New Musical Express|
April 13, 1974
by Nick Kent
The summer of '67 went up like a psychedelic
mushroom-cloud - and some of the fall-out's still
coming down. Brian Jones was casually snuffed out,
Jimi Hendrix blew up in his own face...but one
extraordinary tragi-comedy struggles on and on: The
Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett... There is a story
that exists pertaining to an incident which
occurred during one of Syd Barrett's later gigs
with Pink Floyd.
After a lengthy interval, the band decided to
take the stage (there is a certain amount of
dispute as to which venue this all took place at) -
all except for Syd Barrett, who was left in the
dressing room, manically trying to organise his
anarchically- inclined hairstyle of the time.
As his comrades were tuning up, Barrett - more out
of desperation than anything - emptied the contents
of a jar of Mandrax, broke the pills into tiny
pieces and mixed the crumbs in with a full jar of
Brylcreem. He then poured the whole coagulated mass
onto his head, picked up his Telecaster, and walked
As he was playing his customary incoherent,
sporadic, almost catatonic guitar-phrases, the
Mandrax-Brylcreem combination started to run amok
under the intense heat of the stage-lighting and
dribbled down from his scalp so that it looked like
his face was melting into a distorted wax effigy of
This story is probably more or less true. It
exists amidst an infinity of strange tales - many
of them fact, just as many wistful fiction - that
surround and largely comprise the whole
legend-in-his-own-time schtick of which Syd Barrett
is very much the dubiously honoured possessor.
Barrett is still alive and basically functioning,
by the way. Every so often he appears at Lupus
Music, his publishing company situated on Berkeley
Square which handles his royalties situation and
has kept him in modest financial stead these last
few dormant years.
On one of his last visits (which constitute
possibly Barrett's only real contact with the
outside world), Brian Morrison, Lupus' manager,
started getting insistent that Barrett write some
songs. After all, demand for more Syd Barrett
material is remarkably high at the moment and
E.M.I. are all ready to swoop the lad into the
studio, producer in tow, at any given moment.
Barrett claimed that no, he hadn't written
anything; but dutifully agreed to get down and
produce *some* sort of something. His next
appearance at the office occurred last week. Asked
if he'd written any new tunes, he replied in his
usual hazy condition, hair grown out somewhat from
its former scalp shaved condition, "No." He then
promptly disappeared again.
This routine has been going on for years now.
Otherwise Barrett tends to appear at Lupus only
when the rent is due or when he wants to buy a
guitar (a luxury that at one point became an
obsession and consequently had to be curtailed).
The rest of Barrett's time is spent sprawled out in
front of the large colour TV in his two room
apartment situated at the hinterland of Chelsea or
else just walking at random around London.
A recent port of call was a clothes store down
the King's Road where Syd tried on three vastly
different sizes of trousers, claimed that all of
them fitted him perfectly, and then disappeared
again, without buying any.
And that's basically what the whole Syd Barrett
story is all about - a huge tragedy shot through
with so many ludicrously comic aspects that you
could easily be tempted to fill out a whole article
by simply relating all the crazy anecdotes and
half-chewed tales of twilight dementia, and leave
it at that.
The conclusion, however, is always inescapable
and goes far beyond the utterly bogus image
compounded of the artist as some fated victim
spread out on an altar of acid and sacrificed to
the glorious spirit of '67.
Syd Barrett was simply a brilliant innovative young
song-writer whose genius was somehow amputated;
leaving him hamstrung in a lonely limbo accompanied
only by a stunted creativity and a kind of helpless
The whole saga starts, I suppose at least for
convenience's sake, with a band called The Abdabs.
They were also called the 'T'-Set and no one I
spoke to quite knew which had come first. It
doesn't really matter though. The band was a
five-piece, as it happens, consisting of three
aspiring architects, Richard Wright, Nick Mason and
Roger Waters, a jazz guitarist called Bob Close and
- the youngest member - an art student called Roger
Keith Barrett (Barrett, like most other kids, had
been landed with a nickname - "Syd" - which somehow
remained long after his school days had been
The band, it was generally considered, were
pretty dire - but,as they all emanated from the hip
elitist circles of their home-town Cambridge they
were respected after a fashion at least in their
own area. This hip elite was, according to fellow-
townsman Storm of "Hipgnosis" (the well-respected
record-sleeve design company who of course have
kept a close and solid relationship all along with
the Floyd), built on several levels of
acquaintances, mostly tied by age.
