by Gian Palacios

[from ]

'So beautiful and strange and new!  Since it was to end all
too soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. Nothing seems
worthwhile but just to hear that sound once more and go on
listening to forever. No!  There it is again!' he cried,
alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space,

	from 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame

.....And so it must have been, turning the dials of a small
radio set in the early days of Spring 1967. The distant
crackle of Radio Caroline, one of the numerous pirate radio
stations broadcasting from off the English shored, spilling
forth an exotic, mysterious sound. 'See Emily Play' by the
Pink Floyd. Along with John Lennon, Roger 'Syd' Barrett
created psychedelic music. The English version of
psychedelia, as opposed to the strain found in San
Francisco, was a melange of indigenous folk, traces of 1940s
pop, vestiges of the blues and Mod boom of the preceeding
years, informed by the anarchic wail of free jazz, and a
strong dose of the peculiarly English fantastical
storytelling of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland',
Edward Lear, J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and 'The Wind in the
Willows'. No one captured the ethos of this better than Syd

Peter Jenner: The Pink Floyd were the only psychedelic band. 
They had this improvisation, this spirit of psychedelia which
I don't think any other band had. The Pink Floyd didn't
play chords. At their finest it was very extraordinary free
improvisation. We thought we were doing what was happening
in San Francisco, which we'd never heard, and it was totally
different. Attempting to imitate what you don't actually
know what your imitating leads to genuine creativity and I
think that's what happened with the Pink Floyd.

John Marsh: Syd was a beautiful person, a lovely guy. He
had a creative brain, a way of looking at things that was
really genuinely revolutionary and different.

Peter Jenner: The strongest image I have of Syd is of him
sitting in his flat with a guitar and his book of songs,
which he represented by paintings with different coloured
circles. You'd go round to Syd's and you'd see him write a
song. It just poured out. The acid brought out his latent
madness. I'm sure it was his latent madness which gave him
his creativity. The acid brought out the creativity, but
more importantly, it brought out the madness. The
creativity was there -- dope was enough to get it going. He
wrote all his songs, including the ones on his solo LP's, in
a eighteen month period.

June Bolan: Syd Barrett had this quality like a candle that
was about to be snuffed out at any minute. Really all
illumination. An extraordinary, wonderful man. He took
lots of LSD. Lots of people can take some LSD and cope with
it in their lives, but if you take three or four trips every

Peter Jenner: Syd was an exceptional figure, far and away
the most important in the band. He wrote the songs, he was
the singer, he played most of the solos, he was the lead
guitarist, it was his band. He was much the most
interesting, much the most creative: the others were just
students. I always think that it's really important that
Syd was an artist whereas the other two were architects, and
that really showed in the music. Syd did this wild,
impossible drawing and they turned it into the Pink Floyd. 
Syd was a good artist too. And it was a time when you just
expressed yourself away -- if you were good at painting then
you could be good at writing songs. Why not?

Jonathan Meades: Syd was this rather weird, exotic and
mildly famous creature, who happened to be living in this
flat with these people who were pimping off him both
professionally and privately. I went there and there was
this horrible noise. It sounded like heating pipes shaking. 
I said, 'What's that?' and they sort of giggled and said,
'That's Syd having a bad trip, we put him in the line
cupboard.'  And that seemed a terrible thing to do.

David Gilmour: I noticed it around the time Pink Floyd were
recording 'See Emily Play'. Syd was still functioning, but
he definitely wasn't the person I knew. he looked through
you. He wasn't quite there.

John Marsh: Syd was one of the earliest acid casualties. He
lived in a flat in the Cromwell Road with various
characters, among whom was a psychotic kind of character
called Scotty. He was one of  the original
acid-in-the-reservoir, change-the-face-of-the-world
missionaries. He was also a desperately twisted freak and
really malevolent crazy. Everyone knew that if you went
round to see Syd never have a cup of tea because everything
was spiked with acid.

Nick Mason: Syd went mad on that first American tour in the
autumn of 1967. He didn't know where he was most of the
time. I remember he detuned his guitar onstage in Venice,
LA, and he just stood there rattling the string which was a
bit weird, even for us.

