Tag Archives: Pink FLoyd

British versus American Psychedelia

9 Jan

Last Summer I was intrigued to find out the differences between British and American Psychedelia. Whilst on a quest to study all the details, I listened to The Doors and Jim Morrison singing ‘Gloria’ while the last rays of sun peeked through my curtains in sunset, and I felt the gentle summer breeze, and I made these collages. But before I start, I want to say that these are my visions of psychedelia, so, if I failed to mention a particular band that’s because I didn’t listen to it. These are my observations, take it lightly.

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British Psychedelia – Rose-Tinted Visions of the Past, Myths and Magic

“The underground exhibited a curious nostalgia, unusual in people so young. Living in tattered Victorian flats, smoking dope and rummaging for antiques on the Portobello Road, the underground pillaged their cultural history. Part romantics and part vandals, as they pulled away from their parents’ world, they embraced the shadow of their grandparents’ Victoriana, torn between an idealised future and rose-tinted visions of the past.” (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

British psychedelia is more whimsical and deeply rooted in ‘cheery domesticity and a fascination with childhood as a lost age of innocence'(*). It takes inspiration from Romantics and long-haired Pre-Raphaelite beauties, William Morris prints, tea parties, fairies and magic woodlands, love of nature with mystical overtones and books such as ‘The Golden Bough’ by James George Frazer, magical worlds created by Lewis Carrol, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, songs about gnomes, fairies. It’s driven by a desire to go back to childhood and the past.

mood-board-british-psychedelia-1-text

Screaming through the starlit sky
Travelling by telephone.
Hey ho, here we go
Ever so high.‘ (Pink Floyd – Flaming)

mood-board-british-psychedelia-2-text

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play.‘ (Pink Floyd – See Emily Play)

mood-board-british-psychedelia-3-text

I want to tell you a story
About a little man
If I can.
A gnome named Grimble Grumble.
And little gnomes stay in their homes.
Eating, sleeping, drinking their wine.
He wore a scarlet tunic,
A blue green hood,
It looked quite good.
He had a big adventure
Amidst the grass
Fresh air at last.
Wining, dining, biding his time.
And then one day – hooray!‘ (Pink Floyd – The Gnome)

mood-board-british-psychedelia-4-text

The doll’s house, darkness, old perfume
And fairy stories held me high on
Clouds of sunlight floating by.‘ (Pink Floyd – Matilda Mother)

mood-board-british-psychedelia-5-text

All I need is your whispered hello
Smiles melting the snow, nothing heard
Your eyes, they’re deeper than time
Say a love that won’t rhyme without words.‘ (Small Faces – Tin Soldier)

mood-board-british-psychedelia-6-text***

American Psychedelia:

‘Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light
Or just another lost angel?’ (The Doors – LA Woman)

Unlike British, American Psychedelia was driven by the anti-war protests, and teenagers wanted to have freedom and be adults, some even joined communes. As I see it, American psychedelia is all about sun, beach and rock ‘n’ roll. Colourful houses in San Francisco, whose beauty I’ve first encountered in Jack Kerouac’s writings. For me, American psychedelia is Jim Morrisson’s mystic poetry, mixing Indian shamanism and William Blake, it’s Roky Erickson screaming ‘You’re gonna miss me child yeah’ in the same named song by the 13th Floor Elevators, it’s Janis Joplin in vibrant clothes, singing about love in raw, husky voice, it’s the brightly coloured vans with peace signs, it’s The Byrds with their folk-sounds and cheerful guitars, the imagined sunsets on Ashbury Haigh.

mood-board-american-psychedelia-1-text

I see your hair is burnin’
Hills are filled with fire
If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar
Drivin’ down your freeway
Midnight alleys roam
Cops in cars,
The topless bars
Never saw a woman…
So alone, so alone…‘ (The Doors – L.A. Woman)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-2-text

Unhappy girl
Tear your web away
Saw thru all your bars
Melt your cell today
You are caught in a prison
Of your own devise.‘ (The Doors – Unhappy Girl)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-3-text

She lives on Love Street
Lingers long on Love Street
She has a house and garden
I would like to see what happens

She has robes and she has monkeys
Lazy diamond studded flunkies
She has wisdom and knows what to do
She has me and she has you.‘ (The Doors – Love Street)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-4-text

Hey what’s your name?
How old are you?
Where’d you go to school?
Aha, yeah
Aha, yeah
Ah, ah yeah, ah yeah
Oh haa, mmm

Well, now that we know each other a little bit better,
Why don’t you come over here
Make me feel all right!

