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Syd Barrett

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Cluster One
3 stars "Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun..."

A story of Genius Unfulfilled, this DVD documentary "The Syd Barrett Story" is a haunting and touching tribute to the legacy of the cult figure, and clearly portrays Syd Barrett in a proper light. That is, he is solely responsible for Pink Floyd's early success, and he eventually became a spectral, muse-like figure that would hang over all four band members continuously to this day.

The original lead guitarist of the Floyd, Bob Klose provides anecdotes of Syd, as does Jerry Shirley (of HUMBLE PIE) who played drums on Syd's solo albums. A long line of people including ex-girlfriends, landlords and old flatmates weigh in with thier own 'Syd stories', which are quite interesting and humourous at times. Graham Coxon (of BLUR) also pays homage to his idol, with a great rendition of 'Love Song' in the Bonus Features section.

Most intriguing about this documentary is the heartfelt, emotional accounts presented by the four main band members (especially Waters and Gilmour!). All are sincere, and desperately seem to miss their friend with a mixture of guilt and reverence.

There are plenty of short 5-20 second musical snippets played in the background, but no 'tracks' as such in the documentary. So the 'track listing' provided in Archives here is incorrect. Keep an ear out for extremely rare FLOYD tunes during the documentary: 'King Bee', 'Lucy Leave' and 'Vegetable Man' to name but a few.

There is some nice early footage of Syd and the band in their early successful period, including some short 'Astronomy Domine', 'Interstellar Overdrive' and 'Pow R Toc H' clips that are priceless.

This documentary belongs in EVERY Floyd fan's collection as it educates the viewer about the absolute primacy that Syd was to the early Floyd, that is: lead singer, songwriter and guitarist! It is also of interest to those wanting to know about the early origins of the Floyd.

Syd is not interviewed on the DVD, but he did watch it the documentary when it was broadcast on television. His sister, whom Syd lives with, knew about the program but didn't want to bother Syd to watch it in case it brought back bad memories. Syd found it on his own accord while flipping through the channels, watched it straight through and then told his sister about it. His comments on the film: "There was a show about me. I quite liked it." Too surreal...

5/5 stars and essential for FLOYD fans, 3/5 stars for everyone else.

Report this review (#43162)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
5 stars I've always been a fan from the Pink Floyd fan from the 1973-1979 ("Dark side .. - "The wall") until a friend (a Sixties freak) introduced my to the songs "Arnold Lane" and "See Emily play") from the very early Pink Floyd. From that moment on I began to appreciate the genius from Syd Barrett: his unique guitarplay (some say that he influenced David Gilmour his slide guitar play by using a lighter!), his funny, weird and peculiar lyrics and his mesmerizing stage performance. During the story on this DVD you can witness the rise and fall from Syd Barrett with lots of captivating and even emotional stories, told by the band members and people around Syd. For me this story has an extra dimension because Syd Barrett has been diagnosed as suffering from a schizophrenic process. In my work as a psychiatric nurse I learn people with schizophrenia to deal with their disease and that is often a very hard and painfull process, also for the people around schizophrenics. I try to imagine what a terrible world it must have been for Syd Barrett when he became famous but also suffered more and more from schizophrenia (thinking paranoid, suffering from voices and hallucinations), this was getting worse because of his acid-abuse. In those days he was not treated with good medication so eventually he lost contact with the reality and even turned into an almost 'catatonic state' (without moving and talking) on stage, horrible! If you listen to a post-Pink Floyd Syd Barrett song like "Jugband blues" you can notice the mental desintegration but other Syd Barrett solo are wonderful, very emotional pieces. Unfortunately due to his mental disease (schizophrenia but also a heavy depression because of the lost of almost everything), he was never able to become a new John Lennon or Ray Davies as many foretold. And Roger Waters (who had to deal with the fact that he had to send away oeen of his best friends) once said: "Without Syd there would not have been Pink Floyd but with Syd we couldn't continue Pink Floyd". That's what this excellent, sometimes very moving DVD is about!!
Report this review (#43172)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

For the sake of the accuracy: this is a re-issue from 2004, with a different cover. The first issue was published on DVD in 2003, with different cover and you can find it in PINK FLOYD entry. The full, official title of this documentary is "The Pink Floyd And Syd Barrett Story", hence the two separate entries - under Syd Barrett and under Pink Floyd.

I will try to focus this review more on Syd Barrett himself than on his interaction with Pink Floyd, but there is not much to say, because there is no story to tell, really.

