From a purely objective standpoint, Roger Keith Barrett really didn't do that much in his short musical career. Well, at least quantitatively, that is. As detailed on my Pink Floyd page, after producing the masterpiece Piper at the Gates of Dawn, his acid-drenched mind began to go awry beyond all hope of repair. Hence, the band really had no choice but to let him go and to attempt to forge an identity for themselves (which, needless to say, they pulled off pretty well).
But Syd was not about to disappear. Upon his forced exit from Floyd, the majority of the band's benefactors left as well, since they felt that a Barrett-less Pink had virtually no chance of survival. But the other side of this gamble was that Syd would have to produce the goods in such a way as to make their investment pay off. Little could they have comprehended what would come ...
You see, if you are hoping for a successor to the crazy feedback experiments and astral jams of Piper, you will be sorely disappointed. The vast majority of his guitar playing is acoustic, and even when he did pick up the electric and coaxed some noise out of it, it rarely would knock you out of your seat the way something like "Astronomy Domine" would. No, the main emphasis in his solo work is on the silly lyrics and playful melodies of things like "Matilda Mother" and "The Gnome." But therein lies the rub! The playful songs on Piper are downright normal compared to the stuff on his solo projects! You see, when Syd was in the studio, he was coming up with ideas almost every second, including in the middle of the actual recording process. He would out of nowhere change tempo, sing off-key, you name it. And needless to say, this made it extremely difficult for him to be backed up by studio musicians. Add it all up, and you have an experience which might not be perfect musically, but is almost always fascinating.
Anyways, in the period of about a year, he released two solo albums, one of which is a minor masterpiece and both of which have amassed Syd a sizeable cult following to this day. Also, in 1989 a collection of outtakes made it to the market, and that shall be reviewed here as well.
rose destephano (greenhousegal2000.yahoo.com)
Hi there! I was just surfing the Net and was searching for Syd Barrett and saw your page. Read it, saw 'send your thoughts' and thought I would. Nothing to say really, other than I am glad somebody out there besides me likes him. I know this sounds crazy, but you would not believe how many people dont have a clue who he is. (EVERYBODY knows Pink Floyd but has no clue about one of the original members-that strikes me as odd).
I wish he was still doing something musically, if not for the masses something for us who would love to hear something new from the twisted (and I mean that in a flattering sense) madcap.(By the way, was that a name he made up or was it something that the label decided to call him/the album?)
We listen to Syd as well as a good bit of Pink Floyd on just about a daily basis. I would have to say out of all the Floyd albums I like The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I have never heard anything so neat and individual before or since. My husband told me about the Bike song when we were dating, as well as the Black and Green Scarecrow. I thought in the back of my mind, oooooook! But when I heard them, it was like, ok, this is neat. And the album really grew on me. Syd solo is always good listening. I find it neither too stimulating or threatening,never vulgar,always light (even in the more somber songs) and delightfully British.I like to paint and do things that require inspiration when listening to Barrett. (Floyd as well,but not as much as with Barrett). The way everything panned out for him is stark reality that everything doesnt always come up roses, even if you are in the limelight,as reading a bio of him clearly suggests. I suppose he possibly set the tone for himself,but I would imagine with all the goings on it would be hard to learn the word 'moderation'. He really did tatoo his brain all the way!
Now , as far as I know, he gardens, something I do a lot of myself. Even though I am female and was born a few decades after he hit the first plateau, I still have a connection with his songs, how he felt,sometimes in the middle of tons of people, feeling alone. You may get this a lot, how is he, do you know? I hope he is well.
Felicia Davis-Burden (feliciadavis_burden.hotmail.com)
i think about him a lot. I have actually seen him walking and riding his bike in Cambridge and, all things considered, he looks quite well. The eyes are a give-away, dark and serious.
The first time I saw him it was a shock, but there was also a feeling of warmth. He's OK, he's got his life together, he has his own routines. Good luck to him, and I wish that all our lives could be as simple, gentle and 'together' as his seems to be now.
Listening to the music always brings forth mixed feelings. He was frighteningly talented. You only have to hear 'See Emily Play' to hear that. But listen to the terror of 'Jugband Blues' and 'Dark Globe' and try to forget what you've just heard. Not possible. The Barrett catalogue is both inspired and disturbing to explore - and utterly unique. I wish him well.
