Steve O’Rourke, Pink Floyd manager and keen racing driver, sadly passed away in Miami, Florida, USA, in October 2003.
His funeral service was held on 14th November at Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England, where as a tribute to Steve, it is believed that David, Richard and Nick performed together again. They were said to have played at the private service “Fat Old Sun” and “Great Gig In The Sky”, with Dick Parry playing the saxophone as he followed the coffin… a fitting tribute to the man who took a big part in shaping the band’s career.
What follows are some obituaries that have been published in memory of Steve:
Mark Brown, November 2003
Steve O’Rourke managed Pink Floyd since 1968 when he was still with the Bryan Morrison Agency. He founded his own companies, EMKA Productions Limited and EMKA Racing; EMKA is from the first letters of Emma and Katherine, his daughters’ names.
In March 2003, we heard that a “slight heart problem” ended his successful auto racing career, and on October 30 we sadly received the news that he had suffered a fatal stroke. Tim Sugden, his racing partner since 1996, said upon O’Rourke’s early retirement that “Steve epitomised the spirit of the gentleman racer: he ran a superb team, he treated everyone extremely well, and he loved his racing — perhaps more the historics than anything else. We were going to have a very good year together…”
O’Rourke was on the Pink Floyd soccer team in the 1970s and was pictured with the team on the album “A Nice Pair”. His phone call to Gilmour at the end of “The Division Bell” ended with a hangup by Gilmour’s stepson Charlie. In 1991, O’Rourke participated in the Mexican sports car road race La Carrera Panamericana, co-driving with David Gilmour, who was at the wheel when their car went off the road and over a drop-off near San Luis Potpoli, breaking both of Steve’s legs. In 1998, his GTC Motorsport EMI/EMKA team finished first in class and fourth overall in the 66th running of the 24-hour Le Mans (France) sports car race. It was his seventh appearance at the race, this time with Tim Sugden (GB) and Bill Auberlen (US).
In the mid-1990s O’Rourke talked to fan Sean Heisler regarding the Publius Enigma, and I transcribed the interview for Brain Damage. While categorically denying it was from Pink Floyd, O’Rourke said his own son was a member of the Usenet newsgroup where it was revealed, and he encouraged fans to persist in attempting to solve it. He thought something was likely to come of our efforts…
Manager of Pink Floyd with an enthusiasm for motor racing
From The Independent newspaper, UK, 3rd November 2003
Stephen O’Rourke, rock-group manager: born London 1 October 1940; twice married (one son, two daughters; died Miami, Florida 30 October 2003.
Steve O’Rourke was one of the most important and powerful figures in British rock group management. He was charged with the responsibility of looking after the often complex and tumultuous affairs of Pink Floyd. He guided their career during three decades of achievement that followed in the wake of their enormously successful 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon.
O’Rourke also had to deal with the departure of the songwriter Roger Waters from the group in 1983 and the problems this caused. He oversaw the band’s return to active touring and recording during the Nineties under the leadership of Dave Gilmour and helped to ensure that Pink Floyd remained a major musical force that enjoyed undiminished worldwide popularity.
While not such a flamboyant character as other managers of his generation, such as Peter Grant with Led Zeppelin, nevertheless O’Rourke had a reputation as a tough negotiator, who was not afraid to take on the record-industry giants. The huge success of Pink Floyd meant that he could indulge in his other passion for motor sport and he was as well known in the world of motor racing as he was in the rock business.
Steve O’Rourke became the manager of Pink Floyd in 1968. He had been working as an accountant for the Bryan Morrison Agency that handled such acts as Tyrannosaurus Rex. Andrew King and Peter Jenner of Blackhill Enterprises, who were part of the burgeoning London “underground” movement in the later Sixties, had previously managed the Floyd. When the band’s brilliant but wayward singer and composer Syd Barrett was asked to leave the group in April 1968, due to his increasingly erratic behaviour, the two managers decided to look after Barrett and develop his solo career, rather than continue to handle Pink Floyd. Roger Waters recalled: “We had been managed by Blackhill Enterprises. When Syd flipped the band wanted to keep him but he wanted to add to two saxophone players and a girl singer. We said, “No!” Peter and Andrew thought it couldn’t happen without Syd so they stuck with him and that’s how Pink Floyd came to be managed by Steve O’Rourke.”
