by Frank Tortorici
Though some of today's Pink Floyd fans may not know him, the slyly humorous Syd Barrett started the band and was the chief architect behind its critically acclaimed first album. Roger Keith Barrett was born Jan. 6, 1946, in Cambridge, England. He was nicknamed "Syd" as a child, when his friends included future Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Barrett's father died while his son was in his late teens, after which Barrett attended art school and began painting and making music. He played guitar and sang in bands such as the Abdabs, the T-Sets and Sigma 6. In 1965 in London, Barrett was playing in an R&B-based rock group with Waters (bass), Nick Mason (drums), Richard Wright (keyboards) and Bob Close (guitar). After Close's departure, Barrett named the band the Pink Floyd Sound, after a blues record by Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Within a few years, the group shortened its name to Pink Floyd and began experimenting with psychedelic music, with long compositions mixing hard rock, blues, country, folk, classical and electronic sounds. Pink Floyd's gigs at London's UFO Club also featured one of the first slide-and-light shows in rock. Barrett was the principal writer and singer of Pink Floyd's material during this period. He crafted two songs that were short and snappy enough to become 1967 UK hits: "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" (RealAudio excerpt). Barrett then composed almost all of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, one of the first British psychedelic-rock LPs. It featured lengthy numbers, including "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive," and quirky tunes such as "The Gnome." Around the time of Floyd's first success, Barrett began experimenting with psychedelic drugs. Eventually, the chemicals' effects began to hamper his productivity. Old friend Gilmour was added to the band to compensate on guitar. On A Saucerful of Secrets (1967), Barrett played on only "Jugband Blues." He wrote two other tracks, while Waters penned the rest of the LP. Barrett then committed himself to a hospital and later remained in seclusion. In 1970 Barrett released the solo works The Madcap Laughs, featuring "Terrapin," and Barrett, featuring "Baby Lemonade." Some backing tracks by Floyd members were added to both LPs. Acoustic BBC radio sessions that Barrett recorded were also released as a live LP, The Peel Sessions, featuring Gilmour. Opel, a collection of Barrett outtakes, was issued in 1989. The LP featured backing by the band Soft Machine. In 1993 his work was summarized on Octopus: The Best of Syd Barrett and the box set Crazy Diamond. He briefly flirted with a new band called Star before retiring from music. Pink Floyd, sans Barrett, hit it big in 1973 with Dark Side of the Moon, one of the best-selling albums in history. Two years later, the band released Wish You Were Here, which included such songs as "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." Diagnosed as schizophrenic, Barrett lives in Cambridge and London, mostly under the care of relatives. He keeps a low profile and is able to live comfortably on his yearly earnings.
SONGS WORDS BARRETT HOP!