Interview with Malcolm Jones
Opel #8, late 1984, Ivor Trueman
Fans of Syd Barrett owe Malcolm Jones more than he’ll ever probably get, not only was he responsible for producing the better solo sessions he’s also took the time and trouble to document “The Making of the Madcap Laughs” in a booklet of the same name. Last month I went to his home to interview him, listen to some of the outtakes and try and persuade him to let me reprint his The Making of the Madcap Laughs’ booklet. I should however explain that I didn’t particularly ask about the 1969 session details etc. purely because they are already covered extensively in “The Making…” For those people without this book I hope you forgive that and if you do ever get a copy you’ll understand why I didn’t ask about those kinds things…
Firstly, before I switched my recorder on, Malcolm played me snatches of Ramadan, Lanky pt’s 1 & 2, Opel and Love You (slowversion) etc. Ramadan / Lanky seemed better than I’d expected.
They are very loose ‘acidy jams’ sort of like a lot of stuff in1968. They seemed very freeform and reminded me of The Soft Machine, Syd’s contribution was not particularly self-evident but the tracks are still good.
I’d heard Opel before but Love You (slow version) was very nice and I hope it like the other outtakes sees the light of day soon. What else can you say, it is slightly different… Then Malcolm explained that he only plays snatches of songs to people because of some Bowie stuff he played to a guy who then put it out on bootleg. He then produced a tape with “Pink Floyd – Backing Track” written on it. [no it didn’t sound at all like Syd]
He was given this in 1968 by Roy Featherstone (his boss) who didn’t like the direction the Floyd were heading along; he wanted a second opinion. I switched on my cassette and the interview was underway.
Malcolm Jones: There’s definitely a melody there, it’s obviously a backingtrack for something they’d thought out in some form.
Ivor Trueman: She was a millionaire?
Malcolm Jones: Have you heard that?
Ivor Trueman: No… Untitled? In the Beechwoods? John Latham? (looking through the recording titles in Malcolm’s booklet)
Malcolm Jones: I often wondered on those tracks (pointing to book) cos in the studio somebody says “Oh this is what it’s called”. On Silas Lang there’s a line in it that goes “the land in Silas stands” and always assumed that was just the engineer getting the title wrong and I actually went through on the early albums and tried to listen to every lyric to see if there were any alternate lines that would have been early titles.
Ivor Trueman: Sunshine – Wondering and Dreaming etc.
Malcolm Jones: Yeh
Ivor Trueman: Y’know the Octopus single that came out, it was released in France with a picture cover…
Malcolm Jones: They always did in those days, that was virtually standard procedure. I mean England was the last country ever to bother about those, certainly on the first runs I think virtually everything had picture covers. I don’t remember it to be honest.
Ivor Trueman: It looks like in Syd’s style
Malcolm Jones: I doubt whether it would be, I’m sure if we’d any requests for Syd to do something it would have come through me at the time. If they’d rung up EMI, EMI would have come round to me. It’s probably some young kid, whose as enthusiastic as the rest of us, but I’m only guessing.
Ivor Trueman: Have you seen any of Syd’s drawings at all?
Malcolm Jones: Yeh a few, but I’ve probably seen a lot of them without realising.
Ivor Trueman: Do you know what’s happening with Peter Jenner and Andrew King?
Malcolm Jones: No, last I heard of them Peter was doing the Blackhill thing, but I’m not really sure what Andrew King is doing.
Ivor Trueman: I’ve heard that Peter’s managing Swan’s Way… and Billy Bragg
Malcolm Jones: He always had good taste.
Ivor Trueman: I think Andrew’s forking for Westminster Music.
Malcolm Jones: You’re joking, really..
Ivor Trueman: Well he’s the guy who signs the copyright letters to us.
Malcolm Jones: Won’t be Andrew, doesn’t sound like his style.
Ivor Trueman: Were you still working for Harvest when ‘Barrett’ was released?
Malcolm Jones: Just, I was just about to leave, I think it came out just as I left or just after. I’d seen the sleeve but I don’t think I had the record. I had to write back to EMI and call them and ask them to send me one.
Ivor Trueman: What did you think of it?
Malcolm Jones: Mmmm. Alright. Except I was quite pleased when Time Out said that my tracks were better…though they’d done better stuff, when I listen to some of their recordings…
Ivor Trueman: You’ve listened to some of their recordings?
Malcolm Jones: Mmm, just even the other tapes. It’s quite nice to hear people sort of making cock-up’s in the studio but they could have used better cock-up’s with Syd in a slightly better mind.
Ivor Trueman: The way they coupled take 1 of Feel onto take 5 of If It’s InYou is misleading.
