Any collaboration between Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale and early Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible. In the second half of the sixties Seale introduced a realistic social programme to improve conditions in black communities and advocated violence as a means of self-defense for Afro-Americans, whereas Barrett gradually lost touch with reality, never to return fully again.
After service in the US Air Force, Seale entered Merritt College in Oakland, California, where his political views influenced by Malcolm X, Mao Tse Tung, and Robert Williams became increasingly radical. In 1966 he and Huey Newton founded the militant Black Panther Party. At that time Barrett's band The Pink Floyd rose to fame in England and released their first single Arnold Layne. A combination of excessive consumption of drugs (LSD, cannabis, Mandrax), a sudden rise to stardom, and restraints and demands on his creativity imposed by his record company caused Barrett to suffer a mental breakdown in 1967, and he became known as one of the LSD victims of the psychedelic era.
While in 1970 Seale was imprisoned for "having incited riots" and was accused of having murdered an FBI-infiltrant in the Black Panther Party, Barrett disappeared from view after having released two fragile solo albums: The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. Seale returned on the political platform after his release from prison, albeit in a quiter, non-violent role. Barrett, however, left his career as a musician definitively behind him after a disastrous live come-back in 1972 and radically retreated from public life, allegedly to devote his time on painting.
Seale's main sources of inspiration lie in Marxism and black armed self-defense, while Barrett's inspiration derived from arts, music, literature, and nursery rhymes and fairy tales from his childhood in Cambridge. Put the two men together and you get something like the track Lucifer Sam Division, in which Bobby Seale's militant views take a flight as an LSD-inspired mythology of black and white cats.
Lucifer Sam Division
(Syd Barrett & Bobby Seale)
And then I was in the hole
In the hole, there's nothing in there
Just a box
About four by seven
And decided to open the door
Turned out to be some beautiful black cat
We shook the hands, you know, right on
Well, the cat really put some politics into it
It's more or less like:
First the cats created themselves
The black cats created themselves
And land, water, and air
And it came down righteously
So what happened?
Number one of the cats created a white cat
To balance his creation
And this white cat turned out to be
A fat, avaricious cat
The white cat did not create land
The white cat robbed from the black cats' labour
And so, the white cat created other cats
To maintain what the white cat had taken
From the black cats' earth
There was oppression and war
And the black cats turned revolu-tionary
Against that power structure
The white cat put number one in the hole
In the box
For a million years
And the black cats were forced in exile
Lucifer Sam, Siam cat
Always sitting by your side
Always by your side
That cat's something I can't explain
Material used for the soundtrack: Lucifer Sam by Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd (1967) and a prison interview of Bobby Seale (c. 1970).
Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, EMI Records Ltd.,
The Bobby Seale interview was released on the CD Music Is Revolution, The Bookbeat Gallery/The End Is Here docusound.