I’m not sure why I find myself diving back into Syd Barrett’s music again. It’s something I’m drawn toward every now and then and it’s alway’s painful. His music from mid-1967 on is just so tragic.
You have two singles and an album from Pink Floyd that are magic and then a few singles and unreleased (then) songs before they kicked him out. Then the two solo albums, an outtake collection and a smattering of previously unreleased things that are simply tragic in their lack of focus. Some of the post-acid-or-whatever-happened-to-him songs are still brilliant (Vegetable Man, Jugband Blues, Octopus, and Dominoes) but most of it is pitiable in an imagine-what-could-have-been sense.
We all knew there was an attempt at a third album in 1974 that died after a single session. After that we know he showed up to a Floyd session in ‘75 and no one recognized him, but that was it. Now thanks to the wonders of bootlegging and YouTube we can hear that ‘74 session and it is just as lost as we’d been lead to believe.
For starters, let’s just assume that this is what it claims to be. Who know if it is, right? Let’s just go with it.
This is the sound of someone who didn’t have a clue what to do with himself, noodling out ideas that were mostly just 12-bar blues riffs. It’s heartbreaking to listen to but at the same time it’s light years better than I expected it to be. Knowing this was out there, I always wondered why they didn’t include any of it on the Opel compilation. Now I know why. There is nothing useable here.
Lately I’ve been hearing about rumors of additional lost recordings. There’s a documentary where Joe Boyd says he had, and lost, a tape of Syd playing songs that likely ended up on his solo records. This was before the mental breakdown. Syd told him he had a pile of songs Floyd didn’t use and Boyd asked for a tape thinking he could give some songs to another band he was producing.
Also, David Gilmour’s ex-wife is said to have remembered Syd coming to their house and using David’s home studio. She recalled the timing being well after Syd’s final album and his very short lived band, Stars, but well before the final session in ‘74. The mind boggles at the thought of what he might have had in his head at that time.
Anyway, listening to this recording makes me sad for what could have been, but also happy for what was. Go give Astronomy Domine or See Emily Play a spin and bask in his very fleeting musical glory.