Syd Barrett

By: Patrick Cates
January 6, 2010

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Seven years after his psychosis had snowballed to the point where SYD BARRETT (1946-2006) could no longer function constructively with Pink Floyd, his former bandmates were still feeling the absence of their effervescent frontman. While Roger Waters denies that Wish You Were Here was a specific tribute to Barrett, it is hard not to see the album, and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in particular, as suffused, at least unconsciously, with the mixed emotions that emerged in response to Barrett’s psychological demise. Anecdotes about Barrett’s unhinged unpredictability, both in the studio and on stage, are legion: turning up and playing only when he felt like it; changing songs as he went along; detuning his guitar during concerts. However, only Barrett could have amused, confused, and offended listeners of the period in equal measure with an ethereally harmonized ditty about a kleptomaniac transvestite (“Arnold Layne”). And only Barrett could have fashioned an experimental musical extravaganza out of a childish rhyme about bikes with bells on and mice called Gerald (“Bike”). His enchantingly warped originality — as writer, player, and performer — mark him out as much more than a loopy pharmacasualty of the psychedelic era.


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