Syd Barrett

Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett (6 January 1946–7 July 2006) was an English singer, songwriter, guitarist, and painter, best remembered as a founder member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter during the band's psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic direction in their early work. He is credited with creating their name, but left the group in April 1968 amid speculations of mental illness and was briefly hospitalised. He was active in music for ten years, recording with Pink Floyd four singles, the debut album (and contributing to the second one), plus several unreleased songs. In 1969, Barrett started off a brief solo career with the release of the single, "Octopus", which foreshadowed his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs (1970), which was recorded over the course of one year (1968–1969) with four different producers (Peter Jenner, Malcolm Jones, David Gilmour, and Roger Waters). Nearly two months after Madcap was released, Barrett began working on his second and last album, Barrett (produced by Gilmour, and featuring contributions from Richard Wright), which would be released in late 1970, before going into self-imposed seclusion lasting until his death in 2006. In 1988, an album of unreleased tracks/alternate takes, Opel, was released by EMI with Barrett's approval. Barrett's innovative guitar work and exploration of experimental techniques such as using dissonance, distortion, and feedback had an enormous legacy, with a wide variety of musicians from David Bowie to Brian Eno to Jimmy Page and more drawing influence. In his post-musician life, Barrett continued with his painting and dedicated himself to gardening, never to return to the public eye. A number of biographies have been written about him since the 1980's, and Pink Floyd wrote and recorded several tributes to him after he left, most notably the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.

Early years

In the early 60's Syd Barrett formed the band Geoff Mott and The Mottoes. Waters and Barrett were childhood friends, and Waters often visited the band's gigs in Syd's house in  Cambridge.  Waters even organised one gig: CND Benefit at Friends Meeting House on 11 March 1962. However, shortly after this gig The Mottoes broke up, as Jeff Mott joined The Boston Crabs. In September 1962, Barrett had taken a place at the Cambridge Technical College art department where he met David Gilmour and occasionally played acoustic gigs together. It was at this point that Barrett started writing songs. He played on bass with Those Without during the summer of 1963, and on guitar with The Hollerin' Blues the next summer. In 1964 Barrett enrolled in the  Camberwell College of Arts in London to study painting. 

Pink Floyd years (1965–68)

In 1965, Barrett joined the band that would become later Pink Floyd, then named The Tea Set as a vocalist and guitarist of the group. When they found themselves playing a concert with a band of the same name, Barrett came up with the name Pink Floyd. Most of the ideas in the band were emanating from Syd. In 1966, Pink Floyd became the house band of the UFO club, it's most popular attraction and the most popular musical group of the so-called London underground psychedelic music scene mostly because of Syd's charming stage presence

Pink Floyd's first four singles, "Arnold Layne", "See Emily Play", "Flaming", "Apples and Oranges", were written by Syd Barrett, who also was the principal visionary-author of their critically acclaimed 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Of the eleven songs on the album, Barrett wrote eight and co-wrote another two, including "Interstellar Overdrive" which earned Pink Floyd their psychedelic reputation. He also wrote songs that would later appear on his solo albums. Through late 1967 and early 1968, Barrett's behaviour became increasingly erratic and unpredictable. David Gilmour, Barrett's old school friend, was asked to join the band as a second guitarist to cover for Barrett. As Syd had, up until then, written the overwhelming bulk of the band's material, the initial plan was to keep him in the group as a non-touring member but this soon proved to be impractical. According to Roger Waters, Barrett came into what was to be their last practice session with a new song he had dubbed "Have You Got It Yet?". The song seemed simple enough when he first presented it to his bandmates, but it soon became impossibly difficult to learn and they eventually realised that while they were practising it, Barrett kept changing the arrangement. He would then play it again, with the arbitrary changes, and sing "Have you got it yet?". Eventually they realised they never would and that they were simply bearing the brunt of Barrett's idiosyncratic sense of humour. Waters had called it "a real act of mad genius". Of the songs he wrote for Pink Floyd after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, only one, "Jugband Blues", made it to the band's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, which was released in 1968, and two other songs, "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man", were never officially released. On 6 April 1968, the group officially announced Syd Barrett was no longer a member of Pink Floyd.