I might be a bit too harsh, this documentary is not bad actually, but there's a lot to be desired because it is full of gaps. The rudimentary storyline is fine, but an average fan would prefer more songs (not just short excerpts), and more interviews with relevant people. Here we have interesting stories by PINK FLOYD members, by Syd's ex-girlfriend, and some artsy-fartsy nonsense from Syd's ex-landlord, or ex-roommate, or whatever he had been. At that stage of documentary I lost the majority of my interest and focus, because it's simply boring. The part of the documentary which describes the very beginnings of PINK FLOYD, the beginnings of Syd's musical career, British psychedelic scene and Syd's drug abuse - that was interesting, and should be prolonged, with more in-depth analysis. Description of his solo career is quite watered down - there are no facts about Syd's mental state, no interviews with his close relatives, no inner motifs or reflections.

There are two Syd's songs performed by a certain Mr. Hitchcock, and they are decent enough, despite the obvious fanboyism. But who could blame Hitchcock? He stops playing in the middle of the song, saying "Now, this part is really cool!"...and continues playing. That should annoy me, but for some reason it's okay, because he's right. Graham Coxon's performance is just awful. I really don't like him as an artist much, but he failed to provide a minimum of professionalism as it could be expected from him.

As the documentary goes towards its end, it's becoming more interesting again, most notably within the bonus material. For some additional information, check my review on PINK FLOYD entry, it's more focused on the band and it's interaction with Syd.

But we should keep in mind that poor old Mr. Barrett (he stopped using his nickname Syd in the seventies) passed away soon after this documentary was published, so the final chapter in Syd Barrett's story is not written yet. Perhaps it will never be.

Report this review (#116868)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This video tell the story of Pink Floyd's wonderful original Guitarist and Vocalist. It has interviews from the band itself and other close friends of Syd's. The way it tells the story is wonderful. Also included are some of Syd's songs sung by other people. These song's are really some of his greatest songs and really show how talented he is. I think that this video is a great telling of Syd's life in Music.
Report this review (#140528)
Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The main feature: There are so many awful faux-documentaries out there and it really makes me sad. Prog or any other music are not well-served by these attempts to cash in on sensationalism or place entertainment above informing. This is not one of the really bad ones and in fact it has the advantage of actually involving the members of the Floyd and some friends of Syd. But speaking of the main documentary there are still multiple problems. First is length. This is Pink Floyd, arguably one of the most important rock bands of our lives. Given the importance of the band and the boatloads of information to be discussed, why is the feature a scant 50 minutes long? Has that now become the maximum amount of time that viewers can sit still in our zero attention-span world? Yes, I realize there are "bonus" features that make the package longer but they should integrate the important factual material into one cohesive longer film. There is time only to gloss over things briefly and not really delve into anything at length. Second, content choice. Rather than substantive analysis of the music that should be the first concern of any proper documentary, we get much the same old fixations on Syd's recreational chemistry habits and descriptions of his tragedy to the appropriate SOYCD lines. Third, the ridiculous production of the video itself with all of these annoying fast motion edits and psychish effects, as if they need to pretend it's 1967 and we're tripping in order to dispense information. Lets look at the glass half-full. There are some nice moments such as Roger explaining what made the "Bike" lyrics special to him ("the unpredictability.") There was Robin Hitchcock playing "Dominoes." They actually spoke to Jerry Shirley who had some interesting thoughts about the "Barrett" sessions. Mick Rock was an interesting guest. They just needed to take the time to expand on these good parts, get more in depth, and drop some of the nonsense. With everyone so used to soundbite journalism it seems almost impossible to get past the surface in this format and that's a real shame. Documentary filmmaking can be so much more. You've got all these esteemed people who knew Syd and no time to get beyond the tabloid stories everyone has read in rock mags. I realize disc 2 offers some of this but you need these moments in the feature, not in the extras. It is depth that makes a documentary special, not the artsy visual work and melodrama. And as others have mentioned here and elsewhere, a proper documentary will feature some complete songs without constant interruption. It will also bother to obtain rarer clips of both audio and video that do exist but may take a little work to get rights to.

