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Finnforest View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Syd Barrett article
    Posted: June 23 2007 at 17:19

I thought this was a neat article about Syd, and that maybe some of you would like to see it.  Cheers.




My lovably ordinary brother Syd
Tim Willis - The Times - July 16, 2006






The ‘crazy diamond’ founder of Pink Floyd was no acid casualty or recluse. He loved art and DIY, his sister Rosemary tells his biographer Tim Willis in her first interview for 30 years


When the death of 60-year-old Roger “Syd” Barrett was announced on Tuesday, the media raised an astonishing last hurrah for the founder of Pink Floyd, the “crazy diamond” who had shunned the public gaze for decades.
The descriptions of him as a “mad genius”, “recluse” and “acid casualty” were far off the mark, however, according to his sister Rosemary.

When I wrote Barrett’s biography, Madcap, four years ago I had off-the-record guidance from Rosemary — his junior by two years and closest friend. Last week, after his death, we spoke again and this time she went on the record — the first time she has given a press interview for more than 30 years.

She described him as a loving man who “simply couldn’t understand” the continued interest in his distant Pink Floyd years and was too absorbed in his own thoughts to spare time for fans.

While her account is naturally fond, one should remember that she has spent much of her working life as a nurse and therefore sees no stigma in mental illness. As children, she and Barrett shared a bedroom and she recalls him leaping from his sheets to conduct an imaginary orchestra. He always had an extraordinary mind, bordering on the autistic or Aspergic. He had a rare talent to exploit ambiguities in language and also experienced synaesthesia — the ability to “see sounds and hear colours” — which was to be a huge influence on his music in his psychedelic phase.

As a performing artist, signed to a label, he was under enormous strain. Not only did he find fame a two-edged sword, he was also deeply resistant to his record company’s commercial demands. He was run ragged. Between January 1966, when the Floyd turned professional, and January 1968, Barrett played 220 gigs around Britain — not to mention broadcasting and performances abroad — as well as writing, recording and co-producing two hit singles, most of the band’s first album and part of the second.

While his enthusiastic ingestion of any drugs available might have triggered some disturbing behaviour, such stress might tip anyone into nervous collapse.

From 1981, when he returned from London to the suburbs of his native Cambridge, resumed the name Roger and set up home in his mother’s modest semi, he made faltering but significant progress.

Rosemary is adamant that he neither suffered from mental illness nor received treatment for it at any time since they resumed regular contact 25 years ago. At first he did spend some time in a private “home for lost souls” — Greenwoods in Essex — but she says there was no formal therapy programme there. (“And besides, he didn’t mix, because he was very content to be basket weaving and making things.”) Later he agreed to some sessions with a psychiatrist at Fulbourn psychiatric hospital, Cambridge, but neither medication nor therapy was considered appropriate.

He might have continued to find social interaction difficult — when I knocked on his door while writing my book he greeted me in his underpants and avoided conversation by saying that he was just looking after the house — but the idea that he “didn’t recognise he was Syd” is nonsense. His troubled years had been so painful that even thinking about his former incarnation upset him, so he made a conscious effort to avoid that trap.

Because he was so interested in his own thoughts, his sister said, he often forgot about the mundane chores essential to comfort. To keep an eye on him, she would visit or phone every day and sometimes accompany him on expeditions into town.

Earlier this year an old friend saw the pair in Robert Sayles, the Cambridge department store, and went up to renew their acquaintance. “Hello, Syd,” he said. “Do you remember me?”

“Yup,” replied Barrett. But Rosemary cut in with “Roger is only interested in buying some ties today”, and led her brother away. Now she admits she might have been over-protective.


Barrett lived in the semi with his mother until her death in 1991 and then remained there alone. “So much of his life was boringly normal,” said Rosemary. “He looked after himself and the house and garden. He went shopping for basics on his bike — always passing the time of day with the local shopkeepers — and he went to DIY stores like B&Q for wood, which he brought home to make things for the house and garden.

