Welcome to this very special exhibition.
A Fleeting Glimpse is delighted to present the John Davies Collection.
John Davies grew up in Cambridge in the same peer group as Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Storm Thorgerson and has maintained friendships with some of them to this day.
John has very kindly provided us with a treasure trove of, in most cases, never before seen material. In addition John has written down some of his amazing memories of the early days in Cambridge.
My Generation Cambridge 1946-1965
Col has very kindly asked me to make a contribution to his excellent site and I am happy to give it a try. A lot of other people have chronicled these times in much more detail than I could possibly do. This is just a collection of mental snapshots from my youth which you might find interesting. Because of the nature of memory, particularly “sixties” memory these snapshots are not in any particular chronological order. Forgive me if I jump from 1958 to 1963 without warning. That is my privilege as the writer.
Cambridge was a wonderful city in which to grow up: stunningly beautiful and stimulating. We were surrounded by some of the greatest minds in the world: physicists, biologists, philosophers and eccentrics. Even as local schoolboys we were immersed in the atmosphere of a great University city. Every year my parents took me to see the Footlights revue and I remember seeing such great comic luminaries as Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook. In the University vacations Cambridge became our city again for a few short weeks.
This is not a story about Pink Floyd. This is a story about me, my friends and contemporaries, a story about my generation growing up in fifties Britain. Our parents had survived two world wars and a depression. They had endured such hardship in their lives that at the end of the second World War their aim was to give their children a better life and a freer world in which to live. They struggled on our behalves. We were the first postwar generation. This was a time when parents found it difficult to show emotions and a handshake was all one could expect from one’s father. There were no hugs or kisses and very little talk about emotions and feelings. A lot of us had fathers who were missing physically or emotionally or both. As we became teenagers and adolescence approached a new phenomenon became apparent…..the Generation Gap.
I’m lying on my back on the Mill Green with my eyes closed listening to the gentle sound of the River Cam flowing over the weir. I’m with my closest friends from school David Gale, David Henderson and Nick Sedgwick. Someone has a transistor radio playing an Eddie Cochrane song. I’m daydreaming about Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, Dam Busters, Douglas Bader and learning to fly….maybe one day. Life is good; the sun’s shining, we all have girlfriends and my parents have just bought me a Spanish guitar from Millers music shop ( a Tatay guitar. I later read that this was also David Gilmour’s first guitar) on the understanding that I take classical guitar lessons. It’s a fair trade but I still want to play those Buddy Holly songs.
David H is teasing and laughing with Rosie, (a close friend of Syd Barrett’s early girlfriend Libby) David G and Nick S are talking about a science fiction book they’ve been reading. I’m the shy one, the sad one behind brown eyes, but I have a camera so I take photos….mostly of Libby. Why do I always fall in love with my best friend’s girl? There must be a song there somewhere.
Someone suggests moving on and we walk slowly into the centre of town laughing and singing and playing with street signs. People stare…..who cares. We crowd into El Patio.
El Patio was a coffee bar in the centre of Cambridge where everyone would meet at some point in the day. A lot of us worked there at weekends or in the holidays including myself. We started in the kitchen washing up and were then promoted to the counter to serve. Sometimes I would take my guitar in and strum away in one corner. A lot of our crowd made the transformation here from schoolboy to aspiring Beatnik, from cavalry twills to black polo necks and jeans.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and I have quickly mastered the art of working the Gaggia expresso machine. Frothing is my speciality. A big crowd in the windowless basement today……..Nigel Gordon is talking to David Gale about the beat poets and modern jazz. Our musical tastes are changing from Cochrane to Coltrane. Storm Thorgerson and Syd Barrett are sitting chatting about the meaning of life and where to get Levi jeans ( the first ones arrived from local US air bases). My girlfriend Jenny has just told me it’s all over and Nigel’s girlfriend Anne is trying to console me. I fall in love again. Alan Stiles (later of Alan’s psychedelic breakfast fame) comes in with his beautiful girlfriend Ashling, both looking amazing in almost identical black leather, jeans and black boots. Alan tells me stories about his time in a military prison in his wonderful local accent. I’m still not sure if he was a guard or actually doing time in there. I decide it will soon be time to get a leather jacket of my own. It’s the end of my shift and a few of us decide to move on to Storm’s house.
Storm lived in a house with his mother pretty much in the centre of Cambridge. His mum, Vanji, was a potter and cool about lots of friends hanging out in Storm’s room. Most of the time anyway………occasionally we got carried away and there would be some words exchanged. Storm was at the boys grammar school in Cambridge with Syd and Roger Waters. I was at the Perse school, a fee paying school, with David Gale, David Henderson and Nick Sedgwick. David Gilmour was also at the Perse but was two years younger so at this time did not really figure in our group of friends. Anyway, more of him later.