Gloria, gloria
Gloria, gloria
Gloria, gloria
All night, all day
All right, okey, yey!‘ (The Doors – Gloria, originally by Van Morrison)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-5-text

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep.‘ (The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-6-text

I’ve seen your face before,
I’ve known you all my life.
And though it’s new,
your image cuts me like a knife.
And now I’m home.
And now I’m home.
And now I’m home, to stay.
The neon from your eyes is splashing into mine.
It’s so familiar in a way I can’t define.‘ (The 13th Floor Elevators – Splash)

mood-board-american-psychedelia-7-text***

Which one do you prefer, British or American Psychedelia? I’d goes without saying that I’m all about fairies, childhood innocence and tea parties, so it’s British psychedelia for me. Nothing’s gonna stop me this time, I’ll make the Summer of 2017 my Summer of Love! But for now, let these psychedelic tunes warm these short but never-ending winter days.

Ode to British Psychedelia or ‘What it means to me’

6 Jan

Last few days I’ve been rereading the book called Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios, and relishing in its every page. It explores Syd’s life from the early days in Cambridge, to his Swinging London days at the height of his fame as a psychedelic rock star, all the way to his last days spent in seclusion. Each page reveals Syd’s influences in terms of books, artworks (as he was a painter too), films, music and his ideas in general. Even though he is best known for his days with Pink Floyd which resulted in the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): a beautiful psychedelic gem, and his subsequent solo albums, it is not his fame or heyday which interests me the most.

Quite the contrary, it is his childhood and teenage years that reveal the true Syd – a creative figure and a true inspiration. What made Syd a psychedelic icon, what made the underground scene thrive wasn’t just LSD, but a great Pandora’s box of different influences. I am fascinated by the 1960s counterculture before it became mainstream. After reading the book, one can truly see all that lay beyond acid trips because psychedelia is so much more.

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”The vanguard of London’s latest subculture, driven by LSD and hashish, far removed from the plastic flash of mods and dolly birds, took a sharp turn into the mystic. Drugs prompted many questions, so out came Ouija boards, I Ching, tarot cards, Hindu scriptures, meditation and vegetarianism.” (quote from the book)

Psychedelia or ‘altered consciousness’ doesn’t mean wearing tie dye shirts, listening to Jimi Hendrix and being stoned. That’s almost a disgrace of the original spirit and ideas of the underground scene. For me psychedelia means exploration, daydreams, hedonism and joy, everything that’s opposite of logical and rational. Reality is so bitter, and fantasy worlds so appealing, so why couldn’t we choose fantasy, lead happy lives, and discard reality like a fan after the ball. Sadly, this option is impossible, but infusing one’s life with a dash of psychedelia isn’t.

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First of all, as, for me, psychedelia equals almost childlike exploration, the key thing is to delve into all sorts of activities and hobbies. Whole range of interests may be suitable for the spirit of psychedelia. Art, for example. When Syd was studying art in London, he became acquainted with painters from totally different art movements; from Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s whimsical portraits formed with fruits and vegetables, to Gustave Caillebotte’s striped wooden floor to Klimt’s golden, mystical beechwoods – all of which I’ve written about. He was also fascinated with Dali, James Ensor and Chaim Soutine. If Syd stands as a symbol of psychedelia, at least in British rock, then everything that influenced him may be considered psychedelic too, am I  right.

alice in wonderland mad hatterAlice in Wonderland (2010)

The erudite nonsense of these traditional English children’s stories blends fantasy and sly surrealism. Gnomes, goblins, Hobbits, unicorns, Cheshire cats and hubble-bubble smoking caterpillars. Moles and toads walked, talked, and even drove motor cars. English in eccentricities and mannerism,m the animals wore waistcoats, carried pocket watches, smoked pipes, and were irritable and witty by turns.

