Syd Barrett’s Band Stars

At the end of January 1972, Syd formed a short-lived band called Stars with ex-Pink Fairies member Twink on drums and Jack Monck on bass. Though the band was initially well received, one of their gigs at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge was disastrous, following the hard-rocking MC5 on stage Thursday 24 February. The final gig took place two days later.

“There are some great stories of the MC5’s tenure at the Grande Ballroom”, recalled Jerry Goodwin, a DJ at WKNR-AM in Detroit at the time. “Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company refused to come on stage after a blistering MC5 set that had the crowd frenzied and frothing at the mouth. I think her words were, ‘No fucking way.’” And audiences regularly demanded multiple encores of the MC5, and at a memorable series of concerts, Cream, one of the leading hard rock groups of the era—”left the stage vanquished”.

Stars performed Thursday 24 February 1972 – The Corn Exchange Cambridge (with MC5 & Skin Alley) and Saturday 26 February 1972 – The Corn Exchange Cambridge (with Nektar)

Stars roadie and occasional bass player Joly MacFie said: The promoter of these shows – Steve Brink – had promised that there would be no press; however he did invite a guy from the Melody Maker, Roy Hollingworth.

Hollingworth wrote about Syd:

“He played a demented solo that ran ragged lines of up to 10 minutes. His raggled hair fell over a face that fell over a guitar and seldom looked up. He changed time almost by the minute, the keys and chords made little sense. The fingers on his left hand met the frets like strangers. They formed chords, reformed them – apparently nearly got it right – and then wandered away again. Then Syd scratched his nose and let loose a very short sigh. It was like watching somebody piece together a memory that had suffered the most severe shell-shock. I don’t know how much Syd Barrett remembered, but he didn’t give in. Even though he lost his bassist and even though Twink couldn’t share Syd’s journey, Syd played on. …He has a beard now, but his eyes are still deep cavities hiding an inexplicable vision. Tuning up presents awkward problems. He holds his guitar like he’s never held a guitar before. He keeps scratching his nose. ‘Madcap Laughs’ opened the set. It didn’t sound much like it used to. But Syd’s voice did. A well-spoken wine – “Barth”, “Larf”. See Emily Play? The chords are out of tune and he keeps looking to his right and sort of scowling at Twink and the bassist, as though in disagreement. I stood and watched and thought he was bloody great. A girl gets up on stage and dances; he sees her, and looks fairly startled. As the clock ticked into the small hours of Friday morning, Syd retreated to the back of the stage trying to find one of those runs. He messes chords together. There is no pattern but if you think hard you can see a faint one, you can see some trailers in the sky. The large concrete floor is littered now, not with people but with their relics. Plastic cups that contained orange juice or lemon or coffee. And some squashed wholenut scones and buns. And underground papers. And Syd played on. Will anyone listen to the Madcap?” – “The Madcap Returns” (Melody Maker, 4 March 1972).

Twink said:

” I think it was Roy Hollingworth, Melody Maker, he did a piece & he killed the band in fact, with that review. ‘Cos Syd came round with it in his hand the next day, he saw it & says ‘I don’t want to play anymore’.

Roy Hollingworth was told of the cause of Stars’ breakup several years later and was deeply upset. “It was never my intention to harm Syd because I was his biggest fan. He was one of my heroes. “I wrote about what I saw and heard as sensitively as I could and it certainly wasn’t meant to be a big put down” A little piece of me died that night too. But on a personal level if it hurt Syd I’m very sorry. Ideally, I’d have loved it if he had made a great comeback and gone on and on”.

Not many knew how difficult it was to play following the MC5, but the big-name rock stars sure knew. I was a big MC5 fan and friend of the band. Fans compared the aftermath of an MC5 performance to the delirious exhaustion experienced after “a street rumble or an orgy”. I can’t even imagine how Syd felt with his new band in front of an audience like that.

I wish Syd had known that it wasn’t all his fault that his performance was less than he hoped for. His show two days later following a different band, Nektar, was much better. I still think of him walking around town clutching that horrid Melody Maker review in his hand. How sad.

It all seemed planned to put Syd in front of a frenzied MC5 audience, send a Melody Maker journalist over to cover it, after the promoter promised he wouldn’t, then the journalist gave Syd a horrid review. Then soon after all that, Syd said that he would never play again.

“The collapse of Stars coincided in time with the rise of the Dark Side of the Moon, which had been performed in London just days before and gained massive praise in the press.”

Free from his EMI contract on 9 May 1972, Barrett signed a document that ended his association with Pink Floyd, and any financial interest in future recordings. Recording for DSOTM started on May 31, 1972.

Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett died from cancer on July 7, 2006. I was diagnosed on May 26, 2006. I always felt a magical connection to him, and I felt the need to give my opinion with this short story.

(Quotes are from Wikipedia)