RIP Syd Barrett

Maybe you recognise the face or the name, maybe you heard the stories – the ultimate psych burn-out who blew it all and spent the majority of his life as a recluse while his former band went on to be the biggest in the world. If you never listened to the music though, perhaps here’s the chance. Most likely you will hear his solo albums as I did initially – the car-crash voyeurism of seeing into the thoughts of a man in the later stages of a bizarre and terrible breakdown. Listen carefully and you may hear underneath some of the most inspired and raw songwriting ever put on record. The lyrics are made of the kind of Englishness you could call “surreal” but which meant a great deal more than that little word can convey. He wrote in the world of Vivian Stanshall, Ray Davies and Caravan, a style I’m afraid is sadly lost to parody, workmanship and self-consciousness these days.
If the solo albums are too much for you, there’s always the one-and-a-half Pink Floyd albums, records so good that it staggers me every time I hear them described as “patchy”. Maybe if he’d carried on into the late seventies he’d have got lazy and self-indulgent like the rest of them, but I’d like to think not. Here is a man who spent the last 34 years of his life staying at his mum’s house but who did more in the preceding five than the rest of his band put together ever have or will. Here’s hoping people will start to remember him for more than fucking “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.

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