Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alex Chilton interview from The Bob from the May-June 1987 issue


Jeff the Joker's Big Star Page has been archived at Reocities ...
and while it cannot be updated, the original Geocities page can be seen here: http://reocities. com/SoHo/ 8994/bigstar. html

Check out this EXCELLENT Alex Chilton interview from the newspaper The Bob from the May-June 1987 issue Originally published out of Wilmington, Delaware this paper established a large readership in N.Y.C.'s East Village!!!

Alex Chilton interview from The Bob from the May-June 1987 issue

During one of my usual record hunting excursions last year, I made a pit stop at what is now the former sight of See Hear Books on Saint Marks Place, in the East Village. Looking through old issues of Melody Maker, much to my surprise I discovered a decade old copy of The Bob cover date May-June 1987. In it was an amazingly candid interview with Alex Chilton, conducted by Dawn Eden. I'm presenting it here in it's entirety...


Everybody knows somebody who's a Chiltonian. Thats the person who is forever scanning record shops for Box Tops, Big Star and Alex Chilton solo albums (you might even be one yourself). Chilton's fans also include many rock stars more famous than he. R.E.M. once traveled to New Orleans just to meet AC. Chilton's songs have been covered by numerous artists, from the Searchers to the Bangles (whose multi-platinum Different Light included a version of "September Gurls"). As one of the Bob's resident Chiltonians, I recently caught up with the man (via a crackly long distance phone line) while he was in Memphis recording his upcoming album for Big Time Records.

Knowing Chilton to be an astrology buff, I began by telling him I was a "September Gurl." Pleased, he asked what year I was born. When I told him, he did a quick calculation and then said, "That's the year of the Monkey. I'm a Tiger myself."

The Bob: When did you first start to write songs?

ALEX CHILTON: I was in the Box Tops, and they kept presenting me with such material that I thought was really not all that good, so I was trying to write something better.

The Bob: Were the Box Tops receptive to doing your songs?

CHILTON: Not too much at first. We had a producer named Dan Penn at first, and he was not so receptive to doing my things as the producer we had later.

The Bob: It seems that you write songs now in the same as you did back then. Your new songs still have those bluesy roots.

CHILTON: Yeah, even more so now. I spent a few years here in Memphis, in the late '70's and early '80's, where I was studying a lot of country blues players and their styles. So it seems like every record I'll do, I will appropriate these blues styles that I remember.

The Bob: Who were some of the country blues players that influenced you?

CHILTON: I learned Lightnin' Hopkins style, and John Lee Hooker's style, Jimmy Reed's style, and Fred McDowell a bit. It's been a part of my environment around here for a really long time.

The Bob: Your voice sounds raspy in "The Letter" in a way that it doesn't sound in your other songs. Why is that?

CHILTON: The producer of the Box Tops coached me pretty heavily on singing anything we ever did, and in a lot of cases it sounds more like him singing than it sounds like me. There's a book out that has a whole lot about him and a lot of the people that I worked with in the late '60's. It's called Sweet Soul Music. I've been reading that lately.

The Bob: It sounds like your producer felt that he had to have a lot of artistic control.

CHILTON: He certainly did, and I think from reading this book you can learn a bit about what sort of person he was. He wrote a lot of our material and he pretty much insisted on it being done.

The Bob: So he was the one who wasn't receptive to your recording originals.

CHILTON: The material that he came up with for me, I just felt from the start that it was dead wrong for me, that it wasn't good stuff.

The Bob: I read an interview in which you mentioned some unreleased solo material that was recorded around 1969 or 1970, including "Sugar, Sugar."

CHILTON: Yeah, a lot of those things are from Lost Decade, a whole side of that. "Sugar, Sugar" is closer to the Yardbirds than the Archies. It was sort of a humorous thing, meant to be the heavy version of "Sugar, Sugar." Like Iron Butterfly doing "Sugar, Sugar", real spontaneous. That's floating around somewhere.

The Bob: I heard this great song of yours from that period that's never been released. It goes, "All we ever got from them was pain..."

CHILTON: That's from the '69, '70 thing.

The Bob: Will it ever be released?

CHILTON: With any luck, no.

The Bob: That surprises me because I thought it was so pretty.

CHILTON: I don't know. I was just learning to play! (Laughs)

The Bob: Around 1970, you came to New York and played the folk clubs.

CHILTON: Well, I was hanging 'round with people from that scene. there were still a lot of bluegrass muscians who'd come and hang out in Washington Square every Sunday at the time. I fell in with a mandolin player down there and we were good buddies. His name is Grant Weisbrot. He's the guy who's on the Lost Decade album as Grady Whitebread.

The Bob: At that time, did you think of trying to go farther in the New York scene?

CHILTON: Well, I was still learning to play and stuff, and I wasn't very professional about it or anything. I just met people and hung around, and we tried to play every now and then.

The Bob: Since you weren't allowed to play on the Box Tops' recordings, perhaps you were unsure of your own ability?

CHILTON: Yeah, but when the Box Tops first started out, I couldn't play guitar much at all. Only after we had our first hit records did I start playing.

The Bob: You once said that the reason Big Star was more melodic than you later work was because you made compromises to do what the group wanted to do.

CHILTON: I would have been writing bluesier things at the time. Another reason why those things are more melodic than later things is because when I was first learning to play and stuff, which I pretty much was then, I could stumble upon a cliche and be really impressed that I could make that sound. These days, I'm not so amazed with the cliches that I stumble upon.

The Bob: When Big Star's #1 Album came out, even though it recieved rave reviews in all the trade publications, somehow it failed to take off.

CHILTON: It was a great album but there were just problems in trying to get it sold, get it into the stores. We'd get a lot of radio play on it somewhere but couldn't get it released there; stuff like that.

The Bob: Since Big Star was into the Beatles rather than the heavier rock of the time, they really preceded the power-pop revival.

CHILTON: Yeah, I loved British music myself. When I first got interested in rock 'n' roll in 1964, it was when all the British stuff first started coming out. "64 through '66, I thought music was great. But then in '67, when all this psychedelic California music started happening...people got more pretentious, but '64 to '66 was still three minute songs and everything was fairly understandable. It was great.

The Bob: I was listening to a Yoko Ono album from around 1971, and there's a song on it called "Mrs. Lennon"...

CHILTON: Yes, it's just like "Holocaust." Exactly.

The Bob: Did you have that song in mind when you wrote "Holocaust"?

CHILTON: I don't know. I think that it was one of those instances of plagarism that you sort of are aware of somewhere in your mind, but not...I think that, at the time I was doing the tune, I didn't realize that I was copying it.

The Bob: Critics usually regard Big Star Third as either Big Star's weakest album or it's strongest. You don't seem to consider it to be as good as some critics think it is.

CHILTON: At that time, we'd been trying to make these Big Star albums which were real slick and pop. I guess that I had been wanting to find myself and find...I don't know, I was sort of groping as a writer until about 1976, and so I started getting into heavy-duty groping there on the third Big Star album. Sure enough, after a couple of years, I kind of did find myself and did find myself artistically a bit better.

The Bob: I think I see what you mean. It would have been hard for you to have gone on writing songs in the vein of Big Star Third.

CHILTON: Well, actually, it would be easy writing songs in that vein.

The Bob: Really? You mean you could write another 10 versions of "Kangaroo"?

CHILTON: I'm certain I could.

The Bob: It's surprising to hear you describe songs like that as easy, because, to me, nobody else can write songs like that.

CHILTON: What's cool about that piece of music is the way it's performed. the first verse of the song is good, but, starting at the second verse, it lays a couple of eggs. But the way the music sounds on that is truly revolutionary, I think. You're right. I was just thinking, I'm gonna make a note of that, that I need to do something that sounds like "Kangaroo" on this next record.

The Bob: I understand that you've kicked both drugs and alcohol.

CHILTON: That's true, although cigarettes are a drug. I don't know--drugs were pretty easy to quit taking. I was never addicted to anything to begin with. But then, liquor--I had to wait about another six years before I finally got around to quitting that. I'm sure glad I did.

