The Syd Barrett story
by Syd and those who knew him, Edited and Compiled by Gian Palacios
'All movement is accomplished in six stages,
and the seventh brings return'
Syd Barrett (Singer-songwriter-guitarist, crazy diamond, madcap, cracked genius)
David Gilmour (guitarist, Pink Floyd, teenage friend of Syd)
Roger Waters (bassist, Pink Floyd, childhood friend of Syd)
Nick Mason (drummer, Pink Floyd)
Rick Wright (keyboards, Pink Floyd)
Peter Jenner (Pink Floyd's first manager)
Storm Thorgerson (graphic designer for Hipgnosis, friend of Syd)
Jerry Shirley (formerly with Humble Pie, drummer on Barrett's albums)
Twink (drummer for Pretty Things, Pink Fairies, Tomorrow, and Stars - with Syd)
Steve Barnes (flat-mate and interviewer of Syd Barrett)
Duggie Fields (designer, artist and Barrett's flat-mate for several years)
Glen Buxton (formerly guitarist with Alice Cooper)
John Marsh (light-show operator for the Pink Floyd)
Jenny Fabian (groupie, author)
Jonathan Meades (friend of Syd's flat-mates)
June Bolan (secretary of Blackhill Enterprises, early Floyd associate)
Lindsay Korner (Barrett's girlfriend during the Pink Floyd days)
Bryan Morrison (former Pink Floyd manager and publisher, Barrett's publisher)
Rock (photographer for Hipgnosis in
Sam Hutt (medical doctor for the English undergound in 1960s)
Miles (biographer of Pink Floyd)
Andrew King (former co-manager of the Pink Floyd)
Ian Moore (friend of Syd)
'So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end all too soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. Nothing seems worthwhile but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to forever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more.
Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.'
from 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame
Stage one: Childhood
Syd Barrett: Everyone is supposed to have fun when they're young - I don't know why, but I never did.
David Gilmour: In my opinion, it's a family situation that's at the root of it all. Syd's father's death affected him very heavily and his mother always pampered him - made him out to be a genius of sorts.
(from 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn')
There was a king who ruled the land.
His majesty was in command.
With silver eyes the scarlet eagle
Showers silver on the people.
Oh Mother, tell me more.
Why'd'ya have to leave me there
Hanging in my infant air waiting?
You only have to read the lines
They're scribbly black and everything shines.
Across the stream with wooden shoes
With bells to tell the king the news
A thousand misty riders climb up
Higher once upon a time.
Wandering and dreaming
The words have different meaning.
Yes they did.
For all the time spent in that room
The doll's house, darkness, old perfume
And fairy stories held me high on
Clouds of sunlight floating by.
Oh Mother, tell me more
Tell me more.
Syd Barrett: (on
influence of fairy tales in his music) Fairy-tales are nice. I think a lot of
it has to do with living in
(written when Syd was 16)
An Effervescing Elephant
with tiny eyes and great big trunk
once whispered to the tiny ear
the ear of one inferior
that by next June he'd die, oh yeah!
because the tiger would roam.
The little one said: 'Oh my goodness I must stay at home!
and every time I hear a growl
I'll know the tiger's on the prowl
and I'll be really safe, you know
the elephant he told me so.'
John Marsh: Syd was a beautiful person, a lovely guy. He had a creative brain, a way of looking at things that was really genuinely revolutionary and different.
Roger Waters: Syd and I went through our *most* formative years together, riding on my motorbike, getting drunk, doing a little dope, flirting with girls, all that basic stuff. I still consider Syd a great primary inspiration; there was a wonderfu l human tenderness to all his unique musical flights.
Peter Jenner: Syd was the only person I know who Roger has ever really liked and looked up to.
David Gilmour: Syd was a
strange guy even back in
Storm Thorgerson: It was the usual thing, really, (in) 1962 we were all into (R&B/jazz organist) Jimmy Smith. Then 1963 brought dope and rock. Syd was one of the first to get into The Beatles and the Stones. Syd started playing guitar around then - used to take it to parties or play down at this club called The Mill. Syd and David Gilmour went to the South of France one summer and busked around. (Syd was a) bright, extrovert kid. Smoked dope, pulled chicks - the usual thing. He had no problems on the surface. He was no introvert as far as I could see then.
Syd Barrett: Well, I'm a painter, I was trained as a painter...The fine arts thing at college was always too much for me to think about. What I was more involved in was being successful at arts school.
Peter Jenner: The strongest image I have of Syd is of him sitting in his flat with a guitar and his book of songs, which he represented by paintings with different coloured circles. You'd go round to Syd's and you'd see him write a song. It just poured out. The acid brought out his latent madness. I'm sure it was his latent madness which gave him his creativity. The acid brought out the creativity, but more importantly, it brought out the madness. The creativity was there - dope was enough to get it going. He wrote all his songs, including the ones on his solo LP's, in a eighteen month period.
Syd Barrett: (on the influence of art school on his songwriting) Only the rate of work, learning to work hard. I do tend to take lines from other things, lines I like, and then write around them but I don't consciously relate to painting. It's just writing good songs that matters, really.
David Gilmour: (on studying with Syd at Cambridge Tech) We would hang around in the art department, playing guitars every lunchtime. Teaching each other basically. The thing with Syd was that his guitar wasn't his strongest feature. His style was very stiff. I always thought I was the better guitar player. But he was very clever, very intelligent, an artist in every way. And he was a frightening talent when it came to words, and lyrics. They just used to pour out.
Rick Wright: While we
were at the (
Mick Rock: They used to play things like 'In the Midnight Hour,' and Syd would go watch Dave play because I think Dave had got his chords down a bit better than Syd in the early days. Syd was always a bit weird about Dave. That was Syd's band, the Floyd .
Rick Wright: It was great when Syd joined. Before him we'd play the R&B classics, because that's what groups were supposed to do then. But I never liked R&B very much. I was actually more of a jazz fan. With Syd the direction changes, it became more improvised around the guitar and keyboards. Roger started playing the bass as a lead instrument, and I started to introduce more of my classical feel.
Syd Barrett: Roger
Waters is older than I am. He was at the architecture
Storm Thorgerson: Syd was a great artist. I loved his work, but he just stopped. First it was the religion, then the painting. He was (already) starting to shut himself off slowly then.
