was locked in a cupboard during a bad trip.

January 68: Syd moved to Richmond Hill, TW10 with Lindsay. (There is a road called Richmond Hill, but it’s also the name of the area, so there was no obvious location to photograph. What may have made this address attractive to Syd is that it was close to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, which Rosemary tells us he returned to visit even in the 2000s).

Rick Wright moved there too, apparently in an attempt to separate Syd from the ‘acid-crazed’ Egerton Court environment. Ironically, Jock and Sue Kingsford, who had passed through Earlham Street and Cromwell Road, followed. That’s ‘Mad’ Jock and Sue, as they were nicknamed, one reason being their psychedelic intake.

In Mid 68, Syd split with Lindsay, drove round England in a mini with Jock and Sue, then returned to Cambridge, where he was admitted to hospital for a period. In late 68 he returned to London and crashed on floors for a while.

December 68 – Mid 70
29 Wetherby Mansions,
Earl’s Court Square, SW5 9BH.
Syd and Duggie Fields knew each other from Cromwell Road days. They agreed to take a flat in Earl’s Court. Syd invited Gayla Pinion to follow. This is the flat that features on the cover of ‘The Madcap Laughs’. Syd lived here through the majority of the recording of that album and all of ‘Barrett’.

Yet, Duggie recalls this as a period of inertia: “We lived in adjoining rooms, and I did all my work in my room, and sometimes the wall between us was flimsy. I knew exactly what was going on that side of the wall and I presume Syd knew exactly what was happening on this side. It was strange. I knew that he’d be lying in bed doing nothing, and I knew that he’d be lying there, thinking that while he was lying there, he had the potential to do anything in the world. But the minute he got up he limited his potential, so he did nothing in the end.”
Jenny Fabien, author of ‘Groupie’ (which includes a thinly-veiled portrait of Syd in this period as Ben from the Satin Odyssey) had her even more idyllic illusion shattered:

“I found him living up the road from Earl’s Court… Again he didn’t speak much at all. He was sitting in the corner on a mattress and he’d painted every other floorboard alternate colours. He boiled an egg in a kettle and ate it. And he listened over and over again to Beach Boys tapes, which I found distressing. We sat for hours and we may have touched fleetingly…”

“…He was completely self-indulgent with his thought processes, never trying to control or direct them within any bounds of reason. Reasoning was inconclusive and unnecessary to him, because one reason led to another indefinitely, like infinity. Surely reason should provide an answer, but as there was no answer, there was no reason. And I remembered all the beautiful songs he had written about gnomes and cats and stars and weird fairyland things. Then he looked straight at me and said ‘ISN’T IT BORING LYING HERE ALL DAY THINKING OF NOTHING’. "

The emphasis is Julian Palacios’, not mine, but I think he called it right: the wishful fantasies Jenny projected onto Syd were hers, not his. NO PICS FOR THE FOLLOWING PERIOD:

In Mid-70, Syd returned to his childhood home at Hills Road, Cambridge and took over the cellar. He was engaged to Gayla on 1st October 70. The couple also did some dog-sitting at Steve Marriot’s Essex house around this time. The engagement didn’t last. 1972 saw the ‘Stars’ era end inconclusively. Syd seems to have been hospitalised for a period at the end of the year.

Then, in 1973, Pink Floyd went interstellar with the Dark Side Of The Moon. Syd’s income began to grow, especially when ‘A Nice Pair’ was released in December 1973. He returned to the bright lights and the trappings of success.

Mid-Late 73:
Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London Syd took the penthouse apartment. I took this picture at serious risk to life and liberty, illegally parked alongside several lanes of traffic !

December 1973 intermittently - 1982
Flat 902, Chelsea Cloisters, SW3 3DW. This was Syd’s home for many of the next eight years, though interrupted by returns to Cambridge. According to myth, his time was spent watching the telly til all hours, eating pork chops, drinking Guinness and shaving his eyebrows. Agent Bryan Morrison, describing Syd in this period: “He doesn’t have any involvement with anything or anybody. He is a recluse with about 25 guitars around him. I see him very rarely. I mean, I know where he is, but he doesn’t want to be bothered; he just sits there all day, watching television and getting fat. That’s what he does.”
The Marlborough Arms

Just around the corner from Chelsea Cloisters: it’s now a classy restaurant, but close in on the panel in the red brick wall to find the original moniker. Chelsea Cloisters doorman, Ronnie Salmon: “He used to drink in The Marlborough just around the corner… When I used to go round for a few beers with my mates, we’d see him sitting over in the corner as if in a dream. He was on his own all the time… always on his own. I’d try to get him to talk about his music, but he just wasn’t interested.”

Sweet Shop

Harrod’s is within a 5 minute walk of Chelsea Cloisters. A number of ‘classic’ Barrett encounters took place there. At various times, he has said to have been seen in Harrod’s with

a) A bulging carrier bag of sweets
b) Several pairs of trousers of different sizes
c) A Yogi Bear tie
d) Gayla Pinion

Take your pick ! In 1981, Syd was declared bankrupt and returned to live with Win in Cambridge, taking the smaller back bedroom of 6 St. Margaret’s Square. It seems that a spell in Fulbourne psychiatric hospital followed in 81/82. In Summer 1982. Syd made a brief return to Chelsea Cloisters, for a matter of weeks. He then returned to St. Margaret’s Square and resumed life as Roger Keith Barrett.

To see these pics and more in high resolution, go here...

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Blogger Seamus O'Connell said...

The photos of Tottenham Street show the wrong house. Number 12 is on the north-east corner of Tottenham Street and Whitfield Street. There was, maybe still is, a Greek cafe called Gig's on the corner.

September 19, 2008 at 6:23 AM  
Blogger Rogely.W said...

Es el mejor resumen que he leído de la vida de Syd Barret, en cuanto a lugares donde él ha vivido.
Muy bien documentado con las fotografías.
Thank you very much.

February 10, 2009 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger FlamingSyd said...

If you want to see the view from 101 Cromwell road in 1967, watch Youtube video 'syd barrett abbey road'. The footage at the start of the clip of the guy out on the balcony if I'm not mistaken is 101 Cromwell. Although much of the surrounding cityscape has changed over the years, if you go into Google streetmap at 'Cromwell road London' & stand outside the Holiday Inn, between 'Ashburn Gardens' & 'Ashburn Place', looking to the left slightly, you can still recognise the road layout where the roads opposite go over the old railway tracks & the restaurant on the corner etc.. The backs of the old, dirty victorian(?) houses opposite (shown in the footage) were also demolished since the 60's. These old houses would have been backing right up to/ ontop of the railway which goes under the A4/ Cromwell rd at this point. Just thought this might interest some people!

September 9, 2011 at 3:41 PM  

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