To the editors:
First off, I really liked Bill Wyman's Pink Floyd article ["The Four Phases of Pink Floyd," January 15]. It made a bunch of distinctions about the band that have long been unsaid. The shit was gratifying to hear. But for a couple of objections, centering around his Syd Barrett info, which seemed kinda garbled and superficially rendered: One, you disposed of him too easily. There are three long-playing records he was intimately associated with, none of which were discussed. Two, his solo career (albums and live appearances) was permanently over by about 1973 or 4. In "the last decade or so," the only appearances he has made are on the streets of Cambridge (and, sometimes, London), answering only to Roger Keith and taking to his heels whenever addressed as Syd. Seems the rock n roll life-style got the best of him . . .
The instantaneousness of Floyd's rise and fall in England around 1967 has much to do with it. The first album has many of Brit psychedelia's finest moments, mostly provided by Barrett. You said nice things about Syd and psychedelia but never mentioned the record, which is an expert pop song cycle, even though the Rolling Stone record guide regards it as an oddity, two stars out of five. It may not have the linear feel of The Final Cut, or its social conscience, but it creates a world, song by song, a playhouse that illustrates as clearly as Sgt. Pepper or The Village Green Preservation Society that certain something about Britain 1967. Figure it out, Rolling Stone!
You did talk up the singles, and that's great. "Apples and Oranges" deserves mention though it's not as superbly demented as his last ever Pink Floyd song, "Jugband Blues," which ends A Saucerful of Secrets. Although incongruent to the rest of the album, Barrett's song had more raw power in its three minutes than all that preceded it. "It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here and I'm most obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here," he sang, and there was no mistaking his firm, if fragmented, grip on reality as truth, a most difficult exhumation of insight and vision.
The Madcap Laughs, released after a year's break (at which time he was rumored to be either in Spain or in a mental institution) in 1970 picked right up from there and modified, by stripping it down. Barrett's words are better than ever, the music dark, tranquil and tempestuous by turns. Before the record is over, Syd has broken down in front of us. The record has evolved almost beyond the album state. Later in the same year, Barrett was released, a much calmer sounding record, but not lacking by any means. Playing within a straight group setup, Barrett strives to achieve a pleasant, listenable pop record. Only occasionally does he show strain, though desolate images and themes of abandonment are threaded throughout the entire album.
After this there were several live shows, with a band called "Stars" in Cambridge, and, around 1973, an attempt at an album, which ended when Barrett simply stopped coming to the studio. Not long after that, one assumes, it was Good-bye Syd, Hello Roger Keith.
Now, I know. The article was on Pink Floyd, not fuckin' Syd Barrett. But you got the facts wrong on his solo stuff, so I figured you'd never heard it. I want you to hear it. I'm not trying to be an asshole.
PS: I understand that there may be the question of cultist/fanatic in my tone. Ignore it.