"It was the usual thing really. 1962 we were all
into Jimmy Smith. Then 1963 brought dope and rock.
Syd was one of the first to get into The Beatles
and the Stones. "He started playing guitar around
then - used to take it to parties or play down at
this club called The Mill. He and Dave (Gilmour)
went to the South of France one summer and busked
Storm remembers Barrett as a "bright, extrovert
kid, Smoked dope, pulled chicks - the usual thing.
He had no problems on the surface. He was no
introvert as far as I could see then." Before the
advent of the Pink Floyd, Barrett had three
brooding interests - music, painting, and religion.
A number of Barrett's seniors in Cambridge were
starting to get involved in an obscure form of
Eastern mysticism known as "Sant Saji" which
involved heavy bouts of meditation and much
contemplation on purity and the inner light. Syd
attempted to involve himself in the faith, but he
was turned down for being "too young" (he was
nineteen at the time).
This, according to a number of those who knew
him, was supposed to have affected him quite
deeply. "Syd has always had this big phobia about
his age," states Pete Barnes, who became involved
in the labyrinthine complexities of Barrett's
affairs and general psyche after the Floyd split.
"I mean, when we would try to get him back into the
studio to record he would get very defensive and
say 'I'm only 24. I'm still young. I've got time.'
That thing with religion could have been partly
responsible for it. "At any rate, Barrett lost all
interest in spiritualism after that and soon enough
he would also give up his painting. Already he's
won a scholarship to Camberwell Art School in
Peckham which was big potatoes for just another
hopeful from out in the sticks. Both Dave Gilmour
and Storm claim that Barrett's painting showed
exceptional potential: "Syd was a great artist.
I loved his work, but he just stopped. First it
was the religion, then the painting. He was
starting to shut himself off slowly then." Music,
of course, remained. The Ab-Dabs . . . well let's
forget about them and examine the "Pink Floyd
Sound", which was really just the old band but
minus Bob Close who "never quite fitted in." The
Pink Floyd Sound name came from Syd after a blues
record he owned which featured two bluesmen from
Georgia - Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The two
names meshed nicely so...
Anyway, the band was still none too inspiring -
no original material, but versions of "Louie Louie"
and "Road Runner" into which would be interspersed
liberal dosages of staccato freak- out. Kinda like
the Blues Magoos, I guess. "Freak-out" was
happening in the States at the time - the time
being 1966, the year of the Yardbirds, The Mothers of Invention and the first primal croaks from the West Coast. Not to mention
"Revolver" and "Eight Miles High." The fat was
obviously in the pan for the big 1967 Summer Of
Love psychedelic bust-out. However, The Pink Floyd
Sound weren't exactly looking to the future at this
Peter Jenner, a lecturer at the L.S.E. and John
"Hoppy" Hopkins were in the audience for one of
their gigs and were impressed enough to offer them
some sort of management deal. Admits Jenner: "It
was one of the first rock events I'd seen - - I
didn't know anything about rock really." (Jenner
and Hopkins had in fact made one offer prior to the
Floyd - to a band they'd heard on advance tape from
New York called The Velvet Underground).
"Actually the Floyd then were barely semi-pro
standard, now I think about it, but I was so
impressed by the electric guitar sound. The band
was just at the point of breaking up then, y'know.
It was weird - they just thought "Oh, well, might
as well pack it all in." But as came along and so
they changed their minds."
The first trick was the light show and
the U.F.O. concerts. The next was activating a
policy of playing only original compositions. This
is where Syd Barrett came into his own. Barrett
hadn't really composed tunes before this - the odd
one here and there - a nonsense song called
"Effervescing Elephant" when he was, maybe, 16 -
and he'd put music to a poem to be found in James
Joyce's "Ulysses" called "Golden Hair", but nothing
Jenner: "Syd was really amazing though I mean, his
inventiveness was quite astounding. All those songs
from that whole Pink Floyd phase were written in no
more than six months. He just started and took it
from there. "The first manifestation of Barrett's
songwriting talents was a bizarre little classic
called "Arnold Layne".
A sinister piece of vaguely commercial fare, it
dealt with the twilight wanderings of a
transvestite/pervert figure and is both whimsical
and singularly creepy. The single was banned by
Radio London who found its general connotations a
little too bizarre for even pirate radio standards.
