Syd Barrett 1971-73 - Twilight of an Idol

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Chris M, Apr 10, 2009.

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  1. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Some of the Syd nuts here might get a kick out of this. Mark Sturdy wrote an article for Mojo a few years ago that chronicled the Stars period. Stars was a short lived band Syd formed with Twink (drums) and Jack Monk (bass) that existed for around a month in early 1972. The article has lots of new bits about that period as well as Syd's association with Steve Took in 1972 and Syd's last public appearence, amazingly enough, at a jam session with Jack Bruce in 1973. Mark gave me the ok to post his unedited first draft of the article which has around 2000 words that were edited out of the Mojo piece. I'll post the article in a seperate post below.
  2. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Twilight of an Idol
    Syd Barrett 1971-73

    by Mark Sturdy

    In 1971, Syd Barrett was 25 years old and out of circulation. Since quitting London the previous year and moving back to his mother’s house in Cambridge, there had been no gigs, no records, very little action at all. Contact with the outside world seemed minimal; friends from his pop star years heard little or nothing from him. Pete Brown, the poet and one-time Cream lyricist who credits Barrett with inventing the first truly English rock music, once neatly summed up his predicament as that of “pretty much your standard middle-class Rimbaud figure.”
    One old friend who did still see Barrett was the photographer Mick Rock. “People knew that Syd was not necessarily losing the thread, but he had wandered off the beaten track. He was working his own thing out, and not really wanting to play to an audience, or even really his peers and friends. But he still came down to London – every so often he would loom up in some shop somewhere, or down a side road. He hadn’t quite dropped out of the scene.”
    In the summer of 1971, Rock visited Barrett in Cambridge to interview him for Rolling Stone. “I called him and he said ‘Come on up’ – it was specifically with me and I was a mate of his, so it wasn’t difficult. So the next Sunday I came up, hung out, had tea and cakes with Syd and his mum and my wife – so it wasn’t a wild psychedelic afternoon with young ladies in short skirts, it was quite civilised.”
    The photos of Syd that Rock took that day have a quality that’s hard to pin down. His hair is grown out somewhat from the harsh crop he’d been sporting earlier in the year, but uncombed and wilfully unstyled. In some of the photos a slight smile is playing across his face; in many of the others, he’s almost expressionless, but evenso there’s a sense of playfulness as he poses in his cellar bedroom or outside amongst his mother’s rhododendrons.
    The interview itself reveals Barrett as a fractured character, offering a mixture of whimsy, introspection and direct, to-the-point insights, shot through with the same kind of esoteric imagery that made his lyrics so extraordinary: “I’m treading the backward path… full of dust and guitars.” He declares himself “totally together”, whilst apologising for the fact that he “can’t speak very coherently.” He discusses his solo albums, complaining that they’ve been too “dusty”. He declares a wish to get married and have children, and bemoans his recent lack of activity: “I am frustrated workwise, terribly. I really don’t agree with any wasted years. And the fact is I haven’t done anything this year. […] But I’m not asked. So I don’t feel there’s any reason to go ahead.”
    “The fact was,” reflects Rock today, “I really, really liked him, above all, and his obliqueness at times. I simply tried to reflect Syd. If you look at it I’m not drawing any conclusions – I’m allowing him to say whatever he has to say and I’m describing the environment. There’s no judgement one way or the other if you read that. In that way there’s a certain truth to it.”
    Most tantalisingly, Syd talks directly about continuing as a musician. He proudly shows Rock a typed manuscript containing the lyrics to all his published songs, strums a new arrangement of ‘Love You’, and talks about his problems getting a new band together: “I never find anybody. That’s the problem… If I was going to play properly I should need some really good people.”
    The tone of the interview is introspective – however, as Rock points out, “he doesn’t say he’s unhappy. He says he’d like to do this and that, that all he ever wanted to do was to get onstage and jump about, but it seems like it’s got more difficult. He wanted to do something, and I suppose the tragedy might be that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to do anything, he just kept looking and he couldn’t quite find it.”