The Bryan Morrison Agency, which handled the Floyd’s bookings, was subsequently sold to Brian Epstein’s NEMS company and O’Rourke went to work for them in their management department. When the band left NEMS they took O’Rourke with them and he remained their manager for the next 35 years. He set up his own London based Emka Productions and also handled the solo careers of the individual Floyd members Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright. Roger Waters once described him as the strong man they needed in a tough industry: “Steve is an effective hustler, a man in a man’s world. And to give him his due he never gave up his job of trying to get me to fill stadiums.”
While the band were recording The Dark Side of the Moon he began intense negotiations with American record companies which resulted in their leaving Capitol and moving to Columbia, with whom he struck a lucrative deal in 1973. In the UK they remained with Harvest EMI.
Those who knew O’Rourke during the Seventies remember him as a hard worker and stickler for efficiency. Glen Colson, a former promotions man, remembers: “He was a terrific business manager for the Floyd. I remember I was late in the office one morning and he bought me a watch. It was a kind of message to get in on time but I noticed the watch had cost him £400.”
However the mounting pressure on O’Rourke meant that he sometimes needed to escape to a Greek island for holidays, where there were no telephones and he could ignore the desperate pleas of rival record companies, desperate to sign the Floyd.
As well as his involvement in rock management O’Rourke was also a film producer and was executive producer for their successful 1982 film The Wall which starred Bob Geldof. He loved to keep fit and was a member of the Pink Floyd soccer team during the Seventies.
A keen racing enthusiast, he owned his own vintage 1957 BRM racing car, which he displayed at Goodwood, Silverstone and at other events. His racing career began in 1979; he entered several times in the 24 hour Le Mans race in France and in 1985 finished 11th. It proved a dangerous sport however and he broke both legs in a crash in 1991. He had his own Team Emka racing team and owned an especially designed Aston Martin. Heart problems meant that he had recently had to give up motor racing.
In the mid-Eighties O’Rourke had to cope with the crisis caused by Roger Waters’s departure from Floyd and the band’s subsequent decision to continue touring and recording against Waters’s wishes. Eventually Waters would continue his own solo career without O’Rourke while Floyd remained under his management.
Steve O’Rourke had recently attended an exhibition in Paris, “Pink Floyd Interstellar”, inaugurated by the French Culture Minister. The exhibition would “pay tribute to the important contribution of Pink Floyd to the musical history of the 20th century”.
Chris Welch, © The Independent 2003.
Obituary: Steve O’Rourke
From The Telegraph newspaper, UK, 5th November 2003
Steve O’Rourke, who has died aged 63, managed the rock band Pink Floyd for 35 years and was one of the British music industry’s most respected backroom figures.
Tall, well-built and lantern-jawed, O’Rourke combined charm with an irrestible forcefulness as he negotiated with record company executives, publishers and promoters. He was described by one associate as a “streetfighter, a larger than life character who knew both his own strengths and weaknesses”.
But while he was regarded as a formidable operator, he was not without humility. “They wouldn’t let me into this building,” he once joked to a companion, as they walked into a New York record company, “if I wasn’t the manager of Pink Floyd.”
Steve O’Rourke was born at Willesden on October 1 1940. His father, Tommy, had come to London from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in 1934, for the premiere of Robert T Flaherty’s drama documentary Man of Aran, in which he appeared as a shark hunter. He settled thereafter in north-west London, where his son would be educated.
On leaving school Steve O’Rourke trained in accounting and at one stage took a job selling pet food. (In later years, whenever O’Rourke became involved in arguments with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the musician would dismiss O’Rourke’s contribution with, “What do you know? You’re only a pet-food salesman!”)
But O’Rourke had been drawn to the music business in his teens, joining the London City Agency before being recruited by Tony Howard of the Bryan Morrison Agency as a junior agent and book-keeper. Morrison managed The Pretty Things, The Incredible String Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Fairport Convention. The agency also handled Pink Floyd, booking gigs at such leading London venues as Blaises, The Cromwellian and The Speakeasy.