The Bob: Is your new album going to be in the same vein as your last couple of records?

CHILTON: It's hard for me to say right now. I've got about half of it mapped out and the other half is pretty open, so when I get that other half together, that's gonna make all the difference. I don't know what it'll be like.

The Bob: You don't seem to be bitter about very much. You seem to take everything in stride.

CHILTON: Well, I don't know; making money off a thing like the Bangles record makes up for a lot of things. I guess that my life has been a series of flukes in the record business. The first thing I ever did was the biggest record that I'll ever have. I've been paid for some things that were real successful, for no good reasons; and I've not been paid for things that weren't so successful for a lot of good reasons. You can't live your life being upset about things, but it's a lot easier to not be upset about it if you've got enough money yourself. If your walking around broke and working a job from nine to five or seven to five, and you're really struggling to make ends meet, you start thinking about people who have ripped you off and getting pretty angry at them.

The Bob: People like Jon Tiven (a producer who reportedly owes Chilton royalties)?

CHILTON: Yes, him especially! I haven't seen him in a bunch of years, but it always amazes me that people like that still manage to walk around and prosper.***

Friday, January 29, 2010

Syd Barrett interview - Melody Maker, Mar 27 1971, Michael Watts

Kiloh Rokysyd over at the madcap laughs yahoo group's Barrett Blog here: has re-posted this article from Melody Maker, Mar 27 1971 with Michael Watts interviewing Syd Barrett. Good stuff here! Especially the Slade reference!

Syd Barrett interview - Melody Maker, Mar 27 1971, Michael Watts

Syd Barrett came up to London last week and talked in the office of his music publisher, his first press interview for about a year. His hair is cut very short now, almost like a skinhead. Symbolic? Of what, then? He is very aware of what is going on around him, but his conversation is often obscure; it doesn't always progress in linear fashion. He is painfully conscious of his indeterminate role in the music world: 'I've never really proved myself wrong. I really need to prove myself right,' he says.

Maybe he has it all figured. As he says in 'Octopus,' 'the madcap laughed at the man on the border.'

Watts: What have you been doing since you left The Floyd, apart from making your two albums?

Syd: Well, I'm a painter, I was trained as a painter...I seem to have spent a little less time painting than I might've know, it might have been a tremendous release getting absorbed in painting. Any way, I've been sitting about and writing. The fine arts thing at college was always too much for me to think about. What I was more involved in was being successful at arts school. But it didn't transcend the feeling of playing at UFO and those sort of places with the lights and that, the fact that the group was getting bigger and bigger.

I've been at home in Cambridge with my mother. I've got lots of, well, children in a sense. My uncle...I've been getting used to a family existence, generally. Pretty unexciting. I work in a cellar, down in a cellar.

Watts: What would you sooner be a painter or a musician?

Syd: Well, I think of me being a painter eventually.

Watts: Do you see the last two years as a process of getting yourself together again?

Syd: No. Perhaps it has something to do with what I felt could be better as regards music, as far as my job goes generally, because I did find I needed a job. I wanted to do a job. I never admitted it because I'm a person who doesn't admit it

Watts: There were stories you were going to go back to college, or get a job in a factory.

Syd: Well, of course, living in Cambridge I have to find something to do. I suppose I could've done a job. I haven't been doing any work. I'm not really used to doing quick jobs and then stopping, but I'm sure it would be possible.

Watts: Tell me about The Floyd how did they start?

Syd: Roger Waters is older than I am. He was at the architecture school in London. I was studying at Cambridge I think it was before I had set up at Camberwell (art college). I was really moving backwards and forwards to London. I was living in Highgate with him, we shared a place there, and got a van and spent a lot of our grant on pubs and that sort of thing. We were playing Stones numbers. I suppose we were interested in playing guitars I picked up playing guitar quite quickly...I didn't play much in Cambridge because I was from the art school, you know. But I was soon playing on the professional scene and began to write from there.

Watts: Your writing has always been concerned purely with songs rather than long instrumental pieces like the rest of The Floyd, hasn't it?

Syd: Their choice of material was always very much to do with what they were thinking as architecture students. Rather unexciting people, I would've thought, primarily. I mean, anybody walking into an art school like that would've been tricked maybe they were working their entry into an art school.

But the choice of material was restricted, I suppose, by the fact that both Roger and I wrote different things. We wrote our own songs, played our own music. They were older, by about two years, I think. I was 18 or 19. I don't know that there was really much conflict, except that perhaps the way we started to play wasn't as impressive as it was to us, even, wasn't as full of impact as it might've been. I mean, it was done very well, rather than considerably exciting. One thinks of it all as a dream.

Watts: Did you like what they were doing the fact that the music was gradually moving away from songs like 'See Emily Play'?

Syd: Singles are always simple...all the equipment was battered and worn all the stuff we started out with was our own, the guitars were our own property. The electronic noises were probably necessary. They were very exciting. That's all really. The whole thing at the time was playing on stage.

Watts: Was it only you who wanted to make singles?
Syd: It was probably me alone, I think. Obviously, being a pop group one wanted to have singles. I think 'Emily' was fourth in the hits.

Watts: Why did you leave them?

Syd: It wasn't really a war. I suppose it was really just a matter of being a little offhand about things. We didn't feel there was one thing which was gonna make the decision at the minute. I mean, we did split up, and there was a lot of trouble. I don't think the Pink Floyd had any trouble, but I had an awful scene, probably self-inflicted, having a mini and going all over England and things. Still...

Watts: Do you think the glamour went to your head at all?

Syd: I don't know. Perhaps you could see it as something went to one's head, but I don't know that it was relevant.

Watts: There were stories you had left because you had been freaked out by acid trips.

Syd: Well, I don't know, it don't seem to have much to do with the job. I only know the thing of playing, of being a musician, was very exciting. Obviously, one was better off with a silver guitar with mirrors and things all over it than people who ended up on the floor or anywhere else in London.

The general concept, I didn't feel so conscious of it as perhaps I should. I mean, one's position as a member of London's young people's, I dunno what you'd call it underground wasn't it, wasn't necessarily realised and felt, I don't think, especially from the point of view of groups.

I remember at UFO one week one group, then another week another group, going in and out, making that set-up, and I didn't think it was as active as it could've been. I was really surprised that UFO finished. I only read last week that itUs not finished. Joe Boyd did all the work on it and I was really amazed when he left. What we were doing was a microcosm of the whole sort of philosophy and it tended to be a little bit cheap. The fact that the show had to be put together; the fact that we weren't living in luxurious places with luxurious things around us. I think I would always advocate that sort of thing the luxurious life. It's probably because I don't do much work.

Watts: Were you not at all involved in acid, then, during its heyday among rock bands?

Syd: No. It was all, I suppose, related to living in London. I was lucky enough...I've always thought of going back to a place where you can drink tea and sit on the carpet. I've been fortunate enough to do that. All that've just reminded me of it. I thought it was good fun. I thought The Soft Machine were good fun. They were playing on 'Madcap,' except for Kevin Ayers.

Watts: Are you trying to create a mood in your songs, rather than tell a story?

Syd: Yes, very much. It would be terrific to do much more mood stuff. They're very pure, you know, the words...I feel I'm jabbering. I really think the whole thing is based on me being a guitarist and having done the last thing about two or three years ago in a group around England and Europe and The States, and then coming back and hardly having done anything, so I don't really know what to say. I feel, perhaps, I could be claimed as being redundant almost. I don't feel active, and that my public conscience is fully satisfied.

Watts: Don't you think that people still remember you?

Syd: Yes, I should think so.

Watts: Then why don't you get some musicians, go on the road and do some gigs?

Syd: I feel though the record would still be the thing to do. And touring and playing might make that impossible to do.

Watts: Don't you fancy playing live again after two years?

Syd: Yes, very much.

Watts: What's the hang-up then? Is it getting the right musicians around you?