    It appears that over the coming months Syd did make a real effort to rouse himself from his inactivity. He certainly became a familiar sight on the streets of Cambridge. “He used to be immaculately dressed,” recalls Bill Gray, who worked at the original Andy’s Records stall in Cambridge and often saw Syd walking around the Market Square. “He had this burgundy, red velvet suit with trendy boots and his distinctive curly shock of hair, looking every inch the rock star. He always seemed a shy, remote character though – people would certainly know him, but he kept himself very much to himself.”
    Another popular haunt for Barrett was Red House Records, an independent shop that served as one of the focal points of Cambridge’s then-thriving underground rock scene. It was there that a chance meeting with Jenny Spires, an ex-girlfriend from the Floyd days, led to Syd being introduced to Spires’ then-husband, a 23-year-old bassist called Jack Monck.
    “Jenny was very protective of him,” remembers Monck, “and I think he felt safe around her and, by extension, me. We lived in a cottage out in the country and had a small child at the time, and remember Syd coming out there to see us at least once. We were just some people he could spend a bit of time with.”
    On January 26 1972, Jenny Spires brought Barrett down to a Cambridge Blues Society gig at Kings College Cellars. Eddie ‘Guitar’ Burns, a seasoned American blues player in the John Lee Hooker vein, was playing, backed by Monck and John ‘Twink’ Alder, the former Tomorrow and Pretty Things drummer who had recently landed in Cambridge after quitting The Pink Fairies. Syd must have been persuaded to bring his guitar along, as before Burns took the stage, he played a brief, improvised set with Twink and Monck.
    A local promoter called Steve Brink was in the audience, and recalls that the spontaneous session was quite impressive. “There was a real natural musical empathy between the three of them. In any improvisational band, the musicians have to be interested in what each other are doing, and Syd was genuinely interested. It was just a free-form jam for about half an hour – more improvisatory than 12-bar blues, and I’m sure it changed key on any number of occasions. But there’s always that moment, that dynamic thing when three musicians make something that works.”
    Unsurprisingly, the jam led to Twink renewing his friendship with Barrett, with whom he’d been on friendly terms in the UFO days. “I didn't know him closely for that long,” said Twink many years later, “but I was in the same space and I could understand exactly where he was at. I thought he was very together… it was a very warm relationship.”
    “I can see Twink walking about in the morning,” laughs Bill Gray, “7 o’clock or something, wandering about with his cowboy boots on, with a pair of drumsticks in his back pocket, waiting, just anticipating the next opportunity. He was always very affable, a bit of a hustler.”

    Ask those who knew Barrett at the time, and the same words and phrases will crop up time and again: “damaged”; “fragile”; “fractured”; “withdrawn”; “uncommunicative”; “tense”; “shellshocked”. Equally interesting are the words that have become commonly associated with Barrett, but tend not to feature: “drugs”; “disturbed”; “schizophrenic”; “mad”. The Barrett of 1972 had his problems, but seemingly wasn’t the unstable acid freak of legend. Mick Rock recalls smoking a joint with Syd on the day of the Rolling Stone interview, but hadn’t seen him take acid since 1969. Jack Monck, in spite of the abundance of (relatively) soft drugs in Cambridge at the time, isn’t sure that he ever saw Syd so much as smoking dope.
    As for Barrett’s mental health at the time, those who knew him all seem to concede that he was indeed in a damaged, introverted state, but stop short of saying that he was ill. “He varied,” says Monck. “Occasionally it was always a real treat when he did relax, which did happen, especially when he came to see me and Jenny out in the country. Sometimes he’d be quite normal, and in a way his songs would bear that out. He has those insights into everyday, mundane little situations and I think he liked that side of life. I can remember his occasional pleasure at making us smile at one of his punning jokes or odd observations. But then other times he just couldn’t relate to people.”
    “He could laugh,” remembers Mick Rock. “The thing was, he was very up and bubbly, but what was starting to happen is he would laugh in strange, strange moments. Like there was a joke, but it was only his joke. Sometimes I’d laugh with him because it felt funny, even though I didn’t know quite what he was talking about.”
    Jack Monck: “Apart from anything else he was very well-known, so he couldn’t just be in a room without everyone going ‘Wow, it’s Syd Barrett!’ And that I think that would be the case for any well-known person: you’ve got to be able to cope with that and he really found that difficult.”