The Floyd were by now big stuff in Swinging
London. Looking back on it all, the band came on
just like naive art students in Byrds-styled granny
glasses (the first publicity shots are particularly
laughable), but the music somehow had an edge.
Certainly enough for prestigious folk like Brian
Epstein to mouth off rhapsodies of praise on French
radio, and all the 'chic' mags to throw in the
token mention. There were even TV shows - good late
night avant garde programmes for Hampstead trendies
like "Look of the Week" on which the Floyd played
"Pow R. Toc H."
But let's hear more about Syd's inventiveness.
Jenner again: "Well, his influences were very much
the Stones, The Beatles, Byrds and Love. The Stones
were the prominent ones - he wore out his copy of
"Between the Buttons" very quickly. Love's album
too. In fact, I was once trying to tell him about
this Arthur Lee song I couldn't remember the title
of, so I just hummed the main riff. Syd picked up
his guitar and followed what I was humming
chord-wise. The chord pattern he worked out he went
on to use as the main riff for 'Interstellar
And Barrett's guitar style ? "Well, he had this
technique that I found very pleasing. I mean, he
was no guitar hero - never remotely in the class of
Page or Clapton, say" The Floyd Cult was growing as
Barrett's creativity was beginning to hit its
stride. This creativity set the stage in Barrett's
song writing for what can only be described as the
quintessential marriage of the two ideal forms of
English psychedelia - musical rococo freak-outs
underpinning Barrett's sudden ascendancy into the
artistic realms of ye olde English whimsical loone
wherein dwelt the likes of Edward Lear and Kenneth
Grahame. Pervy old Lewis Carroll, of course,
presided at the very head of the tea-party. And so
Arnold Layne and washing lines gave way to the
whole Games for May ceremony and "See Emily
"I was sleeping in the woods on night after a gig
we'd played somewhere, when I saw this girl appear
before me. That girl is Emily." Thus quoth the
mighty Syd himself back in '67, obviously caught up
in it all like some kite lost in spring. And it
*was* glorious for a time. "Piper at the Gates of
Dawn" was being recorded at the same time as
"Sergeant Pepper" and the two bands would
occasionally meet to check out each other's
product. McCartney stepped out to bestow his papal
blessing on "Piper", an album which still stands as
my fondest musical memory of 1967 - even more so
than "Pepper" or "Younger than Yesterday." (All
except for "Bike" which reeks of crazy basements
and Barrett eccentricities beginning to lose
control - psychedelic whimsy taken a little too
close to the edge.)
You see, strange things were starting to happen
with the Floyd and particularly with Barrett.
"See Emily Play" was Top Five which enabled Barrett
to more than adequately live out his pop star
infatuation number to the hilt - the Hendrix curls,
kaftans from "Granny's", snakeskin boots and Fender
Telecasters were all his for the asking - but there
were the, uh, unstabilising influences.
First came the ego-problems and slight prima
donna fits, but gradually the Floyd, Jenner et al
realized that something deeper was going on. Take
the Floyd's three Top Of The Pops appearances for
"Emily." Jenner: "The first time Syd dressed up
like a pop star. The second time he came on in his
straightforward, fairly scruffy clothes, looking
rather unshaven. The third time he came to the
studio in his pop star clothes and then changed
into complete rags for the actual TV spot."
It was all something to do with the fact that
John Lennon had stated publicly he wouldn't appear
on Top Of The Pops. Syd seemed to envisage Lennon
as some sort of yardstick by which to measure his
own situation as a pop star. "Syd was always
complaining that John Lennon owned a house while he
only had a flat." states Pete Barnes.
But there were far darker manifestations of a
definite impending imbalance in the Barrett psyche.
He was at that point involved in a relationship
with a girl named Lynsey - an affair which took an
uncomfortably bizarre turn when the lady involved
appeared on Peter Jenner's doorstep fairly savagely
beaten up. "I couldn't believe it at the time. I
had this firm picture of Syd as this really gentle
guy, which is what he was, basically."