“Actually, he was a hopeless handyman, he was always laughing at his attempts, but he enjoyed it. Then there was his cooking. Like everyone who lives on their own, he sometimes found that boring but he became good at curries.

“When Roger was working he liked to listen to jazz tapes. Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis were his favourites — he always found something new in them — but apart from the early Rolling Stones, he’d lost interest in pop music a long time ago.

“As for a television or radio, he didn’t feel the need to own one because he didn’t want to waste any energy concentrating on it. It’s not that he couldn’t apply his mind. He read very deeply about the history of art and actually wrote an unpublished book about it, which I’m too sad to read at the moment. But he found his own mind so absorbing that he didn’t want to be distracted.

“He did have leisure interests. He took up photography, and sometimes we went to the seaside together. Quite often he took the train on his own to London to look at the major art collections — and he loved flowers. He made regular trips to the Botanic Gardens and to the dahlias at Anglesey Abbey, near Lode. But of course, his passion was his painting.

“Roger worked in a variety of styles — though he admired no one after the impressionists — and you could say he came up with his own type of conceptual art. He would photograph a particular flower and paint a large canvas from the photograph. Then he would make a photographic record of the picture before destroying the canvas. In a way, that was very typical of his approach to life. Once something was over, it was over. He felt no need to revisit it.

“That’s why he avoided contact with journalists and fans. He simply couldn’t understand the interest in something that had happened so long ago and he wasn’t willing to interrupt his own musings for their sake. After a while he and I stopped discussing the times he was bothered. We both knew what we thought and we simply had nothing more to add. It became easiest to pretend those incidents never happened and just blank them out.

“Roger may have been a bit selfish — or rather self-absorbed — but when people called him a recluse they were really only projecting their own disappointment. He knew what they wanted but he wasn’t willing to give it to them.

“Roger was unique; they didn’t have the vocabulary to describe him and so they pigeonholed him. If only they had seen him with children. His nieces and nephews, the kids in the road — he would have them in stitches. He could talk at length and he played with words in a way that children instinctively appreciated, even if it sometimes threw adults.”

He was quite a sharp dresser, too. “He didn’t follow fashion — he just bought what he liked for himself — but he liked to look presentable. His clothes were always clean and pressed. In fact, if he had an obsession, it was with that.”

Barrett suffered from stomach ulcers for 30 years — which he managed by drinking milk — and also developed diabetes. “But he simply refused to admit it to himself. For days at a time he wouldn’t take his pills — which, being a nurse, could have worried me. But to be honest, it can’t have been very severe because he never showed any ill effects.”

What he did show, she said, was love: “I gave it to him and he gave it to me. He was incredibly supportive when our mother died. And in the past week I’ve been surprised to learn how popular he was with the local tradesmen. He was simply a very lovable person.

“He showed his personality in lots of different ways — which some outsiders found confusing — but underneath he was solid as a rock. It may have been a responsibility to look out for him, but it was never a burden.”

Merry Christmas!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 23 2007 at 19:31
Thanks, interesting story, from a family point of view. I have read all the books about Syd, what a tragedy that such a fine and creative person lost control in life. My personal idea is that he suffered from schizophrenia (some symptomes are similar to autistic) and that he was lucky to be supported so much by his family, especially his loving and caring mother, and some people in the village.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 23 2007 at 22:39
Yeah, what I like about it is that it sort of refutes the common story in the media that his life was nothing but sadness and pain.  I love the fact that she reports he was happy with his daily life and enjoyed it.  And the part where she says that Syd was aware of what people wanted from him and he refused to give it.  I just find it refreshing that he rejected the celebrity crap that he could have played up, or had others play up for him. 

I really hope he was happy, I'd like to believe his sis.   Smile



Merry Christmas!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2007 at 08:46

A good article, thanks for sharing!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 05:20
Nice story about 'someone' that build PF, unfortunately just a very sort time there.
Beyond The Endless Sacrifice
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 08:47

Thanks for that, Finny.Smile

Mojo mag recently had a pretty thorough and interesting article about early Floyd, Syd Barrett, and the making of Piper, as well as an accompaning piece about Syd's rapid drug-hastened decline into mental illness. (Kept me up late reading it all just last night.)
 
