SYD BARRETT:
CAREENING THROUGH LIFE
by Kris DiLorenzo
1978 (pp. 26-32)

[from
http://www.pink-floyd.org/artint/brtr1978.htm ]


The color black is not a solitary real color. Nor is it the
total absence of color. A black hole in space, in fact, is a
concentrated area so densely packed that nothing, not even
light, can penetrate it. Blackness is actually all colors at
once, so many colors merging at such intensity that the riot
of their profusion produces, to the superficially perceptive
eye, only nothingness: black. Try it with your crayons or
magic markers: everything at once, too much simultaneous
input layered repeatedly, gives you blackness.

You all know who Syd Barrett is even if you think you don't.
Without him there would have been no Pink Floyd. Barrett
dominated the band during their first years, writing most of
their material, singing lead vocals and playing lead guitar.
He left the band (or the band left him) for reasons of
mental health, and in 1970 with the aid of his replacement
in the Floyd, David Gilmour, recorded two solo albums: The
Madcap Laughs and Barrett. Syd then performed with Stars, an
ensemble in the Cambridge area, but left them after three
gigs and virtually vanished from the public eye.

For the past five years Barrett has generally been written
off as an acid casualty, but more often lamented as a
musical visionary whose interior landscape became too
disorienting for him to handle. Some of the stories one
hears about Barrett are disconcertingly true, others only
sound like Syd, but most of his acquaintances express the
same conclusion: intuitive and fragile, Barrett was a unique
talent and an erratic mind on the edge of a different type
of existence - as well as a man who indelibly affected those
who came into contact with him.

Several people close to Syd at various times in his life
offer their perspectives in this article, and the resulting
portrait is Picasso-like: a profile viewed simultaneously in
different dimensions of seeing. Many thanks go to the
following for their help:

Glen Buxton (formerly guitarist with Alice Cooper);

Duggie Fields (designer, artist and Barrett's flat-mate for
several years);

Lindsey Korner (Barrett's girlfriend during the Pink Floyd
days);

Bryan Morrison (former Pink Floyd manager and publisher,
still Barrett's publisher);

Mick Rock (photographer for Hipgnosis in London during the
60's);

Jerry Shirley (formerly with Humble Pie and Natural Gas,
drummer on Barrett's albums and currently with A&M's
Midnight);

Twink (drummer for Pretty Things, Pink Fairies, Tomorrow,
Stars and Rings, who still believes in Syd);

and David Gilmour, for devotion above and beyond the call of
rock 'n' roll.

There is no question that Syd Barrett was one of the "umma"
(the brotherhood of prophets - see Herbert's "Dune") and
"just mad enough to be holy." Barrett's madness was not
quite a sudden explosion, however, but rather a gradual
implosion, the clues to which he articulated in his music
long before his behavior signalled distress. Syd's songs
contained warnings from the beginning: he dealt with
instability and the primal need for comfort via authority's
fairytales ("Matilda Mother"), the desire for control of a
situation and the outsider/observer role ("Flaming"). The
lyrics of "Jugband Blues" (on Floyd's Saucerful Of Secrets)
also spelled out some of his conflicts. By the time of The
Madcap Laughs and Barrett, Syd's songs clearly revealed raw
spots in his psyche amid the poetically jumbled voodoo of
his writing.

Ten years since the release of Pink Floyd's first album, The
Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, it's difficult for those
unfamiliar with Pink Floyd's music or the burgeoning British
music scene of the 60's to attribute great importance to Syd
Barrett. All it takes to be convinced of Barrett's
significance, however, is a careful listen to Piper, A
Saucerful Of Secrets (the second LP), and the singles he
wrote for the group (on Relics and Masters Of Rock, a Dutch
collection). What Syd created in sound and imagery was brand
new: at that time America hadn't even heard of Hendrixian
feedback and distortion as part of a guitar's capabilities,
and the Beatles were just recording Sergeant Pepper (at the
same time and in the same studios) as Pink Floyd were
cutting Piper. Barrett's music was as experimental as you
could get without crossing over entirely into freeform jazz;
there simply were no other bands extending the boundaries of
rock beyond the basic 4/4 sex-and-love themes.

