WISH YOU
WERE HERE
by Cliff
"Syd's Blind From Diabetes" Jones
1996

[from
http://www.sydbarrett.net/subpages/articles/wish_you_were_here_mojo.htm ]

Wish You Were Here 
Mojo, September 1996

He was Pink Floyd's astral voyager who went too far, the
star-child of psychedelia who never returned from his
journey to inner space.

Nearly 30 years after his brief creative shining, the cult
of Syd Barrett continues to fascinate new generations. Cliff
Jones investigates the truth behind the myth of the original
Crazy Diamond.

In a private ward at the Adenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge,
where a Barrett Room is named in honour of his late father,
the respected pathologist, Syd Barrett lies resting. He is
now almost totally blind, following complications
arising from diabetes [earhead emph.]. The prognosis isn't
good if he does not routinely take the prescribed insulin, and
Barrett seems either incapable or unwilling to do so by
himself. Since the death of his mother Winifred in 1991,
Syd has often lapsed into diabetic coma, apparently
unconcerned about his health. However, he is watched over
by a tight network of understanding relatives and neighbours.

When he's healthy, Syd lives a peaceful, comfortable life in
one of a secluded row of semi-detached houses on the
outskirts of Cambridge. His earnigns from his recordings are
substantial and he wants for very little, though he chooses
a modest existence. Nevertheless, he is still in an
emotionally precatious state; talk of his illustrious past
can trigger bouts of depression, sometimes stretching to
weeks. For this reason, none of his former colleagues in
Pink Floyd have direct contact with him anymore.

Barrett's mental illness has provided the rock world with
some of its most enduring anecdotes. What should be
remembered, though, is that behind these acts of inspired
eccentricity lay a creative but profoundly confused mind and
an unhappy individual. Though Syd's moment was only briefly
bright, his wild worldview continues to delight listeners
and his life still influences the work of Pink Floyd. The
word "genius" is often attached to his memory as fans wax
fondly about his child-like, trippy songs that came to
define British psychedelia. Former friends have been known
to refer to him as "almost too talented". But was he a
visionary or simply a regular middle-class kid with a
fixation on his idyllic childhood who blew his mind for
eternity on too much high-grade acid?

Classical music enthusiast Dr. Arthur Max Barrett and his
wife Winifred were raising a family of keen musicians. Roger
Keith Barrett, the youngest of three sons and the fourth of
their five children, was born at Glisson Road, Cambridge on
January 6, 1946 and grew up in a house on Hills Road, Cherry
Hinton. He soon became a valuable contributor to the
family's spontaneous musical evenings, playing piano duets
with his younger sister Rosemary.

Roger was a bright, funny and popular child who, apart from
music, excelled at art and was seldom happier at school than
when he was messing with brushes and paints. At the age of
11 he turned his hand to the ukelele, a gift from his
father, and, following the skiffle boom, like many kids
present at the birth of rock 'n' roll, was soon begging his
parents for a proper guitar. As his elder siblings left home
Roger had the run of the place, and the house in Hills Road
became a natural meeting place for schoolkids interested in
rock and blues music. Clive Welham and John Gordon joined
Roger in an ad hoc combo they called The Hollerin' Blues.
Welham also introduced Roger to a proficient 14-year-old
guitarist named David Gilmour.

In 1961, 15-year-old Roger acquired his first electric
guitar, found a steady girlfriend and began frequenting the
local Riverside Jazz Club. The regulars noticed the handsome
schoolboy who often sat by himself in a corner of the venue.
Discovering his name was Barrett, they took to calling him
Sid after ancient local drummer Sid Barrett. School friends
heard about the nickname and adopted it too. When he became
a semi-pro musician, playing with Geoff Mott And The
Mottoes, a dance combo which gigged at Cambridge parties, he
took the spelling "Syd" to distinguish himself from his
namesake.

Roger's happy young life hit its first black spot the same
year when his father fell seriously ill. Suddenly, the
Barrett family's world was turned on its head. Inoperable
cancer was diagnosed and Max Barrett died suddenly on
December 11. Syd had religiously kept a diary ever since his
eleventh birthday. He left the entry for this day blank.

By 1963, inspired by The Beatles, Syd was writing his own
lyrics, storing them in a ring-binder marked "Roger's
songs". His early attempts often amounted to little more
than snatched ideas, single verses with a simple melody over
a few guitar chords, but he gradually developed a strong
style: catchy tunes and humorous rhymes inspired by his love
of Edward Lear, English folk balladry and the storytelling
tradition of the American Delta bluesmen. But it was some
time before he felt confident enough to play these songs in
public. A student band called Those Without he formed while
on an art foundation course at Cambridge Technical College
were another standard teen combo concentrating on R&B
staples.

On November 26, 1963, Syd was forced to miss a
long-anticipated Beatles gig at the Regal Cinema, Cambridge
to attend an interview at London's Camberwell Art School.
Winning a place he began studying there the following summer
and immediately hooked up with Cambridge friend Roger
Waters, now a student at Regent Street Polytechnic. Roger
had started a group calling itself variously Sigma 6, The
T-Set, The Meggadeaths and The Abdabs. He asked Syd to join
the line-up, complementing Waters on bass, fellow
architectural student Nick Mason on drums and Cambridge jazz
guitarist Bob Klose. After a spell as Leonard's Lodgers,
they added pianist Rick Wright and blues singer Chris Dennis
with a view to emulating The Rolling Stones. Syd suggested
they rename themselves The Pink Floyd after two Georgia
bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Their first gig,
almost entirely comprising old blues and R&B tunes, was late
in 1965.

