For this reason, even if not a masterpiece it's a must for every progger so I rate it 4 stars. Whether Barrett was schizophrenic, deeply depressed, or simply stressed out and confused from a drug-filled and frenetic lifestyle will be a matter of speculation for as long as his career is remembered; what cannot be denied, though, is the genuine feeling communicated in these simple, stripped-down, beautiful songs. It is tremendously difficult to understand, for those who have not experienced issues similar to Syd's, exactly how mental illness feels from the inside, and it's often extremely difficult for sufferers to express it.
There are those who would consider this album exploitative of Syd's condition, but I think on balance it would have done Syd a far worse disservice to silence him by discouraging the production of the album.
If it sometimes makes for uncomfortable listening, it's because it opens our eyes to ideas and issues which we all too often prefer not to acknowledge. I think it's Syd's finest musical statement. The music itself has aged surprisingly well, and today plays like some proto-alt-folk rock with psychedelic touches that indie rock fans and side-burned hipsters could even appreciate.
The songs have lots of acoustic guitar playing, and have lyrics that focus much if not more on love and personal feelings than, say, brooding interpretations of insanity. It's often whimsical and unpretentious as well. Of course, there's also some wacked out lyrics tossed about, such as the howling "Octopus" or how the sweet opener "Terrapin" starts off cute but gets odder in the verse department as the song moves along.
The playing is skillful enough for the material, with some interesting bits aided by The Soft Machine dudes such as on "No Good Trying", which plays like an acid drenched rock tune on the verge of chaos. Yeah, Roger Waters had to have taken that cue for his "The Wall" persona. There are a few songs that don't match up to the best tracks here, but as a whole it's a fascinating document of a musician and former star losing his marbles.
It could be considered as exploitive concerning the album title, imagery and a few of the takes used for the album the disastrous but hilarious "If It's In You" , but I'm sure Syd was still quite in on the whole thing and wasn't ready to give up recording music yet. It wouldn't be too much longer though for him to withdraw completely, leaving behind strange ditties like the ones on The Madcap Laughs that are playful, weird, fun, and yet more than a little sad.
Barrett at this point was an absolute wreck to work with and David Gilmour and Roger Waters had what is said to be a real heck of a time trying to get Syd to create something they could work with. In a way, that's the true genius behind it, only Syd really knew what he was trying to do. The seemingly simple folk songs Barrett creates here that at times have a psych edge never fail to captivate me and also have an emotional effect on me.
The Madcap Laughs is as the title suggests, a madman in a fit of laughter, but what is madness? Genius in disguise? Simply put, many prog fans will have a hard time with this because it's a pretty raw recording but there are some of the best songs ever written on this album. Barrett was the human symbol of an artist and true fans of music can see the imprint the man left on his band members and other artists to come. Aloof and enjoyable, serious and yet not so serious, The Madcap Laughs is a great album.
So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end all too soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. Nothing seems worthwhile but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to forever. There it is again! Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound. This one man Lysergic Skiffle sect bequeathed to the world just two solo albums, neither of which could be described as fully formed, coherent or in places, even competent but despite that, somewhere through that thick lo-fidelity fog and cringe-worthy indolent amateurism, there is an abiding light that doesn't look like being extinguished any time soon.
The continuing fetishisation of mental illness that Barrett has come to represent does little service to either his abilities or resilient influence as a songwriter.
His 'deadpan jestery' practically defines the English psychedelic imprint of the late 60's on both popular music and the popular consciousness which is the reason I've reproduced a quote from one of Syd's favourite books Wind in the Willows as it could be describing, entirely presciently, the profound spell that Barrett's exquisite delivery could cast on so many receptive listeners.
It's also probably the main reason why I seem to have spent the last 30 years listening to singers, when faced with a remit of emoting 'derangement of the senses' without exception or even knowingly, resort to imitating him. The Mad Cap Laughs is not a communal activity either in execution or appraisal. It probably belongs to a tradition of tousle haired bedsit troubadours like Leonerd Cohen, Tim Hardin, Nick Drake et al whose devotees tend to believe he is addressing them alone.