Syd certainly listened to American jazz, blues,
jug band music and rock, as did most young British rock 'n' 
rollers of the time. He used to cite Bo Diddley as his major
influence, yet these inputs are no more than alluded to in
his music, which contains every style of guitar playing
imaginable: funky rhythm churns up speeding riffs that
distort into jazzy improvisation. At times an Eastern
influence surfaces, blending vocal chants, jangling guitar
and devotional hum in tunes like "Matilda Mother" and the
lovely "Chapter 24," based on the I Ching.

Barrett's guitar work maintained a psychedelic, dramatic
ambience of incongruous contrasts, violent changes and
inspired psychosis. No technician a la Eric Clapton, Barrett
simply knew his own particular instrument well and pushed it
to its limits. Compared by critics to Jeff Beck, Lou Reed
(in his early Velvet Underground days) and Jimi Hendrix,
Barrett lacked only the consistency to match their
achievements. His trademark (and Achilles heel) was sudden
surprise: trance-like riffs would slide abruptly into
intense, slightly offbeat strumming ("Astronomy Domine"),
choppy urgency gives way to powerful, frightening peaks
("Interstellar Overdrive"), harmless lyrics skitter over a
fierce undertow of evil-sounding feedback and menacing
wah-wah ("Lucifer Sam"). Stylized extremes made Barrett's
guitar the focus of Floyd's early music; his instrumental
mannerisms dominated each song even when Syd merely played
chords. Barrett's rhythms were usually unpredictable; one
never knew what process in Syd's brain dictated when to
speed up or slow down the pace, when to sweeten or sour the
sound, and when to wrench the tempo totally out of joint,
shifting gears to turn rhythms inside-out. As a result,
Barrett's playing was variously described by critics as
"clumsy and anarchic," "adventurous and distinctive,"
"idiosyncratic," "revolutionary" or "brilliant and painful."

Indisputably Barrett was an innovator. Whether he was
entirely conscious or in control of his art is impossible to
determine; perhaps it's enough to say that he was indeed
effective. His work with Pink Floyd still ranks as some of
the most expressive, sensational playing recorded by a rock
guitarist. Even 10 years later Barrett's solos stand as
fixed entities in the overall scope of Pink Floyd's music;
it's a rare long-term Floyd fan who doesn't know every note,
each frenzy of feedback and electronic eccentricity. Yet Syd
borrowed no familiar blue licks as the young Eric Clapton,
Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were wont to do.

Barrett's songwriting genius was original and extremist as
well. His singing was highly stylized; obscure chanting
vocals, high-tension verses and explosive choruses
alternating with deadpan storytelling and hypnotic drawls.
He utilized fairytale technique, surrealistic juxtaposition
of psychedelic detail and plain fact, childhood experience
and adult confusion. Like the Beatles, Barrett combined
dream imagery and irony with simple, direct tunes, strong,
catchy melodic hooks with nonsense rhymes and wandering
verses that sound like nothing so much as what goes on
inside people's heads when their minds are running
aimlessly.

Although some of Barrett's songs seem to be straightforward
stories, one always discovers a twist: multiple meanings to
a line that belie the childlike wonder of the words
("Gnome"), innocuous lyrics devastatingly undermined with a
questing guitar or unlikely special effects ("Scarecrow,"
"Jugband Blues"). Certainly psychedelia asserted its
influence on Barrett's writing; there are descriptions and
perceptions one can attribute only to drugs or hallucinatory
schizophrenia, but others are strictly the products of his
unaffected imagination.

As a songwriter Barrett has been compared with Pete
Townshend and Ray Davies. Dave Gilmour echoes that
evaluation: "Syd was one of the great rock and roll
tragedies. He was one of the most talented people and could
have given a fantastic amount. He really could write songs
and if he had stayed right, could have beaten Ray Davies at
his own game."