In the mid-1960s, bands made their living from gigs. Groups who were successful might perform eight or nine times a week and two or three times a day at weekends. O’Rourke, with Tony Howard, masterminded the Floyd’s progress as they became popular beyond the confines of London. They were not an easy band to book, having no string of single hits and no covers; moreover, they had a light show (unheard of at the time), and they performed long, improvised versions of songs, unlike most other bands on the circuit.
O’Rourke assumed the day-to-day running of Pink Floyd in mid-1968, taking over, after the departure of Syd Barrett, from their original managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King, and continued when the Bryan Morrison Agency’s management arm was bought by the Beatles’ company, NEMS. At that time, music management for contemporary bands was new territory; O’Rourke redefined the role of manager as he relentlessly built Pink Floyd’s career. He was also exceptionally protective of the band’s image, providing an environment in which its creativity and artistic integrity was the priority.
Leaving NEMS in the early 1970s, O’Rourke founded EMKA Productions, named after his daughter Emma Kate. As well as handling Pink Floyd’s activities, he also managed the solo careers of individual Floyd members David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright. While the band was recording its landmark album Dark Side of the Moon, O’Rourke negotiated a lucrative move from the Capitol to Columbia labels, while in Britain the group remained with Harvest EMI.
O’Rourke also built a highly successful parallel career as an enthusiastic gentleman racing driver – a lifelong passion which he shared with the Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason and, to a lesser extent, with David Gilmour. He adored Historic racing with cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
His ambition to compete in the greatest sports car race of all – the Le Mans 24-Hours classic – was realised in 1979 when he finished a creditable 12th, driving a 190mph Ferrari 512 BB. Having bought the car, he returned to Le Mans in 1980; but after a tyre exploded at nearly 200mph on the Mulsanne Straight, O’Rourke bought the spare tail of a retired sister Ferrari in the pit lane in order to finish. His car completed the race wearing green forward bodywork and a red tail.
In 1981 his EMKA racing team ran a BMW M1 Coupe at Le Mans, with O’Rourke co-driving with David Hobbs and Eddie Jordan – today the head of Jordan F1. O’Rourke left the circuit on the night of the race to oversee a Pink Floyd concert in London, flew back the next morning and jumped straight into the car for another two-hour driving stint.
After coming second in the Silverstone 6-Hours and winning his class in the Brands Hatch 6-Hours, O’Rourke had his own EMKA-Aston Martin built specially for Le Mans in 1983; the next year this exceptionally attractive car briefly led the 24-Hours in the hands of co-driver Tiff Needell, and finished ahead of the works-backed Jaguars, to O’Rourke’s great amusement. In 1991 he and David Gilmour co-drove a C-Type Jaguar in the PanAmerican retro race through Mexico, surviving a dramatic crash.
In 1997 O’Rourke had his greatest racing success, co-driving a second-hand McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans with Tim Sugden and Bill Auberlen to finish fourth overall. Having saved money by refusing the costly update pack for the McLaren, O’Rourke typically spent as much again on a huge party for all concerned in the EMKA team’s success.
From 2000 O’Rourke campaigned Porsche cars in the FIA and British GT Championships until he was forced to retire from driving for health reasons; he had presided over the drivers Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard as they won this year in Sicily and Sweden. Porsche responded by offering racing assistance to the EMKA factory for 2004 – a decision which delighted O’Rourke.
Equally highly-regarded in both the music and motor racing worlds, O’Rourke was an active supporter of charities; he was a trustee of The Music Sound Foundation and of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
After suffering a fatal stroke, he died in Miami, Florida, on October 30. Steve O’Rourke was twice married, and leaves two daughters and three sons.
© The Telegraph, 2003
Here is some news that has been missed by me to do some catch up:
1. In Japan special releases of The Madcap Laughs and Barrett were released that looked like mini records.
2. There is a newer book called Madcap by Tim Willis.
3. A special book of photos by Mick Rock called “Psychedelic Renegades” was released of all of his Syd photos. There was a limited run of 320 deluxe copies that were actually signed by Syd himself, just as “Barrett”. They are also signed my Mr. Rock and there was a bigger run without the Barrett Signature.
