Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett, the original lead guitarist and singer-songwriter of Pink Floyd, has died of a diabetes-related illness.

Syd, whose real name was Roger, was born in Cambridge, and gathered friends around him to form what was to become one of the most influential bands in rock history.

The name Pink Floyd was a combination of the first names of two early blues singers, but the story that Syd later told was that he had been given the name by the occupants of a flying saucer, while he was relaxing on Glastonbury Tor.

An early comment was that the name sounded like an embarrassed heavyweight – in the sixties, the memory of former boxing champion Floyd Patterson was still fresh.

When the band achieved a recording contract, a company executive asked “Which one’s Pink?”

Pink Floyd’s first album was “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. The title was lifted from a chapter heading in “The Wind in the Willows”, that lovely book which was one of Syd’s favourites.

There is no doubt that Syd had a huge talent. Unfortunately, there is not an awful lot to show for it.

He wrote almost all the quirky songs on this album, including “The Gnome” and the sublime “Bike” – “I’ve got a bike you can ride it if you like it’s got a basket a bell that rings and things to make it look good. I’d give it to you if I could but I borrowed it”.

Quite early on, the band started recording long space-related themes, the first of which Syd also wrote, such as “Astronomy Domine” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”.

But before long, Syd became involved in the drugs scene, and his involvement in the music became so minimal that the other members were carrying him. They even brought in Dave Gilmour to play, so that he could concentrate on writing the songs, but that muse left him too.

Eventually, the other members of the band asked him to leave.

He did make a couple of solo albums, which showed hints of his talent, but they were only hints.

Pink Floyd’s enormous success “Dark Side of the Moon” was put together without Syd Barrett. By this time Roger Waters had begun to write most of the songs, many of which had a rather frightening alienation as their theme – “there’s someone in my head but it’s not me”.

Their next album, “Wish You Were Here” included a long piece entitled “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which was very clearly about their erstwhile friend and colleague, whom they very obviously wished were there.

In fact, Syd Barrett is said to have visited the Abbey Lane studios to watch the album being recorded. So much had his physical condition deteriorated that nobody in the band recognised him.

Last year, at the Live 8 concert, Pink Floyd re-formed – but not with Syd Barrett, it was with Roger Waters, who had left acrimoniously some years before.

When they played “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, Roger emotionally shook hands with the rest of the band and declared “it’s wonderful to be on the stage with these guys – and we’re playing this for everybody who is not here, and of course especially Syd”.

Syd Barrett, who had been living as a recluse at his mother’s house in Cambridge for thirty-odd years, died on 7th July aged 60.

Shine on you crazy diamond.