Syd's influence on Pink Floyd continued to manifest itself
long after he left the band. Carrying on without him was
difficult at first, since the public and music business
obviously thought Syd was all the band had. Initially
Gilmour's style conformed to the Barrett prototype
established on the first album, and their music retained
Syd's spirit, but their songwriting gradually changed. In
the years following Syd's departure he remarked that the
band wasn't progressing, and in a real sense this was true.
Even Pink Floyd's three most recent albums to a large extent
expand and develop themes and riffs Syd laid down with them
in 1967. The point of view Barrett used in his songs, an
alternation (and occasional fusion) of second and third
persons, still predominated Pink Floyd compositions; pieces
of his solos find their way into Gilmour's, tracks from
Saucerful rearrange themselves on Dark Side of the Moon and
Wish You Were Here. Even 1977's Animals displays Barrett's
dark humor and takes off on his "Rats" premises. The
dramatic mixes Syd applied to the Floyd's early recordings
are now magnified by 16-track studios but employ the same
technique: whole walls of sound rocket from one side of the
room to the other, the guitar careens in and out of
different speakers, submerged speech and incidental sounds
chatter beneath instrumentals; their use of sound as an
emotional tool is absolutely Barrettonian.

The most obvious impact of Syd Barrett-in-absentia has been
on the concerns of much of Pink Floyd's music since 1969.
They began dealing with the politics of reality in the
outside world and became obsessed with the internal world of
madness. The lyrics to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" are in
perfect context on an album that clearly expresses the
band's outrage at the whoring business of rock and roll and
its toll on a human being like Barrett:

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun Shine
on you crazy diamond. Now there's a look in your eyes like
black holes in the sky, Shine on you crazy diamond. You were
caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on
the steel breeze. Come on you target for far away laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr and shine! *

* Copyright 1975 Pink Floyd Music Publishers, Inc. He
worried about being considered "redundant," was anxious
about growing older without accomplishing everything he
wanted, and at one point said in exasperation to his
roommate Fields, "Duggie, you're 23 and you're not famous!"

By 23 Syd was already internationally famous and began the
rollercoaster ride to oblivion. Onstage he often found it
inconceivable to play, standing among the amps with his back
to the audience, staring at his guitar as if he'd never seen
one before. Occasionally he exhibited flashes of virtuosity
that dazzled audiences and made them hope for more, but
Barrett was incapable of performing for its own sake. He
wanted to achieve something indefinable each time he set out
to play, and frequently this Olympian vision prevented Syd
from producing anything at all for fear it not be perfect,
brilliant and innovative. Paralysis generated fear, and many
Pink Floyd concerts found Barrett treating his guitar as if
it were a treacherous grenade; at other times he would
simply disappear for the duration and a substitute would
have to be called in. Barrett's musical ideas were
metamorphosing, too; as he became more withdrawn personally,
his songs tended to deal only with internal reality and
became more obscure. He was becoming more of a conceptual
artist than a musician, and eventually broke the barrier
between form and content (and genius and insanity) by
becoming what he had sung about.

Why didn't anyone see Barrett metaphysically
waving his arms in the air? Perhaps because during
London's turbulent '60s scene it was
difficult, especially in a love-and-drug
stupor, to distinguish incipient dementia from contrived
brinksmanship. Barrett, as a genuine innovator and
avant-gardist, probably had more leeway to act peculiar than
most of the artiste/intellectual crowd he hung out with.
Certainly no one around Syd was in a stable enough state to
estimate the strength or weakness of his grasp on ordinary
reality. Most of Barrett's craziness was accepted as "just
Syd" until it became impossible for the Floyd to perform
with his spells of onstage paralysis and offstage freakouts.
The incredible struggle Gilmour and Waters of Pink Floyd
endured during the recording of Barrett's solo albums, the
sheer energy and patience it took to motivate Syd and keep
him on the track, was the final straw. When Barrett
dissolved Stars, it was apparent that he could not continue
musically until he recovered from his shell-shock.

By all accounts Syd Barrett's career began like thousands of
others among the crowd of young people during the first
psychedelic rush of the '60s. He attended art school, became
involved with other art and architectural students (among
them the nucleus of the embryonic Pink Floyd) and finally
left school for music. Syd's home in Cambridge, where his
mother ran a boarding house, was the local social hang-out
for the Cambridge students and drop-outs who later moved to
London to form their own artistic enclave; until just a few
years ago Barrett was still oscillating between his flat in
London and his mother's in Cambridge.

