Director Roddy Bogawa speaks with District Fray ahead of the two D.C. screenings of the new documentary highlighting Syd Barrett.
In the innumerable tales associated with rock ‘n’ roll lore, most stand out due to the debauchery aspect (Led Zeppelin and that poor mud shark immediately come to mind). Some, however, act as a cautionary tale as to what the pressures of the industry can do to a person the moment they experience success.
In a new documentary “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett,” directors Roddy Bogawa (“Taken By Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson”) and Storm Thorgerson (legendary album cover designer for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and Paul McCartney), delve into the history of Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd and someone who’s history has been condensed into “Founded one of the most influential bands ever. Took a lot of LSD. Had a mental breakdown. The End.” As with all lores, the actual facts around the story are far more complex than that. Bogawa found this out after he was recruited by Thorgerson to pursue the documentary.
After a screening of “Taken By Storm” in Los Angeles in 2011, Rob Dickinson of the English alt-rock Catherine Wheel, who had appeared in the documentary, mentioned to Thorgerson that “Roddy should do the film about Syd Barrett that hasn’t been done yet — the proper film,” Bogawa recalls.
Over breakfast the following morning, Thorgerson asked Bogawa about his knowledge of Syd Barrett. Confessing that while in various bands in college, they would try to learn the music to “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and could never figure it out, Bogawa was knowledgeable enough about Barrett’s solo work for Thorgerson to realize that “maybe you are the one.”
The only problem was Bogawa had spent the last several years with Thorgerson and needed a break. What he didn’t realize was Thorgerson’s colon cancer, once in remission, had returned and time was not on their side.
“In a classic Storm way, my phone rang one day and Storm said ‘Where are you, Roddy?’” Bogawa says. “I said, ‘I’m at home in New York. Why?’ He said, ‘I’m in Los Angeles. We’re starting the Syd film.’”
Gathering interviews from Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, along with Blur’s Graham Coxon, The Who’s Pete Townsend (who we learn skipped performing in a Who show to go see Pink Floyd!), along with numerous friends, former girlfriends and family members of Barrett’s, the movie delves in the musician’s life, which starts seemingly as a multi-talented, multi-faceted man with a golden touch to the potential reasons leading to Barrett’s mental health decline.
“To have them talk about a certain moment in their life made them emotional,” Bogawa says. “[It] made them reflective and gave a certain honesty to the interviews. There’s quite a few things in our film that Roger and David have never said publicly.”
Thorgerson passed away in April 2013 and the final product is a testament not only to Barrett’s talent but Thorgerson’s determination to get the full story told and, also, an excuse for him to reminisce.
“I will say this — he talked over every interview,” Bogawa laughs. “It was classic Storm….I do think him being there did give a certain quality for sure. It was like recollections between friends.”
“Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett” screens at Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market on July 31 and Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. You can get tickets here.