The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story (2002)

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Released 12-Mar-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast-Roger Waters; David Gilmour; Robyn Hitchcock
Featurette-Graham Coxen performing I Love You
Featurette-A Walk Around Abbey Road Studios
Discography
Trailer-Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare
Trailer-Marianne Faithfull: Dreaming my Dreams
Trailer-A Night With Lou Reed
Trailer-Johnny Case: An Anthology of "The Man In Black"
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 49:03 (Case: 60)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Edginton
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Syd Barrett
Roger Waters
David Gilmour
Rick Wright
Nick Mason
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Pink Floyd
Syd Barrett


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This BBC TV documentary will certainly fill a large knowledge gap for many Pink Floyd fans. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who, like me, knew the general facts surrounding the Syd Barrett story, but not much more than the sketchy details. Very few Pink Floyd biographies - and certainly no visual documentaries - provide an appreciation of the hows, whys and wherefores surrounding the man who was to leave such an emotional legacy on both the band members personally and their material for decades after his departure. This DVD answers all of these questions, by providing a detailed retrospective on the seminal Floyd years from 1965 through 1971. Most importantly, the story is told with the input of both Roger Waters and David Gilmour, meaning that it is not only an authorised version, but an objective telling of the story without the bias of only one or other opposing viewpoints. Any Pink Floyd documentary which has the benefit of input from interviews with both of the group's "front men" will alone be enough to sell Floyd fans far and wide on the need to have this documentary for their personal collection. And when I mention that the extras on this disc include the uncut interview footage with both, running to 90-odd minutes, I'm sure this will be enough to have the more avid Floyd fans out there salivating with anticipation! Well, my friends, so you should, as this disc delivers and plugs that big knowledge gap.

    For those you who may well not know the early Pink Floyd history - and we are talking now prior to the 1971 album Meddle that effectively launched the more widely known line-up and material - then you may be interested to hear a few facts. Pink Floyd actually commenced way back in 1965. The band was founded and spearheaded by singer/songwriter and lead guitarist Roger "Syd" Barrett. After going through the obscure band names Sigma 6, Tea Set, The Megadeaths and The Abdabs, Syd re-christened the band Pink Floyd in 1967, naming the group after two lesser known bluesmen, Phil Andresen and Floyd Council. The group in its early years was a psychedelic/progressive rock group, initially establishing itself firmly and parochially in the London underground scene, before attaining wider commercial success in 1967 with the release of the group's first two 7" singles, both penned by Syd, and debut album, almost exclusively written by Syd.

    In early 1968, David Gilmour was invited to join the group and Floyd existed, very briefly, as a 5-piece group, with Syd Barrett on guitar and vocals, Roger Waters bass guitar and vocals, Rick Wright organ, piano and vocals, Nick Mason drums and David Gilmour guitars and vocals. In reality, though, this was a transition period and the group rarely performed as a five-piece. Syd's behaviour was by this time becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable, with his schizophrenic tendencies becoming more and more pronounced and exacerbated by his drug-taking (mainly acid and dope, but later Mandrax). It was evident that the situation was starting to become unworkable when Floyd's first US tour in 1967 had to be cut short because of Syd's erratic behaviour. Examples cited by the rest of the group include his staring blankly in front of him when asked questions on the "Pat Boone Show", and refusing to mime See Emily Play on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" - well, at least refusing to mime it every time the cameras rolled to record it, anyway!  Band members recall further instances performing back in the UK in early 1968, where Syd would walk onto centre stage and then refuse to say anything at all, simply staring back blankly at the crowd, or worse still strumming his de-tuned, open-chorded guitar to no accompaniment and making "a God-awful noise". As sad as the band members felt about Syd's decline and the loss of the group's dominant driving force and creative talent, they eventually had to accept that they could not continue as they were, leading to the fateful decision one night to simply not pick Syd up on the way to a gig at Southampton. This decision triggered several things simultaneously, namely Roger Waters having to step up as front man and then principal lyricist for the group, David Gilmour taking over the lead guitarist role and also contributing to song writing, and the complete upheaval of the group dynamics and output around this. Thus began the four-piece Pink Floyd line-up that would go on to become so critically and commercially successful around the globe.

