Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Shine on Syd
It is obvious
may I say, oh baby, that it is found on another plane?
"The poppy birds way swing twigs coffee brands around.
Brandish her wand with a feathery tongue.
My head kissed the ground
I was half the way down, treading the sand,
please... Please, please lift the hand
I'm only a person with Eskimo chain
I tattooed my brain all the way...
Won't you miss me?
Wouldn't you miss me at all? - - from Dark Globe by Syd Barrett
I heard yesterday that Syd Barrett, who just turned 60, on July 6th had left his mortal coil. Now he belongs to the ages. I , in a certain way was helped by his music; I remember listening to his double album Barrett , and the Madcap Laughs, a lot in the period 1976 thru 1977, as I tried to adjust to Houston after 4 years in Austin.
I mean, I think anyone who has gone to the edge, or tripped out can appreciate some of Syd's songs, and his lyrics were poetry, of the British eccentric sort. Of course anyone who lived through the 1970s must have heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. It is one of the longest selling albums of all time. But, A Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Barrett, and ' The Madcaps laughs' were never all that well known, though they attained 'cult' status.
I have noticed there have been tributes to Syd all over the Web, while television, has fairly ignored his passing. I would imagine the BBC in England probably did better. In todays Zeitgest, it is as if it is impossible to talk about LSD, Barretts life, and career, his descent into incoherence on TV. At any rate doing a Google news search I did find a fairly good tribute by Richard Jinman. here are a few excerpts from:
The second death of a boy genius
"There are, or rather were, two Syd Barretts. The first, the one the fans prefer to remember, was a young, handsome, prodigiously gifted musician from an English university town who formed a group called Pink Floyd in 1965 and quickly became the undisputed leader of Britain's nascent psychedelic rock scene. It was a part he seemed born to play. Wearing the silk and velvet robes of London's hippy aristocracy, a Fender Telecaster slung around his slender shoulders, he wrote the Floyd's two early hit singles, Arnold Layne and See Emily Play.
The other Syd Barrett was a balding, slightly corpulent man who lived in the basement of his mother's Cambridge house, devoting himself to gardening and painting. This was the post-Floyd Barrett, the man who was ousted from the band in 1968 after he fried his brain on LSD and became so erratic his bandmates - the former architecture students who would go on to define 1970s rock with albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here - believed he had slipped beyond their help. This Barrett managed to record two shambolically brilliant solo albums ( The Madcap Laughs and Barrett) full of off-kilter, whimsical and distinctively English songs with titles such as Effervescing Elephant, Baby Lemonade and Terrapin. After that, silence. Barrett turned his back on music, London and the world."
Here are other small statements which I add to this post at this point: Meanwhile, David Gilmour said: "We are very sad to say that Roger Keith Barrett - Syd - has passed away."Do find time today to play some of Syd's songs and to remember him as the madcap genius who made us all smile with his wonderfully eccentric songs about bikes, gnomes and scarecrows. "His career was painfully short, yet he touched more people than he could ever know."
And Roger Waters said," He leaves behind a body of work that is both very touching and very deep. It will shine on forever."
Elsewhere, David Bowie commented: "I can't tell you how sad I feel. The few times I saw him perform in London at UFO and the Marquee clubs during the '60s will forever be etched in my mind. "He was so charismatic and such a startlingly original songwriter. Also, along with Anthony Newley, he was the first guy I'd heard to sing pop or rock with a British accent. "His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never got to know him. A diamond indeed."
"A few weeks ago former bandmate Roger Waters dedicated a song to Barrett at the Hyde Park Calling festival in London, 25,000 people from every conceivable background knew every word to the chorus of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' - a fitting coda to the life of a flawed but much admired genius.
And this: " Barrett's death makes him a mystery to the end. Unlike the other mad geniuses of the psychedelic era - Brian Wilson, Roky Erickson and Love's Arthur Lee - Barrett never came back from the edge."
One of the things I learn from Mr. Barrett and his poetry, is his courage in showing such human vulnerability, in being so authentic, just before he went silent for good. I sometimes wonder if for the rest of his time on earth,from say 1973 until he died, he lived in a time at right angles to the sense of time our Western world moves along in. Those 2 albums of his were so uncommercial, in a way an antithesis of much that was popular then or now.
I always really liked Golden Hair:
GOLDEN HAIR (These lyrics are originally from "Chamber Music" by James Joyce (1907)
Lean out your window, golden hair
I heard you singing in the midnight air
my book is closed, I read no more
watching the fire dance, on the floor
I've left my book, I've left my room
For I heard you singing through the gloom
singing and singing, a merry air
lean out the window, golden hair...
The corporate media will frame his life in a certain slamdunk, I told you so, tale of artist gone to ruin way. But they will never explore his songs very much, because they are too human, plaintitive, but whimsical, edgy, but not catchy enough to ever be able to push some product. And those who appreciate his music will go on listening to it.
May he rest in peace, a tormented soul, but a poetic soul, who pushed the boundaries , and took on the steel rail for a while. The Crazy Diamond is gone. May he shine on in new realms. Though this post is way long I will add some more lyrics:
SHE TOOK A LONG COLD LOOK
She took a long cold look at me and smiled
and gazed all over my arm she loves to see me get down to ground
she hasn't time just to be with me
her face between all she means to be to be extreme, just to be extreme
a broken pier on the wavy sea
she wonders why for all she wants to see...
But I got up and I stomped around and hid the piece
where the trees touch the ground...
The end of truth that lay out the time
spent lazing here on a painting dream
a mile or more in a foreign clime
to see farther inside of me.
And looking high up into the sky
I breathe as the water streams over me...