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Music / Syd Barrett

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Shine On You Crazy Diamond!

"It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here
And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear
That I'm not here."
— "Jugband Blues", A Saucerful of Secrets

Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett (6 January 1946 - 7 July 2006) was an English singer, songwriter, and musician best known as a co-founder of Pink Floyd, and the band's frontman in their psychedelic years. His solo work is also often seen as a prime example of Outsider Music.

With the band, Barrett recorded 3 singles and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (writing nearly all the songs), but his mental health started to decline considerably as a result of excessive drug use, though many believe his breakdown would have happened anyway. He was subsequently forced to leave the band at the start of 1968 during the making of their second album A Saucerful of Secrets, and was replaced by David Gilmour. The rest of the band to this day feel extreme guilt for not being able to help him properly, though there was really very little they could do.

After his departure, Barrett would go on to creating two solo albums. The first, The Madcap Laughs, was marred by poor production at certain songs (the ones produced by former band-mates Roger Waters and David Gilmour), but the second, Barrett, came off better (this time produced by Gilmour and with contributions by Richard Wright). He gave only one performance in that era — with Gilmour on bass and Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie on drums — only to leave the stage after four songs. He did perform for The BBC twice, though, and those performances would eventually be officially released.

In January 1972, Barrett performed in a band called "The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band", which would evolve into the band Stars with John "Twink" Alder note  on drums and Jack Monck on bass. Their performances ranged from brilliant to disastrous, and after reading a negative review the fragile Barrett quit immediately. The last time Barrett tried to record was in 1974, and that didn't go very well at all. After that, Barrett retired from the music industry for good.

Barrett would visit Pink Floyd one last time in 1975 — coincidentally, just as they were completing their tribute to him, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" off of Wish You Were Here (1975). Upon revisiting them, his hair and eyebrows were shaved off and he had gained quite a bit of weight; this dramatically changed appearance and signs of further mental decline reduced Waters and Wright to tears. Apart from a brief encounter with Waters at Harrods a few years later, Barrett would never see the members of Pink Floyd again after that. Eventually, he moved in his mother's house and became a full-on recluse.

During this time, Barrett went back to using his original name Roger, was often annoyed by paparazzi and fans, approved an odds-and-ends compilation album called Opel which is now part of his official discography, and continued to receive royalties from Gilmour for his work with Pink Floyd, which he lived on. Time did little to diminish interest in his work, and although he had become a legendary figure, he simply wanted to be left alone.

Barrett's physical health started to decline in the 1990s due to diabetes and stomach ulcers, culminating in his death in 2006 from pancreatic cancer. The rest of Pink Floyd were naturally devastated, and others who cited Barrett as a major influence, such as David Bowie, also expressed sorrow. His work with Pink Floyd ensures his legacy, and Barrett remains fondly remembered to this day.

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1970 - The Madcap Laughs
  • 1970 - Barrett
  • 1987 - Peel Sessions note 
  • 2004 - The Radio One Sessions note 

"What Exactly is a Dream?":