Malcolm Jones: There was something odd now I remember.
Ivor Trueman: Have you any idea how many copies of Madcap were sold?
Malcolm Jones: It didn’t sell at first
Ivor Trueman: It went gold
Malcolm Jones: Well I wish I could give you the total figures, cos when I wrote to EMI when I was trying to get this stuff I did released, the first thing I did, was write to the royalties dept to be sneaky and find out what it’s sold. And they suddenly found out that they’d underpaid royalties so that meant Syd got a few grand. But it’s still on catalogue and I still get royalty statements and it’s amazing to see, I mean it’s not available in so many countries as it used to be but it’s fascinating to see it’s still in the catalogue in Japan, France, and America.
Ivor Trueman: Were you responsible for any of the recent T Rex releases? (Malcolm also had quite heavy T Rex connections)
Malcolm Jones: (shakes head sideways) I find it amazing, if EMI give away – or let someone else release their stuff then why can’t they do the same for Syd? At one stage I felt like just putting it out and saying sue me if you want but one of the reasons I particularly wanted to go through EMI was so they could pay Syd..just because of his royalties, I dunno if he still gets them.
Ivor Trueman: But the thing is the Pink Floyd as well..
Malcolm Jones: That’s what I was saying about the contract, I never knew with Syd, Bryan Morrison said he was going to re-negotiate a contract for Syd on his own; because he would be getting, in those days on Syd’s solo stuff; Well I don’t know what the Floyd got but they were probably getting something around 6% royalty, so that’s 1 1/2% each…So if that carried on on that basis that meant on his solo stuff he got a quarter of 6%. I never knew if that happened or not.
Pause while I load the “new” Syd Barrett tape into Malcolm’s hi-fi. Last time I said the first track was not “Swan Lee” due to all the usual fuck up’s. This is now the sound of me eating my words. Meanwhile the tape begins..
Malcolm Jones: Swan Lee..the bass doesn’t sound right, probably is. The bass sounds a bit fussier than I remember it to be.
Scream thy last scream
Syd sounds posh when he’s singing, he’s got a rounded vowel sound y’know? All his ‘o’s are ‘O’s. (Syd appropriately singsMOuses.)
Like the previous track, this version is similar to those found elsewhere so there was little to comment on. We were looking through the tape listing at the back of Malcolm’s book, trying to find where these two tracks could have come from. Since this version of Vegetable Man is close to the ‘Unforgotten Hero’ version we wondered if it could just be an overdubbed ‘Unforgotten Hero’ take.
Malcolm Jones: What also happened, I’m only guessing, was that if that was the 4 track tape they might mix it down to stereo and add some other instruments, playing along as you mix. There’s no point in transferring it onto another 4 track – you might as well mix it and save a generation of tape. So the only place that overdub will exist will be on the stereo master. That happened to me once with something else and we had to go all the way back…
Malcolm Jones: Whose tape is this? There’s no echo or anything to suggest it’s recorded in a studio. It sounds like he’s doing it for overdubbing though, strumming acoustic through the whole solo.
Ivor Trueman: He does that on Opel.
Malcolm Jones: …leaves gaps
Ivor Trueman: I can’t believe this would be left out of ‘Barrett’
Malcolm Jones: Seems odd if it was…sounds like the same guitar as Dave’s stuff, I don’t remember him having an acoustic guitar.
Malcolm Jones: He is pretty together there isn’t he?
Ivor Trueman: He is everywhere except on those 3 Dave Gilmour tracks.
Malcolm Jones: That’s… (Syd makes a slight mistake).. y’see that I think is an acceptable mistake whereas the stuff they put on, I don’t think that it shows the songwriting process or whatever he’s doing; that he made a mistake and that he knows to go back and so on, whereas the Madcap things they did just made him look a babbling fool.
Ivor Trueman: It tends to play up to the lunatic image.
Malcolm Jones: That’s creating an image for somebody who didn’t necessarily deserve quite as bad as that.
(2nd version ends)
Malcolm Jones: I think that’s better than some I’ve got..
Ivor Trueman: Is this one of yours?
Malcolm Jones: No. I have got other versions of this. It sounds as though someone’s adding echo to identify it as their bootleg rather than anybody else’s.
Ivor Trueman: That’s happened before…
Malcolm Jones: I always liked this one actually, this song.
Ivor Trueman: What was your reaction to the version that came out, were the other versions better?
Malcolm Jones: I think so yeh, a bit sad really, something is, after a while you get used to some the more you hear it and you forget how good the other things were.
Malcolm Jones: There’s a bit, a chord sequence that comes from Silas Lang, the bit there is the chord sequence of “the land in Silas stands”…that semitone up thing sounds quite unusual…did Syd ever like saxophones?