I’m lying on Storm’s bed chatting to Syd. There’s an early blues record on the player…probably Snooks Eaglin or Lightnin Hopkins. Storm has one of Syd’s drawings on his wall. It’s two scruffy old black army boots. One of the bedroom walls is covered with writing and we are encouraged to write on it too. I’m shy because Syd has written something witty and I can’t think of anything. In the end I write “…………surely God has saved the Queen by now?…..” Not very clever but all I can come up with.
There’s a lot of talk about pot. We are all smoking by this time and there are stories around town that the local drug squad have all the names and addresses of the pot-smokers. We make a vague resolution to be careful……but, hey man,…you know. Of course being caught smoking then would have been a serious offence. Syd decides to start calling me Birdman and I whirl my arms round in a windmill motion which amuses him. The munchies set in and we move on. ……………………………………………
Nature dealt me a cruel blow between 1963 and 1970. I discovered I bore a remarkable resemblance to Pete Townshend of The Who. He was nicknamed The Birdman hence the Syd joke. I guess we wore similar clothes and were going through similar experiences. It wasn’t a problem when I lived in Cambridge, the worst that could happen was people ringing my Mum when The Who had been on Top of the Pops saying they had seen me on the telly. Ho ho, what a joke. It was a bit more of a problem when I moved to London……more of that later dear reader.
I want to go back in time a little bit here to a point before I had a serious girlfriend but hormones were running riot..
It’s Saturday morning and we’re at Mrs. Ganes Dancing Class. Some wag thought it would be a good way to meet girls…probably Dave Gale. So we were to suffer the embarrassment of learning to waltz and quickstep just so we could press our straining loins against members of the opposite sex. That was the plan. Boys are on one side of the room and girls on the other. One catches my eye and I blush….remember how shy I am. Dave Gale and Dave Henderson seem to be doing OK and I notice another young upstart from our school there, sickeningly good-looking and grinning lasciviously….it’s David Gilmour. Anyway I pluck up the courage to dance with my chosen one and it goes OK. I probably get an erection but we’re not supposed to dance too close so she won’t notice. Once we get a partner we stay with them for the whole lesson. That’s good but I notice Gilmour sniggering at me every time we get close which is kind of off putting. I survive the ordeal and at the end of the class wait outside on my bike, which has bells and things to make it look good (actually it’s a Raleigh Lenton Sports but there you go), for Catherine to appear, for that is her name. She has a bike too and is going the same way as me…my lucky day. At the Grantchester turn off I’m quite confident and casually mention the young idiot who has been trying to put me off all morning. Oh yes she says….that’s my brother David. I turn red and hurry off without having the nerve to ask to see her again. …………………………………………………………………….(Above) Emo & Syd
( I learn much later from Emo that sadly Catherine Gilmour died a few years ago).
David Henderson has access to a punt which is a boat propelled by a long pole by someone standing on the back. A bit like a gondola but with flat ends…Oh, look it up on google.
I’m sitting in the punt with my girlfriend Jenny. David Henderson is punting at the back and David Gale and his girlfriend Ann are sitting opposite me. It’s a beautiful Summer’s day. We leave the Mill behind and drift past the sheds where we all learnt to swim. Slowly we leave the town behind and now there are just willow trees and and beautiful meadows. This is Grantchester Meadows. We moor the punt and spend a lazy day swimming and chatting in the sun. This would inspire any composer from Vaughn Williams to Pink Floyd.
I spent a lot of time at Dave Henderson’s house. Of all my close friends I found him the most sympathetic; quiet and more serious and we shared a passion for making model aeroplanes when we were younger. David was a very talented artist and I would sit for hours watching him draw, chatting about life and listening to Miles Davis. He was a pretty handsome guy and I secretly fell in love with most of his girlfriends.
David and I walk together from his house to the Criterion pub to meet other friends and then on to Ponji's house where there will be a small party. Syd is there with a guitar and I envy the way he plays so effortlessly. He teaches me one of those simple but effective acoustic blues runs which I treasure to this day. I show him a short classical piece that I know and he picks it up immediately. A mellow evening.
I know it has been said many times but Syd was a really great guy; good-looking, friendly, openhearted and obviously talented. I always felt completely at ease in his company and his girlfriends were gorgeous……God how I fell in love then! It would be wonderful to see him again……I’m sure some of the sparks are still there. Dave Gale had a great sense of humour but could be cutting and sarcastic, Nick could be dangerous and unpredictable, and Storm was highly intellectual but could sometimes delve too deep which often made me uncomfortable, but Syd was always charming and approachable…a really nice man.
