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Syd Barrett guitar style

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    Posted: January 21 2011 at 11:21

 Syd style was an unorthodox style of rhythmically loose playing, use of volume swells, feedback, slide and echo all to create a surreal sound. Syd though had his influences like everyone else. Also being original doesn't automatically mean you are influential but I think Syd was an influential guitarist. What do you guys think of him as a guitarist?

 

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Post Options Post Options   Quote harmonium.ro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 21 2011 at 11:32
When looking at the footage of the groundbreaking early renditions of Interstellar Overdrive (pure avant/space prog in 1966), I always had the feeling that the songwriting and the instrumental interplay that we now call "progressive" were developed simply to allow and support Syd to express everything he wanted to squeeze out of his guitar. Therefore, while I think prog was born with ITCOTCK, in my opinion prog was conceived around Syd.





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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2011 at 21:06
Hi,
 
this is a difficult topic, because in the end, Syd didn't do enough, or his chance was cut short.
 
The story is that he started getting too spaced out ... and I question that ... and the wisdom that no one was intelligent enough to take him to a doctor and get some help ... that might otherwise save ... this insanity. And this is where the time, the place, and the people failed, and helped kill a scene ... because of drugs, and too much reckless behavior. Sound familiar already like LA, SF and anywhere else?
 
When you see the video in "Tonite We All Love in London" and some of the other clips, it's hard to believe, that this guy was not the new Jimi Hendrix, or the new Stevie Ray Vaughn, or the new Ax Gernrich ... because a couple of months later we are hearing these accoustic guitar pieces of sh*t that ... are totally out of sync with anything including music as we know it. Maybe it was the dawn of the new punk and what eventually became the Sex Pimples!
 
But, he was not the only one.  But, the lyrics that he had written, or were cleaned up by his PF mates, were very well written, conceived, and quite literary ... which suggests there was a lot more here than meets the eye.
 
It also tells you, that Syd, and his band mates and other musicians were also a part of a scene that was about ... experimentation ... and learning new things ... it has been said that it was in one of these events that Yoko painted a wall white and put a little black hole in the middle of it and nothing else ... and that was it ... and while you and I might sit here and say ... that's not art ... the most obvious thing that we can think of is ... what's this all about, and in the end, it was ... that we had lost the sense of wonder, experimentation, and that kid like wildness for the spirit and expression and stories and fantastic ideas ... and the days of the "psychedelic age" became associated with that ... and for an intelligent musician ... I would think that means ... not playing the same as everyone else, because this is what I see and want to do ... and Interstellar Overdrive, for me ... is just that ... a beautiful flight of fancy and expression and exploration ...
 
... that we forgot about ... and lost amidst all the drugs ... and screwed up media attacks that were around (still are) about that time and place, specially in the movies with "Woodstock" and even more recently with "Taking Woodstock" ... where the instinctive goodness and selfless attitude, all of a sudden became the evil giant that ended with a man killed in front of the stage. ... and a perfect symbol for the media to continue attacking the youngsters for being stoned, and this and that and totally incapable of anything except being idiots and unfit for society.
 
There have not been, since Syd, a lot of people that had/have that inner drive and ability to try so many different things, and I think the early PF material showed that really well, with the songs off the wall, weird, strange and sometimes down right too literary for an audience that could not possible understand them ... as is the famous quote from Syd Barrett that showed up on so many Pink Floyd bootlegs, that they are trying to hide and bury so it doesn't look like they are simply abusing the priviledge and taking advantage of the supposedly tragic event around them!
 
Things like "Interstellar Overdrive", are to me, the real "krautrock" and what it became, or where it came from, but the fact remains that it was happening at the same time across the pond in Europe, and not before or after, and this makes it look like no one else was doing anything else like it anywhere else in the world, and I tend to believe that this is ... bad information and attention to the rest of the world ... I've said before, there are hundreds of pickers in the streets of Barcelona, or Madrid, that make the best progressive, rock or jazz guitarist look like a total idiot that can only play scales! ... that simple! But I am not sure that anyone in this board ... wants to think, or consider that option at all.
 
