Syd Barrett Song Unearthed


Former Pink Floyd mastermind lampoons Dylan in 1970 track
Posted Feb 14, 2001 at 12:00am
"Bob Dylan's Blues" might be an uncharacteristically prosaic title from a man better known for his songs about gnomes, octopuses and effervescing elephants. But as this newly unearthed Syd Barrett song -- to be included on a new compilation, Wouldn't You Miss Me (EMI), which is due for release in the U.K. on April 16th -- suggests, Pink Floyd's original "Crazy Diamond" was far from immune to the occasional mortal influence.

Barrett, the errant star of British psychedelia, masterminded Pink Floyd's early success before a combination of a nervous breakdown and a tendency to overindulge in the era's more potent stimulants prompted his departure from the group early in 1968. Tales of mammoth drug binges, erratic stage performances and baffling behavioral traits inevitably earned Barrett the "acid casualty" epithet. After two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, both clearly the work of a wildly distracted man, he simply disappeared from view, taking up residence in the cellar of his family home in Cambridge. Turning his back on rock & roll, he returned to painting. Occasional Syd sightings, each one depicting the acid rock pin-up as increasingly bald and overweight, prompted inevitable rumors of renewed activity, but aside from a disastrous studio session in 1974, he's maintained a strange, intensely private silence. Since the death of his mother in the early Nineties, Syd Barrett lives alone in Cambridge, suffers from diabetes and is tended to by his sister.

The Barrett legend has also been maintained by Pink Floyd themselves, most noticeably by Roger Waters, whose "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and The Wall were both inspired by his ex-colleague's mental health problems. Now, it is guitarist Dave Gilmour, Barrett's replacement in Pink Floyd and producer of his two solo LPs, who provides the fillip. "Bob Dylan's Blues," a remarkable pastiche unlike anything else in the Barrett canon, has been culled from Gilmour's private collection and is being released with the blessing of Barrett's family.

"We knew of the song's existence when we put together [1993's] Crazy Diamond box set," says project co-ordinator Tim Chacksfield, "but we had plenty of other material so there was no pressure for us to find it." The new compilation provided an ideal opportunity to approach Gilmour and request permission to use the song. But why the guitarist took the master tape with him after the February 27, 1970 demo session had been completed remains a mystery. David Parker, author of Random Precision -- Recording the Music of Syd Barrett 1965-1974, maintains that Gilmour has always rated the song highly. Chacksfield tends to agree: "The fact that Dave was happy to let it out says a lot."

Although R&B, improvised music and nursery rhyme-like folksong clearly influenced Barrett, the Dylan connection is far more obscure. Barrett and Gilmour -- at the time mere Cambridge-based teenage beat buffs -- did catch the visiting American at an early show in London in 1963, and it's likely that "Bob Dylan's Blues" was written during the following months. Peter Barnes, Pink Floyd's music publisher, maintains, "It's one of Syd's very earliest songs written before he even had a publishing deal."

The 1970 recording, with Barrett accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, is a neat take on Dylan's early, talking blues style. While finger-picking with typical, Dylan-like imprecision, Barrett gently lampoons Dylan's activism and instead plays up the singer's infamous nonchalance: "Got the Bob Dylan blues/And the Bob Dylan shoes/And my clothes and my hair's in a mess/But you know/I just couldn't care less." The chorus is equally even-handed: "Cos I'm a poet/Doncha know it/And the wind, you can blow it/Cos I'm Mr. Dylan, the King/And I'm free as a bird on the wing."

Though he later adopted Dylan's unkempt curly-top hairstyle, this is the first aural evidence of Syd Barrett's early enthusiasm for Dylan and provides an amusing aside to his more brain-teasing material.