Syd’s writing in Pink Floyd was described as ‘rock meets Mad Hatter’s tea party’. Now, who wouldn’t like to attend a tea party with acid-laced sugar cubes? David Bowie also liked Syd’s lyrics and even compared him with Peter Pan. This is precisely why the British psychedelia appeals to me strongly, more than American, as much as I like The Doors and Jim Morrison, I could hardly imagine him reading fairy tales or attending a tea party, and I’m afraid that’s a major factor for me. May I also note that I adored the opium smoking caterpillar when I was little, and I do still. Such a great character. I was thrilled when I discovered Pink Floyd because Syd’s lyrics combined everything I loved. Adults read fairy tales, men wore velvet trousers and floral shirts – must have been a lovely era.

Alice in Wonderland (1966) 9”..doll’s house, darkness, old perfume…” (Matilda Mother – Pink Floyd), still from Alice in Wonderland (1966)

Another thing that British psychedelia cherished was nature. Syd had a profound connection with nature which never left him. Even around London he use to walk barefoot. In moments of loneliness at Wetherby Mansion, he remembered the idyllic strolls, and the landscape of his innocent childhood days. ‘Barrett’s powerful connection to nature set him apart from others brought up with the same books. His lyrics evoke the woods, fenlands and rivers of Cambridge shire.‘ Syd defined nature and energy as one. Sculptor Emily Young, and the inspiration for the song See Emily Play, called Syd ‘a little wild Puck figure coming out of the woods.’

1877. Linnie Watt - A Woodland WalkLinnie Watt – A Woodland Walk, 1877

Another thing typical for British psychedelia is a certain nostalgia unusual with people so young. In December Syd and his friends attended the annual performance of Handel’s oratorio Messiah at the Albert Hall. Also, a typical evening at the UFO started with Vivaldi’s Four seasons. Girls took fashion inspiration in Arthur Rackham’s illustrations; they dressed in long flowing gowns and adorned their hair with flowers. William Morris’ illustrations and drawings by Beardsley influenced the poster designs for the Underground, as well as the 19th-century Orientalism. Young people were ‘torn between an idealised future and rose-tinted visions of the past‘, quoting the book again.

Syd’s interest in Eastern mysticism grew upon moving to London. He was particularly fascinated with I Ching (esoteric reading) and Chinese board game Go. As the decade progressed, many adapted bright colours and loose cut Eastern-inspired clothes designed by Thea Porter. The Rolling Stones traveled to Morocco. George Harrison admired Indian culture and mysticism, became a vegetarian and admired Lord Krishna.

1967. Maddie Smith, she had a part time job working as a shop girl in Biba and also did some modelling for them, appearing in the first Biba catalogue which was photographed by Donald SilversteinMaddie Smith, model for Biba, 1967

All in all, British psychedelia is a whimsical and dashing mixture of Alice in Wonderland, LSD, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Jazz, Eastern mysticism, focus on the innocence of childhood, Wind in the Willows, Pre-Raphaelites, and cheerful domesticity.

My recipe for adding a dash of psychedelia in one’s life is: obviously listening to matching music such as Pink Floyd’s album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (magnificent title), Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and even bands like The Stone Roses. Secondly, indulge in fantasy novels, fairy tales and imaginary worlds, Tolkien is the best in my opinion, as well as Romantic poets, explore William Blake’s artworks, the Pre-Raphaelites. Take interest in many things! Quote by Vincent van Gogh ‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.

My plans for the following weeks include reading Scandinavian, Persian and Russian fairy tales and reading about (and finally learning) Greek and Roman mythology, and connecting it to art. Thirdly, wear colourful clothes, and earrings, feather boas, floral shirts, velvet trousers, in homage to the glorious days of the flamboyant London scene. And venture into nature, feel its energy. As Heraclitus said: Nature loves to hide itself. Who known what kinds of creatures inhabit the forests. I believe that trees have souls, and different personalities. I’m certain of it. Birch trees look so fragile, while poplars seem so lonely. This is kind of my manifesto for this year. I wish you all a psychedelic 2016.

