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Syd Barrett The Madcap Laughs album cover
3.60 | 238 ratings | 36 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Terrapin (5:04)
2. No Good Trying (3:26)
3. Love You (2:30)
4. No Man's Land (3:03)
5. Dark Globe (2:02)
6. Here I Go (3:11)
7. Octopus (3:47)
8. Golden Hair (1:59)
9. Long Gone (2:50)
10. She Took a Long Cold Look (1:55)
11. Feel (2:17)
12. If It's in You (2:26)
13. Late Night (3:10)

Total Time 37:40

Bonus tracks on 1994 reissue:
14. Octopus (takes 1 & 2) (3:09)
15. It's No Good Trying (take 5) (6:22)
16. Love You (take 1) (2:28)
17. Love You (take 3) (2:11)
18. She Took a Long Cold Look at Me (take 4) (2:44)
19. Golden Hair (take 5) (2:28)

Line-up / Musicians

- Syd Barrett / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, production (7,8)

- David Gilmour / 12-string acoustic guitar, bass, drums (7), co-producer
- Mike Ratledge / keyboards (2,3)
- Vic Saywell / horn
- Roger Waters / bass, co-producer
- Hugh Hopper / bass (2,3)
- John Wilson / drums
- Robert Wyatt / drums (2,3)
- Jerry Shirley / drums (4,6)

Releases information

Artwork: Hipgnosis with Mick Rock (photo)

LP Harvest ‎- SHVL 765 (1970, UK)
LP Simply Vinyl ‎- SVLP 289 (2000, UK)

CD EMI ‎- CDP 7 46607 2 (1987, Europe)
CD Harvest ‎- CDGO 2053 (1994, Europe) With 6 bonus tracks

Thanks to frenchie for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SYD BARRETT The Madcap Laughs ratings distribution

(238 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

SYD BARRETT The Madcap Laughs reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first SYD BARRET solo album has some really nice musical moments in it. My favorites are the songs "Octopus", "Feel" and "If it's in You". "Golden Hair" has to be mentioned separately, as it was done from a poem by JAMES JOYCE! The tunes are minimalist and they manage to create a strange atmosphere.

The picture on the album jacket was taken from Syd's home (what a way of furnishing). I must admit, that I feel little troubled about these Syd releases, as I'm not sure if he understood the way he was exploited. There are very good ideas in his songs, but the producers perhaps emphasized more his madness than his genius, and they didn't make very big efforts to help him doing good performances. There are takes, where he loses the beat, and these stoned wanderings are left here to be laughed at. The recording process was following: First Syd smashed his hits to the tapes, and after that SOFT MACHINE's guys were called to the studio to sweat over them. It's an impossible task to play rhythm over non-rhythmic playing, except for BILL BRUFORD perhaps.

Review by Cluster One
4 stars "And I borrowed a page, from the leopard's cage, and I prowled in the evening sun's glaze..." - 'Long Gone'

I thought long about awarding this album a 4-star review, wondering if people will actually 'like' this album. In the end I feel it deserves this rating. I realised it is ultimately extremely creative and more a psychedelic collection of dreams than anything overtly 'progressive'.It DOES belong in progressive musical collections however, particular as an historical document, a stark example of what might have been.

Syd's music is not for everyone. His guitar style is straight rhythm after his US Blues heroes. His music is remarkably simple, yet lyrically dense. Syd Barrett is more of a poet/lyricist in the vein of Lennon or Dylan, than that of a Gabriel or even Waters for that matter. He had a rich singing voice, and a charisma lacking in too many of today's musican frontmen.

"The Madcap Laughs", Syd's first solo album after being unceremoniously disposed of by the FLOYD, is an attempt by his three producers (Malcolm Jones, Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters) to harvest what genius Syd had left in him. The result is naked beauty, in all its imperfections. David Bowie counts "Madcap" as one of his inspirations.

Many of the tunes present are works of marvel. Psychedelic adventures of a turtle ('Terrapin') fit right alongside lilting, almost ragtime, English 60's pop ('Love You'). Many of the songs present could have found a home on FLOYD's "Piper At The Gates of Dawn" as they have a lot in common with the likes of 'Lucifer Sam' and 'Flaming'.

Syd is at his absolute creative best on songs like 'Octopus', 'Long Gone', 'Dark Globe' and 'Late Night' and any who appreciate the wild, whimsical, yet haunting work of Syd from PATGOD will truly appreciate these works. With 'Octopus' being just as excellent as 'See Emilly Play' or 'Arnold Layne'.

This album is not without its blemishes however. Certain songs are truly painful to hear, as it is clear that Syd is starting to lose his battle with mental illness / reality.

Neil Young once wrote "it's better to burn out, than to fade away." This is the album where Syd begins to burn away, his music literally consuming him from within. 4/5 stars, a must for any FLOYD fan.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars There is no denying Barret's influence on Pink Floyd and as also the co-founder along with Rick Wright, Roger Waters and Nick Mason. "Madcap laughs' is his only decent solo offering. This was released at a time when there was still a semblance of order in his musical repertoire. Brilliant tracks like ' Octopus', ' Terrapin' and ' No Man's Land' confirm this. There is still a mixed and chaotic feel to the album hence the title. I would recommend this album only from the late Syd Barrett as the others just seemed to fill gaps as he struggled to shake off that ' creeping malaise'. Also in the lienup are Waters, Gilmour, Wyatt and Hugh Hopper which made for a formiddable lineup. Good at best, historically of great value.
Review by Australian
3 stars "The Madcap Laughs" is the first of two solo albums made by the now deceased Pink Floyd founder, Syd Barret. The news of Syd Barret's death brought along much sorrow to many people, but it also was a time of reflection as people all over the world listened to Pink Floyd in honour of Syd. In Australia Pink Floyd was played on the radio for the first time in many years. Pink Floyd sales also increased as people rushed to get a piece of Pink Floyd and Syd Barret. For me, I began to listen to Syd's solo albums and in particular The Madcap Laughs which impresses me at the fact that the simplicity of the music is strangely effective. It seems to me that Syd was able to just sit down and write lyrics on a whim, all the lyrics flow for a little while before Syd purposely brakes the pattern. Recorded after Syd went crazy from LSD, "The Madcap Laughs" is, to me is the man trying to reach out to his friends in Pink Floyd.