    But that wasn't the end of the Syd Barrett story. After a period of hibernation from early 1968, he re-emerged in 1970 to record two unorthodox but highly influential solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett.  He then mysteriously withdrew into seclusion again and has never released any subsequent material. The next sighting of Syd was in 1975, when a strange man was spotted sitting quietly and unobtrusively at the back of the Abbey Road recording studio in 1975, having just appeared out of the blue, spookily enough when Floyd were recording Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a song written by Roger, David and Rick expressing their acute feelings of loss for Syd's friendship and direction. Indeed, the band members didn't even recognise Syd at all at first, as he was completely shaved (head, eyebrows and whole body), incomprehensible and completely oblivious to those around him. No one was able to communicate with him and eventually he just wandered off again by himself. This was the last time the band members saw Syd. He now lives in seclusion in Cambridge, said to be well but wanting to remain in isolation. Needless to say, the final pathetic image of Syd in 1975 was a harrowing one for Roger, David and the others. These memories and final images were to haunt Roger in particular, so much that they were to become an integral input into the concepts developed in the album and film versions of The Wall (1979 and 1982 respectively).

    If you have any interest in learning exactly how and why it came to be that Syd Barrett's star burned so brightly and briefly, or to understand the indelible impact that this man was to have on rock music, by not only influencing Pink Floyd's material but also touching many musicians directly with his solo material, then you simply must see this documentary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for the main feature has to be described as variable, but perfectly adequate for a television documentary.

    The original aspect ratio for all of the archival source material used in this documentary is 1.33:1 and so it would appear was the aspect ratio for all the newly shot interview material too. However the aspect ratio for this DVD is 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, so as is becoming an emerging trend for other DVD releases of such material, the producers have elected to crop the 1.33:1 image top and bottom and provide a "pseudo" widescreen image, rather than present the full frame. This works perfectly fine here, as no material footage appears to have been lost in the process and there are no instances of unnaturally tight framing as a result.

    The luminance of this transfer is variable, ranging from being quite acceptable (for all of the newly shot material) to poor (some archival black and white concert and TV footage) to downright woeful (some archival hand-held home video footage), but this is all excusable given the age and quality of the source materials used and there is simply no way around this if we are to have the benefit of this rare footage to put the story in its correct context. Indeed, it's a blessing that much of this old Pink Floyd TV-appearance footage and Syd Barrett home video footage has survived at all, so we can't really complain about the quality. Sharpness and shadow detail are also somewhat limited for the newly recorded interview material too, due to the analogue video source. However credit must be given for a great effort at cleaning up this source material as much as possible for the TV broadcast, as it is a vast improvement on the raw source tape (see the discussion of the extras below). So again, given the quality of the material available, the luminance of this final DVD transfer is more than acceptable.

    Colouring also has to said to be variable with source. It is generally fine for the newer footage, with skin tones quite natural and other colours adequately saturated, although lacking in the deep blacks. Much of the archival footage is in black and white, but it displays an acceptable tonal range across the blacks and greys.

    I did not notice any MPEG artefacts or film-to-video artefacts introduced in the transfer process, but instead put all of the problems with this transfer firmly down to film/source artefacts. The main problems are the inherent noise, film flecks and scratches observed across all of the different source materials. These range from some fairly unobtrusive noise in the newer analogue video footage to much more obvious and numerous scratches and imperfections in the older materials, most especially the early to mid 60s material.

    There are no subtitles available on this disc. The disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring in the middle of the Roger Waters interview extra at 29:23. It could have been better and more unobtrusively placed in between the extras, but this is a minor gripe.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is nothing to write home about, but again perfectly satisfactory for this type of feature. There is only one audio track on offer, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix (at 224Kb/s), not surround encoded.

    Most importantly for a documentary, the dialogue quality is excellent, with all the interview and narrator dialogue delivered clearly. Audio sync is also perfect.

     The music used in this feature is of course by Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett. The music is delivered with some nice stereo separation and is of acceptable quality, evidently sourced from the remastered CD releases. There are still some complaints with these remastered recordings, mind you, with audible background hiss and a distinct lack of top-end in the earlier material. The audio accompanying the archival footage of Interstellar Overdrive is particularly poor, however, as this is to my knowledge the very earliest surviving Pink Floyd recording, dating back to 1965/6, this is not unexpected. Syd Barrett's solo recordings are a little more recent, dating to 1970, but are still quite poor, no doubt due to the fact that these were rushed recording sessions, so the audio limitations with the music you are hearing on this DVD are not the fault of the transfer. As evidence of this, the excerpts of more recent recordings, such as Shine On You Crazy Diamond (live), are of much better quality.

    With this being a documentary and therefore a largely dialogue driven feature, the subwoofer is hardly used. It does kick in on occasion to help out with the low end in the music, but only then infrequently. It must be borne in mind that given the age and recording quality of these very early recordings, bass is distinctly lacking.

