Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives (by Defensive Listening)

So, Syd Barrett is dead. Yes, it's true, the only member of Pink Floyd with any integrity is gone. Syd Barrett was an incredible talent as a founding member of Pink Floyd (originally as "The Pink Floyd Sound") and somehow seemed even more uniquely gifted throughout his solo career.

If you were to read any kind of band bio on the Floyd and use that as your only reference, you would probably end up completely disregarding any of Barrett's solo work... but this would be a mistake. Each and every song on the Syd Barrett "Crazy Diamond" box set is significantly more remarkable than pretty much all of the material on the Pink Floyd "Shine On" box set because Syd's stuff hasn't aged at all, and you certainly can't say that for the heavy handed seventies synths and embarrassing blues rock soloing found all over those Floyd blockbusters, no matter how much you like them. In other words, Barrett wasn't taken very seriously as a songwriter or guitarist in the late 60's/early 70's, but this was probably because he made records that could have been made today. Or maybe they couldn't. So-called "freakfolk" sounds pretty silly when you compare it to the genuine weirdness on an out-take of the song "DarkGlobe," and the cheesy hippie era wasn't quite ready for the stripped down and starkly haunting beauty found in any of the songs on "The Madcap Laughs" or"Barrett." Thats a shame, because it means that Syd Barrett didn't quite fit in anywhere, and will probably be remembered mostly for two things: giving Pink Floyd it's name and going insane.

I think he deserved more than VH-1 sensationalism and played out rock lore as predictable as a frat boy drunkenly slurring "Dude, do you know what Ozzy did one time?" For someone who started a band so wildly popular, he'll probably always be a footnote to the mainstream version of rock history, even though he was a man who influenced David Bowie and Marc Bolan when they were still lame little folk singers. I think his direct musical influence is most evident in the realm of underground rock, revealing itself in everything from the Melvins cover of "Interstellar Overdrive" to the quirky acoustic song-writing of Entrance.

And although I'm anonymous, I'd like to share a little personal story. The second ever rock show I went to (after Sid King at Hard Rock Cafe) was a weak and bloated Pink Floyd concert at Texas Stadium in1994. I didn't care that they were an aging and inferior version of the band, because I was in the eighth grade. When David Gilmour and the other chubby millionaires took the stage, they opened up with"Astronomy Domine", the first song on Pink Floyd's first album, which was written by Syd Barrett. I had never heard the song before that night, and it was the greatest thing my young ears had ever heard. It was pounding, throbbing, and eerie in a way that no other song they played that night would be. I automatically went out the next day and found the record it was on, along with anything else Barrett had to do with. Years later, long after my inevitable conversion into a punk/experimental enthusiast, my experience as a music fan came full circle. It was a few years ago, at a show performed by a reunited Mission of Burma during SXSW. This was one of my favorite punk/indie rock bands, and they played a very faithful cover of "Astronomy Domine." Its funny, because Mission of Burma themselves were credited with having a lot to do with expanding rock's possibilities, and here they were covering a Syd Barrett song that was more than thirty five years old... and it made total sense, fitting right in with all their futuristic avant noise and deconstructed song structures. And that's how I want to remember Syd Barrett. Not as some sixties sideshow, but forever relevant.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the cheesy hippie era

i take issue with this as i was alive in the 60s and i enjoyed taking a few peyote buttons and then mellowing out with the pink floyd sound at the royal albert. and damnit mr barrett was a hippie himself. may not have been so by name but in his paisley shirt he looked a jerk. and he knew that for him to be free he would just be himself. that is the essence of 60s hippie counter culture that you youngsters miss with yr labels. so i resent you calling my generation cheesy. and throwing labels around like wildfires. punk/experimental. well son us hippies didnt like being called hippies but we accepted it just like you accept being called experimental punk rock or whatever it is you are called these days. and uh, i resent it.

2:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha, sweet

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so in summation:

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for explaining the connotative hangups you have with certain words and phrases tho

most people love syd, but you go a lil deeper than that

some love his guitar playing, but i imagine youre in it for the airborne molecule vibrations

this article is about you, not syd... wheres stonedranger?

3:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but what about... (?)

