The British rock group Pink Floyd is well known for its trippy and progressive rock compositions. Initially composed of Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright, the group was founded in 1965. Early on in the band’s career, Syd Barrett served as its main songwriter, lead singer, and guitarist. However, he was forced to quit the band in 1968 as a result of his failing mental health and drug abuse, and David Gilmour replaced him. However, Uncertainty surrounds the specifics of Syd Barrett’s split from Pink Floyd.
Without Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s music changed, shifting away from their early psychedelic sound and toward a more progressive rock aesthetic. Roger Waters became the band’s primary lyricist as the surviving members of the group assumed larger songwriting roles.
Without Barrett, Pink Floyd’s composition and recording methods were experimental and largely aimless for nearly five years. The Floyd didn’t discover their voice without their former leader until 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon.
The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall are some of the albums by Pink Floyd that have been the most commercially and critically popular. Barrett’s need for assistance weighed heavily on the band’s thoughts, so they turned their guilt into art as a way to cope. Drummer Nick Mason admitted in a 2020 radio interview that he felt bad for not being able to assist Barrett when he needed it most.
Mason explained, “I think we’re still very sort of conscious of that and of the past, I think, looking back now, what’s rather sad is how little we understood or knew how to deal with it. And it’s not that we were unsympathetic, but I just don’t think we had a clue as to what was happening or why it was happening.”
It was common to attribute Barrett’s abrupt change from a social and creative soul to a nearly catatonic introvert to either excessive LSD use or the slow onset of the mental disease schizophrenia. He started to have trouble performing and working with the band because of his heavy drug use and his mental health problems. In 1968, he finally departed Pink Floyd. the two scenarios are combined, but Mason himself was uncertain of the details of what happened to his former bandmate.
Mason told, “The fact of the matter is, we still don’t truly know whether Syd had a breakdown anyway or whether there was some LSD involvement in his collapse or whatever, But I think now we’d probably, well, I think everyone would now, take a very different view or at least find other ways of doing something about it. Mental health is something that was almost – I won’t say untreatable, but it’s only in the last hundred years, I think, that there have really been the beginnings of an understanding and acceptance.”
Barrett only made one trip back to his old group. Barrett returned to Abbey Road Studios to begin making Wish You Were Here in 1975, and he looked very different from how he had a decade earlier. Barrett departed without saying goodbye to his bandmates after acting in an odd manner and being shown some of the songs they were working on. He never again reached out to his bandmates.