This period was a difficult time for all involved and the members of Pink Floyd wrote many tributes to Syd Barret which are a testament to their lost friend. "The Madcap Laughs" is an enjoyable album and is a basically a toned down version of 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn.' It retains the Syd Barret style of song writing, but seems to lose much of the space-rock moods reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Best songs include "Terrapin", "Dark Globe" (a song for Syd's friends in Pink Floyd)," Octopus" and "Here I Go" all of which contain some Pink Floydish elements. The remaster of "The Madcap Laughs" comes with several 'takes' of songs as Syd was unable to play a song twice in the same way which made the album difficult to record.

Terrapin (4/5) 2. No Good Trying (3/5) 3. Love You (2.5/5) 4. No Man's Land (3/5) 5. Dark Globe (4/5) 6. Here I Go (3/5) 7. Octopus (4.5/5) 8. Golden Hair (2.5/5) 9. Long Gone (3/5) 10. She Took a Long Cold Look (2.5/5) 11. Feel (3/5) 12. If it's in You (3/5) 13. Late Night (3/5) Total = 41 divided by 13 number of songs) = 3.15 = 3 stars Good, but non-essential

In summary, "The Madcap Laughs" is a good album and give an insight into the mind of Syd Barret. I'd recommend "The Madcap Laughs" to all Pink Floyd fans, particularly fans of the band's earlier works like 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn.'

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "I think he kind of had raw talent. Most people, you know, they'll have a tube of it, and they'll squeeze it out a little and then mix in some turps. But Barrett is like a kid who got hold of a tube of talent, the way that children would get hold of a tube of toothpaste - squeeze it all out." [Robyn Hitchcock]

It's unfortunate that so many in the press get hung up talking about Syd's private life, drug use, or mental state. What is relevant is his art. His music is not for everyone, but for those who can lock into his unique vision it is very rewarding. It is both complex and simple, ranging from childlike whimsy to some very dark places to oddities in between. It is acoustic music at heart with mostly quiet vocals and worlds away from the circus of Piper. While occasional mistakes are made by Syd and in the production I have no problem overlooking such technicalities to the wondrous and unique music at its core. The gentle rhythmic playing on some tracks here (and on his song Opel from the Opel compilation) can be meditative, while other songs have an upbeat cheery vibe. It is strange music and some Floyd fans who listen to this will be shocked by the difference, the unpolished rawness, the lack of cohesive image that his former mates rode to stardom. This is closer to a Nick Drake sound than it is to any Pink Floyd album, but much less calculated than Drake. One gets the feeling that often Syd was really just channeling what came to him on a given day which is a fascinating way to experience creativity. Think about it. I hope people can maintain an open mind to Syd because he deserves to be heard by a wider audience. I love all of his solo material, even the less successful stuff. For those who'd rather try Syd with a slightly different approach get his second record "Barrett" instead. You'll find similar material but instead of the various arrangements/musicians and producers, you'll get Gilmour on bass and Jerry Shirley primarily as well as Dave's consistent oversight. Madcap has a more outwardly adventurous sound while Barrett seems slightly more intimate and a bit insular. It's debatable which approach is better so do try them both.

And I love Syd's "my way or the highway" approach to his life and work. He lived it on his terms. He decided (or it was decided for him) that he should live a quiet life away from the music business and that's what he did without ever looking back. All of Syd's work never fails to make me smile and realize how rewarding it can be to thumb one's nose at the status quo both in life and in popular music. There's a deviant quality to this album and to his approach but behind it I believe was a simple and good person who just didn't fit into this society, or rather, society didn't quite jive with him. I think those who would label his existence a "tragedy" are frankly missing the bigger picture. True, part of his story is sad but according to his own family he lived his life as he wished, did the best with the circumstances he was handed, and was happy often. There are plenty of "normal" people out there who can't pull off those things.

Review by Chris H
4 stars Music's most simple triumph?

Let's start off with an analogy by saying that Syd Barrett's "The Madcap Laughs" is to musical complexity as a blank piece of paper is to a masterpiece of art. If you didn't catch my drift, what I'm saying is that this is a wonderfully simple recording. nothing flashy is needed to pull of the psychedelic sound. And what a psychedelic sound it is! The sound on this album is almost an acid trip in itself.

Now, since I mentioned sound, another thing I have to say is that you shouldn't listen to this album expecting the style of guitar playing that is commonly associated with late- 60's/early-70's British guitar musical acts. Syd's style of playing is strictly influenced by his idols in the Blues genre from over the pond, here in America. Lots of acoustic driven passages combined with gentle strumming is one of the things I enjoy the most about this album.

Another interesting tidbit is that with the exception of 4 songs, this whole album was produced by none other than Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the man that kicked him to the curb and the man that replaced him in Syd's famous prog/psych outfit, The Pink Floyd. Now as for the music, there is a very "this is what I'm thinking right now, so I'll play it" vibe to the album. One could almost compare "The Madcap Laughs" to a musical version of Syd's diary, or day-to-day thoughts, if you prefer. A very unpolished, raw and edgy sound covers all of the coats all of the music produced, and this might be a huge change from the polished and squeaky-clean sounds of the 70's Pink Floyd albums.

Like I just said, fans of the 70's albums from Pink Floyd that want to check out solo projects should probably find the works from David Gilmour or Roger Waters before taking on Syd Barrett. I have no second thoughts at all about giving this album 4 stars, it is a wonderful album and a benchmark for all later psychedelic albums/bands. Simplicity was never so complex.

