Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wish You Were Here 

Syd Barrett has just died. While most music fans are familiar with Pink Floyd, few have ever heard of Barrett, the band's original front man and guitarist. He named the band, and really created the extreme psychedelic feel and aura surrounding it. He was central to Pink Floyd's breakthrough album, "Piper at the Gates of Dawn." As Barrett withdrew, suffering from apparent mental instability, the other bandmembers recruited David Gilmour, a childhood friend, first to supplement, and eventually replace Barrett.

His influence on Pink Floyd clearly continued, as Gilmour and Roger Waters developed the extraordinary "Dark Side of the Moon" in 1972 in part to wrestle with issues surrounding mental dysfunction. And the band's later, brilliant album "Wish You Were Here" was dedicated to Barrett, the song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" intended as encouragement for their old leader. Many will undoubtedly reference that song today.

Who knows what demons drove Barrett into seclusion, and whether they were catalyzed by LSD, the pressure to write music, travel and perform incessantly? But he clearly broke down. Would Pink Floyd have achieved anything approaching its monumental success with Barrett and without Gilmour. I would say No.

Barrett's music was very unconventional, bizarre, weird. I thought these lyrics, from his single "Vegetable Man," were a nice parting reflection of Syd Barrett:

In yellow shoes I get the blues,
So I walk the street with my plastic feet
with blue velvet trousers make me feel pink
Theres a kind of stink about blue velvet trousers
In my paisley shirt, I look a jerk,
and my turquoise waistcoat is quite outta sight.
But oh, oh, my haircut looks so bad....
Vegetable man! Where are you?
So I change my gear, and I bugger my knees
and I cover them up with the latest cuts
My pants and socks are all in a box
It does take long to find darn old socks
The watch, black watch, my watch
with a black face and a date in a little hole
and all the luck, its what I got,
Its what I wear, Its what you see,
It must be me, Its what I am!
Vegetable man! Where are you?
Ah, ah ah ah, ah ah ah Hah, ah ah ah, ah ah ah - oh!
I've been looking all over the place for a place for me
But it ain't anywhere
It just ain't anywhere.
Vegetable man, Vegetable man, Vegetable man. Vegetable man, Vegetable man, Vegetable man,
He's the kind of fella you just gotta see if you can, Vegetable man.

Almost like Dr. Seuss meets Timothy Leary. RIP, Roger "Syd" Barrett

Update: MTV.com story link


By Blogger K. Pablo, at Tue Jul 11, 09:33:00 PM:

I'm not a psychiatrist, but I have had enough exposure to mentally ill patients to draw some conclusions about people like Brian Wilson, Roky Erikson, and Syd Barrett.

There is definite correlation between "creativity" (however you want to define it) and the schizoid/schizoaffective/schizophrenic domain of mental illness. Sid Barrett and Roky Erikson unfortunately fall under this category: the onset of their symptoms conforms to the general profile of schizophrenia which usually afflicts males in their mid-twenties. The dissolution of their thought processes into undifferentiated word salad, and both Syd and Roky's reduction into ineffectual human basket cases would support a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The suicidal creatives -- Kurt Cobain and the like -- almost by definition suffered from Major Depression.

Okay, I'm going to go listen to the Effervescing Elephant one more time.  

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