Something was definitely awry. In fact there are
numerous fairly unpleasant tales about this
particular affair (including one that claims
Barrett to have locked the girl in a room for a
solid week, pushing water-biscuits under the door
so she wouldn't starve) which are best not dwelt
But to make matters worse, Syd's eyes were often
seen to cement themselves into a foreboding, nay
quite terrifying, stare which *really* started to
put the frighteners on present company. The head
would tilt back slightly, the eyes would get misty
and bloated. Then they would stare right at you and
right through you at the same time. One thing was
painfully obvious: the boy genius was fast becoming
mentally totally unhinged. Perhaps it was the
Barrett's intake at the time was suitably
fearsome, while many considered his metabolism for
such chemicals to be a trifle fragile. Certainly
they only tended towards a further tipping of the
psyche scales, but it would be far too easy to
write Barrett off as some hapless acid amputee even
though certain folks now claim that a two-month
sojourn in Richmond with a couple suitably named
"Mad Sue" and "Mad Jock" had him drinking a cup of
tea each morning which was unknown to Syd, spiked
with a heavy dosage of acid. Such activity can, of
course, lead to a certain degree of brain damage,
but I fear one has to stride manfully blind-folded
into a rather more Freudian landscape, leading us
to the opinion of many people I talked to who
claimed that Syd's dilemma stretched back to
certain childhood traumas.
The youngest of a family of eight, heavily affected
by the sudden death of his father when Syd was
twelve years old, spoilt by a strong-willed mother
who may or may not have imposed a strange
distinction between the dictates of fantasy and
reality - each contention forms a patch work quilt
like set up of insinuations and potential cause and
effect mechanisms. "Everyone is supposed to have
fun when they're young - I don't know why, but I
never did" - Barrett talking in an interview to
Rolling Stone, Autumn 1971.
Peter Jenner: "I think we tended to underrate the
extent of his problem. I mean, I thought that I
could act as a mediator - y'know having been a
sociology teacher at the L.S.E. and all that
guff... "I think, though...one thing I regret now
was that I made demands on Syd. He'd written "See
Emily Play" and suddenly everything had to be seen
in commercial terms. I think we have pressurized
him into a state of paranoia about having to come
up with another 'hit single'. "Also we may have
been the darlings of London, but out in the suburbs
it was fairly terrible. Before 'Emily' we'd have
things thrown at us onstage. After 'Emily' it was
screaming girls wanting to hear our hit song."
So the Floyd hit the ballroom circuit and Syd was
starting to play up. An American tour was then set
up in November - three dates at the Fillmore Went
in San Francisco and an engagement at L.A.'s
Cheetah Club. Barrett's dishevelled psyche started
truly manifesting itself though when the Floyd were
forced onto some TV shows. "Dick Clark's Bandstand"
was disastrous because it needed a miming job on
the band's part and "Syd wasn't into moving his
lips that day."
"The Pat Boone Show" was quite surreal: Boone
actually tried to interview Barrett on the screen,
asking him particularly inane questions and getting
a truly classic catatonic piercing mute stare for
an answer. "Eventually we canceled out on 'Beach
Party'." says Jenner's partner and tour manager
Andrew King. So there was the return to England and
the rest of the Floyd had made the decision. On the
one hand, Barrett was the songwriter and central
figure - one the other his madness was much too
much to handle.
He just couldn't be communicated with. Patience
had not been rewarded and the break away was on the
cards. But not before a final studio session at De
Lane Lea took place - a mad anarchic affair which
spawned three of Barrett's truly vital twilight
rantings. Unfortunately only one has been released.
"Jug Band Blues", the only Barrett track off
"Saucerful of Secrets," is as good an explanation
as any for Syd not appearing on the rest of the
album. "Y'see, even at that point, Syd actually
knew what was happening to him." claims Jenner, "I
mean 'Jug Band Blues' is the ultimate
self-diagnosis on a state of schizophrenia."
"It's awfully considerate of you to think of me
here. And I'm most obliged to you for making it
clear that I'm not here. And I'm wondering who
could be writing this song." Barrett even had a
Salvation Army Band troop in during the middle of
the number. The two unreleased numbers (incidently
these, contrary to belief, are the *only*
unreleased numbers Barrett has ever recorded) are
both unfinished creations - one a masterful splurge
of blood curdling pre-Beefheartian lunacy - "Scream
Your Last Scream"...
"Scream Your Last Scream/Old Woman with
basket/Wave your arms madly, madly/Flat tops of
houses/Houses Mouses/She'll be scrubbing apples on
all fours/Middle-dee-tiddle with Dumpy Mrs.
