Set Your Controls for the Heart of His Music

The Madcap LaughsForget the famous erratic behavior, the cold unpredictability, the reckless early experiments with LSD, the Mandrax tranquilizer cocktails, the Brylcreem, the detuned guitars, the guitars covered in paint and mirrors, the fights with friends and family, the rudeness, the self-imposed seclusion, the willful aloofness, the misplaced jokes, the tiresome media diagnoses; forget the family history, the well-documented parties and the summer picnics, the class comparisons, the skipped check-ins, the ignored sound checks, the uneven gigs, the “scenes”; forget the angry girlfriends, the angry promoters, the angry studio executives, the bitter bidding wars, the deals gone bad, the deals unexplained and then abandoned; forget the unfulfilled expectations, the unattainable goals, the forgotten futures, the Barrettheartbroken well-wishers, the obsessive fans, the myth makers; forget the rules, the grief, the blues, the rejection, the royalties spent, the percentages, the bank accounts, the estate; forget the parents, the best friends, the enemies, the bandmates, the solitudes, the public displays, the unanswered questions; forget the labels, the nicknames, the legends, the fame, the falls from grace, the famous friends, the infamous detractors, the clueless critics; forget the Pat Boone interview, the Dick Clark interview, the John Peel interview, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; forget the “retirement,” the random sightings, the diabetes, the home in St. Margaret’s Square, the death from pancreatic cancer, the sad picking over of his possessions, and the bandwagon tributes. Forget it all. None of that matters now.

OpelJust listen to the music, get lost in his songs. All of Syd Barrett’s solo records have been released on vinyl once again: “The Madcap Laughs” (Harvest/Capitol, 1970), “Barrett” (Harvest/Capitol, 1970), and “Opel” (Harvest/Capitol, 1988). When you hold one of these records, when you give it a spin, the years roll away to reveal a brilliant songwriter and a body of songs as fresh as any being written today. It’s like time travel, without bags or worries.