For the extended summer vacation that year, Syd went on a
busking holiday in the South of France with David Gilmour
who had been teaching him Stones riffs and bottleneck slide
techniques during college lunch hours. Dave had just formed
his own R&B band, Jokers Wild. Though the pair managed to
get arrested for lewd behaviour in a St Tropez nightclub,
Syd returned from the trip refreshed and full of ideas, a
budding guitarist carrying a notebook crammed with potential
lyrics.

Meanwhile, other Cambridge friends, Ian 'Imo' Moore, Dave
Gale, Storm Thorgerson and Nigel Gordon, had been
experimenting with a phial of pure liquid LSD-25. Gordon had
married and moved to London to become a filmmaker and made a
connection with Michael Hollingshead, the Englishman who'd
turned Timothy Leary on to the yet-to-be-criminalised
hallucinogenic. "Hollingshead was passionate. Once he
arrived everyone was spiked," recalls journalist Miles. "He
turned Leary on and he wanted to turn the rest of the world
on too."

Moore and Gordon were anxious to initiate Syd into the ways
of the new wonder drug. Moore set up a psychedelic garden
party at Gale's home while his parents were away on holiday.
The friends laced sugarcubes with generous doses of liquid
LSD, and, having absorbed the drug through their skin, were
tripping by the time Syd arrived. Barrett took his cube with
little idea of what to expect and spent the next 12 hours,
according to Storm Thorgerson, "lost in space". Syd seized
an orange and a plum from the household fruit bowl and
carried them everywhere during his trip. In his altered
state the fruits came to represent the planets Jupiter and
Venus. Syd imagined himself suspended in place between the
two planets for hours until someone ate his plum (Venus) and
his universe collapsed."We were all seeking higher elevation
and wanted everyone to experience this incredible drug,"
says Gordon. "Syd was very self-obsessed and uptight in many
ways so we thought it was a good idea. In retrospect I don't
think he was equipped to deal with the experience because he
was unstable to begin with. Syd was a very simple person who
was having very profound experiences that he found it hard
to deal with."

Syd came down from his trip convinced that he had
encountered the full majesty of the universe and began to
search for a way to express what he'd seen in his music. He
often carried with him a small Times Astronomical Atlas,
which included speculation from noted astronomers on the
likely surface conditions of each of the planets in the
solar system. Syd combined this information with allusions
to astronaut Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future (a popular strip
from boys' comic The Eagle) into a string of lyrics which
would, a year later, become Astronomy Domine.

Barrett and his friends would spend subsequent weekends
smoking dope and experimenting with LSD. According to Storm
Thorgerson, who would go on to design many of Pink Floyd's
album covers, Syd was "always experimenting, a very open
sort of mind, empirical to an almost dangerous degree. But
whether he was any more enlightened as a result is anyone's
guess."

Shortly afterwards, 20-year-old student Peter Whitehead
moved into the Cambridge house of family friends, the
Mitchells. Barrett was seeing the Mitchell's daughter
Juliet, who'd persuaded her parents to let Syd and his
friends practise their music in the basement during the
holiday. "It sounded awful to me," recalls Whitehead,
"...like listening to bad Schoenberg."

In the summer of 1966, Peter Whitehead moved to London to
become a filmmaker and share a flat with Anthony Stern,
another old friend from Cambridge, and soon fell in with the
loose-knit group of Cantabrigian migrs to London which
included The Pink Floyd, who'd started to appear at regular
'happenings' held on a Sunday afternoon at the Marquee club.

For Whitehead, the main draw to their shows wasn't the
cacophonous music of The Pink Floyd but Syd's latest
girlfriend, Jenny Spires. Unbeknownst to Syd, Peter and
Jenny had a short but "tempestuous" fling, after which, in
an attempt to appease a guilty conscience, Spires persuaded
a sceptical (and jealous) Whitehead to help fund a studio
session for Syd's peculiar group with a view to including
their music in the film he was making. Taking its name from
an Allen Ginsberg poem, the feature length Tonite Let's All
Make Love In London sought to capture the essence of what
Time magazine had dubbed "Swinging London", an essence
distilled from Mini Coopers, micro skirts, and Union Jack
lunacy.

At about this time, Miles, then on the staff of underground
newpaper International Times (IT), played Peter Jenner (who
with Andrew King managed The Pink Floyd as Blackhill
Enterprises) a copy of the debut album by West Coast
psychedelic folk-rockers Love. Jenner was so impressed with
what he'd heard that when he next time met Syd he attempted
to explain how the album sounded."I was trying to tell him
about one 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. I'm not the world's greatest
singer; in fact I've got a terrible sense of pitch. He
played back a riff on his guitar, said, 'It goes like this?'
And of course it was quite different because my humming was
so bad! The chord pattern he worked out he went on to use as
his main riff for Interstellar Overdrive." The song Jenner
was attempting to hum was Love's version of the Burt
Bacharach and Hal Davies song My Little Red Book. Others,
notably Roger Waters, also detected a hint of Ron Grainer's
theme to Steptoe And Son in Syd's new riff.