Syd: Yeah.

Watts: What would be of primary importance whether they were brilliant musicians or whether you could get on with them?

Syd: I'm afraid I think I'd have to get on with them. They'd have to be good musicians. I think they'd be difficult to find. They'd have to be lively.

Watts: Would you say, therefore, you were a difficult person to get on with?

Syd: No. Probably my own impatience is the only thing, because it has to be very easy. You can play guitar in your canteen, you know, your hair might be longer, but there's a lot more to playing than travelling around universities and things.

Watts: Why don't you go out on your own playing acoustic? I think you might be very successful.

Syd: Yeah...that's nice. Well, I've only got an electric. I've got a black Fender which needs replacing. I haven't got any blue jeans...I really prefer electric music.

Watts: What records do you listen to?

Syd: Well, I haven't bought a lot. I've got things like Ma Rainey recently. Terrific, really fantastic.

Watts: Are you going into the blues, then, in your writing?

Syd: I suppose so. Different groups do different feels that Slade would be an interesting thing to hear, you know.

Watts: Will there be a third solo album?

Syd: Yeah. I've got some songs in the studio, still. And I've got a couple of tapes. It should be 12 singles, and jolly good singles. I think I shall be able to produce this one myself. I think it was always easier to do that.

JIM DICKINSON 50th Birthday Commerative 16pg book RARE

Pop Krazy has put a nice little collector's item on ebay at:
. Mighty nice of the Pop Krazy gang to include these scans of the interior pages of this item that most of us would probably not get to view otherwise...

JIM DICKINSON 50th Birthday Commerative 16pg book RARE

Jim Dickinson
Commemorative Booklet
on the occasion of his 50th Birthday

this item is a rare memento from an invitation-only celebration honoring Jim Dickinson.
It includes numerous testimonies by legendary producers and musicians
(Jerry Wexler, Stanley Booth, Huey Meaux, Bill Wyman) declaring the genius of Dickinson's work as a
great rock 'n' roll producer. Rare photos of Dickinson's famous friends abound in this unique collectible.

From Memphis, Dickinson started his career as an artist for Sun, worked with his group the Dixie Flyers
on many great recordings (amongst them, Aretha's Spirit in the Dark),
played piano on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers,
and released several praiseworthy albums of his own.

In the 1970s he became known as a producer, recording Big Star's Third in 1974,
as well as serving as co-producer with Alex Chilton on the 1979 Chilton album Like Flies on Sherbert.
He has produced Willy DeVille, Green on Red, Mojo Nixon, The Replacements, Tav Falco's Panther Burns,
and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, among many others, and in 1977 an aural documentary of
Memphis' Beale Street, Beale Street Saturday Night, which featured performances by
Sid Selvidge, Furry Lewis and Dickinson's band Mud Boy and the Neutrons.
He has also worked with Ry Cooder, and played on Dylan's album Time Out of Mind.

this 8.5 x11 inch booklet has 30 glossy pages,
all pages have black & white photos and assorted text.

This booklet is in VG+ condition:
the soft gloss black covers have numerous finger smudges,
visible from an angle (but not in these scans)
No other marks. No tears or creases.

Please email us with any questions prior to bidding!

We ship within 24 hours of receiving payment
We ship all photos and bio sheets in rigid photo mailers
We will gladly combine shipping. Just email us for the total cost.
To our International Buyers:
Please note that insurance and tracking are not available with USPS First Class Mail International.
If you would like your item shipped Express or Priority International, please email us for those rates prior to payment.

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Syd Barrett Article - You Shone Like the Sun (from The Observer Oct 2002)

Kiloh Rokysyd over at the madcap laughs yahoo group's Barrett Blog here: has re-posted this article from Sunday October 6, 2002's The Observer. Unfortunately, he didn't credit who the the original author at The Observer was, but here it is...

You Shone Like the Sun - Sunday October 6, 2002, The Observer

Syd Barrett was the prodigiously talented founder of Pink Floyd, but after just two years at the centre of the 60s psychedelic scene, he suffered a massive breakdown and has lived as a recluse ever since. In this extract from his candid new book, Tim Willis tracks him down and pieces together the story of rock's lost icon.

Remember when you were young, You shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond. Now there's a look in your eyes, Like black holes in the sky. Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pink Floyd's tribute to Syd Barrett on Wish You Were Here, 1975

The received wisdom is that you don't disturb him.The last interview he gave was in 1971, and from then until now, there are only about 20 recorded encounters of any kind. His family says it upsets him to discuss the days when he was the spirit of psychedelia, beautiful Syd Barrett, the leader of Pink Floyd. He doesn't recognise himself as the shambling visionary who, during an extended nervous breakdown exacerbated by his drug intake, made two solos LPs, Madcap and Barrett , which are as eternally eloquent as Van Gogh's cornfields. He doesn't answer to his 60s nickname now. He's called Roger Barrett, as he was born in 1946.

On a blistering hot day, pacing the cracked tarmac pavement in this suburban Cambridge street, I wonder if I can act honourably by him. When the DJ Nicky Horne doorstepped him in the 80s, Barrett said, 'Syd can't talk to you now.' Perhaps, in his own way, he was telling the truth. But I could talk to him as Roger; ask him if he was still painting, as reported. I could pass on regards from friends he knew before he became Syd.

Two housewives in the street say he ignores their 'Good mornings' when he goes out to buy his Daily Mail and changing brands of fags. Apart from his sister, they don't think he has any visitors - not even workmen. But they don't see why I shouldn't take my chances. It's been a few years since backpackers camped by his gate. 'He didn't open the door for them, and he probably won't for you.'

So I walk up the concrete path of his grey pebble-dashed semi, try the bell and discover that it's disconnected. At the front of the house, all the curtains are open. The side passage is closed to prying eyes by a high gate. I knock on the front door and, after a minute or two, look through the downstairs bay window. Where you might expect a television and a three-piece suite, Barrett has constructed a bare, white-walled workshop. Pushed against the window is a tattered pink sofa. On the hardboard tops, toolboxes are neatly stacked, flexes coiled, pens put away in a white mug.

Then, a sound in the hall. Has he come in from the back garden? Perhaps it needs mowing, like the front lawn - although, judging by the mound of weeds by the path, he's been tidying the beds today.

I knock again, and hear three heavy steps. The door flies open and he's standing there. He's stark naked except for a small, tight pair of bright-blue Y-fronts; bouncing, like the books say he always did, on the balls of his feet.

He bars the doorway with one hand on the jamb, the other on the catch. His resemblance to Aleister Crowley in his Cefalu period is uncanny; his stare about as welcoming...

In 1988, the News of the World quoted the writer Jonathan Meades who, 20 years before had visited a South Kensington flat that Barrett shared with a bright, druggie clique from his home town of Cambridge. 'This rather weird, exotic and mildly famous creature was living in this flat with these people who to some extent were pimping off him, both professionally and privately,' said Meades. 'There was this terrible noise. It sounded like the heating pipes shaking. I said, "What's that?" and [they] sort of giggled and said, "That's Syd having a bad trip. We put him in the linen cupboard."'

It's a common motif in the Barrett legend: the genius mistreated, forced to endure unspeakable mental anguish for the fun of his fairweather friends. But it's not necessarily true. There are some terrible tales from that flat in Egerton Court. But on this occasion, as flatmate Aubrey 'Po' Powell remembers it, 'Pete Townshend used to come there, and Mick and Marianne. It was an incredibly cool scene. Jonty Meades was a hanger-on, a straight cat just out of school. I'm sure we told him that version of events - but only to wind him up.'

Similarly, Barrett's lover and flatmate at the time, Lindsay Corner, denies the stories that he locked her in her room for three days, feeding her biscuits under the door, then smashed a guitar over her head. This time, however, three other residents swear he did: 'I remember pulling Syd off her,' says Po. And that's the trouble with the whole Barrett business. There are witness accounts by people who weren't there, those who were there disagree - half of them, being as totally off their faces as Barrett was, must have a question mark over their evidence. If you can remember the 60s, as they say...

