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Old 07-11-2006, 05:26 PM   #1
Cali
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Default Roger Keith Barrett (1946-2006)





Obituary: Syd Barrett

As a founder member of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett wrote songs at once wistful, surreal and quintessentially English. Barrett's increasingly erratic mental state led to him leaving the band in 1968.



Syd Barrett's continuing importance, both to his former band-mates and the musical world at large, was made explicit at the 2005 Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park.

Introducing their classic song, Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters said: "This is for the people who can't be here - especially Syd." But it was another Floyd song, the epic Shine On You Crazy Diamond, written as a tribute to Syd Barrett, which will stand as his epitaph.

As a member of Floyd during its formative years, Syd Barrett was a troubled genius whose drug abuse and poetic lyrics personified the psychedelic 60s.

Improvisational

Roger Keith Barrett was born in Cambridge in January 1946. The son of a well-known pathologist, he acquired the nickname "Syd" during his teens, a reference to Sid Barrett, a local jazz drummer.

It was as a student at London's Camberwell School of Art that he became guitarist and vocalist with a band called Tea Set, whose other members were Roger Waters and Bob Klose on guitars, Rick Wright on wind instruments and drummer Nick Mason.

It was Syd Barrett who christened the new group The Pink Floyd Sound, in homage to two of his own musical heroes, the bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

After Klose left the line-up to pursue a career as a photographer, Pink Floyd - as it soon became - played standards like Louie, Louie, often embellishing them with free-form interludes, improvisations in the jazz style, yet also influenced by heavy rock.




Syd Barrett founded Pink Floyd in 1965




The following year saw Pink Floyd enter the charts with the Barrett-penned single Arnold Layne which, although banned by the BBC, reached an impressive number 21.

The follow-up single, the drug-inspired See Emily Play - also written by Barrett - fared even better, going to number 6 in the charts.

Signing up to the EMI label, the band recorded its first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967.

With Barrett as its driving force, the album included a number of classic tracks, most notably Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive, and more whimsical offerings like Bike and The Gnome.

Cult following

But Syd Barrett soon found himself grappling with his new-found fame and facing a serious drug problem, especially with the psychedelic drug LSD.

His live appearances became shambolic, often silent or confused and, by the end of 1967, the band had been forced to bring in Barrett's friend, one David Gilmour, as a substitute guitarist. In early 1968, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd went their separate ways.

Syd Barrett's solo career was short. His first album, the inconsistent The Madcap Laughs, appeared in January 1970, and its altogether more polished follow-up, Barratt, hit the record shops that November.

Songs like Gigolo Aunt, Vegetable Man and Dominoes, showcased on his albums and in live sessions recorded for BBC radio, brought Syd Barrett a cult following.




Barrett ended up a recluse in Cambridge



An Effervescing Elephant, a children's song written by him at the age of 16, has drawn comparisons with Ogden Nash, Hillaire Belloc and Roald Dahl. But a lack of popular recognition, combined with the increasing fragility of his health, led Syd Barrett to abandon the music industry altogether and, despite a couple of abortive attempts to re-ignite his career, Barrett remained, for more than 30 years, British rock music's greatest recluse.

But he did attend Pink Floyd's recording sessions in 1975, ironically sitting in the studio while the band recorded Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

In recent years, Barrett preferred to be known by his original Christian name, Roger. But, despite continuing mental problems and diabetes, those who met him spoke of a content man who had left his illustrious past behind him. A devoted gardener, regular royalty payments made his later years more comfortable.

Barrett's influence was rich indeed. Artists from David Bowie to REM have acknowledged their debt to him, as have newer acts like Phish and Pearl Jam.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5169682.stm
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:36 PM   #2
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Here's a nice article about Roger




Wed: 07-12-06
Appreciation: Syd Barrett
Story by Joe Tangari The recent death of Syd Barrett will lead to talk about his drug abuse, his retreat from music, and his legend. Strange that a key role in one of the most successful bands of all time should cast him as a cult figure, but such was his life. In the eyes of many, he became something of an abstraction, a figurehead or a symbol more than an artist, and as such his death feels confusing, as though it’s now happened for a second time.

The details of Barrett’s life and too-brief time at the pinnacle of British psychedelia have become so clouded in myth and rumor in the past 30 years that it can be difficult to extricate nuggets of fact from the fiction. Born Roger Keith Barrett in Cambridge, he acquired the nickname Syd-- a poignant reminder of the two very different lives he lived-- around age 15.

Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd, who in their early r&b days went under an assortment of names such as Sigma 6, the Tea Set, and the Screaming Abdabs, until he rechristened them after blues musician Floyd Council and medicine show singer Pink Anderson in 1965. As Pink Floyd made the transition to psychedelic and improvisatory rock pioneers, Barrett emerged as the natural leader and songwriter.

Even as the band toiled in obscurity, Barrett took strange, relatively lo-fi risks with his music, sliding ball-bearings down his guitar strings while the Beatles were constructing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band down the hall. On Pink Floyd's debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, songs like “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive” greatly pushed the boundaries of rock music, while “The Gnome”, “Bike”, and “Lucifer Sam” helped define British psychedelic whimsy.

Outside of the studio, however, Barrett’s unpredictability had fellow Floyd bandmates Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Rick Wright at wit’s end. As 1967 drew to a close, they hired David Gilmour to take Barrett’s place on stage, with the intent of turning Barrett into a Brian Wilson figure-- writing the songs and gracing the records but staying far away from the live setting. This proved singularly unworkable. In early 1968, they stopped picking Barrett up for gigs, leading to the final split. Managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King, who had founded Blackhill Enterprises as a partnership with Pink Floyd, stuck with Barrett, whose heart-breaking final contribution to the band, “Jugband Blues”, closes their sophomore album, A Saucerful of Secrets.

Pink Floyd, of course, went on to sell hundreds of millions of records, but never quite shook Barrett’s legacy, essentially composing an entire album around his story in 1975’s Wish You Were Here. While the title track longs for the company of a man who no longer existed at that point, the other songs attack the irony of wanting fame you’re unable to handle when you obtain it head-on. Without overtly admitting it, Waters wrote of Barrett: “Now there’s a look in your eye/ Like black holes in the sky.” It echoed the sentiment of famed Brit folk producer Joe Boyd in June 1967, who seeing Barrett for the first time in months noted a change. “He just looked at me,” said Boyd, who had produced Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" single. “I looked right in his eye and there was no twinkle, no glint. You know, nobody home.”

Barrett, meanwhile, recorded two shambling solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, with assistance from Waters and Gilmour. Both were released in 1970 and showcased the troubled songwriter in different settings. The Madcap Laughs is intimate, mostly Barrett and his guitar with occasional augmentation, while the other album was more fleshed-out, with plenty of psychedelic flourishes. These records represent the last time Barrett had any involvement in a record bearing his name. Many other compilations, including the essential Opel, have popped up over the years, though, and archive diggers seemingly haven’t exhausted the cutting room just yet. A short-lived band called Stars, featuring ex-Pink Fairy Twink on drums, barely even existed before flashing out.

After the abortive attempt at regaining his form with Stars, Barrett left music and faded from public view, living with his mother Winfred, though he never truly became a recluse as many have claimed. He dropped in on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here sessions quite unexpectedly (and confusingly) in 1975, and could be seen quite often in his Cambridge neighborhood bicycling or buying the paper and cigarettes. He unfortunately never did see the end of harassment from obsessives, tabloid creeps and nosy reporters who couldn’t accept that Syd Barrett was now just plain old Roger again and wished to be left alone. He stopped answering to Syd decades before his death.

Barrett spent brief stints in institutions during the 1980s, but always on a voluntary basis. In his later years, he was said to have taken up painting, though he simply stacked up the ones he was happy with in his home and never made any moves toward displaying them or regaining a public profile. His recordings, though, leave a legacy that still rings strongly through popular music and likely always will.

(cont.)
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:36 PM   #3
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(cont.)

The Best of Syd Barrett


“Astronomy Domine”
From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The ultimate psych headrush, the structure of “Astronomy Domine” is unlike anything else. It has its verses and its choruses, but the way the music comes together, with Nick Mason’s crashing drums never playing a backbeat, makes the whole thing move along and seem like a series of reactions. Barrett’s guitar will slash out one chord of a pensive rhythm, and then hit it three more times to kick the rest of the band into the groove, almost like starting a pull-chain lawnmower. The lyrics name-checking the moons of Jupiter and the planets are suitably cosmic and abstract, and it’s fair to say that no one, not even Pink Floyd, quite did space rock like this ever again.

“See Emily Play”
Single
The spacey organ and guitar that open the song set an interesting tone for Barrett’s purest pop song-- even when making a song that obviously belonged in the Top 10 position it ultimately occupied, Pink Floyd didn’t quite have their feet on the ground. The sped-up piano bit that follows the first chorus is startling, almost violent, and the guitar solo doesn’t conform to any kind of rock convention, simply twittering away on slowly ascending notes.