Golden Hair – James Joyce and Syd Barrett

2 Jun

1858. William Powell Frith - The signal1858. The signal – William Powell Frith

V

Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair,
I hear you singing
A merry air.

My book was closed,
I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
On the floor.

I have left my book,
I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
Through the gloom.

Singing and singing
A merry air,
Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair.

Poem ‘Golden Hair’ is part of the collection of poems ‘Chamber Music’ by James Joyce, published in May 1907. Chamber Music is a collection of lyrical meditations. Main motifs of the thirty-six poems that the collection contains are yearning for love, disappointment, and beauty and universality of music. Poems are also characterised by their musicality, for they were written more like lyrics for songs than the usual poems.

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It’s not surprising that Syd Barrett was inspired by this beautiful poem – Golden Hair – and decided to put it to music. Even though it appeared on Syd’s debut album ‘The Madcap Laughs‘, which is part of Syd’s solo work after the Pink Floyd, Golden Hair is one of Syd’s first songs, made at the time he experimented with setting poetry to music, during the cannabis idyll at Earlham Street in 1966.

In ‘Golden Hair’, culled from Chamber Music, a slim verse Joyce wrote in 1907, a troubadour yearns for a Rapunzel locked in a tower. With simple barre chords, Barrett conjured a solemn air akin to a medieval madrigal. Its cadence is pure plainsong, chanted words over bare chords, with the first of his thrilling downward octave leaps at the end.‘ (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd – Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

Syd’s rendition of ‘Golden Hair’ leaves the listener engulfed in a world of shadows, longings and mysticism, in a wistful and melancholic mood, denuded of earlier psychedelia and its vividness; decadence of the 1960s finally exposed.

Syd Barrett – See Emily Play

26 May

Pink Floyd’s second single, See Emily Play, allegedly told a story of a young aristocrat, known as the psychedelic schoolgirl. Mystical, whimsical and childish, verses of ‘See Emily Play‘ contain a deeper meaning than you’d expect. By reading this post further, you’ll discover the influences that created this beautiful and strange psychedelic gem; from Shakespeare and Romantics to Pre-Raphaelites and Pagan festivals.

pink floyd early posters 1

Recorded on 23 May 1967, and released on 16 June, the song instantly became a hit and struck a chord with the public, preparing the youth for a vivid and mind expanding atmosphere of, what was later known as, the summer of love. It was Pink Floyd’s second single which paved their way to success. Interviews and performances at the Top of the Pops soon followed. At that point Syd had already started struggling with the concept of being a commercial rock musician rather than being an artist.

Still, the lyrics of the song represent the very best of Syd’s writing; witty, childish and whimsical, they are the testimony to the spirit of the 1960s, and yet some of the verses posses a certain mysticism. It is impossible to pinpoint precisely what inspired Syd to write this song for its verses are engulfed in mystery, as is the case in most of Syd’s songs. Syd himself had many versions, one of it was that he feel asleep in the woods after taking LSD and saw an unusual girl.

The main inspiration for the song was, in fact, a fifteen year old girl Emily Young, who skylarked across Holland Park to the London Free School with her friend Anjelica Huston. Emily was nicknamed ‘psychedelic schoolgirl’ at the UFO club. Intellectual curiosity prompted Emily to visit the Free School and educate herself beyond school curriculum. Her private ‘evening classes’ consisted of reading William Blake, existentialists and Romantic poets, dressed at the same time in a noticeable long Victorian style gown ‘that touched the ground’.

Pete Brown said that ‘See Emily Play‘ was based on this schoolgirl.