Review by Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Barrett's solo work is not (truly) a matter of albums, discs and spins; it's a full, short and rarely demanding moment of music and sheer taste. Pretty close to the idea, Syd Barrett isn't doing his plain private records; he's having his most powerful freedom of expression. The Pink Floyd approach is both consumable (two of his colleagues are present, as guests) and straightened away, given that Barrett influenced tremendously (with what he had as authentic writing, singing, playing and envisioning) the psychedelic debut of the great band (and it's best, Saucerful Of Secrets), yet didn't stay long in the great pink atmosphere, neither thrived on the same level as Floyd into his own doing. The juicy idea is that Barrett is, individually, the great and fascinating music talent, while his moment away from Pink Floyd hasn't got the slightest of a blur and a smirk: it's exciting and fun, it's consistent and stylishly abiding, it's elegant and interesting, it's deep and woozy. The moment lasts for two albums, Madcap Laughs and Barrett, neither too noticeably dissimilar, nor two sharply alike. Both meaning music, style, verse and a bit of appeal (being needed).

Madcap Laughs is no state of the art (it would wrong to think of it like that), but it surely a great album to sink in, figuratively or (rather) concretely. Worthy for its possessive pop-psychedelic, songwriting skills, acoustic rock challenges and mono-lyrical emotions, the album reflects Barrett in a supreme moment of feeling comfortable, strong ecstatic, sensibly expressive or weirdly complex. From 13 pieces, Madcap's beautiful, rupturing and succumbed qualities are part of Barrett's joy, precision and psyched waft, summing up a deeming creativity, a fearful cold manner, a bit of jovial rock pluck and a kind juicy fever of interpretation and improvisation. Barrett is the magician, wholeheartedly dedicated to his project, though other artists (include Gilmour, Waters and Wyatt) help on a couple of pieces or on more special acts.

The album is simple, eerily patient and skilled, but you can almost feel how complex the strut air, inside the music, really is. Madcap Laughs is essentially the brightest solo album, with the best pieces from the artist's entire saucerful collection, leaving Barrett in a state of fragile art rock, despite that the characters are much the same. In a transparent numbness and an eloquent expressiveness, the album is no frugal pill and no hazard of melodies and broken limb rhythms. The songs, almost all of them, are an individual study and concept, being also the most delightful quality. But Barrett crafts the chemistry deep into "lightmotifs" of stringing while singing, rocking while jocking and alternating the ambition of sour or dry lyrics with the hidden churn of poetry and "singing with a feeling". Madcap's tremendous subtlety is cut down to hearing simple, most short, feathery, various but stereotypical and light-darkened songs, all being powerfully reflexive on a psychedelic determined practice, that springs from chanting to dry scotch experimenting and healthy art wobbling. Sounds fine to say that, in the end, half of the material is made of gems, of songs so bright, lovely, interactive or blended that they're also something Barrett will never achieve in other recordings. The other songs, more brewed or mucked, have nevertheless the same values: not just tracks and tunes, but music; not just enigmatic soft/popular psychedelism, but a tenacious moment of rock emotion; not just singing, but performing, under the trademark of an unusual and (often) discrete flamboyance.

Madcap Laughs is not a veracious psychedelic/pop-rock/progressive tape, but it is all the same Barrett's fundamental solo volume, reflecting his breakthrough from Floyd and his one year of mastering a remarkable kind of art music.

Review by progrules
2 stars I will not make this a long review because I will probably hurt a lot of people's feelings with this and also because there is not too much to say about it, at least if you leave historical aspects aside. When I bought it I only did that because it was for sale and I would never have payed the full price because I already had the feeling this was what it appeared to be. And I mean by that that I did not expect a very symphonical progressive effort but I did not know it would be like this.

The only positive thing I have to say about it is that it's always a special achievement if someone does the musical thing on his own, it's acoustic without other instrument than the acoustic guitar. But let's be honest, the songs and the vocals are below par. This album is a curiosity more than an album full of great music. And this fact added to the fact we are talking about the Crazy Diamond here causes the 4 and 5 star ratings in my opinion. And that's ok, we all have different approaches to progressive music and mine is that I judge the music I hear and for that this scores 1,5 star for me. I round it up because of the man's status (yes, even I do that) and out of respect for that. But really, I can't go further than two stars.

Review by The Whistler
4 stars Close our eyes to the 4.5!

Nobody just starts listening to a Syd Barrett album "for the heck of it." Know what I mean? Nobody sees the name "Syd Barrett" on the prog-related list and goes, "Hmm, he sounds interesting. Think I'll pick up this here Opel album."

No. People listen to Syd for a couple of reasons, and they're all basically related. There is the Floyd fan seeking roots, the psychedelic fan seeking expansion, and the freak fan seeking fun. I myself was in the latter category; I'm not the biggest fan of early Floyd, but I'd heard that Syd was totally insane on these records. So, I gave it a shot.

And what I discovered was something that was...remarkable. No, Syd did not turn out to be a mini-god. And yes, Syd was still totally bonkers. But the man had talent, both in his song writing and guitar playing, and perhaps he honestly WAS a genius under all that LSD. But it's a special kind of genius.

"Terrapin" is a droning blues piece that'll either turn you off the album or welcome you into it. I find it kind of charming; it's so relaxing, and the lyrics are a cute mix of psychedelia and boy-girl stuff. "No Good Trying" picks up the psychedelic vibe though, with nice backing by the Soft Machine, and some interesting guitar work.

"Love You" is the first spark of real genius; a bizarre piano pop song with frantic keyboards in the background. Coupled with funny love lyrics and a bouncy melody, it's great. "No Man's Land" is just plain creepy, with the fuzzy guitar attack and Syd's bleak lyrics. The Soft Machine does a perfect job of backing the Crazy Diamond too. And when Syd just starts blabbering at the end? Spooky-cool.