Unable or unwilling to play along to a backing track or synchronise with the assembled studio musicians, Syd's songs inevitably suffer from an accompaniment that is either trepidatious or half a beat behind a composer who could never play any number the same way twice. Either way, a Syd album at full blast is an infallible way to empty your house of unwelcome guests including termites.
I mean, there is hardly a sliver of traditional folk vocabulary in Barrett's entire songbook. His melodies and chord progressions certainly have anticipated cadences and obey the basic conventions of harmonic resolution but you wont find Jug Band Blues Bm to F m and ending on F major sequence in any busker's three chord trick. That momentary frisson of the Bb major during Terrapin which is otherwise, anchored squarely in E major.
Octopus doesn't appear to have a tonal centre at all but instead a shifting and fluid arbitrary sequence of possible suburbs leading away from the metropolis. Ab major? Arnold Layne's melody switches stealthily between G natural and G on a tune that seems to be grounded in the key of Bb. The latter song probably holds the key to unlock the Escher architecture of Barrett's constructions and might very well serve as a template for the psychedelic pop song. Gravity is the enemy of flight and similarly, the gravitational pull of the tonic is the enemy of the acid head space cadet.
Listen to how Barrett delays the inevitable denouement of the Bb major 'bully' and earns himself a reprieve by tripping up the tyrant with one of the most astonishing and brilliant creations in popular music ever thus: Bb Fm6 G F F7 Arnold Layne, had a strange hobby collecting clothes etc The effect is a thrilling albeit neurotic and unnerving weightlessness which clearly alludes to the heady euphoria of its author.
So many of Syd's songs step outside the comforting capsule of our diatonic tonality but are somehow never less than 'kinda catchy' Maybe if Schoenberg has grown his hair, bought some bongos and learned to muzzle his yin these are the sort of treasures 12 tone serialism could have unearthed.
Syd's imitators merely confirm that writing a 'Syd Barrett song' is a damn sight harder than they sound. The jury's out however on Messrs Kevin Ayers and Ray Davies as both might be the only contemporaries I can think of who even remotely inhabit the Syd realm.
I will concede that Barrett's phrasing, rhyming and overwhelming preference for descending chromatic movement shares common ground with English nursery rhymes although he manipulates these features to create entirely new song forms much like Bartok's use of gypsy peasant scales and modes from Eastern Europe And here he is!
Excuse me! I ask the spherical figure who's just ambled past me, head down, chuntering. I'm writing a piece about Syd Barrett Who? Syd Barrett. He used to be in Pink Floyd Never heard of 'im. Is he one of them rappers? No - he was a psychedelic genius. Are you Syd Barrett? Leave me alone. I've got to get some coleslaw I take this as a no. Tom Cox - the Observer As amusing as the casual reader might find such media coverage, there is a stubborn misunderstanding at the heart of the Syd cult: As if mind altering substances could mine talent that never existed in the first place.
Hostels, hospital beds, graveyard waiting lists and certain parts of Serbia are full of such feckless disciples who believe that madness is somehow glamorous, that external chemicals beget a muse that can be coaxed into taking possession of their soul for benign purposes. You cannot score talent and these beautiful songs still resonate beneath the shoddy execution and were created in spite of their author's disintegrating mental condition not because of it. Can we now please kick firmly into touch that redundant notion perpetrated by the likes of the late Bill Hicks who would have us throw out our entire album collection if we hold that drugs don't facilitate the creative process but merely provide a surrogate for a mundane reality the user cannot handle.
Enough already grateful dead hippy, and lose the smug grin, Osmonds and Bread fans. There is no evidence that Barrett was ever diagnosed or treated for mental illness. His sister Rosemary attests that he did agree to some sessions with a psychiatrist at Fulbourn Psychiatric Hospital in Cambridge but neither medication or therapy were considered appropriate. Tales of the late RD Laing insisting Syd was incurable on hearing a tape of him speaking appear to be at best, like so much Sydology, apocryphal kidology.
