Saturday, May 21, 2005

Wish You Were Here

The truth behind the myth of the original Crazy Diamond, the errant star of British psychedelia, Syd Barrett. An article based on the investigation made by Cliff Jones, for Mojo Magazine, published in September 1996. The title of the article is "Wish You Were Here." The purpose of this article is to present the investigation made to the personal life and the public life of Syd Barrett. The author refers to Syd as an astral voyager who went too far, and never returned from his journey to inner space. The life of Syd right now is miserable. He's in a private ward at the Adenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. He "lives" almost totally blind, because of diabetes; incapable or unwilling to take the prescribed insulin for his own good. He has often lapsed into diabetic coma, but he is watched by relatives and neighbors.

But none of his colleagues in Pink Floyd have direct contact with him. He suffers from depressions that can last weeks, made for remembering his old days with the Floyd. He's been remembered by many people as a confused mind and an unhappy individual. His wild world continues to delight liisteners and his life influenced the work of Pink Floyd during all the time they last and beyond. There's been 30 years after his brief creative shining, the cult of Barrett continues to fascinate new generations. That's why the Floyd recorded their tribute album titled "Whish You Were Here."

The story goes like this: Roger Keith Barrett was the youngest of three sons and the fourth of five children. His parents were Dr. Arthur Max Barrett and Winifred. All of them were musicians, Syd played piano duets with his younger sister Rosemary. At age 11, Syd had his first proper guitar, and his house was a place were all the kids interested in rock and blues music would met. That place was also were he was introduced to "a proficient 14-year-old guitarist" named David Gilmour. At age 15, in 1961, Roger "Syd" acqured his first electric guitar, and started attending to the local Riverside Jazz Club. In this club was were he got his nickname "Syd" after an ancient local drummer Sid Barrett, he only took of the "i" for "y" to distinguish himself from his namesake.

In 1965, Syd formed a band with Roger Waters on bass, Nick Mason on drums, jazz guitarist Bob Klose, pianist Rick Wright and blues singer Chris Dennis; and he came out with the Pink Floys name after two Georgia bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Their first gig, almost entirely compromising old blues and R&B tunes, was late in 1965. Meanwhile other Cambrigde friends had been experimenting with vial of pure liquid LSD-25. One of them was Nigel Gorgon, he said that he was anxious to initiate Syd into the new wonder of the new drug. They were all seeking higher elevation and wanted everyone to experience that incredible drug. When Syd had his first dose, and started getting more into it, he was self-obsessed and uptight in many ways that his friends thought it was a good idea. Now that they think back, they understand that Syd wasn't equipped to deal with the experience because he was unstable to begin with. Syd was a very simple person who was having very profound experiences that he found it hard to deal with.

The author explains thta when Syd "came down from his trip" he was convinced that he had encountered the full majesty of the universe and began to search for a way to express what he'd seen in his music. Barrett and his friends would spend subsequent weekends smoking dope and experimenting with LSD. But Syd, more than anyone else, was always experimenting , a very open sort of mind, empirical to an almost dangerous degree. His explorations into free jazz and druggy pop were much less contrived by those of other would-be psychedelicists of the time. Syd saw art and music as complementary and he was always trying to get his music to sound like art and vice versa. He began to use his guitar more as an effect generator than merely device for playing chords and solos. Nearly all the songs recorded with Syd were written over the six month period before they turned professional in January 1967.

His songs were full fairy-tale images. After his father died, childhood became a refuge for Syd when the rude intrusions of the adult world became unbearable. Recording began almost immediately after signing to EMI in March 1967. Though Syd was still lucid and maintained a strong artistic control, he was, by the end of the sessions, becoming more withdraw and difficult to communicate with. One of the producers named George Martin said: "When I look back I wonder how we ever managed to get anything done." Syd was undisciplined and would simply never sing the same thing twice. Trying to talk with him was like talking to a brick wall because the face was so expressionless. His lyrics were child-like and he was a child in many ways; up one minute, down the next.

Rick Wright, pianist of the Floyd, said that for him is sad to see what happened to Syd. "Syd could have easily been on the finest songwriters around today." But as time was passing, Syd was surrounded by proselytizing acid converts and their endless supply of drugs, Syd traveled further into inner space. The poor guy didn't know whether he was awake or dreaming. And he never had the chance to re-establish reality. Too bad that nobody in the band had the 'guts' to help him. Nobody wished to be uncool and take him away from those circumstances. "See Emily Play" was the last time Syd was focused and together, this was in 1967. Although by the time a third single was due, Syd's swift decline into schizophrenia had begun and no-one could do anything to stop it. Syd knew exactly what was happening to him but was powerless to stop it. His first taste of failure was when "Apples And Oranges failed to chart. This flippancy masked a deep fear that his talents were fading. Both managers and the band had tried to take Syd to see a psychiatrist, but Dr. Laing pronounced him incurable.

Jones explains that with Syd incapable of writing and no obvious contender to take his place, the band attempted to record together, but eventually realized it was impossible to contiue without Syd in the band. And it was Waters in particular, who had had enough of the insanity and told Syd that he was no longer welcome in the sessions. Syd's behavior was even more bizarre. With acid on the menu everyday, things got further out of control. Syd would sit in the reception area where the band used to record, clutching his guitar, waiting to be invited into the sessions. Eventually he stopped waiting. As Syd began his sabbatical from reality, Waters assumed control. In 1969, Syd announced he was ready to record again; but little of the music was usable, so Gilmour offered his help. Dave knew Syd was beyond help and seeing that really hurt him. In 1970 "The Madcap Laughs" came out with Dave's help. They planned to continue working, but the sessions were sticky for Barrett. Syd's career was over. Sightings of the Crazy Diamond since has been rare and bizarre.

His constant diet of hallucinogenics resulted initially in accelerated creativity but soon prompted the onset of Syd's permanent removal from normality.
"Down the years bigger stars then Barret have acknowledged his immense influence upon them, provoking continued interest. But, amid much speculation, no-one has satisfactorily explained whether Syd's fragile genius would have endured if LSD hadn't intervened or if it was doomed anyway by the pressure of the fame. But Syd himself gave a clue in 1971. 'All I ever wanted to do as a kid was play guitar properly and jump around, but too many people got in the way'." The only thought that comes to my mind is that how much envy or jelousy Syd's friends had towards him, that they wanted to make him initiate into drugs. With those kinds of friends, no-one wish to have enemies.


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