 

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is one of the rare occasions I have found where the extras on a DVD stand a very good chance of overshadowing the feature. The chance to see 90 minutes worth of rare uncut interviews with both Roger Waters and David Gilmour on the same disc will, I'm sure, be the primary reason for purchasing this disc for many fans. After all, whilst the documentary itself is very well researched and constructed, it remains an edit and compilation of information from various sources, the most important of which are the first hand accounts of the band members themselves. The chance to hear their first hand recollections in uncut form will be for many the bigger drawcard. The video quality of these uncut interview tapes is substandard, but that does not detract from their value.

Menu

    All menu screens are presented in the appropriate aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, commensurate with the feature and extras. All menus are static and only the main menu screen has audio (a Shine On extract). The only choices from this main menu screen are a basic Scene Selection screen and an Extras menu.

Extras quality

    When selecting the Extras menu screen from the main menu you are confronted with the following dire warning, before being allowed to proceed to the extras proper: "Quality warning: Some of the following extras footage contains visual imperfections owing to the quality of the source archival materials."  This does not bode well, but the message is there for good reason; i.e. to warn you before you even start that what you are about to watch is substandard DVD quality. It is perhaps a cop out to imply that the poor quality is due to the use of "archival" footage, as the extras are in fact newly shot material, however it is certainly true that the problem is due to the source material.

    The footage is definitely sourced from very worn analogue video tape, as confirmed by the presence of persistent analogue tape tracking artefacts, in the form of little white pixels streaming horizontally across the frame from right to left. It is hard to pin down the exact reason for these imperfections, but I would put them down to either excessive videotape wear, problems with the record head on the video camera, or some other associated partial video drop-out effect. The bad news is that the effect of this artefact is quite distracting from the moment the first interview starts and it remains so throughout all the extras, only decreasing in magnitude for short periods before recurring. However, the good news is that the artefact is restricted to the bottom half of the image and therefore does not obscure the faces of the interviewees. The other piece of good news is that the audio quality is completely unaffected by this artefact, so whilst it is very annoying, the quality is certainly watchable and listenable. Above all, it is worthwhile putting up with the artefact in order to get the opportunity to hear these rare interviews and fans will certainly be glad they have been included as extras on the disc, despite the quality.

    Note that I did not mentioned this artefact under the main video review above. This is because the smaller excerpts of interview footage used in the feature documentary have been cleaned up immeasurably in post-production. This must have been a painstaking process of digitally painting out each affected pixel frame by frame, a laborious task and something which was necessary to achieve broadcast quality, but something not feasible for the entire 90 minutes of the uncut interview footage.

    The interview footage itself appears to be an amateur shoot, recorded in either 2000 or 2001. The interviewer is not named at all, but judging by the credits may well be the director and producer John Edginton. Whoever the interviewer is, he somehow managed to gain exclusive access not only to all of the Pink Floyd band members individually, but was also granted unlimited access to shoot within Abbey Road studios. The interviewer is clearly a Pink Floyd fan and quite knowledgeable about both Floyd's and Barrett's material. To that extent the interviewer conducts a decent interview, but I certainly won't put him or his assistant down for a 'cameraman of the year' nomination, judging by this little effort!  While the hand-held stuff is quite amateur, thankfully, the main interviews are conducted with the camera left on a tripod and with minimal zoom or other effects, so it's pretty hard to go wrong here.

    The source aspect ratio for this footage is 1.33:1, with the image again cropped back to create a pseudo 1.78:1 image, which again works just fine. Audio for all these extras is Dolby Digital 2.0, sounding mono for the Roger Waters interview but with some artful stereo separation employed between interviewer and interviewee for the David Gilmour interview.

Featurette Interview 1: Roger Waters (55:47)

    Roger references that he has already finished the first part of his In The Flesh tour in the US, dating this interview most likely during 2001. The interview was conducted in the Abbey Road recording studios, in between Roger working on an unnamed studio recording. I have not heard of any impending studio album release, so I can only assume he was probably working on the track Flickering Flame, for his best-of CD released in 2002.

    Roger canvasses a number of topics candidly in this interview. Of course, the interview is mainly centred around those early years and Syd's life and impact specifically, but there are wider Pink Floyd issues touched upon, such as the Wish You Were Here album sessions and the 1970s period generally. I won't spoil what is and isn't discussed, but suffice to say that Floyd fans will find this whole interview riveting.