    Barrett had apparently enjoyed playing Kings College Cellar, as the following night he appeared with them again – this time at a Corn Exchange gig headlined by Hawkwind and The Pink Fairies, as part of another project that Monck and Twink had been involved with known as The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band – a loose jamming outfit that on that occasion included Twink, Monck, Barrett, an American blues-rock guitarist called Bruce Paine, and Fred Frith of the respected art-prog outfit Henry Cow.
    The band had rehearsed for the evening’s set earlier in the day, even attempting to hurriedly work up a couple of Barrett’s old songs in amongst the blues standards and freeform jamming. “I think Jack was the real guiding force,” remembers Frith. “He was quiet but really focused and driven. The overwhelming feeling was that Syd wasn’t really there.”
    For Frith, the night was far from the success that the Kings College jam had been, with Syd’s main contribution being to repeatedly play the riff to the Yardbirds’ ‘Smokestack Lightening’. “We loved Syd’s songs and wanted to help him perform them, but he couldn't really remember them very well. He couldn’t play anymore and there was little point in pretending otherwise, however much I wished it wasn't true. I felt that in the end the pretence was doing him a disservice. I was only involved very briefly, so other times may have been different, but he had been a guitar hero for me, and it was painful.”

    Twink and Monck, however, must have felt that the venture was worth pursuing, as a few days later they approached Syd with a view to putting together a more permanent band. “Within the next day or two Jenny and Jack came round to my house,” said Twink in 1984, “and someone said ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get Syd playing again?’ It wasn't just me who said that, it was everyone. So Jenny said ‘Oh, I'll fix up a meeting with him, we'll go and see Syd and ask him if he wants to play with you and Jack.’ That afternoon, the three sat with Barrett in his mother’s house and talked over cakes and tea about putting a band together. The next day, the nascent band started jamming in Syd’s basement.
    Rehearsals soon moved to an empty room behind Steve Brink’s clothing shop What’s In A Name?, where Twink was also staying. Joly MacFie, a close friend of Twink’s who was living elsewhere in the building, would occasionally eavesdrop on the sessions and hang out with the band. He recalls Twink’s energy and enthusiasm as an important factor in the band’s chemistry. “There was a bright side to Twink which is hard to express – a genuine sense of wonder and hope, the appeal of which surely motivated Syd. I think I got on with Syd, initially, because I had no idea who he was, and liked him and his playing. To begin with, I didn't get it, but as I became accustomed I began to really like what he was doing, kind of like a bizarro Hank Marvin.
    “I don't recall that much in the way of conversation apart from niceties; he liked to sit quietly. But there were zig-zag non sequiturs, definitely – like someone whose brain was moving at a greater speed. There was always a sense of insight. I remember at the time comparing relating to him to befriending a little bird sitting on the garden fence. One didn't make sudden moves.”

    The band, which at Twink’s suggestion had christened itself Stars, made its public debut on February 5, at an afternoon show in a tiny Cambridge health food café called The Dandelion. Monck: “When we did the Dandelion it was great – it was a very small place, there’d been no expectation on us to perform and everybody loved it. I don’t think we’d rehearsed much. We relied on doing 12-bar blues and a few covers of Syd’s songs.”
    “I remember The Dandelion as being slightly shabby, a typical faux hippy joint serving carrot cake and tea,” remembers Bruce Gill, a passer-by who witnessed the gig that day. “It seemed no big deal at the time – things like this were often happening, you could walk into a Cambridge music shop and see Dave Gilmour trying out a guitar. It was pretty empty – it almost felt as if it wasn't even a proper gig, just a rehearsal. There were quite a few mistakes, false starts and endings – actually I thought it was a very chaotic gig. Jack and Twink were very tight, Syd less so, but that guitar could be out of this world.”
    The band played two more low-key shows in the coming fortnight: an impromptu open-air show to a crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers on the back of a flatbed truck in Petty Cury, a small street just off the main Market Square in Cambridge, and a second Dandelion performance. Syd appeared to be happy with the way things were going. “I think he quite enjoyed the Dandelion and the outdoor Market Square one,” says Monck. “He seemed to be thinking ‘Yeah, it’s nice just to be doing some music without too much pressure.”
    To follow up the Dandelion and Market Square shows, Steve Brink booked Stars as headline act at the Corn Exchange, supported by the MC5 – a decidedly higher profile affair than the low-key appearances the band had been flourishing in. “I'm sure Steve's intentions were good,” reflected Twink later, “but he was just as crazy as everybody else. If we'd had some sort of management direction then we wouldn't have done any [major] gigs for six months or maybe a year or something, but we went straight into it.”
    In reality, Stars simply wasn’t cut out to be a high-profile project: while the initial shows had not been without their virtues, the band had existed for less than a month and, as such, was understandably under-rehearsed. New material was non-existent beyond a couple of loose 12-bar jams, so in effect Stars was little more than a loose covers band. It’s understandable that as the date approached, Barrett’s aversion to the spotlight intensified and his focus and commitment toward the project suffered.

