and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Syd Barrett, Bob Masse and Psychedelic Art and Music

Syd Barrett

Iconic psychedelic artist Bob Masse has illustrated Pink Floyd with his colorful imagination since 1966 when he designed this amazing poster for one of their London shows:

When first formed, the true mind behind the music and the concept, at the time a revolutionary one, of adding multi-media, (including the light shows now common place in many artists’ performances), was a man named Syd Barrett. Pink Floyd recently commissioned Bob to design the poster at the heading of this feature to commemorate the anniversary of his death, (July 7, 2006) and to honor his role in their creation, which, as the original songwriter and front man, was substantial. From his naming the band after his favorite two Blues singers to his being the crazy diamond you hear them  tell to ’shine on’,  he remained a core element, even in his absence. 

Syd, regrettably, was so psychedelic that he seems to have gotten lost in the very trip that made the music what it was and left the band fairly early on. Interviews with him soon after the break-up do not really reflect the lost in Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds space I’d long heard rumors of. They do reflect a somewhat unfocused mind but one still bursting with ideas. Initially a visual artist himself, (when the band formed he was, in fact, in art school), he discusses returning to that medium and seems, from his descriptions of it and from some of his work I’ve seen, to have been expanding on what was happening in the art world at the time, as he unquestionably did with his music.

Art by Syd (Roger) Barrett,

A full feature about Syd and his tremendous influence on Pink Floyd follows as soon as I’m able. Till then, to get an idea of what they were like with Barrett around, and the initial reactions to the music of both press and public, check out these features, which were also posted on the above site, which is the best source I’ve found for info about him.  

Hits? The Floyd couldn't care less
Melody Maker, December 9, 1967, Alan Walsh

     Giving pop journalists a hard time is the blood sports of groups. It's one of the occupational hazards of the job, as anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of the Beatles rapier remarks will tell you.     Last week, it was the Pink Floyd's turn, which was surprising, for their latest record "Apples And Oranges" isn't exactly setting the charts alight. Still, I managed to penetrate their initial unreceptive attitude and asked how they felt about the record bombing after "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" had been so well received.
     "Couldn't care less," was Syd Barrett's answer. For the Floyd don't really regard themselves as primarily a record group.
     Barrett is an advocate of musical anarchy. He believes that all the group can do is make a record which pleases them. If it's not commercial - too bad.
     "All we can do is make records which we like. If the kids don't, then they won't buy it." Ideally, believes Barrett, groups should record their own music, press their own records, distribute them and sell them.
     He feels that the application of commercial considerations is harmful to the music. He'd like to cut out the record company and wholesalers and retailers. "All middle men are bad," he said.
     Co-manager Peter Jenner said that, anyway, the groups have far more idea of what the kids want than the record companies.
     Barrett said that the reason the kids dig the Beatles and Mick Jagger is not so much because of their music, but because they always do what they want to do and to hell with everyone else. "That's why the kids dig them - because they do what they want. The kids know this."
     I met Barrett and guitarist Roger Waters with managers Jenner and Andrew king at the Central Office of Information in Lambeth. They had been viewing a colour film insert of the group for a magazine programme on Britain networked across America and Canada.
      The number they filmed was "Jug Band Blues," written by Barrett which manager Jenner said he had wanted to release as their single instead of "Apples And Oranges." He said he was pressing for it to be their next single in the New Year.
     It is almost a poetic recitation by Barrett, with avantgarde sound effects by the group. The centre passage is almost free form pop, with six members of the Salvation Army on the recording session told to "play what you like."     After the filming, we retired to a nearby coffee bar where Jenner said: "The group has been through a very confusing stage over the past few months and I think this has been reflected in their work.
     "You can't take four people of this mental level - they used to be architects, an artist and even an educational cyberneticist- give them big success and not expect them to get confused.
     "But they are coming through a sort of de-confusing period now. They are not just a record group. They really pull people in to see them and their album has been terrifically received in this country and America. I think they've got a tremendous things ahead of them. They are really only just starting."
     The Floyds entry into the pop arena was as a psychedelic group. They came in on the surge of lights and psychedelia which is dwindling rapidly today. Were they still using lights or had they made any decision to abandon them?
      "Not at all," said Roger Waters, "With us, lights were not, and are not a gimmick. We believe that a good light show enhances the music. Groups who adopted lights as a gimmick are now being forced to drop them, but there's no reason why we should.
     "In this country, groups were forced to provide their own light shows, whereas in the States, it was the clubs who provided the lights."
     "Really," said Barrett, "we have only just started to scrape the surface of effects and ideas of lights and music combined; we think that the music and the lights are part of the same scene, one enhances and adds to the other.
     "But we feel that in the future, groups are going to have to offer much more than just a pop show. They'll have to offer a well-presented theatre show."

