by Mick Rock

[from ]

This was, in your humble editor's opinion, one of the
two finest articles written on Syd Barrett. Conducted
by his friend from teenage years in Cambridge, Mick
Rock, who also photographed the famous 'Madcap Laughs'
sessions, this was also Barrett's final interview.

London: If you tend to believe what you hear, rather
than what is, Syd Barrett is either dead, behind bars,
or a vegetable. He is in fact alive and as confusing as
ever, in the town where he was born, Cambridge.

In 1966-67, Barrett was playing lead guitar with Pink
Floyd. He'd named the band and was writing most of
their music, including the only two hit singles they
ever had. His eerie electronic guitar style and
gnome-like stage presence made him an authentic cult
figure for the nascent London underground, then just
beginning to gather at the UFO club and the Roundhouse.
The Floyd were a house band and the music went on into
the wee hours. Cambridge is an hour's train ride from
London. Syd doesn't see many people these days.
Visiting him is like intruding into a very private
world. 'I'm disappearing', he says, 'avoiding most
things.' He seems very tense, ill at ease.
Hollow-cheeked and pale, his eyes reflect a permanent
state of shock. He has a ghostly beauty which one
normally associates with poets of old. His hair is
short now, uncombed, the wavy locks gone. The velvet
pants and new green snake skin boots show some
attachment to the way it used to be. 'I'm treading the
backward path,' he smiles. 'Mostly, I just waste my
time.' He walks a lot. 'Eight miles a day,' he says.
'It's bound to show. But I don't know how.'

'I'm sorry I can't speak very coherently,' he says,
'It's rather difficult to think of anybody being really
interested in me. But you know, man, I am totally
together. I even think I should be.' Occasionally, Syd
responds directly to a question. Mostly his answers are
fragmented, a stream of consciousness (the words of
James Joyce's poem 'Golden Hair' are in one of his
songs). 'I'm full of dust and guitars,' he says. 'The
only work I've done the last two years is interviews.
I'm very good at it.' In fact, Syd has made three
albums in that time, produced by the Floyd. 'The Madcap
Laughs', his second, he says, was pretty good: 'Like a
painting as big as the cellar.' Before the Floyd got
off the ground, Barrett attended art school. He still
paints. Sometimes crazy jungles of thick blobs.
Sometimes simple linear pieces. His favourite is a
white semi-circle on a white canvas.

In a cellar where he spends much of his time, he sits
surrounded by paintings and records, his amps and
guitars. He feels safe there, under the ground. Like a
character out of one of his own songs. Syd says his
favourite musician is Hendrix. 'I toured with him you
know, Lindsay (an old girl-friend) and I used to sit on
the back of the bus, with him up front; he would film
us. But we never spoke really. It was like this. Very
polite. He was better than people really knew. But very
self-conscious about his consciousness. He'd lock
himself in the dressing room with a TV and wouldn't let
anyone in.'

Syd himself has been known to sit behind locked doors,
refusing to see anyone for days at a time. Frequently
in his last months with the Floyd, he'd go on stage and
play no more than two notes in a whole set. 'Hendrix
was a perfect guitarist. And that's all I wanted to do
as a kid. Play a guitar properly and jump around. But
too many people got in the way. It's always been too
slow for me. Play. The pace of things. I mean, I'm a
fast sprinter. The trouble was, after playing in the
group for a few months, I couldn't reach that point.'

'I may seem to get hung-up, that's because I am
frustrated work-wise, terribly. The fact is I haven't
done anything this year, I've probably been chattering,
explaining that away like anything. But the other bit
about not working is that you do get to think
theoretically.' He'd like to get another band together.
'But I can't find anybody. That's the problem. I don't
know where they are. I mean, I've got an idea that
there must be someone to play with. If I was going to
play properly, I should need some really good people.'

Syd leaves the cellar and goes up to a sedate little
room full of pictures of himself with his family. He
was a pretty child. English tea, cake and biscuits,
arrives. Like many innovators, Barrett seems to have
missed the recognition due to him, while others have
cleaned up. 'I'd like to be rich. I'd like a lot of
money to put into my physicals and to buy food for all
my friends.

'I'll show you a book of all my songs before you go. I
think it's so exciting. I'm glad you're here.' He
produces a folder containing all his recorded songs to
date, neatly typed, with no music. Most of them stand
alone as written pieces. Sometimes simple, lyrical,
though never without some touch of irony. Sometimes
surreal, images weaving dreamily, echoes of a mindscape
that defies traditional analysis. Syd's present
favourite is 'Wolfpack,' a taut threatening,
claustrophobic number. It finishes with:

Mild the reflecting electricity eyes The life that was
ours grew sharper and stronger away and beyond short
wheeling fresh spring gripped with blanched bones
moaned Magnesium proverbs and sobs.

Syd thinks people who sing their own songs are boring.
He has never recorded anyone else's. He produces a
guitar and begins to strum out a new version of 'Love
You,' from Madcap. 'I worked this out yesterday. I
think it's much better. It's my new 12-string guitar.
I'm just getting used to it. I polished it yesterday.'
It's a Yamaha. He stops and eases it into a regular
tuning, shaking his head. 'I never felt so close to a
guitar as that silver one with mirrors that I used on
stage all the time. I swapped it for the black one, but
I've never played it.' (Julian's note: Syd was
referring to his famous Telecaster....I wonder what
happened to it)

Syd is 25 now, and worried about getting old. 'I wasn't
always this introverted,' he says, 'I think young
people should have a lot of fun. But I never seem to
have any.' Suddenly he points out the window. 'Have you
seen the roses? There's a whole lot of colours.' Syd
says he doesn't take acid anymore, but he doesn't want
to talk about it... 'There's really nothing to say.' He
goes into the garden and stretches out on an old wooden
seat. 'Once you're into something...' he says, looking
very puzzled. He stops. 'I don't think I'm easy to talk
about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not
anything that you think I am anyway.'