The 2nd disc: This second disc is what saves things a bit, and keeps me from giving this two stars. But just barely. Again, blown opportunities abound. This guy has all four members of the Floyd for a good long chat and he is just dreadful as an interviewer, slow, without all the facts, and boring. I feel a bit bad roasting the chap, nothing personal, but I could have done a much better job interviewing these guys than he did, I even found myself correcting the memories of Floyd members in one or two places..scary, I know. He gets very little of substance out of them about Syd. He lets them linger uncomfortably long after some responses and misses the most obvious follow-up questions. What saves the day is the Hitchcock segment. He understands why the real Barrett fans appreciate Syd. He was the one to talk in some depth about Barrett's music and what makes it special, the songwriting, the playing, the observational style of Syd's songs and how in Syd's creative mind "nothing was filtered out," and it was simply recording like a camera. He also did a fair job at cracking "Dominoes" and "Baby Lemonade," covering Syd is never easy to get right. He imposed some relevant discussion on Barrett as an artist instead of more talk of his oddities. Giving credit where it's due, it was a great choice to include Robin Hitchcock here.

Childhood, wind, and willows: I read a Barrett skeptic recently pondering what the hell we fans see in this man who was there for but a flash, 4 decades ago, why we are so passionate about him. Speaking for myself, it is not because he started Pink Floyd, not because he was part of "swinging London," and not because I think doing acid is cool. It really is something hard to describe but a bit of the Peter Pan thing. Within Syd's best work is a very pure, sometimes innocent and other times mischievous, hearkening to childhood. I'm not talking about the literal subject matter of lyrics necessarily but the feeling of some of the music, melodies, and vocals. There is a longing for something lost in the adult world: a certain kind of adventure, security, freedom, and time for imagination (especially in idyllic Cambridge.) There is pressure to conform. Mick Rock touched on this during his '71 interview with Syd when Barrett spoke of "the backward path" and Rock noted Syd feeling comfortable finally being home surrounded by family photos, etc. Another important moment occurred when an exhausted Syd was dreading being dragged out with Floyd again, he asked a Cambridge friend if she was going home for the weekend and when she said yes, Syd wearily replied "that's really all I want to do. I just want to go home." I can sense those feelings in his music regarding the simpler time of youth and because they are sincere I am touched by them. So there you reason why Syd fanatics love him and it has nothing to do with flowery shirts, psychedelics, or "black holes in the sky." I really hope someday the family will offer a bit more of his later life and that someone will record their story with respect.

Sorry. back to the DVD. Perhaps I expect too much but if these musicians can create great works of musical art, why can there not be truly great documentaries to analyze them. It's mostly fluff, I'm sorry, though not without any merit. The story of Syd Barrett and early Floyd is out there but you have to find it by reading books. Forget the magazines and the videos and find the many books available, some of which are quite good. By reading several of them you begin to get a clearer picture of the Floyd story, which really is a fascinating one. Of course no book is perfect and some are downright awful but reading many you begin to understand some things. Roger Barrett was a great artist and deserves more than a fast-food bio like this one. I am hopeful that someday he will have one!

Those interested in Barrett's post-Floyd existence will find the best information in an article called My lovably ordinary brother Syd by Tim Willis, culled from conversation with his sister Rosemary, the one who knew him best in those years. She challenges the convenient diagnosis and assumptions of Syd that others place on him. Check it out, it's very interesting.

Report this review (#160008)
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Plenty of potential, but poorly executed

As has already be clarified earlier: this DVD is actually a re-issue of an earlier release called The Pink Floyd and Syd Barret Story. The problem with that title, of course, is that this documentary has very little to do with Pink Floyd after their brief brush with Syd, and is much more focused primarily on Barret himself. While I am admittedly not the man's biggest fan (I tend to think his 'genius' is overstated), I must admit the story behind the Syd Barret we all know is quite an interesting and compelling one. I find it very sad and tragic that his life took the dark, crazy turn that it did, and at so young an age, as well.

So when I knew a documentary was out telling this man's story (as the title clearly suggests), I felt that I just had to go out and buy it. So I did. Wow, what a disappointment. With such powerful subject matter, and many first-hand accounts still obtainable, I would have expected this thing to be so much more in-depth and personal than it was. Not only is the chance to tell a really stirring tale completely missed, here . . . the entire length of this thing is under fifty minutes. What? But this is the founder of Pink Floyd we're talking about, here! You can't just dish out a half-baked, jumpy narrative with massive holes and continuity issues, then on top of that cram it into under an hour!

Oh, but they can. And they did.

The reason why I am giving this a three star rating still is because:

1) It's currently (as of this writing) the only thing close to a proper Syd Barret documentary available to us.

2) It's still fairly informative despite the horrible editing and jumping forward in Barret's career.

This isn't perfect; not by a long shot, but if you are intrigued by the story behind Syd Barret, and wish to own a documentary about him, this is your best bet. For now.

Semi-happy viewing.

Report this review (#268862)
Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010 | Review Permalink

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