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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Barrett's 'extraordinary legacy'
Joe Boyd - one of the pivotal figures of the 1960s rock scene - offers his memories of Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, who has died aged 60.

Pink Floyd in 1967
Barrett (top right) was born in Cambridge in January 1946
I was in London in 1966, working for Elektra Records, and I was also involved in an organisation called the London Free School, a radical attempt to help revolutionise west London.

That organisation ended up kick-starting the Notting Hill Carnival in 1966. But the carnival didn't raise any money, so there was an attempt to do so by putting on concerts at a church hall in Palace Square.

The key figure in the London Free School was Peter Jenner. He knew this group from Cambridge called Pink Floyd who were in London looking for work.

He convinced them to do a gig as a benefit concert as it would be good publicity for them.

It worked, it was great. They had this light show and they were really wonderful and original.

I got really excited about them and tried to interest the record company I was working for in signing them.

He'd always been very witty, kind of twinkly, very appealing to girls
I couldn't get the boss to bite, and this was one of many things that led to my leaving the employment of Electra and setting out as a freelance producer. I set about trying to get a deal for the Pink Floyd.

By February 1967, I went into the studio with them to record a single, which we then hoped to sell to a record company.

We recorded Arnold Layne, which was a song written by Syd - at that time, he wrote or co-wrote everything that the Floyd performed and he was definitely the focus and the centrepiece of the Floyd. The record was then contracted to EMI.

Summer of Love

Over the subsequent months, everything changed.

The record was a hit on the charts, even though the BBC banned it. What had been underground became mainstream, and suddenly became the exciting scene of 1967 and the Summer of Love.

I think Pink Floyd were really at the heart of it - the songs, the guitar-playing and the personality of Syd were, in a way, the spearhead of so much of what went on, the aesthetic of what happened in London in 1967.

It was very, very sad for me that having not seen Syd for a couple of months, I met him in June and he had obviously been totally altered in those months.

All the songs that Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour have written since then seem to me to have some kind of imprint of Syd on them
He was very lifeless. He'd always been very witty, kind of twinkly, very appealing to girls - a dark-eyed, handsome sort of guy.

He wrote a lot of songs, some which the Floyd didn't always do.

I used to have a tape of these songs he'd given me as a demo to see if I could get somebody else interested in recording them. Much to my regret, I no longer have it. It's disappeared in the mists of time.

By that summer, he would very often spend time on stage with the Floyd, standing with his arms at his side, not playing, not singing.

Eventually Dave Gilmour was brought in to provide support for those times when Syd didn't feel like playing, and in the end he took over and replaced Syd, and Syd left the group.

Lasting influence

I think Syd leaves an extraordinary legacy because Floyd are famous all over the world.

You can go to the farthest corner of Indonesia or Africa or Latin America and you can find a cassette of Dark Side of the Moon somewhere.

Very few people own The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which was the first LP. Everybody knows the Floyd from The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon.

None of those records involved Syd but somehow Syd Barrett's name is forever associated with the Floyd.

The fact that nobody's really heard his voice or his guitar-playing doesn't really stop the fact that people revere him, and I think it's quite correct that they should.

Pink Floyd in 1967
Barrett became reclusive and few knew his whereabouts for 20 years
The songs that he wrote and the way he played the guitar and his attitude and his approach to music in 1966 and '67 shaped the group.

When I heard that Syd had left the group, I thought they would disappear. But in fact they went from strength to strength.

All the songs that Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour have written since then seem to me to have some kind of imprint of Syd on them.

They somehow fit in to the style and the approach and the musical sensibility that Syd had in those early months with the Floyd.

It still feels like Syd's group, 40 years after he was no longer involved.

Joe Boyd is the author of White Bicycles, a book about the music of the 1960s.


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