Often stretching for over half an hour and always sonically
disorientating, Interstellar Overdrive became an aural
replica of an LSD trip's dislocation and confusion, and it
lit the way for the total abandonment of conventional
musical structures that began in earnest in 1966. There was
very little precedent for this sound in Britain, apart from
maybe The Who. When the Floyd began playing Interstellar
Overdrive in April 1966, The Beatles' psychedelic B-side
Rain had yet to be released and Revolver was still four
months away. During the Floyd's residencies at the Marquee
and the UFO clubs, Interstellar Overdrive became the
cornerstone of the show. A wildly unpredictable,
chemically-inspired instrumental of indeterminate length
required a considerable leap of faith for a pop audience
weaned on blues or Merseybeat, but it soon became a curious
anthem for the emerging underground scene.

Syd's explorations into free jazz and druggy pop were much
less contrived than those of other would-be psychedelicists
of the time. "They would take musical innovation further out
than it had ever been before," recalls Miles, "dancing along
crumbling precipices, saved sometimes only by the confidence
beamed at them from the audience sitting at their feet."

One experience that proved highly influential on Barrett in
this period was hearing Handel's Messiah performed at the
Albert Hall while he was tripping. Peter Wynne Wilson, who
shared a flat in Earlham Street with Barrett, confirms the
impact of that evening as "quite the most extraordinary
thing I'd ever encountered." Coupling this with his
fascination for John Coltrane's free-form masterwork, Om ,
Syd attempted to recreate the complex beauty of The Messiah
on drugs, using electric guitars howling into feedback.

Syd gave the guitar an entirely new sound featuring brash
swathes of noice, heavy on the delays. It could be seen as
the aural equivalent of his expressionist painting;
spontaneous, colourful, primal. "It was all very much part
of Syd's approach not to separate things into categories,"
recalls Andrew King. "He saw art and music as complimentary
and he was always trying to get his music to sound like his
art and vice versa." And, indeed, his playing could be as
detailed as the still life studies he also painted - for
example, the insects on the cover of Barrett.

Syd had seen a Binson Echorec being used in May 1966, when
he'd been invited to watch experimental electronic band AMM
recording their debut album with Joe Boyd. AMM's guitarist
was Keith Rowe, who favoured an unsentimental approach to
his instrument that made use of effects, treatments and the
use of assorted household implements. One of his favourite
effects was achieved by running a plastic ruler up and down
his guitar strings for an unusual grating sound. (Apart from
Interstellar Overdrive, Syd used this trick on the middle
section of Arnold Layne while the guitar was routed through
the Binson.) Seeing AMM liberated Syd. He began to use his
guitar more as an effect generator than a mere device for
playing chords and solos.

On January 11, 1967, Barrett, Waters, Wright and Mason
entered Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea with engineer
John Woods and producer Joe Boyd. In two short sessions
across successive days The Pink Floyd cut four songs,
Interstellar Overdrive (a version lasting 16 minutes and 46
seconds that was the closest they ever came to capturing
their frenetic stage sound on tape) and Nick's Boogie -
another freewheeling jam - followed by two of Barrett's
eccentric pop tunes, Arnold Layne and Let's Roll Another One
(later to become Candy and a Currant Bun).

No other song in the Floyd's early canon better illustrates
the duality at the heart of the group than Interstellar
Overdrive. On the one hand, Barrett the unfettered art
student who would constantly exclaim that there were "no
rules"; on the other, Roger Waters the cautious
structuralist and architecture student. Waters reined in
Syd's free-jazz tendencies. "Given the chance, Syd would
have jammed the same chord sequence all night," notes King.
"Roger gave the track dynamic boundaries within which Syd
could run free."

Nearly all the songs Pink Floyd recorded with Syd Barrett
were written over the six month period before they turned
professional in January 1967. Peter Wynnne Wilson remembers
this as Syd's creative peak. "Those were halcyon days. He'd
sit around [the flat in Earlham Street] with copious amounts
of hash and grass and write these incredible songs. There's
no doubt they were crafted very carefully and deliberately."

"Anything that fell within his orbit would end up recycled
into something else," says Peter Jenner. "It would get
written down or tucked away in his folder of lyrics and then
reappear in a song a week later." One particular influence
was a book of French symbolist poetry. As Andrew King points
out, "Many of [Syd's] songs actually had the slightly
dislocated metre of poetry in translation."Arnold Layne's
wry lyric is reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary
Tales - another childhood favourite of Syd's - but it has
more prosiac roots. Roger Waters' mother noticed that
washing, particularly underwear belonging to her female
lodgers, kept vanishing from her line during the night. The
Cambridge Knicker Snatcher became the cause of much local
gossip and Roger would keep Syd abreast of events as more
laundry disappeared from his garden. Amused, Syd began work
on a song about the story. It took him three weeks to
perfect during frequent train journeys between London and
Cambridge and became a long, rambling feature of The Pink
Floyd's set, complete with a full 'freak out' section. But
when a potential record deal was mooted and singles were
discussed, it seemed the most suitable candidate for
condensation into a three-minute hit.