  • Basement-Dweller: He went back to living with his mother after leaving the music business.
  • Big Eater: Apparently, the reason Syd gained so much weight is because he consumed a near endless amount of porkchops.
  • Broken Ace: A classic example, really. A talented, charismatic young man broken down by heavy drug use and severe mental problems, only to retreat into a almost solitary life, completely disconnected from his old life and the world around him.
  • Boxed Set: The 1993 box set Crazy Diamond which includes The Madcap Laughs, Barrett and Opel as well as previously unreleased bonus tracks.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: After being chucked from Pink Floyd, Barrett's two solo albums showed that - even after having gone crazy - he was still a capable, witty songwriter. Pink Floyd themselves were very worried about continuing without Syd, as he had been writing almost all of the band's songs at that point. Waters and Gilmour helped produce Syd's first album and Gilmour and Wright his second, wanting to help their friend. One early suggestion was that David would tour and record with the band, while Syd would keep writing their songs and sing on the albums, like Brian Wilson's relationship with their labelmates The Beach Boys around the same time. The idea failed after Syd infamously taunted them with the unlearn-able "Have You Got It, Yet?". Waters noted that at the time Syd was kicked out of the band, "he was our friend, but most of the time we now wanted to strangle him."
  • Chick Magnet: And HOW! Also The Charmer, too. However, during his breakdown, his relations with women changed and he allegedly became abusive.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: One of the very definitions of it.
  • Compilation Rerelease: Syd Barrett from 1974 was a reissue of Barrett's two solo albums.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: The reason "Arnold Layne" was a Panty Thief (see below) in the first place.
    • His bandmates recount Syd doing this note .
  • The Dandy: In his prime. He was quite the fashion plate.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Demoted to Extra: This happened with Barrett and Pink Floyd when his erratic behaviour and deteriorating mental health jeopardized the band and David Gilmour was brought in. He only appears on three songs on A Saucerful of Secretsnote .
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Inversion - Barrett, later in life, refused to answer to "Syd," preferring to be addressed by his birth name, Roger.
  • Epic Rocking: "Rhamadan" could be considered that, as well as Pink Floyd songs "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Nick's Boogie".
  • Even the Guys Want Him:
    Peter Jenner: Syd was a handsome boy, he was beautiful and one more part of the tragedy is that he became such a fat slob, he became ugly. He was true flower power. He came out in this outrageous gear, he had this permanent, which cost 20 poundsnote  at the time, and he looked like a beautiful woman, all this Thea Porter stuffnote . He had a lovely girlfriend, Lindsay, she was the spitting image of Syd.
  • Empty Shell: During his breakdown, Syd would frequently go completely blank, barely conscious, to the extent where even his friends have described him as being this while in that state.
  • Formerly Fat: What little pictures exist of Syd after retiring from the public eye showed that he lost most of the weight he put on.
  • Formerly Fit: Infamously, Syd gained a huge amount of weight during the mid-70s
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Well, they all liked him, but mostly they were sick of him screwing with them.
  • The Gadfly: Syd liked messing with his friends. After his sanity started to go he became even more frequent and elaborate.
    • One very famous example is when he introduced a purposefully unlearnable song to his bandmates. Every time they had nailed the chording Syd would change it up, all while teasing them in song. This was one of the last times Syd rehearsed with Floyd.
  • Gaslighting: Barrett's flatmates were apparently fond of spiking all his food and drink with LSD. While it may not have been the origin of his mental problems, it certainly didn't help.
  • Genre Roulette: Syd was quite fittingly rather unpredictable with his sound, going from British Invasion style pop, to acoustic folk, psychedelic pop and most notably, experimental rock.
  • Growing Up Sucks: He was a proverbial "Peter Pan" who loved all things "childhood". note  He was particularly affected by the death of his father as a pre-teen.
  • Guyliner: He wore this during his brief solo career. The effect was rather creepy, giving rise to his eyes being described as "black holes in the sky" in Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"
  • I Am the Band: During his time with Pink Floyd.
  • Iconic Item: Syd's mirror-covered Fender Esquire, and to a lesser extent his Danelectro '59.
  • Instrumentals: "Rhamadan".
    • Also, "Interstellar Overdrive", the unreleased "Reaction In G", "Lanky (Part 2)" and the second, instrumental version of "Golden Hair".
  • Keet: Started life as this. Then came the mental breakdown and he made a complete 180, becoming a quiet, monosyllabic recluse. Basically he went from Tigger to Eeyore.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Syd Barrett in some photos. In fact, he may have been the style inspiration for musical artists such as Marc Bolan, Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Not in a ghoulish sense or anything, but late in life, he looked like a much older Aleister Crowley or Pablo Picasso.
  • Mad Artist
  • Manchild: Not really in a negative way, but his songwriting was noted for its very childlike, innocent nature.
  • Messy Hair: Syd had the Bob Dylan hairdo for most of his public life.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: With shades of Loners Are Freaks. Both later in life.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Syd was famous for using a slide, normally reserved for standard Blues guitar, for making those trippy, barely guitar-like sound effects.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Terrapin", although the title does fit the song's mood of underwater fantasy.
  • One-Steve Limit: One might think that he chose a stage name specifically to avoid having two Rogers in Pink Floyd, but he had the nickname Syd from a very young age. Interestingly, it was the other Roger - Roger Waters - who chose to use his middle name as a stage name, rather than his given name George.
  • Panty Thief: "Arnold Layne".
  • The Pig-Pen: During his mental breakdown, Syd was, for a period, this (his apartment during 'The Madcap Laughs'/'Barrett' would border on Trash of the Titans, complete with cigarette butts and pet doo left on the floor). Later, old Roger Barrett was described as veering the opposite direction towards being a Neat Freak who bathed a lot and kept a decent home.
  • Porn Stache: Maybe not a Porn Stache, but Syd very briefly wore a light, soft, fuzzy one circa early 1966.
  • Pretty Boy: Oh, my! yes!
  • Prematurely Bald: Syd infamously shaved off all his hair (and eyebrows) during his breakdown.
    • There are pictures of Syd a few years later, just in his early thirties but with a seriously receding hairline as well.
  • Put on a Bus: During the sessions for A Saucerful of Secrets.
    • The Bus Came Back: Barrett's two 1970 solo albums, which - despite his less than perfect mental state - contained some very well-received songs. Unfortunately by 1972, he'd completely lost even his ability to write a cracking song and back on the bus he went.
  • Self-Titled Album: Barrett, more or less.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Being one of the trendiest and most charismatic musicians, girls and drugs came very, very easy for Syd. Sadly, the drugs played a huge part in his downfall.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: A possible case. He was constantly swamped by fans, especially horny fangirls...So sometime between 1974-75 he apparently got into overeating binges to get fat and shaved off all his hair (including brows & body). This resulted in him looking like Uncle Fester when he visited Abbey Road during the recording of Wish You Were Here (1975).
  • Something Blues:
    • "Bob Dylan Blues".
    • The title to "Jugband Blues". Subverted in that the song involves neither Blues music or Jugbands (Barrett's feelings, however, could be 'the blues' in question. Poor guy).
  • Stage Names: "Syd" Barrett was born Roger Keith Barrett. He earned the nickname "Syd" when he was still a child, either after an old local jazz bassist called Sid Barrett or after he showed up at school wearing a flat cap. He went back to using his given name after leaving the music business.
  • The Stoner: Well, NO DUH!
  • That Man Is Dead: In his later years, he refused to answer to "Syd", preferring his birth name, Roger.
  • Troll: Before his mental decline, Syd would partake in or be the leader of many pranks pulled on either the press or his fellow bandmates.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Did this a lot during the period where he was undergoing his mental breakdown...OR otherwise relatively mentally-healthy but tripping on LSD (like he likely was in some photos)note .
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Syd Barrett was famous for his, oft-lined, dramatic eyes. Those same eyes, however, could pull off the haunting Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • When He Smiles: Syd had the most adorable, beaming smile.

"And What Exactly is a Joke?"