What I think of Syd Barrett, is for him to be well. How I feel for his songs, is that I can listen to them all the time, without getting bored and that I owe him a favor for those songs. What I think for his songs, is that the songs in the almost four albums that can be formed with his songs (including his workn with Pink Floyd and his verious "stray songs") are far better and more inspired than all the songs together in all the rest Pink Floyd Albums from their second album up to now (I do not exagerate on this). Especially for people who like the blues (as I do), Barrett songs are most welcomed, as in his songs (all of them) Barretts blues roots are there (among others). Always people who give high quality pleasure to others through art and espesially music, are to be loved forever.
I love Syd Barrett, and his music. He has that appeal to me that i basically love anything he does. I agree with the above posters that yes, we should all wish Syd well, and we should never forget his wonderful music he created before he decided to just stop playing. Most people think of him as just "that former front man whom went crazy", but really, he was an outstanding songwriter. I love how usually Syd would use just a guitar and voice to record his ideas, like on those acoustic tracks on Madcap to "Opel" and stuff like that. He really inspired me further to think that wonderful songs like the aforementioned "Opel" or "Dark Globe" or "If It's In You" doesnt need this huge pretentious backing or presisely layered tracks to be amazing songs.
Syd Barrett has to be the coolest person that ever lived. Everything about him was innnovative; his songs, his look, his guitar-playing. There was no one like him at the time. Just think of all the music today that is directly influenced by Barrett; all those indie guitar groups, a certain David Bowie, and even Radiohead. Robert Smith of the Cure has even admitted to stealing Syd's hair-do. As much as I like Pink Floyd, I honestly believe that they never again matched the excitement, the freshness, and pure originality that was their days with Barrett.
JOSEPH HIGLER (joehigler.msn.com) (2/09/02)
Hi - I just listened to Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs for the first time yesterday, and am amazed. Its apparent to me that the songs were written by someone who is heart-broken, as if rejected by a lover. Then, after listening to the cd over and over I figured out that he's singing mostly about Roger Waters. While I'm not homosexual, Songs like Terrapin, No Good Trying and Long Gone, and even Golden Hair give it away - not to mention Love You. In Long Gone, Syd sings "She" and in No Good Trying he sings "her" meaning Roger Waters, (who he used to know, who is now not unlike a whore). Listening to the songs with this in mind give the songs even more hearfelt depth. It must suck to think you know someone and they're possibilities, when to your dismay they not only reject you as a lover, but go on to become a shell of what they used to be as they reap a vast fortune in the process.
This cd is remarkable both musically and lyrically. Musically you get more feeling from these songs than just about any post-Syd Pink Floyd song - mainly because these songs are from the heart. Lyrically, he uses shitloads of gay imagery in such a beautiful artistic way that it's not at all easy to discern it(i.e. ...Stallion Horse(No Good Trying), ...the bigger they come the larger her hand so that nobody understands....(Long Gone)). It's more than obvious to me that Syd is a creative genius, who, while appearing crazy to most, still suffers alone with a broken heart.
The more I think about it, a few of the songs forshadow the way a typical grating Roger Waters song sounds. Maybe one day Waters will realize what a rock-slut he's become, and give credit to his inspiration and former lover who used to share an apartment with him in the old days, Syd Barrett.
What do I think about Syd Barrett.....hmmm....well, I might hesitate slightly to put the label of genius on him. Crazy, yes.....and that usually leads to interesting music. But I wouldn't hold it against someone for calling him genius, either. He's done some pretty great stuff. As for Joesph Higler and anyone who believes him, I don't know where he's getting the idea that Syd is a homosexual, but I kinda think he's probably not. Not that I can find concrete proof that he's not, but I think Joseph is going out on a pretty far limb. Yeah, a song called "Flaming" has the line "sitting on a unicorn" ha ha.....but I'm leaning way more towards his depression being related to his drug use/insanity rather than being dumped by Roger Waters. Besides, Roger looks like a horse.
Kristian L (6/15/03)
I don't listen much Pink Floyd, but for some reason I've developed an
interest on Syd Barrett. I've looked up information about him from the
web. His songs are very nice.
His fate seems tragic but very interesting.
Steven Karels (stevenk.charter.net) (8/10/03)
Im a psychology student, and i love the Floyd. I think Syd's breakdon was caused by mental predispositions, and the predisposition of shizophrenia was only multiplied by his abuse of acid. He is not to blame for his breakdown, as shizophrenia is a very legitimate disease. The only possible blame he can take is for his over use of acid, and the probable reason for his attraction to acid was its creativity expanding capabilities. I admire Syd's creativity, and praise him for the amount of music he gratefully shared with us.