    Alan Lee Shaw, who at the time was playing with Twink in another band called ZZZ, occasionally dropped in on rehearsals. “It seemed to be like Syd was focal point and the rest of the guys were craning, looking at him, following whatever he was doing. Syd was in his own space – I talked to him on occasions but it was very difficult to get through. The guy was in some dark place at the time. The problem was, there was a lot of people around like that, who were casualties – so you didn’t necessarily realise there was anything specifically wrong. You just thought ‘Oh, the guy’s had a bad trip, you just need to be careful with him.’ Whereas in retrospect, what the guy probably needed was some serious help.”
    “The expectations made life uncomfortable,” says Jack Monck. “It’s one thing coming into something where people don’t have any expectations, and if you happen to do something really good – if it just happens to all fit – then it’s great and everybody loves it. It’s quite another thing to have a gig booked ahead with everybody talking it up, waiting to hear what you’re going to do. That’s when you really do need to rehearse!”
    The night arrived and The Corn Exchange, thanks to the pull of both Barrett and the MC5, was packed. “I remember going backstage before the gig,” says Alan Lee Shaw, “and seeing Syd and he’d got these new velvet trousers on – he’d changed because he was usually quite dressed-down. I remember saying ‘You look great, have a great gig’ – he just said ‘Yeah, yeah’, you know.
    “It was a big mistake really because MC5 came on, this total sonic attack – I’ve never seen a band like them, they came on guns blazing, totally high-energy, they just blew you away. Really thrilling. They just hit the stage running and didn’t stop till it stopped.
    “So you can imagine when Stars came on, doing Syd’s whimsical songs in a rather ramshackle way and it’s a real comedown – a real wrong number. I can remember they’d bussed in some fans – maybe two or three coaches had arrived, which surprised me because obviously the legend had started to grow. They all converged round the stage, starry-eyed, the band started playing, and I remember stage left, Roy Hollingworth from the Melody Maker, sitting cross-legged, shaking his head. Gradually the audience just sort of dwindled away, down to this hundred or so bussed-in fans at the front of the stage. It just seemed like a very sad evening.
    “Kings Cellars and the Dandelion suited the kind of music they were making – if you were close-up, you could get something out of it. But on a stage like the Corn Exchange, this cavernous venue where you’d just seen the MC5 – it just gets lost.”
    In addition to the non-conducive atmosphere, the band was dogged by problems onstage – Syd managed to cut his finger open on his guitar strings, Monck’s bass amp died halfway through, and the sound quality at the venue was horrendous: Joly, who roadied that night, recalls “zero monitors, just a big PA amp with one volume knob backstage, which the MC5 naturally kept up all the way. Another roadie, Nigel, put Jack, Twink, and Syd too far apart onstage, and I still well recall being reduced to dashing out to front of stage to check if it was feeding back, then dashing backstage to adjust levels, all through the set. Syd battled through but any man would have had problems.”
    “Syd looked very unhappy at the Corn Exchange gig,” says Jack Monck. “It was very painful for him –he’d stop singing partway through a line, or he’d be singing off-mike – his whole body language was he just didn’t really want to be there.”
    Although disastrous, the gig didn’t quite kill the band off. A couple of days later they played a second, less documented show at the Corn Exchange with German space-rock outfit Nektar. “The band took [the MC5 show] in their stride,” remembers Joly. “It was the first big gig and they looked forward to Saturday with Nektar. Being prog, Nektar had state of the art audio – two WEM Audiomasters out front and monitors. I mixed the band; Nigel took care of the stage. This was a much, much better show, and so everyone was happy.”
    Any optimism, however, was short-lived. A few days later, Roy Hollingworth’s review of the MC5 gig appeared in Melody Maker. The piece was devastating and probably over dramatised, but doubtless accurate.
    “Three figures to my front shrugged their shoulders, and left. They didn't understand Syd Barrett. Neither did the people who talked in the very dark corners. Neither did the guy who pulled a market wagon noisily across the floor. Neither did the person who switched the house-lights on (to reveal that there were only about 30 people there). But The Madcap played on, as if he understood. He played and played and played. No tune in particular, no tune in fact. He sounded out of tune most of the time anyway. But the time was most certainly in his head. He played a demented solo that ran ragged lines up to ten minutes. His ragged hair fell over a face that fell over a guitar and seldom looked up. He changed time almost by the minute, the keys and chords made little sense. The fingers on his left hand met the frets like strangers. They formed chords, and then re-formed them, and then – apparently nearly got it right – and then wandered away again. And then Syd scratched his nose again, and let loose a very short sigh. It was like watching somebody piece together a memory that had suffered the most severe shell-shock.”
    Twink: “He killed the band with that review. Syd came round with it in his hand the next day, and said ‘I don't want to play anymore.’ So that was it. I thought there was a possibility that something like that might happen, but it was a shame that it did.”