In early interviews, Syd would state that The Pink Floyd
were pop stars first and musicians second. When pressed, he
made no attempt to hide their desire for money, cars, girls
and a lavish lifestyle. In 1967, pop stardom was no
disgrace. But the Floyd's attitude to the music industry was
one of studied disdain. Which was just what London's
underground crowd expected. However, Syd knew the Floyd had
to deal with the beast if they were to be of interest to
more than just a trendy clique and, encouraged by Jenner and
King, agreed to make compromises with their music.

By honing Arnold Layne into a pop single, Syd inadvertently
shunned the blues-based pop that had awakened his interest
in rock music and created an arch, literate, acid-stately
home style (songs about British social mors with a matching
sence of the absurd, sung in what MM writer Roy Hollingworth
described as "a well-spoken whine") that would be passed
down through Bowie, Ferry and Bolan on to modern acts like
Blur and Pulp. It would also Trojan horse Syd's drug-laced
vision into the charts, tipping the nod to the 'experienced'.
Despite only peaking at Number 21 in the charts, Arnold
Layne's impact on the British pop landscape was
profound. Pete Brown, lyric writer from Cream: "There'd
never been anything quite like it. Previously, I was
completely into blues. Things like White Room wouldn't
have happened without Syd."

Even though Arnold Layne presents its risqu subject in a
humorously moralistic tone, the BBC would't play it,
declaring it "smutty". "Arnold just happens to dig dressing
in women's clothing," Syd countered. "A lot of people do, so
let's face up to reality." Such subject matter wasn't
entirely without precedent. The Kink's Dedicated Follower Of
Fashion of May 1966 had featured a defiantly dandified
delivery of the line "he pulls his nylon panties right up
tight." But the Floyd's sound was much less jaunty and Syd's
vision much more sinister. So, while the song connected with
pop's new sense of lyrical daring, it also sought to make
the pop experience slightly unpleasant.

Abbey Road staff engineer Peter Bown was relaxing at home on
the evening of March 16, 1967, when the phone rang."I got a
call from the studio manager saying, 'Peter I want you back
here at Studio 3 at 10. You will be doing a new group and
it's underground music. You may find them very difficult to
get on with. They don't communicate much.' So I get back to
the studio and the Floyd were rehearsing Interstellar
Overdrive. I opened the door and I nearly shit myself. By
Christ, it was loud! I thought, How the fuck are we going to
get this on tape? I had certainly never heard anything quite
like it and I don't think I ever did again. It was very
exciting."

Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn was
very much Syd's baby. He took the record's title from
chapter seven of Kenneth Grahame's children's novel The Wind
In The Willows, in which Rat and Mole meet Pan; half man,
half goat and the god of flocks, woods and fields. They
encounter him as a goldenen, dream-like vision when Rat takes
Mole to "the place of my song dream...the Holy place." Pan
is used by Grahame to convey rather profound spiritual
concepts about elemental forces and the afterlife to his
young readers. This intrigued Syd, who took the episode as
the central beam of his writing for the album. And not just
that, Syd would often inform friends of how he too had met
Pan and been instilled with the spirit of the forest. "He
thought Pan had given him insight and understanding into the
way nature works," recalls Andrew King. The songs were full
of fairy-tale images. Matilda Mother is a beautiful
evocation of being read a bedtime story by mother. When it
was first played live, Syd would sing verses lifted straight
from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales. When it came time to
record the track, Andrew King approached the Belloc estate
but was refused permission to use the poem, so Syd wrote his
own version. Like John Lennon, childhood would become a
refuge for Syd when the rude intrusions of the adult world
became unbearable. "It was the place where things were
simple," says Jenner. "I think it all became disturbed when
Syd's father died. That was the last time Syd probably felt
really happy and so he was always looking back to
childhood."

Another similar evocation on the album was Flaming. One of
the most characteristic sensations of an LSD trip is
"flaming", a visual experience where ordinary things like
cigarettes or fingers emit sparks like the traces of
hand-held fireworks in the dark. Syd mixes the memory of a
psychedelic picnic on the banks of the River Cam in the
autumn of 1965 with those of childhood games of
hide-and-seek with his sister Rosemary.

The Gnome was inspired by Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings.
Published in 1954, the book had taken on a second wind
during the late '60s as trip literature. "We were all
brought up on books like that  Tolkien, Lear, the
Gormenghast trilogy, Aubrey Beardsley  and Syd was no
exception," says Miles. "They were cult books in which
stoned people felt parallels with mysticism. But we were
finding mystical signs in flock wallpaper, for God's sake."

Another favourite tome of the stoned was the I Ching  the
5,000-year-old Chinese Book of Changes, a common source for
both Taoist and Confucian philosophy, used as a poetic
horoscope of prophecies navigated by the casting of randomly
thrown coins or stones. Its use became widespread in the
late 1960s. (At one point all business at The Beatles' Apple
label was supposedly governed by decisions made using the I
Ching.) The song Chapter 24 was lifted more or less directly
from Fu, chapter 24 of the book, concerning change and/or
success. Syd owned a copy of the famous Richard Wilhelm
translation (first published in 1924) after discovering the
book through his love of the esoteric Chinese board game Go,
which he would often play long into the night with new
girlfriend, model Lyndsey Korner. While searching for some
kind of explanation for the psychic upheaval he was
experiencing through his growing fame and his LSD
revelations, Syd homed in on this chapter believing it
represented the constant evolution, death and resurrection
in nature. As Wilhelm puts it, "To know this means to know
oneself in relation to the cosmic forces."

