Tag Archives: The madcap laughs

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.

Iggy the Eskimo – The Girl Who Captured the Spirit of the ’60s

11 Jan

Iggy the Eskimo; a friend, a model and a possible love interest of Syd Barrett graced the Swinging London’s Scene in the 1960s. Yet, she vanished from the scene as abruptly as she arrived on it, and her figure remained engulfed in mystery…

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Iggy the Eskimo was a mysterious figure in the 1960s London Scene for she looked like nobody else at the time. With her long dark hair, lovely Asian features, button nose and baby face, this South-Londoner, whose real name is Evelyn, sprung from the mod scene at the Orchid Ballroom in Purley. Her unusual looks are due to her mother descent; she hailed from the Himalayas. Whiles her looks attracted attention, it was her personality that charmed the London Scene. Iggy was free-spirited, lively, adventurous, not a care in the world; incredible creature, no other word for her.

Iggy gained notoriety by appearing in a newsreel shot at Granny Takes a Trip and in Melody Maker, demonstrating a new dance. Iggy embodied the free spirit of the decade, a true flower power, she lived in the moment, for the moment. Dancing at the Cromwellian Club, shopping at groovy boutiques or walking around wearing an elegant gold lamè 1940s dress, but with no underwear and completely exposed, remembers Duggie Fields.

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Soon after meeting Antony Stern, Syd Barrett’s Cambridge friend and a film maker, at Henrix gig at The Speakeasy. Iggy enchanted Anthony and soon became his muse. Stern made a short film of Iggy pirouetting in a London Park. ‘Iggy was terrific fun to be with and to photograph‘, recalled Stern, ‘I remember walking through Battersea Park in the early mornings together. I made a short film of her dancing in Russell Square, the ultimate flower child.

Stern also said, ‘Iggy was my muse. I met her at Hendrix gig at the Speakeasy. She was a lovely inspiration andfree spirit. I never knew her real name. We used to hang out together, occasionally dropping acid, staying up all night, going for walks at dawn in Battersea Park. She entirely captures the spirit of the Sixties, living for the moment, completely careless.’

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Iggy met Jenny Spires, one of Syd Barrett’s girlfriends, in spring 1967. in fashion store Biba. Iggy admired the dress Jenny was wearing and invited her to a party that night. They went clubbing together. ‘A lovely, sweet, funny girl, always on the scene at gigs and events.‘, recalls Jenny.

Jenny was the one who introduced Iggy to Syd in January 1969, right before she traveled to America. Iggy was homeless at the time and Jenny also wanted Syd to have a companion, so Iggy moved in. Though Syd is now considered to be some kind of dark, mysterious, brooding and secretive poète maudit, this perception of Syd is exaggerated and does not do him justice. Syd was a cheerful character, always ready for a good laugh, not just at a shared joke but sometimes just for the hell of it. Mick Rock, the photographer who shoot the back cover photo for Syd’s debut album The Madcap Laughs, captured this lively and charming Syd while skylarking in Holland Park with Iggy and an unknown brunette. Syd can be seen scampering around in his psychedelic finery, laughing, climbing trees, living the hippie ideal while Iggy is seen playfully running around, wide-smiled as well.

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Iggy is perhaps the best memorable for posing on the back cover of The Madcap Laughs. Iggy is seen gracefully and artistically posing completely nude in the background, while Syd crouches in the foreground; an artist in isolation, living in a dark and illusive world of his own, in a world made of dreams and memories, turning his back on reality that is becoming more and more disappointing as days go by. While the cover photo was taken by Storm Thorgerson, the back cover photo was taken by Mick Rock, a friend of Syd who, having started taking pictures only months earlier, still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a lyricist or a musician. When Rock arrived that day, Iggy answered the door completely naked; not unusual thing for hippies and students at the time.

Now famous floor, painted in orange and mauve stripes, was painted by Syd and Iggy that morning; Iggy only helping him to finish it more quickly. Iggy was also the one who put kohl around his eyes for that elegantly wasted look. Iggy in the background, painted floorboards and the car outside were just elements that happened to be around; strange coincidences give this album cover a special allure, filled with sadness, nostalgia and a certain magic. But the most striking, most intriguing element of the photos is Iggy. Who was she, many have probably asked themselves, but the mysterious face was anonymous, well, it was until Iggy, or Evelyn, told her story once and for all, pleasing her fans and admirers.

