tales from the dark side

July 13, 2006

If you’ve ever attended Art School, dated someone in Art School, or studied something useful in the faculty next door, then you too will have had a run in with the sleepy guy from the sculpture department – or, in my case, my father – you know, the guy who sidles over in a Hendrix / Morrison / Barrett t-shirt and asks you if you like Are You Experienced / Waiting for the Sun /The Dark Side of the Moon. To which the obvious response is: a right-hook / ‘I take a bus’ / ‘God, Dad – can’t you see I’m a Goth?’

If you’re unfit enough not to have outrun the Floyd fan, then (a), cut back on the koeksusters and, (b), be prepared for the inevitable segue from Obscured by Clouds to a lengthy exposition of Syd Barrett‘s fragile, tortured genius, his propensity for LSD and something about shaven eyebrows. You might be able to slow the flow somewhat by pointing out that Syd isn’t actually on that album, and asking him to name anything Barrett did before or after he buggered off to his mum’s to paint. Or, you could just point out that he died last week from a diabetes-related illness, aged 60. Whatever you do, don’t mention that you know the cow featured on the cover of Atom Heart Mother is called Lulubelle, because he’ll interpret this as genuine interest and it will only set him off again.

For someone who quit Pink Floyd long before I was born and has largely not been seen or heard from since the 1970s, Barrett’s influence has hovered over the band for the better part of three decades like, I don’t know – a forlorn, hypnotically-patterned, swirly little raincloud? Wish You Were Here is partly an open letter to Barrett from his bandmates, Dark Side of the Moon explores themes of mental illness – a common lyrical thread for Roger Waters. And those damn art students, man – they just never let him rest.

Tragic cultural icon or unfortunate acid casualty – whatever, there was something vaguely endearing about the shambling recluse with no eyebrows, pottering around behind rose-covered walls. Blasted by the occasional psychotic psychedelic flashback. It could have been so different. So, yeah. Shine on, you.

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4 Responses to “tales from the dark side”

  1. Fatman said

    This has been a topic that’s been surfacing in the last few days between my friends, generally bearded, older guys who wear a lot of black. The strange thing was that there was a sad Syd Barrett documentary on tv about a fortnight ago and the same bearded, older friends were commenting that it was surprising to see that he was still around. But he’s dead now.

  2. Yeah, I don’t quite get the nostalgia and well of empathy around Barrett – it seems to have very little to do with his actual musical output, at the end of the day. Is it because he was one of the last reminders of a naive and wildly hedonistic age for my dad’s generation? Is it because excessive drug intake is seen as ‘cool’ by mine? I mean, all respect to the guy – it is a genuine shame that he ended up that way. I’ve seen a handful of exceptionally talented friends and (ex) colleagues flush their careers away for a line of coke, some heroin, whatever – but there’s still always that chance that they might be able to pick up the pieces one day, without having incurred the same degree of permanent damage. If they’re lucky. Which I guess Syd wasn’t.

    Kids, just say ‘no’.

  3. lisa said

    where did his eyebrows go?

  4. Hey, Lisa. Evidently, Syd took to shaving off all his hair for a while – eyebrows included.

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