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who wants to fight me? i see you there. yeah you. why are you reading about syd barrett? yeah you. what did he mean to you? what's he to you? he meant something to me. what did he mean to me? ok ill answer. ill bite. well i guess he was kind of strange and a little bit off kilter. and also he ran his mouth off like joyce or kerouac without editing much. and also he was andy kaufmanish and had cool hair. and beyond that he questioned the fundamental nature of reality and shit. like "what exactly is a dream and what exactly is a joke". see, that line is exactly what i wrote about above. see, i proved it. see? i'm smart see. too smart for this earth. like syd is. see. you wanna know something else? i went to cambridge about a month ago. no really. and i saw the cambridge corn exchange thing where he played his last show. and i stared down hundreds of fat bald men on bikes with baskets. and they were all syd to me. and i smiled at the gardens and the swans and the fact that there was a million syds in that town and that he could blend in there and a dork like me could never find him or even see him even tho i kinda knew what he looked like and all. but seriously the man had a good life there i bet. how much will i bet? couple bucks. okay, 5. 5 dollars. who wants to fight? also, i wouldnt have bothered him, just looked at him and then posted to an internet message board that i saw him and that he looked happy and to please leave him the fuck alone please. just like that you know. who wants to fight? you. come on i need it.

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the melvins are the new nirvana

4:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello, i am bryant dunivan, a solo musician who puts together project bands to create music that i feel is important to get out.ive been called the definition of indie by soundclash music zine, and i think that the line fits...however im not trying to tout that, just fill you in on whats been said. I yearn to create music that most people have never heard before, and on pretty much every record try to evolve the sound, while this is a good thing, it pretty much implies that everything you hear from me, is most likely nothing like anything youve heard before.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

He was a hippie. That's true. I wouldn't disagree. Judging by sales of "Dark Side of the Moon" versus "The Madcap Laughs", I just wish hippies had appreciated him more. I would say "my generation" is just as cheesy or worse. I don't give a shit about labels. I'm just giving some context so you'll know where I'm coming from. As much as you all say you hate labels, I'm sure you throw them around quite often when you sit around drinking Keystone Light. So, he's a hippie, but a hippie that still matters. Which is more than I can say for 99.9% of his contemporaries, famous or otherwise.

And anon 1:05 a.m., it was actually

8:43 AM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I officially don't get any of this.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Burma cover (and show) was great. I'd also like to point out this really good cover of Astronomy Domine by the defunct and great 90s Austin space rock (what the hell, a label!) group 7% Solution.

However I must say easily the greatest Floyd cover I've heard is Voivod's cover of Astronomy Domine. Speaking of underrated and mislabelled.

Anyways, I'll take issue with your Floyd comments in that the Live at Pompeii / Ummagumma (the latter to some degree) era, and certain other pieces of the pre-1975 stuff, is pretty much completely brilliant. Not that Syd's stuff isn't, but they are two completely different animals and just disregarding the rest of the band's existence is no less ignorant than disregarding the Madcap himself. And guess what, the Wall is pretty good too. Not so much Dark Side though in my opinion.

Not only that but like the guy above said, a large pct. of the experimental stuff we both like was influenced in some way, or directly a part of the "cheesy hippie era." So there are two sides to every coin. Have you heard Nuggets (of course you have). Some brilliant tracks and some embarassingly horrid ones. Chances were taken. Peyote was eaten. (see above diatribe -- both the really trippy one above and the first one).

And guess what else, there is some really great stuff in your used record stores' New Age bins, underneath the Yanni and John Tesh records, if you know what you're looking for. So preach what you're actually preaching and remember for every piece of matter there's a piece of antimatter, and good shrooms are often found growing out of turds.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

That Voivod cover is awesome. I'm not discounting the rest of Pink Floyd's catalogue. I really enjoy a lot of their live bootlegs (especially Atom Heart Mother era) and I think the "More" soundtrack might be the best thing they did without Syd. Ummagumma has a great Syd-less version of "Astronomy Domine". Meddle through Animals is pretty good. My whole point is that those records sound like their era, his solo work doesn't.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the same Floyd show on that tour in Philadelphia, and yes "Astronomy Domine" was beyond what I was expecting. The entire show was much better that I thought it would be, actually.

I also enjoyed seeing Camper Van doing "Interstellar Overdrive" in, heck, maybe '88?

Eh, a good song is a good song.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really not a total Floyd-head or anything, but I did get to see them at the Alamodome in 94, and it was surreal and mystical and an altogether amazing event. Yes, it coud have been my "extenuating circumstances" at the time, but nonetheless I feel very lucky to have seen them and count it among my most powerful show-going experiences.

So I guess I beg to differ w/ DL, though I have heard from others that the TX Stadium show was not all that. Maybe the Alamodome one was much better. Who knows.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

stop editorializing and tell me what to do tonight.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sooooo happy that more people DONT listen to Syd regulary and that he did not gain "wild popularity" like floyd did. course I like Floyd... A LOT. But Syd should always remain that elusive (even more now) madcap. Thank God for sacred and holy things.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Rj said...

