Tag Archives: Syd Barrett

Creating The Syd Barrett Portrait By Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson is a talented artist responsible for great paintings in the sphere of music artwork. He did some striking images for Marillion/Fish! He was commissioned to do the DVD Cover for The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story DVD (American version) and will be auctioning off the original this month! There are also limited edition Giclée prints available from his site.

Mark guides us through his thoughts concerning the production of the DVD artwork below.

——————————————————–

Imagine hearing ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ for the first time. Back in ‘67 there were fewer frames of reference than there are today for any new band. In fact there were no antecedents really for this album back then. How often does something come along that is so unique that it takes your breath away? This record existed in a vacuum…or so it seemed to me as a kid of 15.

Carol Oliver’s fanclub Newsletter. Click to enlarge. image above.

I saw the Floyd many times after hearing Piper. I even joined the very first fanclub for them run by Carol Oliver from Ilford. That was something I’d never done before and never felt strongly enough to do since. The whole scene that existed back then…with multi-media clubs such as Middle Earth at The Roundhouse, the arts labs, posters from Hapshash And The Coloured Coat and reading the underground mags IT and OZ at break times at school…there was an explosion of ideas during that year…the opening salvo of Psychedelia in London…though some I know refer it back to ‘66 and would suggest the whole thing was getting commercialised by ‘67, it was ever thus! For me though, it was year one.

I knew then what I wanted to do with my life: become an artist; a graphic artist maybe; a poster artist. If only! Hell, any kind of artist dammit!

The Barrett Portrait

When I was asked to paint a portrait of Syd Barrett for the DVD packaging of ‘The Pink Floyd And Syd Barrett Story’ a few years ago I thought I’d trace a line back to those glorious days of the British Underground and try my hand at painting a sixties style of poster. I didn’t want to do a pastiche, but to imagine if I had been painting back then, what would I have done?

An initial sketch concentrating on Syd’s piercing eyes! Click image above to enlarge.

Syd’s story is usually told in a pretty mournful way nowadays especially by the press since his death, but I wanted to go back a year or so from the Madcap period and do a painting that was more celebratory of his time with the early Pink Floyd. That after all was what was so fascinating about his story as told in this documentary. His early life as a truly gifted artist – an innovator who still influences to this day. The first sketch I did was where I concentrated on getting those piercing eyes right.

Kaleidoscope Of Colour

I watched the footage of the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at Alexandra Palace and decided to use that cavernous interior as a backdrop ‘arch’ to the design and show the lights and people blurring and swirling around like a kaleidoscope. I had to have some of the oily psychedelic bubble lights of the period in the background too. With Jupiter and Saturn (from Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Dominé) and some stars at the top and a kind of framing device so resonant of the posters of the day.

The final acrylic painted and sprayed on canvas used on DVD cover. This original painting is up for auction. See below and click image above to enlarge.

I painted the portrait with acrylic paint and airbrushed acrylic ink on to canvas and used vibrant day-glo fluorescent ink in certain areas too, again a nod back to the silkscreen posters of Michael English and Nigel Weymouth of Hapshash fame.

I submitted the final image (pictured right) to John Edginton (the producer of the programme who had the final say) and he told me It was almost there, maybe just add a bit more ‘vulnerability’ behind those eyes. So I reworked them again and again, perhaps a whole evening was spent just on those blazing eyes…believe me when you really study those dark globes…what is it they say…’the window of the soul’…a cliché maybe…however it’s more true in this portrait than any other I have ever done. They had to be right! It was finished, and next day when John saw the final painting, he felt the extra effort was worth it. I do too.

The final image I created for the project was a collage (below). It was my homage to those poster artists that had influenced me so much in my youth and had created such a desire in me to go to art college and launch a career working mainly for the music industry. This was used on the inside of the DVD packaging.


Click to enlarge

—————————————————————

Mark is auctioning the original painting through his website www.the-masque.com during the month of October 2006 and has some high quality limited edition Giclée prints of the portrait of Syd for sale. More info here.

Syd Barrett and The Beatles: 1966-1969 by John J. Olivar

Syd Barrett and The Beatles: 1966-1969
by John J. Olivar

Pink Floyd 1966
The Pink Floyd appear at dawn, Syd Barrett on the right: ’14 Hour Technicolor Dream,’ 1967.

An often-debunked rumor has suggested that Syd Barrett participated in a version of the Beatles song “What’s the New Mary Jane.” While the chronology below does not attempt to prove that Barrett played on a Beatles track, it may show that the notion is not so far-fetched, and has a bit more to it than just bootleggers’ mislabelings.