Ivor Trueman: (See the Miles book for what I said here.)
Malcolm Jones: I don’t recognise it but certainly the guitar style is Sydish isn’t it?
Malcolm Jones: This is Syd. It annoys me that people, whenever I’ve played anything for anybody..
Ivor Trueman: But this hasn’t come from you, it’s from EMI
Malcolm Jones: Then why don’t they release it?
Malcolm Jones: Is the song complete, the whole thing goes on for 7 mins or so.
Ivor Trueman: I think so, except Syd doesn’t sing the line “I’m drowning, I’m drowning”
Malcolm Jones: The whole pathos comes in the line ‘I’m drowning’, that’s the whole… Perhaps it’s just on the tape that he sung to me then? That does sound almost exactly, well to my ears, exactly the same tape.
Ivor Trueman: Without that line..
The word song / Untitled words
Malcolm Jones: Don’t say anything, let me just… At the beginning there’s something odd about it that I couldn’t fathom. There’s a certain timbre on his voice that’s not there it could just be the tape, it’s his style. It is Syd. Don’t suppose is has a title has it?
Ivor Trueman: People call it The Word Song or Untitled Words
Malcolm Jones: Syd’s not said what it’s supposed to be called?
Ivor Trueman: I don’t know.
Malcolm Jones: I’ve never heard this before, where’s this meant to have come from? Did it come from Abbey Road? Y’see if it come from Abbey Road then it’s a different story than if it came from ManchesterSquare or where ever..EMI Manchester Square have always said they haven’t got it.
Ivor Trueman: They said that about STLS/VM.
Malcolm Jones: I’m just wondering if I ever sent them a cassette of the stuff I’ve got, in which case it could just be in somebody’s drawer, cos when I wrote to Terry Slater, I’m just trying to think if I sent him a cassette or not; he’s the AR guy who I was trying to get to release the stuff-he’d never even return my call.
Ivor Trueman: Perhaps he didn’t like it?
Malcolm Jones: Well yes, but all he’d have to do is look in the sales figures and find out how many Syd Barrett albums they’ve sold. It’s just a purely commercial venture isn’t it? Nothing to do with whether he likes it or not. There’s plenty of people who do, but he just never returned my call. I wrote four time and then I rang up and hesaid “Oh no the person you need now is Dick Landser”, who I used to know when I was at EMI. Who is shall we say, an aging bald man who puts out all the Geoff Love albums and all that stuff. So why they’ve referred Syd’s stuff to him I’ve no idea, and I actually rang up one Friday and said ‘look I’ve had all these people.. two record companies that I know of want the stuff, are you interested or are you not?’ And I spoke to his secretary, this is about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and she said ‘Oh he’s gone to lunch and won’t be coming back today’. I left my name, he knows me or remembers me from those days, and I never even heard.
Ivor Trueman: What about the last Harvest compilation, the Art School Dancing LP, I mean Syd got a track on that?
Malcolm Jones: yeh, Oh sure there’s people there who are interested., those things are rather silly because, it’s like when they did the Dave Edmunds thing. The Dutch put a really great Dave Edmunds compilation out and I wrote to EMI and said if you do the equivalent here ring me up ‘cos I’ve got all the longer versions of things, it would make it slightly more interesting. And it’s the same with the Harvest stuff. Somewhere, and I really don’t know where I’ve kept an acetate of “Singing A Song In The Morning” with Syd on. (Julian’s note: Probably the same acetate that turned up on the ‘Rhamadhan’ RoIo)
Ivor Trueman: Religious Experience
Malcolm Jones: yeh, and it actually said on the label ‘Religious Experience’. It was before we even changed the title and y’know “ring me up” I’m not going to find it if EMI weren’t interested; nobody did anything about it, it’s really sad, cos it’d make it more interesting than it was.
Ivor Trueman: Did you produce that session?
Malcolm Jones: No, my name’s on the label, all I did was mix it. Peter Jenner produced the original track and it was really rather messy,and it was a really good song, y’know a catchy tune.
Ivor Trueman: a commercial hit..
Malcolm Jones: yeh that was it, here was me saying ‘hey this is a great record here but it’s a bit messy’ and so I rubbed Syd out! er… Well, it was a great song, let’s try for a hit. In those days it didn’t matter, Syd was still; we could still put Syd’s version on the LP or whatever, it didn’t matter. But it was a very good song and Peter Jenner said ‘Oh if we’re gonna do that let’s call it Singing A Song In The Morning! Trying to get Tony Blackburn to play it on his morning programme…Here comes the dumb question.
Ivor Trueman: Have you got a favourite Syd Barrett song?
