Syd Barrett was rock and roll’s greatest enigma. Genius, madman, recluse — he was for a short time the brightest star of London’s late-60s psychedelic scene, only to burn out and disappear.
Barrett was an art school student in London when he helped found Pink Floyd in 1965. He gave the band its name, wrote most of its songs and served as guitarist and singer. He led the band to fame in London’s underground subculture.
By 1967 Barrett was taking large quantities of LSD and becoming increasingly unstable. He had always been eccentric, but it soon became clear he was suffering from a serious mental illness. Onstage he was increasingly catatonic, strumming a single string for an entire show or not playing at all. By the spring of 1968 the rest of Pink Floyd had no choice but to replace Barrett. They didn’t push him out of the band so much as they simply stopped picking him up and carting him around. He managed to piece together a couple of solo albums before retreating into seclusion, where he remained for the rest of his life.
The documentary Syd Barrett: Under Review (above) was released in early 2006, only a few months before Barrett’s death at the age of 60. The film is billed as “An Independent Critical Analysis.” As such, it deals less with the more lurid aspects of Barrett’s life and focuses instead on his musical legacy. The hour-long film rests heavily on interviews with leading British music journalists. It also includes excerpts from concerts, TV appearances and home movies. For more on Barrett, including filmed performances of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine,” see our post, “Psychedelic Scenes of Pink Floyd’s Early Days with Syd Barrett, 1967.” You can purchase Syd Barrett: Under Review on DVD here.