Shine On You Crazy Diamond (My first published article!)
If ever there were a contest to find the ultimate icon for the 1960s counter-culture, for psychedelia or for the use of LSD, Roger 'Syd' Barrett would be a clear contender. His influence through the astounding and unique Pink Floyd is nothing short of immense; he certainly was the mind behind their madness.
Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the band's debut of 1967, remains their finest piece of work and is almost entirely the work of Syd himself. Relics, a later LP
compiling some previously unreleased tracks such as ‘See Emily Play’ and ‘Arnold Layne’,also expresses the brilliance, madness and bizarre jollity of Barrett. Pink Floyd went on to define progressive rock music, act as key figures of the psychedelic sixties and re-shape the live music experience completely. Their light shows were utterly unique, and their performance became totally enchanting as a result.
However, before Syd could grow, develop and truly shine as a musician, the acid consumed his very being and destroyed the light in his soul. Ex-Floyd producer Joe Boyd described how Barrett, in a matter of months “had gone through a dramatic deterioration and was almost monosyllabic and very blank-faced”. Others recall him standing on stage, guitar around his neck and arms by his sides, staring bleakly into space, slowly tripping into insanity.
Barrett somehow remains the central feature for all writing on the Floyd; his brilliance and madness continues to dazzle fans years later. Even after the introduction of the incredible David Gilmour to the band's line-up in 1968, many argue that the iconic shoes of Syd could never be filled or replicated. He was a one-of-a-kind revolutionary lyricist and guitarist who generated a whole new meaning to the musical underground of the sixties and who almost single handedly invented progressive rock. All of this through one album, a few lost treasure tracks and a string of gigs at the UFO club in London throughout the 'summer of love'. Syd was, and remains to this very day (even four years after his death, years of being a recluse and succumbing to drug induced insanity) a true music icon. In the infamous words of the Floyd themselves: shine on you crazy diamond.