Recording began almost immediately after signing to EMI in
March 1967 and continued during an intense touring schedule
through June and early July. Though Syd was still lucid and
maintained a strong artistic control, he was, by the end of
the sessions, becoming more withdrawn and difficult to
communicate with. Norman Smith, the EMI staff producer
assigned to work with the Floyd, found Syd especially
tiresome. Sceptical of the band's musical ability and
inclined to dismiss Barrett's songs as infantile, the
sessions were not an altogether happy affair for Smith. He'd
been chief engineer for The Beatles up until Rubber Soul and
was anxious to get to grips with a new band who might
benefit from the production skills he'd picked up from
George Martin. "When I look back I wonder how we ever
managed to get anything done," Smith told writer Karl
Dallas. "It was sheer hell. There are no pleasant memories.
I always left with a headache. Syd was undisciplined and
would simply never sing the same thing twice. Trying to talk
to him was like talking to a brick wall because the face was
so expressionless. His lyrics were child-like and he was a
child in many ways; up one minute, down the next."

Faced with the unreceptive Smith, Syd found another line of
communication into the control room via Peter Bown. The
eccentric Abbey Road engineer, then in his early forties,
struck up an unlikely friendship with Barrett, resulting in
some of the more unusual sounds on the album. "Bown was as
loopy as they come," remembers King. "He'd sit at the mixing
desk painting plastic skin on his fingers because he was
worried they'd wear out through overuse."

"Syd's guitar was always a problem because he would not keep
still and was always fiddling with his sound," says Bown,
who retired in 1991. "He used to go and kick his echo box
every now and then, just because he liked the sound it made.
We wrecked four very expensive microphones that first night.
They got louder and louder until everything was overloading
and the mics just gave up the ghost. "With Syd you just
never knew what was going to occur. We all knew he was
taking drugs fairly heavily but, nevertheless, he was very
creative. The fact that he didn't understand the recording
process terribly well meant that he was less rigid about
what could and couldn't be done. No-one really understood
Pink Floyd, particularly Norman. Pink Floyd were different
and they were meant to be different."

Smith's input did help the band create an accessible album.
As bootlegs of the rough mixes made by Syd attest, if
Barrett had had his way the album would be full of
phase-shifting and heavy reverb. One can only speculate how
it might have sounded if Joe Boyd had produced it as
originally planned.

Meanwhile, in Abbey Road's Studio 2, The Beatles were
recording Sgt Pepper . "I'm sure The Beatles were copying
what we were doing just as we were copying what we were
hearing down the corridor!" says Peter Jenner of the band's
proximity during that epochal spring. On March 21, The Pink
Floyd were taken by Peter Bown to meet The Beatles. "It was
during the mix of Lovely Rita and there was a bad atmosphere
in Studio 2 that day," remembers Bown, who had worked on
many Beatles sessions. "The Floyd all stood there like
dummies, riveted to the floor while McCartney said hello.
Syd was very impressed because McCartney said he liked what
he'd heard of the band and thought they were doing something
unique and creative."

"Paul was very interested in the band," agrees Miles. "It
felt like he was almost passing on the pop mantle to them.
He'd always been convinced there would be a new synthesis of
electronic music and studio techniques in rock'n'roll and
the Floyd were it." (It had always been supposed that Lennon
was the Floyd fan and that he asked Barrett to play on the
rambling What's The New Mary Jane, but there is no evidence
that such a session every occurred. On March 21, Lennon was
enjoying his fabled unscheduled LSD trip after getting his
supply of pills and tabs confused.)

Piper was well received, though some of the hardened UFO
crowd felt its emphasis on whimsy was a betrayal of the
Floyd's free-form intent. But it had a curious, delicate
beauty, infused with Syd's dark spirit that few, not even
the band, really understood. "I love listening to it just
for Syd's songs," says Rick Wright reflectively. "It's sad
because it reminds me of what might have been. Syd could
have easily been on of the finest songwriters around today."

By April 1967, Syd Barrett was a star and had moved from
Earlham Street, Soho into a flat in Cromwell Road in the
Earl's Court area of London. It was a place that Nigel
Gordon, one of the inhabitants, describes now as "the most
iniquitous den in all of London". Surrounded by
proselytising acid converts and their endless supply of
drugs, Syd travelled further into inner space. "Put it this
way, you never drank anything round there unless you got it
yourself from the tap," says Andrew King. This constant diet
of hallucinogenics resulted initially in accelerated
creativity but soon prompted the onset of Syd's permanent
removal from normality. "The poor lad didn't know whether he
was awake or dreaming," says King. "He never had the chance
to re-establish reality."

As John Marsh, the Floyd's first full-time lighting
technician, later put it to writer Jonathon Green, "Syd was
a truly beautiful person but he was going further and
further down the tubes because nobody-the band, Jenner, King
[or] me - had the guts...Nobody wished to be thought uncool
and take him away from these circumstances."

Games for may, was a "happening" held at the Queen Elizabeth
Hall on May 12, 1967 and Syd was commissioned to write a
theme song for the event. Jenner and King felt certain that
the result had 'hit' written all over it and suggested Syd
rework it for the charts. Needing a new lyrical theme to
fill the now redundant chorus line of "Free games for May"
Syd looked around him for inspiration and found The
Honourable Emily Kennet, a 16-year-old raver that the UFO
crowd had nicknamed "the psychedelic schoolgirl" and looked
down upon. Syd echoed this in the opening line: "Emily tries
but misunderstands."