I’ve tried to list all reliably documented instances of Barrett at a location simultaneously with the Beatles. Barrett and Beatles session information comes from Parker and Lewisohn, respectively (see Reference Materials). Songs are identified by their finished titles. All sessions (except those on 12 October, 1967) took place at EMI Studios, 3 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, London, NW8.

Gathering The Evidence

15 October, 1966 – The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London

The Pink Floyd headline a launch party for the International Times. Yoko Ono performs in the middle of a set by the Soft Machine (members of which would comprise Barrett’s studio group in 1969). Paul McCartney attends, “disguised as an Arab” (IT report), and soon becomes an outspoken supporter of Pink Floyd.

21 February, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 11:00pm-6:00am
“Matilda Mother”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-12:45am
“Fixing a Hole”

Barrett’s first-ever session at Abbey Road occurs along with one of the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ dates. All of Syd’s recordings there with Pink Floyd (1967-1968) are produced by former Beatles engineer Norman Smith.

15 March, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 2:30pm-5:30pm, 6:30pm-12:30am
“Chapter 24”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-1:30am
“Within You Without You”

Each session results in just a single take: the final version of “Chapter 24,” and the first of “Within You Without You.”

20 March, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 2:30pm-6:30pm, 7:30pm-12:00am
“Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk,” “The Scarecrow”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-3:30am
“Beatle Talk,” “She’s Leaving Home”

Entering the realm of conjecture: Pink Floyd’s break appears to coincide with the Beatles’ arrival.

21 March, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 2:30pm-7:30pm, 8:30pm-1:00am
“Pow R Toc H”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-2:45 am
“Getting Better,” “Lovely Rita”

Pink Floyd “officially” meet the Beatles–it’s well-documented that John Lennon was under the influence of LSD on this evening. Though speculative, it’s certainly not improbable that Barrett may have been as well. “Pow R Toc H” was recorded in its entirety on this day, Syd adding lead guitar overdubs after a one hour break. Pink Floyd entered Studio 2 to meet the Beatles “at around 11pm” (Lewisohn).

EMI Session Sheet

22 March, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 7:00pm-2:15am
“The Scarecrow,” “Interstellar Overdrive”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-2:15am
“Within You Without You”

Exactly the same starting/finishing times make some kind of post or pre-session encounter with George Harrison (perhaps the only Beatle present) seem plausible enough. The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia (First Edition) states that this was the night Pink Floyd met the Beatles.

25 March, 1967

“The Pink Floyd… have now completed five tracks of their first album. Beatle Paul McCartney has already dropped into several of the sessions…” (Melody Maker).

17 April, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 2:30pm-7:00pm, 8:15pm-12:15am
“Lucifer Sam,” “Astronomy Dominé”

Beatles, Studio 2 Control Room, 7:00pm-10:30pm
“Getting Better,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita” (stereo mixing, all four titles)

Nicholas Schaffner’s Saucerful of Secrets relates a Barry Miles reminiscence of McCartney, Harrison, and Ringo Starr dropping in on a Pink Floyd session “towards the end of April… during one of the final ‘Pepper’ sessions.” If the description is accurate, this appears to be the only date when this could have taken place.

Advert for the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at which Pink Floyd played and John Lennon attended
Advert for the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream: Lennon and McCartney attend.

29 April, 1967 – Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill, London

Pink Floyd headline the “14 Hour Technicolor Dream.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney attend (Lennon captured on film); Yoko Ono presents a performance art happening.

7 June, 1967

Pink Floyd, Studio 3, 8:00pm-10:30pm
“Matilda Mother”

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-2:00am
“You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”

Though it’s not clear what was done to “Matilda Mother” (perhaps just editing or mixing), the Beatles session became exploratory. After overdubs and varied experiments, about 20 minutes of largely improvised rhythm tracks were recorded, including performances on flute, guitar, drums, organ and tambourine.

July, 1967

In an interview with Jacques Allemant for French magazine ‘Les Rockers,’ Barrett names “The Cream and The Beatles” as his preferred bands.

12 October, 1967 – De Lane Lea Studios

Pink Floyd, 7:00pm-12:00pm
“Remember A Day,” “Vegetable Man”

Beatles, 2:30pm-8:00pm
“It’s All Too Much” (mono mixing)

It’s likely that Harrison was present for this mono remixing, a job apparently adjacent to the mixing of “Remember a Day” (Lennon, McCartney, and Starr were at Abbey Road, helping record “Shirley’s Wild Accordion,” incidental soundtrack music for ‘Magical Mystery Tour’). Pink Floyd’s work for the day included vocal overdubs onto “Vegetable Man.”

May, 1968

Syd Barrett, ousted from his role as leader of the underground’s favorite group, begins work on his first solo album.

