Short Film “Syd Barrett’s First Trip” Reveals the Pink Floyd Founder’s Psychedelic Experimentation (1967)

Every musi­cal era has its cau­tion­ary tales, and its vision­ar­ies. The six­ties pro­duced its share of them all, but also a hand­ful of bril­liant mis­fits who were insep­a­ra­bly both, all of them psy­che­del­ic pio­neers. Skip Spence, for example—the bril­liant found­ing mem­ber of Jef­fer­son Air­plane, then Moby Grape, who effec­tive­ly end­ed his career attack­ing his band­mates with a fire axe. Then of course, there’s the found­ing singer/songwriter of Pink Floyd, Syd Bar­rett, whose decline found him onstage, almost cata­ton­ic, with a can of Bryl­creem and a crushed bot­tle of pills called Man­drax drip­ping down his face. When Bar­rett passed away in 2006, most of the reaction—after the shock of learn­ing he’d still been alive—centered on the sequence of psy­chot­ic break­downs dur­ing 1967 that would leave Bar­rett changed for­ev­er. Spence and sev­er­al oth­er, more obscure fig­ures, had sim­i­lar­ly dra­mat­ic, and per­ma­nent, shifts in con­scious­ness, and of all of them the same ques­tion gets asked: was it the drugs?

Of course we’re ask­ing if the drugs cre­at­ed the men­tal ill­ness­es or just exac­er­bat­ed the inevitable, but we’re also ask­ing if the drugs cre­at­ed the music. It’s a worth­while, if some­what uncom­fort­able, inquiry that’s prob­a­bly impos­si­ble to answer. But I must admit, it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the first incar­na­tion of Pink Floyd with­out Barrett’s heavy exper­i­men­ta­tion. The short film above implies a direct con­nec­tion and takes us to Syd’s psy­che­del­ic incep­tion. Sim­ply titled Syd Barrett’s First Trip, the first part of the film, “Gog Magog Hills,” fol­lows a clean-cut Bar­rett and sev­er­al com­pan­ions as they frol­ic in a field on LSD. As you prob­a­bly gath­ered, it’s his first time. Then the film cuts abrupt­ly to “Abbey Road Stu­dios,” to footage doc­u­ment­ing Pink Floyd in Lon­don after hav­ing just signed their first con­tract with EMI in 1967. It’s the begin­ning of the end for Barrett’s career and men­tal health, but the inau­gu­ra­tion of the band as mass-mar­ket phe­nom­e­non.

Accord­ing to the film­mak­er, Nigel Lesmoir-Gor­don, the film “just hap­pened…. It is an unself­con­scious film. It was not planned.” Of the ’66 footage, shot by his wife Jen­ny, he writes on the film’s IMDB page:

I shared the flat with some close friends from Cam­bridge, includ­ing Syd Bar­rett, who was busy becom­ing a rock star with Pink Floyd. A few hun­dred yards down the street at 101 Cromwell Road, our preter­nat­u­ral­ly cool friend Nigel was run­ning the hip­ster equiv­a­lent of an arty salon. Between our place and his, there passed the cream of Lon­don alter­na­tive society–poets, painters, film-mak­ers, char­la­tans, activists, bores and self-styled vision­ar­ies.

These are the char­ac­ters in Syd’s entourage in this “raw, unedit­ed footage,” which was orig­i­nal­ly silent, though many peo­ple have added music such as the new age‑y ambi­ent sound­scape in the ver­sion above. I hap­pen to think it’s a nice com­ple­ment, but if you find it intru­sive, turn the vol­ume off. The images, as the film­mak­er admits, are still “stun­ning.”

Via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Psy­che­del­ic Scenes of Pink Floyd’s Ear­ly Days with Syd Bar­rett, 1967

Syd Bar­rett: Under Review, a Full Doc­u­men­tary About Pink Floyd’s Bril­liant and Trou­bled Founder

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Aldous Huxley’s LSD Death Trip


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