4. Roger does have diabetes, he is actually listed at DiabetesMusic.com
5. In England and Germany they have released Barrett and The Madcap Laughs as a double CD.
RELEASED ON VHS & DVD ON 24TH MARCH 2003
One of the most famous creators and characters of the psychedelic era, Syd Barrett has not conducted an interview or released music since the early seventies yet his self-imposed anonymity still fascinates fans old and new. The original songwriter for Pink Floyd was only with the band for a vibrant 3 years when he left in 1968, yet when the band released their greatest hits album in 2001 Syd had written over a fifth of the tracks. This year it is 35 years since Syd Barrett left the band yet mystery still surrounds this prodigy of rock.
The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story retells the fascinating story of the start of one of the largest and most influential bands in rock and the drug induced breakdown of their original song writer and lead man. Direct Video Distribution UK is delighted to announce the 24th March 2003 VHS and DVD release of this personal and candid profile of the once effervescent musician and now cult figure of Syd Barrett. Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright retell how Syd’s slip from reality haunted the band for many years and this is clearly demonstrated in the tracks Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Wish You Were Here. There are also insights from former girlfriends, landlords, flatmates, producers, managers, friends and famous fans. Also featuring rare early footage of the band performing; including a live show at the UFO Club, and an appearance with former landlord Mick Leonard on Tomorrows World.
Available on DVD in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound. Extras include previously unseen footage of Roger Waters talking about Syd, Dave Gilmour talking about Wish You Were Here, Robyn Hitchcock performing Dominoes and It Is Obvious, Graham Coxon performing Love You, And a Biography of Syd Barrett.
Born Roger Keith Barrett in 1946 in Cambridge, Syd Barrett obtained his nickname from regulars at a local jazz club who when finding out his surname, christened him after as old drummer from the area. Aged 17 he moved down to London to attend the Camberwell Art School. In London he met up with old friend Roger Waters, who he had an understanding with since they were young that they would start a band together. Syd consequently joined up with the people Roger was playing with.
Syd quickly became the main songwriter, and named the band after two Georgia blues men Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Their experiments with feedback and electronic sound quickly made them the hippest band among London’s early psychedelic set. Whilst Pink Floyd were experimenting with sound and light they also started experimenting in the other side of London’s psychedelic set – drugs. Some thought that with the aid of drugs Syd was more liberated and had the freedom to write memorable songs. Nevertheless his grasp on reality was slipping away. He didn’t turn up for interviews and started to refuse to perform though he’d quite happily practice. His behavior became so erratic that an American tour had to be cut short.
The band was in a dilemma; Syd was becoming a liability yet he still wrote the majority of their songs. Their solution in January 1968 was to excuse him from performing to concentrate on song writing. Dave Gilmour was asked to join the band to cover for Syd. Two of the songs that he wrote Vegetable Man and Scream The Last Scream were not released by EMI but their apparent autobiographical style was not lost on many. Pink Floyd admit that their style back in the late sixties was if there was a problem they would ignore it, then one day it came to a point where they did ignore the problem by not picking Syd up.
Syd went on to release two solo albums The Madcap Laughs and Barrett in 1970. After the poor reception of the second album Syd retreated to his mothers house in Cambridge. Back at home he joined up with some Cambridge musicians and formed The Stars. But Syds involvement was like his attention span short. During the following years Syd moved between London and Cambridge staying on friends’ floors. In the mid 70s he even turned up at the studios where Pink Floyd were recording Shine On You Crazy Diamond the song written about Syd. With his shaved head (hair and eyebrows) and weighing about 17-18 stone none of the band recognized him.
In 1978 he tired of London and walked back to Cambridge, where he now lives, calling himself Roger Barrett having left Syd behind. The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story is a moving portrait of a cult figure.
A great little news article someone informed me about, here you go and look this weekend on how to buy the new Syd CD.
A FIRST!!!!!! I finally have gotten a picture of the CD cover for the new best of cd.
I see we have a new picture on the cover here too. Good luck to everyone on getting their copy on April 16th (UK). If anyone needs help finding a copy let me know.
Here is a press release from EMI in the UK:
‘Wouldn’t You Miss Me? The Best Of…’
Release Date: April 16th 2001
Catalogue No.: 532 3202
For the first time in the UK, Harvest release a ‘best of’ Syd Barrett compilation.
