Ed Driscoll

The Great Gig In The Sky

One of the last of the great walking acid casualties of rock finally fell this month, when the man who gave Pink Floyd their name and early sound, Syd Barrett, passed away at age 60. While Syd launched Pink Floyd, it was his replacement, David Gilmour, who shaped their sound and made it his own, as Tigerhawk writes:

While most music fans are familiar with Pink Floyd, few have ever heard of Barrett, the band’s original front man and guitarist. He named the band, and really created the extreme psychedelic feel and aura surrounding it. He was central to Pink Floyd’s breakthrough album, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” As Barrett withdrew, suffering from apparent mental instability, the other bandmembers recruited David Gilmour, a childhood friend, first to supplement, and eventually replace Barrett.

His influence on Pink Floyd clearly continued, as Gilmour and Roger Waters developed the extraordinary “Dark Side of the Moon” in 1972 in part to wrestle with issues surrounding mental dysfunction. And the band’s later, brilliant album “Wish You Were Here” was dedicated to Barrett, the song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” intended as encouragement for their old leader. Many will undoubtedly reference that song today.

Who knows what demons drove Barrett into seclusion, and whether they were catalyzed by LSD, the pressure to write music, travel and perform incessantly? But he clearly broke down. Would Pink Floyd have achieved anything approaching its monumental success with Barrett and without Gilmour. I would say No.

I concur. But it’s a shame to see a life discarded merely for a brief walk-on part.