Like all local "freak" scenes, the Pink Floyd crowd had a
nexus; flats in London's Cromwell Road and Earl's Court
became mecca for Cambridge hippies and budding mods. Mick
Rock remembers one of Syd's flats as "a burnt-out place, the
biggest hovel, the biggest shit-heap; a total acid-shell,
the craziest flat in the world. There were so many people,
it was like a railway station. Two cats Syd had, one called
Pink and one called Floyd, were still living in the flat
after he left. He just left them there. Those were the cats
they used to give acid to. You know what heavy dope scenes
were like."

When Pink Floyd "made it," Syd Barrett was about 21 years
old. "They used to rehearse in the flat," Duggie Fields
says, "and I used to go downstairs and put on Smokey
Robinson as loud as possible. I don't know where they all
arrived from, but I went to architecture school so did Rick
[Wright, the Floyd's keyboard player] and Roger [Waters,
bassist]. I don't quite remember how I met them all. I just
remember suddenly being surrounded by the Pink Floyd and
hundreds of groupies instantly."

Barrett felt ensuing changes keenly. Within a few months
after his "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" (the first
Floyd singles) made Pink Floyd stars, Lindsey Korner says
"chronic schizophrenia" set in. It wasn't drugs particularly
that set Syd off, she insists; from the time she first met
him Korner considered Syd one of the sweetest, most together
people, even though Syd's previous girlfriend says he was
off the wall a little even then. According to Lindsey "it
got a bit crazed" during the fall of '67; by Christmas Syd
had started to "act a little bonkers."

"Oh, he went more than slightly bonkers," Fields affirms.
"It must have been very difficult for him. I think the
pressures on Syd before that time must have upset him very
much, the kind of pressure where it takes off very fast,
which Pink Floyd did - certainly in terms of the way people
behaved towards them. I used to be speechless at the number
of people who would invade our flat, and how they would
behave towards anyone who was in the group; especially
girls. I'd never seen anything like it. Some of the girls
were stunning, and they would literally throw themselves at
Syd. He was the most attractive one; Syd was a very
physically attractive person - I think he had problems with
that.

"I saw it even when he was out of the group (by the
beginning of 1969). People kept coming around and he would
actually lock himself in his room. Like if he made the
mistake of answering the front door before he'd locked
himself in his room, he found it very difficult to say no.
He'd have these girls pounding on his bedroom door all
night, literally, and he'd be locked inside, trapped. He did
rather encourage that behavior to a certain extent, but then
he didn't know what to do with it; he would resent it."

In 1967 Pink Floyd toured America for the first and last
time with Syd Barrett. During their LA stay the band was
invited to visit the Alice Cooper entourage, quartered in a
house in Venice during their stint as the Cheetah club's
house band. Cooper and his band had heard the Floyd's Piper
at the Gates and their reaction, guitarist Glen Buxton
recalls, was, "Wow! These guys should be reckoned with!" So
Pink Floyd came to dinner.

"Syd Barrett I remember," Buxton says emphatically. "I don't
remember him ever saying two words. It wasn't because he was
a snob; he was a very strange person. He never talked, but
we'd be sitting at dinner and all of a sudden I'd pick up
the sugar and pass it to him, and he'd shake his head like
'Yeah, thanks,' It was like I heard him say 'Pass the sugar'
- it's like telepathy; it really was. It was very weird. You
would find yourself right in the middle of doing something,
as you were passing the sugar or whatever, and you'd think,
'Well, damn! I didn't hear anybody say anything!' That was
the first time in my life I'd ever met anybody that could
actually do that freely. And this guy did it all the time."

If leaving Pink Floyd were hard for Barrett, so were his
last months in the band. Shirley explains: "When he plays a
song, it's very rare that he plays it the same way each time
- any song. And some songs are more off-the-wall than
others. When he was with the Floyd, towards the very end,
Syd came in once and started playing this tune, and played
it completely different. Every chord change just kept going
somewhere else and he'd keep yelling (the title), 'Have you
got it yet ?' I guess then it was Roger (who kept yelling
back, 'No!') who kind of realized, 'Oh, dear.'"