Titled ‘Wouldn’t You Miss Me? The Best Of’, this 22 track CD contains a selection of Syd’s ‘best’ work culled from his two studio albums, ‘Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett’ and the rarities album, ‘Opel’, together with the previously unreleased and much sought after, ‘Bob Dylan Blues’ (an outtake from 1969, which has made its appearance due to Syd’s longtime friend and fellow Pink Floyd member, Dave Gilmour giving EMI permission to use the track). Also included is a BBC session track, ‘Two Of A Kind’.
Syd Barrett’s music has influenced many artists – this compilation not only serves as an excellent reminder of a genius at work, but makes the perfect sampler for a whole new generation wishing to hear who it was that influenced some of their favourite bands, and of course a chance for fans to hear the unreleased track for the first time – a pure gem!
- Late Night
- Swan Lee
- Wolf Pack
- Golden Hair
- Here I Go
- Long Gone
- No Good Trying
- Baby Lemonade
- Gigolo Aunt
- Wouldn’t You Miss Me
- Wined And Dined
- Effervescing Elephant
- Waving My Arms In The Air
- I Never Lied To You
- Love Song
- Two OF A Kind (BBC Session Track)
- Bob Dylan Blues (Previously Unreleased)
- Golden Hair (instrumental)
SLEEVE NOTES BY MARK PAYTRESS
There are magnificent cult heroes shrouded in the stuff of infamy and legend … and then there is Syd Barrett. Syd the unforgotten hero of the early Pink Floyd, who virtually set the parameters for British psychedelia with his fanciful songs and space-age improvisation. The summer of love’s prize bloom who soon wilted under the gaze of the pop world’s plastic eye. The sacrificial lamb of the love generation’s wilder excesses who simply forgot to sing or play his guitar. The self-styled’ Vegetable Man’ who re-emerged with two solo albums that bore the scars of hippie innocence and the acid experience with a shocking self consciousness (sic). It’s the best of these two remarkable records – and out-takes recorded during the sessions – that are now available on “Wouldn’t You Miss Me”, the first ever Syd Barrett compilation.
Syd’s genius, and its subsequent fragmentation, seems a dream and a nightmare away from a potentially idyllic upbringing as a middle class son of one of Britain’s most prestigious and cultured cities. As a Cambridge child, Barrett (born Roger Keith Barrett on 6 January 1946) listened attentively to stories read by his mother Winifred, tales that instilled in him a thirst for escape and invention, an otherworld he continued to inhabit as an a student at Camberwell Art School during the mid-60s. Inevitably, music too, inspired him, typically The Beatles, Bob Dylan and – most of all – the gritty, hostile sounds of R&B epitomized by The Rolling Stones. Another, more general influence was the emerging post-Beat subculture, which aspired to a new way of life where poetry, art, literature, music and recreational drug use provided an antidote to artless suburban convention. This provided the perfect environment in which the ever-imaginative Barrett could flourish.
It was Syd’s peculiarly acute imagination that transformed the early Pink Floyd from a promising R&B group with lofty ambitions into the UK’s premier acid-rock combo. Barrett’s fragmented, glissando guitar-playing added an otherworldly gloss to the band’s extended jams, while his shorter songs conjured up a magical, idyllic backdrop to flower-power’s technicolor dreams. In 1967, when half of the western world appeared to turn on, tune in and at least fantasise about dropping out, these were indeed admirable qualities.
After the debut 45, “Arnold Layne”, scraped into the charts, the (sic) impeccable psych-pop follow-up, “See Emily Play”, took the band into the Top 5, onto ‘Top Of The Pops’ and around the country’s ballroom circuit. By August 1967, and with the band’s debut album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”, poised for release, The Pink Floyd were on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Unfortunately, it was the moment when Syd decided to absent himself for a few days; worse still, he returned a changed man. Always erratic, now his behaviour seriously undermined the group’s future. His ability to translate his raw songwriting into finished studio creations left him; on stage, he often stood motionless contributing nothing more than provoking looks of bewilderment on the faces of his colleagues. After a second guitarist, Syd’s old Cambridge buddy Dave Gilmour, was added to the line-up, Barrett became virtually dispensable to the band. On 26 January 1968, the group that had once relied so much on his contributions, set off for a concert without him.