    That was enough; there would be no more comebacks. Syd returned to his mother’s basement and retreated back into his shell. He was no more to be seen strutting around Cambridge Market Square in his velvet suit; Jack Monck, Twink and the rest never heard from him again.
    From that first jam at Kings College Cellars to the final Corn Exchange gig, Stars had lasted precisely one month. “It was all a great shame really,” says Jack Monck. “It had started out with good intentions, but it just all ended badly so we kind of thought we’d let it lie. We just thought ‘We’ve tried, and look what happened, so maybe better to just leave him alone.’ We did have good motives, and maybe we were accused by some people of being opportunistic and trying to exploit Syd, but I think when bands start you’re always idealistic. I knew he was fragile, but I was young myself, I just didn’t think it was going to be harmful to him.”
    As for Syd himself, the trail grows exceptionally faint after the end of Stars. Mick Rock, who saw him for the last time around this period, feels that despite the traumatic end of the band, Barrett still hadn’t ruled out any kind of future musical activity. “He came round to see me and Sheila. I think for a moment, he was thinking about doing something in London, but it just seemed to pass through his mind briefly. He would mention things, give little hints, but he wouldn’t spend all afternoon going on about it like some people would.
    “Did he feel there was some juice left in the situation? I would say, categorically, yes. He didn’t think it was the end of the road. No one had any idea quite what he was going to get up to and he wasn’t articulating it that comprehensively, but it wasn’t like he said “**** it, I’m never going to play again.” He was just looking for something that made sense to him. But I think he found it very difficult to collaborate with people at that stage.”
    It seems that for Syd, while the spirit may have been occasionally willing, doing anything productive at all presented real problems. To pinpoint quite what these problems were isn’t straightforward “I don’t think you can get too ‘A plus B’ with Syd,” says Rock. “You’ve got to remember he was a guy who was free and clear – he could run around, had no responsibilities. Whatever he did, it could be this and it could be that – he had so many options, he almost didn’t have any. It wasn’t on principle, like he didn’t want to do anything, even though he ended up doing nothing. It was very Hamlet, very ‘To be or not to be’ – he just couldn’t quite make up his mind.
    “There were certain areas where we’d go down to the bottom of the well in that psychedelic Jungian sense and muzz around for a while and see what you can pick up that might be interesting in a creative way. I think he got too deep into it. Sounds a bit mad I know, and it sort of is, but it’s not foaming-at-the-mouth mad, it’s just inverted, down to the bottom of a well. And I think he just stayed there, he found it more comfortable to be there. I like to come up for air, but he was happy at the bottom of the well, shuffling around.”