One last thing. Kevin Ayers knows a few things ... and he is either not telling and will take it with him when he departs because his friend (I imagine)  ... in the end ... was given a rotten deal ... and that the music business is a rotten mothertrucker out there ... and he simply didn't want to even be near it at all ... specially London. Either that or someone is going to convince us that Majorca beer is the best in the world?
 
Right!


Edited by moshkito - January 28 2011 at 21:07
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TODDLER Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2011 at 07:42
I have always been more drawn to Syd's talents as a writer than a guitarist....although, clearly he did invent original ideas that were applied to guitar for years to come. The sound effects on electric and the chord progressions he wrote for songs like "Astronomy Domine" were quite different from what anyone else was doing at the time......so as it seems. Hendrix had feedback and the emulation of train whistles, bombs, police car sirens while Grace Slick, David Crosby, and Brian Jones were standing in the wings wondering how it could even be possible to do such a thing. Every Psychedelic band whether AM or FM underground, like Electric Prunes, Lovin Spoonful, Blues Magoos to....Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blue Cheer, and of course Cream and....Henry Vestine from Canned Heat were attempting to make sounds on the guitar that could be placed into this realm but not quite reaching the originality plateau of Hendrix's style and or Barrett's writing.

Barrett used to take a slide and rub it up and down the strings while using an echo-plex and a distorted sound. It reminded me of how a synth was later used in rock music. Or the insane effect of a violin bow scratching up and down with that sci-fi echo sound that one might hearr in a 50's Sci-Fi movie. Bernard Hermann style perhaps. In that sense he was different from Hendrix .......but kind of on the same path.....for example: Hendrix was personally interested in Sci-Fi films and novels and this brings to mind "Astro Man" which Hendrix privately joked about and called it " A-hole Man" ....but anyway folks, Barrett did pull a little emulation of early Science Fiction TV themes. "Lucifer Sam" and part "Astronomy Domine" are prime examples of this adaption  His acoustic guitar on songs like "The Gnome" sound completely grand! I really enjoyed his acoustic playing in the early days. I personally think that "Bike" was the work of a genius! His later adaption of the James Joyce poem "Golden Hair" was the most outstanding aspect to "Madcap Laughs" for me. The song repeats itself endlessly and obviously if you focus on that alone you kind of miss the point of his creations or ideas.

Just as some might feel about early Tangerine Dream as they pay attention to the pulse more than the layers of atmospheric traveling. Although "Golden Hair" was short and simple, it represented something atmospheric and mysterious. One observation of mine that is not totally clear and mystifies me is the connection I make between Jefferson Airplane's "Lather" and Syd Barrett's writing. "Lather" contains those sounds and ideas of an early Pink Floyd song. The chord ideas are reminiscent of what either turned up on Madcap or his bizzare creations during the transition of Piper and Saucerful of Secrets. Another strange accident is a song by the Beach Boys from the Wild Honey album titled "I'd Love Just Once To See You" which is just way too close to being a Syd Barrett song. You have to block out the vocals and use your imagination hearing Syd Barrett's voice instead of the Beach Boys. If you pay close attention to the chord changes? And one vocal part you must put emphasis on is the "Bah, ba, ba, ba,....Bah, ba, ba!  It's very close in style to what later turned up on "Vegetable Man". Of course everyone is at one time or another.......influenced by somebody and that is not my point. In this case,  and with these examples that I've given, I am baffled and curious as to who was first or was it all by chance?  


Edited by TODDLER - January 29 2011 at 07:44
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Post Options Post Options   Quote harmonium.ro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2011 at 12:00
Nice post Toddler, thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Proletariat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2011 at 15:45
Originally posted by moshkito

Hi,
 
this is a difficult topic, because in the end, Syd didn't do enough, or his chance was cut short.
 
