Syd Barrett: Shine on you crazy diamond.

EMI collects 18 of Syd Barrett’s standout tracks from his time with Pink Floyd up through his short and erratic solo career and puts them on one CD.


An Introduction to Syd Barrett released on Nov, 9th 2010. EMI collects 18 of Syd Barrett’s standout tracks from his time with Pink Floyd up to his short and erratic solo career and puts them on one CD.  Throughout the album we are presented with many of Barrett’s various career highlights such as the Dandy-esque “Bike,” the swinging London staple “See Emily Play,” ending with the heavily-lauded track that had remained in the vaults until the early 2000s “Bob Dylan’s Blues. “ Opening the album we have Pink Floyds first single “Arnold Layne”, a groundbreaking narration about a protagonist who is quite  fond of cross-dressing, a topic rarely talked about at the time, let alone the topic of a hit single.

Syd Barrett has haunted Pink Floyd since his early departure from the band during the late ‘60s, up until today’s modern age. Barrett was the founding member of Pink Floyd, lending his songwriting, vocals, and as well artistic talents to help shape the sound and esthetic of the band during its earliest stages.  Barrett’s art school training would shape his opaque lyrical imagery and groundbreaking musical-pyschedelia.

Barrett in his prime cut a striking figure with his Hendrix-like perm, shirts that puffed at the chest and ruffled at the cuff; Syd was ultimately the first Dandy of the Swinging London psychedelic scene, influencing artists as diverse as David Bowie, Beck and Damon Albarn.

Barrett’s approach to songwriting was whimsical and colorful, with tracks often sounding like Technicolor, which interestingly was still in its infancy stages when Pink Floyd formed during 1965. Barrett shied away from the standard R&B blues traditionalism of acts such as The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones, and the vaudeville approach of The Beatles, preferring to apply his literary and artistic influences to the sound of Pink Floyd.

An excellent example of Barrett’s literary influence is in the titled of the first Pink Floyd album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” which came from the title of Chapter Seven in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Track 5 from An Introduction to Syd Barrett is “Chapter 24″, which lyrically borrowed from Chapter 24 of the ancient Chinese tome Ching (The Book of Changes).

Barrett’s life is shrouded in mystery and legend. A prodigious acid user, it is rumored that Barrett’s own extreme abuse of the drug is what lead to his mental collapse and seclusion; it is also argued, however, that Barrett possessed signs of mental instability as far back as 1961 when Barrett’s father died of cancer.

It’s hard to say if acid proved to be a worthy muse to Barrett’s artistic genius or just a curious enabler for some of his more experimental freak-outs. Let’s take, for example, “Bike” track 6 off of An Introduction to Syd Barrett, which plays like a deranged Circus-inspired -fairytale-ditty about a Mouse named Gerald, Gingerbread men and a bike with a basket, and a bell that rings. Is this genius or just the influence of acid as a masterful muse?

Barrrett’s reign with Pink Floyd was short yet highly influential. After being ousted from Pink Floyd in 1968 due to his ongoing erratic behavior as well as quickly escalating mental illness, Barrett began a solo career releasing two albums: The Madcap laughs and Barrett, both released 1970. Track 7 from An Introduction to Syd Barrett is “Terrapin” which served as the opening track on The Madcap Laughs. “Terrapin” is largely an acoustic affair with double-tracked harmony vocals possibly tracked by both David Gilmour and Roger Waters, as the duo had taken over as producer(s) of The Madcap Laughs. “Terrapin” has been covered by artists from the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins to Phish.

Track number 14  is “Baby Lemonade” which is possibly one of Barrett’s most covered and well known solo tracks. “Baby Lemonade” is lyrically tough to decipher; it is quite possibly about Barrett’s own alienation felt during Pink Floyds fame as well as after, during the start of his down solo career, or one could take Baby Lemonade as a metaphor for sunshine.

Barrett’s solo career would become all but extinct by 1972, only to reemerge in 1974 in an attempt to record another solo record, though the sessions would only produce one titled track.

Barrett would fully disappear as a reclusive ex-pop star at his sisters flat in Cambridge, Barrett’s hometown in 1975. From the Mid-70s until Barrett’s death in 2006 due to pancreatic cancer, Barrett could be seen around town almost unrecognizable in appearance, now bald and heavier set than during his in time in the spotlight during the 1960s.

Though Barrett was ousted from Pink Floyd in 1968, his influence as a muse loomed strong: he has been referred to on tracks from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, as well as various cuts from The Wall.

An Introduction to Syd Barrett is fantastic in many ways; one being that it is the first compilation to combine Barrett’s Pink Floyd work as well as his solo work and the remastering, overseen by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour (which sounds amazing). Lastly we get a glimpse of the fine line between genius and madness, both of which Barrett had in spades.

We wish you were here, Syd.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun ~ Shine on you crazy diamond.

Magnificent Bastard

Sounds like an excellent primer for the unintiated, and an even better mix-tape for those of us that need a dose of Syd from time to time.

Posted November 17, 2010 06:11 pm

Thanks! I agree, a great introduction and a great mix of tracks as well!

Posted November 17, 2010 06:11 pm
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