Say It's Your Birthday: Syd Barrett

An early P Floyd trademark.

Some birthdays are happier than others. Today is the 50th

of Roger Keith Barrett, but we've no idea where you should sent the card. Near

as anyone can tell, for the last 25 years or so Barrett has lived in the

basement of his mother's home in Cambridge, England. What's noteworthy about

one more reclusive nutter in the basement? Only that Roger Keith Barrett, known

informally from childhood forward as Syd, was the visionary behind a little

combo he christened Pink Floyd. The Floyd were England's first homegrown

psychedelic band, and Syd did his damnedest to become rock's first psychedelic

casualty (Brian Wilson beat him to it, but not by much). Whether due to the

acid or a basic mental instability (and most probably a fatal dose of both),

Syd Barrett presided over the band for a short time. Eventually his

eccentricities became too severe--he spent entire sets playing the same chord

over and over and over--that his bandmates simply stopped picking up their

disconnected genius on the way to gigs. Syd's Pink Floyd consists of a couple

of singles, a single album, (The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn) and

scattered tracks but his legacy is measured by the vibrancy of era

unforgettables like "Arnold Layne," "See Emily Play," and "Interstellar

Overdrive." There are those who'll say that, for all their decades of mega

success, the Floyd never approached those heights again. [Like ATN's editor,

for one!] That strikes some of us as perhaps too romantic a view, but this much

we at ATN do know: if you're going to lace your morning tea with LSD, don't go

out and attempt to drive a band around the world. That kind of drinking and

driving don't mix. Other birthdays today, country great Earl Scruggs, Malcom

Young (AC/DC), Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention), Sister Kathy Sledge, Doris

Troy, Wilbert Harrison, and Mark O'Toole (Frankie Goes To

Hollywood).