Syd Barrett, the singer-songwriter-guitarist who co-founded Pink Floyd and was later kicked out of the band for erratic behavior, died five years ago today from complications arising from diabetes. He was 60.
Barrett is remembered as one of the first casualties of LSD, and for episodes during the last weeks he spent as part of Pink Floyd, including the constant detuning of his guitar during performances.
But devoted fans still recognize Barrett as the genius behind the band he renamed from Screaming Abdabs to Pink Floyd, a moniker he pieced together from the names of obscure American blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd “Dipper Boy” Council.
The day Barrett died, The Post’s Adam Bernstein published this obituary about him:
Darkly handsome and with brooding, poetic eyes, Mr. Barrett was the charismatic early frontman of Pink Floyd. He wrote several of its psychedelic pop hits of the late 1960s, including “Arnold Layne,” about a transvestite who steals women's underwear from clotheslines, “See Emily Play,” about a schoolgirl groupie, and “Astronomy Domine,” which tried to sonically reproduce an LSD trip.
Mr. Barrett became known for compelling experiments on guitar, including slide and echo effects; extended solos on songs such as “Interstellar Overdrive”; and using the teeth of his Zippo lighter to strum his instrument. This became as much a part of the band's mystique as its mesmerizing visual effects in concert.
With band mates Roger Waters on bass, Rick Wright on keyboard and Nick Mason on drums, Mr. Barrett helped Pink Floyd challenge the Rolling Stones and the Beatles as the most-dynamic English export. Mr. Barrett would not be around when the band had its greatest success in the 1970s with the albums “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here” and "The Wall."
His abundant LSD use, captured in the short 1966 film “Syd Barrett's First Trip,” seemed to worsen his fragile grip on reality. His mischievous, sometimes mean backstage behavior and increasingly catatonic onstage presence led to his replacement by David Gilmour, a close friend.
Pink Floyd band mates paid tribute to Mr. Barrett, who retreated to a largely hermetic life, on the recordings “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here.” Other musicians covered his songs, and David Bowie said in a statement yesterday, “His impact on my thinking was enormous.”
Peter Jenner, a former Pink Floyd manager-producer, said of Mr. Barrett in a 1990 interview: “The pressures which hit him were the pressures from going from just being another guy on the block to being the spokesman of your generation. Especially during the psychedelic thing, there was a lot of heavy messiah-ism going around. People would come up and ask him the meaning of life — that put a young person who’d just written a song and played a bit of guitar under enormous pressure.”
Watch the music video for “Arnold Layne,” one of the first songs written by Barrett:
Pink Floyd’s song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” from the album “Wish You Were Here,” is said to be a tribute to the missing Barrett. Listen:
Barrett recorded two solo albums after leaving the band, which were often rambling. Listen to his solo song “Dominoes”: