Roger “Syd” Barrett, leader of Pink Floyd, died on July 7th, aged 60
TO THOSE who were young then, the late 1960s were the best thing since 1789. All that followed paled by comparison. This was the time of the Paris riots, with students hurling cobbles and the flics hurling tear-gas back; the first convulsions over the war in Vietnam; the Prague spring, quickly crushed by Soviet tanks; and everywhere the sense that the young, by sheer numbers, could overthrow the established order and make the world again.
If they failed to remake it, this was largely because they were out of it on one illegal substance or another. For many of them, the drug scene was a quick, soggy spliff behind the bike sheds, or a reverential division of a cake of greenish powder, washed down with a glass of Liebfraumilch and covered up with burning joss sticks. Yet at the highest levels of culture the new gods of rock music tripped on much more dangerous stuff, and sang about it. They did not find truth exactly, as much as yellow walruses, purple fields, kaleidoscopic skies and melting buildings, all of which were evoked in music and light shows so new and peculiar that the best way to appreciate them was by being prone and stoned yourself.
Syd Barrett was the very exemplar of this wild universe. As the leader of Pink Floyd, the highly successful psychedelic band that he christened in 1965, he wrote and sang of “lime and limpid green”, of Dan Dare, of gingerbread men and, in the band’s first hit, “Arnold Layne”, of a transvestite who stole underwear from moonlit washing lines. His weird words and odd, simplistic melodies, sent through an echo-machine, seemed sometimes to be coming from outer space.
Source: The Economist