Peter Jenner: Syd was an exceptional figure, far and away the most important in the band. He wrote the songs, he was the singer, he played most of the solos, he was the lead guitarist, it was his band. He was much the most interesting, much the most creative: the others were just students. I always think that it's really important that Syd was an artist whereas the other two were architects, and that really showed in the music. Syd did this wild, impossible drawing and they turned it into the Pink Floyd. Syd was a really good artist too. I'm sure he was a star student. And it was a time when you just expressed yourself away - if you were good at painting then you could be good at writing songs. Why not?
Stage three: The Pink Floyd
Nick Mason: I think we started to develop a cult following because everyone was talking about the psychedelic revolution and light and sound and all the rest of it. People were looking to try and guess, as they always are, what was going to happen next in music. This suddenly looked like what was going to happen next. I mean, we were incredibly awful, we were a dreadful band, we must have sounded frightful, but we were so different and so odd that I think, I mean odd, for those days. Of course, now, people would look at it and laugh. You look at the early photographs and we just look like a sort of elderly version of the Monkees or something. At the time, that was what was happening and no-one really understood it, but t hey all thought they ought to try and get in on it. So the record deal was in fact a really rather good one considering we had no track record whatsoever and couldn't play the instruments.
Duggie Fields: They used to rehearse in the flat, and I used to go downstairs and put on Smokey Robinson as loud as possible. I don't know where they all arrived from, but I went to architecture school (with) Rick Wright and Roger Waters. I don't quite remember how I met them all. I just remember suddenly being surrounded by the Pink Floyd and hundreds of groupies instantly.
Peter Jenner: (on seeing the Pink Floyd for the first time) It was one of the first rock events I'd seen, I didn't know anything about rock really. Actually the Floyd then were barely semi pro standard, now that I think about it, but I was so impressed b y the electric guitar sound. At that stage they were a blues band who played things like 'Louie Louie and then played wacky bits in the middle. So the solos were wacky, they just sort of went on: this was Syd Barrett and also Rick Wright. I wandered around the stage, trying to work out where the noise was coming from, just what was playing it. Normally you would hear something: that's the bass, that’s the drums, that's the sax, you knew where everything was. But the Floyd, when they were doing their solo bits, I couldn't work out whether it was coming from the keyboards or from the guitar and that was what was interesting to me. The band was just at the point of breaking up then, you know. It was weird - they just thought 'Oh, well, might as well pack it all in.' They were all going off for the summer vacation and they didn't know whether they'd get back together in the autumn. I said, 'You should stay together and sign to my label.' So they said, 'Come see us after the vacation.' So I tracked them down and I did go and see them and they said, 'What we really need is a manager, otherwise we're going to break up. We don't have enough equipment, we need someone to help..' I called Andrew King and he bought them some equipment, and we became their managers. The equipment instantly got lost.
Peter Jenner: (on All Saint's Hall, site of early Floyd gigs) I
was now managing the Floyd, so I thought; let's put on some gigs. And that's
where they started and went off like a rocket. None of us knew what had hit us.
It was all word of mouth - it hit a responsive chord. There were these two guys
who turned up from
Syd Barrett: All the equipment was battered and worn, all the stuff we started out with was our own, the guitars were our own property. The electronic noises were probably necessary. They were very exciting. That's all really. The whole thing at the time was playing on stage.
Roger Waters: (1967) We've had problems with our equipment and we can't get the P.A. to work because we play extremely loudly. It's a pity because Syd writes great lyrics and nobody ever hears them. Maybe it's our fault because we are trying too hard. After all the human voice can't compete with Fender Telecasters and double drum kits. We're a very young group, not in age, but in experience. We're trying to solve problems that haven't existed before. Perhaps we should stop trying to do our singles on stage. Even the Beatles, when they worked live, sounded like their records. But the sort of records we make today are impossible to reproduce on stage so there is no point in trying.
Peter Jenner: Syd was really amazing though. I mean, his inventiveness was quite astounding. All those songs from that whole Pink Floyd phase were written in no more than six months. He just started and took it from there. His influences were very much t he Stones, The Beatles, Byrds and Love. The Stones were the prominent ones - he wore out his copy of 'Between the Buttons' very quickly. Love's album too. In fact, I was once trying to tell him about this Arthur Lee 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. The chord pattern he worked out he went on to use as the main riff for 'Interstellar Overdrive'. Syd was no guitar hero - never remotely in the class of P age or Clapton, say, (but) he had this technique that I found very pleasing.
Nick Mason: You must
never underestimate how unpopular we were around the rest of
Roger Waters: (1967) We're being frustrated at the moment by the fact that to
stay alive we have to play lots and lots of places and venues that are not
really suitable. This can't last obviously and we're hoping to create our own
venues. We all like o
Peter Jenner: The Pink Floyd were the
only psychedelic band. They had this improvisation, this spirit of psychedlia which I don't think any other band had. The Pink
Floyd didn't play chords. At their finest it was very extraordinary free
improvisation. We thought we were doing what was happening in
Roger Waters: All that stuff about Syd starting the space-rock thing is just so much fucking nonsense. He was completely into Hilaire Belloc, and all his stuff was kind of whimsical, all fairly heavy rooted in English literature. I think Syd had one song that had anything to do with space, 'Astronomy Domine', that's all. That's the sum total of all Syd's writing about space and yet there's this whole fucking mystique about how he was the father of it all. It's just a load of old bollocks, it all happened afterwards. There's an instrumental track which we came up with together on the first album, 'Interstellar Overdrive', thats just the title, you see, it's actually an abstract piece with an interstellar attachment in terms of its name.
Syd Barrett: (on his bandmates in the Pink Floyd) Their choice of material was always very much to do with what they were thinking as architecture students. Rather unexciting people, I would've thought, primarily. I mean, anybody walking into an art school like that would've been tricked, maybe they were working their entry into an art school. But the choice of material was restricted, I suppose, by the fact that both Roger and I wrote different things. We wrote our own songs, played our own music. They were older, by about two years, I think. I was 18 or 19. One thinks of it all as a dream.
