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Syd Barrett on the Beeb

August 30, 2011

Syd Barrett played an integral role in modern rock music.  The band he founded not only built the foundation, but is responsible for hundreds of subgenres in rock, prog, techno, ambient, etc.   He was even the primary influence in the band I have been in for the last 20 years.   Even after he could no longer function in the group due to mental instability, he was an inspiration for their greatest works.  Why is this relevant?  I discovered the music section of BBC streaming documentaries, and no one does music docs better than the beeb.  Check out “The Twilight World of Syd Barrett” produced by John Sugar, and then explore other great nuggets of fun!

“Five years after his death (7th July 2006) Syd Barrett lives on freeze framed, still young and a striking lost soul of the sixties whose brief moment of creativity outshines those long years of solitude shut away in a terraced house in his home town of Cambridge.

This revealing programme hears how his band Pink Floyd (and family) coped with Barrett’s mental breakdown and explores the hurriedly arranged holiday to the Spanish island of Formentera – where the star unravelled. In the programme we also hear about Barrett’s pioneering brand of English psychedelic pop typified on early Pink Floyd recordings ‘Arnold Layne’, ‘See Emily Play’ and the strange songs on Pink Floyd’s impressive debut album ‘The Piper At the Gates of Dawn’.

Undoubtedly Barrett’s experimentation with the drug LSD affected him mentally and the band members reveal how concerned they were when he began to go catatonic on-stage, playing music that had little to do with their material, or not playing at all. By Spring 1968 Barrett was out of the group and after a brief period of hibernation, he re-emerged in 1970 with a pair of albums, ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett’, but they failed to chart and Barrett retired to a hermit life existence under the watchful gaze of his caring sister Rosemary (featured in the programme)

We hear from David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright (one of the last interviews before his sad passing) about how there was little understanding of mental illness when it came to the drug fused culture of the time. These days a strung out star is hurriedly booked into the Priory and given counselling. As this programme reveals Barrett’s mental breakdown was not understood and the steps taken to help him were in appropriate and still rankle the members of Pink Floyd today.”

Other Recommended Docs:

Making Tracks – music journalist Paul Morley visits the Basing St Studios (where Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens + more recorded) with Trevor Horn, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and engineer Tony Platt

Fela Kuti comes home – the life of the Nigerian musician


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