Before the rise of Pink Floyd with David Gilmour, Syd Barrett was the man who gave a contribution to the band in the early days with his amazing instrumental and exceptional songwriting skills.
After the success of Pink Floyd started to increase in the late ’60s the recognization of Syd Barrett started to fade away. The singer would just linger around, not play on time, he was slowly disappearing.
It seemed like he didn’t enjoy the band anymore and at one time, the band even got concerned if he was even gonna take part in the rehearsal or perform at specific events.
One day, the band was on their way to perform for a gig with their newest member David Gilmour, and one of them asked; “Should we pick Syd up?” The bandmates had no answer, but then they heard a voice saying no need to pick Barett up. Right at that very moment, the dismissal of Syd Barrett was executed.
The band didn’t want to deal with the person with such erratic behavior but there was one feature of Barrett that Roger Waters just couldn’t get rid of. He envied this feature of Syd Barett and he explained that it would be a big challenge for the band to fill the spaces of Barrett.
Barrett was fired, but knowing his qualities, Waters knew that the future of Pink Floyd was going to be challenging.
The vocal part of Syd was quite easy to fill up because Gilmour was there for the band whenever Syd didn’t want to perform. So the vocal part wasn’t quite a thing to concern for the band, but the main concern for the band was on writing a song.
Gilmour was there as the perfect replacement for Syd’s vocals but when it came to songwriting, it was a big thing of concern for the band. Barett simply had the skills to write influential lyrics. He was a genius in using words to create deep meanings, to tell a different story.
With only a few words, Syd managed to tell some simple yet complicated stories. Such skills of Syd made Waters worried. Back in 87 while he was chatting with Chris Salewicz, Roger recalled Barrett’s talents and discussed his old friend’s best feature that he envied.
“Well, replacing Syd as leader of Pink Floyd was OK,” said Roger as he answered if filling in for Barrett was easy. However, “replacing Syd as a writer was a one-off. I could never aspire to his crazed insights and perceptions. In fact, for a long time, I wouldn’t have dreamt of claiming any insights whatsoever.”
He continues; “Artists simply do feel and see things in a different way to other people. In a way, it’s a blessing, but it can also be a terrible curse. There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be earned from it, but often it’s also a terrible burden. In spite the fact that he was clearly out of control when making his two albums, some of the work is staggeringly evocative.”
During the band’s solo record ‘The Madcap Laughs’ Roger recalled the exceptional work of Syd; “Dave Gilmour and I worked with him on the first one; there was a backlog of material he’d written before he flipped. It’s the humanity of it all that is so impressive. It’s about deeply felt values and beliefs, and feelings. Maybe that’s what ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ was aspiring to. A similar feeling.”
Even during an interview with Joe Rogan, Roger Waters stated that he and the band were worried for Syd Barrett’s mental health and claimed that they would be “fucked” without him.
“I remember at Top of the Pops, in the dressing room one day… [Barrett] was looking worried, and a bit frightened. And then going, ‘John Lennon doesn’t have to do this’ – which was kind of wacky”
“[We had to tell him] ‘Buckle up, boy, let’s get on with it’… but he never did buckle up from that moment on, really. He wrote a few more songs, but nothing of any real note. And he just got more and more and more detached until he was completely wacky and not making any sense.”
Roger explains how his declining ability became a topic to worry about for Pink Floyd.
“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 then he just got weirder and weirder.”
“[It was] an existential threat as well. ‘Fuck me what are we going to do, he writes the bloody songs!’. I wrote about 20 percent of them before, but they were nothing – Syd’s songs were the things that were different,” he continues; “If the guy who writes the songs in the band goes crazy, you’re fucked basically, unless somebody else learns to start to write. Luckily I did [but it] was a huge loss. And I did love him.”
Filling his place wasn’t that hard for Roger, but filling the holes as an exceptional songwriter was pretty challenging for the leader. It took more than a decade to fill up the shows Syd, he had to go through some years to write with the same perspective as Syd. It was surely challenging for him but he improvised as a great songwriter in the end.