John Lennon, disenchanted with his role as leader of the overground’s favorite group, begins work on his first solo album (‘Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins’) with Yoko Ono.
Lennon/Ono collaborations begin to infiltrate the Beatles’ sessions, causing friction among band members (note: the nearly unlistenable first side of ‘Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions’ would be recorded live in Syd’s native Cambridge on 2 March, 1969).

20 June, 1968

Syd Barrett, Studio 3, 7:00pm-10:30pm
“Swan Lee,” “Late Night,” “Golden Hair”

Beatles, Studios 1, 2, and 3, 7:00pm-3:30am
“Revolution 9”

Identical starting times, and the fact that Lennon eventually took over all three studios, increases the likelihood that he encountered Barrett again on this night.

27 June, 1968

Syd Barrett, Studio 3, 2:30pm-10:00pm (Break 5:30pm-7:00pm)
“Swan Lee,” “Late Night,” “Golden Hair”

Beatles, Studio 2, 5:00pm-3:45am
“Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey”

Syd’s 90-minute break provides some intrigue, as do overdubs of a handbell and chocalho (Brazilian shaker) onto the Beatles song. A chocalho or similar shaker is audible as high-end percussion on Barrett’s “Lanky (Part 1),” made the previous month.

After his session of 20 July 1968, the nature of Barrett’s musical activities over the next 8 months is not known.

14 August, 1968

Beatles, Studio 2, 7:00pm-4:30am
“Yer Blues,” “What’s The New Mary Jane”

Four takes of the second title were taped, one a breakdown, the others timed at 2.35, 3.45, and 6.45. After acknowledging John and George as the only Beatles performing, Mark Lewisohn writes: “But Yoko and Mal Evans too–judging by the original session tape–were also joining in the fun.” The “judging by the original session tape” comment seems an admission that, although Yoko is identifiable vocally, the names of other participants are not known. Lewisohn further observes:

“…at the end of takes two and four someone vigorously shook a handbell and someone else hammered away at a xylophone. During take four someone deliberately rustled paper into a microphone…”

Without overstating the case, the same activities do appear on Barrett records. Vigorously shaken handbells are heard on “Flaming” and during the coda of “Scream Thy Last Scream.” Much vibraphone hammering resonates in Syd’s “Lanky (Part 1),” and rustled paper endears itself to fans of “She Took A Long Cold Look” and “Dolly Rocker” (note: I hear no xylophone on take four of “What’s the New Mary Jane” on ‘Anthology 3,’ though a sampling of vibraphone may be evident at 3.13-3.23).

25 July, 1969

Beatles, Studio 2, 2:30pm-2:30am
“Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Come Together,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”
26 July, 1969

Syd Barrett, Studio 2, 7:00am-12:30pm
“She Took A Long Cold Look,” “Long Gone,” “Wouldn’t You Miss Me,” “Feel,” “If It’s In You”

Barrett arrives at Studio 2 for a morning session–to be produced by his ex-bandmates David Gilmour and Roger Waters. In the wake of a marathon Beatles date, he hurriedly completes five titles unaccompanied, and thus ends the recording of his solo masterpiece ‘The Madcap Laughs.’

Conclusion

During the period of 1966-1969, Beatles records featured uncredited guest appearances by Brian Jones (“You Know My Name”), Eric Clapton (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), Tiny Tim (“The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record”), numerous unidentified Indian and classical musicians, and others.

If Syd Barrett took part in any Beatles recording (issued or not), it would likely be either “Revolution 9,” “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (he was actually “in house” and available when these took place), or “What’s the New Mary Jane,” a free-for-all with some of his musical motifs evident. The first and last titles are Lennon, Harrison, and Ono performances. Although The Beatles A to Z states that Harrison also participated in John and Yoko’s 1969 Cambridge concert, I’ve found no other source that confirms this.

 

Reference Materials:

  • Allan, Jon II (editor). ‘Late Night’ Magazine, Number 3. Barrington, New Hampshire, 1999.
  • Fitch, Vernon. The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia (First Edition). Collector’s Guide Publishing, Inc., Burlington, Ontario, 1998.
  • Friede, Goldie et al. The Beatles A to Z. Methuen, New York, 1980.
  • Hodges, Rick, and Priston, Ian. Embryo: A Pink Floyd Chronology. Cherry Red Books, London, 1998.
  • Kelly, John, and Parker, David (editors). Chapter 24 – Issue 3. London, 1995.
  • Lewisohn, Mark. The Beatles: Recording Sessions. Harmony Books, New York, 1988.
  • Palacios, Julian. Lost In the Woods. Boxtree, London, 1998.
  • Parker, David. Random Precision. Cherry Red Books Ltd., London, 2001.
  • Schaffner, Nicholas. Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey. Harmony Books, New York, 1991.