Saturday, January 3, 2015

the madcap laughs

Syd Barrett cried in his tattooed brain and painted a mystic shining dream dragon inside of a yummy winking nocturne.  Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett had started Pink Floyd with childhood friend Roger Waters; and had been the driving creative force behind their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'; but, by the time of their second album, 'A Saucerful of Secrets',  his erratic behavior had led the rest of the band fire him.  The management team of Peter Jenner and Andrew King followed him and Jenner produced the early sessions for Barrett's solo debut at  EMI Studios on Abbey Road from May through July in 1969.  Shortly thereafter, Barrett broke up with his  girlfriend Lindsay Corner and took a tour around the UK in his car, eventually winding up in psychiatric care in Cambridge.  Jenner and Norman Smith (the producer for Pink Floyd) had both refused to work with Syd, but Malcolm Jones stepped up to the plate and sessions resumed in April of 1969.  That is, until Barrett followed Pink Floyd on their trip to Ibiza.  It was there that he convinced his replacement David Gilmour to help finish the album during June and July.   

Jenner looks back:  "As time’s gone on and I’ve worked with other musicians, I’ve realised more and more what a genius Syd was. That’s not just some rosy glow for the obituaries. It’s a reflection of how much influence he had and how Pink Floyd remained his band throughout, even after he’d gone and they were doing their own thing. The band revolved around him and his spirit remained central, even after he went...Some of his best work was in those last songs he wrote for the Floyd, like ‘Jugband Blues’. They were blinding songs, painful and true, like a Van Gogh painting. When the split came there was never any question in my mind that I wouldn’t go with Syd. I wasn’t a very good businessman and that decision tells you a lot about me. But Syd was the genius in the band in terms of the music and I was going to stick with him."

Gilmour recalls: "[The sessions] were pretty tortuous and very rushed. We had very little time, particularly with The Madcap Laughs. Syd was very difficult, we got that very frustrated feeling: Look, its your f ucking career, mate. Why don't you get your finger out and do something? The guy was in trouble, and was a close friend for many years before then, so it really was the least one could do." 

'The Madcap Laughs' features Syd Barrett on guitar, vocals, and production;   David Gilmour on bass, 12-string acoustic guitar, drums, and production;   Jerry Shirley on drums and bass;  Willie Wilson on bass and drums;   Robert Wyatt on drums;   Hugh Hopper on bass;   and Mike Ratledge on keyboards;  with additional production by Peter Jenner, Malcolm Jones, and Roger Waters;  and engineering by Phil McDonald, Peter Mew, Mike Sheady, Jeff Jarratt, and Tony Clark.    Mick Rock did the photography;  and Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis did the cover designs.  'The Madcap Laughs' went to number forty on the UK album chart.  

Barrett would express:  "I've spent a long time doing it - since I left the group. But it was done at a reasonable pace.  Yes, my time has been fairly well spent since leaving. I haven't had a particularly hard time and I was okay for money. I've heard of a few plans for me to do some appearances but there is nothing positive enough to talk about. There are vague ideas about a group as well.  I've just spent my time writing fairly regularly. I've certainly not been bored and there are still a lot of things to do. When I was with the Floyd the form of the music played on stage was mainly governed by the records. Now I seem to have got back to my previous state of mind. With the volume used, they inclined to push me a little.  Yes, there were hang-ups when I was with them, although it was not due to the traveling or anything, which you just put in the category of being a regular activity in that kind of job...I always find recording difficult. I can only think in terms of, well, 'I'm pleased with forty minutes of sound', but I can't in terms of the music industry. It's only a beginning, I've written a lot more stuff...'Octopus' is a particular example of recording being discussed as something exceptional because it takes an unusual metre. I don't read much, but I think I picked up Shakespeare as a book that just happened to be lying there to read. It was meant to be verse. I like to have really exciting, colourful songs. I can't really sing, but I enjoy it, and I enjoy writing from experiences. Some are so powerful they are ridiculous. The straight scene is the best.  What happened at Tottenham Court Road when we started was a microcosm of what happened later. I think pop today is a bit difficult to take in some ways - but it's fine. I've never felt I have been left behind. I'd like to play sometime on the scene. Got to do something. It would be a splendid thing to get a band together."


'The Madcap Laughs'
full album:

All songs written by Syd Barrett, except "Golden Hair" (music by Barrett, based on a poem by James Joyce)
00:00 Terrapin
05:03 No Good Trying
08:26 Love You
10:57 No Man's Land
14:01 Dark Globe
16:03 Here I Go
19:14 Octopus
23:02 Golden Hair
25:00 Long Gone
27:51 She Took A Long Cold Look 
29:47 Feel
31:57 If It's In You
34:30 Late Night

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