When young and thrown into the spot light for millions to examine in,Barretts case, would be extreamly difficult to handle for someone like him. I believe a lot of his songs were based on an acid trip.This was facinating to the culture of his time because all of them were on a trip themselfs. No one really knew what he was talking about, when he really wasnt for sure himself. This, I believe ,drove Barrett even more off the wall and led to him quiting the band that wasnt up to par with his world. I have yet to here anything from his solo albums but am very excited to hear what LSD had to say in Barrets calm state. Im sure its pretty mad. I dont think anyone like him will ever be calm in this world.
"Thompson, Rife" (Rife.Thompson.msfc.nasa.gov) (4/07/04)
greetings to all readers. i have been a great fan of syd barrett since i was in highschool. i was introduced to piper at the gates of dawn and went and bought it immediately. i remember it was on a red plastic cassette. we would have activities in the gym every so often, and one day we had rolller scates provided to us to scate. there was a DJ there to play music too. i had my piper tape with me and i offered it up to be played. i was thrilled to have the opportunity to scate to it at the time. i will never forget by the time lucifer sam came on and was in full swing it was immediately ejected from the player and the DJ (if you can call him that) said what is this? over the mic. he was not impressed.
this is most often the case with his music in my experience unfortunately. my affair with early pink floys continued throughout high-school and into college. it was at this point that i happened upon a copy of "barrett" his second and last record. i bought it. this was on LP of course. I thought pink floyd was as out there as you could get but i knew nothing at this point. these songs have such charm and true intimate emotion. I have always been impressed with his seemingly off rythmic measure and combine that with those lyrics. it is transcendant at times. needless to say i own all of his LPs at this point. (all original UK pressings too)
it needs to be stated that i am a musician. i play the guitar and assorted other intruments. my style has been forever engraved with the raw interstellar stylings of mr. barrett. it is one thing to listen to his records. i have played and recorded many of his tunes and let me say that it is another thing all together to play his rhythm and sing his lyrics without completely losing track of either the next verse or next set of chord changes at some point. this must be accomplished to gain a full understanding (or as close as one could come) to his real place in these songs.
he has and continues to be a source of inspiration to me and my musical/artistic development. i will always have his music in my mind and in my heart. thank you syd.
Misfit666punk78 (cny48364.centurytel.net) (4/04/07)
Until just recently I had not heard of there ever being a Syd Barrett. I picked up a copy of Mojo ( a U.K. music magazine) last week and as I was reading on about all of LSD's craziest moments in Rock 'n' Roll history and there was a story about Syd. Now I'd consider myself to have a little bit of knowledge about classic rock and I was upset at how little I really knew about Pink Floyd. I'm sure this is the same thing that anyone who has just found out that there was actually an alternate genius to this awesome rock band but I loved Dark side of the moon and The wall and I didn't even know they were around in 1967.
I have always been more of a Doors fan and am totally obsessed w/ Morrisons mind. Syd Barrett and Jim could have possibly made some interesting music together. From what I have read of him so far he seemed to be way ahead of his time and a complete genius. W/out him we would never have had the great albums that followed even if he could no longer be a part of, for obvious reasons. I have never heard thier first record but that is definitly going to be a part of my collection soon. It's really to bad that he didn't last a little longer, but then there wouldn't be this so called witness to a mental breakdown and surge of psychedelic creativity.
I really have to give most of the credit to Roger waters and David Gilmore though.Sorry Syd fans. But for them to have come as far as they have w/out this guy is incredible. So I guess I'll be doing a little more research on these guys then maybe I'll have a better knowledge.
Nathan "Sakai" Schulz (TheIronChefPresident.gmail.com) (10/11/04)
I very much enjoy the Syd Barrett music that I have. Unfortunately, I don't have any proper albums, all I could find around my area (I live in the Chicago area too) was "Wouldn't You Miss Me? The Best Of Syd Barrett." Fortunately though, I was able to download "Love You" and the superior take 1 of "Dark Globe" not featured on the compilation.