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Iggy wasn’t even aware that Syd was a famous psychedelic rock star at the time. Nor did she know that her beautiful bottom graced the back cover art of Syd’s album. She was impressed by his guitar playing but never made a connection between Syd from Earls Court and the face she must have seen at UFO years before. Syd played a tape of the song ‘Terrapin‘ for her once and she considered it to be quite catchy. Iggy didn’t know who he was, Syd, nor anybody else, knew her real name, the wonderful ’60s; good time to be had, tripping on acid, exploring the depths of your mind, that’s what matters, not names, dates or reputation.

Nevertheless, Iggy had vanished from Syd’s life as quickly as she drifted in. There were stories of her marrying a rich banker from Chelsea or joining a religious cult. Nothing of the sort happened. Iggy has been married since 1978. The life she led in Swinging London when the culture, music and fashion were at their peak, is now behind her, but she was reached by The Croydon Guardian reporter after an ex-Cambridge mod Pete Brown sent the magazine a letter saying that he had spent some wild nights with Iggy in the 1970s.

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Turns out that Iggy is a daughter of a British army officer and a woman from the Himalayas. Her father had travelled to a remote village in the Himalayas where he met the woman that would become Iggy’s mother. Iggy was born in Pakistan and attended army schools in India and Aden, before the family moved to England. There, Iggy lived at the seaside and attended art school. She was a mod in Brighton and met many ’60s rockers; Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, she saw Hendrix make his UK debut at the Bag O’ Nails in November ’66, joined the counter-culture throng in April ’67 in Alexandra Palace for the 14-Hour Tehnicolor Dream, before living with Syd Barrett in Wetherby Mansions and becoming a part of the myth about The Laughing Madcap.

P.S. This page focuses purely on Iggy the Eskimo and her life, so you might want to check it out!

http://iggy.atagong.com/

The Madcap Laughs

22 Jun

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Syd Barrett first entered the studio as a solo artist on 30th January 1968; just ten days after his last show with Pink Floyd, for what would be an unfruitful session. Sessions resumed in June and July produced songs Late Night, Octopus and Golden Hair; all featured on The Madcap Laughs. Peter Jenner, who had worked on these sessions claimed that they had not gone smoothly although he got on well with the singer. Shortly after July sessions Syd suddenly stopped recording, breaking up with his then girlfriend Lindsey Corner and then going off a drive around Britain in his Mini only to end up in psychiatric care in Cambridge.

By the start of ’69 Barrett, somewhat recovered, resumed his music career and started working with another engineer Malcolm Jones, after both Jenner and Norman Smith (Pink Floyd’s producer at the time) had declined his request to work on the album. Over four sessions beginning on April 10th 1969. Syd had recorded songs Opel (a beautiful misty ballad that would not see the light of day until 1988), No good trying, No man’s land, Here I go and Love you. The sessions all together were not very productive because in those days recording four or five songs on just guitar in four or five hours wasn’t considered very productive. It was something the engineers tried to avoid.

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The Madcap laughs was released on January 3rd 1970. and it warmly received by the public. The Madness of King Syd seemed to have touched a nerve with a generation who had seen the end of the decade take a darker turn; failure of hippie revolution, Altamont and the bombing of Vietnam. The Madness of King Syd was something that attracted people to Syd; it seemed as if those around him wanted to drink from his spring of creativity and ingeniousness; they wanted to see what he sees, hear what he hears, venture into unknown area of mind. If anything the dark romance of a beautiful young Englishman gone mad certainly increased his allure. By late ’68 Syd was directionless and spent his time hanging out with west London hippie scene. He was taking copious doses of LSD daily and that proved to be his undoing.

During the recording of the album Syd was also on Mandrax and he’d sit on a stool and then fall off it. Barrett and his friends were taking the infamous LSD-25, a powerful psychiatric drug still legal in UK those days. It was almost a religious-like experience for Syd, and many others who indulged. Syd really did believe the psychedelic revolution was flowing through him. The world was changing and he thought we should all be perfect beings, cool and groovy. Syd began taking acid regularly with enthusiasm many found alarming. It was in May 1967. that his eyes crazed.  At the time of The Madcap Laughs Syd had already completely surrendered.