By October 1966, Barrett was already well on the way to stardom. Pink Floyd supported the Soft Machine's experimental jazz-rock at the IT magazine launch party, a 2,000-strong happening in the disused Roundhouse theatre, featuring acid aplenty, Marianne Faithfull dressed as a nun in a pussy-pelmet, and Paul McCartney disguised as an Arab. There was a giant jelly and a Pop Art-painted Cadillac, a mini-cinema and a performance piece by Yoko Ono.

'All apparently very psychedelic,' sniffed The Sunday Times of the Floyd, thus encouraging hundreds of difficult teenagers to check out their new residency at the All Saints Hall in Ladbroke Grove.

Now once- or twice-weekly, the shows took time to take off. Barrett's friend Juliet Wright remembers an occasion when there were so few punters that Barrett movingly recited Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' soliloquy onstage. But soon ravers were crossing London for the lights and the weirdness, titillated by music-press adverts using Timothy Leary's phrase of 'Turn on, Tune in, Drop out'. With Barrett's nursery-rhyme freak-outs lasting 40 minutes each, the Floyd become known as Britain's first 'psychedelic' band.

Apart from playing a packed live schedule, the Floyd were in pursuit of a recording contract, rehearsing and making rough demos. Floyd gig promoter Joe Boyd, who had production experience, took them into a studio in late January. Barrett had written 'Arnold Layne' by then, and perfected the relentless riff of 'Interstellar Overdrive'. EMI - the same label as the Beatles - signed them up on the basis of these demos, nominating 'Arnold' as the first single. Barrett was delighted. 'We want to be pop stars,' he said, gladly grinning for cheesy publicity shots of the band high-kicking on the street. However, by the beginning of April, he was already railing in the music papers against record-company executives who were pressing him for more commercial material.

He was even less cheery by the end of the month. Six weeks before, 'Arnold Layne' had been released. This jolly tale of Barrett's childhood pal and later Pink Floyd member Roger Waters's mum's washing-line raider was helped up the charts by a ban from Radio London, due to its lyrics about transvestism. But Barrett had grown to hate playing note-perfect, three-minute renditions on stage. On 22 April it reached number 20, its highest position. On 29 April, Barrett was still playing it, at Joe Boyd's UFO club at dawn and on a TV show in Holland that evening. The band then drove back to London to headline at 3am in Britain's biggest happening ever, the '14 Hour Technicolor Dream' at the cavernous Alexandra Palace.

It was a druggy affair. Floyd's co-manager Peter Jenner was certainly tripping that night, and Barrett is said to have been. John Lennon, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix were among those who played to a 10,000-strong audience. There were 40 bands, dancers in strobe shows, a helter-skelter and a noticeboard made of lightbulbs which displayed messages like 'Vietnam Is A Sad Trip'. The Floyd came on as the sun's pink fingers touched the huge eastern window. Barry Miles, the 60s chronicler, reported: 'Syd's eyes blazed as his notes soared up into the strengthening light, as the dawn was reflected in his famous mirror-disc Telecaster [or rather, Esquire].' The truth was less rosy. Barrett was tired, so terribly tired.

There's a horrible ring of truth to Barrett's old college friend Sue Kingsford's contention that, in 1967, Barrett would regularly visit her in Beaufort Street, to score from a heavy acid dealer in the basement called 'Captain Bob'. It certainly sounds more likely than the rumours that Barrett's camp-followers were lacing his tea with LSD. Kingsford's boyfriend Jock says: 'Spiking was a heinous crime. You just wouldn't do it. There was a ritual to acid-taking those days - a peaceful scene, good sounds.'

Cambridge pal and future Floyd member David Gilmour reckons: 'Syd didn't need encouraging. If drugs were going, he'd take them by the shovelful.' Gilmour tends to agree with something fellow Camridgian and Floyd's bassist Waters once said that 'Syd was being fed acid.' But Sue Kingsford giggles: 'We were all feeding it to each other... It was a crazy time.' Despite her attachment to Jock, she had a one-night stand with Barrett. 'We were tripping,' she explains.

Ah, but what does she mean by tripping? Another of Barrett's Cambridge friends, Andrew Rawlinson, comments: 'Acid in those days was five times stronger than today's stuff. On a proper trip, you might take 250 micrograms. But a faction believed in taking 50mcg every day. [There was even a popular hippy-handbook on the subject.] On that, you could function - you might even appear normal - but you couldn't initiate much.'

Perhaps that was Barrett's way. But if he had actually taken a proper dose of acid at the Technicolor Dream then it was a fairly rare event. He simply didn't have the time for anything stronger than dope - which he did smoke in copious quantities. And maybe for a few Mandrax, the hypnotic tranquillisers which, if one can ride the first wave of tiredness, induced an opiate-like buzz when swallowed with alcohol. In legend, 'Mandies make you randy.' They may have appealed to Barrett because they were fashionable in the late 60s - or because they stopped his mind from spinning.

The band weren't worried by his behaviour, yet Syd was Syd. And if, by the end of May, people who hadn't seen Barrett for a while thought he had changed, his month had started well. On 12 May 1967 the band played the 'Games for May' concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Barrett wrote an early version of 'See Emily Play' for the event, which was essentially a normal concert bookended by some pretentious bits. The Floyd introduced a rudimentary quad sound-system, played taped noises from nature and had a liquid red light show. Mason was amplified sawing a log. Waters threw potatoes at a gong. The roadies pumped out thousands of soap bubbles and one of them, dressed as an admiral, threw daffodils into the stalls. The mess earnt the Floyd a ban from the hall and a favourable review from The Financial Times.

On 2 June, the Floyd played Joe Boyd's UFO after a two-month absence. Though the other band members were friendly, Boyd said Barrett 'just looked at me. I looked right in his eye and there was no twinkle, no glint... you know, nobody home.' Visiting London from France, David Gilmour dropped in on the recording of 'Emily': 'Syd didn't seem to recognise me and he just stared back,' he says. 'He was a different person from the one I'd last seen in October.' Was he on drugs, though? 'I'd done plenty of acid and dope - often with Syd - and that was different from how he had become.'

Touring the provinces in July, like the rest of the band, Barrett resented the beery mob baying for 'Arnold' and 'Emily'. The Floyd even wrote a white-noise number called 'Reaction in G' to express their feelings. But Barrett's inner reaction was harder to fathom. With his echo-machines on full tilt, he might detune his Fender until its strings were flapping, and hit one note all night. He might stand with his arms by his side, the guitar hanging from his neck, staring straight ahead, while the others performed as a three-piece.

Perhaps Barrett was making a statement. Perhaps he was pushing his experimental notions of 'music-of-the-moment' to new boundaries. Whatever else, he was now seriously mentally ill. And almost certainly he suspected it himself.

After a couple of further concert debacles, Jenner and his partner Andrew King were forced to act. Though their debut LP Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released on 4 August, Blackhill cancelled the next three weeks' gigs and arranged a holiday for Barrett and Corner on the Balearic island of Formentera. Hutt and Rick Wright would be chaperones, accompanied by their partners and Hutt's baby son. Waters and his wife would be in Ibiza. When Melody Maker learnt of this, their front-page splash read: 'Pink Floyd Flake Out'.

2 November 1967, US mini-tour. Pink Floyd were not prepared for the American way. They had expected the San Francisco scene to be similar to Britain's. Instead, they found themselves in humungous venues like the Winterland, supporting such blues bands as Big Brother and the Holding Company (led by Janis Joplin). The three nights they played with Joplin, they borrowed her lighting because their own seemed too weedy. The crowd weren't into feedback or English whimsy - acid-inspired or not. Barrett was off the map, and when he did play, it was to a different tune.