Malcolm Jones: (sighs) Everybody asks me that, not really no.
Ivor Trueman: It seemed like a good question at the time.
Malcolm Jones: Oh sure yeh, its like people asking me my favourite Buddy Holly record. One day I can give you one answer and the next day I can give you another. Probably would be “Clowns and Jugglers”, the one that came out. It’s funny actually cos it’s so smart compared to the original one and I always quite liked that. I always think of them with the original titles.
Ivor Trueman: Did Clowns and Jugglers have different lyrics?
Malcolm Jones: No, it’s just he called it Clowns and Jugglers and decided to call it Octopus later. (Julian’s note: Actually, it has an extra verse: ‘Up, up, touching hips to a madcap gallopping chase’) I’d have preferred it to be called Clowns and Jugglers actually, I think it’s a much nicer title.
Malcolm was digging through folders and assorted bits of paper like an envelope with Jerry Shirley/Willie Wilson’s addresses on that he wrote when they turned up during the Madcap sessions.
Malcolm Jones: Somewhere I’ve got a list of what EMI sent to America to Capitol, and Capitol turned down. Everybody talks about the Beatles being turned down but they turned down the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, everybody, The Yardbirds; they wouldn’t release them and all those artists went to other labels. Originally Capitol wouldn’t release Syd’s album. It was only when the Floyd were so big and had so much clout in England that they put it out.
Looking through some of the recording sheets for the ‘Barrett’ LP I was quite startled that in one session they’d attempted 15 takesof one song but Malcolm said that most of them would be like the engineer saying something then Dave and so on. The recording sheets were like the one at the beginning of the Making of the Madcap Laughs, the ones I saw for ‘Barrett’ were dated 26/2/70, 27/2/70,1/4/70, 2/4/70, and 3/4/70. None of them listed titles that didn’t appear on the album, so where Birdy Hop etc. come from I don’t know. (Actually the 26/2/70 listed Living Alone and Bob Dylan Blues.) Looking at another sheet referring to Madcap Malcolm again takes up the story.
Malcolm Jones: Y’see this is what annoys me, y’see I didn’t even mix my stuff and by the time Dave and Roger had taken over I was quite happy to let them do it, and then they did everyone of my mixes first off and they didn’t even go back and see if they could improve it. They just did em straight through. They did the same on their tapes as they did on mine, so there was no politics involved…
Ivor Trueman: I think as far as they were concerned they were running out of time, I’ve often wondered about the kind of friction that must have developed through the Floyd split-up, surely it couldn’t have helped Syd’s solo sessions with Dave/Roger and Rick.
Malcolm Jones: Dave, I remember, he always seemed to me to care for Syd and to be rather protective about him, I mean that’s probably why they wanted to produce him once he’d decided once he knew that EMI were interested properly. The occasions we went round to Dave’s flat to borrow his amp we didn’t stay long but it was all matey and the fact that Dave was lending him his amplifier, and that was before Dave was involved with the LP. Dave was the P.R. man in terms of coming into EMI, more than Roger and I can remember him at least twice asking how Syd’s sessions were going, when I was doing it.
Looking through at some bits of paper with Ramadan down Malcolm recalled the 3 hours (10:30am to 1:00pm actually) that they tried to put overdubs of a motorcycle onto the Ramadan track.
Malcolm Jones: Oh it’s a good idea, it’s just that the thing he had was this terrible little cassette player, I mean you know what cassette players were like in those days…
Ivor Trueman: Was he actually serious about that. (Syd had recorded some motor bike sounds on the back of his friend’s bike – with this portable cassette and wanted to overdub this onto the Ramadan track.)
Malcolm Jones: Oh yes, we spent hours on it, the tape was no good, the first thing we did was try and link the cassette up through the desk, I think we made up a lead eventually, and we spent hours and then the engineer said it was not really very good so we said allright, cos EMI’s got a good effects library. So we went along and dug out all the sound effects and spent hours putting them onto tape because the sound effects records are all one bit, the engine revving etc… and you add them all together. I don’t think we stuck it on anything, I’m not sure where it was intended to go..
Ivor Trueman: I’ve heard rumours that the Floyd used it in Atom Heart Mother.
Malcolm Jones: I haven’t got that album, I doubt it, it won’t be Syd’s tape.
Again one of Malcolm’s pieces of paper (he has quite a few of them) shows that Ramadan and the motorbike effects were entered into the tape library mixed down to stereo but not joined together. That just about concludes the interview, we also talked about the possible reprinting of The Making of the Madcap Laughs, and for people without a copy there should be some good news sometime. Finally I’d like really like to thank Malcolm for his time, his tea and music.