Dee/we'll be watching telly for all hours." The
other, "Vegetable Man," is a crazy sing along.
"Syd", recalls Jenner, "was around at my house just
before he had to go to record and, because a song
was needed, he just wrote a description of what he
was wearing at the time and threw in a chorus that
went "Vegetable man - where are you ?
"A nationwide tour of Great Britain followed.
Jimi Hendrix, The Move, The Nice and the Floyd on
one package, which distanced things out even
further. Syd often wouldn't turn up on time,
sometimes didn't play at all, sat by himself on the
tour coach. The rest of the Floyd socialized with
The Nice (guitarist David O'List played with the
band when Barrett was incapable) But surely the two
uncrowned kings of acid rock, Hendrix and Barrett,
must have socialized in some capacity ?
"Not really," states Jenner. "Hendrix had his own
limousine. Syd didn't talk to anyone. I mean, by
now he was going onstage and playing one chord
throughout the set. He was into this thing of total
anarchistic experiment and never really considered
the other members of the band." There was also this
thing with Syd that the Floyd were "my band". Enter
Dave Gilmour, not long back from working with
various groups in France - an old mate and fair
The implications were obvious. Jenner: "At the
time Dave was doing very effective takeoffs of
Hendrix-style guitar playing. So the band said
'play like Syd Barrett'." Yeah, but surely Dave
Gilmour had his own style - y'know, the slide and
echo sound ? "That's *Syd*. Onstage Syd used to
play with slide and a bunch of echo boxes."
The Floyd played maybe four gigs with the
five-piece and then Barrett was ousted. It was a
courageous move - he reacted and everyone seems to
agree that it was all perfectly warranted. Except,
maybe, Syd. Jenner: "Yeah, Syd does resent the
Floyd. I don't know - he may *still* call them 'my
band' for all I know". From here on in, the whole
Barrett saga goes a trifle haywire.
Barrett himself loped off into the back country of
Earl's Court to greet the usual freak show, but not
before he'd stayed over at South Kensington awhile
with Storm. "Syd was well into his 'orbiting' phase
by then. He was travelling very fast in his own
private sphere and I thought I could be a mediator
of some sort. Y'see, I think you're going to have
to make the point that Syd's madness was not caused
by any linear progression of events, but more a
circular haze of situations that meshed together on
top of themselves and Syd.
Me, I couldn't handle those stares though!" By
that time, the Floyd and Blackhill Enterprises had
parted company, Jenner choosing Barrett as a
brighter hope. What happened to the Floyd is
history - they survived and flourished off on their
own more electronic tangent, while Syd didn't. "The
Madcap Laughs", Barrett's first solo album, took a
sporadic but nonetheless laborious year to
Production credits constantly changed hands.
Peter Jenner to Malcolm Jones (who gave up half the
way though), ultimately to Dave Gilmour and Roger
Waters. By this time Barrett's creative processes
refused to mesh properly and so the results were
often jagged and unapproachable. Basically they
were essays in distance - the Madcap waving
whimsically out from the haze. Or maybe he was
"My head kissed the ground/I was half the way
down...Please life a hand/I'm only a person/With
Eskimo chain I tattooed my brain all the way/Would
you miss me/Oh, wouldn't you miss me at all ?" On
"Dark Globe" the anguish is all too real. Many of
the tracks though, like "Terrapin", almost just lay
there, scratching themselves in front of you.
They exist completely inside their own zone,
like weird insects and exotic fish, the listener
looking inside the tank at the activity. In many
ways, "Madcap" is a work of genius - in just as
many other ways, it's a cranked-up post-acid curio.
It's still a vital, thoroughly unique album for
both those reasons. Jenner: "I think Syd was in
good shape when he made 'Madcap'. He was still
writing good songs, probably in the same state as
he was during 'Jugband Blues'.
" Storm: "The thing was that all those guys had to
cope with Syd out of his head on Mandrax half the
time. He got so 'mandied' up on those sessions, his
hand would slip through the strings and he'd fall
off the stool." "Barrett", the second album, was
recorded in a much shorter space of time. Dave
Gilmour was called in to produce, and brought in
Rick Wright and Jerry Shirley, Humble Pie's
drummer, to help.