The story is that he started getting too spaced out ... and I question that ... and the wisdom that no one was intelligent enough to take him to a doctor and get some help ... that might otherwise save ... this insanity. And this is where the time, the place, and the people failed, and helped kill a scene ... because of drugs, and too much reckless behavior. Sound familiar already like LA, SF and anywhere else?
 
When you see the video in "Tonite We All Love in London" and some of the other clips, it's hard to believe, that this guy was not the new Jimi Hendrix, or the new Stevie Ray Vaughn, or the new Ax Gernrich ... because a couple of months later we are hearing these accoustic guitar pieces of sh*t that ... are totally out of sync with anything including music as we know it. Maybe it was the dawn of the new punk and what eventually became the Sex Pimples!
 
But, he was not the only one.  But, the lyrics that he had written, or were cleaned up by his PF mates, were very well written, conceived, and quite literary ... which suggests there was a lot more here than meets the eye.
 
It also tells you, that Syd, and his band mates and other musicians were also a part of a scene that was about ... experimentation ... and learning new things ... it has been said that it was in one of these events that Yoko painted a wall white and put a little black hole in the middle of it and nothing else ... and that was it ... and while you and I might sit here and say ... that's not art ... the most obvious thing that we can think of is ... what's this all about, and in the end, it was ... that we had lost the sense of wonder, experimentation, and that kid like wildness for the spirit and expression and stories and fantastic ideas ... and the days of the "psychedelic age" became associated with that ... and for an intelligent musician ... I would think that means ... not playing the same as everyone else, because this is what I see and want to do ... and Interstellar Overdrive, for me ... is just that ... a beautiful flight of fancy and expression and exploration ...
 
... that we forgot about ... and lost amidst all the drugs ... and screwed up media attacks that were around (still are) about that time and place, specially in the movies with "Woodstock" and even more recently with "Taking Woodstock" ... where the instinctive goodness and selfless attitude, all of a sudden became the evil giant that ended with a man killed in front of the stage. ... and a perfect symbol for the media to continue attacking the youngsters for being stoned, and this and that and totally incapable of anything except being idiots and unfit for society.
 
There have not been, since Syd, a lot of people that had/have that inner drive and ability to try so many different things, and I think the early PF material showed that really well, with the songs off the wall, weird, strange and sometimes down right too literary for an audience that could not possible understand them ... as is the famous quote from Syd Barrett that showed up on so many Pink Floyd bootlegs, that they are trying to hide and bury so it doesn't look like they are simply abusing the priviledge and taking advantage of the supposedly tragic event around them!
 
Things like "Interstellar Overdrive", are to me, the real "krautrock" and what it became, or where it came from, but the fact remains that it was happening at the same time across the pond in Europe, and not before or after, and this makes it look like no one else was doing anything else like it anywhere else in the world, and I tend to believe that this is ... bad information and attention to the rest of the world ... I've said before, there are hundreds of pickers in the streets of Barcelona, or Madrid, that make the best progressive, rock or jazz guitarist look like a total idiot that can only play scales! ... that simple! But I am not sure that anyone in this board ... wants to think, or consider that option at all.
 
One last thing. Kevin Ayers knows a few things ... and he is either not telling and will take it with him when he departs because his friend (I imagine)  ... in the end ... was given a rotten deal ... and that the music business is a rotten mothertrucker out there ... and he simply didn't want to even be near it at all ... specially London. Either that or someone is going to convince us that Majorca beer is the best in the world?
 
Right!
ClapClapClap
I like this viewpoint, verry interesting (although I enjoy the acoustic and esoteric later works as well)
Toddler your post is awsome too
 
 
Early Pink Floyd (to me) has more to do with the canterburry scene and kraut than space rock proper or any of the later floyd works... If PF ended with Pipers they would be included as one of the many great one off Canterberry bands... Syds guitar style, personally seems like the counterpart to Wyatts drumming they have a similar appeal (and they knew each other and played in the same scene) so its easy to see the comparison. Syd was not so much prog as an independant force... like The Velvet Underground his music was not easily classifiable at the time and has had more effect on modern music than connections with music of his own time.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote KingCrInuYasha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 01:48
I hear a lot of free Jazz in his guitar playing; particularly in "Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk", "Interstellar Overdrive" the instrumental version of "Vegetable Man" and "Reaction In G".