The only thing I'd want to add is that the problem you have with hippies, should be more directed at baby boomers. They are the people that made some of the greatest music ever written become a fad. They gave up on interesting ground breaking music for disco and steely dan. They didn't understand Barrett, and there are many that never will.

The floyd was the first real shoegazer band.

2:59 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...


3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ain't nothing wrong with Steely Dan but keystone light? Ickish.
shoegaze, hippie, experimental punk rock, space rock, peyote buttons, turds,

words, words, words.

Music means different things to different people. Let them wear it inside, they're just trying to get by.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please don't call them shoegaze. they were psychedelic. heck, they probably weren't even wearing shoes.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



4:29 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I think theres something in the water today.

4:48 PM  
Blogger fuzzbuzz said...

or in the keystone light

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

damn datz terrible he died. i wonder how da rest of da band gonna carry on witout their lead singer. i aint heard all of pink floyd’s songs, but their album “the wall” was cool and amazin. it had this psychodelic-trance feel, but it still sounded like rock should. and this was released in ‘79! aint dat sumthin?? whoa! i hope da band keeps tourin and if possible, makin songs. fans will love it, even witout da frontman.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, he's a hippie, but a hippie that still matters. Which is more than I can say for 99.9% of his contemporaries, famous or otherwise.

okay so i can see some of what i said rang true for you. but still you've missed my underlying point. firstly as i said i am not a youngster. not a baby boomer either. never had any kids, self-employed. i suppose you'd call me a has been. a has been who has been to over 20 hendrix shows! saw syd and jimi share the stage too! so if that means ive sold out or whatever then whatever. okay? good. and now i google around the net looking for a decent word on mr barrett and i found yours which was nearly there but just missing it with your labels. son one thing the 60s taught me was you can't put me in a fucking box and to put music in a fucking box is a fucking sin. thanks

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

99.9% = 666

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

drugs are bad, m'kay?

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm kinda surprised he made it this long..

i'll bet his mom is glad to finally have the house to herself though...

nah, seriously, Opal was a great album.

RIP, you crazy diamond...

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this "m'kay?" thing is grossly annoying.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i missed the boat.never got into syd.but we know it so well.anyone that has to write about how craaazy and misunderstood they are,is
probably quite the opposite.a true mad person knows not what he does and definaltey cannot put it so eloquently in words. you all just bought the rock romantic book

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

none of this makes any sense. syd barrett clearly is not dead but instead spending him time posting comments on weshotjr.

and his mom died a couple of years ago so she never did get the house all to herself...

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there was nothing wrong with syd fuckin barrett.except the fact he was a big louse living off of his mother.he was told he had too much acid.the journalist's ,the adoring fan's,the ex members' blahhh.just like rocky and daniel.I don;t buy into's people that feel too much and then cannot cope in society.they happen to create something and then it's turned around as fragile,mental insanity to the rest of us.get it??we are all just like him.pat yourself on the back.your famous now.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight! Syd Barrett will be remembered !

at the cavern club!

Blackheart Society will be doing a tribute on Syd... i mean for Syd.


Arnold Layne
Lucifer Sam will be there hanging out in the with tjh834bc91hxn 1000110XO!6!11000000XXXX))OO.....


over and out.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

except the fact he was a big louse living off of his mother

dude he was in pink floyd, remember?
his mommy loved him and he was a mommas boy but he didnt mooch off her. just lived with her in his childhood home (in the basement like a hobbit!!). when floyd kicked him out (heartless and clueless moronz) he walked all the way back to cambridge (an hour train ride or more from london imagine walking) and she was glad to have him. wouldnt you be? that would rule! you know he said some trippy shit to her and was her little darling boy. the rolling stone interviews refer to a happy barrett sitting among his little boy pictures and mom serving tea for the reporter. know who else is a momma's boy? me. and roky erickson, and daniel johnston. but all their mommys love them. maybe thats why they play up mental illness! syd coulda bought mommy quite alot mind you seeing as i buy all his materials and reissues foolz. the syd myth will never die but lets get our facts straight and not believe urban mythz. dont spout off shit. fact check. like me, a true genius!

ps his mom died in the 80s or so too so uh yeah. any questions i am a scholar.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it wrong to use Syd tributes as a gimmick to get people to come to ones shows? shouldn't some sweet thought be put into this? the guy just died, i mean...c'mon. do it right.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

defensive listening, sorry, but i'm just gonna have to fail you for this one.

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes obviously none of these three people are actually mentally ill, it was all just gimmickry.

8:38 AM  
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