At the beginning of the week his hair had been badly permed at Vidal Sassoon, and he was distraught. The greased-up 'punk' style with which he'd been experimenting would be better. Waters remembers that in the dressing-room at the Cheetah Club in Santa Monica, Barrett suddenly called for a tin of Brylcreem and tipped the whole lot on his head. As the gunk melted, it slipped down his face until Barrett resembled 'a gutted candle'. Producing a bottle of Mandrax, he crushed them into the mess before taking the stage. David Gilmour says he 'still can't believe that Syd would waste good Mandies'. But a lighting man called John Marsh, who was also there, confirms the story. Girls in the front row, seeing his lips and nostrils bubbling with Brylcreem, screamed. He looked like he was decomposing onstage. Faced with this farce, some of the band and crew abandoned themselves to drink, drugs, groupies and the sights. When they arrived in Los Angeles, Barrett had forgotten his guitar, which caused much cost and fuss. 'It's great to be in Las Vegas,' he said to a record company man in Hollywood. He fell into a swimming-pool and left his wet clothes behind.

The Floyd survived the tour by the skin of their teeth. On TV's Pat Boone Show, where they did 'Apples and Oranges', Barrett was happy to mime in rehearsals - but live he ignored the call to 'Action' four or five times, leaving Waters to fill in. Asked what he liked in the after-show chat, Barrett replied... after a dreadful pause... 'America!', which made the audience whoop. On American Bandstand and the Perry Como Show, he did not move his lips, to speak or mime.
Finishing their commitments on the West Coast, the band began thinking of how to replace or augment him. The next day, they were in Holland, handing Barrett notes in the hope that he would talk to them. The day after, they were bus-bound on a British package tour with Hendrix, the Move, Amen Corner, the Nice and others, playing two 17-minute sets a night for three weeks, with three days off in middle.Though he had worked harder, the schedule was too much for Barrett. Onstage, he was unable to function. Sometimes he failed to show up and the Nice's Dave O'List stood in for him. Once, Jenner had to stop him escaping by train.

Barrett did play occasional blinders through out the autumn of 1967, but these instances were as unpredictable as spring showers, and the band's hopes that he might 'return' dimmed. The Floyd stumbled through to Christmas, while the three other band members hatched a plan: they would ask David Gilmour to join the group to cover lead guitar and vocals while their sick colleague could do what he wanted, so long as he stood onstage.

Barrett couldn't care less, and Gilmour, broke, bandless and driving a van for a living - was known to be not only a terrific guitarist but also a wonderful mimic of musical parts. Drummer Nick Mason had already sounded him out when they ran into each other at a gig in Soho. On 3 January 1968, Gilmour accepted a try-out. The band had a week booked in a north London rehearsal hall before going back on the road.

Four gigs followed in the next fortnight, with Barrett contributing little. He looks happy enough in a cine-clip from the time, joining in with the lads for a tap-dance in a dressing-room. 'But in reality,' says Gilmour, 'he was rather pathetic.' On the day of the fifth gig the others were driving south from a business meeting in central London. As they drove, one of them - no one remembers who - asked, 'Shall we pick up Syd?' 'Fuck it,' said the others. 'Let's not bother.' Barrett, who probably didn't notice that night, would never work again with the band that he had crafted in his image. And they never quite put him out of their minds.

Not that their minds were made up. Though the Floyd would go on to huge fame and fortune, at the time they believed they probably had a few months left of milking psychedelia before ignominious disbandment. Barrett, as Waters says, was the 'goose that had laid the golden egg'. Now their frontman had become such a liability on tour, they would rather appear without their main attraction than risk his involvement.

However, Barrett still had the band's schedule. Waters remembers him turning up with his guitar at 'an Imperial College gig, I think, and he had to be very firmly told that he wasn't coming on stage with us'. At the Middle Earth, wearing all his Chelsea threads, he positioned himself in front of the low stage and stared at Gilmour throughout his performance. Now he had to watch his old college friend playing his licks. Undoubtedly, he felt hurt by this treatment.

Though the money from Piper came rolling in, Barrett's work went completely to pot. Jenner took him into the Abbey Road studios several times between May and July 1968, bringing various musicians and musical friends to help out, but achieved next to nothing.

Barrett was all over the place - forgetting to bring his guitar to sessions, breaking equipment to EMI's displeasure. Sometimes he couldn't even hold his plectrum. He was in a state, and had little new material. Jenner had the experience neither as a person not as a producer to coax anything out of him. By August, he and King were having less and less to do with Barrett - which could equally be said of the other lodgers in Egerton Court.

According to flatmate Po, 'Syd could still be very funny and lucid, but he could also be uncommunicative. Staring. Heavy, you know?'

In the spring of 1968, Roger Walters had talked to the hip psychiatrist RD Laing. He had even dri ven Barrett to an appointment: 'Syd wouldn't get out. What can you do?' In the intervening months, however, Barrett became less hostile to the idea of treatment. So Gale placed a call to Laing and Po booked a cab. But with the taxi-meter ticking outside, Barrett refused to leave the flat.

By the autumn of 68, he was homeless. Periodically he returned to Cambridge, where his mother Win fretted, urged him to see a doctor, and blindly hoped for the best. In London, he crashed on friends' floors - and began the midnight ramblings which would continue for two years.

By the mid 70s, the Syd Barrett Appreciation Society had folded, due to 'lack of Syd'. But he wasn't quite invisible. In 1977, ex-girlfriend Gala Pinion was in a supermarket on the Fulham Road. 'Where are you going, then?' he said. 'I'm going to buy you a drink.' They went for a drink, and he invited her back to his flat. Once there, 'He dropped his trousers and pulled out his cheque book,' says Pinion. 'How much do you want?' he asked. 'Come on, get your knickers down.'

Gala made her excuses and left, never to see him again. However, even as an invisible presence, he loomed large. The previous year, punk rock had appeared and the King's Road had become heartland. Without success, the Sex Pistols, their manager Malcolm McLaren and their art director Jamie Reid tried to contact Barrett, to ask him to produce their first album. The Damned hoped he would produce their second, realised it was impossible and settled for the Floyd's Nick Mason ('Who didn't have a clue', according to the band's bassist Captain Sensible).

Barrett continued to do as little and spend as much as ever. Bankrupt, he left London for Win's new Cambridge home in 1981.

From then until now, only a handful of encounters with Barrett have been reported first-hand, but some facts have come to light. An operation on his ulcer meant that Barrett lost much of his excess weight. Win thought he should keep himself occupied, so Roger Waters's mother Mary found him a gardening job with some wealthy friends. At first he prospered but, during a thunderstorm, he threw down his tools and left.

By this time, he was just calling himself 'Roger'. In 1982, his finances restored, he booked into the Chelsea Cloisters for a few weeks, but found he disliked London. He heard the voice of freedom and he followed - walking back to Cambridge, where he was found on Win's doorstep - and leaving his dirty laundry behind.

The circumstances of his final return to Cambridge were rightly interpreted by his family as a 'cry for help' and he agreed to spend a spell in Fulbourne psychiatric hospital. (It has often been said, on the grounds that he has an 'odd' mind, rather than a sick one.) He continued for a while as an outpatient at Fulbourne, with no trouble.

Barrett has never been sectioned. He has never had to take drugs for his mental health, except after one or two uncontrollable fits of anger, when he was admitted to Fulbourne and administered Largactyl. However, he has received other treatments. In the early 80s, he spent two years in a charitable institution, Greenwoods, in Essex. At this halfway house for lost souls, he joined in group and other forms of therapy, and was very content. But after an imagined slight, he walked out - again all the way to Win's house. The increasingly frail Win moved in with her daughter Roe and her husband Paul Breen, according to Mary Waters, 'because she was so scared of his outbursts'.

Some people think Barrett suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. It certainly seems he can't be bothered to think about anything that doesn't directly affect him. He kept rabbits and cats for a while but forgot to feed them, so they had to be sent to more caring homes. Thereafter, the only intimate contacts he maintained were with Win and Roe. Otherwise, he seems to have lost the habit - and become wary - of human interaction, limiting himself to encounters with shop assistants and his sympathetic GP, whose surgery has become a second home. He was - and is still - in and out of hospital for his ulcers.