Speaking of "Vegetable Man", I saw Toddler mention the song; the verse portion of the first part of the song reminds me of the bridge of Blue Cheer's cover of  "Summertime Blues".
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Post Options Post Options   Quote himtroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 12:39
Syd Barrett...A genius who I spent a long time being obsessed with when I got into playing guitar years ago.

Edited by himtroy - March 31 2011 at 12:40
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 14:40

Back in the early 70s there was a fanzine published by the Syd Barrett Appreciation Society called "Terrapin". In issue 15 of Terrapin (1975) they published a facsimilie of an NME article by Fred Frith of Henry Cow on Syd Barrett. Here it is:

 
Unfortunatelty that;s a little difficult to read, so I've transcribed it as best I can:
 
GREAT ROCK SOLOS OF OUR TIME by Fred Frith copyright N.M.E.

With the possible exception of “I Heard Her Call My Name”, last week’s solos are fairly unlike anything else by the people who played them. Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart on the other hand, maintained their idiosyncratic and bizarre approach over a long period of time, and succeeded in saying more than most with the rock medium.

Not that Beefheart’s a guitarist, but the consistency and “un-learning” apparent in three of the players he’s worked with “Zoot Horn Rollo”, “Antennae Jimmy Semens” and “Winged Eel Fingerling” must largely stem from his manic energy and vision; ditto the work of the original Pink Floyd with regard to Barrett.

Plenty of people write about Barrett’s brilliant songwriting, tediously discuss his mental state, or argue about whether his departure from the Floyd made or broke them musically; but few acknowledge the fact of his being a great and inspired guitar player.

Much of his reputation in this respect must obviously rest on early live appearances, I was never fortunate enough to see him in action at that time, but I’m told he was utterly amazing – a revolutionary source of electronic racket.

However, there’s quite enough evidence on half a dozen recorded tracks to convince me of his importance. It matters little to what extent Syd was in control of what he was doing, and there are conflicting reports, but the results have an extraordinary originality, urgency and expressiveness.

Surprisingly, he has something in common with many of those I’ve mentioned already, notably Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend. For example there’s the unity of spirit between the song-writing and the guitar accompaniment, the clear conception of sound and the drawing on the Instrumental tradition in, say, the introduction to “Lucifer Sam”. Or the occasional surfacing of blues influences, the best instance of which is in the way “Smoklestack Lightning” becomes “Candy And The Current Bun”.

Aside from these basics, one should take into account the innovative use of slide, emulated only by a studious Dave Gilmour; brilliant and painful wah-wah playing; violent treble feedback and a disjointed, aggressive rhythm style.

His rhythm playing is in fact quite spectacular. One of the most telling moments on “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” occurs on Roger Waters’ “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk”, a fairly straight song built around a single descending chord phrase. The number consists largely of a long 4/4 jam in the middle during which a weird struggle takes place between on the right, a charmingly inept blues clichés on the bagpipe stop of the Farfisa organ, and on the left a non-stop barrage of clipped rhythmic noise from a Mr Barrtett, clearly on a totally different plane of existence from his fellow musicians. This is one of the strangest musical contrasts I’ve ever come across and one that lifts the song from the ordinary to the absolutely riveting.

The most complete example of his style, though, is on the single “Apples And oranges”. This is my favourite wah-wah playing of all time – incredibly incisive and articulate. He makes the pedal hang always in the edge of feedback, which eventually breaks through as the final sound of the song.

Overall, the guitar acts as a fixed entity in an excellent construction, giving coherence to the various departures. Considered in detail, it’s great the way the lines which underpin the first part of each verse are made up of tiny units, each contributing to something which becomes greater in concept than any of them.

The playing not only reveals an acute perception of sound, but explores a little exploited region and menacingly undermines the apparent harmless and half sense lyrics.

