Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Lead Role in a Cage

Do you know the story of Syd Barrett?

Few pleasures are more pronounced then stumbling upon a fine piece of lore that has gone undiscovered. Here's one...

So, Pink Floyd is the one hugely important band with which I have almost no familiarity. Syd Barrett was a founding member of Floyd, an influential guitarist, innovator and co-creator of their signature sound, and was, as it turns out, completely insane. After a few years of increasingly bizarre behavior and drug addiction, he became a liability. The final straw came when he approached his bandmates with a new song called "Have You Got It, Yet?" It was a straightforward song, but after the first go, Syd kept changing the arrangement and obviously nobody could learn it. All the while, Syd is singing "Have You Got It, Yet?" When Floyd discovered that they were being put on, it sealed the deal. Syd was let go and fell out of touch, descending into his own hell, presumably. Stories of his onstage antics are just as entertaining, playing one chord for an entire set, stuff like that.

Later, in 1975, after years apart, Syd shows up - completely unexpected - at Abbey Road Studios as Floyd is recording Wish You Were Here. They are recording, of all things, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," which was written about Syd. He is unrecognizable, overweight, bald, eyebrows shaven, and speaking utter nonsense. Roger Waters is so shaken by this he is moved to tears. Syd leaves, and is never seen by the members of Floyd again.

He died in 2006. Over the course of nearly four decades, David Gilmour had made it a point to make sure every cent of Floyd royalties due Syd found their way to him, and he left his two brothers and two sisters about $3 million.

A Crazy Diamond, indeed.

"Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!"

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