NO MAN'S LAND
The Pink Floyd were on course for psychedelic pop stardom until their frail
visionary fell in with "some heavy, loony, messianic, acid missionaries." After
that he was being locked in the linen cupboard.
Interviews by Robert Sandall
DG: I noticed it around the time the Floyd were recording See Emily Play. Syd
was still functioning OK then, but he definately wasn't the person I knew. He
looked through you. He wasn't quite there.
RW: We were supposed to do a session for the BBC one Friday, and Syd didn't
turn up. Nobody could find him. He went missing for the whole weekend and when
he reappeared again on the Monday, he was a totally different person.
JB (June Bolan): [Blackhill Ents' secretary, later Mrs Marc Bolan] I went
through all Syd's acid breakdowns. He used to come round to my house at five
in the morning covered in mud from Holland Park when he'd freaked out and the
police chased him. He used to go to the youth hostel in Holland Park, get
wrecked and spaced and walk to Shepherd's Bush where I was living.
JM (John Marsh) [Floyd lighting man]: He lived for a time in a flat in the
Cromwell Road with various characters, acid-in-the-reservoir, change-the-face-
of-the-world acid missionaries. Everyone knew that if you went round to see
Syd, never have a cup of tea, never take a glass of water unless you got it
yourself from the tap, because everything in that flat was spiked.
PJ: 101 Cromwell Road was the catastrophic flat where Syd got acided out. He
had one of our cats and they even gave the cats acid. I don't think they
were evil geniuses deliberately trying to fuck with Syd's mind, they were
just heavy, loony messianic acid freaks. As soon as we realised what was
going on we moved him out of Cromwell Road into a flat in South Ken, where
he lived with Storm and Po (Thorgerson and Powell, Hypgnosis), but by then
it was too late.
JB: One of the last British gigs Syd played with Floyd was the Technicolor
Dream at Ally Pally. First of all we couldn't find Syd, then I found him in the
dressing room and we was so gone. I kept saying, Syd, It's June. Look at me.
Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, got him out to the stage. We put the
white Stratocaster round his neck and he walked on stage and of course the
audience went spare because they loved him. The band started to play and Syd
stood there, he just stood there, tripping out of his mind. They did three,
maybe four numbers and we got him off. He couldn't stand up for a set, let
alone do anything else.
NM: Syd went mad on the first American tour in the Autumn of '67. He didn't
know where he was most of the time. I remember he de-tuned his guitar on stage
at Venice, LA, and just stood there rattling the strings, which was a bit
weird, even for us. Another time he emptied a can of Brylcream on his head
because he said he didn't like his curly hair.
JM: Some A&R man was taking them around Hollywood for the classic tour of
stars' homes, and Syd's wandering around the place, wide-eyed, and reckless.
Gee, he says. It's great to be in Las Vegas.
JMe (Jonathan Meades) [then a RADA student, now author and restaurant critic]:
In late '67 Syd Barrett and some other people, one of whom I knew, lived in
Egerton Court, a mansion block opposite South Ken tube station. I went there
at the time when Syd had either just left the band or was ready for the final
heave-ho. Syd was certainly the crazy of the party and one got the impression
that he was also rather disliked. There was this terrible noise. It sounded
like heating pipes shaking. I said, What's that? and my friend sort of giggled
and said, That's Syd having a bad trip. We put him in the linen cupboard.
RW: We ended up living together in a flat in Richmond in early '68. The five-
man band idea really wasn't working out, but we couldn't bring ourselves
to tell him. So when I went off to play gigs, I'd tell Syd I was going out
to get cigarettes. It was awful.
JF (Jenny Fabian) [starfucker author of Groupie]: Syd was so beautiful,
though I only ever lay beside him, nothing more could be accomplished. I
only hung around him for two or three weeks just before he flipped. Years
later I found him again, living in a room in a flat in Earls Court. He
was sitting in a corner on a mattress and he'd painted every other floodboard
alternate colours, red and green. [Cover of Madcap??] He boiled an egg in a
kettle and ate it. And he listened over and over again to Beach Boys tapes,
which I found a bit distressing. He was still exactly the same, only now
he was Syd Barrett the has-been rather than Syd Barrett the star.
NM: Whether it was attributable to bad acid, bad trips, I don't know. I
actually think there was some sort of damage there to start with.
PJ: It was his latent madness which gave him his creativity. The acid brought
out the creativity, but more important, it brought out the madness, and the
darkness in his personality. The creativity was there, smoking dope was
enough to get it going. What happened was catastrophic. All his talent came
out in this great flood; then it burnt out.