Syd Barrett died coming up to a year ago and I’ve just been interviewed for a Radio 2 documentary about his life and music that will be aired on the anniversary of his passing that also includes contributions from his former band mates in Pink Floyd.
The chap from the BBC who’s producing the show and doing all the interviews told me he’d been astonished – even as a Pink Floyd fan himself – at the enormous media coverage of Syd’s death and quite flabbergasted to learn that at Uncut we’d entirely remade our issue with only two days until the presses started to roll, replacing a cover and cover story we’d already signed off to pay Syd an appropriate farewell.
This seemed to him an amazing amount of work to put into a tribute to someone whose entire recorded legacy could politely be described as meagre – less than 40 tracks in all – and who hadn’t, to boot, made a record in the lifetimes of some of our readers.
I tried to explain what Syd meant to us – that we wouldn’t be here without people like him, that for a glorious moment in the 60s only The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were on comparable trajectories, taking music further out than it had previously ventured, that of the era’s stars, Syd was the white Hendrix, and only Brian Jones seemed more exotic. The solo albums came from somewhere spookier than Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, I rambled on, but remain his most astonishing testament – haunted, charming, disturbing, unique.
As we were wrapping up, the chap from the radio told me he’d already interviewed David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright for his programme and what they’d had to sat about Syd was eloquent and moving, with Gilmour particularly illuminating about the relationship between Roger Waters and Syd, to whom in Gilmour’s opinion Waters’ songs returned more often than is often recognised.
At the time of this conversation, Waters had not been available for interview, due to various sets of circumstances that needn’t detain us here. There had been a vague hope of talking to him at the recent Syd tribute at the Barbican, but that hadn’t happened.
There had been loose talk that night of a Floyd reunion, since all four were meant to appear. Gilmour had apparently turned up at the Barbican enthusiastically suggesting they get together to close the evening by playing “Astronomy Domine” – and how good might that have been – but the idea was quickly abandoned when word came from Waters’ camp that he had to leave early for another appointment and wouldn’t be around for the end of the show.
And that, as they say, was that