See Emily Play was indeed a big hit. But brevity of
performance and a radio-friendly sound didn't appeal to the
Floyd when they played live. Arnold and Emily were performed
only under duress from Jenner and King, who faced flack from
disgruntled promoters who'd booked a chart act and got sets
of ear-splitting free-form freaking for their trouble. An
improvisation called Reaction In G was often cranked out in
protest at having to play 'The Hits' whenever the Floyd
performed outside the capital.

"Emily was the last time Syd was focussed and together, in
my view," says Jenner "The speed of it all was overwhelming.
Suddenly from just being Syd he was an unwilling spokesman
for a social movement. Combine that with the extraordinary
information overload of LSD, world travel and the pop
industry, and you're in for problems. He was a terribly
nice lad but it did his brain in."

By the time a third single was due, Syd's swift decline into
schizophrenia had begun and no-one could do anything to stop
it. Having exhausted the fund of potential singles, Barrett
was asked to write new songs with an eye to chart success.
Two were duly recorded, Scream Thy Last Scream and 
Vegetable Man, but when EMI head them, tipped off by Norman 
Smith that they were little more than lunatic ravings, their 
release was denied. During these sessions Dave Gilmour, on leave
from a tour with Jokers Wild, popped in to the studio to see
his old friend recording. Syd failed even to recognise him.

Barrett had one song in reserve. Jugband Blues is a poignant
coda to Syd's tenure as leader of Pink Floyd, the final
track on Saucerful Of Secrets, recorded long before work
began on the second album in October 1967. When Andrew King
heard Syd play it for the first time he was awestruck. An
extraordinary hybrid, part jaunty singalong, part
melancholic love song, part insane Dadaist freefall, it was,
in his view, one of the finest things Syd had ever produced
and petitioned for its release as the next single.

It was recorded in two sections at De Lane Lea Studios, the
first with the Floyd, the latter just Syd alone with an
acoustic guitar. In a moment of sublime clarity he
encapsulated the pain of his own deteriorating mental
condition in lines like, "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." Though each line seems to be a non
sequitur, they come together into an impression of Syd's
advancing illness. "Syd knew exactly what was happeing to
him but was powerless to stop it. He knew he was going wrong
inside," says Andrew King. The song's final lines were, "And
what exactly is a dream?/And what exactly is a joke?"

The two parts of the song are bridged by a collage which
features the Salvation Army Band of North London who
recorded their albums at Abbey Road. Syd had asked Norman
Smith for a brass section to play through the bridge and
wanted them to play spontaneously, without music. Smith felt
the bewilded musicians should be properly scored. It was the
only time Syd had a vociferous disagreement with Smith, who
finally agreed to record two versions, one with his scored
section and one with Syd's instruction to "play whatever you
want". Syd, tired of arguing, walked out, leaving Smith to
finish the track his way. EMI rejected Jugband Blues as too
downbeat to be a single.

So Syd went shopping for a single. Barrett was a shopaholic.
He enjoyed nothing more than trailing from store to store
looking for new clothes, trinkets and records. When staying
with Lyndsey, at another LSD madhouse in Richmond, Surrey,
he would spend much of his time simply wandering the streets
window-shopping and meandering along the banks of the
Thames. One day he noticed an attractive young woman doing
her shopping and decided to follow her. He trailed her for
hours, finally ending up at the duck pond a short bus ride
away on Barned Common. Syd's recollection of this
afternoon's light stalking became Apples and Oranges, a good
song spoiled by an aimless and ham-fisted production.

Unlike the previous singles, Apples and Oranges failed to
chart. It was Syd's first taste of failure. "I couldn't care
less," he told a journalist. "All we can do is make records
which we like. If the kids don't then they won't buy it."
This flippancy masked a deep fear that his talets might be
fading.

His descent was swift. It began almost as soon as Pink Floyd
had achieved international notoriety. On a tour of America,
Syd had remained almost catatonic. There were memorable TV
appearances on The Pat Boone Show, during which he stoically
refused to answer any of the anodyne host's questions, and
American Bandstand, where the Floyd were booked to mime to
their latest single, Apples and Oranges. Syd, eyes rolling
back in his head, didn't even come close to lip-synching the
opening lines. The camera hardly returned to him for the
rest of the song.

Syd began talking in strange riddles and was becoming
increasingly paranoid. On a package tour with Jimi Hendrix
and Amen Corner, Davey O'List from The Nice had to deputise
because Syd had vanished before the show or would stand
playing one note all night. The crunch came at a gig in
Brighton when Syd simply couldn't be found. Nigel Gordon
called Dave Gilmour, then in Cambridge, and told him the
Floyd needed a guitarist for that night's show.

Both band and managers had tried to take Syd to see noted
psychiatrist R.D. Laing, an exponent of the idea that
madness is in the eye of the beholder. Laing heard a tape of
Syd in conversation and pronounced him "incurable". The band
resisted going to see more conventional psychiatrists
fearing Syd would be placed in an institution never to
emerge again.