Art is therapy in so far as it might have a limited ability to distract us from an inexorable disintegration. Like so many other celebrated talents that emerged from the late 60's Syd was a visual artist first and a musician second e. Syd seemed particularly ill suited to the demands of celebrity and the scrutiny afforded to pop star fame. It's an enduring irony that those best equipped to withstand such invasive pressure are the sorts of ruthless and ambitious critters who turn out to be the least talented members of any creative association.
After leaving Floyd, Syd left the myopic public eye forever. Always the transmitter, never the receiver apart from the generous Piper royalties. His life thereafter appears to have been a bucolic idyl spend pottering around his art studio and garden, writing an unpublished History of Art and cycling to the shops on his bike.
But I don't think we could have saved him. Almost certainly the drugs drove him into a state but we don't really know. And there was no cry of help from Syd Nick Mason washes Floyd's hands squeaky clean of any culpability. No 'I' in team but two in schizophrenia and not a single 'U' in blame. Is crushing mandrax tablets into your entirely brylcreamed head prior to going onstage to play just one note for the entire set while staring blankly straight ahead waving not drowning?
Roger Syd was unique; they didn't have the vocabulary to describe him and so they pigeonholed him. If only they had seen him with children. His nieces and nephews, the kids in the street, he would have them in stitches. He could talk at length and he played with words in a way that children instinctively appreciated, even if it sometimes threw adults Rosemary - Syd's sister Those of you familiar with the idea of threshold consciousness i.
As far as lyrics go, I haven't the faintest idea what Syd is banging on about most of the time but I can happily report he never lapses into 'surrealism by numbers' a la Beefheart or Lennon. I'm at a loss as yeah, that's wee beige trad pixieland maaan It's illustrative that Syd chose James Joyce's poem V from Chamber Music a.
Golden Hair to set to music. I've tried to read Finnigan's Wake on several occasions but given up in exasperation every time. The imagery where things are unglued from their names and causality is abandoned altogether clearly appealed to Barrett. The only other instance of him using another's words was Chapter 24 from Piper an extract from the I-Ching Along with Ray Davies, and erm Why is this important? Well maybe the pivotal point of Psychedelia was reached in the late 60's when UK musicians decided: let's stop pretending to be Americans this is also manifest in UK jazz a la Neil Ardley, Mike Taylor, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ian Carr, Joe Harriott, Stan Tracey etc When people called him a recluse they were really only projecting their own disappointment.
He knew what they wanted, but he wasn't willing to give it to them Rosemary - Syd's sister Of avowedly middle class origins and upbringing, Syd's demise was not that of a bluesman's romanticised death. Never on the run from the sheriff riding a boxcar about to jump the county line with buckshot in his bottom, Syd ended up a wealthy man, doing what he wanted, when he wanted.
He chose his fate. I imagine him happy. His portrayal as a sad, pitiful and tragic figure is therefore somewhat wide of the mark. Descriptions of his solo work being tantamount to an audio nervous breakdown are crassly glib and bear no relation to the recorded music. He was the only Rock 'quitter' who actually had the stamina and resilience to stay true to his word. In June , Barrett performed his first and only solo concert, which was cut short after only four songs when he abruptly put down his guitar and walked off stage.
Wrapped up, in his own mind…almost invisible to the world around him. Was Syd Barrett a genius or a madman? I believe genius. The lyrics are a gateway into the sub-consciousness that was Syd Barrett.
Still, great album. I have a UK pressing. It was recorded after Barrett had left Pink Floyd in April The Madcap Laughs, released in January on Harvest in the UK but not released in the US until , enjoyed minimal commercial success on release, reaching number 40 on the UK's official albums chart. The album was remastered and reissued in , along with Barrett's other albums, Barrett and Opel , independently and as part of the Crazy Diamond box set.
Energetic Happy Hypnotic. Romantic Sad Sentimental. Sexy Trippy All Moods. Drinking Hanging Out In Love. Introspection Late Night Partying.2 days ago · Possibly the most astounding thing about Syd Barrett’s first solo LP, The Madcap Laughs, is that it exists at all. Toward the end of his tenure as Pink Floyd’s frontman, Barrett’s behaviour had become increasingly erratic. On-stage, he would detune his guitar and stare, dead-eyed, at the audience.