Similar episodes became more frequent until the Floyd
reached breaking point. "It was getting absolutely
impossible for the band," Shirley recalls. "They couldn't
record because he'd come in and do one of those 'Have you
got it yet' numbers, and then onstage he would either not
play or he'd hit his guitar and just turn it out of tune, or
do nothing. They were pulling their hair out, they decided
to bring in another guitarist to complement, so Syd wouldn't
have to play guitar and maybe he'd just do the singing. Dave
came in and they were a five-piece for about four or five
weeks. It got better because Dave was together in what he
did. Then the ultimate decision came down that if they were
going to survive as a band, Syd would have to go. Now I
don't know whether Syd felt it and left, or whether he was
asked to. But he left. Dave went through some real heavy
stuff for the first few months. Syd would turn up at London
gigs and stand in front of the stage looking up at Dave;
'That's *my* band.'"

Syd had probably met Dave in the early '60s when Gilmour
played in a Cambridge band. "They used to play things like
'In the Midnight Hour,'" Rock recalls, "and Syd would go
watch Dave play 'cause I think Dave had got his chords down
a bit better than Syd in the early days. Syd was always a
bit weird about Dave. That was his band, the Floyd."

Even before Pink Floyd returned to England from their
American tour, Barrett was proving more than merely
eccentric. Buxton remembers "the crew used to say he was
impossible on the road. They'd fly a thousand miles, get to
the gig, he'd get up onstage and wouldn't have a guitar. He
would do things like leave all his money in his clothes in
the hotel room, or on the plane. Sometimes, they'd have to
fly back and pick up his guitar. I didn't pick up that he
was a drug casualty, although there were lots at the time
who would do those exact things because they were drugged
out. But Syd was definitely from Mars or something."

Fields and Gayla Pinion, Syd's girlfriend during the
difficult years after Pink Floyd, were most continuously
exposed to Barrett - crazies, and Duggie recalls trying
periods of life with Syd. "When he gave up the group he took
up painting again for a bit, but he never enjoyed it. He
didn't really have a sense of direction.

"He used to lie in bed every morning, and I would get this
feeling like the wall between our rooms didn't quite exist,
because I'd know that Syd was lying in bed thinking, 'What
do I do today ? Shall I get out of bed ? If I get out of
bed, I can do this, and I can do that - or I can do *that*,
or I could do that.' He had the world at his feet, all the
possibilities, and he just couldn't choose. He had great
problems committing himself to any action. As for committing
himself to doing anything for any length of time - he was
the kind of person who'd change in the middle. He'd set off,
lose his motivation, and start questioning what he was doing
- which might just be walking down the street."

Fields attempted to alter Barrett's pattern, but nothing
quite worked. "Sometimes he'd be completely jolly and then
just snap - you could never tell what he was like. He could
be fabulous. He was the sort of person who had amazing
charm; if he wanted your attention, he'd get it. He was very
bright. After he left the group he was very much aware of
being a failure. I think that was quite difficult, coming to
terms with that."

At one point when Gayla moved out of the flat, Syd rented
her room (the smallest) to first three, then five people.
Fields despaired; eventually Syd couldn't deal with them
either because they were always underfoot, wanting his
attention, as did many slightly younger people who idolized
him. Fields recalls visitors constantly bringing pills to
Barrett: "Just give Syd mandrakes and he'll be friendly."
More visitors came "with their hounds as well" and Syd,
unable to tolerate the situation any longer, went back to
Cambridge. "He just left them," Duggie recalls, "and then
rang me up and said that I had to get rid of them. I said
*he* had to get rid of them, bit I actually did in the end.
I said, 'Look, Syd wants you out; he's coming back!' They
were a bit frightened of him because he did have a violent
side."

Barrett's first solo album, Shirley says, was a result of
the Floyd finally convincing Syd "that he should get off his
ass and make an album." Gilmour and Waters co-produced the
LP, but after the experience Waters gave up ("That's it! I
can't cope with that again!") and Rick Wright joined Dave as
co-producer for the second one.

The two albums, release later in America as a double
package, are curios even seven years after their appearance.
Syd wrote all the material (some of it years before) except
the lyrics to "Golden Hair" (a James Joyce poem), and every
symptom of his personal problems is in it evidence. The tone
is somber and unsettling, with only three frivolous songs.
Many tunes end abruptly or with contrived instrumental fades
when Syd runs out of lyrics. Barrett's singing is a
deep-pitched melancholy monotone. There are painful moments
when his voice cracks or careens out of control reaching for
notes he once could sing; he shouts the higher notes, not
believing he can make them. His acoustic guitar playing is
mainly arhythmic strumming full of arbitrary and often
clever tempo shifts and reversals, punctuated with extreme
dramatic bursts and tenuous pianissimo. There are no
brilliant solo flashes, but several tunes display his
instrumental ability: "Wined and Dined" and "Effervescing 
Elephant," with which Barrett was familiar enough not to
have trouble with the chords; "Wolfpack," Syd's temporary
favorite and demonically energized number; "Gigolo Aunt,"
recorded in one take on a good day; and "Dominoes
," the
track on which Syd's spacey, chaotic playing most resembles
his Pink Floyd style.