Stage four: Fame
Syd Barrett: (on how he wrote 'See Emily Play') I was sleeping in the woods one night after a gig we'd played somewhere, when I saw this girl appear before me. That girl was Emily.
Peter Jenner: We may have been the darlings of
Roger Waters: (1967) We've got a name of sorts now among the public so everybody comes to have a look at us, and we get full houses. But the atmosphere in these places is very stale. There is no feeling of occasion. The sort of thing we are trying to d o doesn't fit into the sort of environment we are playing in. The supporting bands play 'Midnight Hour' and the records are all soul, then we come on. On the club scene we rate about two out of ten and 'Must try harder.'
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.
Miles: (Floyd biographer) The Floyd were the loudest band anyone had ever heard at that time. They were also the weirdest. They were the underground band.
Syd Barrett: (1967) Really, we have only just started to scrape the surface of effects and ideas of lights and music combined; we think that the music and the lights are part of the same scene, one enhances and adds to the other. In the future, groups are going to have to offer much more than just a pop show. They'll have to offer a well-presented theatre show.
Roger Waters: (1967) We're trying to play music of which it can be said that it has freedom of feeling. That sounds very corny, but it is very free. We can't go on doing clubs and ballrooms. We want a brand new environment, and we've hit on the idea o f using a big top. We'll have a huge tent and go around like a travelling circus. We'll have a huge screen 120 feet wide and 40 feet high inside and project films and slides. We'll play the big cities, or anywhere and become an occasion, just like a circus. It'll be a beautiful scene. It could even be the salvation of the circus! The thing is, I don't think we can go on doing what we are doing now. If we do, we'll all be on the dole.
Syd Barrett: (on 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn') 'Wind in the Willows.' That was very difficult in some ways, getting used to the studios and everything. But it was fun, we freaked about a lot. I was working very hard then; there's still lots of stuf f lying around from then, even some of the stuff on 'The Madcap Laughs'.
Roger Waters: (on 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn') That was Syd. Syd was a genius, but I wouldn't want to go back to playing 'Interstellar Overdrive' for hours and hours.
Nick Mason: (on 'The Piper
at the Gates of Dawn') We were given Norman Smith
(engineer for the Beatles) by EMI, no arguments. So Joe Boyd, our original
producer, got written out of the thing.
Syd Barrett: (on 'Chapter 24') Chapter 24...that was from the 'I Ching', there was someone around who was very into that, most of the words came straight off that. 'Lucifer Sam' was another one - it didn't mean much to me at the time, but then three or four months later it came to mean a lot.
(from 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn')
A movement is accomplished in six stages
And the seventh brings return.
The seven is the number of the young light
It forms when darkness is increased by one.
Change returns success
Going and coming without error.
Action brings good fortune.
Syd Barrett: (Painting) didn't transcend the feeling of playing at UFO and those sort of places with the lights and that, the fact that the group was getting bigger and bigger.
Roger Waters: (1967) We still do 'Arnold Layne' and struggle through 'See Emily Play' occasionally. We don't think it's dishonest because we can't play live what we play on records. Can you imagine somebody trying to play 'A Day In The Life'? Yet that' s one of the greatest tracks ever made. A lot of stuff on our LP is completely impossible to do live. We've got the recording side together and not the playing side. What we've got to do now is get together a stage act that has nothing to do with our records, things like 'Interstellar Overdrive' (which is beautiful), and instrumentals that are much easier to play. It's sometimes depressing (when we fail to communicate with an audience) and becomes a drag. There are various things you can do. You can close your mind to the fact you're not happening with the audience and play for yourself. When the music clicks, even if it's only with ten or twelve people, it's such a gas.
Peter Jenner: (On the Pink Floyd's 'Top of the Pops' appearances) The first time Syd dressed up like a pop star. The second time he came on in his straightforward, fairly scruffy clothes, looking rather unshaven. The third time he came to the studio in hi s pop star clothes and then changed into complete rags for the actual TV spot.
Roger Waters: When 'Emily' was a hit and we were (number #3 in the pop charts) for three weeks, we did 'Top Of The Pops', and the third week we did it he didn't want to know. He got down there in an incredible state and said he wasn't gonna do it. We finally discovered the reason was that John Lennon didn't have to do 'Top Of The Pops' so he didn't (either).
Peter Barnes: Syd was always complaining that John Lennon owned a house while he only had a flat.
Peter Jenner: (1967) The group has been
through a very confusing stage over the past few months and I think this has
been reflected in their work. You can't take four people of this mental level -
they used to be architects, an artist and even an educational cyberneticist -
give them big success and not expect them to get confused. But they are coming
through a sort of de-confusing period now. They are not just a record group.
They really pull people in to see them and their album has been terrifically
received in this country and
Syd Barrett: It was probably me alone (who wanted singles), I think. Obviously, being a pop group one wanted to have singles. I think 'See Emily Play' was fourth in the hits.
Peter Jenner: I think we tended to underrate the extent of his problem. I mean, I thought that I could act as a mediator - having been a sociology teacher at the L.S.E. and all that guff. One thing I regret now was that I made demands on Syd. He'd written 'See Emily Play' and suddenly everything had to be seen in commercial terms. I think we may have pressured him into a state of paranoia about having to come up with another 'hit single'.
Syd Barrett: (on record companies, wholesalers and retailers) All middle men are bad.
Syd Barrett: (asked how
they felt about the commercial failure of third single 'Apples and
Peter Jenner: Syd didn't really talk to anyone. By now he was going onstage and playing one chord throughout the set. He was into this thing of total anarchistic experiment and never really considered the other members of the band.
Stage five: Breakdown
David Gilmour: I remember I really started to get worried when I went along to the session for 'See Emily Play'. Syd was still functioning, but he definitely wasn't the person I knew. He looked through you. He wasn't quite there. He was strange even t hen. That stare, you know?
I went through all of Syd's acid breakdowns. He used
to go to the Youth Hostel in
Peter Jenner: Even at that point, Syd actually knew what was happening to him. 'Jugband Blues' is a really sad song, the portrait of a nervous breakdown. 'Jugband Blues' is the ultimate self-diagnosis on a state of schizophrenia.
(from 'Saucerful of Secrets')
It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here
And I'm much obliged to you for making it clear
That I'm not here.