Perhaps the best song on the album (it's kind of hard to tell) is "Dark Globe," just Syd and his acoustic. The first half is funny in a freak show kinda way, but midway through, the fun stops; and the second time Syd tiredly yells, "Won't you miss me, wouldn't you miss me at all?" it sounds like he's begging me, me of all people, not to forget him when he's gone. Gone from where? The studio? Sanity? Life? The room? With Syd, it's hard to say, but chilling all the same.

Then, in classic Syd role-reversal, "Here I Go" ends up being a tiny Britpop masterpiece. I dig the funny vaudeville melody and the self-depreciating, yet hopeful, lyrics. Too bad it fades out as the solo starts up. No such luck with "Octopus" though; Syd is total bonkers mode here, screaming out crazy lyrics with inhuman zeal, all backed by an over-the-top psycho pop melody that you can't get out of your head for days.

"Golden Hair" is probably the most "avantgarde" thing on the record; at least, purposefully. The musical backing is sparse, just an acoustic and some cymbal effects, and Syd reading the Joyce poem with mystical undertones. "Long Gone" one ups it though; just a depressing acoustic and a creepy organ that builds until Syd's screaming the chorus. And then, it plops back his soft drone and strumming. Creepy.

"She Took a Long Cold Look" is the album's only real misfire. Syd and his acoustic, which is nice, but it's fairly tuneless, and what's up with those pauses? Was Syd forgetting his place? "Feel" also feels a little half-baked, but it shows promise, with interesting, painful chord changes and interesting, pleading lyrics.

"If It's In You" opens with a bizarre start and stop Syd mumbling and off key singing. But somehow, when the song starts, Syd manages to pull off the high notes. That is, until halfway though the song when he starts abandoning weird rhymes in favor of inhuman jabbering. And then we close with "Late Night," a little strange after all the "Syd solo" spots with just the acoustic. Still though, the soft ballad is more together, with a cool slide guitar backing and introverted lyrics, and in a private sort of way, is very touching.

Now, I realize that a high four star rating is a lot for this mess-terpiece, but it's a special rating for a very special record. The Madcap Laughs might actually be the most unique record ever recorded. Syd is far from the world's greatest guitarist, but no one played like he did, electric or acoustic.

Also the lyrics; no one ever wrote lyrics like Syd, and probably never will again. I mean, half the time he's hardly there and it's psychobabble, but the other half, brrr. Syd has a way of really digging into you and making you care about his descent into madness (witness "Octopus," which goes from "Please leave us here, close our eyes to the octopus rise!" to "Isn't so good to be lost in the woods? Isn't it good, so quiet there?").

In fact, the reason that it's so hard to choose a best number off the album isn't that they're all so good; no, Madcap is definitely better than the sum of its parts. Alone, the songs are either bizarre curios, or bizarre "lost gems," but hardly masterpieces. But together? They create a single, moving, unstoppable monster of...of God knows what, but I like it.

Half the fun of Madcap is Syd's skill, and the other half is Syd's uniqueness. On the surface, this record sounds like a lot of other psycho-folkies out there. But underneath, it is a work of genius; a painful portrait of someone going insane, who pretends there's hope, but just wishes that we'll remember him when he's long gone.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Going on without the Floyd

Syd Barrett was an excellent prog related artist. His relation to prog? Well, for anyone who doesn't already know - Barrett was the founder of Pink Floyd before they fired him during the recording of their second album. His artistic vision didn't fit in with the rest of the bands', and comparing this album to the middle era of Floyd it's easy to see why. Barrett's approach to his music is a lot different than before, there's no Astronomy Domine or anything of the like on the album - this one is a very pleasant, simplistic album that's quite good at soothing the listener with its calm and crazy moments.

There's two kinds of song on the album. There's the slow and calm songs such as the wonderful closer, Late Night, and the brilliant opening Terrapin - and then there's the crazy and up-beat songs such as the fun and jumpy Love You and the screaming Octopus. There's no lack of inspiration on the album as well as Barrett seems to be pulling all of this off the top of his head. Not making it up as he goes along - but singing his passions out for all to hear. Rumor has it that Barrett would record every song through many times, no two times ever sounding completely the same, and later pick which version he liked the best. The remastered cd versions of the albums contain some of these alternate takes, and though they don't really add to the package they're certainly fun, and different, to listen to.

All in all this is a pretty difficult album to comment on based sheerly on it's simplicity. Barrett plays guitar and sings along while some modest rhythm sections meander around in the background providing structure to the songs. Standouts on the album usually showcase Barrett doing something off the wall, or just plain odd. No Good Trying has Barrett in an almost grumbling voice while If It's In You has Barrett stop and restart the song from the beginning after talking to someone off to the side of the studio - and based on the way Barrett recorded that was probably not scripted. All these little quirky things add up for a very fun and enjoyable album. Some of the songs don't have what most people would call ''high brow'' lyrics such as songs like Love You and Here I Go, while others are simply eerie taken in context all these years later, case in point, Dark Globe (''wouldn't you miss me at all?'').

This is not a prog rock masterpiece, and this is not an album that people world wide will undoubtedly enjoy. But it is a forgotten, lovely, rough gem that can be loved by the people who really have a feel for it. It's an album that either reaches out and grabs you or lets you pass, depending on who you are. As far as Barrett's solo output would go he only had one more album left in him, the self titled Barrett which would prove to be a bit more even content wise, but the good material on this album stand above the best material on his second album by a wide margin. For rating this one gets a strong 3.5 for a prog album. Floyd fans should definitely check it out, although not all will fall in love with it. For people who fancy themselves fans of something a bit more simple this album really does have a wonderful personality to it, and if it's something you're into then you could probably add another full star. It's hit and miss for most people, but it's undoubtedly recommended, if even to see which category you fall into.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars "The Madcap Laughs" was Syd's debut album released in January of 1970. The whimsical poet is helped by his former PINK FLOYD mates Roger Waters and David Gilmour, while SOFT MACHINE members (1969) also help out on two tracks. Actually Roger and David came to the rescue when EMI threatened to pull the plug on the sessions because of Barrett's incompetance. His former bandmates said they would help Syd finish it, which of course they did.