Despite this apparent humiliation (though Barrett already seemed past caring), all was not lost. Pink Floyd’s co-managers Andrew King and Peter Jenner chose to dissolve their relationship with the band, and Jenner – who once described Syd as “the most creative person I’d ever known” – became Barrett’s manager and producer. But while the Floyd steadily rebuilt their career through constant gigging and an infinitesimal attention to detail in the recording studio, Syd became more difficult than ever. Recording sessions for his first solo album, “The Madcap Laughs”, began in May 1968 and continued intermittently until October 1969, overseen by a number of increasingly exasperated producers and engineers.
“Initially, these were booked as demo sessions just to see if Syd had any songs worth recording,” recalls Peter Mew, who engineered several of the tracks on the first record. “it was all a bit chaotic – do a bit, then go off and have a smoke – and Syd wasn’t totally compos mentis. He wasn’t temperamental, just not on the same planet as the rest of us. A lot of the songs had potential and you thought, “if the guy pulls himself together, you’ve got something here.” After stints with Jenner and EMI staffer Malcolm Jones handling production duties, the Floyd’s Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters were drafted in to salvage something from the sessions.
Syd’s work with Pink Floyd had been ornate and sophisticated. The arrangements on ‘The Madcap Laughs” – threadbare, slapdash even – couldn’t have been more different. The effect was both unsettling and inspiring, for here was pitiable estrangement and unharnessed imagination, unrefined and nerve-tinglingly raw. On “Feel”, one of the record’s more despairing songs, Barrett complains: “I want to go home…” Early in 1970, around the time of the album’s release, that’s exactly what he did, leaving his central London flat and returning to the family home in Cambridge, where he famously took up residence in the cellar.
Between February and July that year, he was tempted back to London for intermittent work on a second solo album, “Barrett”, a marginally more conventional – though less inspired – affair thanks to the involvement again of Dave Gilmour. “Dave showed incredible amounts of patience,” says Jerry Shirley, who played drums on the sessions. “We never knew what time Syd would start or finish. He might not even turn up at all. The only predictable thing about Syd at that point was that he was totally unpredictable, as nutty as a fruitcake.”
On these solo records, Syd’s working methods took the psychedelic model of spontaneous creativity to the extreme. “The one thing Syd could still do was to write a decent, unusual song,” says Shirley. “But even they got so unpredictable that even he couldn’t remember them. If you didn’t record a new song right away, it would be gone.” After getting several of Syd’s new songs down on tape, the musicians – who also included Floyd keyboard player Rick Wright and Gilmour himself – would overdub the parts afterwards, no mean feat given Syd’s erratic sense of timing. “He found it extremely difficult to play as part of a band by this time,” maintains Jerry Shirley. “it was just all over the place.” Despite this obvious limitation, Shirley and Gilmour nevertheless braved an appearance with Syd for a comeback concert at the Olympia, London, in June 1970. Four songs into the set, Barrett simply put his guitar down and walked off. By the end of the year, he’d returned to Cambridge for good, largely oblivious to the enormous cult that was growing, and continues to grow around him.
One of many latter-day celebrity Barrett devotees is Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, who once donated a vast, Syd- inspired sculpture to a charity auction. “I think Syd made a decision, although a very twisted one, that a musician’s lifestyle wasn’t for him,” he says. “I like to think of him being happy, painting and going for strolls in the park. I don’t think he misses the pop circus. I think he overdosed on it and chose a more pastoral existence.” And the reason why the Barrett milieu is so enduring? “There is a little bit of Syd in everyone,” he insists. “It’s that sensitivity and vulnerability.”
Syd Barrett was the original lead guitarist and a founder member of the group Pink Floyd, and remains one of rock music’s most enduring characters. He was the principle songwriter for the first Pink Floyd album ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, and composed their 1967 hit single ‘See Emily Play’ before leaving the group in early 1968. He subsequently released two eccentric solo albums (‘The Madcap Laughs’ in 1969 and ‘Barrett’ in 1970) before withdrawing completely from the music business in the mid-1970’s.
Much has been written about his life, but here for the first time are the full details of all of his recording sessions – from his first semi-professional recordings with Pink Floyd in 1965 up to his last abandoned solo recording sessions at Abbey Road in 1974.