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The Madcap Laughs is an album filled with long forgotten symbolism. The songs are a mirror of Syd’s mental state of the time and in them he expressed, perhaps deliberately perhaps not, his loneliness and growing alienation. Though some of them have a cheerful rhythm like Love you, one can feel a spark of melancholy. In song Terrapin for example Syd shows his love of the blues while some of the songs sound more like a concept rather than a finished and polished songs. This album features some almost child-like songs with optimistic melodies and ostensibly cute themes (Love you and Here I go) through darker and deeper subjects (Dark globe, Golden Hair and No man’s land) to melancholic cries for rescue from his loneliness, alienation, hopelessness and feeling lost. Besides melancholy, most of the songs have a dreamy feel to it; psychedelic guitar work, most notably Late night. Song Golden Hair is actually based on a poem by James Joyce.

This album and the following Barrett reflect not just his state of mind but also the atmosphere at the time, sorrowful end of the sixties whose optimism, innocence and mind-expanding ideas had faded away. By that time the hedonistic atmosphere of the Swinging London was long lost. Perhaps albums The Madcap Laughs and Barrett are a remembrance of the ’60s for they were created at the dusk of this beautiful era; era which Syd belonged to and sadly died with.

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Since loneliness pervades every corner of this album it’s no wonder that the album sleeve, that has contributed to a myth of a musician, is a portrait in alienation. Lyrics such as And I wondered for those I loved still (Long Gone), Inside me I feel alone and unreal (Late night), not to mention the haunting You feel me, away far, so empty, oh so alone, I want to come home (Feel) show how he felt at the time and what was on his crazy mind, and they also show that after all he was still acutely self-aware; aware of how lost he actually was, lost and lonely, alienated from the people that were his dear friends since teenage days.

The album sleeve is mysterious and intriguing as the album itself. It shows Syd alone in his room with painted floor and a vase of daffodils. By the time of The Madcap Laughs Syd found refuge in an apartment in Wetherby Mansion near Earl’s court, far away from excesses of his previous home on Egerton Court. Syd’s apartment was far from being impressive; it had nasty electric fireplace, a few mobiles and there were only his bed, a desk with a record player and some canvases piled against the wall, some of which were started by a watery idea. A drab and sad place to be, lonely above all. In reality, his bohemian lifestyle masked his growing alienation prior to the subsequent complete withdrawal.

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The photo session for the album cover took place in spring 1969, most likely in March when Syd painted his floor in orange and purple stripes and then, proud of his work, invited his friend Mick Rock to come over and take some photos. At that time Syd lived with Iggy The Eskimo who was a friend of his ex-girlfriend Jenny Spires. Iggy and Syd weren’t lovers but she was a good company. She answered the door to Mick completely naked (usual thing for hippies and students of the time) who had just arrived that day only to find Syd in bed, still in his underpants; a moment he captured with his new camera Pentax he had just recently bought. After he’d got up, Syd donned a pair of trousers with colour stains on them; from the floor paint. Iggy then added kohl to his eyes to achieve that elegantly wasted look.

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Anyways, the photos came natural all together; Mick worked with elements he had: a painted floor, a vase of daffodils, nude Iggy in the background and a huge Canadian car parked just in front of Wetherby Mansion. None of it was planned. Later that day, Storm Thorgerson arrived and his solo focus was the floor. He shoot photos in fading light placing a wide angled lens millimeters of the ground to achieve an Alice in Wonderland effect, giving the floor elastic quality. Syd just crouched by the fireplace and he looked natural; he spontaneously adapted to the background. His pose suggests defiant exhaustion and a dark edge of ‘knowing’. Syd looked like a poete maudit; something that came out of Rimbaud. There was only one corner of the room that Syd hadn’t painted and that was the only clean angle if you didn’t want to expose this ‘set’ for what it was; a drab living room with a nasty electric fireplace. As long as he occupied his island-mattress surrounded by striped painted floor, reality and a world of possibilities remained outside his door. The photo that would eventually be the cover photo was also taken by Thorgerson.

1875. Les Raboteurs de parquet - Gustave Caillebotte

The most interesting element of the photo is the painted floor and a story lies behind it too. Syd approached things as a painter, and he did that for the rest of his life. He was inspired to paint his floor in alternate stripes of orange and purple colours by Gustave Caillebotte’s 1875. painting Les Raboteurs de Parquet or Wood Floor Planers. Caillebotte was a French Impressionist artist though he painted in more realistic style then the rest of the Impressionists. The painting depicts men scraping wood floors in striated patterns; something that shows Caillebotte’s interest in everyday life and perspective. Syd admired that painting while he was still in Camberwell College of Arts; back in the 1964. when all the Pink Floyd psychedelia and LSD were ahead of him. Now, in 1969. he was crouching in the shadow of a human condition; from cheerful and dreamy psychedelic boy whose witty mind was behind The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Syd’s look in late ’69 mirrored the dark mood that had begun to engulf him.

