Syd Barrett visited Pink Floyd while they were recording Shine On You Crazy Diamond
One could argue that the best aspect about Pink Floyd’s glory mid-70s era has always been their balance between the complex and the accessible; between the prog-rock approach to albums and the pop sensibility that lay at the heart of the songs inside those albums. They would take you to dreamlands with their instrumental landscapes, keep you studying forever with their attention to sonic detail and flawless production, but ultimately it all led to something – nothing felt like showing off just for the sake of show off (like so many other prog bands are guilty of). They would always resonate with the listener, through both words and music.
And Shine On You Crazy Diamond definitely incorporates those aspects. But you already knew that; I’m not gonna surprise anybody in calling it one of the band’s most representative songs. What has always fascinated me about it though, is that its universal character was born out of feelings that were particularly personal – basically, the band’s purpose with the song was to pay homage to Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s original founder, song-writer, singer, lead guitar player and general artistic leader. The band’s first singles as well as their debut LP, the classic Piper at the Gates of Dawn, were pretty much Syd’s brainchild and will forever be remembered for their absolutely unique mix of childlike playfulness and nightmarish psychedelic soundscapes. Syd also contributed bits to the band’s second album, before being kicked out of the band for erratic on-and-off stage behavior supposedly caused by LSD abuse and undiagnosed mental illness.
This is literally the shortest version of the story I could come up with, but many more things have been written about the life and career of Syd Barrett, without a doubt one of the most fascinating figures in popular music. What I want to draw attention to with this article is one particular event that occurred in 1975. Floyd were coming into the studio to work on the aforementioned Crazy Diamond song and received an unexpected visit: an overweight, bald and eyebrow-less man was waiting for them in the Abbey Road recording room. None of the members recognized him at first so the shock was twice as big when the realization that he was none other than Syd himself hit them. Waters was moved to tears even. The once charismatic front-man whom the band hadn’t seen in years (Gilmour, Wright and Waters all contributed to Syd’s 1970 solo albums) decided to pay them a visit in the exact time frame that the band was working on the biggest and most direct tribute to him. How’s that for a coincidence? Syd was asked by the members of his opinion on Shine On You Crazy Diamond and was apparently not a fan at all. And then he left the studio, just like that, never to meet with any of the Pink Floyd members ever again.
Of course the band completed Wish You Were Here, immediately to attain the classic album status, but never throughout their career forgot about Syd and his legacy. However painful it must’ve been for them, which is the reason Waters stated for not attempting to visit Barrett in the following decades, they always kept the crazy diamond shining, whether through words, music, live tribute or film. Plus, have you ever wondered why Pink, The Wall’s protagonist, shaves off his eyebrows at one point in the 1982 movie? Now you know.
Categories: Stories Behind Classic Songs