And what exactly is a dream?
And what exactly is a joke?
Storm Thorgerson: (When Syd stayed with Storm in Kensington) Syd was well into his 'orbiting' phrase by then. He was traveling very fast in his own private sphere and I thought I could be a mediator of some sort. Y'see, I think you're going to have to make the point that Syd's madness was not caused by any linear progression of events, but more a circular haze of situations that meshed together on top of themselves and Syd. Me, I couldn't handle those stares though!
June Bolan: Syd Barrett had this quality like a candle that was about to be snuffed out at any minute. Really all illumination. An extraordinary, wonderful man. He took lots of LSD. Lots of people can take some LSD and cope with it in their lives, but if you take three or four trips every day....and then, because it was the done drug, you'd go round somebody's house for a cup of tea and they'd spike it. People did this to Syd.
Peter Jenner: 101 Cromwell Road was the catastrophic flat where
Syd got acided out. Acid in the coffee every morning,
that's what we were told. He had one of our cats and they gave the cat acid.
Then he got taken up by Storm and
Mick Rock: (Syd's flat was) a burnt-out place, the biggest hovel, the biggest shit-heap; a total acid-shell, the craziest flat in the world. There were so many people, it was like a railway station. Two cats Syd had, one called Pink and one called Floyd, were still living in the flat after he left. He just left them there. Those were the cats they used to give acid to. You know what heavy dope scenes were like.
John Marsh: Syd was one
of the earliest acid casualties. He lived in a flat in the
Ian Moore: (friend of Syd) We got hold of some liquid LSD bottles, laid out hundreds of sugarcubes in rows and put two drops on each. But the stuff was so strong we were absorbing it through our fingers, or more likely by licking it off them. As it took effect we had no idea which cubes we had done, so many of them probably got double doses while the rest did not have any. Syd had his plum, orange and matchbox and was sitting staring at them during his trip. Whatever he was into was his whole world - to him the plum was the planet Venus and the orange was Jupiter. Syd was floating in space between them.
Syd Barrett: (on whether
he had taken too much acid) Well, I don't know, it doesn't seem to have much to
do with the job. I only know the thing of playing, of being a musician, was
very exciting. Obviously, one was better off with a silver guitar with mirrors
and things all over it than people who ended up on the floor or anywhere else
Peter Jenner: It was all getting too much with Syd, just getting too spacey. The American trip, which Syd went on, was quite extraordinary.
Nick Mason: Syd went mad
on that first American tour in the autumn of 1967. He didn't know where he was
most of the time. I remember he detuned his guitar onstage in
Glen Buxton: Syd Barrett I remember, (though) I don't remember him ever saying two words. It wasn't because he was a snob; he was a very strange person. He never talked, but we'd be sitting at dinner (at our house in Venice, LA) and all of a sudden I'd pick up the sugar and pass it to him, and he'd shake his head like 'Yeah, thanks,' It was like I heard him say 'Pass the sugar' - it's like telepathy; it really was. It was very weird. You would find yourself right in the middle of doing something, as you were passing the sugar or whatever, and you'd think, 'Well, damn! I didn't hear anybody say anything!' That was the first time in my life I'd ever met anybody that could actually do that freely. And this guy did it all the time.
John Marsh: On their
first American tour the Floyd were being taken by some A&R man around
Peter Jenner: (on the Pink Floyd's lip-synched appearance on 'Dick Clark's Bandstand') Syd wasn't into moving his lips that day.
Andrew King: (tour manager on 1967 American Tour) Eventually we cancelled out on (appearing on) 'Beach Party'
Buxton: The crew used to say he was impossible on the road. They'd fly a thousand miles, get to the gig, he'd get up onstage and wouldn't have a guitar. He would do things like leave all his money in his clothes in the hotel room, or on the plane. Som etimes, they'd have to fly back and pick up his guitar. I didn't pick up that he was a drug casualty, although there were lots at the time who would do those exact things because they were drugged out. But Syd was definitely from Mars or something.
Lindsay Korner: (During the fall of 1967) it got a bit crazed. (By Christmas) Syd had started to act a little bonkers, schizophrenia had set in.
Duggie Fields: Oh, he went more than slightly bonkers, it must have been very difficult for him. I think the pressures on Syd before that time must have upset him very much, the kind of pressure where it takes off very fast, which Pink Floyd did - certai nly in terms of the way people behaved towards them. I used to be speechless at the number of people who would invade our flat, and how they would behave towards anyone who was in the group; especially girls. I'd never seen anything like it. Some of th e girls were stunning, and they would literally throw themselves at Syd. He was the most attractive one; Syd was a very physically attractive person - I think he had problems with that.
Peter Jenner: (When Lindsay Korner turned up on his doorstep after being beaten up by Syd) I couldn't believe it at the time. I had this firm picture of Syd as this really gentle guy, which is what he was, basically.
Sam Hutt: I went to UFO quite a lot. Saw the bands, the very loud music, the oil lights. I remember near the end with Syd, him coming up and somebody had given him a bottle of mandies. Mandies were the big-bouncing around drug, very dodgy indeed, and p robably a very good idea that they took them off the market. Syd appeared on stage with this jar of Brylcreem, having crushed the mandies into little pieces, mixing them up with the Brylcreem and putting this mixture of Brylcreem and broken mandy tablets all over his hair, so that when he went out on stage the heat of the lights melted the Brylcreem and it all started to drip down his face with these bits of Mandrax.
Peter Jenner: He was extraordinarily creative and what happened was catastrophic: a total burnt-out case. All his talent just came out in a flood in two years and then it was burnt out. Syd got burnt out from acid in the coffee every morning.
John Marsh: He was going further and further down the tubes because nobody wished to be thought uncool and take him away from these circumstances. So Syd went down the mine because of the inertia of those around him.
Jenny Fabian: Syd was so beautiful with his violet eyes. I only sort of lay beside him, nothing more could be accomplished. Then he had a breakdown and was gone. He hardly spoke. He would just tolerate me because I was so overpowered, so in awe that I didn't really speak either. I only hung around him for two or three weeks just before he flipped and was virtually removed from the group. I knew Syd was wonderful because he wrote such wonderful songs. He didn't have to speak because the fact that he couldn't speak made him who he was: this person who wrote their mysterious songs. I just liked looking at him: he was very pretty. A lot of the time with pop stars, when they open their mouths, it was all completely ruined anyway. So it was perfect that he was like that. My first pop star and it was just wonderful that he didn't speak.
