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Sirwin

51 years ago today - Syd Barrett's one & only live solo performance


On June 6, 1970, former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett played his first (and what would prove to be his last) concert as a solo artist. Today marks the 51st anniversary of that strange, yet intriguing performance. Barrett, accompanied on stage by Pink Floyd bandmate David Gilmour on bass and Jerry Shirley on drums, delivered what sounds to me like a shy, somewhat reluctant performance that night. Yet brief moments of the madcap genius shine and offer a glimpse into the young musician's psychedelic prowess.

The performance came during the recoding of second and final studio album, Barrett. His debut The Madcap Laughs was released earlier that year, on January 3, 1970. The event was the Music and Fashion Festival at the Olympia Exhibition Hall in London. Unfortunately, the performance was plagued by a poor PA system which resulted in Barrett's vocals barely being audible. Barrett kicked off the performance with the slow bluesy rocker "Terrapin," followed a rousing rendition of "Gigolo Aunt." An oddly abbreviated "Effervescing Elephant" came next, which Barrett seemed to essentially give up on. The final tune, "Octopus," is preceded by a member of the audience shouting "turn the mic up" to which, presumably Barrett says "okay." Someone else can be heard saying "we can't hear your voice." Thanks to those audience members, Barrett's vocals can finally be heard. "Octopus" goes off seemingly without a hitch, a fine performance if I do say so myself. Definitely the highlight of the night in my opinion. At the conclusion of the song, Gilmour starts tuning up his bass and you can actually hear Barrett unplugging his guitar and he reportedly left the stage without saying a word. The recording comes to an end here.

Having performed on both solo albums, Gilmour and Shirley were definitely familiar with Barrett. The trio put on a great, albeit brief, show that evening. A few times Barrett seems to just stop playing, which actually seems to be consistent with where he was at his music career at the time - losing interest and ready to give up. Perhaps it was fitting that he simply unplugged and mysteriously exited the stage that night.

Unfortunately, the only existing recording of that evening's performance suffers from poor quality, some tape glitches, and the aforementioned barely audible vocals for the first three songs. What we're left with, however, is a piece of music history: Syd Barrett's first & last solo performance. He would return to the stage with the band Stars a half a dozen times in 1972 but that was it. After 1974, his music career was essentially over and he moved from London back to his hometown of Cambridge, where he stayed out of the limelight for the rest of his life. Barrett passed away in 2006, at the age of 60. 

I couldn't end this post any other way, could I?

Shine on you crazy diamond


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dot com boomer - writing mostly on crypto, stocks, entertainment, etc.


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