Syd Barrett

syd barrettFrom: Cambridge, England

Now, Syd or Roger, as was his real name, holds a special place in many UK music lovers hearts. That broken diamond, the one that dared to fly too close to the sun, to burn bright enough to bring a little coloured light into the lives of all that heard his music. A boy from Cambridge, who went to art school, liked to paint, drifted into music, and out of it nearly as quickly, but managed, in a brief window, to leave a small cannon of work so unique that it continues to influence people to this day, not to mention co-founding a band most people have heard of, which he named after two obscure blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Ladies & Gentlemen we give you the quintessentially English, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic, magical SYd BaRReTt!

Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006), was an English singer-songwriter, guitarist and painter, best remembered as a founder member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter during the band’s psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic direction in their early work. He is credited with creating their name, but left the group in April 1968 amid speculations of mental illness exacerbated by drug use. He was active in music for only about seven years, recording four singles, the debut album (and contributed to the second one), plus several unreleased songs with Pink Floyd, as well as a single and two albums on his own.

Although legend has it that he was an acid casualty, Barrett actually suffered from schizophrenia. The psychotic episodes began when he was around 20 years old, a typical age for the onset of the illness.  As time passed he became ever more erratic, playing mind games with other members of the band (as in the rehearsal of his trick song “Have You Got It Yet?”), and often he just stood on stage while the others played, afraid to touch his guitar for fear his performance would not be perfect.  The band tried to accommodate his eccentricities, hiring Barrett’s old friend David Gilmour to play in his stead, so he could just write. But by age 22, he had become far too unstable to continue.

Encouraged by Gilmour and Roger Waters, in 1969, Barrett started off a solo career with the release of the single, “Octopus”, which foreshadowed his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs (1970), which was recorded over the course of one year (1968–1969) with four different producers (Peter Jenner, Malcolm Jones, David Gilmour and Roger Waters). Nearly two months after Madcap was released, Barrett began working on his second – and last – album, Barrett (produced by Gilmour, and featuring contributions from Richard Wright), which would be released in late 1970.  His last public performance was with Twink in 1972. Everything seemed to go wrong and it turned out to be a disaster, panned by the critics.  Mortified, he never played again.

Barrett spent some time in a psychiatric hospital (some accounts say as long as 8 years), and the band saw him just once more when he appeared at the studio during the recording of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in 1975.  Overweight, with shaven head and eyebrows, they didn’t recognize him at first.  Rick Wright said it was very strange that the first time they saw Syd in seven years, he walked in while they were cutting a song about him.  On a happier note, the other members of the Floyd saw to it that he received his very substantial royalties for the music he had written and performed during his tenure with them.   In 1988, an album of unreleased tracks/alternate takes, Opel, was released by EMI with Barrett’s approval.  He spent his later years as a recluse, living in Cambridge at the house of his mother, where he enjoyed painting and gardening. He died in 2006 of pancreatic cancer.

syd barrettBarrett’s innovative guitar work and exploration of experimental techniques such as using dissonance, distortion, and feedback had an enormous legacy, with a wide variety of musicians from David Bowie to Brian Eno to Jimmy Page and more drawing influence. A number of biographies have been written about him since the 1980s, and Pink Floyd wrote and recorded several tributes to him after he left, most notably the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

The Madcap Laughs – 1970
Syd Barrett - Madcap Laughs

  • Golden Hair
  • Here I Go
  • Long Gone
  • Love You
  • No Good Trying
  • No Man’s Land
  • Octopus
  • Terrapin

Barrett – 1970
Syd Barrett - Barrett

  • Baby Lemonade
  • Rats
  • Wined And Dined

The Peel Sessions – 1987
Syd Barrett - Peel Sessions

  • Two Of A Kind [Previously Unreleased, 1970]