The attached bonus CD, "In Search of Syd," has some interesting material as well, supposedly showing the Barrett/Floyd influence on other acts from that time, to today.
 
'Tis worth a look & listen. Thumbs%20Up


Edited by Peter - October 18 2007 at 21:46
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 19:41
Go read this month's Mojo Magazine Pink  Floyd is on the cover. It details a lot on the Syd Barrett Years.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 20:21
The funny thing for me was when I heard he died in 2006, I had always thought he had died in the '70's and that's what Wish You Were Here was about.Confused
Nice article, by the way.  Thanks for sharing.


Edited by Slartibartfast - October 18 2007 at 20:42
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 20:45
I don't now about autism, because he was aparently exptremely extroverted before his breakdown, I have heard of patheological introversion as a result of damage from drugs; thats what happened to Thelonious Monk, he practically stopped talking on his tours to the band mates, one band mate said he only spoke twice in the entire tour outside of those two incidences not a hello or excuse me or anything.
So I don't think Syd fits Aspergers, he was clearly comfortable with people and had excellent social skills(which people with such a disorder lack) until his breakdown, I believe it was a form of patheological introversion.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 21:48
Originally posted by Sydwaters Sydwaters wrote:

Go read this month's Mojo Magazine Pink  Floyd is on the cover. It details a lot on the Syd Barrett Years.
Confused Thanks for reading my post (it's immediately above yours, and was there for many hours before you posted)....
 
Oops! Wink


Edited by Peter - October 18 2007 at 22:19
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 22:05
Thanks guys for the heads up.  I'll look for that magazine.  Check out my review of the Syd book in the "books" section, it's a real winner if you're interested in him.
Also I just reviewed Piper 40th under the thread in "recommended albums."

Merry Christmas!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 22:18
Originally posted by Finnforest Finnforest wrote:

Thanks guys for the heads up.  I'll look for that magazine.  Check out my review of the Syd book in the "books" section, it's a real winner if you're interested in him.
Also I just reviewed Piper 40th under the thread in "recommended albums."
 
I found it a good mag and issue overall, FF, with lots of varied reviews, an interview with Ringo Starr, etc. Smile
 
I'll check out your reviews, but I must say that based on past listening experiences, the bulk of early "freaked out" Floyd is certainly not for me.Wacko (Way too weird/unmusical!)
 
Maybe some of Syd's stash would help, but I'm not going there! Wink
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 22:28
I understand. Smile

Early Floyd and Syd solo are not for everyone.  Quite different than the mid 70s output.  Most people I know hate it at first try, actually I did too.  Sure as hell grew on me though, now I listen to more of that stuff than the later stuff.  I just love the solo stuff.

Merry Christmas!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 22:39
^ I'll have to give it another go one day, FF, but I believe the trouble with such music written & performed  by artists on acid is that the ideal listener (in fact, the intended listener) should be on acid too.Stern%20Smile
 
That made more sense, in the heady days of 1967, with LSD being legal and all....
 
I'm not exactly a teen or twenty-something anymore, if you get my drift....


Edited by Peter - October 18 2007 at 22:41
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 18 2007 at 22:47
Hmmmm, actually I have to disagree there.  I like "acid/drug" music much more now as a sober person than as a kid when I partied a bit.  You definitely don't have to get high to enjoy Syd. 

Also, Floyd were not a drug-taking band.  Syd was, but the others were actually pretty square.  They smoked a bit of weed early on, but by the 70s they were just drinkers. 

Merry Christmas!



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 19 2007 at 08:24
^ In any case, Finnster, the really freaked out, chaotic jamming stuff (early Amon Duul is similar) does very little for me, though I'm willing to give it another try, in light of your posts. Ermm
 
Let's see what samples are here....Smile
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 19 2007 at 12:14
I appreciate the interest etc., but we do need to be careful about re-printing entire articles without permission.
 
It's better to post a link to the source, and even better to get permission and record it when posting.
 
Most articles of this type will have a copyright attached.
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