"We had a deep mistrust of trick cyclists," says Peter
Jenner. "I'd read a little Irving Goffman and I knew what
these institutions did to people's minds. Syd wasn't in pain
or distress; he was just barking mad. So we struggled on,
but it was very difficult for everyone."

Around Christmas 1967, Dave Gilmour was asked to join the
band to supplement the line-up and cover for Syd's erratic
behaviour at live shows. Though not a fan of Syd's music or
the Floyd sound, he seemed to fit in and at the beginning of
the new year, Gilmour began rehearsing with the band and
learning the numbers. For a few months they were a
five-piece but no-one really believed the situation was
acceptable. There was talk of trying to get Syd to become
the Brian Wilson of The Pink Floyd, a writer who would not
play live. "I think that idea lasted about five minutes.
None of us really thought it could work," says Andrew King.
"I think Syd thought it could work but he was very unhappy."

A Saucerful Of Secrets was never originally intended to be a
full Pink Floyd album but a collection of oddments left over
from the band's beginnings. With Syd incapable of writing
and no obvious contender to take his place, the band
attempted to record together, but eventually realised that
it was impossible to continue with Syd in the band. Waters
in particular, though very fond of Syd, had had enough of
the insanity and told Syd that he was no longer welcome at
the sessions. "Things got very nasty at the studio," says
Andrew King. "It would literally be Syd in one corner and
the rest of the band in the other. There had always been
conflict between Roger and Syd but it had made the group
what it was. Waters was conventionally forcefull and Syd had
the power because he was writing the songs, so it worked.
But Syd always thought the had a better way of looking at
things  he felt a revolution of the mind and the heart was
flowing through him and that the others were not open to
that." Once Waters and Barrett were at odds, their petty
differences became magnified into full-blown disagreements.

"Syd could be very cruel, making fun of how strait-laced
they all were. It got very unpleasant, like a very
acrimonious divorece. They couldn't have a conversation with
each other because everything they said was loaded with
hidden meaning," King added.

Meanwhile, life at the Cromwell Road flat was making Syd's
behaviour even more bizarre. With acid on the menu every
day, things got further out of control. "My wife and I had a
lot of cats and we gave one to Syd because he liked them and
it seemed to comfort him," recalls Jenner. "He gave the
animal LSD. Can you believe it? He used to be a genuine joy
to be around but now he made no sense and the spark that had
given the world See Emily Play was gone." Syd was rescued
from the flat and taken in by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey
Powell, but it was too late. He was lost for ever.

Through all this, the band were struggling to make a second
album. Syd would sit in the reception area at Abbey Road,
clutching his guitar, waiting to be invited into the
sessions. Eventually he stopped waiting. There were a few
strained moments when he took to following the band around
the country in his Mini Cooper, scowling at Gilmour in the
belief that his friend had become a interloper. As Syd began
his sabbatical from reality, Waters assumed control. The
songs that dated from Syd's brief, six month window of
creativity had all been used. Since he hadn't written
anything releasable since See Emily Play, the rest of the
band became unwilling songwriters. With this came a new
sound and new approach to recording. EMI took to marketing
the band in a new way too, as the press release to Saucerful
indicates: "Unlike Cornelius Cardew or even Stockhausen,
whose futuristic dabblings seem erratic and uncoordinated,
The Pink Floyd have managed to blend sounds - all sounds -
so that they convey deeply-felt convictions with a clarity
and directness whose authority is unmistakable."

Another press communication of April 6, 1968 announced that
Syd had left The Pink Floyd. "I suppose it was really just a
matter of being a little offhand about things," Syd told the
Melody Maker. Jenner and King didn't believe the Floyd were
viable without him and stopped managing the group.

"To be honest, I think we just wanted out of a very
emotionally damaging situation. We were young, it had all
been so exciting and now it had all gone so terribly wrong,"
says King. "No-one involved with that situation will ever
get over the way it happened. I used to say to Syd, 'Why
can't you write another Emily and we'll all be rich and
happy again?' But I knew I was only trying to make him feel
better. I think we may have pressurised him into a state of
paranoia about having to come up with another hit single."

But they stuck with Syd. Despite all his weird behaviour
there was clearly enough confidence at EMI in Barrett's
abilities to sanction a solo deal. Jenner began overseeing
solo sessions on May 13 with two songs, Silas Lang and Swan
Lee. After a few days work, during which Syd attempted a
rambling two-part instrumental, Lanky, and a further session
in July to try out the beguiling Clown & Jugglers[sic] 
(later retitled Octopus), it became clear that the project was
going to be tough to complete.

Indeed, nothing further was done for almost a year, during
which time Syd was often sighted on the scene, behaving like
a pop star, often turning up uninvited backstage at Top Of
The Pops. "TOTP is all right," he told Chris Welch, "there
are always people around I know [who] are prepared to like
me." Another contemporary writer heard Syd gleefully
revealing to anyone who was interested that The Moles -
makers of a psychedelic single on Parlophone rumoured to be
the work of The Beatles - were in fact Simon Dupree And The
Big Sound.

In the spring of 1969, Syd announced that he was ready to
record again, this time for Malcolm Jones's new progressive
label, Harvest. Jones elected to produce the record himself.
The sessions began with Opel, a long, rambling song absent
from the subsequent album, and continued with contributions
from Soft Machine and Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie on No Good 
Trying, Clown & Jugglers and Golden Hair. Little of the
music ws usable and Jones accepted Dave Gilmour's offer of
help. By this time, Syd was swallowing large doses of
Mandrax. This notorious tranquilliser - possibly prescribed
to bring him down from LSD - could cause blackouts and
severe disorientation if taken carelessly.

