Thursday, July 19, 2012
Vegetable Friends interview: Vic Singh
Vic Singh has been so kind as to share some of his experiences with
us.. I am still in contact with him so watch this space..
Mr Vic Singh:
I started as a young photographer in Studio 5 in Shepards Market,
Mayfair London in the early 60's, other young photographers there
were Norman Eales, David Bailey. We were the founders of the swinging
sixties. At this time there were only men in drab grey suits unaware
of what was to follow. Studio 5 became very popular with its handsome
young photographers and dolly bird models, the start of the youth
culture. Suddenly fashion, music and design blossomed and invention
was the key word. The 60's exploded into a new universe and Carnaby
Street, Mary Quant, Vidal Sasson, The Beatles, Rolling
Stones etc. started happening. I was one of the "In Crowd" making a
load of money and having a groove.
> Can you tell us more about what happened around the
> time THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN cover photo
> sessions took place? (cues: CONTACT WITH Syd
> Barrett/Pink Floyd, the SLEEVE CONCEPT, what you know
> about the genesis of SYD'S DESIGN on the back sleeve)
Around 1966-67 the first time I set eyes on the Pink Floyd was in
Piccadilly Circus, there was some sort of event taking place. They
were standing under the statue of Eros and looked very spaced out and
we had a few words. Remember that at this time they were a unknown
group like many others. I was well known in the music business as a
photographer and friend besides taking fashion and advertising
photos. I had left Studio 5 and opened my own studio in Mayfair and a
short time after meeting the Pink Floyd their manager rang me and
asked me to shoot their first album cover. I asked "What would you
like on it" he said "Leave it up to you". I was a friend of George
Harrison and used to pop in to visit and have lunch at his house in
Esher, wife Patti doing the cooking, going for a swim in the
pool and sitting around chatting, anyway George had bought this
prismatic lens and did not know what to do with it so he gave it to
me. I did not know what to do with it either - until The Pink Floyd.
So I decided it was right for them rang their manager and asked him
to go shopping and get them bright phsydelic clothes that would stand
out because the lens multiplied the image and made it soft.
They turned up in the studio - we totally got out of it and had their
music very loud reverberating around the studio, they put on their
gear and I shot the photo on a white background with strobe lights on
a Hasselblad. It was a very spaced out session, the music was so loud
you could hear it wafting down Bond Street, I had a few complaints -
never mind. They were well pleased with the results and went off with
the photos. It was probably at this time that Sid got into designing
the "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" album cover, putting in the
lettering in the space on the front of the cover and designing the
back, in which I was not involved. I was just the initial spark that
set the whole thing rolling, it was like that in the
60's.....invention. You may notice that The Floyd have a fascination
with prisms and light spectrums even on their later albums. Light is
the mother of invention.
> What do you think of the REISSUE of Piper in
> comparison to the original release?
Looks like the record company has had a slick art director on the
job and brought it into the new millennium.
> Anything that may provide more insight in your
> relationship with Syd Barrett? :-)
I lost touch with Sid and the rest of the group after the session
simply because there was so much going on. Besides running my studio,
I lived in the Kings Road with my model girl friend. There would be
at least thirty people sitting around when I got home, at least 4
parties to go to, getting very out of it, going for a drink with 30
people, going to Alvaros for dinner (this was the "In" restuarant),
going to the parties and finally ending up in the WestEnd night club
until 4 in the morning, having sex and finally starting a shoot at 9
in the morning and the rest of it - an was an unbelievable time - I
probably over did it a bit.
I think Sid really got into the visual side and formed a group of
artists to work with.
> Are there any written sources on any of these
> topics that you know of?
Yes. My friend John Cavanagh who works for the BBC has written a
book about "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and has done research on
>Do you know what George Harrison thought of the Pink
>Mr Vic Singh:
Can't remember George saying anything about the Pink Floyd,
he talked about mysticism a lot. A subject we all loved.
I did tell George that I had used the prism lens he gave to
shoot a cover shot for the Pink Floyd and that it had come
>Sofar you have given us some valuable insights in the
>genesis of the Piper sleeve. It may interest you to
>know that in Storm Thorgerson's book "Mind Over Matter
>- The Images Of Pink Floyd", Storm states the
>"I don't think this front photo was made by
>sandwiching transparencies or by multiprinting; more
>likely by a multiple exposure actually in camera,
>though I could be wrong. The picture goes some way
>towards evoking the contemporary sensibility - a nod
>in the direction of psychedelia - and provides a sense
>of the lovable mop tops (after The Beatles), as Nick
>likes to call early Floyd, as well as current styling
>trends in floral jackets and cravats. The Floyd
>themselves were probably too excited by stardom to
>have had that much input. Vic Singh where are you now,
>to tell us the the actual genesis of this piece?"
>Maybe you would like to comment on this paragraph?
I think Storm is trying to treat the subject as the interlectual.
When in reality it is quite basic.
The Floyd had no idea what they wanted in so many words.
It was more an invisible vibe, whatever you call that spaced,
The photo was taken with a prismatic lens which happened to
be present at the time, with which I had not taken any pictures
because the lens was too farout - psychedelic form the norm. The Pink
Floyd and their music an innovation at the time. The lens fitted
their image perfectly, like a hand in the glove, so I used it as a
matter of chance, being at the right place at the right time.
Chance is a wonderful magical thing - how can anyone explain it and
the clothes needed to have bright rich colours for the prismatic lens
which softened the image. So they got some floral jackets and
cravats - probably the only brightly coloured clothes they could find
at that time.
As far as the lovable mop tops (after The Beatles), thats another
story. I was a mate of Vidal Sasson his hair salon was in Bond Street
across the road from my photo studio, he actually loaned me some cash
to start up my studio and I used to shoot some of his early hair
styles. The mop tops were originally invented by Vidal for chicks,
becoming fashionable it spilled over to pop. Every pop singer had the
mop top after the Beatles success.
The true reality about the mop top is this - at that time if a guy
had his hair length below his ears he was jeered in the
street "bloody faggot, especially by workmen who would
catcall and shout obscence queer things like "look at her - get your
hair cut ninney" and a lot worse. It was against the law to be gay.
>[Storm Thorgerson in Mind Over Matter:]
>Vic Singh where are you now,
>to tell us the the actual genesis of this piece?"
I am sitting here writing to you about the actual genesis - fear not!
> Now, in the same coffee table book, Storm also
> mentions a millennium T-shirt design by Jon Crossland
> which was based on the album Piper At The Gates Of
> Dawn. This design had been a psychedelic cockerel, a
> "dawn piper", but it was rejected by the later Floyd
> in favour of a pixellated pic of Syd.
> This raises the question as to whether you yourself
> had considered any other concepts for the Piper
> sleeve, before the final prismatic lens design was
No, there was no other designs. The sleeve was designed by chance,
beyond the realms of the marketing man and spin much more in the
realm of magic - how can one improve on something like that. I still
work my pictures in this way, finding that concious visulisation only
goes that far, but adding chance and the subconcious give magic and
mystery of art to the image - otherwise its another PR photo.
>To what extent were you involved in the
>repackaging project for the Piper CD?
> What do you think of the Piper album itself (musically)?
Very brave, the album commands respect. When I first heard it I did
not think it would be a success, because it was so different to all
the other music Beatles, Stones, Elvis, Beach Boys etc. of that time.
The Pink Floyd are one of those groups that should not
really be here and yet they are...... this in itself transcends all
the hypocrisy, arrogance in a society that sucks.
>Thanks a lot for all your time, Vic. We highly
>appreciate the gesture.