October 5, 2002 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Syd Barrett is still alive, surprisingly.
posted by pandaharma (28 comments total)
Thanks for The Observer article, pandaharma! As a symboliv payment, please accept this correction of your first link. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:21 PM on October 5, 2002

it's an awfully long article for a short 'interview'.......

most disturbingly it reveals that he reads the daily mail. that acid is even more dangerous than i thought.
posted by quarsan at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2002

This breaking news just in... Generalísimo Francisco Franco is still dead!
posted by crunchland at 12:03 AM on October 6, 2002

Miguel, on preview the link appeared perfectly. However, when I posted, there was a lovely coldfusion error message which relayed a depressing tone poem on the sadness of having one's affections rejected coldly by the database. Could this have munged the link?

Speaking of Syd, I literally hadn't thought of him since a college party where we played 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' and ingested varieties of the local fungi. The Observer article certainly brought back memories (such as they float) of those days and of how interesting madness is, when you're quite a safe distance away.

And also reminded me of a certain bit of college-era folklore regarding how many times you should take acid. "Seven times is all fun and games but the eighth time will take yr soul." which a friend attributed to Burroughs but I somehow doubt he said it.
posted by pandaharma at 12:10 AM on October 6, 2002

Franco is indeed plant food but his successor is still the antichrist.

(yes, quite bored this morning)
posted by pandaharma at 12:13 AM on October 6, 2002

how stange it is to be anything....must Robert be thinking?
posted by Kodel at 12:29 AM on October 6, 2002

yes, Syd was like the bogie man for us when we started experimenting with drugs at school ('if you do too much acid you'll end up like Syd! aaaagh!'). There was one particular story about him where the other members of Pink Floyd gave him a large dose of acid and locked him in a cupboard for the duration (similar one mentioned in the article), and I imagined him as the kid who was always picked on at school, but as an adult, which seemed doubly tragic.

and yes quarsan, the Daily Mail news is a shocker. The short interview is right at the end of the article btw.
posted by gravelshoes at 3:28 AM on October 6, 2002

I pretty much stopped listening to early Floyd around the same time as I started taking psychedics. What a bonehead.

*notes down on To Do Before 40 list - "Re-listen to old Pink Floyd albums and take some acid at the same time"*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:15 AM on October 6, 2002

I'm only 25, but I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan. However, I've never really been a big fan of the Syd Barret Era Floyd.

It's interesting that he wrote 20% of the tracks on the "best of" album. However, I suspect that was because the other members thought it would be a good idea to put some of his tracks, which were never on an album (See Emily Play, Arnold Layne), on Echoes so all the crazy Pink Floyd fans would buy it.
posted by einarorn at 5:28 AM on October 6, 2002

Why can't they just leave the man alone? Syd recorded a couple of good songs many years ago, and is now, for all intents and purposes, dead. I wish the journos would stop trying to dig up his grave.

In some ways, I blame Roger Waters for perpetuating the Cult of Syd.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:37 AM on October 6, 2002

MrBaliHai, I don't think we can blame Roger Waters. There are always going to be young journalists who are excited by the chance of possibly being the first journalist in X many years to interview Barrett.

A former rock star, who lives with his mother and hasn't performed in decades is certainly a fascinating subject.
posted by einarorn at 5:47 AM on October 6, 2002

einar: Yes, there are always going to be journalists, young and otherwise, who cheerfully invade other people's privacy in the hopes of getting a story, just as there are always going to be cops who lean on people too hard. Just because it's inevitable doesn't make it right.
posted by languagehat at 5:58 AM on October 6, 2002

Nasty piece of journalism. That Syd has mental problems has been common knowledge since the 70s. Listen to the records, but leave the poor sod alone.
posted by ceiriog at 6:01 AM on October 6, 2002

languagehat: I wasn't claiming it was right in any way. I was just pointing out that I didn't think it was Roger's fault. Personally, I think Barrett should be left alone. He has shown many times that he doesn't like the attention he gets, and reporters should respect that.
posted by einarorn at 6:25 AM on October 6, 2002

Nasty? I think it was quite sweet. I shudder to think of what might have happened in the hands of a reporter who wanted to take him down.