I am surprised that you didn't mention "Late Night" as a highlight of Madcap. I adore this song. Syd's gentle melodic singing and the (3?) slide guitars create a fragile but beautiful melody. In general though, I prefer songs like "Late Night" where Barrett laid down the most essential tracks (In this case the slide guitars) as opposed to songs like "No Good Trying," where Syd put faith in the Soft Machine to articulate his ideas (Although "No Good Trying" is still a highlight). I just prefer these songs because they greater reflect Syd's vision.
Thanks for the great review of Syd Barrett!
Patrick Odonnell (podonnell.nmhcrx.com) (10/19/04)
Syd never really left pink floyd. Isnt the wall about him, as well as shine on you crazy diamond, as well as If and a host of other pink tunes.What is the theme behind dark side of the moon (madness) one could say pink floyd was still living of barretts image through there whole run, either that or they exploited some poor mental patient.
Ha ha he he.This is funny, that person who thinks syd is gay is well off the mark im sorry but he isnt, he had girlfriends and its well documented.I even heard a story he asked a girl to drop her knickers or something.Sitting on a unicorn, stallion horse ha ha he he quite funny how about tiny eyes and great big trunk its not true, joseph if you ever see this you are wrong so please rearrange your thoughts and let me know through this wonderful website.Oh and the girls that say they like barrett im quite surprised, the girls i know hate him they think hes good looking but they hate bike.And the person who says morrison and barrett working together now that would be great the doors are my second favourate band after the beatles and ive never thought of it but i will now, ciao!!!
"Ryan, the best there ever was" (evil_monkey.allegiance.tv) (05/28/06)
I think Syd Barrett is auesome but misunderstood. If we all took a moment too look over his LSD abuse and all the other stuff we would find a misguided genius.
marsha faizi (MKFaizi.msn.com) (08/06/06)
Syd Barrett was the innovator. Not the best guitarist. Not the best singer. Not even the best song writer.
But he was the inventor of psychedelic sound. His stamp also remains on all of the work of Pink Floyd -- the band that he named and that he lead toward a very big imprint on modern music. My son is just turned sixteen. He is a guitarist with many friends who are guitarists. They all aspire to Pink Floyd.
If not for Syd Barrett, the Pink Floyd sound would not have evolved.
It was always about Syd. It is still about Syd. Pink Floyd will always be about Syd.
Pedro Andino (pedroandino.msn.com) (01/13/07)
he will be dearly missed.
Pedro Andino (pedroandino.msn.com) (06/23/07)
why does every artist die in 5 seconds? WHY????????????????????????? I GOT FUCKING TEARS IN MY EYES AND WHEN I SEE A JOHNNY CASH VIDEO MY MOTHER BAWLED LIKE CRAZY! JOHN, CHANGE THE GRADE FROM 1 TO 5. like I said early he will be dearly missed.
Daniel Bosch (bicycle_legs.optusnet.com.au) (10/13/07)
I won't comment on the albums individually, but will say this about Syd - sad, so sad. Some of the songs on these albums are great, but when I listen to them what I hear is a genius songwriter mentally falling apart. And that breaks my heart. Syd is at peace now. Thank God he left us with "Piper" to show what he was capable of before the disintegration set in.
As I said, some great music, but I cannot listen to it without thinking of the tragedy that was Syd Barrett.
MATT CONSTANTINE (01/13/09)
Just want to point out to some of the people in the general comments section - Joseph Higler did not say that Syd was gay (we all know he wasn't!). Using homosexual imagery in a lyric or whatever - and I'm prepared to believe there is some, even if JH exaggerated it - does not in itself make someone homosexual!
By the way, Two Of A Kind is now known to have been written by Rick Wright, not Syd.
"Greg Bugay" (greg.bugay.imsbarter.com) (07/13/09)
Syd didn't do much!?!?!?!?! I am sending you twenty five cents so you can buy a clue, OK? Skip the solo records, those are for "NUT JOBS" like me. "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" IS psychedelic. Sgt Pepper is too commercial (Revolver is better anyway!). I suppose you don't like Love's "Forever Changes" or the brilliant Pretty Things' "S.F. Sorrow"? No one sounded like Syd, played like him, dressed like him or wrote like him. Even Pete Brown, the Cream's lyricist said "There would have been no "White Room" w/out Syd. They still pay homage to him(i.e. Page, Bowie wanted to play with him!) & the guy had done nothing for 30+ years until his death. What really gets me is the "Syd loony stories" that are half bullshit & told by people who were more zonked out than he was. Read Tim Willis' book, you'll learn a few things. I've read some of your other work & thought it truly written well, but you missed the boat on this one.
