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Syd Barrett; troubled and talented

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Until recently I’d never heard the name Syd Barrett. Not ever having been a particular Pink Floyd fan I’d just never heard the story of how, in its early days, the band had been lead by a bloke called Barrett. Hearing some of those very first songs I immediately loved them; more so than some of PF’s later ones which sometimes leave me with a nagging aftertaste of ‘Easy Listening‘ (fans would hunt me down for such a thought!). So I wondered what became of the man who actually wrote most of those early compositions. That’s when I realised the extent of my ignorance. Turns out that this amazingly original, intelligent, energetic and creative man had been increasingly affected by mental health problems from around 1967 onwards just when The Pink Floyd had been hitting full stride. Unable to cope with the pressures of that lifestyle, he had gradually edged away from (or been edged out of )  the band. Apart from a couple of impressive solo albums he never returned to making music. Instead, he spent the rest of his life living in his mother’s house in Cambridge and shunning fame. He died there at the age of 60 from pancreatic cancer/diabetic complications.

The exact truth of what happened to Syd Barrett will probably never be fully known. Some say his mental health problems were triggered by excessive drug taking, others claim he was not mentally ill but simply a unique and unusual individual. Journalists often tried to quiz him on what prompted what they saw as his fall from grace or his gradual deterioration. Those close to him tended to refute this notion and argue that, far from deteriorating, he had lived a perfectly rewarding life in which he simply chose painting instead of music as his mode of artistic expression.

All I know is… a lot of his music (and art work) is great! When I find something new to listen to that I really like I tend to want to listen to all there is… very fast… I can’t get enough of it. Barrett’s work has that thing which you rarely find… originality. Some of the pop tracks are obviously heavily influenced by the late Beatles stuff but the more personal tracks are brilliant. If you read a bit about the man it makes listening to the music even more fascinating but even without that knowledge it’s just great. Regarding Barrett as a person… he reminds me of some other brilliant artists who have been troubled individuals; I can think of a whole list (how about you?) many of the names on which have died very young or turned to drink or drugs. At least the music is still here to be listened to though. As I said, Syd Barrett only ever made two solo albums as well as his work with Pink Floyd. So I’d better stop listening so fast.

Syd Barrett young and old, troubled and talented.

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Author: JOn KEnna

I've been on the internet for about ten years and my eyes are starting to hurt

10 thoughts on “Syd Barrett; troubled and talented

  1. really enjoyed reading this post. i didnt know much about him but found this really interesting!

  2. Thanks for reading. Hope you’ll come back.

  3. I remember stories about Syd and his appetite for LSD in the mid 70s. He’d become a full blown recluse by that age – neighbours saw very little of him, but reported that he made barking sounds like a dog. Damn shame. His guitar work on Interstellar Overdrive (which he also composed) set a new standard for musicians everywhere.

    • Thanks Gregory, interesting info on the legend. I’m reading a book about him at the mo. Fascinating character. Some of the albums contain outtakes from recording sessions made at the time and you get a feeling of what his psyche must have been like. I find people like this very interesting maybe because I’ve always felt like I’m a bit… er… shall we say ‘unusual’ myself. Ah well, it takes all sorts….

  4. I love all his stuff, especially Bike, Octopus, Baby Lemonade. Well… I guess I would have to list all of them! For me, his lyrics hit me to the quick. It really shook me. I find it very rare for music to affect me so, for Syd I am thankful.

  5. Thanks Jon, mainly music that inspires me is a little dark, thoughtful, and cogent. Can’t hang with “preachy” songs, if you know what I mean, even if I agree with the message. Also, the lyrics have to be accompanied with great music. in a nutshell, music that lifts my spirit and transplants we to another world which is very real and meaningful. That’s why I love Pink Floyd, it has that perfect blend. Also, Spacemen3, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Can, Donovan, and old torch music from the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s.

  6. Thx for this. I also am a fan of Syd ( or Roger Keith Barrett as his real name was, he didn’t even answer to the name Syd from the early 80′s to his death july 7 2006)).
    His lyrics are sometimes intelligent and sometimes naive but there’s an answer to why nowing that he truly was going insane and the only thing that kept him from falling apart and made his day going was probably the LSD (one could wonder how much going there is when you’re stoned by LSD…). The other memebers of Pink Floyd cast him out without letting him now. They just stopped calling him and left him. He even came to one gig they had but the band didn’t let him play with them. Probably they all felt guilty of letting him down and that’s why there are so many Syd-references in many of the groups lyrics afterwards.
    Gilmour made sure that Syd got money from his songs. The album “Echoes – The best of Pink Floyd” ” that Pink Floyd released in 2001 had 5 Syd Barrett songs in it and Gilmour made sure that Syd got his part of the money (2.5 million english pounds in 2001 alone).
    There’s a lot of documentary about Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett. English BBC made a brilliant video called “Crazy Diamond” in 2001 that You can find on DVD but under the name “The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story”.
    I end wishing You and everyone else who reads this a happy new year from Sweden!

    • Thanks for that Christoffer. I think Barrett was a truly fascinating person. I find troubled people much more interesting than grounded, pragmatic people. How about you? I hope you will keep contributing at this blog and maybe even FOLLOW? All the best

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