I’ve tried to decode and understand the life of the elusive enigma that was Syd Barrett, for a very long time. I was immediately drawn to his music from the moment I first heard it and watched documentary after documentary and read numerous articles on him in an attempt at trying to understand who he really was and what he went through. In my mind Pink Floyd’s best ever album was their first, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Meddle and then Darkside in that order.
Although the band did oust Barrett shortly after deeming him an ‘acid casualty’, which must’ve been a bit hard on Syd. However, part of me thinks that what he inherently wanted exactly that. A genius on the guitar as mentioned by Waters and a bit reclusive as well, it’s hard to guage Barret for a third person. Syd had done too much of the stuff as per various accounts, although I do not know exactly how much acid he took and how frequently he tripped, the dosage back then was much stronger than it is nowadays. Back in the 60’s acid was everywhere and as a number of voyagers ignited their pineal glands in amazement, taking too much, too frequently could have repercussions, which in Barrett’s case could have been the reason he ‘lost the plot’ or whatever Roger Waters tries to put into words.
Yet there is an inner warmth about Syd, he didn’t like the limelight, he was supremely talented and for him, it was more about finding a bit of peace amidst all this chaos, or at least that’s what my intuition about the man tells me. But when you take a lot of the ‘heroic dose’ you need to be in the right frame of mind or else it could go wrong. Through my college years and my personal experiences with LSD, I can say for a fact that I could only do it back then because I had the brash bravery of my youth – I can’t do that anymore and quite frankly I’m a bit scared to.
Syd was a gallant soul, and while he may have ‘reached for the secret too soon’ and ‘cried for the moon’, he does live on and ‘shining on like a crazy diamond’ even after his death.
There is this alternative theory I found online describing Syd Barret as a synaesthete. It’s a very eye-opening article that delves into what Barret’s real mental state could have been like.
Read the article here: http://incorrectpleasures.blogspot.in/2009/11/interesting-case-of-syd-barrett-for.html
Without delving into too much of what went wrong with Syd, this post uncovers the lost drawings and poems Syd wrote back when he was young and Pink Floyd were recording Piper At The Gates of Dawn at Abbey Road. It reveals a bit about Syd, as a human being. And I want to humanise the man as much as possible because of all the outcast and crazy person tags. He was in the end, just like us, a slightly troubled – human being.
1. Letter To Jen
To start things off here is a letter Syd( or Roger which was his real name) Barrett wrote to his girlfriend at the time whom he called Jen.
This little letter is so touching, especially how he starts out by calling her ‘a little dish’. He goes on to explain how the recording of the album went and how he didn’t quite enjoy it as much. He can’t draw himself and just leaves a haze of lines and scratches instead of a head and a body. “I am a bit fed up with everything today and I want to be in Cambridge or Greece but not in London where all I do is spend money and travel. The sun is shining though” he ends, “Love Roger(his real name).”
2. Early childhood drawing – Waiting for hot water to turn cold
Syd Barrett probably messed up the water heater at his childhood home and he writes, “Mum was very cross. She hit me. I cried” We’ve all been hit at some time by our parents and those memories stay with you. Syd was a kid just like all of us and one with hopes, dreams and ambitions.
3. Let Me Draw Some Pictures
I particularly like this small note and drawing by Syd, he writes, “A retch goez to school with his paints in a vase while all sleep and are not bothered”, probably hinting that he would much rather be sleeping and not bothered, highlighting his eternal struggle to find peace and not be troubled.
He continues the picture with probably Jen and scribbles “A retch thoghts” and “very rave walking ahead”.
He was quite a puzzling human being who perhaps wasn’t at peace with himself.
4. Syd Barrett painting of himself
5. Poem and Art – “The Self Divided”
I cannot understand what he means here but maybe it’s his demons and problematic mind yanking him between peace and suffering. The divided self, self divided. Very intriguing.
This is a beautiful charcoal sketch of tea by Syd Barrett.
Theres a lot more of his art which you can see here on his official website as I head on to the poetry he wrote.
I suggest you click the link and browse through it
Link to Syd’s notebook art: http://www.sydbarrett.com/art/notebooks
The poem was written in 1965, and features an original drawing by Barrett.
The full text of the poem is:
Little Twig isn’t big
To you, but she is
But however I don’t like it
When she makes faces.
And she seldom talks
When we go to places
And meet people
And sit around.
But she prances at dances
Gets crushes, takes chances
With boys. Wears a hat
No shoes, and they flatter her
Madly. What of that?
Neat, maroon, blue and white
Lace and chord, velvet. Might
Even keep her coat on if its right.
2. A Rooftop Song In a Thunderstorm Row Missing The Point
Here are my two favourite Syd Barrett albums. Have a listen to the wizard of Cambridge!
THE MADCAP LAUGHS
His legacy will live on forever and despite all the various friends, links and articles suggesting that ‘drugs made his mind a carrot’ and so on. He will always be a gentle soul and a human being that couldn’t quite exorcise his demons enough to find some solace and peace before he died or maybe he did in spurts. He will live on. The man, the myth the legend that was Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett.
Read more about his life here
RIP Syd Barrett.