(author's note): I emailed Greg back and pointed out that I only was referring to the quantity of his output, not of anything else. The following response was then sent.
On that you're right. My apologies then & I did think you wrote a great article. Nice to see a writer who looks at the talent instead of all the B.S. that's been written about him.
Philip Thurlbourn (riverlily.icloud.com) (05/13/16)
Syd was a genius, a master craftsman in everything he undertook. I think his striving for Perfection made him what he was. I can reasonably understand why the remaining members Of the band abandoned him, Shades of Brian Jones methinks. However, those who carried On should be eternally grateful that they had both the fortitude and the drive to do so. Most bands would have folded having lost their master. I dare say that Syd is happily Plying his trade somewhere on another Astral plane. May he rest in peace.
Best song: Octopus
The most important thing to realize going into listening to this album the first couple of times is that Syd Barrett really *was* a talented songwriter, and that even without his total mental breakdown he still would have amassed a pretty decently sized following. There are quite a few melodies and chord sequences here that would have worked just fine in a normal setting, with a lyrical combination of playfulness and self-confession that would make quite an impact on their own. The opening "Terrapin" is a great example of this, as it's a rather gentle acoustic ballad that combines playful (and only somewhat nonsensical) lyrics about being a swimming fish and simple (but still kinda clever to my ears) boy-girl lyrics like, "Well oh baby my hair's on end about you." Simple and poppy, yes, but high quality simple-and-poppy, if you ask me.
But of course, it's not the normal aspects of the album alone that ultimately draw people here, but rather the way in which they provide a context for the train wreck of Syd's mind. "Terrapin," by having such 'regular' appeal, is an extremely deceptive opener, as the evidence for this album's weirdness reputation begins in full force with track two. Witness the dark aggressive (and outright disturbing) cacophony of "No Good Trying", whose most revealing moment is the line about the person Syd is singing to spinning around in a car while lights are flashing all around. Witness the hilariously catchy up-tempo, nonsensical "Love You," where Syd and Co. conjure up a vaguely Kinksy piano number and let it linger in the astral plane just long enough to totally screw it up (meant in a good way). Witness ESPECIALLY when Syd's performance (singing, lyrics, guitar, everything) goes totally off the deep end in "Octopus," all culminating in the ecstatic chanting of, "Please leave us here! Close our eyes to the octopus riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!!!" And so on.
The easiest way, for me at least, to categorize the rest of the album is to divide it into "lucid" and "less lucid." The less lucid parts sometimes happen within the songs themselves (like the weird mumbling freak-out in the second half of "No Man's Land"), but the most frightening one comes when Roger Waters and David Gilmour (the producers) share an outtake from right before Syd's 'proper' rendition of "If It's In You," where Syd starts into the number and ends up hideously off-key in singing, "Yes I'm thiiiiiiiiiiiNNNNNNNNNNKing" and follows by mumbling only semi-coherently. Poor, poor, Syd.
What makes his collapse even more frightening and sad in my mind, though, is the ways the lucid moments show he was fully aware of it. "Dark Globe" is playful and has somewhat off-key vocals, yes, but those are serious chills down my back when he sings, "Won't you miss me? Wouldn't you miss me at aaaallllllll??" Those chills stay when I hear Syd longing for a girl in "Here I Go," in the mournful "Long Gone," and even when he's slowly singing James Joyce poetry to an elementary melody.
Beyond these, there are some songs that aren't really that super, and that kinda negate my original hopes that, even in the wake of such heavy drug abuse, his songwriting abilities would remain completely unscathed. But really, I don't think that's the point. This is an album that can be extremely enjoyable at points, yes, but it's also very sad, and more than that really has no parallel in music of which I'm aware. It's messy, it's playful, it's sad ... it's Syd. And Syd was great, despite himself. This is why I like this album terribly much, despite that I almost never bring it out. If you don't like it, I can understand, but you must also understand that those of us who do like it get a feel from it that's largely indescribable, and thus you should not condemn us or this album.