"Terrapin" is a catchy and relaxed tune with the focus on Syd's vocals.This is the longest track as well. "No Good Trying" is a top three for me mainly because of the instrumental work of the SOFT MACHINE members. Ratledge's fuzzed out organ and Wyatt's drumming talents really add a lot while Hopper's bass is also prominant. "Love You" opens with strummed guitar before vocals, drums and piano take over. Some silly lyrics here. "No Man's Land" is another top three with SOFT MACHINE backing up.This is darker and the guitar by Barrett sounds excellent. I can picture Wyatt pounding away. Spoken words after 2 minutes. "Dark Globe" features Syd crying out the lyrics as he strums his guitar.

"Here I Go" is a catchy little tune that reminds me of Kevin Ayers. "Octopus" has some energy as Syd strums his guitar and sings with passion. "Golden Hair" is slower paced and kind of dark with reserved vocals. I like it ! This is my other top three tune. "Long Gone" is another great track with those organ runs and psychedelic lyrics. The next three tracks all feature vocals and acoustic guitar leading the way.The final track is "Late Night" and it's better than the last three. Electric guitar, light drums and vocals all sound really good here.

A special album from a very special and talented man but when compared to his compositions when with FLOYD I find this is lacking. 3.5 stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Here is a somewhat eneven, but highly interesting album by the former Pink Floyd frontman. The songs are much more sparse than those on the early Pink Floyd albums, despite having David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and some Soft Machine members along to help out. But there is a definite early Floyd feel, however without the oddities and sound effects that helped make those albums classics in the prog world.

Barrett's poetry is the focal point, and at this point he was as fluid as ever, possibly inspired by the events that had driven him out of the band to begin with. An interesting note: some of the vocals are surprisingly reminiscent of Roger Waters wailing vocals on The Wall.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I actually enjoy this album slightly more than The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, but that probably isn't saying much since the two albums have little in common. Both releases feature Syd Barrett and Roger Waters but musically and lyrically this is a whole different experience.

Most of these performances feature one man performances by Syd Barrett where he sings his original lyrics while playing his acoustic guitar. I find most of those compositions quite average, likely this isn't everything the album has to offer. There are a few compositions that are performed in a band setting and that's where Barrett's work really gets the treatment it deserves. Compositions like Octopus and Late Night are among the best that I've heard from both his work with Pink Floyd and solo so it's unfortunate that this album have so few of these magical moments.

Overall The Madcap Laughs features many different sides of this struggling young artist but leaves strong emotions out of the performances and therefore I doubt that anyone outside the already well established Pink Floyd fan-base will find this material all that impressive.

***** star songs: Terrapin (5:04) Octopus (3:47) Late Night (3:10)

**** star songs: No Good Trying (3:26) Dark Globe (2:02) Golden Hair (1:59) Long Gone (2:50) If It's In You (2:26)

*** star songs: Love You (2:30) No Man's Land (3:03) Here I Go (3:11) She Took A Long Cold Look (1:55) Feel (2:17)

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After being considered too unreliable to remain a part of the Floyd, Barrett retreated from the spotlights and gradually alienated from the world around him. Considered as a genius by some or as an annoying lunatic by others, also his debut album can be looked upon from two different angles.

You can seek and find all confirmation you want in order to prove that Barrett was a hopeless heap of misery, writing unfocussed psychedelic ramblings and putting in a lousy performance while recording them. Sometimes that's also what I hear when listening to this album. There are plenty of moments where Barrett is completely out of tune, where his playing is sloppy, and the song-writing average at best.

But there's an alternative approach. When you look through the apparent lack of focus, you'll find the unpolished imagination and raw emotion of this breakable man and his bare guitar sound. Freed from the psychedelic flower-pop that somehow spoilt the Piper album for me, we hear a pure and delicate testimony of the man's genius.

The opener in particular is amazing, so seemingly obvious yet so subtle and inimitable Barrett. It's consists of apparently thoughtless guitar strumming and hazy unfocussed vocals but the effect is so gripping and unique. On No Good Trying and No Man's Land, Barrett is accompanied by a number of Canterbury friends that give the songs a fitting arrangement. But also the sparse Octopus is great. Around minute 2, there's a good example of Barrett's unique approach to guitar strumming, with that rhythmical pulse known from Instellar Overdrive that was so influential on space-rock and kraut. Other personal favs are Golden Hair, Long Gone and Late Night.

The album might have been better if the guest musicians had been given more room to pursue the instrumental themes here a bit further. But much of the charm of this album comes from its unfinished imperfection and the raw, unpolished feel. As if it was work in progress. Unfortunately things turned out to be at a dead-end for Barrett. 3.5 stars

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars The most important thing to realize going into listening to this album the first couple of times is that Syd Barrett really *was* a talented songwriter, and that even without his total mental breakdown he still would have amassed a pretty decently sized following. There are quite a few melodies and chord sequences here that would have worked just fine in a normal setting, with a lyrical combination of playfulness and self-confession that would make quite an impact on their own. The opening "Terrapin" is a great example of this, as it's a rather gentle acoustic ballad that combines playful (and only somewhat nonsensical) lyrics about being a swimming fish and simple (but still kinda clever to my ears) boy-girl lyrics like, "Well oh baby my hair's on end about you." Simple and poppy, yes, but high quality simple-and-poppy, if you ask me.

But of course, it's not the normal aspects of the album alone that ultimately draw people here, but rather the way in which they provide a context for the train wreck of Syd's mind. "Terrapin," by having such 'regular' appeal, is an extremely deceptive opener, as the evidence for this album's weirdness reputation begins in full force with track two. Witness the dark aggressive (and outright disturbing) cacophony of "No Good Trying", whose most revealing moment is the line about the person Syd is singing to spinning around in a car while lights are flashing all around. Witness the hilariously catchy up-tempo, nonsensical "Love You," where Syd and Co. conjure up a vaguely Kinksy piano number and let it linger in the astral plane just long enough to totally screw it up (meant in a good way). Witness ESPECIALLY when Syd's performance (singing, lyrics, guitar, everything) goes totally off the deep end in "Octopus," all culminating in the ecstatic chanting of, "Please leave us here! Close our eyes to the octopus riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!!!" And so on.