Written by MARK PAYTRESS for RollingStone.com News

Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Readers' Poll: Best Rock Headphone Song Ever — "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd) Vs. "Killing in the Name" (Rage Against the Machine) (10/30/2015)
What, exactly, is a headphone song? The definition changes depending on who you are. For audiophiles, a headphone song—or album, for that matter—is a work that is so exquisite that it demands you listen to each beautifully recorded note under a ...
Readers' Poll: Best Rock Headphone Song Ever — "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd) Vs. "Dogman" (King's X) (11/9/2015)
What, exactly, is a headphone song? The definition changes depending on who you are. For audiophiles, a headphone song—or album, for that matter—is a work that is so exquisite that it demands you listen to each beautifully recorded note under a ...
Readers' Poll: Best Rock Headphone Song Ever — "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen) Vs. "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd) (11/12/2015)
What, exactly, is a headphone song? The definition changes depending on who you are. For audiophiles, a headphone song—or album, for that matter—is a work that is so exquisite that it demands you listen to each beautifully recorded note under a ...
Pearl Jam Cover Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" in Brazil — Video (11/12/2015)
Last night in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Pearl Jam opened up the second encore of an epic set with their cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Eddie Vedder does a fine job, but don't miss Mike McCready's spin on David Gilmour's iconic guitar sol...
Kelly Valleau’s Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitar Cover of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” — Video Finds (6/5/2015)
We don’t mean to kick your weekend off on a depressing note, but we just had to share this beautiful acoustic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You.” This isn’t the first time we’ve shared the talents of masterful player Kelly Vallaeu on Acoustic Natio...
Gabriella Quevedo Plays Fingerstyle Arrangement of Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky" — Video (8/6/2015)
Swedish guitarist Gabriella Quevedo is no stranger to GuitarWorld.com. You might remember an incredibly popular video that shows Quevedo playing the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” combining several of the song’s multiple-guitar parts in a one-guit...
David Gilmour Performs Pink Floyd's "Remember a Day" in Tribute to Rick Wright — Video (9/15/2015)
September 15 marks the seven-year anniversary of the death of Richard Wright, keyboardist for Pink Floyd. In the video below, you can see his bandmate David Gilmour play Floyd’s “Remember a Day” in tribute to him. The song is a track from A Sauc...
David Gilmour on Pink Floyd's Future: "I Think I Can Safely Say Goodbye to That Now" (8/17/2015)
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, David Gilmour effectively announced the end of Pink Floyd, saying, in regard to the band, "I think I can safely say goodbye to that now." When he was asked if Pink Floyd were "done forever," Gilmour had th...
David Gilmour Performs Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” Acoustically –– Video Finds (3/26/2015)
Here’s a great clip of Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour performing “Breathe” acoustically. As the second track on Floyd’s epic LP Dark Side of the Moon (the album opens up with the “Speak to Me” sound collage), this acoustic rendition...
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour Talks "Comfortably Numb" Solo — Covers by Tina S., Richie Faulkner and Thomas Leeb (3/6/2015)
How do you reason with two guys who once went to court over the artistic ownership of a big rubber pig? That was Bob Ezrin’s mission when he agreed to co-produce Pink Floyd’s The Wall with guitarist David Gilmour and bassist/vocalist Roger Wate...
Pink Floyd Premiere New Song, "Allons-Y (1)" — Listen (11/4/2014)
Pink Floyd have premiered another song from their new album, The Endless River, ahead of its November 10 release date. You can hear "Allons-y (1)" below, via Spotify (Sorry it's not Soundcloud or YouTube). Like a lot of The Endless River, the s...
Pink Floyd Release Trailer for New Album, 'The Endless River' (9/25/2014)
Pink Floyd have released a 30-second trailer for their new studio album, The Endless River. You can check it out below. The clip, which was posted today via the band's social media outlets, features 30 seconds of instrumental music highlighted b...
Pink Floyd Announce New Album Details (9/22/2014)
Details about The Endless River, the new Pink Floyd album from David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason, were revealed today as the album artwork appeared on buildings in ten International cities, including New York and Los Angeles. The album ...
Pink Floyd confirm October release of upcoming album, The Endless River (7/7/2014)
Read more about Pink Floyd confirm October release of upcoming album, The Endless River at MusicRadar.com There will be no Roger Waters on it – that's for sure. And no telling how many David Gilmour-sung songs will be on it, either. But today, C...
Pink Floyd to Release New Album, 'The Endless River,' This Fall (7/7/2014)
It seems Pink Floyd (or at least the Roger Waters-free variety) have recorded a new studio album that will be released in the fall. It will be the band's first album of new material in 20 years. Over the holiday weekend, Polly Samson, wife of Pi...
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour Working on Solo Album Featuring David Crosby and Graham Nash (11/20/2013)
Last week, we reported that Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters is working on his first rock album in more than two decades. Well, this week it's David Gilmour's turn. Gilmour, Pink Floyd's guitarist, has confirmed that he's also working on a new...