Around that time a few of us had bought scooters. I had a Lambretta, Dave Gale and Nigel Gordon had Vespas I think. One day David and I rode up to London on my scooter and visited a shop in Shaftsbury Avenue called Gaylord where I bought the coolest leather jacket I could find. I remember when we arrived back at David’s house later his mother said she was disappointed in me…she thought I was too nice to wear leather. That made me feel good….my transformation was complete. Later that evening I bumped into my old girlfriend Jenny and she was not impressed with my new image……..great.
Although Syd seemed to be around a lot at that time I don’t recall Roger Waters being part of our close group. I remember going to his house in Rock Road a couple of times and certainly remember his girl Judy but that’s about all.
In the Summer of 63 we returned to Cambridge from our respective Universities and decided to spend a holiday in Ibiza. Dave Gale had organised an apartment in San Antonio, a quiet fishing village on the north of the island. Six of us were going: Dave and his girlfriend Maureen, Storm, Dave Henderson, myself and a talented young student from Cambridge called Richard Eyre. I hitchhiked there on my own. Long lonely days on Route Nationale 7 later immortalised in song by John Renbourn and Roy Harper. I arrived in Barcelona tired and dirty and caught the overnight ferry to Ibiza. I slept on the deck with various assorted freaks and woke in the morning to see the beautiful citadel of Ibiza Town silhouetted against the morning sky. There was the notorious Domino Bar that I had heard about. There was the café where I bought my ticket to San Antonio.
Most of the holiday is a blur; days swimming and sunbathing on Cala Bassa; nights getting stoned on the strongest grass I had experienced so far, listening in hysterics as Richard Eyre recreated a popular TV quiz show of the time: What’s My Line, perfectly mimicking all the characters. A talented man destined to go far.
One day a few of us took a ferry to a tiny neighbouring island called Formentera and I was struck by it’s quiet beauty. So remote then with just a few local peasants and freaks. I knew I would return. Syd later stayed on the island in 1969, and many other friends have been there since.
I came back to Cambridge before the others, along with Maureen whose relationship with Dave had deteriorated.
We spent long hours in coffee bars talking about things and once more I secretly fell in love. She introduced me to her friend Mary Wing who, two years later, went to Formentera and made her home there. She lives there to this day with her man Marc and they still make a beautiful couple.
Cambridge was becoming less important in my life by 1964. I had met a lovely girl, Rae, and we spent all our time together. That Summer we went back to Cambridge and I introduced her to all my friends. Storm was preparing to go to film school and we spent weeks making two short films he had written. I was the cameraman and I have to say I did a pretty good job with the 16mm. Arriflex. A lot of the filming for The Breadwinner was done outside in the streets of Cambridge and the local newspaper ran stories about strange happenings all over town. The other film called The Meal involved a dinner party where Nick Sedgwick was stripped and eaten by the guests. I have to report that Nick kept his Y-fronts on during filming and they were strategically covered with wilting salad pieces……….not much was required….sorry Nick. During the making of this film Rae spent hours in the garden talking to Ian Moore (Emo) and forged a lifetime friendship.
Emo was one of the legendary characters in Cambridge and later in London in the sixties and seventies. H came from a large family in the rougher part of town and had left school early. I think he was introduced to our group by Dave Gale and was adopted as the court jester. He was outrageous, irreverent, spontaneous, blasphemous, and incredibly funny. He was the artful dodger. Most of his front teeth were missing and his dress sense was always truly original. The men encouraged him to greater and greater outrages and the girls loved him. He would have made one of the great rock characters and I always imagined him as a member of the Small Faces. Unfortunately he had no musical abilities….not that it would have mattered. He became very close friends with David Gilmour who faithfully supported him through difficult times. For many years Emo looked after David's houses in London and in the country.
I’m sitting with Rae in Syd’s room in Hills Road. Syd has been ill with jaundice and looks tired and still a little yellow round the edges. His girlfriend Lyndsay is there and has made a beautiful get-well decoration out of a branch of “Honesty”; writing little messages on the discoid translucent seed pods. Storm is there with Libby January and a few other people are sitting around. Someone is writing song lyrics. David Gilmour is there and is very drunk. I seem to remember there is talk of Libby’s 21st. birthday party but I am not sure if it has happened yet. Storm suggests that I take Gilmour home to Grantchester Meadows as I am the only one with a car ( my pride and joy……a Morris 8 tourer circa 1935 . Someone helps me get David into the front seat. It’s only a ten minute drive but as we near his house David throws up out of the front window. Next day I have to hose the vomit off the front running board. Thanks David…..one day I’ll return the compliment when you have a nice new car
Towards the end of 1965 a party was held just outside Cambridge to celebrate the 21st. birthday of Libby January, Storm Thorgerson’s girlfriend. By this time a lot of my peer group had already left Cambridge to go to University, but most of us returned during the vacation to stay at home and catch up with all our old friends.