    Syd apparently emerged briefly from the well in autumn of 1972 to visit his old friend Steve Took in London. Took had been the original percussionist in the 1967-model Tyrannosaurus Rex before being ousted when his erratic, increasingly drug-crazed behaviour proved a little too much for Marc Bolan’s commercial gameplan. He’d also been an acquaintance of Syd’s, and had reportedly played on some of his early solo recordings. Since then, Took had been weaving his way though the Ladbroke Grove underground scene, periodically working on his own material, some of which, surprisingly, suggests that at his best, he was a comparably talented songwriter to his old partner – albeit with a (non-)work ethic and level of dedication that was the polar opposite of Bolan’s more career-minded approach.
    By autumn 1972, Took was living in a flat beneath the Mayfair offices of former Bolan manager Tony Secunda, demoing reels full of solo material for Secunda to shop around with the aim of scoring him a record deal. None of this material emerged until 1994, when Cleopatra Records released a Took CD entitled ‘The Missing Link To Tyrannosaurus Rex’. Astonishingly, there appears to be some legitimacy to the ambiguous claims on the sleevenotes that strongly imply that Syd appears on some of the tracks.
    “Through the early ‘90s,” says Dave Thompson, who wrote the sleevenotes, “Tony Secunda was my literary agent. He mentioned how the last time he saw Syd was when he used to drop by the house to visit Took, and they'd mess around in the basement with the tape recorder. Of course I got very excited and asked if they taped anything. About a week later, Tony said he'd turned up this old reel-to-reel of Took's ramblings, including the two that, given the absence of any documentation, Tony remembered as being the Syd tracks. That's why I hedged a little in the liner notes, but Tony had no reason to lie: we didn't even think about trying to get the tapes released until some time later, and his memory was spot-on on everything else I ever asked him about.”
    Unfortunately, the waters are muddied further by the fact that the notes on the back of the CD credit not Syd, but one ‘Crazy Diamond’. Cleopatra’s Brian Perera claims he “didn't want to use Syd's name, or EMI may have a problem with it since he was still under contract to them at the time.” Perera also arranged for the rough acoustic takes to be overdubbed with modern-day percussion and synths, and retitled a number of the tracks, including badging a version of Took’s song ‘Beautiful Deceiver’ as ‘Syd’s Wine’ – despite the fact that Syd seems not to appear on that particular track.
    Unmixed versions of the original recordings circulate as poor-quality bootlegs, but reveal little other than the fact that certain tracks (amongst them ‘Seventh Sign’, ‘Give’ and ‘Molecular Lucky Charm’) do appear to feature a second guitarist strumming alongside Took. It may well be Barrett – however, with Took and Secunda both dead, the likelihood of any reliable eyewitness account would seem to be slim.

    As the man sunk further amongst tales of violent episodes back in the Cambridge basement, his cult seemed to grow ever greater, exemplified by the formation, at the end of 1972, of the Syd Barrett Appreciation Society. The Society’s stated purpose was to campaign for Syd to return to the studio, but most of the story is told by the desperate optimism of the news updates that were printed in its magazine Terrapin: endless vague tales of Harvest Records or “Syd’s management” hoping to stage a nationwide Barrett tour or bring him back into the studio to record a new album. Of course, nothing ever materialised and the magazine soon underwent a fairly dramatic change of direction, dedicating itself mainly to reprinting old press clippings.
    Syd did manage to make one unexpected public appearance in the summer of 1973. “I was doing a poetry reading in a little public hall in Cambridge,” says Pete Brown, “and what happened was that Jack Bruce was meeting me there because we were going on to do some work in Colchester. My train was delayed or something, so I arrived there very late and there was this kind of desperate-looking group onstage. Somebody had recognised Jack and handed him a double bass so he was blowing away on that, and various other people that I didn’t recognise. As I recall, they were playing a form of jazz. It sounded pretty good to me. I didn’t realise who was playing guitar.” As far as Brown can recall, the band may have been jamming on a version of the old standard ‘Doodlin’’.
    “And then when I was doing my poetry set, I said ‘I’d like to dedicate this next poem to Syd Barrett, because he’s a native of Cambridge who I consider to be one of the great poets and songwriters of his generation.’ And this person got up from the audience and said ‘No I’m not!’ And it was Syd, and I recognised him as that guitarist.
    “I don’t think I got chance to talk to him, but he looked alright. I remember when I’d seen him once towards the end of the ‘60s he looked pretty wild and out-of-it, but that night he seemed quite together. It was an interesting side of him to see which I’d never really experienced. One of my favourite quotes that I made up myself was that psychedelia was rock musicians trying to improvise like jazz musicians. The fact is, not a lot of them could, but it appeared Syd really could – which is what I’d always thought, and there he was playing jazz solos with Jack Bruce.”
    That night was not so much a comeback as an aberration – he disappeared into the Cambridge night and never played any music in public again.