The easiest way, for me at least, to categorize the rest of the album is to divide it into "lucid" and "less lucid." The less lucid parts sometimes happen within the songs themselves (like the weird mumbling freak-out in the second half of "No Man's Land"), but the most frightening one comes when Roger Waters and David Gilmour (the producers) share an outtake from right before Syd's 'proper' rendition of "If It's In You," where Syd starts into the number and ends up hideously off-key in singing, "Yes I'm thiiiiiiiiiiiNNNNNNNNNNKing" and follows by mumbling only semi-coherently. Poor, poor, Syd.

What makes his collapse even more frightening and sad in my mind, though, is the ways the lucid moments show he was fully aware of it. "Dark Globe" is playful and has somewhat off-key vocals, yes, but those are serious chills down my back when he sings, "Won't you miss me? Wouldn't you miss me at aaaallllllll??" Those chills stay when I hear Syd longing for a girl in "Here I Go," in the mournful "Long Gone," and even when he's slowly singing James Joyce poetry to an elementary melody.

Beyond these, there are some songs that aren't really that super, and that kinda negate my original hopes that, even in the wake of such heavy drug abuse, his songwriting abilities would remain completely unscathed. But really, I don't think that's the point. This is an album that can be extremely enjoyable at points, yes, but it's also very sad, and more than that really has no parallel in music of which I'm aware. It's messy, it's playful, it's sad ... it's Syd. And Syd was great, despite himself. This is why I like this album terribly much, despite that I almost never bring it out. If you don't like it, I can understand, but you must also understand that those of us who do like it get a feel from it that's largely indescribable, and thus you should not condemn us or this album.

PS: Somehow, I left out mention of the album's second best song, the closing "Late Night." It's probably the best example on the album of a semi-coherent love song, one that had a great song at its core but got tweaked more than a bit by being filtered through Syd's mind. It brings a tear to my eye each time I hear it.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars I admit to having mixed emotions about the semi-legendary debut solo album from PINK FLOYD's original Piper and Crazy Diamond: it's a fascinating document of an artist's damaged psyche, but in a sometimes horribly voyeuristic sort of way.

The disarming innocence and literate whimsy that made those early Floyd pop songs like "Matilda Mother" and "Lucifer Sam" so memorable is still very much in evidence, from the jaunty "Here I Go" to the haunting "Golden Hair", the latter borrowing its text from a poem by James Joyce. And the naked simplicity of the songwriting and arrangements, often featuring Barrett alone on acoustic guitar, stands in welcome contrast to the increasingly baroque avant-garde experiments his ex-bandmates were designing at the same time, in albums like "Saucerful of Secrets" and "Ummagumma".

But too much of "The Madcap Laughs", from the album's title and cover photo to the inside sleeve art and layout, arguably exploits Barrett's chemical dependence. In a more cynical sense the album might almost be marketing his mental illness.

To cite one obvious example: compare the song "Dark Globe" as it appears here with the more accomplished earlier take released years later on the "Opel" compilation. The discarded original was a gentle, bittersweet ode to unrequited love ("Oh where are you now, pussywillow that smiled on this leaf?"). But in the version ultimately chosen for the album poor Syd had to frantically reach for notes several octaves above his natural vocal range. And including the ragged false starts to the song "If It's In You" does nothing to illuminate the creative process, beyond encouraging an unhealthy measure of embarrassment and pity.

At its best the album reveals something of the same inadvertent Outsider Music quirkiness and purity of expression heard in The Shaggs' "Philosophy of the World" LP (referenced in my PA avatar, and by coincidence recorded at around the same time as "The Madcap Laughs"). But the enduring myth of Syd Barrett as a visionary poet destroyed by the callous demands of the music industry is just that: a myth and nothing more, built from years of sentiment, sympathy, and rose-tinted revisionist history.

His actual recorded legacy is a little more ambivalent. In the cold light of hindsight this first album has to be considered only a fossil of Barrett's once vital talent, but like any surviving fossil it remains either an invaluable artifact or a unique, blue-moon curio, take your pick.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Fishing dreams into an endless river.

The endless river is at the end of High Hopes. The last Pink Floyd's song closes the circle but Syd was already in the river catching dreams and putting them into songs until his mind decided to follow the stream so he became a dream, too.

The slow tempo of Terrapin and the dreaming lyrics send the listener to this magic and disconnected world. It's clear that the original recording was done just by Syd on acoustic guitar and the rest was added during the production. Gilmour's background is not invasive and the song works fine. I have to say that this simple version is still better than the cover done by Gilmour in his last tours.

"No Good Trying" has a Beatlesque theme, but the short chaotic interlude in the middle sounds like the old good psychedelic times. Mike Rattledge seems Wright and the sound reminds clearly to The Piper.

"Love You" has still tracks of the original genius. The alliterations and the rhymes in the lyrics are typical of the best Barrett.

"No Man's Land" start beat-bluesy, but then turns into the soundscapes of Interstellar Overdrive on which Syd says something that I can't catch.And all in 3 minutes only!

"Dark Globe" is not chaotic. The chaos seems to be in Syd's mind here. Voice and acoustic guitar for a 2 minutes song on which I think I hear a passage that makes me think to what Waters did after.

"Here I Go" is probably a reminder of Syd's old passion for American Blues coming from the 50s, even though it's very British at the same time.

Now, there's a reason for my nickname. I don't remember if this song or Gentle Giant were more influential on it. However this is one of my favourite songs in this album. Surely the one easiest to remember. "Octopus" I mean.

