Melody Maker Interview with Syd Barrett - January 31 1970
Syd Barrett is a happy, creative, if somewhat confused young man, who gave the Pink Floyd hits and headaches when still it the group of his own creation,, and after many months of slightly mysterious obscurity, has returned with an extraordinary solo album of odd, eccentric songs. Looking like a younger edition of Patrick Moore, Britain's secret weapon in the space race, Syd had gaunt good looks and the same gentle humour common to his old compatriots. Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour of the Floyd have been helping to reintroduce Syd to the pop world and produced 'TML', a LP rich in 'Octopus' type songs which particular track had been released as a single. In fact, many friend have been anxious to help Barrett, who seemed to succumb to the pressures of pop success in more drastic fashion than most. He wrote 'SEP' and 'AL' which were milestones in group history. They symbolised the breakthrough in '67 of the kind of progressive groups called 'underground', when the phrase had some meaning. He has a songwriting talent that should not be wasted and a most original lyrical concept. When the Floyd first emerged from UFO and became guest of 'TOTP', it swiftly became apparent to interviewers earnestly seeking to communicate with their leader that Syd was not entirely together. This confusion led him to part from the group nearly two years ago. How is he today? I she ready to embark on a solo career with all the worries and responsibilities of touring, making appearances and coping with the press? He seemed happy enough to talk this week, and while it was easy enough to detect a mood of mild elation and surprise at the interest being shown in him, it was not always o easy to understand his erratic train of thought. But he was eager to be helpful and I suspect only as confused as he wanted to be.
'How well was the single doing?' I inquired through the clouds of cigarette smoke we blew at each other in his manager's office.
'I hadn't noticed,' said Syd, pondering but not wholly disturbed. 'I don't think it was necessarily a good idea to do a single, but it was done. It's a track off the album. I've spent a long time doing it - since I left the group. But it was done at a reasonable pace.' 'Yes, my time has been fairly well spent since leaving. I haven't had a particularly hard time and I was okay for money. I've heard of a few plans for me to do some appearances but there is nothing positive enough to talk about. There are vague ideas about a group as well.' 'I've just spent my time writing fairly regularly. I've certainly not been bored and there are still a lot of things to do. When I was with the Floyd the form of the music played on stage was mainly governed by the records. Now I seem to have got back to my previous state of mind. With the volume used, they inclined to push me a little.' 'Yes, there were hang-ups when I was with them, although it was not due to the traveling or anything, which you just put in the category of being a regular activity in that kind of job.'
Does Syd like the music industry?
'It's beautiful here. I never go anywhere else. 'TOTP' is all right! You meet interesting people and there are always people around I know and are prepared to like me. That's very nice.' 'There's no gloom or depression for me. It's been very exciting, especially when I went to America for two weeks before the split up. Then we came back and played at the Albert Hall and it was very much a crescendo and I felt very good. I miss playing to audiences although I haven't missed it too much recently.'
Was Syd satisfied with the LP?
'Well....no. I always find recording difficult. I can only think in terms of, well, 'I'm pleased with forty minutes of sound', but I can't in terms of the music industry. It's only a beginning, I've written a lot more stuff.'
Syd occasionally laughed, seemed agitated or trailed away into silence during our conversation. Anything that seemed uninteresting or irrelevant merely provoked strained and disordered replies. A reference to the unusual phrasing and choppy lyrics of 'Octopus' drew a smile.
''Octopus' is a particular example of recording being discussed as something exceptional because it takes an unusual metre. I don't read much, but I think I picked up Shakespeare as a book that just happened to be lying there to read. It was meant to be verse. I like to have really exciting, colourful songs. I can't really sing, but I enjoy it, and I enjoy writing from experiences. Some are so powerful they are ridiculous. The straight scene is the best.' 'What happened at Tottenham Court Road when we started was a microcosm of what happened later. I think pop today is a bit difficult to take in some ways - but it's fine. I've never felt I have been left behind. I'd like to play sometime on the scene. Got to do something. It would be a splendid thing to get a band together.'
Meanwhile Syd is getting Syd together, and those with a taste for an unusual talent on a supposedly wide-open scene, that is often oddly conservative, will find much to intrigue them on his strained, halting, but often beautiful set of songs. Laugh on - madcap.