It’s half a century since the release of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – the first album by Pink Floyd and to Nick Bollinger’s ears still the best record they made.
Syd Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd – the lead singer – guitarist and principal songwriter in the band’s early years.
He died in 2006.
(ed:..floyd just pretty much simplified/re-hashed barretts’ stuff after he left the band..)
The late Pink Floyd leader’s 70th birthday is celebrated with Nick Kent’s piece – first published in Creem in October 1973 and taken from Rock’s Backpages the online home of music writing.
It was only a few months back that a friend told me he’d seen Syd Barrett drifting down Charing Cross Road looking in guitar shops.His hair was long again and he was back to wearing his old snakeskin boots.
Such a revelation may not mean much to a lot of you but to hardcore Pink Floyd fanatics even the possibility of his return is cause enough for celebration.
Barrett – the guitarist/songwriter who shaped the early image of Pink Floyd through such vehicles as Arnold Layne – See Emily Play and Interstellar Overdrive – had been in his post-Floyd obscurity the object of a cult-level adoration; a genius who almost was.
He flashed back briefly last year – forming a band called Stars with Twink the mildly notorious ex-drummer of such luminaries as Tomorrow – the Pretty Things and Pink Fairies and some bashful nonentity known as Syd Monk on bass.
The ill-fated Stars lasted long enough for one gig: a one-off venue in Cambridge – backing up the MC5.
Barrett seemed ever-distant on stage reduced to playing vague fragments of theme – inane guitar doodles and glimpses of songs.
It appeared to be just another exercise in Barrett’s own bizarre and confusing brand of pointless cacophony.
After the gig Syd disappeared again eventually to return to the basement of his mother’s house in Cambridge where he’d passed the majority of his time since the break from Pink Floyd in 1968.
That’s but one further episode in the Barrett chronicles and it exists amid numerous half-chewed anecdotes and tall tales of his various post-Floyd misadventures.
Like the one about our hero – his head shaved in a reformatory crop – appearing nervously backstage after a performance by his old mates in their hometown whispering an agitated plea: ‘Remember me? I’m Syd … I used to play in your group…’
Or the tales of his acid-casualty excesses – his freakouts – disappearing acts and general weirdness.
He’s a genuine eccentric – one of those people that people just love to wonder about.
He joins in that category the likes of Brian Wilson Bob Dylan (vintage 1966) Lou Reed and Iggy Pop (before their respective resurrections) and Brian Jones.
Heavy company to be sure but Syd has earned his keep.