Syd Barrett and Me

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  • The Piper

    The Piper Administrator Staff Member Your APFFN host

    SYD

    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 on stage.
    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 flesh.
    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 illogical schizophrenia.
    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 completed).
    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
    around."
    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 juncture.
    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 beyond that.
    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 Overdrive'."
    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 Play."
    "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 on.
    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 drugs. 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 guitar. 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."
    Hmmm.
    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 complete. 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 drowning ?

    "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
    out."
    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 topic completely!"
    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 fabrications. 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
    functioning."
    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 stare, y'know!
    "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 homosexual tendencies. 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'."
     

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