Syd's changes were foreshadowed musically on 
"Apples and Oranges," a late '67 Floyd single. That
tune resembles the work on the solo albums: background
drone, rushed verse and slow chorus, and intense vocal
line ascending and descending uneasily became stock
characteristics of Madcap and Barrett. The
transformation in Barrett's self-image and confidence
is evident if one compares the brashness and
electricity of the early Floyd albums with the
dead-sounding Syd of 1970, chanting rather than
singing, vocal sometimes estranged from his rhythms,
unnerved by his mistakes; literally falling apart
several times, incapable of perationing properly at that
particular moment, but unwilling to give up entirely.
He music is stark, eerie and often depressing despite
some genuinely funny lyrics and the efforts of Syd's
musicians to add lively touches to the bleakness.

Some Barrett traits, however, didn't change. His simple
stories trade off with surrealistic half-sense and nonsense;
nursery rhyme structures are bent with restless time
signatures and startling chord progressions. Choruses switch
tempos and lyrics (often unintelligible) function more as
sound. Words become less communicative elements than
instruments of sensation as Barrett meanders through
inexplicable mental territory, sometimes resolving into
straight songs and sometimes dissolving into multi-rhyming
babble.

Despite some incredible songwriting, complicated structures
and stunning sonic/verbal images, there's no way to avoid
feeling that the two albums are the portrait of a breakdown.
Scattered throughout the nightmare/fantasy lyrics are
whispers and screams from a confused Syd, trying to carry on
in the midst of utter disorientation and emotional turmoil.
In "Long Gone" he sings:

And I stood very still by the window sill and I wondered for
those I love still And I cried in my mind where I stand
behind... *

* Copyright Lupus Music Inc. (BMI)

"Waving My Ams in the Air" recalls Syd's early Floyd days
when, attired in a long cape, he would stand onstage with
his image projected onto a screen behind him, and do exactly
that. "You shouldn't try to be what you can't be," he sings,
and sounds quite human, but when he shifts into the love
song "I Never Lied to You" the voice goes flat and lifeless.
In "Late Night," however, Barrett articulates clearly:
"Inside me I feel alone and unreal."

Was Barrett as out of control in reality as he sounds on the
albums ? "Well, yes and no," Fields says. "He really didn't
have to have that much control before, but when you have to
provide you own motivation all the time it is difficult,
certainly in terms of writing a song. When it came down to
recording there were always problems. He was not at his most
together recording the album. He had to be taken there
sometimes, and he had to be got. It didn't seem to make any
difference whether it was making him happy or unhappy; he'd
been through that, the excitement of it, the first time
around."

Jerry Shirley agrees that Barrett was bizarre during the
sessions. On the day the backing tracks to "Dominoes" (a
beautiful song with a haunting arrangement) were recorded
with great success, enthusiasm was running high. Dave was
with Syd trying to get a lead guitar track, but Barrett
couldn't play anything that made sense. In a brainstorm
Gilmour turned the tape around and had Syd play guitar to
the tracks coming at him backwards. "It played back,"
Shirley says, "and the backwards guitar sounded great; the
best lead he ever played. The first time out and he didn't
put a note wrong."

Shirley refers to "If It's In You," the track on which Syd
can't find the melody and fllounders, breaking stride
throughout the song. "That's a classic example of Syd in the
studio. Between that and talking in very obscure abstracts.
It's all going on in his head, but only little bits of it
manage to get out of his mouth. And then the way he sings he
goes into that scream - sometimes he can sing a melody
absolutely fine, and the next time 'round he'll sing a
totally different melody, or just go off key. 'Rats' in
particular was really odd. That was just a very crazed jam,
and Syd had this lyric that he just shouted over the top.
It's quite nuts. But some of his songs are very beautiful."