    That’s a good note on which to end the tale of Syd Barrett. The well-worn tales of his tribulations over the following years are as familiar as they are irrelevant. From the mid ‘70s onwards, he was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
    The past 25 years have been reasonably consistent for Barrett. He lives alone in his mother’s old house in Cambridge, painting, gardening, watching TV and occasionally strumming a guitar. He tends to avoid human contact outside close family, and most of those who knew him in his former life have sufficient respect to leave well enough alone now.
    “Syd lives the life he chose to live and I’m happy for him,” says Mick Rock, who in 2001, through a series of discreetly passed-on messages through family members, managed to elicit Syd’s first public statement in 30 years when he agreed to sign 320 copies of ‘Psychedelic Renegades’, a fine-art book of Rock’s Barrett photos. “If he chose not to talk to people I respect that. Irrespective of the fact that it would have been lovely to relate to him wherever he is, you have to respect people who want to live their lives. I couldn’t harass him. I can send a communication through his sister or nephew, and frankly by signing those 320 books I couldn’t have had a bigger communication.”
    As he approaches 60, it’s tempting to conclude that Barrett has fared better than many of his contemporaries. Hendrix, Joplin and Brian Jones were all dead before Stars had formed. Steve Took spent a decade sinking ever further underground before following suit in 1980. Even Twink, who has survived, spent the rest of the ‘70s battling drink and drugs, drifting through various short-lived bands and innumerable Pink Fairies reunions, never quite regaining the momentum he had before the Stars days. By comparison, Syd’s dignified silence could rank as one of his greatest artistic statements.
    “The reason for getting out of the game was definitely linked to his survival instinct,” says Rock. “That should not be underestimated. You have to come back to the fact that Syd is still alive. He knew he wasn’t wired for a life like David Bowie. He had a very irregular head and he knew it – he said it.
    “Once you’ve opened a certain door into the creative garden, you are always an artist. It’s like being a champion boxer. Even if you only win one fight and win the championship, you’ll always be a champion.”
  3. Oliver

    Oliver Bourbon Infused

    Haven't read it yet but definitely will-thanks for posting :righton:
  4. muddy810

    muddy810 Forum Resident

    Whippany, NJ USA
    Chris, Thanks for sharing that with us. I enjoyed the article; it left me kinda happy/sad....
  5. jsayers

    jsayers Just Drifting....

    Horse Shoe, NC
    I still hold fast to my original opinion of Syd Barrett, despite all I read or hear of his exploits after he left Pink Floyd.
    I just don't really like it. It's painful lo listen to. In an emotional way, not sonic. He was already gone, beyond a point that most could follow. That some did, and do, is great, but not I.
    There's one sole exception, that is the "Two Of A Kind" track he did for a Peel session. That is my ultimate post-PF Syd song.
    What I've heard of "Vegetable man" , and a few others, sound interesting as demos, but were never developed as they could have been with a proper band and some good direction.
    Sorry, Chris, I know you love him, and I do to, up to a point.
    It's funny - my life probably resembles Syd's much more than yours does in many ways, not intentionally, but by proxy.

    Since we never saw all that fantastic live stuff he did, we have "Piper", and that's where, besides the tracks on "Saucerful", my love for him lies.

    Edit - of course loved the singles. How could I leave them out?!

    Flame on - John
  6. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Me too. I thought Mick Rock's quote at the end was touching.