Freaking out with the Pink FloydTerrapin #12, Oct 1974

     Being asked to interview the Pink Floyd - Is an ordeal I would have wished only to my worst enemies. I was shaking like a leaf an hour before our first midday appointment.     The thought of having to talk to a psychedelic group brought me out in sugar-cube shaped goose pimples. What language do these musical Martians speak? Would they hallucinatory gaze turn me into an orange? What would be the horrible consequences of freaking out with a bunch of transvestites in Cambridge Circus? Pre-conceptions flooded my already busting mind. This was going to be sixteen hours of terrifying, heart-halting experiences.
     Nervously I tiptoed to the door of lead guitarist Syd Barrett's house just off busy Cambridge Circus in the middle of London's vice-ridden West End. The font door was painted an ominous purple. Why wasn't I being paid danger money? Was this one trip on which all expenses weren't going to be paid? Oh, to be golf correspondent on International Times and forget these blasted astronomic, hippie rebels. Syd Barrett tumbled out of his bed and donned his socks. I peeked around the small attic room looking fr women's clothing that the Pink Floyd say Arnold Layne tries on in front of the mirror. Instead his girlfriend materialised at the door and brought in a cup of coffee. Well so far there was little evidence of the terrible Arnold Layne being in the vicinity -- the Pink Floyd were covering up well. I'll shoot Barrett a [question?]
     "Syd, why did you write such a dirty, filthy smutty immoral and degrading son as "Arnold Layne"?
     Syd blinked blankly: "Well I just wrote it. I thought "Arnld Layne" was a nice name, and it fitted very well into the music I had already composed".
     "But isn't it true," said I, "that Radio London, quite rightly, banned the record because they thought it was "smutty"?"
     Instead of reeling into the wardrobe and revealing a cupboard full of feminine clobber, Syd began to explain : "I was at Cambridge at the time. I started to write the song. I pinched the line about "moonshine washing line" from Rog, our bass guitarist - because he has an enormous washing line in the back of his house. Then I thought, "Arnold must have a hobby", and it went on from there. "Arnold Layne" just happens to dig dressing up in women's clothing. A lot of people do - so let's face up to reality. About the only other lyric anybody could object to, is the bit about, "It takes two to know" and there's nothing "smutty" about that!"
     "But then if more people like them dislike us, more people like the underground lot are going to dig us, so we hope they'll cancel each other out."
     Organist Rick Wright walked in said : "I think the record was banned not because of the lyrics, because there's nothing there you can really object to - but because thery're against us as a group and against what we stand for."
     It's only a business-like commercial insult anyway," thought Syd, "It doesn't affect us personaly." Roger the bass, and Nick Mason the drummer joined the happy throng. "Maybe they were the evil people," I thought.
     "Let's face it," said Roger seriously, "the pirate stations play records that are much more "smutty" than "Arnold Layne" will ever be. In fact, it's only Radio London that have banned the record. The BBC and everybody else plays it. I think it's just different policies -- not anything against us."
     That sounds like sense. Syd got up and moved stealthily to the tape recorder. Ah-hah, they're going to try subliminal brainwashing. They're going to lock me in a revolving echo chamber full of laughing gas and pipe Stockhausen through the portholes while Suzy Creamcheese writhes on the transparent roof in a "Matey" bubble bath, being watched intensely by the inmates of the Asylum of Clarentoe under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.     Syd put on one of the new Pink Floyd album tracks instead. And, Gadzooks, it's foot tapping stuff. Quite interesting pop music actually. "Avant garde" I think it's called.
     Warming to the Floyd's tape of numbers like "interstellar" and"Flamin'", I began to think that maybe I was wrong -- maybe beneath the hustle and bustle of the in-crowders and the newspapers reports, here was a group not quite as weird as everyone makes out.
     "Let's go for a drink," they said. A drink? surely hippies don't drink? But sure enough there we were in the pub dowing good old fashioned brown beer. And another, and another.
     And then it was off to EMI studios for the group's recording session. Quite a normal affair. No kaleidoscopic lighting, no happening or freaking -- just a lot of hard work.
     Where does the group think they fit in the pop music structure?
     "We would like to think we're part of the creative half in that we write our own material and don't just record other people's numbers or copy American demo discs", said Nick Mason. Our albums shows parts of the Pink Floyd that havent been heard yet."
     "There's part we haven't even heard yet" chipped in Roger. It's bringing into flower many of the fruits that remained dormant for so long" added Nick. "It all comes straight out of our heads" says Syd, "and it's not to far out to understand. If we play well on stage I think most people undestand that what we play isn't just a noise. Most audiences respond to a good set."
     And despite those terrifying premonitions and the misinterpretd facts, and the blown-up rumours, interviewing this so-called "psychedelic" group was an enjoyble experience. They were very normal people.
     In a cacophony of sound played to a background of multi-coloured projected lights, the Pink Floyd proved they are Britain's top psychedelic group before the hip audience at UFO Club, tottenham Court Road, on Friday night. In two powerful sets they drew nearly every conceivable note from their instruments but ignored their two hit singles. They include "Pow-R Toc-H" and a number which received its first hearing called "Reaction in G" which they say was a reaction against their scottish tour when they had to do "See Emily Play". Bass player Roger Waters gave the group a powerful depth and the lightspoured onto them on an impressive scene. Many of the audience found Pink Floyd's music too much to sit down and in more subdued parts of the act the sound of jingling bells from their dancing masters joined in. It is clear that the Floyd prefer plaing to UFO-type audiences rather thatprovincial ones and at their best in an athmosphere more acceptable to them. Supporting the Pink Floyd were the Fairport Convention making their first appearance.