Saturday, March 8, 2008

Syd Barrett-The Madcap Laughs

Review By Andrian Denning

Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour helped finish this album, taking over production duties and

encouraging Syd at a point where it looked like 'The Madcap Laughs' was never going to be finished at all. Syd had bought a new flat that was so close to where Dave Gilmour lived, that Dave could see right into Syd's kitchen. Although Dave had replaced Syd in Pink Floyd, he was the one member of the group that remained closest to Syd. It's often mistakenly believed that the decline of Syd Barrett occurred seemingly overnight, the first time he took LSD, which is not the case at all. Syd's consumption of LSD was large and significant in precipitating his downfall, there's no doubt about that, but Syd was predisposed to mental-illness in any event. He was uncomfortable with the level of fame he'd achieved with Pink Floyd. Those things would have been the case, LSD or no LSD. It certainly shortened his career, battling not only with images his own mind gave him, but also the bad effects of LSD must have been extremely difficult and frightening. Personally, I was once diagnosed as suffering from 'Severe Depressive Psychosis', that psychosis part worrying me especially. I had audio and visual hallucinations, and the only drugs I'd taken were a variety of prescribed anti-depressants. Mental Illness is a terrible debilitating disease that is too often misunderstood or under-estimated. Severe depression is a very difficult thing to overcome, more often than not, a life-time battle. Chances are, you'll never achieve what you were once capable of. It hurts me. When I went to university, there was a certain time a drug related to LSD was offered to me, I turned it down flat, quite aware of what it could do to me, given the way my mind was pre-disposed. At the time Syd took LSD, the after effects were a lot less well known, and his taking of this drug certainly contributed heavily to his downfall, but was not at all the only reason he became the way he became. Another myth is that Syd was artistically washed up following his departure from Pink Floyd and had nothing more to offer bar a backlog of old compositions. At least one of the songs on this album was written virtually on the spot, in the studio. Others definitely post-date his final days with Pink Floyd, and others were indeed written whilst he was still an active member of Pink Floyd. Does any of this matter? It should give everybody a greater understanding, Syd was still writing good songs all through 1968 and 1969, his decline was harrowing but gradual. One of Syd's best new songs, 'Opel' was inexplicably left off this debut set replaced by a couple of songs produced by Roger and Dave that openly let everyone see exactly how difficult it was for Syd to record these songs at all. The sound of Syd audibly breaking up on record amid the sound of pages of lyrics being turned whilst he loses his place does nobody any favours at all, least of all Syd. The other way to look at the songs, 'Feel', 'If It's In Me' and 'She Took A Long Cold Look' is that they painted an accurate picture of the state Syd was in at the time. That was the justification Dave Gilmour later gave for their inclusion, but the oversight of 'Opel' was a tragic omission, not 'corrected' until it gave it's name to a 1988 LP of out-takes. But, given the sound of a man falling apart, I've still given this album a '9'? How so? Well, plenty of the songs, the actual words and melodies, the vocal sounds and emotionally affecting qualities - are of the highest order. The sound of the music is usually sparse, certainly in comparison with Syd's Pink Floyd material, but this light, sparse feel suits the material, and suits the state Syd was in at the time. 'Terrapin' is a lovely song with nice acoustic strumming and very interesting lyrics. 'No Good Trying' features a fuller group performance with electric instrumentation, sounds messy but somehow still holds itself together. The differing rhythms and instrumentation that seemingly doesn't know what it's doing at all actually create a very satisfying and interesting musical track. 'Love You' is super-sweet and delightfully bouncy and silly, 'No Mans Land' another performance featuring bass, electric and drums and it's pretty damn fine, actually. The distortion, the lyrics, the vocals. There is something captivating about this loose, yet still just about together performance. 'Dark Globe' is Syd and guitar, the lyrics are again something striking and worthy, the vocal here reveals the strains and state of Syd's mind. There is an incredible affecting loneliness and humanity that is pretty much unsurpassed in Rock music. 'Here I Go' for a song reputedly written on the spot in the studio is pretty damn great, very charming. 'Octopus' evolved from a composition called 'Clowns And Jugglers' and it's this type of material Syd may have brought to Pink Floyd had he still been a member. It's no great stretch of the imagination to picture this as a 'Piper' styled psychedelic adventure. As recorded here, it's still a mighty good song. This albums closing sequence is difficult, beautiful, ugly, saddening - still captivating. Syd was reportedly very proud of 'Golden Hair', a James Joyce poem set to music, and very beautiful in its simplicity and pure quality it is. 'Long Gone' is Syd, a jaunty guitar figure, another good song. 'She Took A Long Cool Look', 'Feel' and 'If Its In Me' combined together..... words fail me completely. Why does 'If Its In Me' have to include Syd singing completely waywardly, before the song falls apart? On the otherhand, there's a resonance and such emotion here. This isn't a sequence of songs, especially this latter 'If Its In Me' that is easy or 'enjoyable' in the usual sense, but if you like music that affects your emotions in a way that isn't music to party or dance to, then here's a great example. The closing song on the other hand is totally 'together' in an admittedly fragile fashion. The song is soft, delicate - the guitar sounds absolutely beautiful and gorgeous, sparse, interweaving, pretty and hypnotic. There is little else in music like this 'A Madcap Laughs' album. From an objective viewpoint, it'd be hard to justify giving this a '9', but from an emotional viewpoint and a subjective viewpoint, it's easy to give this a '9'. There's something about this album, a certainly character, that is unmatched anywhere else