"Golden Hair" is probably the most Floydian song. It could have been included on The Piper or on Saucerful of Secrets.

"Long Gone" has a good arrangement, probably thanks to Gilmour. It contains a choir, It's likely Syd overdubbed, but now who knows?

"She Took a Long Cold Look" is still containing pieces of genius, but it's the song I like less here. It's another vocals-guitar solo by Syd.

On "Feel" it's still possible to find a structure, but it's like the producers were looking for materials to fill the album. It was a good decision leaving "If It's in You" as it was, with the Syd's vocal error and the song's restart after Syd's apologies, but the genius is almost gone now.

"Late Night" was probably chosen as closure in advance as the quality of the song and the arrangements are back in line with the best tracks. Gilmour here sounds like he did later on Zabriskie Point.

There is full of regret for what hasn't been, and it's the same feeling that Gilmour instilled into High Hopes. He still plays Terrapin and Arnold Layne.

This album is a great document about Syd and early Pink Floyd, too. For this reason, even if not a masterpiece it's a must for every progger so I rate it 4 stars.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Produced from torturous sessions - with much help from fellow Floydians Roger Waters and David Gilmour, as well as the Soft Machine guesting on a couple of tracks - Syd Barrett's first solo album conceals within its fairytale lyrics a harrowing insight into mental illness. In the themes of isolation, alienation, and separation pervading songs like Dark Globe or Late Night, Barrett acknowledges - if obliquely - the stresses and torments that had overtaken his musical career, and in doing so offers an insight into that strange and troubled place his mental state had brought him to.

Whether Barrett was schizophrenic, deeply depressed, or simply stressed out and confused from a drug-filled and frenetic lifestyle will be a matter of speculation for as long as his career is remembered; what cannot be denied, though, is the genuine feeling communicated in these simple, stripped-down, beautiful songs. It is tremendously difficult to understand, for those who have not experienced issues similar to Syd's, exactly how mental illness feels from the inside, and it's often extremely difficult for sufferers to express it. There are those who would consider this album exploitative of Syd's condition, but I think on balance it would have done Syd a far worse disservice to silence him by discouraging the production of the album. If it sometimes makes for uncomfortable listening, it's because it opens our eyes to ideas and issues which we all too often prefer not to acknowledge. I think it's Syd's finest musical statement.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I remember getting this album ages ago when I was young and in my "discovering Pink Floyd" phase. Man, I had a crush on 'Iggy The Eskimo', the girl seen in the background on the back cover. It certainly wouldn't be the only time Pink Floyd members would prove their fondness for female derrieres, but I find the photo session that came out for The Madcap Laughs the most memorable and coolest with some serious sweet cheeks displayed while Syd remained in the foreground looking oblivious and a bit lost in general. Even a fine rump couldn't save this man.

The music itself has aged surprisingly well, and today plays like some proto-alt-folk rock with psychedelic touches that indie rock fans and side-burned hipsters could even appreciate. It certainly feels a bit more contemporary than his former band's stuff from that time (Atom Heart Mother & such), and I personally just dig it more than what Floyd were doing during the same period. The songs have lots of acoustic guitar playing, and have lyrics that focus much if not more on love and personal feelings than, say, brooding interpretations of insanity. It's often whimsical and unpretentious as well. Of course, there's also some wacked out lyrics tossed about, such as the howling "Octopus" or how the sweet opener "Terrapin" starts off cute but gets odder in the verse department as the song moves along.

The playing is skillful enough for the material, with some interesting bits aided by The Soft Machine dudes such as on "No Good Trying", which plays like an acid drenched rock tune on the verge of chaos. "Dark Globe" should be mentioned for Syd's strained and almost manic delivery, particularly near the song's end. Yeah, Roger Waters had to have taken that cue for his "The Wall" persona. "Late Night" is a gorgeous closing track, atmospheric and sorrowful with some nice slide guitar.

There are a few songs that don't match up to the best tracks here, but as a whole it's a fascinating document of a musician and former star losing his marbles. It could be considered as exploitive concerning the album title, imagery and a few of the takes used for the album (the disastrous but hilarious "If It's In You"), but I'm sure Syd was still quite in on the whole thing and wasn't ready to give up recording music yet. It wouldn't be too much longer though for him to withdraw completely, leaving behind strange ditties like the ones on The Madcap Laughs that are playful, weird, fun, and yet more than a little sad.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have to agree with fellow reviewer Chris H. when he says that this is one of rock music's most simple triumphs, it truly is a great record by a very fragile individual and that fragility is laced throughout the psychedelic folk of The Madcap Laughs.

Barrett at this point was an absolute wreck to work with and David Gilmour and Roger Waters had what is said to be a real heck of a time trying to get Syd to create something they could work with. In a way, that's the true genius behind it, only Syd really knew what he was trying to do. The seemingly simple folk songs Barrett creates here that at times have a psych edge never fail to captivate me and also have an emotional effect on me. The Madcap Laughs is as the title suggests, a madman in a fit of laughter, but what is madness? Genius in disguise?

Simply put, many prog fans will have a hard time with this because it's a pretty raw recording but there are some of the best songs ever written on this album. Barrett was the human symbol of an artist and true fans of music can see the imprint the man left on his band members and other artists to come.

Aloof and enjoyable, serious and yet not so serious, The Madcap Laughs is a great album.

Review by DamoXt7942
5 stars Exactly dispersed, dissected, distorted authentic acid folk. 'The Madcap Laughs' is kinda vertigo accelerator for me, that cannot be removed by antihistaminic agents. Am I wrong?

A transcendent musical madness 'The Madcap Laughs' has been created by Syd BARRETT, the frontman of Pink Floyd and at the same time the emotional support for their debut album / the progressive rock masterpiece 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn', and been released as his debut solo album in 1970. 'The Madcap Laughs' features Syd's acoustic guitar and lazy voices with a couple of simple rock instruments in collaboration with some session musicians like Roger Waters, David Gilmour or a producer Peter Jenner. Obviously such a simple formation should highlight Syd's composition or soundscape, each of that synchronizes with the other.