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Also, grainy quality of the photo brings nostalgia and serves as a barrier between psychedelic vivid colours of the ’60s to more drab and sad reality that came with the ’70s. Long gone is the multicoloured glamour of the ’60s Swinging London psychedelia and instead the cover of The Madcap Laughs suggests the ’60s decadence exposed and photos have that sad party’s over feel.

Gimme Shelter – The End of The 1960s

18 Jun

There’s no doubt that the 1960s are my favourite decade of the 20th century. It’s a decade that symbolizes the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and hippie movement. For me it’s a wonderful decade inspiring in both musical and fashion sense. However, nothing lasts forever and so this decade came to an end but what it created culturally, musically and artistically can’t be erased.

1964. Pattie Boyd with The Rolling Stones

The year 1965. was year zero for rock and roll. It was the year everything begun. In the early ’60s music for teenagers was sweet, safe and slightly soulless. Radio stations were filled with manufactured pop created by song writing teams in pop factories. Teenage girls’ idols were nice, proper white kids singing pop with a little beat such as Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton who would went to American Bandstand and lip synched. That sound was manufactured by the American market for the British market. However, people were getting tired of it. The new generation of British teenagers craved for music with more raw, rebellious edge. They found what they were looking for in blues; music of the American black underclass, music emerged from suffering. British working class totally identified with the black America. Blues had that element of underground rage, something which British teens craved for.

Out with the old and in with the new. By 1965. a generation of rebellious teenagers who had grown up listening to black American blues had invented their own adrenaline charged sound: Rock. The Who brought attitude and volume. The Rolling Stones brought swagger and sex. The Kinks came on the music scene with their distorted guitar sound. Even Bob Dylan was inspired by the new sound and with his leather jacket and hairstyle he was almost like a Rolling Stone wanna-be.

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It was playing blues that melted the emotional polar frost of the 1950s post-war English austerity. Because of its emphasis on improvisations it unlocked the creativity in young artists playing it. In 1962. a band was formed in suburb west London – The Rolling Stones when the singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards bonded over a shared love of the blues. When The Stones became more well known they stopped playing at venues such as The Crawdaddy Club. Instead, they gave up their place for the new band whose sound would be the first to denote the true Rock sound – band The Who.

The Who combined the rebellious spirit, Mod-scene image with the bold self-expression of the Pop Art. They were also very interesting because they made fashion statements with their clothes. Guitarist Pete Townshend wore particularly bold and memorable gear. He wore a jacket made out of a flag, for example and the drummer Keith Moon wore Pop Art T-shirts with targets and hearts. Pop Art was popular because it was not as confined as other art movements and consequently became an important part of 1960s culture, and an important part of Swinging London as well.  With The Who exploring more provocative imagery and ideas, it was clear that the new music movement was taking shape.

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Swinging London or the capital of cool, as it was sometimes called, was a place to be in the 1960s. After the initial blues-inspired Rock came something more avant-garde, Rock evolved and psychedelic-art rock emerged from the sound of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett exploring what he could do with his guitar. In 1967. Pink Floyd released a single Arnold Layne, a song about a clothes-stealing transvestite, introducing a new concept in Rock music – psychedelia. This was rock meets the mad hatter’s tea party. Pink Floyd’s debut album The Piper at The Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967; at the peak of London’s Summer of love. Pink Floyd had previously recorded a single See Emily Play on 23rd May 1967, and released it less than a month later. The song was about a psychedelic schoolgirl whom Syd Barrett had reportedly seen after taking acid and falling asleep in the woods. Characteristics of psychedelic rock in this song are use of echo and reverb, whimsical lyrics and the slide-guitar work done by Syd using a plastic ruler.

Syd Barrett enrolled in Camberwell College of Arts in London in summer of 1964. to study painting. Camberwell proved to be a hothouse of ideas. Actually, art schools developed what we today know as the 1960s Swinging London for they were the place where the creativity came from. Education authorities put those who did not fit in elsewhere into art collages. Entrance qualifications were vague, with academic scores waived when portfolios showed promise. Art schools produced gifted painters, promising fashion designers, artists and musicians. Even in art schools, the ground for psychedelia was set with drab post-war colours discarded in favour of violent pinks, aquas and reds. Art college students liked their music likewise amplified; sharp, short and shocking. Syd felt that art was made of the moment and the springboard to the next work and next moment. Other notable musicians that were attending art schools were Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Ray Davies.