Paul Breen revealed that his brother-in-law was 'painting again', and meeting his mother in town for shopping trips. It was a 'very, very ordinary lifestyle,' said Breen, but not reclusive: 'I think the word "recluse" is probably emotive. It would be truer to say that he enjoys his own company now, rather than that of others.'

As more years went by, other news leaked out. Barrett was collecting coins. He was learning to cook, and could stuff a mean pepper. On the death of Win in 1991, he destroyed all his old diaries and art books - and also chopped down the front garden's fence and tree, and burnt them (though more in a spirit of renewal than grief). He had been a great support to Roe in her mourning, but hadn't attended the funeral because he 'wouldn't know what to do'. He still wrote down his thoughts all the time. He still painted - big works, six foot by four - but destroyed any that he didn't consider perfect, and stacked the rest against the wall. And sometimes he was unable to finish them, because obsessive fans had climbed over his back fence, and stolen the brushes from the table outside, where he worked.

A few titbits, to finish. In 1998, Barrett was diagnosed as a B-type diabetic - a genetic condition - and was prescribed a regime of medication and diet to which he is sporadically faithful. His eyesight will inevitably become 'tunnelled' as a result - sooner, rather than later, unless he regularly takes his tablets. However, he is far from 'blind', as reported on the more excitable websites.

For Christmas 2001, Barrett gave his sister a painting. For his birthday in January 2002, she brought him a new stereo, because he likes to listen to the Stones, Booker-T and the classical composers. However, he evinced no interest in the recent Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (on which nearly a fifth of the tracks are written by him, despite the fact that he only recorded with the band for less than a 30th of its lifespan). To coincide with the album's release, the BBC screened an Omnibus documentary about him, which he watched round at Roe's house. He is reported to have liked hearing 'Emily' and, particularly, seeing his old landlord Mike Leonard - who he called his 'teacher'. Otherwise, he thought the film 'a bit noisy'.

'Mister Barrett?'


His voice is deeper than on any recordings, more cockneyfied than on the TV interviews he gave in 67. Behind him, the hall is clean but bare, the floorboards mostly covered in linoleum. I mention someone dear to him, from his childhood. She'd be coming to Cambridge in a couple of weeks, and wondered if Barrett might like a visit?


He stands and stares, less embarrassed than me by the vision of him in his underpants.

'So is everything all right?'


'You're still painting?'

'No, I'm not doing anything,' he says (which is true - he's talking to me). 'I'm just looking after this place for the moment.'

'For the moment? Are you thinking of moving on?'

'Well, I'm not going to stay here for ever.' He pauses a split second, delivers an unexpected 'Bye-bye', and slams the door.

I'm left like others before me, trying to work out just what he meant. 'I'm not going to stay here for ever.' Does he just mean, 'One day, I might move house.' Or is it a nod to the fate that awaits us all? A coded message that he may re-emerge into the world - perhaps show new work or perform? And is opening the door in your underpants an unwitting demonstration of self-confidence, or an eccentricity, or worse? I retrace my steps, cross the main road to my car where I write a note that I hope is tactful: 'Dear Mr Barrett, I'm sorry to have disturbed your sunbathing. I didn't have time to mention that I'm writing a book on you...' I plead my case, give my telephone number, and return down the cracked pavement.

As I reach the gate, I see him weeding in the front corner of the garden, on his knees.

'Hi,' I say. 'I've written you a note.'

'Huh,' he says, not looking up, throwing roots behind him.

'May I leave it?' He straightens and stares into my eyes, but doesn't answer. He's wearing khaki shorts now, and gardening gloves, which aren't really suited to receiving the note - and I would be tempting fate to rest it on the side of the wheelbarrow which he has bought with him.

'Shall I put it through the letterbox?'

'It's nothing to do with me,' he says. So I do.

'Nice day,' I say, on leaving. 'Goodbye.'

He doesn't reply, and I never hear from him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pull My Daisy (1959)

Pull My Daisy
26:11 - 1 year ago
A short 1959 film that typifies the "Beat Generation". Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, Daisy was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of a never-completed stage play entitled Beat Generation. Kerouac also provided improvised narration. It starred Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Peter Orlovsky, David Amram, Richard Bellamy, Alice Neel, Sally Gross, Delphine Seyrig and Pablo Frank, Robert Frank's then-infant son. Based on an incident in the life of Neal Cassady and his wife Carolyn, Daisy tells the story of a railway brakeman whose painter wife invites a respectable bishop over for dinner. However, the brakeman's bohemian friends crash the party, with comic results. Originally intended to be called "The Beat Generation" the title "Pull My Daisy" was taken from the poem of the same name written by Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady over the 40's and 50's. Part of the original poem was used as a lyric in David Amram's jazz composition that opens the film. SUBTERRANEAN CINEMA THE SUBTERRANEAN COLLECTION«

 Alfred Leslie & Robert Frank- Pull My Daisy (1959)

A short film that typifies the Beat Generation. Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, Daisy was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of a stage play he never finished entitled Beat Generation. Kerouac also provided improvised narration. It starred Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Peter Orlovsky, David Amram, Richard Bellamy, Alice Neel, Sally Gross and Pablo Frank, Robert Frank's then-infant son.

Based on an incident in the life of Neal Cassady and his wife Carolyn, Daisy tells the story of a railway brakeman whose painter wife invites a respectable bishop over for dinner. However, the brakeman's bohemian friends crash the party, with comic results.

The Beat philosophy emphasized spontaneity, and the film conveyed the quality of having been thrown together or even improvised. Pull My Daisy was accordingly praised for years as an improvisational masterpiece, until Leslie revealed in a November 28, 1968 article in the Village Voice that the film was actually carefully planned, rehearsed, and directed by him and Frank, who shot the film on a professionally lit studio set.

Pull My Daisy has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. -- Wikipedia 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Last Newspaper Reader

From Legman LA at:

leg⋅man/ˈlɛgˌmæn, -mən/–noun, 1. Journalism. a reporter who gathers information by visiting news sources or by being present at news events. Origin:1920–25. Americanism 2. legman LA- A New Yorker displaced by the hellish nightmare Rudy wrought offers street reportage from the planet's creative capital. I still don't get it, but I'm trying

The Last Newspaper Reader

“They’re just a bunch of squares up there. No one goes out, the scene is dead. My friends stay home and watch tv” the old newspaper man says, spilling his disappointment after returning from a road trip north to Marin County. “Used to be a bunch of wonderful towns. Now I wouldn’t live in any one of them.” Dick can fix your script for you, make it nice for when you get the meeting at the studio. But most of his life he’d been an ink stained wretch, chirped about music and the arts in broadsheets like the San Francisco Chronicle. When Charles Bukowski was shacked up in San Francisco, the two met. “My girlfriend wanted to photograph him, so he invited us to dinner at his house. He was surprisingly polite, but he was more interested in her than me. And he was a wonderful cook. He made us chicken Sauternes. Absolutely delicious. That was a surprise too.” Dick keeps shaking his head over the vanished bohemia alive in his memories. “I got to get back to New York sometime.”
We tell him New York City is gone too, that’s the point of our blog. No more rice and bean joints on the Upper West, no pool hall or ping pong academy. All Starbucks and Rite Aid and blockbuster down Broadway, same crap shops as the rest of the country. “The chess shop in the village? That is history too.” Dick is incredulous, shakes that head, turns back to his paper.
— 18 hours ago
#dick #bukowski #newspapers #chicken #h

3:AM Magazine - Three Poems By Charles Bukowski.


This is an article from 3:AM Magazine.