PS: Somehow, I left out mention of the album's second best song, the closing "Late Night." It's probably the best example on the album of a semi-coherent love song, one that had a great song at its core but got tweaked more than a bit by being filtered through Syd's mind. It brings a tear to my eye each time I hear it.
i love syd's voice in piper.....i bought his solo albums, and only a
few songs were good........drugs really played into it.....but, i
love "baby lemonade"........my opinion.......roger, david, and rick
all took what syd brought to the table, and used his influence to the
max.......thats why i'll always be a syd fan........
Joshua Pennington (flurbygurby.gmail.com) (02/13/12)
Man this review of Syd's work is a total joke... It's so sad that people still buy into the hype about all the "Syd's Crazy" bullshit. You should check your facts next time before writing such a shoddy piece next time. Syd's solo albums are fucking amazing in every way. The songs are great. Just as good as anything he did with Floyd. This is anything but a document of someone losing their mind - read Peter Jenner's "The Making of the Madcap Laughs." He's the guy who produced it along with Waters & Gilmour. "Lucid & Less Lucid"? Late Nite you found "incoherent"? Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it doesn't make sense. The lyrics on Madcap Laughs reach a level of poetry & meaning rarely achieved in music of any time period. Read the excellent "Untangleling the Octopus" for insight into that particular track's many facets of meaning & its many literary references to the English poetic tradition. You will be floored by what you so casually dismissed as so much crack-brained nonsense. You seem disappointed that it didn't sound like Piper yourself. Yes Madcap shows a whole different side of Syd than we got to see with the Floyd. It's arrangements are sparse & stark. The sound is stripped down & raw. Oh one funny comment you made ( I almost forgot) - you single out the false start of "If its In You" as if this is some sure proof that he ways out of control. Do you know how common it is to make a mistake like that in the studio? You just don't get to her them often because they usual cut those off the album. Funny that you would mention something so trivial as to prove your assertion & at the same time ignore beautiful tracks like "Long Gone" & "Golden Hair". Two of the best songs on the album & proof that Syd is at his absolute peak as an artist & songwriter on this album. What about the dark proto death rock rocker "No Man's Land"? What about "Here I Go"? Another amazing fucking song. And that's what this album is about, the SONGS. It's not about a bunch of flashy guitar solos or production effects - its the amazingly beautiful songs & the heartfelt way & truthfulness they're performed with. I can't think of an album more hauntingly beautiful. It's late & I think you get the point so I'm not even gonna get started on Barrett or Opel but ya man you really dropped the ball on this review.
Albert Snodgrass (bernard.paulusrex.plus.com) (12/13/17)
In response to Joshua Pennington’s comment, at the risk of sounding like yet another annoying pedant I would like to point out that aside from Diamond Dave & Smiling Rog occupying the producer’s chair(s), the remainder of ‘The Madcap Laughs’ was produced by the late Malcolm Jones (then currently also head of Harvest Records) who also authored the ‘Making Of The Madcap Laughs’ pamphlet. Peter Jenner was the producer of the aborted recording sessions that took place prior to the recording of ‘Madcap’ which spawned such infamous tracks as ‘Rhamadan’ and the like.
Best song: Dominoes (I guess)
Hmmmm .... Well, upon first listen, this might seem to actually be a better album than Madcap. The compositions are as zany as ever, with playful lyrics and simply bizarre melodies. Also, the backup band here (including Gilmour and Wright) has made sure to augment Syd's wackiness with some actual, solid arrangements. Sounds all good, right?
Well, no actually, it doesn't. The album may theoretically sound like an improvement over Madcap, but the problem is that it "improves" on Madcap in exactly the wrong way. Barrett's mental condition had only gotten worse since Madcap, which shows itself in some of the lyrics getting even nuttier than before, yet instead of emphasizing that aspect of Syd (which was very arguably just as crucial to his shtick as the actual songs were), Gilmour and Wright tried to mask this and make him appear as a relatively normal singer-songwriter (ha). Even more irritating is that the way they went about this was to make it sound somewhat like the contemporary Floyd albums (which I quite like, mind you), but with only about a tenth of the creative energy that went into Atom Heart Mother. The best example of this is the otherwise quite decent "Gigolo Aunt," where Wright spends what seems like forever after the main song has ended puttering with one of the most boring organ jams I can possibly conceive. Yet even when the Floyders aren't outright stealing time from Syd (like with the album's rolling 12-string guitar intro, which is nice but has absolutely nothing to do with what Barrett could do at the time), the dull organy arrangements often sound totally incompatible with Syd's childish ramblings, and that's bothersome to me.