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So at around 1967. psychedelic culture prevailed over the Mod culture that dominated during the first half of the decade. The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released in June 1967, just before the peak of summer of love, marks the transition between pop to the more psychedelic sound. Psychedelia might have opened minds to new ideas, sounds and images but it also propelled rock music into world of hedonism and excess. The Who came to America in summer of 1967. They shocked the hippies with their destructive and aggressive performance but Monterey soon established the festival as an arena for rock ‘n’ roll music, but it also represented the climax of summer of love for the optimism of the ’60s gave way to more volatile and uncertain times.

Utopia of the ’67 could not possibly last for it was not universally accepted. Psychedelic youth and hippies were only one segment of society, and only one fragment of it. You could just feel the change in the air; the atmosphere changed and it all became much more politicized. The Woodstock ’69 festival would see the sun set on the sixties hippie dream. By that time the business started to be more in control of the music; the freedom of the sixties was lost forever. It was a beginning of something; a beginning of the end.

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The Rolling Stones quickly dragged inspiration from the changing mood and uncertainty of those times. They were one of the few bands that found creative zeal in the darkness. There was a new world going on but The Stones weren’t afraid to embrace it. They channeled all that darkness with morbid relish in one song; Sympathy for the devil. It was the theme that fascinated them since they dipped into blues. However, The Stones would be plunged into the darkness of their own in a year marked by controversy and tragedy, from the mysterious death of the guitarist Brian Jones to the murderous chaos of the Altamont festival in California in December 1969. when they recruited Hell’s Angles to provide the security. Hell’s Angels soon caused turmoil and the man was murdered as the cameras rolled. The innocence of the ’60s was lost forever.

In the song Gimme shelter it seems as if The Stones were asking for a shelter, some place safe from the turmoil, darkness and uncertainty that overshadowed the Sun like the dark clouds. (The floods is threat’ning/ My very life today/ Gimme, gimme shelter/ Or I’m gonna fade away) Another song from the same album Let it Bleed released in ’69 called You can’t always get what you want also reflects the atmosphere of the time. Each verse discusses a topic relevant to the ’60s: love, politics and drugs. The song captures the essence of the initial optimism and the eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism of the chorus. (I saw her today at the reception / In her glass was a bleeding man / She was practiced at the art of deception/ Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands.) Rock provided a soundtrack for the changing times. It had become an incredible political and artistic force. It had given music volume and attitude.

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Still, the dark atmosphere at the dusk of the sixties had impact on other artists, such as Syd Barrett. Compared to Pink Floyd’s first album The piper at the gates of dawn that mirrors the optimism and decadence of the Swinging London, Syd’s main contribution to the second album was the song Jugband blues whose lyrics show that inside his mind he was still acutely self-aware despite the madness and darkness that had begun to engulf him. The dusk of the sixties proved to be a fruitful period not just for The Rolling Stones but for Barrett as well for its product was his solo album The Madcap laughs.

The Madcap laughs, released in January 1970. but recorded between 28. May 1968. and 5. August ’69, was Barrett’s debut solo album. It was warmly received and the madness of king Syd seemed to have touched a nerve with a generation who had seen the end of the decade take a darker turn with Altamont, the bombing of Vietnam and apparent failure of hippie culture. Its lyrics are introspective and range from lovely, almost child-like songs about love and friendship (Terrapin: I really love you/ And I mean you/ The star above you/ Crystal blue) to deeper and darker subject that mirrored what he was feeling at the time; I’ll take Dark Globe as an example; its a cliche to say that the opening lines are memorable, no, they are much more than that, they are haunting and loveable and strange, dark and crooked at the same time. (Oh where are you now/ Pussy willow that smiled on this leaf/ When I was alone/ You promised to stone from your heart.) In other songs he expresses his sadness and loneliness (You feel me/ Away far/ Too empty/ Oh so alone, I want to come home), something which young people at the time could relate to for they felt slightly betrayed and lost at looking at the ’60s the golden years of their youth gone by.

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1960s faded away, but they left us with achievements that cannot be denied. They produced numerous good bands, ventured into unknown areas of music, brought new and daring fashions and shaped attitudes and ideals that had not been forgotten despite the time gone by.