“Terrapin”
From The Madcap Laughs
“Terrapin” is one of several songs on the self-consciously titled The Madcap Laughs that approach a sort of music hall feel-- you get the feeling it could have been performed years before Tommy Steele or Cliff Richard ever set foot on a stage. Barrett’s double-tracked vocals are engaged and lucid, even as he sings, “Oh baby, my hair’s on end about you.” The recording accents the sound of his pick hitting the strings of his acoustic guitar more so than the chords he’s playing, and its understated electric guitar wraps around him like a blanket.

“Interstellar Overdrive”
From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Barrett’s “Interstellar Overdrive” riff is genius-- it does really nothing inventive, but feels nonetheless like a plunge headlong into the abyss of noise in the piece’s mid-section (I’ve always wondered if its similarity to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” was coincidental or not). This was waaaaaay out in 1967, and there’s a point where Barrett stays on this nagging note that almost anyone else would have abandoned straightaway. An earlier recording of “Interstellar Overdrive” for the soundtrack to Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London reveals it as a thoroughly elastic piece of music that could take on any number of shapes, but that riff that led in and out like the head of a jazz tune was always there and always distinctively Syd.

“Golden Hair”
From The Madcap Laughs
The lyrics are an adapted James Joyce poem, but Barrett puts his all into this ethereal interpretation. His guitar strumming matches up rhythmically with his plaintive singing, suggesting that he hadn’t really worked out much of an arrangement for it in advance. The addition of vibraphone gives it an exotic edge reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Chapter 24". It’s the most haunting moment on either of his solo albums.

“Lucifer Sam”
From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
“Lucifer Sam” sounds like a spy movie theme shot into orbit. Barrett’s guitar overdubs are full of volume-knob groans, slashing chords and fret noise, while the bowed electric bass solo adds an inspired texture in the middle. Barrett sings forcefully, and the band leaves the song hanging after the final refrain, ending on a completely unresolved note when they could have easily opted for a recapitulation to the song’s descending riff and a fade-out.

“Baby Lemonade”
From Barrett
More fully realized than most of his solo material, “Baby Lemonade” opens with rambling electric guitar, but settles on a bed of organ, finally picking up a solid backbeat that Barrett actually stays in synch with. “I’m screaming/ I met you this way/ you’re nice to me like ice” could be interpreted more ways than one, and there are several references to clowns that could be taken as literal or figurative depending on how you want to read them.

“Candy & A Currant Bun”
B-side
This “Arnold Layne” B-side began life as “Let’s Roll Another One”; Syd grudgingly changed the lyrics to accommodate EMI execs squeamish about such an overt drug reference. They must not have listened very hard to the changes, because Syd gets away with a very clearly enunciated “please just **** with me.” The irony is that, drug reference on the B-side or no, “Arnold Layne” was still banned by the BBC for promoting transvestitism.

“Vegetable Man”
Never officially released
One of perhaps an album’s worth of Barrett-era Floyd songs that never got a proper release, “Vegetable Man” nevertheless has appeared on uncountable bootlegs and practically invented Robyn Hitchcock, who covered it with the Soft Boys. It’s a thriller, too, with a pounding backbeat to support Barrett’s prophetic lyrics: “I’ve been looking all over for a place for me/ But it ain’t anywhere/ It just ain’t anywhere.” The echoing madness of the song’s multiple breakdowns balances the utterly lucid satire of the opening verses, where Barrett discounts the very fashions he’s wearing, ending verse one with “My turquoise waistcoast is quite out of sight/ But oh no!/ My haircut looks so bad.”

“Jugband Blues”
From A Saucerful of Secrets
Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets closes with Syd’s final performance with the band, and it’s a stark, unguarded peek into the soul of a man who was losing his group, his ability to interact normally with others, and most likely a large part of his own personality. “It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here/ And I’m most obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here,” he sings in the intro. The song travels through a nightmarish mid-section featuring a Salvation Army band-- apparently, when the band arrived at the studio, Syd had no parts ready and told them to “just play whatever.” The result is music in conflict with itself, a stunning reflection of internal turmoil. Barrett seems to be referring to “See Emily Play” when he sings “And I love the queen” before asking what dreams and jokes are. He had solo recordings ahead of this, but on this song, Barrett already sounded like a ghost.

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/articl...on_Syd_Barrett
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:37 PM   #4
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If you want to know more about him

The Syd Barrett documentary ‘Crazy Diamond’ (bbc omnibus)
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Old 05-06-2023, 07:34 PM   #5
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Thank you Cali for all these infos !

Here's a version of "Wish You Were Here" by Roger Waters:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4NA1545FRY
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