Gilmour: "We really had basically three
alternatives at that point, working with Syd. One,
we could actually work with him in the studio,
playing along as he put down his tracks - which was
almost impossible, though we succeeded on 'Gigolo
Aunt'. The second was laying down some kind of
track before and then having him play over it. The
third was him putting his basic ideas down with
just guitar and vocals and then we'd try and make
something out of it. all. "It was mostly a case of
me saying 'Well, what have you got then, Syd ?' and
he'd search around and eventually work something
The Barrett disintegration process continued
through this album giving it a feel more akin to
that of a one-off demo. The songs, though totally
off the wall and often vague creations, are shot
through with the occasional sustained glimpse of
Barrett's brain-belled lyricism at its most vivid.
Like "Wolfpack", or "Rats", which hurtles along
like classic "Trout Mask Replica" Beefheart
shambling thunder, with crazed double-edged
nonsense lyrics to boot. "Rats, Rats/Lay Down
Flat/We Don't Need You/We Act Like Cats/If you
think you're unloved/Well we know about that."
"Dominoes" is probably the album's most arresting
track, as well as being the only real pointer to
what the Floyd might have sounded like had Barrett
been more in control of himself.
The song is exquisite - a classic kind of Lewis
Carroll scenario which spirals up and almost defies
time and space. "You and I/And Dominoes/A day Goes
By," - before drifting into an archety - pal Floyd
minor-chord refrain straight out of "More".
Gilmour: "The song just ended after Syd had
finished singing and I wanted a gradual fade so I
added that section myself. I played drums on that,
by the way."
Gilmour by this time had become perhaps the only
person around who could communicate with Barrett.
"Oh, I don't think *anyone* can communicate with
Syd. I did those albums because I liked the songs,
not, as I suppose some might think, because I felt
guilty taking his place in the Floyd. I was
concerned that he wouldn't fall completely apart.
The final re-mix on 'Madcap' was all mine as
well." In between the two solo albums E.M.I.,
Harvest or Morrison had decided to set up a bunch
of press-interviews for Barrett, whose style of
conversation was scarcely suited to the tailor-
made ends of the Media. Most couldn't make any
sense whatsoever out of his verbal ramblings,
others tumbled to a conclusion and warily
pinpointed the Barrett malady in their pieces.
Peter Barnes did one of the interviews.
"It was fairly ludicrous on the surface, I mean,
you just had to go along with it all - y'know Syd
would say something completely incongruous one
minute like 'It's getting heavy, innit' and you'd
just have to say 'Yeah, Syd, it's getting heavy,'
and the conversation would dwell on *that* for five
minutes. "Actually, listening to the tape
afterwards you could work out that there was some
kind of logic there - except that Syd would
suddenly be answering a question you'd asked him
ten minutes ago while you were off on a different
Hmmm, maybe a tree fell on him. Anyway another
Syd quirk had always been his obsessive tampering
with the fine head of black hair that rested firmly
on the Barrett cranium. Somewhere along the line,
our hero had decided to shave all his lithesome
skull appendages down to a sparse grizzle, known
appropriately, as the "Borstal crop".
Jenner: "I can't really comment too accurately, but
I'm rather tempted to view it as a symbolic
gesture. Y'know - goodbye to being a pop-star, or
something." Barrett, by this time, was well slumped
into his real twilight period, living in the cellar
of his mother's house in Cambridge. And this is
where the story gets singularly depressing.
An interview with Rolling Stone in the Christmas
of '71 showed Barrett to be living out his life
with a certain whimsical self-reliance. At one
point in the rap, he stated "I'm really totally
together. I even think I should be." Almost exactly
a year later, from the sheer frustration of his own
inertia, Barrett went temporarily completely
haywire and smashed his head through the basement
ceiling. In between these two dates, Syd went into
the studios to record. "It was an abortion:, claims
Barnes, "He just kept over- dubbing guitar part on
guitar part until it was just a total chaotic mess.
He also wouldn't show anyone his lyrics - I fear
actually because he hadn't written any."
Jenner was also present: "It was horribly
frustrating because there were sporadic glimpses of
the old Syd coming through, and then it would all
get horribly distorted again. Nothing remains from
the sessions." And then there was Stars, a band
formed by Twink, ex-drummer of Tomorrow, Pretty
Things and Pink Fairies. Twink was another native
of Cambridge, had previously known Barrett
marginally well, and somehow dragged the Madcap
into forming a band including himself and a
bass-player called Jack Monck.