This English cult of the schoolgirl in fetish uniform has always been around – the more dubious side of English culture, allied with British repression and fetishism. Emily was someone I went out and about with. I was friends with her because Anjelica Huston was at the same school, and hung out with Emily as well. I met them walking down to Portobello Road. I did poetry gigs in schools. I was young, in my twenties. These girls were seventeen or eighteen. I went out with them. English schoolgirls in the sixties were forward-looking, discovering their own sexuality.‘ (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

1960s Emily Young - Syd's Muse                      Emily Young in the 1960s

Syd’s young muse blossomed into a notable sculptor whose aim is ‘to tell a truth about the origins of human life and consciousness.‘ In a way her sculptures remind me of Gauguin’s work, at least in approach. Like Gauguin, Emily believes that the truth about life lies in primitive and archaic, and that art is hidden in the forces of nature, not in Western world galleries. I’m delighted to see that despite her progression from a confused 1960s schoolgirl to a prolific artist, she hasn’t lost the open-minded attitude towards life. Her worldview is still psychedelic.

LYRICS:

Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh
She’s often inclined to borrow somebody’s dreams till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Soon after dark Emily cries, ah ooh
Gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play.

1852. Ophelia by John Everett MillaisMillais’ ‘Ophelia’

The story of Emily Young is, however, merely a segment of Syd’s fantastical song. The opening verses of the third stanza can instantly be connected to Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece – Ophelia. It is impossible to believe that the whole century separates these two maidens in long flowing gowns! ‘Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh, Float on a river forever and ever, Emily…’ Emily’s graceful figure full of calmness in a flowing white gown that touched the ground, so brilliantly white against the darkness of the dance hall in All Saints, caught Syd’s eye while he wailed ‘I’m high, Don’t try to spoil the fun‘ into the microphone.

Beautiful and complex, strange as the mists of Avalon, this pop gem is at once intelligible and psychedelic all the way. It simultaneously unites all the elements that Syd’s fantasy world was made of; May Queens and Green Man, psychedelic drugs, tragic heroines, mysterious world of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, children’s stories, Romantic poems along with bright and innocent childish visions. See Emily Play is, at the same time, a hymn to the English woods, willow branches, rivers and pagan festivals, as well as the embodiment of dozens of archetypes of European literature – tragic and innocent maidens such as Ophelia. We know that Barrett was familiar with John William Waterhouse’s rendition of Ophelia who is painted in a long flowing gown, surrounded by the magnificent and mysterious woods and deep sinister water. Flowers, mystery, lost maidens, muses; all amalgamated in the mind of a psychedelic Mad Hatter of rock ‘n’ roll – Syd Barrett.

1894. John William Waterhouse's Ophelia1894. John William Waterhouse – Ophelia

Influence of a great Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, can also be traced in Syd’s writing. Shelley’s poem ‘The Song of Asia‘ was printed in Syd’s copy of ‘The Cambridge Book of Poetry‘. Specific verses evoke both the spirit of the song, and the ones of the Pre-Raphaelites masterpieces.

Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
It seems to float ever, for ever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abysses,
A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound.

1910. Ophelia - John William Waterhouse1910. Ophelia – John William Waterhouse

Final stanza of ‘See Emily Play‘ offers the listener a feeling of isolation; floating forever on a river, in loneliness and sorrow. Tragic destiny awaits Emily, as it awaited other innocent heroines before her; Ophelia, Lady of Shallot, Lavinia… At the same time, these verses may suggest a more personal subject, the one that never stopped occupying Syd’s mind; the end of childhood, days of innocence and playfulness are gone forever. Still, the usage of the same subject, by artists centuries apart, from Shakespeare, Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites to Syd Barrett, shows us that themes in art are eternal, whether it’s a poem, a painting or a rock song.

And what did Emily had to say about the song? ‘Floating forever on a river is a perfect dream image of the soul moving through time and space, through eternity. Of the world at peace in its place in the cosmos. Individual and universe flowing in perfect order with nature at one.

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I decided to write about this song because it’s beautiful and lyrical, thematically rooted in nature, folklore and other artworks that I love, and most importantly – it is a song I can identify with. In fact, it is the only song I can identify with, especially with the verse ‘She’s often inclined to borrow somebody’s dreams till tomorrow’. Then the ‘free games for May’ and I was born in May. For an unknown reason, I’ve felt like a ‘psychedelic schoolgirl’ for a long time. One cannot be sad when one is immersed in psychedelia.

