Watch David Gilmour Play the Songs of Syd Barrett, with the Help of David Bowie & Richard Wright

Though he even­tu­al­ly dis­ap­peared from the pub­lic eye, Syd Bar­rett did not fade into obscu­ri­ty all at once after his “errat­ic behav­ior,” as Andy Kahn writes at Jam­Base, “led to his leav­ing” Pink Floyd in 1968. The found­ing singer/songwriter/guitarist went on in the fol­low­ing few years to write, record, and even spo­rad­i­cal­ly per­form new solo mate­r­i­al, appear­ing on John Peel’s BBC show in 1970 and giv­ing a long Rolling Stone inter­view the fol­low­ing year. He even start­ed, briefly, a new band in 1972 and worked on new record­ings in the stu­dio until 1974.

Bar­rett released two solo albums, The Mad­cap Laughs and Bar­rett, in 1970. Like the solo work of Roky Erick­son and Skip Spence—two oth­er trag­ic psy­che­del­ic-era genius­es with men­tal health struggles—Barrett’s lat­er com­po­si­tions are frus­trat­ing­ly rough-cut gems: quirky, sin­is­ter, mean­der­ing folk-psych adven­tures that pro­vide an alter­nate look into what Pink Floyd might have sound­ed like if their orig­i­nal inten­tions of keep­ing him on as a non-per­form­ing song­writer had worked out.

Assist­ing him dur­ing his stu­dio ses­sions were for­mer band­mates Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and David Gilmour. The band still admired his sin­gu­lar tal­ent, but they found work­ing, and even speak­ing, with him dif­fi­cult in the extreme.

As Gilmour has described those years in inter­views, they car­ried a con­sid­er­able amount of guilt over Barrett’s ouster. In addi­tion to the heart­break­ing trib­ute “Shine on You Crazy Dia­mond,” Gilmour has often per­formed Syd’s solo songs onstage in affect­ing, often solo acoustic, ren­di­tions that became all the more poignant after Barrett’s death in 2006.

In the videos at the top, you can see Gilmour play two songs from Barrett’s The Mad­cap Laughs—“Ter­rapin” and “Dark Globe”—and fur­ther up, see him play “Domi­noes” from Bar­rett, with Richard Wright on Key­boards. Gilmour has also revis­it­ed onstage Pink Floyd’s ear­li­est, Bar­rett-front­ed, days. Just above, we have the rare treat of see­ing him play the band’s first sin­gle, “Arnold Layne,” with spe­cial guest David Bowie on lead vocals. And below, see Gilmour and Wright play a ver­sion of the ear­ly Floyd clas­sic “Astron­o­my Domine,” live at Abbey Road stu­dios.

It was, sad­ly, at Abbey Road where the band last saw Bar­rett, when he entered the stu­dio in 1975 dur­ing the final mix­es of Wish You Were Here. Over­weight and with shaved head and eye­brows, Bar­rett was at first unrec­og­niz­able. After this last pub­lic appear­ance, he felt the need, as Waters put it, to “with­draw com­plete­ly” from “mod­ern life.” But the trag­ic final months with Pink Floyd and few sight­ings after­ward should hard­ly be the way we remem­ber Syd Bar­rett. He may have lost the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with his for­mer friends and band­mates, but for a time he con­tin­ued to speak in haunt­ing­ly strange, thor­ough­ly orig­i­nal songs.

This col­lec­tion of videos comes to us via Jam­Base.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Syd Barrett’s “Effer­vesc­ing Ele­phant” Comes to Life in a New Retro-Style Ani­ma­tion

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

When Pink Floyd Tried to Make an Album with House­hold Objects: Hear Two Sur­viv­ing Tracks Made with Wine Glass­es & Rub­ber Bands

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

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