It is fairly strongly considered that Barrett
was *used* - his legendary reputation present only
to enhance what was in effect a shambling, mediocre
rock band. The main Stars gig occurred at the Corn
Exchange in Cambridge where they were second billed
to the MC5.
It was an exercise in total musical
untogetherness and, after an hour or so, Barrett
unplugged his guitar and sauntered off the stage to
return once again to his basement.
Since that time, Syd Barrett may or may not have
worked in a factory for a week or so/worked as a
gardener/tried to enroll as an architectural
student/grown mushrooms in his basement/been a
tramp/spent two weeks in New York busking/tried to
become a Pink Floyd roadie. All the above are
stories told to me by various semi- authentic
sources. More than likely, most of them are total
One thing, though appears to be clear: Syd
Barrett is unable to write songs ("Either that or
he writes songs and won't show them to anyone" -
Jenner.) In the meantime, Barrett has been elevated
into the position of becoming perhaps the leading
mysterioso figure in the whole of rock. Arthur Lee
and Brian Wilson are the only other figures who
loom large in that echelon of twilight zone
notoriety and myth- weaving. His cult-appeal has
reached remarkable proportions in America, to the
extent that Capitol Records are finally releasing
the two Barrett solo albums in a double package,
while in countries as diverse as France and Japan,
Barrett is a source of fanatical interest.
And then there is the Syd Barrett International
Appreciation Society centered in Britain, which
puts out magazines, tee- shirts, and buttons. It is
unfortunately as trivial as it is fanatical. "I
mentioned the Society to Syd once." states Peter
Barnes. "He just said it was O.K., y'know, He's
really not interested in any of it. It's ironic, I
suppose - he's much bigger now as the silent
cult-figure doing nothing than he was when he was
And still the offers to take Syd back into the
studio come in from all manner of illustrious folk.
Jimmy Page has long wanted to produce Barrett, Eno
has eagerly inquired about such collaboration,
Kevin Ayers has wanted to form a band with the
Madcap for ages. David Bowe is a zealous admirer
(his version of "See Emily Play" on "Pinups" will
certainly keep Syd financially in adequate stead
for a few months).
"Syd has always said that when he goes back into
the studio again he will refuse to have a producer.
He still talks about making a third album. I don't
know - I think Dave is the only one who could pull
it off. There seems to be a relationship there."
THE LAST words are from Dave Gilmour: "I don't know
what Syd thinks or *how* he thinks.
Sure, I'd be into going back into the studio
with him, but I'm into projects like that anyway.
Period. "I last saw him around Christmas in
Harrod's. We just said 'Hi', y'know, I think
actually of all the people you've spoken to,
probably only Storm and I really know the whole
story and can see it all in the right focus. "I
mean Syd was a strange guy even back in Cambridge.
He was a very respected figure back there in his
own way. "In my opinion, it's a family situation
that's at the roof of it all.
His father's death affected him very heavily and
his mother always pampered him - made him out to be
a genius of sorts. I remember I really started to
get worried when I went along to the session for
'See Emily Play'. He was strange even then. That
"Yeah, it was fairly obvious that I was brought
in to take over from him, at least on stage...It
was impossible to gauge his feelings about it. I
don't think Syd has opinions as such. He functions
on a totally different plane of logic, and some
people will claim, 'Well yeah man he's on a higher
cosmic level' - but basically there's something
drastically wrong. "It wasn't just the drugs - we'd
both done acid before the whole Floyd thing - it's
just a mental foible which grew out of all
proportion. I remember all sorts of strange things
happening - at one point he was wearing lipstick,
dressing in high heels, and believing he had
We all felt he should have gone to see a
psychiatrist, though someone in fact played an
interview he did to R.D. Laing, and Laing claimed
he was incurrable. What can you do, y'know ? "We
did a couple of songs for 'Ummagumma' - the live
tracks - we used 'Jugband Blues' for no ulterior
motive - it was just a good song. I mean that 'Nice
Pair' collection will see him going alright for a
couple of years, which postpones the day of
judgment. "I dunno - maybe if he was left to his
own devices, he might just get it together.
But it is a tragedy - a great tragedy because he
was an innovator. One of the three or four greats
along with Dylan. "I know though that something is
wrong because Syd isn't happy, and that really is
the criteria, isn't it ? But then it's all part of
being a 'legend in your own lifetime'."