Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The crazy diamond shines no more

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk
- John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale.
Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd and genius extraordinaire, is dead. For years I have fantasized about going to England, if only to catch a glimpse of Syd Barrett. To shake hands with him. To talk to him. To persuade him out of his self-imposed exile and get him to record a new album. These have been some of my fondest daydreams. Those dreams died today. Now I wonder if I'll ever visit England. Don't seem to have the motivation anymore.

Syd was more than just a founding member; he was the quintessence of Pink Floyd. It was Syd who created the psychedelic sound one associates with the band, the sound that so influenced their early work. And despite all the fame they achieved in their later years, for me the definitive Floyd shall always be Piper at the gates of Dawn (still my favourite album after all these years).

Driven to insanity by record labels and betrayed by his closest friends, Syd was a disturbing mix of child-like innocence and staggered bitterness. Behind this depraved man, though, was a musical genius. A much under-appreciated genius, whose influence can be heard in the music of bands ranging from U2 and Stone Roses to the grunge bands of the 90s.

But more than anything else, Syd was a sad, lonely man who could never adjust to a hypocritical world -- something we seem to do so effortlessly. Something we attribute to as part of 'growing up'. As if honesty and ingenuousness are traits not desirable in the adult world. And then we conveniently label the uncorrupted 'insane'. Syd Barrett was insane. Syd Barrett was also a pure, if troubled soul. I hope in death at least he finds solace.

RIP Syd Barret.


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