Three Poems

By Charles Bukowski.

a poem is a city

a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers
filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen,
filled with banality and booze,
filled with rain and thunder and periods of
drought, a poem is a city at war,
a poem is a city asking a clock why,
a poem is a city burning,
a poem is a city under guns
its barbershops filled with cynical drunks,
a poem is a city where God rides naked
through the streets like Lady Godiva,
where dogs bark at night, and chase away
the flag; a poem is a city of poets,
most of them quite similar
and envious and bitter…
a poem is this city now,
50 miles from nowhere,
9:09 in the morning,
the taste of liquor and cigarettes,
no police, no lovers, walking the streets,
this poem, this city, closing its doors,
barricaded, almost empty,
mournful without tears, aging without pity,
the hardrock mountains,
the ocean like a lavendar flame,
a moon destitute of greatness,
a small music from broken windows…

a poem is a city, a poem is a nation,
a poem is the world…

and now I stick this under glass
for the mad editor’s scrutiny,
and night is elsewhere
and faint gray ladies stand in line,
dog follows dog to estuary,
the trumpets bring on the gallows
as small men rant at things
they cannot do.

the young man on the bus stop bench

he sits all day at the bus stop
at Sunset and Western
his sleeping bag beside him.
he’s dirty.
nobody bothers him.
people leave him alone.
the police leave him alone.
he could be the 2nd coming of Christ
but I doubt it.
the soles of his shoes are completely
he just laces the tops up
and sits and watches traffic.

I remember my own youthful days
(although I traveled lighter)
they were similar:
park benches
street corners
tarpaper shacks in Georgia for
$1.25 a week
not wanting the skid row church
too crazy to apply for relief
daytimes spent laying in public parks
bugs in the grass biting
looking into the sky
little insects whirling above my head
the breathing of white air
just breathing and waiting.

life becomes difficult:
being ignored
and ignoring.
everything turns into white air
the head fills with white air
and as invisible women sit in rooms
with successful bright-eyed young men
conversing brilliantly about everything
your sex drive
vanishes and it really
doesn’t matter.
you don’t want food
you don’t want shelter
you don’t want anything.
sometimes you die
sometimes you don’t.

as I drive past
the young man on the bus stop bench
I am comfortable in my automobile
I have money in two different banks
I own my own home
but he reminds me of my young self
and I want to help him
but I don’t know what to do.

today when I drove past again
he was gone
I suppose finally the world wasn’t
pleased with him being there.

the bench still sits there on the corner
advertising something.

advice for some young man in the year 2064 A.D.

let me speak as a friend
although the centuries hang
between us and neither you nor I
can see the moon

be careful less the onion blind the eye
or the snake sting
or the beetle posses the house
or the lover your wife
or the government your child
or the wine your will
or the doctor your heart
or the butchers your belly
or the cat your chair
or the lawyer your ignorance of the law
or the law dressed as a uniformed man and killing you.

dismiss perfection as an ache of the
but do not give in to the mass modesty of
easy perfection.

and remember
the belly of the whale is laden with
great men.

Charles Bukowski was “the ultimate outsider poet” (Alan Kaufman) “a solitary man and a courageous writer” (Spike Magazine), “a major-league tosspot” (The New York Times) and “a jerk” (Nick Cave). He once, admirably, made up a quote from Jean Genet that he was “America’s greatest poet.” Following Canongate’s reissue of The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 and the biography Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, 3:AM will be shortly running a feature on the poet’s life and legacy.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, January 25th, 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

PRIVILEGE (1967) starring Paul Jones

I saw the film "Privilege" when I was a teenager & then later found the soundtrack album in the cutouts at Woolco & bought it for only .99 cents. This was during the time period when the Alice Cooper Group were releasing their early albums & I noticed some similarities in their show & scenes from the film, both musically & visually. In the late 1970's, Patti Smith later did a credible cover of 'Set Me Free', a song from the film. I'd been thinking of "Privilege" occasionally, now & then, during the last couple of years. Then I noticed a DVD of it was being released in Great Britain last year. Maybe an American DVD release will happen soon & I can re-see the film from a different perspective 40 years later. But probably much like the Scott Walker documentary, "30th Century Man", the big screen might be required for the full effect & creepiness factor. A friend recently posted a YouTube clip from the film on his Facebook page (thanks Tim) & I checked & found a number of clips on YouTube. Here's what I found there:

Anticipating punk rock, Peter Watkins' semi-documentary study of a future society using music to enslave the masses appropriates some unauthorized reenactments from the National Film Board of Canada's groundbreaking Paul Anka docu "Lonely Boy". How Universal ended up distributing this is a mystery even they couldn't solve.

Steven Shorter / Paul Jones "Privilege" (1967)
Steven Shorter's 1st performance in Peter Watkins's 1967 "Privilege," an obvious piss take on Beatlemania and the cult of celebrity worship, but carefully staged for manipulative ends in this scene. Although the police present as bad guys for the fans, Shorter, singing here (Paul Jones) is actually a govt.-manufactured pop icon and later the same police are seen protecting the icon as he retires to his dressing room. By the end of the film Shorter is making Church & State-approved nationalist Christian rock that encourages fans to embrace a new type of Christo-fascism.

Privilege (1967) "a fruitful conformity" Paul Jones
one of my favorite scenes from the Peter Watkins film PRIVILEGE (1967 UK) After directing several extraordinary documentaries for the BBC, including the award-winning The War Game and Culloden, Peter Watkins made his first dramatic feature with this flawed but striking film about Steven Shorter (Paul Jones), a pop singer in a future society where entertainment is controlled by a totalitarian government. Shorter's music and image are used to channel the impulses of rebellious youth; in one concert sequence, the crowd watches him sing a plaintive plea for love and understanding while locked in a cage surrounded by police officers armed with clubs. While Shorter is remarkably popular, he's also living a life created for him by the government, which Steven knows is a sham. When Shorter's handlers decide to revamp his image into that of an obedient, religious boy, he rebels, to his peril. Model Jean Shrimpton made her film debut here as an artist commissioned to paint a portrait of Shorter. Privilege later became something of a cult film; one of the film's admirers was rock poet Patti Smith, who recorded one of "Steven Shorter"'s songs, 'Set Me Free', on her 1978 album Easter.

'Jerusalem' from the 1967 film "Privilege".
This song, sung by the George Bean Group, is taken from the 1967 Peter Watkins film ''Privilege'' starring Paul Jones. In this film Jones plays Steven Shorter, Britain's most loved pop star, whose career is carefully managed and manipulated. Eventually his popularity is used to launch a new form of Nationalism dominated by the church who demand that the youth of Britain swear an allegiance to flag and country with the promise 'I will conform'. Anyone who has seen the famous Nazi propaganda film "Triumph of the will" by Leni Riefenstahl will probably notice some close similarities between some of the images in that film and this extract from ''Privilege''.

Steven Shorter / Paul Jones 'Privilege' (1967)
From Peter Watkins's 1967 film 'Privilege,' Watkins's subtly satirical take on Beatlemania and a vision of a totalitarian future in which the Church & State use pop icons to induce conformity in the public. In this clip, official govt. pop icon Steven Shorter performs a newly Christianized version of a song seen earlier in the movie, and attempts a laying on of hands to cure the infirm...

Privilege (1967) "hot chocolate for everyone" Paul Jones Jean Shrimpton
Embedding disabled by request, so click this link on the line above...
PRIVILEGE / Paul Jones (Audio)



Here's a review of the DVD a blog called Electric Roulette ran a while back:

DVD Review: Privilege (1967)

Some movies gain a reputation by being seen, others, like Peter Watkins' Privilege, are noted for exactiy the opposite reason. Thankfully we can now view this 60s cult classic for all the right reasons with the BFI offshoot Flipside kicking off 2010 with a long-overdue reissue.

It got a right old kicking from the critics in '67, but time has been kind to Privilege since. As has the world we live in. Set at a time of a coalition government (Labour and Conservative polices are so similar, they simply run the country together), we discover that the biggest name in the country is pop star Steven Shorter (Paul Jones). His stage act, which sees him imprisoned and abused onstage, is designed to create anger amongst his audience - taking away their anger from the wider world around them and indeed, the government.