    “Once you’ve opened a certain door into the creative garden, you are always an artist. It’s like being a champion boxer. Even if you only win one fight and win the championship, you’ll always be a champion.”
  7. Jack Son #9 Dream

    Jack Son #9 Dream lofi hip hop is good

    Thanks for posting the article. It's a real shame nothing really came of Stars other than a few live performances. It would have been great if Syd could have produced one more great album after Barrett and recorded it with Stars. I guess it wasn't meant to be. :(
  8. saundr00

    saundr00 Bobby

    Great read. Thanks for posting.
  9. reddyempower

    reddyempower Forum Resident

    columbus, oh, usa
    Can't thanky you enough for posting this. As far as I'm concerned, Syd is forever a champion, and PATGOD will always be in my top five favorite albums. A truly creative human being.
  10. owsley

    owsley Senior Member

    Great piece Chris. Thanks for sharing this. It certainly ties up all the loose ends of Barrett's final performing days before Syd permanently went into 'Interstellar Underground'. What I took away from this piece is that many folks tried very hard to get Syd back into recording and performing but it never worked out, it appeared Syd was at that point was permanently wired to march to his own beat. Whether it was because of emotional frailty, not being able to handle fame or too much dope we'll never know but the legacy Syd left behind in '67 and '68 was a Super Nova in the pop universe.
  11. Glenn Christense

    Glenn Christense Foremost Beatles expert... on my block

    Thanks for posting this Chris.
    As always, instead of just being happy for the music and attitude Syd did give us, I'm usually frustrated and sad by what music he MAY have given us, but that's just being selfish on my part I guess. He gave... what he could.

    BTW, there's a short sidebar in a recent MOJO or Uncut magazine where they did a feature on some rich, tag along "friend to the stars" guy (the Stones, etc.) who's name escapes me at the moment. He claims that he was there when he and Syd, etc., all dropped acid, and THIS was the trip that SYD never was the same after. One Syd before the trip..a different Syd after this trip. If you didn't read it..if pressed, I can find the article. :laugh:
  12. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Thank you Chris and thanks also to Mark for writing that insightful and considered article.
  13. Glenn Christense

    Glenn Christense Foremost Beatles expert... on my block

    It's a different vision of music, IMO. It's not commercial for a start. Either you like it or you don't. I can understand that.

    To me, it's music disassembled to it's most vulnerable (and human) level.
    There's no pretense, no rock star posturing, no sense of "show biz".

    It's the music of a man baring his soul, frailties included, so it's not party music, that's for sure, but it's an artist wrestling with personal issues giving us a peek into his alternate world , which I find fascinating.
  14. rene smalldridge

    rene smalldridge Senior Member

    Thank you for posting this.A very insightful and interesting read.
  15. EveryLittleThing

    EveryLittleThing New Member

    in a snit
    That was great. Thank you for posting it, Chris (and thanks to Mark for writing it and letting it be posted).
  16. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I've heard the Jack Bruce story before but always thought it was apocryphal, and doubtful. It gives me great pleasure to think that it was true.

    Thanks for posting this article, Chris. Syd will always be a champion of sorts to me. His star may not have burned long, but oh! did it burn brightly!
  17. Platterpus

    Platterpus Forum Resident

    The Cosmos
    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing Chris!:righton:

  18. howlinrock

    howlinrock Forum Resident In Memoriam

    SF Bay Area
    Great read....
  19. Demolition Man

    Demolition Man Forum Resident

    Thank you so much for the post Chris. Its very heart breaking to read about his last days before disappearing for good.
  20. phil1db

    phil1db Forum Resident

    Great/sad read thanx for posting
  21. Record Fan

    Record Fan Forum Resident

    Germantown, TN
    Syd's awesome. I will have to read the article when I can see more clearly.
  22. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Senior Member

    I have a hunch that it was this problem, as much as any "drug casualty" damage, that was Syd's (and perhaps also Brian Wilson's and Elvis Presley's) biggest problem.
  23. ShawnX

    ShawnX Forum Resident

    Detroit, Michigan
    Very interesting. Thank you!!
  24. lobo

    lobo Music has always been a matter of Energy to me...

    Thanks Chris, I'll read the whole article later.
  25. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    Eastern Iowa
    A nice piece to read. Thank you Chris!
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