After leaving Pink Floyd, the singer, songwriter and guitarist, Syd Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006), began a solo career, releasing two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett.
The first album, The Madcap Laughs, was recorded in two sessions, both at Abbey Road Studios between April and July 1969. It was released on 3rd January 1970.
The title of the album comes from a line in the song Octopus. Barrett began recording sessions in May 1968. Although the sessions were brief, the project was abandoned for almost a year while Barrett spent much of the year as a recluse. In April 1969, Barrett began working on newer material, while reworking the 1968 recordings. Roger Waters and David Gilmour got involved with producing The Madcap Laughs that July and helped Barrett finish his album.
The album featured a rather unorthodox recording process, in which Barrett would provide a backing track of his own singing accompanied by acoustic guitar, over which the session musicians would overdub the rest of the arrangement. However, Barrett’s playing and singing were highly erratic and unpredictable – he skipped or added beats and bars seemingly at random, or otherwise he would strum on a single chord for a long time before unexpectedly reverting back to the main portion of the song. This was all much to the frustration of the session musicians; a close listen to several tracks (in particular No Good Trying and Love You) will reveal the backing band hovering uncertainly here, or being caught off-guard by a chord change there. After several months of intermittent recording, the album was finally deemed complete.
‘I liked what came out, only it was released far too long after it was done. I wanted it to be a whole thing that people would listen to all the way through with everything related and balanced, the tempos and moods offsetting each other, and I hope that’s what it sounds like, I’ve got it at home, but I don’t listen to it much now.’ – Syd Barrett.
All songs by Syd Barrett, except where noted.
Terrapin – 5:04
No Good Trying – 3:26
Love You – 2:30
No Man’s Land – 3:03
Dark Globe – 2:02
Here I Go – 3:11
Octopus – 3:47
Golden Hair – 1:59 (Barrett, Joyce)
Long Gone – 2:50
She Took a Long Cold Look – 1:55
Feel – 2:17
If It’s in You – 2:26
Late Night – 3:10
In 1993, The Madcap Laughs was reissued with several bonus tracks of alternate takes.
Syd Barrett’s second album of new material, Barrett, was recorded between February and July 1970. Barrett was released in November 1970.
The main aim for the Barrett sessions was to give Syd Barrett the structure and focus missing during the sessions for The Madcap Laughs. Thus, the sessions were more efficiently run – with much unreleased material recorded – and Barrett was finished in far less time than it took to complete The Madcap Laughs.
‘Doing Syd’s record was interesting, but extremely difficult. Dave (Gilmour) and Roger (Waters) did (produced) the first one (The Madcap Laughs) and Dave and myself did the second one (Barrett). But by then it was just trying to help Syd any way we could, rather than worrying about getting the best guitar sound. You could forget about that! It was just going into the studio and trying to get him to sing.’ – Richard Wright.
‘We really had basically three alternatives at that point, working with Syd. One, we could actually work with him in the studio, playing along as he put down his tracks – which was almost impossible, though we succeeded on ‘Gigolo Aunt’. The second was laying down some kind of track before and then having him play over it. The third was him putting his basic ideas down with just guitar and vocals and then we’d try and make something out of it.’ – David Gilmour.
All songs by Syd Barrett.
Baby Lemonade – 4:10
Love Song – 3:03
Dominoes – 4:08
It Is Obvious – 2:59
Rats – 3:00
Maisie – 2:51
Gigolo Aunt – 5:46
Waving My Arms in The Air – 2:09
I Never Lied To You – 1:50
Wined and Dined – 2:58
Wolfpack – 3:41
Effervescing Elephant – 1:52
The album was produced by David Gilmour and Richard Wright, featured Gilmour on bass guitar, Wright on keyboard and Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley.
In 1988, EMI Records released an album of Barrett’s studio outtakes and previously unreleased material recorded from 1968 to 1970 under the title Opel.
While Barrett only released two albums in 1970, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, the existence of unreleased studio work was widely reported. After years of demand from Barrett’s considerable fan base, Opel was compiled and released. Syd Barrett approved the new release.
All songs by Syd Barrett, except where noted.
Opel – 6:26
Clowns and Jugglers – 3:27
Rats – 3:00
Golden Hair – 1:44 (Barrett/Joyce)
Dolly Rocker – 3:01
Word Song – 3:19
Wined and Dined – 3:03
Swan Lee (Silas Lang) – 3:13
Birdie Hop – 2:30
Let’s Split – 2:23
Lanky (Part One) – 5:32
Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe) – 3:00
Milky Way – 3:07
Golden Hair – 1:56 (Barrett/Joyce)
In 1993, EMI issued another release, Crazy Diamond, a box set of The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, and Opel.
All discs are further augmented by various alternate takes that illustrated Barrett’s inability or refusal to play a song the same way twice.
‘Our main plan was to find Syd’s acoustic takes, before the other musicians were drafted in to overdub them. But we stumbled across some fascinating material that sheds new light on Syd’s working methods.’ – Phil Smee (Compilation/Remix Supervisor).
The box set is packaged in a 6 x 12 inch long-box, and also contains a 24 page booklet.
The album is named after Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a composition by Pink Floyd about and dedicated to Barrett, who led the band during its earlier years.
Syd Barrett’s music is original, unusual and interesting. It is also very moving.
Here is a link to Syd Barrett’s official website: www.sydbarrett.com
And here’s a link to some of his CDs:
Enjoy the music.