Solo years (1968–72)

After Barrett left Pink Floyd in April 1968, Peter Jenner from the band's management  led him into EMI Studios to record some tracks, that would later be released on his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs. Jenner realised the difficulties of working with Syd when he went off on a drive around Britain in his car, ending up in psychiatric care in Cambridge. During 1969, a somewhat recovered Barrett decided upon to return to a musical career. The Malcolm Jones produced sessions started in April 1969 at EMI Studios. David Gilmour and Roger Waters produced the mid-1969 sessions. Among the guest musicians were Willie Wilson from Gilmour's old band, Jokers Wild and Robert Wyatt of the Canterbury scene prog band Soft Machine. Working with Barrett wasn't easy; it was a case of following him, not playing with him. The songs were recorded as Syd played them live in studio and some of them have false starts and comments. The Madcap Laughs was released in January 1970 and the single "Octopus", originally recorded as "Clowns and Jugglers", was released earlier  in November 1969.



The second album, Barrett, was recorded more sporadically than the first, with sessions taking place between February and July 1970 and it was released in November 1970. The album was produced by David Gilmour, featuring Gilmour on bass guitar, Richard Wright on keyboard and Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley. 

Baby Lemonade

Wined and Dined

Some songs on Syd Barrett's solo albums, "Terrapin", "Maisie" and "Bob Dylan Blues", reflected his early interest in the blues. Barrett undertook very little musical activity between 1968 and 1972 outside the studio. In 1978, he withdraw back to Cambridge and returned to his original art-form of painting, creating large abstract canvases. In 1988, EMI Records released an album of Barrett's studio out-takes and previously unreleased material recorded from 1968 to 1970 under the title Opel. The album was originally set to include the unreleased Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd songs "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man", which had been remixed for the album by Jones. However, the two songs were pulled by Pink Floyd, before Opel was finalised. In 1993 EMI issued another release, Crazy Diamond, a box set of all three albums, each with further out-takes from his solo sessions that illustrated Barrett's inability or refusal to play a song the same way twice. In 1996, Syd Barrett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pink Floyd. He did not attend the ceremony. EMI also released The Best of Syd Barrett: Wouldn't You Miss Me? in the UK on 16 April 2001, and in the US on 11 September 2001. This was the first time his song "Bob Dylan Blues" was ever officially released, taken from a demo tape that David Gilmour had kept after an early 1970's recording session. Gilmour still has the tape, which also contains the unreleased "Living Alone" from the Barrett sessions. After suffering from diabetes for several years, Syd Barrett died at his home in Cambridge on 7 July 2006. He was 60 years old. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. After his death in October 2010, Harvest/EMI and Capitol Records released An Introduction to Syd Barrett, a collection of both his Pink Floyd and remastered solo work. The 2010 compilation  includes the downloadable bonus track "Rhamadan", a 20 minute track recorded at one of Syd's earliest solo sessions, in May 1968. In 2011, it was announced that a vinyl double album version would be issued for Record Store Day. 

Solo studio albums

The Madcap Laughs (1970):

1. Terrapin (5:04)
2. No Good Trying (3:26)
3. Love You (2:30)
4. No Man's Land (3:03)
5. Dark Globe (2:02)
6. Here I Go (3:11)
7. Octopus (3:47)
8. Golden Hair (1:59)
9. Long Gone (2:50)
10. She Took a Long Cold Look (1:55)
11. Feel (2:17)
12. If It's In You (2:26)
13. Late Night (3:10)

Barrett (1970):

1. Baby Lemonade (4:10)
2. Love Song (3:03)
3. Dominoes (4:08)
4. It Is Obvious (2:59)
5. Rats (3:00)
6. Maisie (2:51)
7. Gigolo Aunt (5:46)
8. Waving My Arms in the Air (2:09)
9. I Never Lied to You (1:50)
10. Wined and Dined (2:58)
11. Wolfpack (3:41)
12. Effervescing Elephant (1:52)