Any average Pink Floyd fan or rock enthusiast will know all about Syd Barrett and how things went down for him. Well, the man himself has become a myth, and the most well-known rumor about him goes that in his last months with Pink Floyd, he wasn’t the easiest person in the room, and after failing to perform at numerous live performances, the band decided to let him go. Classic.
However, Syd’s story had always been much more complicated than the usual rumors of his alleged madness, and sadly, we will probably never know about that dark side of the moon regarding the singer’s life. The most common perception about him comes from the Pink Floyd members, and we never got to hear Syd’s insight into it.
So, things had been alleged by multiple people that Syd was difficult for anyone who wanted to collaborate with him, you know, because he was… mad. However, when Syd wanted to record his debut solo album, ‘The Madcap Laughs,’ and looked around for producers, former bandmates and friends David Gilmour and Roger Waters were generous enough to lend him a hand.
However, when the sessions began, David’s busy schedule with Pink Floyd and the recordings of ‘Ummagumma’ got in the way of the frontman giving the needed attention to Syd. As a result, Barrett only got sparse studio sessions where he would have to wait from one studio session to the other for months. Even the album’s release date, Christmas, was missed because Gilmour couldn’t focus on producing the album.
So, while chatting about Syd in 1983 with Guitar Heroes, Gilmour said a few words about their time in the studio and how it all went down when he produced Barrett’s two solo albums. For David, working with Syd wasn’t that easy or pleasant, and the only compliment he ever got from him was… well… not exactly a compliment.
“It was hell,” David answered when he was asked what recording Syd’s two solo albums were like. “But you know, we always felt that there was a talent there; it was just a matter of trying to get it out onto record so that people would hear it, and of course, Syd didn’t make that any easier for us.”
He continued by recalling that it was challenging to work with Syd since the singer would always have a stoic face. Gilmour said, “There were various techniques we had to invent for trying to get the stuff recorded. It was very, very difficult, not really very rewarding. And I’ve no idea how Syd felt about it most of the time.”
The only thing David heard from the late musician was not exactly a compliment. He noted, “The only thing he ever said about it was at the end of the second album when we’d finished. We were going up the lift in his block of flats in Earls Court, and he turned round to me, and he said, ‘Thanks, thanks very much.’ And that’s the only expression of approval or disapproval of anything that I got out of him through two albums, I think.”
Syd didn’t offer opinions, so the singer took control while producing. Gilmour added, “I’ve no idea if they were how he wanted them to be, but as he didn’t offer opinions, we had to take it onto ourselves to decide how it should be, which is quite a normal thing with producers, but it wasn’t because we were trying to assert that on him, it’s just there wasn’t anything coming from him to tell us how he thought it should be.”
So, for David, it was pretty tough to work with Syd, who had a reputation for not being an easy one to work with. However, the thing is, other than the common myth of Pink Floyd suggesting Syd was a problematic person; others had gone on to say that Syd didn’t just go mad after he departed from the band and was actually pleasant to work with. So, we’ll never know the whole truth of the matter.