The author David Parker was co-editor of the respected Syd Barrett fanzine ‘Chapter 24’, and has spent four years researching and writing the book, which is based principally on information obtained from the official archives at EMI Records and Abbey Road Studios.
The book uses a diary format, and includes exclusive interviews with many of the recording producers and engineers involved, including Peter Jenner, Andrew King, Peter Bown, Alan Parsons and John Leckie. The book also includes rare photographs and illustrations, many previously unpublished.
This is the most comprehensive, accurate and detailed account yet published of the background to the creation of Syd Barrett’s unique musical legacy.
“Bob Dylan Blues” might be an uncharacteristically prosaic title from a man better known for his songs about gnomes, octopuses and effervescing elephants. But as this newly unearthed Syd Barrett song — to be included on a new compilation, Wouldn’t You Miss Me (EMI), which is due for release in the U.K. on April 16th — suggests, Pink Floyd’s original “Crazy Diamond” was far from immune to the occasional mortal influence.
Barrett, the errant star of British psychedelia, masterminded Pink Floyd’s early success before a combination of a nervous breakdown and a tendency to overindulge in the era’s more potent stimulants prompted his departure from the group early in 1968. Tales of mammoth drug binges, erratic stage performances and baffling behavioral traits inevitably earned Barrett the “acid casualty” epithet. After two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, both clearly the work of a wildly distracted man, he simply disappeared from view, taking up residence in the cellar of his family home in Cambridge. Turning his back on rock & roll, he returned to painting. Occasional Syd sightings, each one depicting the acid rock pin-up as increasingly bald and overweight, prompted inevitable rumors of renewed activity, but aside from a disastrous studio session in 1974, he’s maintained a strange, intensely private silence. Since the death of his mother in the early Nineties, Syd Barrett lives alone in Cambridge, suffers from diabetes and is tended to by his sister.
The Barrett legend has also been maintained by Pink Floyd themselves, most noticeably by Roger Waters, whose “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and The Wall were both inspired by his ex-colleague’s mental health problems. Now, it is guitarist Dave Gilmour, Barrett’s replacement in Pink Floyd and producer of his two solo LPs, who provides the fillip. “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” a remarkable pastiche unlike anything else in the Barrett canon, has been culled from Gilmour’s private collection and is being released with the blessing of Barrett’s family.
“We knew of the song’s existence when we put together [1993’s] Crazy Diamond box set,” says project coordinator Tim Chacksfield, “but we had plenty of other material so there was no pressure for us to find it.” The new compilation provided an ideal opportunity to approach Gilmour and request permission to use the song. But why the guitarist took the master tape with him after the February 27, 1970 demo session had been completed remains a mystery. David Parker, author of Random Precision — Recording the Music of Syd Barrett 1965-1974, maintains that Gilmour has always rated the song highly. Chacksfield tends to agree: “The fact that Dave was happy to let it out says a lot.”
Although R&B, improvised music and nursery rhyme-like folksong clearly influenced Barrett, the Dylan connection is far more obscure. Barrett and Gilmour — at the time mere Cambridge-based teenage beat buffs — did catch the visiting American at an early show in London in 1963, and it’s likely that “Bob Dylan’s Blues” was written during the following months. Peter Barnes, Pink Floyd’s music publisher, maintains, “It’s one of Syd’s very earliest songs written before he even had a publishing deal.”
The 1970 recording, with Barrett accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, is a neat take on Dylan’s early, talking blues style. While finger-picking with typical, Dylan-like imprecision, Barrett gently lampoons Dylan’s activism and instead plays up the singer’s infamous nonchalance: “Got the Bob Dylan blues/And the Bob Dylan shoes/And my clothes and my hair’s in a mess/But you know/I just couldn’t care less.” The chorus is equally even-handed: “Cos I’m a poet/Doncha know it/And the wind, you can blow it/Cos I’m Mr. Dylan, the King/And I’m free as a bird on the wing.”
Though he later adopted Dylan’s unkempt curly-top hairstyle, this is the first aural evidence of Syd Barrett’s early enthusiasm for Dylan and provides an amusing aside to his more brain-teasing material.
(February 14, 2001)
Thanks to Rolling Stone for the Article.