She Took a Long Cold Look


Most of what you’ve read about Syd Barrett probably isn’t true. For example, LSD didn’t turn him into a schizophrenic. He didn’t die at 27 but lived to the age of 60. The isolation of his later years wasn’t caused by mental illnesses but by physical ones. One thing is true, however: Barrett was one of rock music’s tragic losses. His songwriting was both unique and thoroughly perfect for the psychedelic era, with its sense of whimsy and gentle humor. It certainly sweetened the Pink Floyd sound, leavening Roger Waters’ dooomy tendenies and making their ambitious virtuosity feel more approachable. His solo records are charming and weird, sounding like the work of a child at play in his bedroom, rather than the attempt of a rock star to make a statement. That kind of unstudied playfulness is pretty rare. Barrett could’ve become one of the great singer-songwriters and it is, obviously, a great shame that he never got to follow that road. For that you can blame the so-called ‘friends’ who kept dosing him with LSD without his consent even after he’d begun spiral into a full-blown nervous breakdown. That aside, though, he was probably one of those people who were constitutionally unsuited to being a public figure, let alone a full-time rock star. By all accounts, once he got the drugs out of his system, he was happy enough living alone, tending his garden, hanging out with his sister and visiting art museums. Not everybody wants or needs to be up on a podium, and not every gifted person has the drive to see their gifts rewarded. That’s very hard to understand, because we, as an audience, view it as a loss, but it’s not a loss for the artist if he decides he’d rather stop making the art that was causing him distress and go live a nice normal life with a nice garden.

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