Featurette Interview 2: David Gilmour (30:23)

    This interview appears to have been conducted in Gilmour's own house!, with guitars and other equipment to be seen lying around in the background - another reason why it will be riveting for fans. Again,  I won't spoil what Gilmour has to say about Waters or whether he discusses any wider Floyd issues, but I will say it is fantastic to get the opportunity to hear the reverse perspective on many points. Gilmour was also very close to Syd Barrett and, just like Waters, he comes across as passionate, genuine and open with his feelings.

    Unfortunately, the quality of this interview footage is even worse than the Waters interview, with this one plagued by several more disruptive video tracking errors and image jars. See 0:45-0:55, 16:37-16:50 and 22:12-22:24 for the worst examples. Whilst extremely frustrating, they are in the end worthwhile putting up with.

Featurette Interview 3: Robyn Hitchcock (17:51)

     You may be asking yourself "Robyn who?", as I was when I read the title. He is in fact completely unrelated to the band. Robyn Hitchcock is a London-based singer/songwriter, now a solo artist, but formerly from the group The Soft Boys (if that means anything to anyone). It's a little unclear exactly how or why he came to be interviewed in the first place, but probably just because Hitchcock  is representative of many professional musicians out there to be influenced by Syd Barrett's solo material. Hitchcock is indeed quite articulate with his analysis of the solo material and its impact on him, so this does provide a different insight into Syd's work.

Featurette: Graham Coxon (of Blur) performing "Love You" (3:25)          

    Shot in a pub somewhere and performed with gusto. This again provides an idea of the reach and influence of Syd's solo material.

Featurette: A walk around Abbey Road studios (12:03)

     Now this featurette is fascinating. It is the raw hand-held video camera footage of the interviewer walking around the studios, down corridors past old tape machines and other unused equipment, into one of the studio control rooms and then into one of the recording studios itself. The footage is raw home-movie stuff and is a bit tedious in unedited form. However the magic that exists in this studio is palpable, and it is amazing to contemplate while watching that it is in these very rooms where Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here were recorded - not to mention of course many famous recordings by The Beatles and other artists.

Syd Barrett Discography (3 screens) 

    Shows details of all the Syd Barrett solo material releases and re-releases.

Umbrella Propaganda (unrelated trailers)

    I don't count this as a real extra, as they are unrelated trailers promoting other music DVDs, however the details are shown in the table at the top of the review if you want to know what they are.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is also being released this month in Region 2, but does not appear to be getting a Region 1 release at this point.

    The Region 2 release misses out on the full Roger Waters and David Gilmour interview extras. Instead, Region 2 gets only an extract of both, running a measly 10 minutes and 3 minutes respectively. No doubt the quality of the material influenced this decision. In addition, the Region 2 version also misses out on the Walk Around Abbey Road Studios extra.

    This makes the Region 4 release the hands-down winner and we can be very, very thankful that we get the full extras package, warts and all.

Note added 10/4/03:  I've had a few emails pointing out to me that the Region 2 release of this disc is stated on a couple of UK DVD sites now as having both DD5.1 and dts audio tracks. As outlined in the reply to a comment below, I had not mentioned this in the original review, believing it to be simply an error in the site's reporting of the disc specs - after all it seems very strange that a short TV doco would warrant a DD5.1 track, let alone a dts track. Then again, maybe I will have egg on my face with this comment!  If anyone does have the R2 version of this disc and can email me to clarify the issue once and for all, that would be most appreciated. In any event, even if we are indeed missing out on a fuller audio transfer, the fact that our R4 release receives the full Roger Waters and David Gilmour interviews and the R2 release doesn't should still make R4 the clear winner for most fans, so my conclusion above is unaltered. The R4 stereo audio transfer is more than satisfactory for this doco.

Note added 2/8/03: A reader has emailed me to confirm that the R2 version does indeed have both DD5.1 and dts tracks. Very strange indeed for this release! My view remains unaltered however, I don't think the higher audio mixes will add anything at all for this doco and in any event is still outweighed by the better R4 extras package, so still an R4 winner in my opinion.

Summary

    This is another great DVD release from Umbrella Music DVD. This company really is filling a much-needed niche in the DVD market for music lovers, bringing lesser-known or lesser-available music documentaries to the market locally. As with other recent Umbrella releases, the effort put into the DVD transfer process and menu design is admirable and to top it off they seek to provide whatever extras are available.

    This DVD will sell itself to anyone interested in the Pink Floyd story, and is a case where the value of the extras possibly overshadow the feature, even despite the poor quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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