To ease the process for Syd, before they went into the
studio to cut, Gilmour would sit with him and wither make up
demo tapes of the songs or, if possible, learn the song with
him. Then he'd explain it to the other musicians and play
along with Syd, although he made Syd do the leads instead of
taking them himself. If it weren't for Gilmour, Shirley
feels there would have been little semblance of
togetherness; working with Syd was mainly playing it by ear.
"You never knew from one day to the next exactly how it
would go."

Could Barrett have been pulling some numbers on purpose ?
Shirley answers with a baffled squeak, "I honestly couldn't
say. Sometimes he does it just to put everybody on,
sometimes he does it because he's genuinely paranoid about
what's happening around him. He's like the weather, he
changes. For every 10 things he says that are off-the-wall
and odd, he'll say one thing that's completely coherent and
right on the ball. He'll seem out of touch with what's gone
on just before, then he'll suddenly turn around and say,
'Jerry, remember the day we went to get a burger down at the
Earl's Court Road ?' - complete recall of something that
happened a long time ago. Just coming and going, all the
time."

Barrett's one public appearance during the LP sessions was a
brief set during a 3-day festival at the Olympia in London.
Syd eventually even managed to play his guitar instead of
holding it as if it were about to explode. Barrett's initial
decision to play, however, kept unmaking itself. "He was
going to do it, he wasn't going to do it, it was on and off,
so finally we said, 'Look, Syd, come on, man - you can do
it!' We got up, I played drums, Dave played bass and he
managed to get through a few songs. It got good, and then
after about the fourth song Syd said, "Oh great; thanks very
much' and walked off! We tried, you know."

For Barrett the solo albums didn't change things much. He
left London for Cambridge when he decided to become a
doctor. "Yes, a doctor," Duggie affirms, "and he and Gayla
were going to get married and live in Oxford. He had a bit
of the suburban dream. That was a very bizarre sort of thing
underlying him. He had lots of concepts that he found very
attractive like that; he didn't really like all the
one-night stands; he wanted the marriage and that bit, in
the back of his head." Syd and Gayla became engaged and left
the flat to Fields, who never saw Barrett after that.

Drummer Twink, then with the psychedelic band Tomorrow, met
Barrett in '67 when Pink Floyd played a European festival.
The band brought gifts with them; Twink's, from Syd, was a
hash pipe. Though they remained friendly afterwards, it
wasn't until 1972 that they got together musically. "I
didn't know him closely for that long," but I was in the
same space and I could understand exactly where he was at. I
thought he was very together, you know. As a friend it was a
very warm relationship; no bad vibes at all. We didn't have
any crazy scenes."

Stars was originally brought together by bass player Jack
Monk's wife Ginny, who took Barrett down to a Cambridge pub
to jam with Twink and some others. A few days later a more
permanent arrangement coalesced, and Stars began rehearsing
for their first gig, an open air May Day celebration in
Market Square. Their material, mostly Syd's, included some
for the Pink Floyd days; Barrett recorded practice sessions
and one coffeebar gig, and seemed genuinely interested in
working again when a promoter friend of Twink's booked Stars
into the Corn Exchange. At that gig everything that could
possibly go wrong did: the PA sabotaged Syd's vocals, Monk's
amp acted up and somehow Barrett cut his finger open. Added
to Syd's memory blanks and hesitant playing, the result was
bad press and immediate depression for Syd.

"We just weren't ready for it," Twink concedes. "It was a
disastrous gig, the reviews were really bad, and Syd was
really hung up about it; so the band folded. He came 'round
to my house and said he didn't want to play anymore. He
didn't explain; he just left. I was really amazed working
with him, at his actual ability as a guitar player."

After Stars, Syd Barrett made no more public appearances.
Anecdotes from the years following are rife; one
acquaintance reported Syd carrying his dirty clothes into
the London boutique Granny Takes a Trip because he thought
it was a dry-cleaners. Duggie Fields ran into Barrett in
London's Speakeasy club. "I wasn't sure he recognized me. I
was with some people he'd known for years; we talked for
about five minutes, but did he really know who we were ?
That was when he was starting to get heavy, and he didn't
look like the same kind of person at all."