Peter Jenner: It was really stressful waiting for Syd to come up with the songs for the second album. Everybody was looking at him and he couldn't do it. The last Floyd song Syd wrote, 'Vegetable Man', was done for those sessions, though it never came out. Syd was around at my house just before he had to go to record and, because a song was needed, he just wrote a description of what he was wearing at the time and threw in a chorus that went 'Vegetable man - where are you?' It's very disturbing. Roger took it off the album because it was too dark, and it is. It's like psychological flashing.
Vegetable man! Where are you?
I've been looking all over the place
for a place for me
But it ain't anywhere
It just ain't anywhere.
He's the kind of fella you just gotta see if you can,
Jerry Shirley: When he plays a song, it's very rare that he plays it the same way each time - any song. And some songs are more off-the-wall than others. When he was with the Floyd, towards the very end, Syd came in once and started playing this tune, and played it completely different. Every chord change just kept going somewhere else and he'd keep yelling (the title), 'Have you got it yet?' I guess then it was Roger (who kept yelling back, 'No!') who kind of realized, 'Oh, dear.' It was getting abs olutely impossible for the band. They couldn't record because he'd come in and do one of those 'Have you got it yet' numbers, and then onstage he would either not play or he'd hit his guitar and just turn it out of tune, or do nothing.
Jonathan Meades: I had a friend called Harry Dodson who was at that
time very friendly with a guy called
Roger Waters: I believe Syd was a casualty of the so-called 'Psychedelic Period' that we were meant to represent. 'Cause everybody believed that we were taking acid before we went on stage and all that stuff....unfortunately, one of us was, and that was Syd. It's a simple matter, really, Syd just had a big overdose of acid and that was it. It was very frightening, and I couldn't believe what had happened, 'cause, I remember we had to do a radio show, and we were waiting for him, and he didn't turn up. And then he came the next day, and he was a different person.
The last gig Syd played was at the
Syd Barrett: I don't know that there was really much conflict, except that perhaps the way we started to play wasn't as impressive as it was, wasn't as full of impact as it might've been. I mean, it was done very well, rather than considerably exciting.
Roger Waters: When he was still in the band in the later stages, we got to the point where anyone of us was likely to tear his throat out at any minute because he was so impossible...
Dave Gilmour: I loved the first album, but I thought the gigs were pretty interminable. It was too anarchic. I was all for musicking things up a bit. I definitely considered myself a superior musician and I remember thinking that I could knock them into some sort of shape.
Wright: Peter Jenner and Andrew King (the Floyd's
managers) thought Syd and I were the musical brains of the group, and that we
should form a breakaway band, to try and hold Syd together. He and I were
living together in a flat in
Syd Barrett: (when asked if he was difficult to work with) No. Probably my own impatience is the only thing, because it has to be very easy. But there's a lot more to playing than travelling around universities and things.
Bryan Morrison: He didn't leave of his own free will, really. I mean, he kept threatening to leave. I think in the end it was by mutual agreement, because he was having some personal problems. He wasn't able to get it together anymore, and by agreement he left the band.
Shirley: They were pulling their hair out, they decided to bring in another
guitarist to complement, so Syd wouldn't have to play guitar and maybe he'd
just do the singing. Dave came in and they were a five-piece for about four or
five weeks. It got better because Dave was together in what he did. Then the
ultimate decision came down that if they were going to survive as a band, Syd
would have to go. Now I don't know whether Syd felt it and left, or whether he
was asked to. But he left. Dave went through some real heavy stuff for the
first few months. Syd would turn up at
Roger Waters: I had no idea that I would ever really write songs, and in the early years, I didn't have to because Syd was writing all the material and it was only after he stopped writing that the rest of us had to start trying to do it. I'd always been told, at school anyway, that I was absolutely bloody hopeless at everything, so I had no real confidence about any of it.
Peter Jenner: (on the trademark Dave Gilmour slide and echo guitar style) That's *Syd*. Onstage Syd used to play with slide and a bunch on echo-boxes. At the time David Gilmour was doing very effective take-offs of Hendrix-style guitar-playing. So the band said 'play like Syd Barrett'.
Barrett: It wasn't really a war. I suppose it was really just a matter of being
a little offhand about things. We didn't feel there was one thing which was gonna make the decision at the minute. I mean, we did split
up, and there was a lot of trouble. I don't think The Pink Floyd had any
trouble, but I had an awful scene, probably self-inflicted, having a mini and
going all over
David Gilmour: Yeah, it was fairly obvious that I was brought in to take over from him, at least on stage ... It was impossible to gauge his feelings about it. I don't think Syd has opinions as such. The first plan was that I would join and make it a five piece so it would make it easier so that Syd could still be strange but the band would still function. And then the next idea was that Syd would stay home and do writing and be the Brian Wilson elusive character that didn't actually perform with us and the third plan was the he wouldn't do nothing at all. And it quickly changed 'round, and it was just....it was *obviously* impossible to carry on working that way so we basically ditched Syd, stopped picking him up for gigs.
David Gilmour: Syd's on three or four tracks on 'A Saucerful of Secrets', including 'Remember A Day' and 'Jugband Blues'. He's also on a tiny bit of 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.' (Editor's note: according to various sources, Syd may have also played on 'Corporal Clegg' and 'See Saw')
John Marsh: He went in a fairly bloody coup. Personality problems and differences within the band virtually meant that Syd was elbowed out. It was all very tragic: one week he was playing and the next it's David Gilmour. Syd started off on a long downward slide.
Jenner: We tried to stop him going crazy. I put all
my textbook sociology, all the stuff I'd read about psychology in action; we
took him to R.D. Laing. Laing
didn't say much. We tried to take what he said literally, we tried to use the
inner meaning of what he was saying, we tried to
change the objective situations. We moved him out of
David Gilmour: He functions on a totally different plane of logic, and some people will claim, 'Well yeah man he's on a higher cosmic level' - but basically there's something drastically wrong. It wasn't just the drugs - we'd both done acid before the whole Floyd thing - it's just a mental foible which grew out of all proportion. I remember all sorts of strange things happening - at one point he was wearing lipstick, dressing in high heels, and believing he had homosexual tendencies. We all felt he should have gone to see a psychiatrist, though someone in fact played an interview he did to R.D. Laing, and Laing claimed he was incurable. What can you do, you know?
