Syd Barrett in his first (and only) solo session for John Peel, recorded on February 24, 1970 and broadcast on March 14th of that year.
It was 12 years ago, on July 7, 2006 that the report came in saying Syd Barrett had died. The name may not have rung many bells with people whose only memory of Pink Floyd started around Dark Side Of The Moon. But those who remember Pink Floyd during the early years – when Piper At The Gates Of Dawn became an instant cult classic, the name Syd Barrett was synonymous with the founding of Pink Floyd during those halcyon days of one of the most influential bands of the decade. Syd was only present with the band on one album and half of another. A rapidly deteriorating mental and emotional state, fueled by Psychedelics and disturbing an already delicate balance, Syd was forced to quit the band in 1968, a move which put the future of Pink Floyd in jeopardy, but one which was necessary for Syd’s own good. Many felt Pink Floyd should have called it a day when Syd left – he was the lynchpin of the band – the voice and temperament behind some of the most unforgettable and pivotal music of the era. Where it would have gone, had Syd not been unable to continue on is anyone’s guess. But many also said if it wasn’t for Syd to begin with, there would never have been a Dark Side Of The Moon. Over the years, various founding members of Pink Floyd have, on more than one occasion cited Syd as a driving force and inspiration for the band, years after his departure. You only have to play “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond” to know the presence of Syd Barrett was still very strong.
But despite his erratic behavior and deteriorating emotional state, Syd Barrett was still able to pursue a solo career, of sorts. He did two solo albums; Madcap Laughs and Syd – this John Peel session – a few other sessions and a rare appearance or two, before dropping completely off the radar.
But in all that time, Syd’s legend continued, taking on almost mythic proportions – with fans always hoping there would be some miraculous resurrection, or some discovery of a vault full of unreleased masters. Everyone held out hope, until the report came in via the BBC on July 7, 2006 that Syd Barrett had died – and that was it.
So all there was existed on a scant few tapes, and recollections – some fuzzy and some crystal clear. I remember the first time I saw Pink Floyd, it was during their ill-fated initial tour which was cut short, due to Syd, but which had one performance in Los Angeles at the Shrine Expo Hall, opening for . . .I think The Grateful Dead. The rest of the concert I don’t remember – but I do remember looking down from the mezzanine, hypnotized while they played Interstellar Overdrive – some images just burn into your brain when you least expect it.
That was the closest I ever got to Syd Barrett – but his influence and his indelible mark on Music are still fresh, some 50 years after the first encounter – some 12 years after the final word.
Here is that session for John Peel, as it was first broadcast on March 14, 1970.
Crazy Diamond indeed.