"It soon became apparent we were going to have trouble with
this album," confirms Peter Bown. "Dave Gilmour knew that
Syd was beyond help and I think it really hurt him to see
that. He said, 'Whatever happens in here must not get out to
anyone.' So I made sure they were closed sessions. Because
if anyone had seen Syd, that would have been it. He used to
wander around, couldn't stay still in the studio; his legs
were jittery and nervous all the time. I had to follow him
around the studio with a microphone in my hand - wearing a
pair of carpet slippers so I didn't make any noice - just to
get a take.

"He was wandering all over the place musically too. His
pitch was out and his timing completely shot. They took down
everything on tape in those days, so it's all there [in
Abbey Road's vaults] somewhere, with David trying to keep
him calm and relaxed. It was like a teacher trying to help a
forlorn child. Very, very sad for everyone.

"Once, Syd stopped in the middle of a take and said he
wanted to go to the toilet. There was one on the
ground-floor where the classical musicians used to go. I had
to smuggle him down there when the studio was empty and I
literally had to take him in, undo his trousers and point
his penis at the pan.

"At the end, David and I went through all the tapes looking
for what could be the basis of a song, and we did find quite
a lot of usable stuff, which was surprising because at the
time I thought we had nothing at all."

Photographer Mick Rock, who had shared a flat in South
Kensington with Syd for a while, was pleased to be asked to
take pictures for the album's sleeve. "Syd never asked
anything of anyone," he recalled. "Without exception he
simply refused to communicate." When Rock arrived to take
the shots, Syd answered the door dressed in just his
underpants, obviously having forgotten about the session.
His latest girlfriend, known only as Iggy The Eskimo, was
even less prepared. She wandered in entirely naked and
remained so throughout the shoot. "They both laughed a lot
and it was a magical session," says Rock. "My experience of
Syd was that his legendary withdrawal from daily human
intercourse was a matter of choice not necessity."

When The Madcap Laughs came out in January 1970 Syd was
upbeat, promoting it with interviews and a session for John
Peel's Top Gear show. The reviews were good and the album
spent a week in the Top 40. Work began immediately on a
follow-up with Dave Gilmour producing.

However sticky the sessions for Barrett were, it's worth
nothing that there are still glimpses of a great lyricaist
at work on this record. It Is Obvious is particularly
touching: "Each of us crying/The velvet curtain of grey
marked the blanket where sparrows play/And the trees by the
waving corn standed/My legs moved the last empty inches to
you."

But Barrett was issued to a lukewarm reception in November,
by which time Syd had decamped to his mother's place in
Cambridge where Rolling Stone interviewed him a year later.
Mick Rock's pictures for the article show him with a trim,
Beatlish haircut, prancing barefoot in his back garden. Syd
declared himself "totally together". Within months he was
back on a stage at the King's College Cellar as part of
Stars, an impromptu "boogie band" with bass-player Jack
Monck (who was married to Syd's ex-girlfriend Jenny Spires)
and former Pink Fairies drummer Twink. A week later they
were scheduled to appear at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on
February 24, 1972, supporting MC5. MOJO writer Rob Chapman
happened to be in town and went to the show:

"Most of the audience had drifted away by the time Stars
came on. There were no more than 30 people in the place. It
must have been one in the morning and the house lights were
up when they shambled on. Syd looked brilliant, purple
velvet trousers and snakeskin boots, long unkempt hair,
shell-shocked eyes... They played about six or seven songs,
Lucifer Sam from Piper, a smattering of numbers from the
solo albums, Octopus and Gigolo Aunt and the inevitable
shapeless, bluesy jam, after which Syd said, 'I don't know
what that one was called.' There were snatches of brilliance
and then it would degenerate into chaos again. He cut his
fingers on the guitar at one point and a girl got up on
stage to start dancing in that '70s spirit of everyone
joining in and Syd just glared at her and she got off. Jack
Monck's bass amp packed up and they called it a day.

"They didn't turn up for the gig with Kevin Ayers and Nektar
at Essex University the following week." Stars never
appeared again. Syd's career was over.

Sighting of the crazy diamond since have been rare and
bizarre: Syd in a Crombie, flowery dress and plimsolls, his
head freshly shaved; Syd in the street in Cambridge in his
pyjamas; Syd attending an aborted Abbey Road session in
1974; Syd wandering into a Floyd session as they recorded
their tribute to him on Wish You Were Here ; Syd, balding
and fat, mistaken for a Krishna freak at Dave Gilmour's
wedding reception; Syd chatting to a French journalist about
his laundry.

Down the years bigger stars then Barrett have acknowledged
his immense influence upon them, provoking continued
interest. But, amid much speculation, no-one has
satisfactorily explained whether Syd's fragile genius would
have endured if LSD hadn't intervened or if it was doomed
anyway by the pressure of fame. But Syd himself gave Rolling
Stone a clue in 1971. "All I ever wanted to do as a kid
[was] play guitar properly and jump around," he said, adding
poignantly, "but too many people got in the way."

SONGS WORDS BARRETT HOP!