It's especially saddening to me that a good number of the songs here are right on the level of the best stuff from Madcap, and that I consequently somewhat long for the Soft Machine to come back and trip over themselves trying to follow Syd's nuttiness. The opening triad of "Baby Lemonade," "Love Song" and "Dominoes" are terrific melody-wise, and "Dominoes" is even nice enough to have some chaotic sliding guitar noise softly happening in the background that adequately reminds us that we're listening to freaking Syd Barrett and not Jimmy Buffett. I'm also a big fan of "Wined and Dined," which likely would have been a hit in the hands of a less cultish artist, with a simple-but-effective main melody that can't help but stick in my head for hours on end after hearing it. And, now that I think about it, "Waving My Arms in the Air" is a nice little ditty too.
Unfortunately, the signs of serious decline are apparent over much of the rest of the album. Some of the songs are just kinda dull, but without the kind of eccentricity that showed up in the second half of Madcap. And then there's "Rats" and "Wolfpack," the two instances where Syd's madness are shown totally uncut. I know it's hypocrisy to have complained that the rest of the album made an attempt to mask his madness, and then to complain when the producer doesn't mask it, but these tracks don't show a genius turning into a madman; they just show a madman. It's an important part of his legacy, yes, but only as the sad conclusion to his decline.
So in short, this here is one massively uneven album. It helps considerably that it ends with a song that Syd wrote when he was 12, called "Effervescing Elephant," which puts his silly ditty skills on display front and center, but one clear dose of genius does not an album make. I give it an 8 because there are quite a few nice gems on here, but unless you're already a big fan of Madcap, it's hard for me to give it a serious recommendation.
Hey great website!
I generally agree with your assessment of the problems with "Barrett", but have to disagree with your dismissal of "Wolfpack" and "Rats". Clearly they're quite nuts, but I find them brilliant, in their own nutty way, as is "Maisy".
John R. Longyear (john.longyear.verizon.net) (12/02/07)
I'm always amazed at how a poem or a set of lyrics appears copied and pasted on a zillion websites in exactly the same sequence of words. Case in point: Wolfpack by Syd Barrett. I'm sure, for some unsure reason, that the lyrics universally attributed to Syd are incorrectly transcribed. So often written as "...and the leader is seen - so early... the pack on their backs, the fighters" I hear as "and the leader is seen. SWIRLING, the pack on their backs, the BITERS", which I think was put there to emphasize the viceral nature of the narrator's experience more so than that "so early" and "the fighters" nonsense. Anyway, that's my two cents on one of the neatest examples of what I like to call a "word-lock" poem - a synergy produced by a series of images created through the medium of flowing language - not just the meanings of words, but the sound produced by the language is the closest I can come to describing it.
"Eric" (peck712.blueyonder.co.uk) (10/13/10)
OK its all simply a matter of personal taste but I must say my bit about the song
"Rats". I love this track, particularly the bare version on the album "Opel". (The
"Barrett" version suffers a clumsy backing track that distracts, more than
embellises). & those great lines...
"we don't need you - we act like that
if you think you're unloved - well we know about that"
Peace & Love? I don't think so! Punk? Maybe.
Whatever, it is in such contrast to the whimsy & melancholy so often laid on Syd's work. & I cannot hear the words of "Rats" without the image of the rats pouring through the wall at the end of the movie "Willard" coming vividly to mind. I love Syd's solo albums & bought "Madcap" on it's release, long before I was in anyway aware of the man's fragile state.
I'm glad to have formed my opinions of it & "Barrett" long before others started commenting on how autobiographical the songs are. Too much analysis can ruin the enjoyment of that which is being analysed.
& my favourite song is "Late Night" - a truly beautiful, haunting piece of music. But it could be "Opel".... or...
Thanks for a great site John!
Joshua Pennington (flurbygurby.gmail.com) (02/13/12)
Man I just had to write on here again when I saw what you said about "Wolfpack". What are you fucking deaf? This is one of the sickest Syd tracks of all time & just plain bad ass all around. All I can figure is you must not like rock n roll. Cause this song is about as live as it gets. Yet again, just because YOU don't understand it doesn't mean it doesn't make sense dude. The lyrics on this one are fucking awesome & Syd's guitar just absolutely stings on it too... Man I don't know what you were thinking... holy shit. So lame...