Syd Barrett – Fashion Style

6 Jan

Syd Barrett; a true flower power and a gorgeous hippie boy, Puck in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, whimsical and cheerful creature of the forest, artistic all the way, brought magic in a form of psychedelia and shaped the London underground scene in the 1960s.

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All the information written in this post is from the book ‘Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe‘ by Julian Palacios. It is by far the best thing written regarding Syd, it covers all areas of his life; from his fashion style to his literary influences, all the bits and bobs, everything you’d want to know about Syd or the 1960s London underground scene. Many regards to the writer for creating something so beautiful and poetic in a way, yet bursting with reliable information.

Loves fairytales and outrageous clothes.‘, the newspaper wrote about Syd, and he certainly loved to stood out, even from an early age. Beautiful and mischievous, Syd attracted attention wherever he went. From the age of fourteen he could not be seen without shades, he had a natural gift of ‘getting the look right’ and the girls loved him.

The clothes he wore when not in school uniform were extreme in the beatnik/bohemian iconography evolving. Syd had wraparound shades and extremely tight blue jeans you could not imagine  possible to get a foot into, flecked with paint; authentic paint flakes. Syd had pale grey moccasins, fantastic objects.

When Syd moved to London to study art at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts he still dressed the same as in Cambridge. It was 1964. and all the psychedelia-underground thing had yet to happen.

In contrast to their slightly dour stage image, the lads leapt about for the camera like the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night. Pop stars in the making, with longish hair, tight trousers and pressed shirts and blazers; they do not look the slightest bit avant-garde. If anything, they resemble students aiming for Carnaby Street hip, by way of high-street clothiers Cecil Gee. Resolutely students, they had yet to develop London cool. Syd wore the cardigan and shirt his mother bought him at Joshua Taylor’s department store before he left Cambridge.

syd 59syd 58

It is however, Syd’s ‘London Look‘ that interests me the most. Whenever I think of Syd, I imagine him wearing ‘blue velvet trousers, yellow shoes, paisley shirt and turquoise waistcoat’ just like he singed in a song Vegetable man, basically describing his wardrobe that day in ironic way. Although London’s ‘Summer of Love’ was actually in ’66 and the Pink Floyd were regular at the UFO, most of the photos of Syd I have here date from ’67. Syd, clad in psychedelia all the way, looked absolutely gorgeous; like a character from a fairy tale, witty and charming, tall with curly black hair and dark, most enchanting eyes flecked with green.

Syd was a beautiful boy, true flower power,’ recalled Jenner. ‘In outrageous gear, with this permanent that cost £ 20, Syd looked like a beautiful woman, all this Thea Porter stuff.‘ Joe Boyd says ‘My impressions were of his clothes. Tight velvet trousers, military jackets, curled hair, handsome and attractive. Syd had a bandanna around his neck, knotted like a cravat. You got the feeling girls would adore him, which they did.

Just imagine what could have been in Syd’s wardrobe at the time; blue or red velvet trousers, paisley printed shirts, colourful blouses with wild prints, striped trousers, flamboyant waistcoats, bandannas, white blouses with ruffles, velvet coats, Japanese kimono emblazoned with kanji characters and silver reflective discs, the same ones he’d glued on his guitar; particular kimono jacket can be seen in a pop promo for a song Arnold Layne, shot in February 1967.

floyd 18.tif

In 1960s arts, culture and music flourished, and fashion was no exception. In the time when everything seemed possible in the world of young, and the air of excitement and optimisms permeated the spring air, London streets were crowded with vibrant fashion and painted faces. Psychedelia set the ground for experimentation and the fashion scene slowly shifted from clean cut, tailored, strict monochrome Mod apparels to colourful and exuberant hippie clothes. Originality and mysticism imbued the summer air and the Swinging London scene was at its peak. Laughter and vivid clothes filled the drab and rainy London streets.

