Syd Barrett Will Save Your Psychotic Soul

Re-posting an abbreviated version of this one, which I was fortunate enough to have featured in The Junction. The full essay now appears here.

It’s no good trying to say what went wrong with him.

By all appearances, Syd Barrett — original frontman of Pink Floyd — lost his mind. But whether he was schizophrenic as rumored or on the schizo spectrum or otherwise porous to effects of the psychoactive buffet of the day or once got hold of some diabolical drug in hippie drag or had a mood disorder with psychosis-mimicking features or was just a genius and fuck you if you can’t keep up, none of us know.

Hell, don’t know and it wasn’t so long ago I saw the guy in Starbucks. Though — and here’s an important caveat to that and future notes — we do know about me.

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Syd Barrett, photographed by Mick Rock (1969)

My own beast of brain (schizoaffective disorder) doesn’t result in full-scale visions left and right, but when it crests, its sweet spot is intrusive daytime images roughly the clarity of hypnagogic hallucinations. Graphics of dialed-down opacity that last about as long as a John Irving double-semicolon sentence. So it isn’t only when one takes the form of a resurrected rock star that they tend to be distinguishable from the flesh-and-blood set.

To contextualize, then: I don’t mean I saw Syd Barrett but he said nothing illuminating because there was so much else to discuss (Roger Waters touring solo, the fickle zephyrs of Bitcoin, etc.) so not even I know. I mean I saw Syd Barrett recently so I’m a fucking loon, and not even that qualifies me to say what was what with him.

The data available on what was eating Syd Barrett at this point is vulnerable to compiler’s bias; my own information comes from qualified and unqualified corners of the web along with the biography Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake.

Even sidelining the popular notion that Syd had, at minimum, a psychological predisposition that LSD acted on like a bank-vault explosive, madness is a good lens through which to review his album The Madcap Laughs and, specifically, “No Good Trying.”

Read the rest in The Junction.

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