Keith Barrett was born on 6th January, 1946, in Cambridge,
England. He attended the Morley Memorial Junior School, the
Cambridge High School For Boys (where he met Roger Waters), and
later on the Camberwell Art School. Like other guys of his age,
when he was younger he got the nickname "Syd", which he
used even when older.
It was Syd who gave Pink Floyd its name, from albums by two Carolina blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, that were in his collection.
Syd Barrett, the 'Madcap', this photo was taken in late 1967 a few months before he left Pink Floyd.
Like a supernova, Roger "Syd" Barrett burned briefly and brightly, leaving an indelible mark upon psychedelic and progressive rock as the founder and original singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist of Pink Floyd. In mid-66, when Floyd began to attract attention, they had almost exclusively Barrett compositions. The success that followed their first two singles and "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" proved to be too much for Syd, however, as the vast quantities of drugs he was taking in, the blind worship of his fans, the pressure of writing hit singles (his third attempt, "Apples and Oranges", was a flop), and other factors all made him unpredictable on stage and in the studio.
Such was his stature within the original lineup that few observers thought the band could survive his departure; in fact, the original group's management decided to keep Syd on and leave the rest of the band to their own devices. The other members of the group decided to bring in an additional guitarist to cover for Syd, and thus David Gilmour was asked to join the band.
Group photo showing Syd looking lost in the background. An amazing picture that depicts his reality in a single shot.
With the addition of Gilmour and Syd's declining state, it was shortly decided that the band could carry on without him, and so one night they simply didn't pick him up on the way to a show. Pink Floyd never recaptured the playful humor and mad energy of their work with Barrett. After a period of hibernation, he re-emerged in 1970 with a pair of solo albums which featured considerable support from his former bandmates (especially his replacement, David Gilmour, who produced most of the sessions). Members of the Soft Machine also play on these records, which have a ragged, unfinished, and folky feel.
Barrett's eccentric humor, sly wordplay, and infectious melodies range from brilliant to chaotic on his solo work. Lacking the taut power of his recordings with the Floyd in 1967, they nevertheless remain fascinating and moving glimpses into a creative psyche gone awry after (it is theorized) too much fame and too many drugs too early.
With increasing psychological problems, Syd withdrew into near-total reclusion after these albums. He never released any more material, and these days rarely appears in public, let alone plays music.
The fun loving Syd taking a little L.S.D. the precurser to the 'madcap'.
Although they attracted little attention upon their release, his albums also attracted a cult audience. Barrett's music and mystique achieved a lasting influence that continues to grow over two decades later. Latter-day new wave psychedelic acts like Julian Cope, the Television Personalities, and (espeially) Robyn Hitchcock acknowledge Barrett's tremendous influence on their work.
The Barrett cult became large enough to warrant the release of an entire album of previously unreleased material and outtakes, Opel, in the late 1980s, as well as his sessions for the BBC.
This picture of Syd showes the dramatic change from 'Pop' poster boy to a drug addled man whose lost his way somewhat, the vacant stare was now permanent according to friends at the time. Something Roger Waters would cash into in later Pink Floyd albums, which often lamenting their great friend and founder of Pink Floyd.
From Pink Floyd: The Illustrated Discography: "During the "Wish You Were Here" sessions a fat, shaven-headed person wearing grey Terylene trousers, a nylon shirt and string vest wandered into the studio. The band ignored the visitor and kept on playing and it was the visiting Andrew King who finally recognised their guest:
'Good God, it's Syd! How did you get like that?' To which Syd replied, 'I've got a very large fridge at home and I've been eating a lot of pork chops.'
The whole event was slightly un-nerving since the theme of the album was based on Syd and his subsequent madness."
All the boys including the 'Syd' replacement David Gilmore. Syd looking off to the side, he knew very well he was being replaced, and I think he was OK with this.
Roger "Syd" Barrett left Pink Folyd and his sister eventually persuaded him to her residence in suburban Cambridge. He lived a fairly normal existence, his affairs looked after by his sister, and spent his time painting, reading, tending his garden, coin collecting, and working on a pet-project of his, "The History of Art." The money from his Pink Floyd and solo albums was more than enough to subsidize his low-key lifestyle. Though there were occasional "Syd sightings," Mr. Barrett found it difficult to relate to and communicate with other people [according to a book written about him], and anyone attempting to track him down was likely to meet with a closed door. Though some now famous music stars would visit his home very few ever spoke with Syd.
(Compilation of many sources, including All Music Guide biography by Richie Unterberger, Echoes FAQ and others) Click here to go back