13 songs all are short and primitive, filled with downtempo, drone essence launched up via Barrett psychic world, where is no polyrhythmic footprint nor complicated melody line. But crazy, his terrific acoustic discharge based upon his own acid folk vision should drive the audience mad definitely. 'Here I Go' sounds like sorta mediocre folk song but in this track are lots of hallucinogenic or adrenalized melodic, rhythmic elements. 'Golden Hair', one of my faves, is full of Krautrock-ish acidity and antiviral activity. Even one of the most acceptable stuffs in this album 'Octopus' has melodically cynical atmosphere and weird symphonies of sickness. We the audience should digest this madcap enough to make ourselves schizophrenic. Yes enough is enough.

This incredible creation notifies us of the reason Roger could not exceed Syd in a musical and emotional career. Yes because he lived in another world, another dimension of musical and real life. Anyway who is 'Madcap' he mentioned in this album. I do not consider it might be Syd but be all people around him, who would have thought himself decent I guess.

Latest members reviews

5 stars The Madcap Laughs. The first time you listen to this album you could say, what is this? A joke? Of course you have to know Pink Floyd's story, especially the first years with SYD, to understand better his situation, his musical thoughts, his style, to understand HIM. A difficult moment for the mas ... (read more)

Report this review (#2955740) | Posted by progrockeveryday | Friday, September 29, 2023 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Unfortunately there is not much of interest going on here, besides an harrowingly raw display of Barrett's talent. Half of the album is comprised of acoustic tracks with only Syd's voice and guitar. On the other half of the tracks, Syd is helped by a handful of musicians including Soft Machine's ... (read more)

Report this review (#2526781) | Posted by lukretio | Sunday, March 21, 2021 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I have always loved the quirky songs Syd Barrett made with Pink Floyd in the early years especially Arnold Lane, See Emily Play and Bike. However the truth is, what made these songs so much fun to listen to were the supremely clever musical backings they were couched in and for that Rick Wright ... (read more)

Report this review (#2419177) | Posted by Lupton | Monday, July 13, 2020 | Review Permanlink

2 stars 2.5: The first solo album from Syd barrett. After leaving or left behind for his addiction problem, Syd dedicated to make two albums, and create a lot of unreleased material. After really making a lot of investigation of the life of Barret, I got very interested to know more about his material. As ... (read more)

Report this review (#2113968) | Posted by mariorockprog | Thursday, January 3, 2019 | Review Permanlink

2 stars No mere warning. For those that can't, or refuse, to recognize that artist's such as Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and even the acoustic duo of Simon and Garfunkel, are folk rock artists, with massive hit folk rock songs like Cowgirl In The Sand, Sundown and The Sound Of Silence, which owe n ... (read more)

Report this review (#1407568) | Posted by SteveG | Saturday, May 2, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Painter and Interior Decorator So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end all too soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. Nothing seems worthwhile but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to forever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he ... (read more)

Report this review (#1407546) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Saturday, May 2, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Floyd lunatic gives us this amazing and lonely album, the feeling and the sounds are quite acoustic-psychedelic; the lyrics, the music notices that poor Syd was on the brink of insanity ... Songs like "Love you" stand your party happy and cheerful while "Terrapin" and "No man's land" show ... (read more)

Report this review (#242027) | Posted by Diego I | Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'The Madcap Laughs' is the first solo album of Syd Barrett and the style is a mix between The Doors and Beatles with drops of Psychedelic Rock and Folk. And this is the best description of this album. For the rest the music not conquest me. Because Syd Barrett wrote good music but not perfect ... (read more)

Report this review (#218781) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It's Syd's first album after his departure from Pink Floyd. Recorded in 1968 and 1969 and released early January 1970. Same year followed his second solo album simply called Barrett. This is a collection of really nice sing and songwriter songs. Not so psychedelic as most of his work with Floyd, ... (read more)

Report this review (#172806) | Posted by Devnoy | Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A collection of fragile, pure beautiful songs, especially Terrapin, Golden Hair (with a James Joyce poem for lyrics), Octopus, Dark Globe and Feel. With this sublime cover art, The Madcap Laughs is a magnificent album, the first of the two solo albums Syd Barrett made. Yes, he was a looney, but ... (read more)

Report this review (#164044) | Posted by Zardoz | Sunday, March 16, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One of the my favorite psychedelic albums of all time. His voice is wonderful in this entire album and it really shows what he could have done if he could have stayed in Pink Floyd. The trippy music and the way his voice melts perfectly in with it makes this a wonderful album. ... (read more)

Report this review (#138993) | Posted by TheMadCap | Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A true genius and an avant-garde poet and musician who was way ahead of his time and who influenced whole generations of wannabe artists. Although the solo material he delivered was "approximate" in terms of production and rendition, the true value of each song can be sussed and sensed and fel ... (read more)

Report this review (#92459) | Posted by | Thursday, September 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars i really love this album. it has always been one of my favorite albums. it has some progressive qaulities and adventorous songs. there are also some solemn, calm, and at times quite silly acoustic songs as well. it has a very psychodelic sound to it and is definitely a unique sound. i have not h ... (read more)

Report this review (#48797) | Posted by | Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply the best poet to hit the rock world. Together with Don Van Vliet a 100% artist at the cost of everything else in his life. The only song on the album that has weak lyrics is Golden Hair & that was written by James Joyce. If you like true art in prog music you'll love this music. Be war ... (read more)

Report this review (#42019) | Posted by | Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Someone could hear this album and think that it's a joke, but it has great good musical stuff, as the changes of rithms. I would put 5 stars, but i don't think it's prog, so it can't be 'a masterpiece of progressive music'. You notice at once the mental health of poor Syd.This album is almost all ... (read more)

Report this review (#41327) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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