Today we salute the legendary Syd Barrett, erstwhile leader of the Pink Floyd and Psychedelic Frontiersman # 1, who quit this planet twelve years ago after decades of reclusive living and battles with mental illness. A true pioneering hero.
A true genius.
Has it really been…five years?
After one earlier five year period, that of 1966-1971, Syd Barrett would record his entire legacy over 2 Pink Floyd albums, 2 solo albums, several singles and a few dozen outtakes.
Syd’s vision as an artist was as far-reaching as any in Rock and the passage of time will continue to serve well his poetic, sonic and lyric statements — bringing to the surface not his myth but his enduring magic. Or as Kenneth Grahame wrote in Chapter 7 of “The Wind In The Willows”:
“Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet!”
Amen, Seth Man!
In remembering the deaths of potent folk, Syd Barrett included, there is a risk of overlooking the joys of lives fully lived, the celebration of which is surely the intention of OnThis Deity. I for one would enjoy reading of the birth of Syd and all the other magnificent human beings that I encounter on these pages. Then everyday can become more like a birthday party than a funeral.
Thanks for your comment, David, but I made a decision early on that dates of deaths – rather than births – would best suit On This Deity. At birth, there are only possibilities. It is only at a life’s conclusion that we are truly in a position to celebrate, lament, condemn, evaluate. For those still with us, On This Deity recognises living acts of heroism or atrocity.
Reflecting on the life of a World Hero such as Syd Barrett was problematic. Once declared that he was Psychedelic Frontiersman No. 1, anything further just sounded trite.
Sure, it could have been noted that he was unfortunate enough to be saddled with lummoxes whose post-’68 works – in future years – are destined to be forgotten, while Syd’s contributions endure. But I contemplated this entry for a long time, discussed it with Julian, and – in the end – we both agreed that to be Psychedelic Frontiersman No. 1 is one of the most important and noble of modern legacies, and it belongs to Syd.
I fuckin’ love the guy. He’s one of my Absolutes.
Syd’s legacy is assured. Whatever we might think of Pink Floyd without him, it’s still true that he remained the cornerstone of that band. All their major themes were dictated by the impact he had on the band. Depression, shadows, non-communication – even guilt (‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’). Syd was and is the cornerstone.
That is a most excellent point.
I admire this site very much. I wondered why you decided to acknowledge deaths as opposed to birth and your explanation makes very good sense in context with what you are doing.
i was playing Bike to my little lad this morning ….. he’s havin his nap now – not sure if Interstellar Overdrive would go down well as an alarm call….give a couple more years – thank you Mr Barrett
I’d, quite cheaply, like to use this comment to tie in Syd’s radicalism with this beneficial blog and Tom Stoppard’s Rock and Roll play
Speaking of my own experiences of his work as a working class lad from the North East of England born in the summer of 1976, I can safely say I’ve never been more effected by a piece of music than by hearing a poor quality copy of Astronomy Domine on a D90 TDK cassette one 6th form dinner time. It was like, here is my mind – please have a wander inside and take what you will, I’m sure you could have just as much to offer. I could waffle on, as many a youtube commenter, but would rather just express my gratitude for the stella work that this top bloke put out into the public domain.
Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd is so good. It was sad but inevitable Syd would become the person he was in middle-age, but….what a legacy.
An universal poem…
Syd was the comet, the rest are just the trails.
Psychedelic Frontiersman #1 sums it up perfectly, a truly forward-thinking mofo braving the Gulf between popular and experimental sounds to bring us some incredibly funky musical brilliance and open a brave new World of culture to be explored.
One of the greatest geniuses of rock of all time.
Man I miss the guy. “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, “The Madcap Laughs”, and “Barrett” are not only some of my favorite albums, but albums that truly inspired and influenced me as a musician. I wish more people knew about Barrett’s Pink Floyd, rather than just “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon”. He’s a legend and a genius.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner
And shine <3