Syd Barrett was a kind of solitary genius,even when he was surrounded by people in his hey day in a group.He had a choice as did his Pink Floyd bandmates,he could choose art and painting,which would have suited his solitary instincts more or he could take the musical option.He took the latter,the others in Pink Floyd chose not to go back to architecture,carving long careers out of being Pink Floyd.Of course he led the group creatively to begin with,the light-show events in the early days,which he reacted to instinctively,creating an intuitive kind of music.He had no plans or agendas or motivation to go on the road touring,ploughing the furrows for an industrial harvest. Syd was private in himself while still playing creatively as a group member.One can't blame the others in Pink Floyd when his mercurial talents became so unpredictable and unproductive,for replacing him with another(friend)of the Cambridge elite.The book brings out well this temperamental moodiness and need to create out of inspiration.Syd's waywardness is explained by Chapman as indifference to the music industry,fame,egotistical introversion,the discipline of riding the wave of popularity,the hard work, dealing with money people, interviews. This sweet and charming boy took drugs in different combinations,Syd was a full-on sonic explorer and sound painter. His fast intuitions fed into a machine,rebelled.Syd was happy in a small group when he had no ambitions, he liked to be around the Cambrigensians from his own town.They shared good memories and times,ending up in each other's houses back in Cambridge,learning to play,having meals,taking dope.Things were easy,he was good-looking, pulled the girls,dressed like a bohemian romantic poet.Ended up in London doing art, playing music.
However it is suggested late on in the book of his life he copied from Freud that if you do not pass a vital phase in childhood,the `depressive position',(being confident that even if a child has been angry,that his mother will return),the child will develop regressive tendencies,developing depression later in life.The book skirts his mental illness for a long time saying that Syd functioned often quite well,played good music even until late on in 1967.He was surrounded by creative people whose business was to be cool,too cool to acknowledge his extreme problems,behavioural,psychotic,emotional.Helping someone in need was not in their vocabulary,so instead of facing up to it,they chose to ignore it,shut the door on it.Some did try and book an appointment for him to see RD Laing, but he refused to get out of the car that took him.However as good as The Madcap Laughs is and some of Barrett,the well was drying up,he was becoming odd,floundering for months in a psychological limbo,becoming perverse,cruel and strange.Duggie,the painter who he lived with after leaving the group,admits he didn't pull him up or challenge him when he became reckless,finding it hard to do this to someone he was fond of.Creatively too, stasis overcame momentum in his lyrics,he resorted to a very basic monotonous strumming.Dave Gilmour helped him out creatively but found it more and more draining until unable any more.Robert Wyatt wanted to form a group with him but he lay around all day.He had helped him on some of The Madcap Laughs album.
Chapman is good on his lyrical gifts(as opposed to musical)and gives the sources of several of the songs in the last two albums.However I think he fancifully compares him at times to poets like Hopkins,although like him Syd concentrated the essence of his meanings into a few,simple words.He is closer to the analogy with Clare who also did a lot of walking home and ended up in an asylum.He stuttered into vacancy and a vagrant silence, making the long walk home to his mother's in Cambridge.His mother found a complete stranger to the boy who'd set out.Syd just opted out,not challenging any myths,or pursuing another career in painting, although he did paint,he burned his work after a while.Syd stopped communicating or sharing his gifts with anyone,instead doing gardening,shopping and do-it-yourself.There is an epigraph to each chapter from The Wind in the Willows and a songline.Syd had a caring, supportive family.His sister Rosemary gives an amazing account of his last 30 years.His 1st girlfriend too reveals the letters he sent when he was her 1st love.He was always troubled by being stalked and photographed by fans and the media as he went out on his bike shopping,but his neighbours looked out for him.A touch ofJDSalinger. Drugs had taken their toll of his mental and physical health over the years.Medical treatment failed to reclaim his mental health,he was admitted to Greenwoods mission for the treatment of enduring mental health problems for a year.There he appeared very lost,inarticulate,with little control of his own affairs.'The fire had gone out, nothing could rekindle it.'In the last years he still had humour and got on with his hobbies quite well. Chapman, although he seems removed from Syd's personality,has given him dignified biography without removing the ultimate mystery of his meteoric talent. B/w and colour plates,Cambridge people,the Floyd,mother,paintings,home.