On This Day in 1970: Syd Barrett Solo Show
46 years ago today, Syd Barrett made his live debut as a solo artist, and if you were fortunate enough to be there for his performance, you’re a very lucky individual, because heaven knows Syd ended up making precious few live performances beyond that one.
After Pink Floyd famously failed to pick Syd up for a gig one day, thereby effectively beginning the process of dropping him as the frontman for the band he helped to form, Syd embarked on a solo career which would last for all of two albums: The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, both of which were released in 1970. (An odds-and-sods collection entitled Opel would eventually emerge, but by that point Syd had long since slipped into a self-imposed retirement from music which would last until his death in 2006.) It was between the release of The Madcap Laughs in January and Barrett in November that Syd performed at the Music and Fashion Festival in Kensington, Olympia, singing and playing guitar while Jerry Shirley played drums and his old pal David Gilmour played bass.
In advance of the gig, Barrett spoke with Sounds Magazine, and when journalist Giovanni Dadomo asked him if he was looking forward to playing live again, he replied, “I used to enjoy it, it was a gas. But so’s doing nothing. It’s art school laziness, really.” Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the performance ultimately lasted for a grand total of four songs – “Terrapin,” “Gigolo Aunt,” “Effervescing Elephant,” and “Octopus” – and ended with Syd unexpectedly setting down his guitar and walking off the stage, leaving Gilmour and Shirley to wrap things up without him.
From there, the world saw less and less of Barrett in the live arena. In 1971, he did a session for John Peel and another for the BBC, the following year he popped up in a group called the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band (it was rather spontaneous, as you might guess), and then there was his flirtation with the band Stars, which lasted for precisely two performances.
After Stars, Barrett walked away from music, but he left behind a legacy which is all too short but which remains as influential now as ever.