At weekends, fashionable young people paraded in their finery on King’s Road, Carnaby Street and the area of Chelsea. ‘The underground embraced the dressing-up ethos and spawned exemplary outfitters. Though ‘hippy’ later came to mean dreary, washed out tie-dyes, dirty jeans and matted hair, underground fashion flowered in flamboyance and extravagance.‘ A psychedelic heaven, really, all those crowded streets filled with the same minded young people, blossoming of art and music, mind expanding venues, air of excitement.

syd 36

Indeed, fashion flourished in the 1960s. Today, most recognisable designers of Swinging London were Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki (Biba), but there were plenty more of them that really captured that psychedelic, experimenting and mind-expanding mood of the city such as Ossie Clark, Zandra Rhodes, Apple Boutique and ‘I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet‘, ‘Hung on You‘, ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ and ‘Dandi Fashions‘. By 1966. young people looked for something more groovy. Mod fashion, by then seen as commercial, gave way to ‘exoticism, romanticism and nostalgia‘.

Trips to India, counter-culture and rediscovery of some Victorian artists such as William Morris and Aubrey Beardsley directed fashion in a new way, far closer to the psychedelic ideal. Grey, brown and black were substituted for vivid rainbow of colours; magenta, teal, sky blue, sunny yellow, green. Very soon flowing silks and velvets, William Morris print jackets, loose cut Indian cloth dresses, Afghan jackets and wonderful black satin trousers filled the fashion landscape.

In London we all dressed like rock stars.‘, recalls UFO groover Firdsi. ‘It would have been unthinkable to leave the house in something as mundane as jeans and a T-shirt. My wardrobe consisted of feather boas in all colours, sequins, paisley velvets, satins, odd bits of antiquity picked up in junk stores or Portobello Road.

syd 35

 

 

 

 

syd 41

For Syd, the image tied with his art, rather than simple vanity. The era demanded peacocks. Barrett stepped up and took on the role of a star.
 As his star rose, Lindsay’s sharp eye and expert combination of King’s Road cool were crucial to his new look. Her keen eye made for inspired choices. With hair grown out his trendy Carnaby Street trousers and candy striped shirts sacrificed for velvet, satin, silk in red, lilac and green, and crimson. Syd and Lindsay took to the King’s Road fashion scene with relish, migrating to Granny Takes a Trip, where Barrett was fitted for a satin outfit in green and red. Next was Gohil’s leather Goods store in Camden, where the owner outlined Syd’s feet for custom-made short ankle boots with elastic gussets.
 With Lindsay, Barrett made the scene dressed in silk and velvet, in pied patches like medieval minstrels. Walking on King’s Road on Saturdays, dressed in all their finery, the couple were splendid peacocks on parade. In a luminous dash, they prowled boutiques, piecing a unisex wardrobe mix of gypsy, aristocrat, harlequin and harlot.
Syd also wore eye shadow and mascara, remembers David Bowie who was a regular at the Marquee, both on stage as ‘David Jones and the Buzz‘ and in the audience, ‘Syd Barrett, with white face and black eyeliner all around his eyes. (…) I thought, ”Wow, a bohemian, a poet, in a rock band!” With pale face and black mascara, Syd looked like a kabuki actor or a mummer.
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Even though Syd’s ‘Peacock Fashion Phase‘ is the most interesting; the garments are colourful, vivid and cheerful with exotic paisley psychedelic prints, I must say that the most appealing to me is Syd’s ‘Madcap Laughs Fashion Phase‘. Not a lot has changed actually. Syd’s ‘Madcap Laughs‘ look is engulfed in darkness and mystery; his dark hair now longer and wilder, extraordinary electric-green outfit now faded to a dark ensembles, long bandannas and old velvet trousers stained with paint.
Creature from the forest, or the cheerful Puck gave way to the dark, ungraspable Mad Hatter, days spend at the UFO at the height of the summer of love have now faded into loneliness at the Wetherby Mansion, surrounded only by striped wooden floor and sad memories. Innocence gave way to experience, a path William Blake had already gone through.
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syd 28P.S. It’s Syd’s birthday today!