Like Barrett, Captain Beefheart often appears to attract more attention by his “weirdness” than any other way.

Both Beefheart and Syd Barrett have in the past exerted this powerful questioning force by redefining the medium in which they operated. It’s only a pity that, for the time being we have to refer to both of their achievements in the past tense.

Interesting stuff- and even though it was written over 36 years ago, many of Frith's comments still ring true today.
 
 
Note: the complete Terrapin anthology can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/terrapin/479108 


Edited by Dean - March 31 2011 at 14:44


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Post Options Post Options   Quote himtroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 14:51
^Thanks for posting that and even more so for putting the time in to transcribe it.  I certainly would've attempted to read it from the image and had a rough time doing so.  Very interesting stuff.  We in fact need many more articles written by great people about great people.  This and Zappa's article on Varese are the most interesting things I've read recently.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 20:48
Originally posted by KingCrInuYasha

I hear a lot of free Jazz in his guitar playing; particularly in "Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk", "Interstellar Overdrive" the instrumental version of "Vegetable Man" and "Reaction In G".
...
 
HOGWASH ...
 
ooooooppppppsssss ... wait ... !!!! WAIT !!!
 
Pink Floyd were named after 2 jazz guys after all ... there might be a connection here!
 
Though I would think that the jazz connection is more esoteric than it is real ... PF came much more from the pop side of music than they did from the jazz side of music, so Syd Barrett making sounds and noises, was a really good idea to help build rock music around ... which the pop "songs" were NOT.
 
I think the idea above is really important ... and gives a nice pupose to the music and ideas around the music, which Pink Floyd, later augmented with Sound Effects that created stories ... that eventually yielded to a really big story later that got aneven bigger story later on!
 
When you see David doing some similar things on the "Live in Pompeii" album, you can easily see the connection to the early start and music making away from the "pop" song ... and David continued that idea really well ... until a few years later it all became just different pop songs!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Triceratopsoil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 20:59
Hi,

Pink Floyd was named after two BLUES players.  Are you going to tell me now that jazz is blues? (not in so few words, of course!)


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Finnforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 22:01
Thanks Dean, I really enjoyed that article.  Love his playing. 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote clarke2001 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 31 2011 at 22:22
I love Syd.

This is THE Pink Floyd.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote harmonium.ro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 01 2011 at 03:08
Thanks for that Dean. I think FF confirms to a certain extent what I said previously, that PF's most revolutionary stuff is a certain songwriting based on Syd's peculiar guitar playing. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Dark Elf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 01 2011 at 20:26
Originally posted by Triceratopsoil

Hi,
Pink Floyd was named after two BLUES players.  Are you going to tell me now that jazz is blues? (not in so few words, of course!)
Exactly, Trice. Floyd Council and Pink Anderson were bluesmen through and through, as listening to any of their recordings will inform you. Anderson was more a ragtime blues player, whereas Council played Piedmont blues.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Diego I Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 05 2011 at 12:20
Great Q? I´m agree with some of your afirmations: unorthodox style of rhythmically loose playing, use of volume swells, feedback, slide and echo... But i have to say that, Syd isn´t a great guitar player, original... maybe, technical... i dont think, visceral... totally!
It´s dark, too dark to see...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote charles_ryder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 11:14
Syd is my favorite guitarist. I prefer him to Page and Hendrix. Syd had a wonderful and inimitable style. He is my god.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 20:11
I always liked Barrett's work with Floyd and his solo material but I never really thought much of his guitar work and focused on his songwriting.
I need to re-listen and pay attention to the guitar work to see what I missed.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 16 2014 at 00:36
From the general consensus revolved around dear Syd, I think he was great, but a bit overrated. Sure he was experimental, adventurous, and generally produced top results, but I do feel that his acid intake hindered him (der) - therefore killing his potential to be a true hero. I do think that Madcap displayed a very disjointed Syd, but the album 'Barrett' is superb. Even that intro to Baby Lemonade is excellent.
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