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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 go onto form 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?":

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Just what exactly made Syd Barrett deteriorate is a very debated topic. Majority opinion says he suffered from latent schizophrenia, brought out by excessive drug use, and possibly Asperger Syndrome, as schizophrenia typically manifests in the late teens or early adulthood. Some of his mates blamed his decline entirely on LSD, which reportedly was being snuck in Syd's food and drinks by "friends" of his, and others claim Bipolar Disorder or the like. There is even a small minority who think that Syd was completely lucid throughout his life, and simply did what he did because of dissatisfaction with the music business.
  • 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 pounds at the time, and he looked like a beautiful woman, all this Thea Porter stuff. 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.

"And What Exactly is a Joke?"