Duggie Fields: Even when he was out of the group people kept coming around and he would actually lock himself in his room. Like if he made the mistake of answering the front door before he'd locked himself in his room, he found it very difficult to say no. He'd have these girls pounding on his bedroom door all night, literally, and he'd be locked inside, trapped. He did rather encourage that behavior to a certain extent, but then he didn't know what to do with it; he would resent it.
Duggie Fields: When he gave up the group he took up painting again for a bit, but he never enjoyed it. He didn't really have a sense of direction. He used to lie in bed every morning, and I would get this feeling like the wall between our rooms didn't q uite exist, because I'd know that Syd was lying in bed thinking, 'What do I do today? Shall I get out of bed? If I get out of bed, I can do this, and I can do that - or I can do *that*, or I could do that.' He had the world at his feet, all the possibilities, and he just couldn't choose. He had great problems committing himself to any action. As for committing himself to doing anything for any length of time - he was the kind of person who'd change in the middle. He'd set off, lose his motivation, and start questioning what he was doing - which might just be walking down the street.
Duggie Fields: Sometimes he'd be completely jolly and then just snap - you could never tell what he was like. He could be fabulous. He was the sort of person who had amazing charm; if he wanted your attention, he'd get it. He was very bright. After he left the group he was very much aware of being a failure. I think that was quite difficult, coming to terms with that.
Duggie Fields: (Syd, unable to tolerate the parasites
and hangers-on any longer, went back to
Peter Jenner: I think Syd was in good shape when he made 'The Madcap Laughs'. He was still writing good songs, probably in the same state as he was during 'Jugband Blues'.
Duggie Fields: He really didn't have to have that much control before, but when you have to provide you own motivation all the time it is difficult, certainly in terms of writing a song. When it came down to recording there were always problems. He was not at his most together recording 'The Madcap Laughs'. He had to be taken there sometimes, and he had to be got. It didn't seem to make any difference whether it was making him happy or unhappy; he'd been through that, the excitement of it, the first time around.
Storm Thorgerson: The thing was that all those guys had to cope with Syd out of his head on Mandrax half the time. He got so 'mandied' up on those sessions, his hand would slip through the strings and he'd fall off the stool.
Gilmour: We had basically three alternatives at that point, working with Syd. One, we could actually work with him in the studio, playing along as he put down his tracks - which was almost impossible, though we succeeded on 'Gigolo Aunt'. The second was laying down some kind of track before and then having him play over it. The third was him putting his basic ideas down with just guitar and vocals and then we'd try and make something out of it all. It was mostly a case of me saying 'Well what have you got then Syd?' and he'd search around and eventually work something out.
Jerry Shirley: (After failing to get a lead guitar track for 'Dominoes', Gilmour had Syd play guitar to tracks played backwards) It played back, and the backwards guitar sounded great; the best lead he ever played. The first time out and he didn't put a note wrong.
Gilmour: (On 'Dominoes') The song just ended after Syd had finished singing and I wanted a gradual fade so I added that section myself. I played drums on that, by the way, and the final re-mix on 'The Madcap Laughs' was all mine as well.
Syd Barrett: (on 'Octopus') I carried that about in my head for about six months before I actually wrote it so maybe that's why it came out so well. The idea was like those number songs like 'Green Grow the Rushes Ho' where you have, say, twelve lines each related to the next and an overall theme. It's like a fool-proof combination of lyrics, really, and then the chorus comes in and changes the tempo but holds the whole thing together.
(from 'The Madcap Laughs')
so trip to heave and ho, up down, to and fro'
you have no word
Please leave us here
close our eyes to the octopus ride!
Isn't it good to be lost in the wood
isn't it bad so quiet there, in the wood
meant even less to me than I thought
Jerry Shirley: 'If It's In You' (where Syd breaks off halfway through) is a classic example of Syd in the studio. Between that and talking in very obscure abstracts. It's all going on in his head, but only little bits of it manage to get out of his mouth . And then the way he sings he goes into that scream - sometimes he can sing a melody absolutely fine, and the next time 'round he'll sing a totally different melody, or just go off key. 'Rats' in particular was really odd. That was just a very crazed jam, and Syd had this lyric that he just shouted over the top. It's quite nuts. But some of his songs are very beautiful. You never knew from one day to the next exactly how it would go.
Syd Barrett: (asked if he was satisfied with 'The Madcap Laughs') Yes, I liked what came out, only it was released far too long after it was done. I wanted it to be a whole thing that people would listen to all the way through with everything related and balanced, the tempos and moods offsetting each other, and I hope that's what it sounds like, I've got it at home, but I don't listen to it much now.
Roger Waters: (on co-producing 'The Madcap laughs') That's it! I can't cope with that again.
Twink: I didn't know him closely for that long, but I was in the same space and I could understand exactly where he was at. I thought he was very together, you know. As a friend it was a very warm relationship; no bad vibes at all. We didn't have any crazy scenes.
Syd Barrett: (on playing live versus recording - 1971) I feel though the record would still be the thing to do. And touring and playing might make that impossible to do. I'm afraid I think I'd have to get on with (the musicians). They'd have to be good musicians. I think they'd be difficult to find. They'd have to be lively.
Jerry Shirley: (on playing live with Syd, Extravaganza Music and Fashion Festival, June 6th, 1970) He was going to do it, he wasn't going to do it, it was on and off, so finally we said, 'Look, Syd, come on, man - you can do it!' We got up, I played drums, David Gilmour played bass and he managed to get through a few songs. It got good, and then after about the fourth song Syd said, 'Oh great; thanks very much' and walked off! We tried, you know.
Twink: (on playing live with Syd, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Feb. 1972) We just weren't ready...it was a disastrous gig, the reviews were really bad, and Syd was really hung up about it; so the band folded. He came 'round to my house and said he didn't want to play anymore. He didn't explain; he just left. I was really amazed working with him, at his actual ability as a guitar player.