In 1975 a strange reunion took place at EMI Studios,
attributable, Jerry Shirley feels, to Syd's uncanny sixth
sense of timing. "The last time I saw him was possibly the
last time the guys in the Floyd saw him, too. They were
putting the finishing touches on Wish You Were Here. Earlier
that day Dave Gilmour had gotten married and they had to
work that night, so EMI had this roundtable dinner in the
canteen for them. Across the table from me was this
overweight Hare Krishna-looking chap. I thought maybe it was
just someone who somebody knows. I looked at Dave and he
smiled; then I realized it was Syd. The guy had to weigh
close to 200 pounds and had no hair on his head. It was a
bit of a shock, but after a minute I plucked up enough
courage to say hello. I introduced my wife and I dunno; I
think he just laughed. I asked him what he was doing lately.
'Oh, you know, not much: eating, sleeping. I get up, eat, go
for a walk, sleep.'"

That night the band finished the album and were playing back
the final mix of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." "When the
song ended Roger Waters turned to Syd and said, 'Well, Syd
what do you think of that ?' He said, 'Sounds a bit old.' I
believe Syd just got up and split not too long after that.
After two years of nobody seeing him, of all the days for
him to appear out of nowhere!"

Jerry Shirley is less then optimistic about the possibility
of Barrett recording again. "The last person to make that
sort of effort was Dave, and they barely got him to do it;
it was like pulling teeth. Since then I don't think there's
anybody close enough to him to get him to do it. He would
have to return to the planet long enough for someone to
believe that he's got it in him to actually get through the
sessions. And that would just be the first step. The guys
really did persevere through those sessions, god! Especially
Dave, particularly in light of the way Syd was to him
before. But I don't know if anybody - if he showed that he
really wanted to try for it, then maybe one of them would
make the effort."

Have any of Barrett's friends made a serious effort to sit
down and talk with him about his future ? "Oh yeah," Shirley
says. "No chance. You'd get some sort of sense out of him,
and then he'd just laugh at you. Lots of people tried lots
of different things."

Bryan Morrison cleared up a few of the mysteries surrounding
Barrett. He explained Syd's departure from Pink Floyd: "He
didn't leave of his own free will, really. I mean, he kept
threatening to leave. I think in the end it was by mutual
agreement, because he was having some personal problems. He
wasn't able to get it together anymore, and by agreement he
left the band."

Did a similar thing happen with Stars, or did Barrett have
any reason for leaving that band ? Morrison hesitates a bit
before answering. "Have you ever met Syd ? Well, one of the
main things - he had psychiatric problems, and was actually
in a sanitorium." This was about eight years Morrison
estimates, in Cambridge: Syd's parents had him committed.

There are other Barrett recordings outside the solo LPs and
some "incoherent" tapes, Morrison says. Right now Syd is
living on his royalties in a London hotel. "He doesn't have
any involvement with anything or anybody. He is a recluse -
with about 25 guitars around him. I see him very rarely. I
mean, I know where he is, but he doesn't want to be
bothered; he just sits there on his own, watching television
all day and getting fat. That's what he does." Can nobody
talk Syd into becoming musically active again ? "No. It's
impossible." To Morrison's knowledge Syd hasn't been outside
of England since the Pink Floyd tour in 1967, and he gave
his last interview in 1971. Barrett is firmly anchored in
his shell.

Then is Barrett's extended schizophrenic episode (see "The
Politics of Experience," R.D. Laing) permanent insanity of
just prolonged post-Floyd depression ? Chemical ingestion
coupled with chronic existential anxiety ? Morbidly
sensitized insecurity and a crumbling value structure ? Or
diabolically effective defense and legend material ?

Let's put it this way. Anyone who's ever been in chronic
pain and confusion can sympathize with Barrett. Anyone ever
caught in the equally real dread of the principal's office
or never returning from a drug experience has experienced
Barrett's primal fears. Anyone who's ever teetered on the
edge of chaos and felt the black panic of falling into the
void can comprehend the Madcap. Someone who's almost grokked
the universe and then lost the definition on the tip of
their tongue knows what it's like to be a crazy diamond.
Twink says Barrett's no acid freak. Shine on, Syd.

SONGS WORDS BARRETT HOP!