....The tour of America was rife with stories of Syd's
eccentric behaviour. The band played on 'American Bandstand'
and Syd refused to lip sync the words to 'See Emily Play'. 
He stood facing the camera, lips impassively shut. Later,
when the band were taken on a tour of Hollywood and reached
the corner of Hollywood and Vine, Syd wandered about wide
eyed and said, 'Wow! It's great to be in...Las Vegas!'  Syd
was slipping into catatonic schizophrenia, no doubt
accelerated by his prodigous consumption of LSD. On a
second TV appearance on the 'Pat Boone Show' the band played
their song and Pat Boone came to banter with the band. 
Smothers' comments were greeted by silence with Syd who
seemed to be staring straight through him....

Peter Jenner: He was extraordinarily creative and what
happened was catastrophic: a total burnt-out case. All his
talent just came out in a flood in two years and then it was
burnt out. Syd got burnt out from acid in the coffee every
morning. They had one of our cats and they gave the cat

John Marsh: He was going further and further down the tubes
because nobody wished to be thought uncool and take him away
from these circumstances. So Syd went down the mine because
of the inertia of those around him.

Jenny Fabian: Syd was so beautiful with his violet eyes. He
had a breakdown and was gone, he hardly spoke. He would
just tolerate me. Syd was wonderful because he wrote such
wonderful songs. He didn't have to speak because he wrote
these mysterious songs

June Bolan: The last gig Syd played was at the Alexandra
Palace. We found Syd in the dressing room and he was
so....gone. Roger waters and I got him to his feet and onto
the stage. He had a white Stratocaster and we put it around
his neck and he walked onstage. The band started to play
and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck
and his arms just hanging down and I was in the wings
wondering what to do. Suddenly he put his hands on the
guitar and we thought, 'Great, he's actually going to do
it!'  But he just stood there, he just stood there tripping
out of his mind.

.....By the beginning of 1968 Syd was in the final throes of
his breakdown. Still, sparks of his unique creativity would
emerge, alternating with bouts of blank stares and silence. 
At one of his final appearances with the Pink Floyd, Syd
decided he didn't like his curly hair so he took a handful
of pills and crushed them up, mixing them into a jar of hair
gel and putting the entire mix into his hair. Working his
hair into a primitive mohawk Syd went onstage and played
with the orange goo dissolving under the hot lights onto his
face like a waxy mask.

Syd's final contribution to the Pink Floyd was
'Jugband Blues'. Syd himself best summarised his
precarious mental health by singing, 'I'm wondering
who could be writing this song?'  As his playing
and timing became more erratic, he urged the
others to recruit a female singer and a saxophonist.
Often going missing from rehearsals and
performances, Syd was fired from the band.

Two solo LPs followed in 1969-70, 'The Madcap Laughs' and
'Barrett'; the albums were disturbing aural paintings of a
mind gone mad, of a mind gone to waste. What was saddest of
all was that flashes of the old Syd would appear every now
and again, illuminating all the tracks with the transcendent
beauty that was his trademark. His sense of timing had
become so skewed that the other musicians struggled to play
along with him. Syd would skip freely over increasingly
bizarre chord changes and tempos, often frustrating even
himself. Soon after, Syd retired from music after a few
brief efforts to form a band and returned to his childhood
home in Cambridge to live with his mum.

Today Syd Barrett continues to live in Cambridge in
isolation. His mum having died, his sister cares for him. 
He collects coins and listens only to classical and jazz
music. Every once in a while a man can be spotted walking
the streets of Cambridge, bald and fat, eyes staring blankly
ahead and mumbling to himself. It's Syd, and in his head
perhaps he hears the distant echoes of the thunder and
lightning that was his music and perhaps he smiles at how he
passed it all by.

Jenny Fabian: I knew the others but they were absolutely
nothing compared to Syd. His words and music were the Pink
Floyd and I've never been interested in them since. Nothing
ever reached the heights of that first album, which was mad
and him.