The Pink Floyd &
Syd Barrett Story
Told very much in a Behind The Music format with BBC wit and style, The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story is the definitive biography of early Pink Floyd and their enigmatic founding leader Syd Barrett. Originally put together in 2001, it features on-camera commentary from all four principal members of Pink Floyd - Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright - along with band associates, friends and fellow musicians. Together with classic footage, clips and photos, the story of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett is told.
In the first frame of the modified film, it says that since the making of the program, Syd Barrett had sadly passed away on July 7, 2006 in Cambridge. In the documentary that follows, they do acknowledge, at various intervals, that Barrett was still very much alive, quietly living away from the glare of the spotlight. But, for all intents and purposes, the Syd Barrett portrayed in this film died long before 2006. Early on, the prospects looked good with Barrett, Waters, Mason, Wright and guitarist Bob Kloss in the fold, playing basic blues and pop songs. But, as Kloss himself explains it, it took him to leave to help the band develop into what it would become.
Soon, as the band's underground psychedelic reputation grew, manager Peter Jenner came aboard, and then through a residency at the UFO Club, American impresario Joe Boyd produced their first single, "Arnold Layne." From there, the music, mostly written and conceived by Barrett, became more eclectic and wilder. But as Pink Floyd began to take off and the demands increased, their leader was starting to deteriorate, his mental state exacerbated by LSD and later mandrax. Waters, Wright and Mason all talk about how Barrett was starting to crack, unable to perform. Gilmour was brought in to take over before Barrett was eventually edged out, with little fuss or resistance.
After leaving the Floyd, Barrett moved to Wetherby Mansions, near Earl's Court in London, where he lived for a year with the colorful artist Duggie Fields. There he wrote, painted, and slowly fell into a detached and drug-induced mental state. Fields says Barrett spent a lot of his time in bed, afraid to face the challenges of his celebrity. Attempts to stir his creativity with solo albums, with the help of Jenner, Waters and Gilmour, did little more than reveal the "open sores," as Jenner put it, of Barrett's psyche. Interestingly enough, drummer Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie who appeared on Barrett's records and played a disastrous first solo show with him, speculates that the singer wasn't as "nutty" as everyone thought, suggesting that, at times, he was "faking" his psychosis. Clearly, for many in and around the Floyd camp at the time, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
But it's Jack Monck, bassist for the Stars who accompanied Barrett during his final public performance, who really puts things in perspective when he says, "Some gigs are bad and that was probably the worst." After that, Barrett left London for Cambridge, and except for a couple of false starts back in London, that's where he remained for the rest of his life. His tragic story "haunted" Pink Floyd to the point that Waters started referencing him directly in his lyrics, first touching on madness in The Dark Side Of The Moon (which the film does not explore), then becoming more of a focus on "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and "Wish You Were Here." All four members talk about seeing Barrett for the last time at the studio during the recording of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." He might as well have been dead at that point, because their recollections of seeing him paint a sad and dismal picture.
The double DVD reissue of The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story includes the full, unedited interviews sourced for the documentary. For fans looking for extra dirt, more insight and even a couple candid moments, these interviews are a nice treat. Now, with the Live 8 reunion, Richard Wright's 2008 passing, and warm relations between the surviving members, we can only hope a post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd documentary is on the storyboard and in development to tell the rest of the story.
~ Shawn Perry