Best song: Wined and Dined
After finishing up Barrett, Syd basically dropped off of the face of the earth. His brain was so completely fried by that point that not even his definite genius could compensate. Hence, he never again recorded an album, and to the end of his days lived a reclusive life in Cambridge. But his obsessive fandom wanted more material, and Capitol was happy to oblige with this collection of unreleased and alternate takes from Syd's solo career.
In any case, if you aren't already a Syd fan, I'm not sure that it would be worth your while to pick up this album, but if you got your jollies from Madcap and Barrett, you may as well give it a shot. Fans often rave over the title track, but I think that's largely because of its 'confessional' nature. Since it doesn't really start hitting emotional buttons in me firmly until it's more than halfway done, though, and since the main chord sequence isn't particularly interesting, it's hard for me to want to rave about it much. It's decent, though.
The rest of the album, then, is split into all new material and alternate versions of what we already have. Of the other 'new' tracks, the most notable are the clever ditties "Dolly Rocker," "Birdie Hop" and "Milky Way" (yeah, I like it, sue me), cute (and kinda stupid, but in a good way) little songs in the classic Syd vein that tend to stick with me for hours. The other new tracks are notable in their own way, but that's mostly because they tend to stink in a very discomforting way. The only truly unlistenable bit is an eight-minute noise fest called "Lanky" (Interstellar Overdrive this is not), but while the other songs aren't so blatantly icky, you're not about to see me raving about "Word Song" or "Swan Lee."
As for the alternate versions, I'd say the alternate "Wined and Dined" is superior to the original, but the rest could have never seen the light of day for all I care. The "raw" versions of "Octopus," "Rats" (oh help me), and "Dark Globe" basically add nothing to what we have already, and I can't see the need for them other than to just exist. It's kinda nice to soak in the atmospherics of "Golden Hair" again, though, I'll give the album that.
In short, just as I only recommend Barrett for big fans of Madcap, Opel is recommended only for huge fans of Barrett. This is just not the kind of thing that can be taken out on a regular basis and enjoyed by people like me, and I say that as somebody who loves Syd to death as a concept. Of course, that may have its advantages from time to time, as I can easily see this driving away unwanted house guests with ease.
Oh, and one more thing. Is the album pronounced '_O_-puhl' or 'O-_pehl_'? Please tell me if you know.
Syd comes from England and we say O-PUHL,with an even stress on the two syllables .Luke Peterson.
"Greg Bugay" (greg.bugay.imsbarter.com) (04/13/10)
There may be a tune or two that is listenable, but this is basically an album of a man in complete confusion. I am a Syd freak, but this one was a bit uncomfortable for me. He didn't record a lot, so on that point it's good that it's out. What we REALLY need is for Waters & Gilmour to grow up & release EVERYTHING Syd did with the Floyd, regardless of its content,i.e. "Vegetable Man" & "Scream Thy Last Scream". They say it's too personal...... & I say Bull. Look at Lennon's 1st solo album. That's like sitting in on a therapy session. That's how great writers write, from the heart & the soul & what they are feeling at any given moment. Sure beats listening to Waters whine about his Dad for 20 years!
Best song: Gigolo Aunt
Live EP's aren't usually my cup of tea, but it is the only available source of live Syd material that I know about. It's but 12 minutes long, with only five tracks, but it is still a perfectly enjoyable listen. There's one representative from Madcap ("Terrapin"), three from Barrett ("Gigolo Aunt," "Baby Lemonade," "Effervescing Elephant"), and one track only available here ("Two of a Kind").
The best thing about the album, overall, is that the laidback nature of the session is such that the Barrett tracks are done as if they were from Madcap, and that's definitely a compliment. This gives the greatest benefit to "Gigolo Aunt," as there's no Rick Wright within a thousand miles to suck all the excitement and energy out of the song. Now, as for the other two, they weren't really harmed on Barrett, so there isn't that much of a mindblowing improvement or anything, but they're very nice. As for "Two of a Kind," it's basically standard Barrett, but it has cool harmonies that aren't really like what you'd find in other Barrett tracks.
And ... uh ... yeah. If you can write a better review of a 12-minute live album, I'd like to see you try. It's definitely worth a couple of bucks if you ever see it lying around a dollar bin or whatever.
Carey Hughes (cahughes.brownell.edu) (05/13/09)
For anyone who's intersted, "Two of a Kind" was actually written by Rick Wright, but he let Syd take the credit for it
RIP Syd and Rick