Peter Jenner: Creatively, he was as dead as Jimi Hendrix. He appeard every now and then after that. Twink, from Tomorrow, tried to get him together, I tried, Dave Gilmour did sessions with him. He'd occassionally turn up to Floyd sessions and talk about them as 'my group'. He kept thinking he was still with them. Syd does resent the Floyd. I don't know - he may *still* call them 'my band' for all I know. Either (Syd is unable to write songs) or he won't show them to anyone.
Syd Barrett: (asked if there would be a third solo LP) Yeah. I'm working on the album. There's four tracks in the can already, and it should be out about September. There are no set musicians, just people helping out, like on 'The Madcap Laughs', which gives me far more freedom in what I want to do...I feel as if I've got lots of things, much better things to do still, that's why there isn't really a lot to say, I just want to get it all done. I've got some songs in the studio, still. And I've got a couple of tapes. It should be 12 singles, and jolly good singles. I think I shall be able to produce this one myself. I think it was always easier to do that. There'll be all kinds of things. It just depends what I feel like doing at the time. The important thing is that it will be better than the last.
Peter Barnes: (Syd's last recording dates) It was an abortion. He just kept over-dubbing guitar part on guitar part until it was just a total chaotic mess. He also wouldn't show anyone his lyrics - I fear actually because he hadn't written any.
Syd Barrett: (asked by Bryan Morrison if he'd written any new songs since the final, abortive November 1974 session) No.
Jenner: He'd come in to
Syd Barrett: (on songwriting) I always write with guitar. I've got this big room and I just go in and do the work. I like to do the words and music simultaneously, so when I go into the studio I've got the words on one side and my music on the other. I suppose I could do with some practice.
Jerry Shirley: (on possibility of Syd returning to music) The last person to make that sort of effort was Dave, and they barely got him to do it; it was like pulling teeth. Since then I don't think there's anybody close enough to him to get him to do it. He would have to return to the planet long enough for someone to believe that he's got it in him to actually get through the sessions. And that would just be the first step. The guys really did persevere through those sessions, god! Especially Dave, particularly in light of the way Syd was to him before. But if he showed that he really wanted to try for it, then maybe one of them would make the effort.
Bryan Morrison: (asked if Syd would make music again) No. It's impossible.
Syd Barrett: (asked if he would enjoy playing again) Yes, that would be nice. I used to enjoy it, it was a gas. But so's doing nothing. It's art school laziness, really.
Duggie Fields: (on running into Barrett in
Duggie Fields: (On Syd's
plan to become a doctor) Yes, a doctor, and he and (fiancee)
Gayla Pinion were going to get married and live in
Peter Barnes: (on interviewing Syd) It was fairly ludicrous on the surface. I mean, you just had to go along with it all. Syd would say something completely incongruous one minute like 'It's getting heavy, isn't it?' and you'd just have to say, 'Yeah, Syd, it's getting heavy,' and the conversation would dwell on *that* for five minutes. Actually, listening to the tape afterwards you could work out that there was some kind of logic there - except that Syd would suddenly be answering a question you'd asked him ten minutes ago while you were off on a different topic completely!
Jerry Shirley: Sometimes he does it just to put everybody on, sometimes he does it because he's genuinely paranoid about what's happening around him. He's like the weather, he changes. For every 10 things he says that are off-the-wall and odd, he'll say one thing that's completely coherent and right on the ball. He'll seem out of touch with what's gone on just before, then he'll suddenly turn around and say, 'Jerry, remember the day we went to get a burger down at the Earl's Court Road?' - complete recall of something that happened a long time ago. Just coming and going, all the time.
Peter Jenner: (on Syd shaving his head) I'm rather tempted to view it as a symbolic gesture. You know - goodbye to being a pop-star.
Peter Barnes: Syd has always had this big phobia about his age. When we would try to get him back into the studio to record he would get very defensive and say 'I'm only 24, I'm still young. I've got time.'
Marsh: I saw him years later, on
Fabian: Years later I found him again living up the road from
Roger Waters: (on writing 'Shine On, You Crazy Diamond': Pink Floyd's 1975 tribute to Syd) It was very strange. The lyrics were written, and the lyrics are the bit of the song about Syd, the rest of it could be about anything, I don't why I started writing those lyrics about Syd... I think because that phrase of Dave's was an extremely mournful kind of sound and it just... I haven't a clue... but it was a long time before the 'Wish You Were Here' recording sessions when Syd's state could be seen as being symbolic of the general state of the group: very fragmented.
Jerry Shirley: The last time I saw him was possibly the last time the guys in the Floyd saw him, too. They were putting the finishing touches on 'Wish You Were Here'. Earlier that day Dave Gilmour had gotten married and they had to work that night, so EMI had this roundtable dinner in the canteen for them. Across the table from me was this overweight Hare Krishna-looking chap. I thought maybe it was just someone who somebody knows. I looked at Dave and he smiled; then I realized it was Syd. The guy had to weigh close to 200 pounds and had no hair on his head. It was a bit of a shock, but after a minute I plucked up enough courage to say hello. I introduced my wife and I dunno; I think he just laughed. I asked him what he was doing lately. 'Oh, you know, not much: eating, sleeping. I get up, eat, go for a walk, sleep.''
Andrew King: (recognising Syd) 'Good God, it's Syd! How did you get like that?' Syd: 'I've got a very large fridge at home and I've been eating a lot of pork chops.'
Gilmour?: (on Syd hearing 'Wish You Were Here') (Roger turned to Syd and asked) 'Well, Syd what do you think of that?' Syd said, 'Sounds a bit old.' I believe Syd just got up and split not too long after that. After two years of nobody seeing him, of all the days for him to appear out of nowhere!
Roger Waters: When he came to the 'Wish You Were Here' sessions, ironic in itself....to see this great, fat, bald, mad person, the first day he came I was in fucking tears... 'Shine On, You Crazy Diamond' was not really about Syd, he's just a symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because the only way they can cope with how fucking sad modern life is to withdraw completely. And I found that terribly sad...
Wright: I walked into the studio at
Syd Barrett: (1971 interview) I'm really totally together, I even think I should be.