The Madcap Laughs was Syd Barrett's first solo album after being replaced in Pink Floyd by his old school friend David Gilmour. After leaving his parent group, Barrett began recording sessions with former Pink Floyd-turned-Syd Barrett manager Peter Jenner in May 1968. Although the sessions were brief, and they produced some fine material, the project was abandoned for almost a year while Barrett spent much of the year as a recluse.
In April 1969, Malcolm Jones took over the project and Barrett began working on newer material, while reworking the 1968 recordings. Session musicians, namely, members of The Sof Machine, as well as Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley were also called in to augment Barrett's songs. It is still a mystery why Jones abandoned production responsibilities, at the end of May ,so soon after having assumed them.The Making of the Madcap Laughs Jones recollections of the sessions, show that he and Barrett got on well together and had in fact completed half of the album before the new producers took over. Roger Waters and David Gilmour were in the process of completing Pink Floyd's ambitious Ummagumma album when they got involved with The Madcap Laughs that July and helped Barrett finish his album, "in a two-day sprint" according to Rick Sanders author of 'Pink Floyd' (Futura Publications, 1976). .
The album featured a rather unorthodox recording process, in which Syd would provide a backing track of his own singing accompanied by acoustic guitar, over which the session musicians would overdub the rest of the arrangement. Unfortunately, Syd's playing and singing were highly erratic and unpredictable--he skipped or added beats seemingly at random, or otherwise he would strum on a single note for a long time before unexpectedly reverting back to the main portion of the song. This was all much to the frustration of the session musicians; a close listen to several tracks [in particular "No Good Trying" and "Love You"] will reveal the backing band hovering uncertainly here, or being caught off-guard by a chord change there. (During an interview, Robert Wyatt recounted that musicians would ask "What key is that in, Syd?" and Barrett would reply "Yeah", or "That's funny") Syd would not allow the musicians to rehearse or re-record their overdubs, insisting that they sounded fine. After several months of intermittent recording, the album was finally deemed complete.
"Octopus" was released as a single in November 1969 and the album itself followed in January 1970. It reached #40 in the UK at the time[1] and was fairly well-reviewed

Syd Barrett-The Madcap Laughs @320

Tracks 14-19: Bonus tracks
2No Good Trying
3Love You
4No Man's Land
5Dark Globe
6Here I Go
8Golden Hair

9Long Gone
10She Took a Long Cold Look
12If it's In You
13Late Night
14Octopus (Takes 1 & 2)

15It's No Good Trying (Take 5)
16Love You" (Take 1)
17Love You" (Take 3)
18She Took A Long Cold Look At Me (Take 4)
19Golden Hair (Take 5)

Part 1:



GanjaStar said...

Great upload 320k is always appreciated. Please post the Opel album in 320 if its in anyway possible.

Great stuff ;)

papa said...

Thanks for your comments.Opel will be the next post.

Anonymous said...

part 2 - file not found

Anonymous said...

part 2 - file not found

Anonymous said...

Link is expired.I 'll reupload the album