This had already been quite a momentous summer, a lot of us having experienced the mind expanding properties of the psychedelic drug LSD which of course was quite legal then. We were beginning to feel part of a special tribe and this was going to be a fun evening.
I arrived with my girlfriend Rae and we immediately met up with all the familiar faces. I remember the party was held in a large marquee. At one end the oldies and the straights were dancing sedately to some local dance band. At the other end the hipsters and groovers were surreptitiously smoking a little grass, drinking heavily, and waiting for “our” bands to play. While we waited and chatted a young folk singer started playing an acoustic set. We sang along heartily to the chorus of Cocaine Blues. The young man’s name was Paul Simon who later did rather well I believe.
As I recall two bands played that evening. David Gilmour and Joker’s Wild were on first I think. Syd Barrett and Roger Waters also played in their pre-Floyd role known as the T Set. I’m pretty sure that was accurate…I don’t think they called themselves The Pink Floyd Sound that night. The music was pretty much standard rock and roll and blues stuff.
It was a great evening and we got more and more raucous as the evening progressed…much to the consternation of various parents and relatives. What I remember particularly about that evening is that I had a distinct feeling that the Cambridge “scene” was drawing to a close. The generation gap was never more obvious to me than it was at that time, as was the chasm that was opening up between “us and them”: the straight people and the hipsters. We knew that strange days lay ahead and that the future lay in London.
And so, in late 1965, Libby’s party came and went. That was the summer we expanded our minds with LSD and gradually the move to London began. A few others had arrived on the scene in Cambridge that I haven’t mentioned but who became more important to me when I lived in London: Pip Carter( later to work with the Floyd and whose Fender Telecaster I have lovingly cared for since his untimely death. Aubrey “Po” Powell (later to be part of Hipgnosis with Storm and who has become one of my dearest friends); and many others who I did not really get to know well at that time.
With the passage of time the memories of those days in Cambridge have become blurred but it was a happy time and a time of great changes in my life. I was a quiet country boy and it was exciting to become part of what we thought of as a special group of people. A lot of us had dreams of fame and fortune but I don’t think any of us could have predicted the phenomenal success that the Floyd would experience later. We were just a bunch of teenage boys and girls having fun growing up and perhaps being just a little bit different. The next few years in London were to prove much more difficult to cope with and darker times lay ahead. Some of us would fall by the wayside.
Storm Thorgerson: went on to form Hipgnosis and now lives in North London with his partner Barbie. Sadly has been very ill recently but is recovering well. Has one son by Libby. Still works as a designer.
David Gale: formed a theatre group Lumiere and Son and now spends his time as a writer and journalist. Lives in North London with his partner Deborah and two children.
David Henderson: works as an artist and furniture maker. Lived in France for some years but now lives in Hastings with his partner Olivia.
Nick Sedgwick: works as a writer and journalist. A close friend of Roger Waters and has worked on album notes and interviews with him. Lives in South London with his partner Carey and son Cole. Sadly has had serious illness in recent years.
Aubrey “Po” Powell: formed Hipgnosis with Storm and since that ended has been making films…mainly in the music business. Lives in West London and Formentera with his partner Kate.
Nigel Lesmoir Gordon: still working as a film maker. Lives in Bedford with his partner Jenny.
John Davies (John the Vet): for many years owned and ran a successful veterinary practice in South London. Recently retired and lives in South London and Formentera with his partner Rae. Has two children.
Copyright John Davies 2003.
Pictures are copyright Ian Moore & John Davies. Please do not copy as to do so will infringe copyright and legal action may ensue
Richard Evans (Then inhouse graphic designer for Hipgnosis) designed and illustrated the above t-shirt. Richard recalls that it was done for the crew for the Wish You Were here tour. Hipgnosis had just finished designing the programme – (the Pink Floyd comic) – and were asked to provide some artwork. The drawing of Dave on his motorbike ties in with the cartoon character in the comic (Dave Derring). It was Storm’s idea to put ‘l’equipe’ on the front. It means ‘The Team’. ‘What am I doing here’ on the back refers to the fact that American t-shirts always have the design on the back but British ones have the design on the front.
This T-shirt is most likely from the British Winter 74 Tour. John recalls being told that the horizontal lines under the writing were taken from the I Ching.
Psychedelic goggles designed by Pete Wynne-Wilson who lived in Earlham Street with Syd and others. They were worn by Emo in the photo of the hippy on the Floyd album “A Nice Pair”
All content except where noted otherwise is © John Davies/Ian Moore & A Fleeting Glimpse
Any graphics that are taken from this collection and placed on another website or any other medium will be deemed to be in breach of copyright and legal proceedings may be instituted. You have been warned.