As to MrBaliHai's complaint: Barrett is an important figure in postwar British pop. As the tracklisting and sales of the Echoes album proves, his music still has a following. His story is tragic and compelling. People want to know, just as people still want to know about John's spat with Paul or Elvis' deep-fried banana sandwich intake. As long as that is true, journalists will tell his story. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

But Barrett, obviously, wants to be left alone.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2002

Oh, and today's new word (from the article): plectrum.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2002

Einar: I didn't think you thought it was right, I was just using your comment as a springboard for my own. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

Lupus: Journalists can "tell his story" all they want; why do they have to go pester him while they're about it? I found the bulk of the article -- the History of Syd -- fascinating (not having been a Pink Floyd fan, I was only vaguely aware of it); the attempt to talk to him was repellent and (in my view) unnecessary. Yes, it could have been worse. Doesn't make it right.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on October 6, 2002

I wasn't trying to suggest that Syd's story shouldn't be told, but as languagehat says, it can be done without harassing a man who clearly wants to be left alone. I thought the journalist's approach to him was disturbingly close to stalking.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:04 AM on October 6, 2002

Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

As to the author's mode of approaching Mr Barrett, I thought it respectful and well within the bounds of proper journalistic behaviour. Fact is, "cold calling" -- knocking on the door of a family visited by tragedy, say, or a man who wants to be left alone -- is the worst part of any journalist's day. I worry for the humanity of my comrades who no longer get the sour knot in their stomach when they have to do it.

But the fact remains our primary loyalty is due not to the sensibilities of our subjects (nor the interests of our proprietors.) It's to the public. Restricting journalists to only doing things which don't upset people would result in horrible journalism, a more atomized society, and a sicker democracy.

That's not to say us scribblers should be given free rein to peek in peoples' windows or rummage through their trash. But there are proper times, places and ways to approach the uncooperative subject and ask the uncomfortable question. I think this author knew that, and did it quite well.

The sunbathing remark was a bit odd, tho.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:18 AM on October 6, 2002

And how is the public interest served by this article? The only things in it that isn't already in the public domain is that we know now which newspaper Syd reads and what kind of underpants he wears, neither of which is going to greatly change our appreciation of some 30 year old records.

My heart bleeds for you poor reporters who have to inflict pain on people who are already suffering, but to try to pass this off as some kind of public service is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?
posted by ceiriog at 7:38 AM on October 6, 2002

Smart Dalek: thanks for the Television Personalities link. That's some good rockin'.
posted by ceiriog at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2002

I don't think it is very respectful to visit a recluse, when even his family asked that people just leave him alone.

"sTc: Is there something you would like to say to potential well wishing visitors to Roger's home in Cambridge?

IB: The one thing I'd really like to say to people wanting to visit Roger and see how he is - is please DON'T..!!!!! I know many fans are genuinely very caring and are interested in his well-being; but he really doesn't enjoy having people knock on his door virtually every day wanting to wish him well. PLEASE leave him in peace to get on with his life happily. I can reassure anyone concerned that he really is happy and content and he'd be more so if he didn't have to awkwardly meet fans hanging outside the house and nervously knocking on his door. To this end I'd appreciate it if anyone reading this who knows his address would refrain from publicizing it further. please don't tell people where he lives. Surely everyone has the right to a bit of privacy and peace and quiet. If Roger was still involved in the Music Business then he would be more fair game for a lack of privacy; but as it is he hasn't made a record for over TWENTY YEARS.!! please show him some consideration and leave him in peace. I know that Roger is touched by all the concern of his fans but he'd be much happier if you simply let him get on with his life undisturbed.
posted by mkelley at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2002

I liked the bit in the article that describes Barrett's solo works as "eternally eloquent as Van Gogh's cornfields". Very apt phrasing. The albums are beautiful in their own bizarre way. Also pathetic - in one of the tracks, Syd literally forgets what he's doing halfway through the song, sort of stops, and resumes again. Despite all that there is some very lovely music there.

She's as cute as a squirrel's nut.
posted by Nelson at 9:35 AM on October 6, 2002

My first job out of high school (1988) in the "big city" was for a dubious telemarketing firm. There I met a nice guy who was a big fan of Pink Floyd and a bigger fan of Syd Barrett. He had a mess of Barrett bootlegs which he handled like rare artifacts. We would smoke pot and listen to these quirky "songs", many of which would stop and start abruptly, and some which you would here Syd's guitar stop, followed by the audible turning of a page, only to continue again.

When I asked for copies of some of the better material, he happily obliged, transferring about a dozen songs to an 8-track tape on which he pasted a neat collage of Syd Barrett photos.

We lost touch of each other, but I still wonder to this day "why the 8-track"? One part of me thinks he was so guarded about his bootlegs that he knew I could never pass these jewels along to anyone else (how many people to you know who own a dubbing 8-track tape player?). The other part of me says "How appropriate"...
posted by sharksandwich at 9:39 AM on October 6, 2002

Screw Syd, I wanna know what happened to Sly Stone!
posted by anildash at 12:53 AM on October 7, 2002

Thanks, pandaharma for the -filter on Syd.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2002

i hate all of you. stop ruining everything.
posted by Satapher at 9:07 PM on October 9, 2002

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