A Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett

By Rob Chapman

“I do not believe i am effortless to discuss. i have a really abnormal head. and i am nothing that you simply imagine i'm anyway.”—Syd Barrett’s final interview, Rolling Stone, 1971
 
Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett (1946–2006) used to be, by way of all bills, the very definition of a golden boy. Blessed with attractiveness and a traditional flair for portray and track, he used to be a charismatic, elfin baby loved through all, who speedy grew to become a teenage chief in Cambridge, England, the place a burgeoning bohemian scene was once flourishing within the early Sixties. besides 3 pals and collaborators—Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason—he shaped what may quickly turn into crimson Floyd, and rock ’n’ roll used to be by no means a similar. beginning as a standard British conceal band aping approximations of yank rhythm ’n’ blues, they quickly pioneered a completely new sound, and British psychedelic rock used to be born. With early, trippy, Barrett-penned pop hits corresponding to “Arnold Layne” (about a clothesline-thieving cross-dresser) and “See Emily Play” (written in particular for the epochal “Games For might” concert), crimson Floyd, with Syd Barrett as their major artistic visionary, captured the zeitgeist of “Swinging” London in all its Technicolor glory.
 
But there has been a dismal part to all this new-found freedom. Barrett, like such a lot of round him, begun eating huge amounts of a progressive new drug, LSD, and his already-fragile psychological state—coupled with a character inherently unsuited to the lifetime of a pop star—began to resolve. The as soon as bright-eyed lad was once quick changed, possible in a single day, by means of a glowering, sinister, dead-eyed shadow of his former self, given to erratic, hugely eccentric, reclusive, and occasionally violent habit. necessarily sacked from the band, Barrett retreated from London to his mother’s apartment in Cambridge, the place he could stay until eventually his loss of life, basically not often noticeable or heard, additional fueling the mystery.
 
In the intervening time, crimson Floyd emerged from the underground to turn into one of many largest foreign rock bands of all time, liberating multi-platinum albums, many who dealt thematically with the lack of their pal Syd Barrett: The darkish part of the Moon, want You have been right here, and The Wall are all, on many degrees, approximately him.
 
In A Very abnormal Head, journalist Rob Chapman lifts the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the legend of Syd Barrett for almost 4 a long time, drawing on particular entry to relatives, acquaintances, data, journals, letters, and paintings to create the definitive portrait of an excellent and tragic artist. along with shooting the entire promise of Barrett’s younger years, Chapman demanding situations the oft-held inspiration that Barrett used to be a hopelessly misplaced recluse in his later years, and creates a portrait of a real British eccentric who's rightfully put inside of a wealthy literary lineage that stretches via Kenneth Graham, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, John Lennon, David Bowie, and on as much as the pioneers of Britpop.
 
A tragic, affectionate, and compelling portrait of a novel artist, A Very abnormal Head will stand because the authoritative notice in this very English genius for years to come.

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So much interpretations of ‘Jugband Blues’ as an essay in schizophrenia appear to hinge on that line, and the next ‘and I’m thinking about who will be penning this song’. it's by no means solely transparent although who or what Syd is waving see you later too. Himself? His profession? or just the personality of ‘Syd’ the pop big name? earlier than we’ve had time to make up our minds the scathing contempt of the outlet verse offers solution to the disarming simplicity of the second one. ‘I don’t care if the sunlight don’t shine | and that i don’t care if not anything is mine. ’ this can be carefree unburdened Syd. The Syd of ‘The Scarecrow’. The Syd of ‘Whoopee | you can’t see me’. the subsequent line, ‘I don’t care if I’m frightened with you’, indicates the coquettish Syd of ‘Ooh, you recognize I’m feeling frail’ instead of a fragmented and turmoil-ridden soul. certainly, when you discard the cultivated sarcasm of the hole strains and the Carrollesque caliber of the last couplet ‘And what precisely is a dream | And what precisely is a comic story? ’, the rest of the music is remarkably strong. A Salvation military Band interlude within the center part injects a playful point into lawsuits, yet this regrettably was once purely the catalyst for an additional run-in among Syd and manufacturer Norman Smith. while Smith enquired as to what Syd sought after the band to play, he spoke back ‘I don’t care. allow them to do what they prefer. ’ once more Syd’s wilfully anarchic method used to be in direct clash with the regimented operating tools of an unsympathetic manufacturer. while the Beatles approached George Martin with related whims and ill-thought-out principles for ‘Penny Lane’ and the tip of ‘A Day within the Life’, Martin went away and scored a particular piccolo-trumpet determine for the previous and offered the orchestra with beneficial structural parameters for the later which they formed into some of the most iconic song-endings of the Sixties. while Norman Smith was once offered with an identical inventive main issue, he complained approximately studio expenses, consultation charges and Syd’s irresponsible and directionless strategy. by way of now Syd’s each final utterance used to be being interpreted as symptomatic of a deeper malaise. Even Peter Jenner subscribes to the view that Syd was once quickly changing into a misplaced reason. ‘I imagine they need to be released,’ he says of ‘Scream Thy final Scream’ and ‘Vegetable Man’. ‘I imagine the Floyd and his kinfolk may still okay them. they seem to be a self-description of what he used to be feeling. On “Vegetable guy” the outline of the individual in there's him, what he was once donning, what he was once turning into. i used to be with him within the room whilst he was once writing it. He was once in a single nook and that i used to be within the different, after which he learn it out and it was once an outline of him and what was once happening in his head. “Scream Your final Scream” was once very traumatic yet a robust, robust music. And “Jugband Blues”. they're 3 outstanding songs. in the event you positioned them up opposed to “Bike” and “Scarecrow”, you think that, “Well, okay, these are o.k., yet those are robust demanding paintings. ” I wouldn’t wish an individual to need to pass as mad and disturbed as Syd did to get that, but when you will cross that disturbed provide me anything like that.

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