‘Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd’: a Very Detailed Look Into the Man Behind the Myth

Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe is a very detailed look into the artist, the man, behind the myth that is Syd Barrett. Author Julian Palacios has thoroughly researched his subject, far beyond any previous publications related to Pink Floyd. We all know the basics: that Barrett was an art student when he formed Pink Floyd, that he was famous at 20-years-old, he became a casualty of his career by the end of the ’60s, and he was one of the most intriguing, most enduring and most mythologized men in rock ‘n’ roll.

Palacios’ writing style is stuffed with lush prose and dense description growing and branching out, often looping back and winding around itself like ivy leisurely climbing a great stone wall toward the sky. At first, the text seems so rambling, round-about and repetitious that it’s difficult to get into. However, if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with the most complete and engaging portrait of Barrett and the world in which he lived that any biography has ever attempted.

Barrett was a star long before he was famous. Through extensive interviews with family members, band mates and childhood friends, and accounts of his early life in Cambridge, it is made clear he was always the mercurial spirit and the apple of every eye. Palacios paints a dreamy, impressionistic picture of young Roger Barrett roaming through the bucolic environs that would later feature in so many of his lyrics. His daily life is often described as though it were straight out of the children’s books he read and loved, and Barrett himself seems some sort of faerie tale prince. While it’s true a lot of this can be attributed to Palacios’s romantic writing style, much of it also comes directly from the obvious affection those who knew him had for Barrett. Nearly everyone interviewed mentions that, upon meeting him, it was instantly, unmistakeably apparent that Syd Barrett was special.

By the time he was in his teens, Barrett had begun incorporating music—specifically rock music—into his artistic arsenal. He soon formed a band, playing with other local boys, including Roger Waters. It’s to this book’s great credit that Waters is presented in a positive and balanced manner throughout, because many others tend to vilify him when discussing Barrett’s tenure with Pink Floyd. Barrett, arguably of course, was the impetus, the spark, behind the entire psychedelic rock movement in London, and while it’s true that his artistic vision (as well as his guitar playing and lyrical talents) is what initially garnered all the attention, Pink Floyd was a band.

Dark Globe has a wealth of detailed information about the mid-’60s scene and the famous UFO club where Pink Floyd gained notoriety. Personal accounts are woven with press documentation to create a palpable sense of what it must have been like to be in London at such an exciting and pivotal moment in music history. These accounts also give an all too vivid picture of how the stress of sudden fame, coupled with a great deal of LSD, affected the already sensitive Syd Barrett. He lived the role of rock star, of psychedelic darling, to its fullest, because that’s how he did everything. Palacios doesn’t shy away or sugar-coat the darker parts of this period, but neither does he become mired in them. He shows that, as in Syd’s early years, there was some joy in later years, as well. He treats Barrett’s exit from Pink Floyd, his sometimes brilliant solo work and his subsequent drift from the public eye with the same fascination exhibited in the exploration of Barrett’s youth and formative influences.

With 24 pages of photographs, an exhaustive bibliography and ten years in the writing Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life. It’s a stunning testament to his art, to his singular vision and to his unique spirit.

RATING 7 / 10