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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 57 - 06/06/01

Syd Barrett
Wouldn't You Miss Me?

Is it possible to add anything to the Barrett legend/tragedy? If you need a short introduction to Syd, check out the review of the Asyd Vinyl tribute album. Also there are numerous unofficial Syd and Pink Floyd home pages out there. On Pink Floyd's epic Shine on You crazy Diamond (Wish You Had Hair, 1975), his old band mates described him as a stranger, legend, martyr, raver, a seer of visions, painter, piper, prisoner, boy child, winner and loser and a miner for truth and delusion. Say no more!

Wouldn't You Miss Me? is called The Best of Syd Barrett, which needs to be modified. The tracks a taken solely from his solo recordings. A real Best of album surely ought to include songs off the early Pink Floyd singles and debut album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, the band's best period if you ask me. Anyway, 16 of the 22 tracks compiled here are taken from Syd's only two "real" solo albums The Madcap Laughs and Barrett (both released in 1970). Four tracks originate from the rarities album Opel (1988), whereas Two Of A Kind first was released on the Peel Sessions EP (1987). The only reason I bought the compilation is the "new" song Bob Dylan Blues, a demo recording from 1970 that producer/old pal/Syd's successor in Floyd Dave Gilmour recently found at home in a shoebox or something.

If you haven't heard any of Syd's recordings after he left Floyd in 1968, you're in for a surprise. They are much sparser, some of them only vocals and acoustic guitar. Some added drums, bass, organ and piano by friends from the Soft Machine and Floyd etc. Syd hadn't been the easiest person to collaborate or communicate with since about May 1967, which goes to show. Some recordings lack the ordinary verse-chorus structure or a steady beat, some would surely have sounded completely different if they'd been recorded under the same circumstances as the early Pink Floyd material. Wouldn't You Miss Me? includes some of his most accessible songs, most of them with drums, bass etc. Here we get a selection of his catchy stuff (Octopus, Terrapin, and No Good Trying), the good times (Here I Go, Wined And Dined, Love Song and Two Of A Kind), the sad and tender (Late Night, Opel and Golden Hair - the latter with lyrics by James Joyce, no less!), the hilarious (Baby Lemonade, Gigolo Aunt, Effervescing Elephant and Waving My Arms In The Air) and vulnerable songs by the ghost-ridden acidhead (Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe), Swan Lee (Silas Lang) and Wolfpack). The title track is especially touchy by a man who seems to know he's going into a dark world of his own: "Please lend a hand/I'm only a person with Eskimo chain/I've tattooed my brain all the way/Won't you miss me/Wouldn't you miss me at all?". Though I much prefer the version just called Dark Globe on The Madcap Laughs compared to the Opel take included here. It's all nerves. Bob Dylan Blues is not the highlight of the album, but a playful little teasing song about one of Syd's greatest heroes when it probably was written some time in the mid 60s: "Cos I'm a poet/Don't you know it/And the wind, you can blow it/Cos I'm Mr. Dylan the king/And I'm free as a bird on the wing".

I don't know why Syd's music still finds new listeners. Obviously his status as Pink Floyd's long lost living legend who retreated from the music business to a sheltered family exile 30 years ago fascinates. But there is more. Even his simplest recorded solo songs still make me happy, sad, desperate or give me the creeps. Once they get into your head and heart, they're in for good. If you haven't heard any of Syd's music you ought to check out his recordings with Pink Floyd first. If you're fascinated you can do worse than go on to Wouldn't You Miss Me?. Though Syd-heads like myself will obviously recommend the 3 CD box Crazy Diamond which includes Syd's entire official solo output apart from the Peel Sessions EP (5 songs) and Bob Dylan Blues.

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You may also want to check out our Syd Barrett article/review: Madcap Laughs.

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