On the back of this public adoration, Shorter is a commercial and political tool. Run by committee (with government backing), his music is played on every station, he fronts a chain of Steven Shorter discos UK-wide and dominates consumption of everything from dog food to fridge freezers. If the country's leaders want to sell something, they stick Steven's face on it. Indeed, when the UK has an apple glut, Shorter is brought in to front an ad campaign encouraging us all to eat 6-a-day.

But the ruling elite wants more of Shorter - they want him to bring the public back to the church. Using an all-new stage act where the pop star 'repents' and finds faith at a rally at the national stadium, Shorter fronts the 'Christian Crusade' backed by funky versions of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'Jerusalem' by a house band, some faith healing and fighting words by the church. It's all reminiscent of Nazi Germany - a world where everyone conforms for the 'common good' and intolerance is not accepted.

But that's exactly what's coming from Steven Shorter. In his spare time, he's being painted by artist Vanessa Ritchie (Jean Shrimpton). But not only that - she's asking questions of him and about him, questions that, over time, put doubts into Shorter's head. And on live television, during an awards ceremony, it all comes crashing down as he shows his anger at being unable to live his own life.

As I mentioned earlier, Privilege was hammered by critics back in the day, partly due to its anti-establishment theme, partly because few thought the scenario was even vaguely believable and partly because of the ineffectiveness of the leads. For me, none of that holds up watching this reissue.

Indeed, the scenario is all too real in 2010 - the X Factor's dominance on TV and across the media, the Prime Minister making a point of commenting on the state of Susan Boyle's mental state - entertainment in the modern-era does have the ability to take our minds away from the real problems and concerns of the world. And of course, as the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand incident of last year showed, the media is capable of generating a public backlash against the biggest of names. A coalition government through a lack of policy difference isn't all that far-fetched either.

As for the leads, well, they work too. Up to a point. Jones perhaps lacks the charisma the pop star role needs, but he certainly has the fragility required for the latter stages of the movie. Shrimpton quite obviously isn't a big screen natural - you struggle to even hear her at times. But she's a scene stealer everytime she appears. She wasn't the face of the 1960s by chance you know.

But the biggest plus of Privilege is Peter Watkins. A controversial figure, he had come to the movie business after his most prominent work, The War Game, was banned by the BBC. He wasn't willing to pull any punches for the big screen either.

The film is part mock documentary and part movie. Slightly disconcerting at first, but very effective in getting across the scenario, the world of Privilege and the succession of shady figures that run it. Everyone from Shorter's minder and anarchist music arranger to the businessmen with the 'real' power sitting on the 'committee' have their own (less than likeable) personalities and quotable lines. There's a real attention to detail here, which means Privilege is the kind of movies that can take repeated viewing.

Of course, there are holes in the movie - Shorter's act for a start, Vanessa's ability to convince 'break' Shorter in such a brief time and to some extent, the idea that the entire population will buy into one pop star. But let's be honest, since when did a movie have to completely conform to logic?

Overall, Privilege is a fine film and one that's ripe for reappraisal. Unlikely ever to shake off the words 'cult classic', it's a movie that has blossomed with age despite being still very much of its age. If you love leftfield movies of that particular decade, you'll love Privilege. And if you don't...well, why are you reading this site?

Finally, a word about the extras. As ever, some fine articles in the booklet, along with the trailer on the disc and some tasty bonus material for fans of the director - early shorts of The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (1959) and The Forgotten Faces (1961). Good work once again Flipside - and good work Amazon, which is selling this for just £7.98 right now on pre-order.

Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website

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ADDENDUM - Feb 1, 2010
From: Hipsters, Flipsters & Finger-Poppin’ Daddies By Stewart Home at:

...Moving on to our next Flipside reissue, many people will be familiar with Privilege (Peter Watkins, 1967) by reputation at least. It’s a movie that I first saw on British TV back in the days when I was still a teenager. Privilege is a faux documentary set in the near future with a fascistic British establishment exploiting pop singer Steven Shorter (Paul Jones) to manipulate public opinion and behaviour. Johnny Speight who created the original story seems to have taken Bernard Kops’ novel Awake For Mourning (1958) as his starting point. In his full-length fictional debut, Kops depicts teddy boys being manipulated by a fascistic youth party fronted by a pop singer. Privilege takes this idea but really runs with it. The Watkins film is an immediate precursor to The Monkees auto-critique of themselves as plastic pop icons in their countercultural film Head (dir. Bob Rafelson, 1968). The use of Shorter to promote Christianity and national unity at revivalist rallies in Privilege also looks like it influenced, among many other things, the adulation accorded to the Pinball Wizard in the cinematic realisation of Pete Townshend’s rock opera Tommy (dir. Ken Russell, 1975), and some of the musical choices in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978). Since the leading lady in Privilege is none other than top Sixties model Jean Shrimpton in her only fully-fledged film role, this could still prove essential viewing even to those who have no interest in the history of cinema or youth culture...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Interview with Alex Chilton of The Box Tops & Big Star fame. Done by Steve Harris on June 3, 1994. (in 3 parts)

Interview with Alex Chilton of The Box Tops and Big Star fame. Done by Steve Harris on June 3, 1994... (in 3 parts)

Thanks to robfromberg for the referral...

BLOG TO COMM: Kevin Ayers-ODD DITTIES cassette (Harvest, England)


"Anyway, here are just a few items that have graced my psyche this past week. Maybe you'll be able to memorize enough of this to spout out at parties and bar mitzvahs thus making yourself look less like the dim bulb you most certainly are! Whatever, g'wan and have a ball!"

Kevin Ayers-ODD DITTIES cassette (Harvest, England)

Why would I buy a 1976-vintage cassette tape of an album that I've had on vinyl since 1985 anyway? Pure remembrance of product packaging past, mostly because when I was a youngster I used to have this strange obsession with the way cassette tapes differed from country to country! It was nothing but a childish curiosity on my part like, just what did cassette outer sleeves for certain labels look like in other nations anyway? Por ejemplo Capitol in the USA's cassettes looked different than EMI's did in England, and the German and Australian ones were unique in themselves as well! Ditto for Mercury across the world, though I believe that Island's cassette packaging did not vary world-wide all with all of that pink all over the place! What a crazy mixed up world we live in, and for some reason at a time when I should have been paying attention to my studies and even the rather plain-looking girls of Eastern/Southern European and Irish extraction surrounding me I WAS MORE INTERESTED IN KNOWING WHAT CASSETTE PACKAGING WAS LIKE IN OTHER NATIONS!!! And now that I know I kinda feel like Starchie in that MAD spoof bangin' his head on the brick wall in his cell 'bout how Biddy was jumping all over him but he was going nuts for Salonica who didn't give two lumps! AAARRRRGGGGH!!!!!!

But lo and behold, don't this cassette just play so sweetly next to my bedside chair late at night. This is one of two Kevin Ayers' "Harvest Heritage" releases (the other, a twofa of his first two solo albums, might get the BLOG TO COMM treatment when I dig 'em outta the Jurassic stratum) and it's one of those b-side/unreleased take collections that Harvest rushed out at a time when Ayers, back on the label after a brief Island sojurn, was perhaps at the peak of his commercial prowess. Some, especially (or should that be naturally) the earlier material, has plenty of that English experimental bright flash that made those early Eno records so appealing. The later gunch is comparatively toned down and although there are more than a few dudsters to be found (like the times Ayers gets into his South Seas and Mexican ethno-grooves) when he gets good he gets...entertaining like on his Velvets paen "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes" or the classically-inclined "Jolie Madame." Even when the former Soft Machine bassist sings a French-language version of SHOOTING AT THE MOON's "May I?" ("Puis Je?") you ain't gonna cringe like your better nature always seeme to tell you to!

This one must be a winner because about a decade-and-a-half back I casually mentioned to someone who shall remain nameless that I had the vinyl version and was suddenly bombarded with offers to buy the thing and at a price that I might have agreed to had I been destitute! So it's gotta be the unabashed classic that it is...right???