Syd Barret was the creative core of Pink Floyd when he founded the band alongside Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and Keyboardist Richard Wright in 1965. Barrett had a mastery for melody and the exquisite turn of Phrase displayed on Pink Floyd’s early releases helped the band gain traction as a band to be watched. However, the musician ended up leaving the band only eight months after the release of Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” due to deteriorating mental health.
Roger Waters opens up on Syd Barrett mental health issues
It has been noted that Barrett had started suffering mental health issues long before his departure, and the band brought David Gilmour in as a substitute for Barret in December of ’67. Speaking to Joe Rogan in a recent interview, Roger Waters recalled Syd Barrett’s last days with the band.
Asked whether his former bandmate’s problems were caused by excessively consuming LSD, Waters replied:
“No, I don’t think so. But, you know… that’s the narrative, or one of the narratives…. And I’m sure he did too much of it. Was he teetering on the edge of what might be called schizophrenia at the time? I think so, probably…”
According to Waters, Barrett was already behaving odd when the band released their second single “See Emily Play” in June of 1967. Recalling the subsequent guest appearance on “Top of the Pops”, Waters said:
“I remember, [at the] Top of the Pops, in the dressing room one day… [Syd Barrett was] looking worried, and a bit frightened. And then going, ‘John Lennon doesn’t have to do this’ – which was kind of wacky….
“He had misgivings about being on a miming pop show, you know, and we [said], ‘Syd, this is what we’ve worked towards for the last four or five years, to be on Top of the Pops and make a few quid!’ You know, ‘Buckle up, boy, let’s get on with it.’ But he never did buckle up from from that moment on, really. He wrote a few more songs, but nothing of any, any real note. And he just got more and more and more detached until he was completely wacky and not making any sense.”
“I made a lot of attempts to find out what was wrong, and to involve his family…. And we tried to get him to a shrink so on a number of occasions, but he would never go in, and and then he just got weirder and weirder.”
Furthermore, he recalled another instance of Barrett’s behavior from later on, Waters began:
“We’d been to a meeting at the Capitol tower in Los Angeles… and we’re walking down the street after it. And we stopped at the traffic light at Hollywood and Vine… in Los Angeles. And he looked at me and smiled and he said, ‘It’s nice here in Las Vegas, isn’t it?’ Well, we were in LA. So the he already had no idea where he was… But then his face darkened, and he looked down at the ground, and spat out one word – ‘People.’ And that sort of encapsulates what it was like, nothing made any sense.
“We were all very young and trying to make our way and, and by that time, Dave [David Gilmour] had already joined the band to play guitar, because Syd didn’t play… Couldn’t, really, because both of us helped produce his solo records after that. It was pretty disjointed and difficult to get him to do anything.”
As Waters recalls, he saw very little of Barrett following the latter’s departure from Pink Floyd:
“He went home to live in Cambridge, and he lived a very solitary life. Now, I spoke to his sister Rosemary after that, [asking] does it make any sense, you know, to go and visit. ‘No, don’t do that,’ she told me. I said, ‘Why not?’
“And she said, ‘Well, he gets very agitated and upset if he’s reminded of what happened before whatever this is, he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to see people from his past, he’d rather be left alone.’ And he did any use to paint a little bit, and live just on his own in Cambridge until he died when he was 60. I don’t know what else to say about it, really. It was tragic, obviously.”