My Inspirations for December

31 Dec

December, especially its wonderful last days, was, for me, a time of ballerinas, fairy tales and Godard. I’ve painted intensely in the last few days, listening to Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd, totally immersing myself in ’60s Psychedelia. In between, I’ve watched Godard’s Breathless, Band of Outsiders, Le Mepris, Une Femme Mariee and Masculin Feminin. There’s a certain magic to the last days of December, isn’t it?

P.S. This is my 100th post 🙂

syd barrett cover

the madcap laughs 5

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syd 118

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1960s Carnaby Colors cosmetics by Tangee

1968. WHAT'S YOUR LUCKY NUMBER BABY DOLL

1960s Swinging London 1

Band of Outsiders 9

Godard - A Bouf de Souffle

Godard -  Le Mepris

Godard - Une Femme Mariee

Godard - Feminin Masculin

1840. Portrait of Two Sisters (Louis-Edouard  Dubufe, 1819-1883 French)

1840s Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (1822-1892), daughter of Nicholas I of Russia and his wife Charlotte of Prussia

1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova  - Joseph-Desire Court

Syd Barrett – Vegetable Man

29 Jun

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From mid to late 1967. Syd’s erratic behaviour was becoming more and more apparent, and not only did it effect the band but it also served as a prelude to his eventual breakdown. Large quantities of LSD proved to be his undoing and at the peak of London’s summer of love, in August 1967. when Pink Floyd’s debut album was released, Syd had obviously gone a step into madness. The outcome was that his main contribution on the second album was a song Jugband blues, compared to the first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn where almost all the songs where written by Barrett.

However, at the time they were recording their second album A Saucerful of Secrets, Syd had come up with three songs; Jugband Blues, Scream Thy Last Scream and Vegetable Man, of which only Jugband Blues was featured on the album while the two others were recorded but discarded for they were deemed ‘too dark and disturbing’. Pink Floyd’s manager, Peter Jenner, wishes the song was released. He said: ‘I always thought they should be put out, so I let my copies be heard. I knew that Roger would never let them out, or Dave. They somehow felt they were a bit indecent, like putting out nude pictures of a famous actress: it just wasn’t cricket. But I thought they were good songs and great pieces of art. They’re disturbing, and not a lot of fun, but they’re some of Syd’s finest work – though God knows, I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what he’s gone through to get to those songs. They’re like Van Gogh.’

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Though dark, this song stands as a reminder of Syd’s state of mind at the time; a recording of Syd’s monumental breakdown as an artist and as a person. Lyrics are chilling and express alienation from the band and rest of the world. Syd felt lost and lonely where ever he went. (I’ve been looking all over the place for a place for me/ But it ain’t anywhere/ It just ain’t anywhere.) A vegetable man is Syd himself, and, just like a scarecrow (from the first album) Syd can’t seem to find a place for himself (It’s what you see/ It must be me/ It’s what I am/ Vegetable Man.)

In my opinion, the song should have been released for it brilliantly captures the fleeting optimism and hedonism of ’60s London and, in a way, it stands as a document not just to Syd’s downfall but to ’60s downfall. Vegetable Man is a prelude to Syd’s debut solo album The Madcap Laughs where the themes of loneliness, alienation and sadness would be even more elaborated. Musically the song is striking as well, and my favourite part is where Syd sings Ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha and you can hear the echo; I love how noisy and distorted the sound is in general. It sounds spooky and haunting at the same time because after this part comes the chilling confession about not finding a place for himself (It ain’t anywhere/ It just ain’t anywhere.)

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However, the name of the song, Vegetable Man, is based on a 1572. painting Summer by an Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo who created imaginative portraits made entirely of vegetables, fruits, flowers, fish, tree roots and books. His original approach to portrait painting is impressive, especially if we considered that he lived in the sixteenth century. His paintings were based on elements and seasons, but the painting Summer was the one that intrigued Syd the most while he was still in Camberwell College of Arts. Summer featured a composite man made from intricate painted vegetables; a vegetable man, if you will. Syd even appeared in a promotional photo with spring onions tied to his head, a knowing wink to Arcimboldo, not to mention Rene Magritte’s Son of Man.

1572. Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Summer1572. Summer – Arcimboldo

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 20091964. Son of Man – Rene Magritte