Jerry Shirley: You'd get some sort of sense out of him, and then he'd just laugh at you. Lots of people tried lots of different things.
Syd Barrett: (on the importance of lyrics) Very important. I think it's good if a song has more than one meaning. Maybe that kind of song can reach far more people, that's nice. On the other hand, I like songs that are simple. I liked Arnold Layne be cause to me it was a very clear song.
Syd Barrett: (on whether he tried to create a mood through his music) Yes, very much. It would be terrific to do much more mood stuff. They're very pure, you know, the words...I feel I'm jabbering. I really think the whole thing is based on me being a guitarist and having done the last thing about two or three years ago in a group around England and Europe and The States, and then coming back and hardly having done anything, so I don't really know what to say. I feel, perhaps, I could be claimed as being redundant almost. I don't feel active, and that my public conscience is fully satisfied.
(from 'The Madcap Laughs')
please, please, please lift the hand
I'm only a person with Eskimo chain
I tattooed my brain all the way...
Won't you miss me?
Wouldn't you miss me at all?
Barrett: (1971) I've been at home in
Barrett: (1971) (On unemployment) Well, of course, living in
Peter Barnes: I mentioned the Syd Barrett International Appreciation Society to Syd once. He just said it was O.K., you know. He's not interested in any of it. It's ironic. I suppose - he's much bigger now as the silent cult-figure doing nothing than he was when he was functioning. Syd has always said that when he goes back into the studio again he will refuse to have a producer. He still talks about making a third album. I don't know - I think Dave is the only one who could pull it off. There seems to be a relationship there.
Syd Barrett: (asked if he still painted) Not much. The guy who lives next door to me paints, and he's doing it well, so I don't really feel the need. A lot of people want to make films and do photography and things, but I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing.
Roger Waters: Oh, (the media) definitely don't want to know the real Barrett story... there are no facts involved in the Barrett story so they can make up any story they like, and they do. There's a vague basis in fact: Syd was in the band and he did write the material on the first album, 80% of it, but that's all. It is only that one album, and that's what people don't realise. That first album, and one track on the second. That's all; nothing else.
David Gilmour: Oh, I don't think *anyone* can communicate with Syd. I did those albums because I liked the songs, not, as I suppose some might think, because I felt guilty taking his place in the Floyd. I was concerned that he wouldn't fall completely apart.
(from 'The Madcap Laughs')
inside me I feel alone and unreal
and the way you kiss will always be
a very special thing to me...
Syd Barrett: (asked if he listened to other people's music) I don't really buy many records - there's so much around that you don't know what to listen to. All I've got at home is Bo Diddley, some Stones and Beatles stuff and old jazz records. I like Family, they do some nice things.
Gilmour: I don't know - maybe if he was left to his own devices, he might just get it together. But it is a tragedy - a great tragedy because the guy was an innovator. One of the three or four greats along with Dylan. Syd was one of the great rock and roll tragedies. He was one of the most talented people and could have given a fantastic amount. He really could write songs and if he had stayed right, could have beaten Ray Davies at his own game. I know though that something is wrong because Syd isn't happy, and that really is the criteria, isn't it? But then it's all part of being a 'legend in your own lifetime'.
Roger Waters: Because we're very successful we're very vulnerable to attack and Syd is the weapon that is used to attack us. It makes it all a bit spicy, and that's what sells the papers that the people write for. But its also very easy because none of it s fact, it's all hearsay and none of them *know* anything, and they all just make it up. Somebody makes it up once and the others believe it.
Bryan Morrison: Have you ever met Syd? Well, he had psychiatric problems, and was actually in a sanitorium. He doesn't have any involvement with anything or anybody. He is a recluse - with about 25 guitars around him. I see him very rarely. I mean, I know where he is, but he doesn't want to be bothered; he just sits there on his own, watching television all day and getting fat. That's what he does. (Editor's note: Morrison states that Syd's mother committed Syd to a sanatorium , where he remained there for eight years)
Syd Barrett: (asked if he still read poetry) I've got Penguins lying around at home. Shakespeare and Chaucer, you know? But I don't really read a lot. Maybe I should
Roger Waters: (1992) I haven't seen Syd for 10 years...more than years probably. I don't know what went wrong with Syd because I am not an expert on schizophrenia. Syd was extraordinarily charming and attractive and alive and talented but whatever happened to him, happened to him.
Nick Mason: I think Syd was a major talent as a songwriter and maybe could have been as a musician. He has not done anything for the last ten years. And consequently, people who don't entirely achieve all their potential become even more legendary.
Roger Water: (1975) I'm very sad about Syd, I wasn't for years. For years I suppose he was a threat because of all that bollocks written about him and us. Of course he was very important and the band would never have fucking started without him because he was writing all the material. It couldn't have happened without him but on the other hand it couldn't have gone on *with* him. He may or may not be important in rock'n'roll anthology terms but he's certainly not nearly as important as people say in terms of Pink Floyd. So I think I was threatened by him.
Gilmour: I last saw him around Christmas in Harrod's. We just said 'hi', you know. I think actually of all the people you've spoken to, probably only Storm and I really know the whole story and can see it all in the right focus. I don't know what Syd thinks or *how* he thinks. Sure I'd be into going back into the studio with him, but I'm into projects like that anyway. Period.
Roger Waters: (1987) I could never aspire to Syd's crazed insights and perceptions. In fact for a long time I wouldn't have dreamt of claiming any insights whatsoever. I'll always credit Syd with the connection he made between his personal unconscious and the collective group unconscious. It's taken me 15 years to get anywhere near there. Even though he was clearly out of control when he making his two solo albums, some of the work is staggeringly evocative. It's the humanity of it all that's so im pressive. It's about deeply felt values and beliefs. Maybe that's what 'Dark Side of the Moon' was aspiring to. A similar feeling.
Jenny Fabian: I knew the others but they were absolutely nothing compared to Syd. His words and music were the Pink Floyd and I've never been interested in them since. Nothing ever reached the heights of that first album, which was mad and mysterious... .like him.
(from 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn')
But now he's resigned to his fate
'Cause life's not unkind - he doesn't mind.
Syd Barrett: (when asked if people still remember him) Yes, I should think so.