Alternate History

Syd Barrett (Shines On?)

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Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett (Born 6 January 1946) is an English musician,composer, singer, songwriter and painter. His career began in the 1960s with the psychedelic band, Pink Floyd, which he left in 1971 to pursue a solo career.

With Pink Floyd

In 1967, Pink Floyd released the singles "Arnold Layne," "See Emily Play" (which reached #6 in the UK singles charts) and their first album, Piper At The Gates of Dawn. Following a successful tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd released their second album, I'm Most Obliged To You in 1968, their first LP to chart (reaching #4 in the UK and #56 in the US). It was accompanied with the singles "She's A Millionaire" (#2 On The UK singles charts) and "It Would Be So Good" (co-written with Keyboardist Richard Wright). In 1969 Pink Floyd released the experimental triple album, Close Your Eyes And Take A Ride, which was met with mixed reception. It was accompanied with the single "Where Are You Now?," which briefly touched #1 on the UK singles chart and provided Pink Floyd with their first top 10 single in the United States, reaching #9. The song drew comparisons to the Beatles' "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby." Barrett played a small role on Pink Floyd's 1971 album, If, which was composed primarily by Wright and bassist Roger Waters. Barrett subsequently parted with Pink Floyd in July 1971 to pursue a solo career.

Early Solo Career

In 1972, Barrett made his solo debut with Dominoes, a laid back mainstream rock record that reached #27 in the UK album charts (#71 in the US). In 1973 he released the more successful Syd Barrett, which peaked at #14 in the UK and #21 in the US. The lead single from the album, "Don't Be Slow," reached the top ten on several national charts. In 1974 Barrett turned down an offer to rejoin Pink Floyd during sessions for their second album after Barrett's departure, which later was titled Burning Bridges. Later in 1974, Barret recorded a 50s cover album, entitled When We Were Young. It briefly rose to #87 on the UK album charts, and did not chart in the United States. "Terrapin," A non-album single, however, was modestly successful. The song, which was a faster paced version of a 1969 outtake with Pink Floyd, did not reappear until it was released on Syd Barrett: The Singles Collection in 1997. Though When We Were Young met with poor reviews upon its release, it rose in stature in subsequent years.

Late 1970s and 1980s

In 1979 Barrett released Mirror Disc, his third album of original material. The album, which mixes disco beats with an overall rock aesthetic, steadily rose in the US Billboard 200 chart to #3 and also was Barrett’s highest charting solo album in most of Europe to that point. The second single off the album, "No Standing Still," reached #1 on the Hot 100 in February 1979. Barrett followed the album up with a brief but successful world tour. During a charity concert in London, Barrett was joined by the former members of Pink Floyd, which had been on hiatus since 1976. This would be Barrett’s last appearance with Pink Floyd until 2007. During the tour, Barrett released a rerecorded disco version of “Arnold Layne,” his first single with Pink Floyd. “Arnold Layne” peaked at #11 in August 1979.

Barrett followed up Mirror Disc with Sound Around in 1982. The album was a commercial success, although it was criticized by music journalists, one review declaring that it "lack[ed] ... a trace of [Barrett’s] previous originality."  Following the release of Sound Around, Barrett was widely compared to Phil Collins of Genesis. “Their sound and appearance increasingly seem to be merging," one journalist noted, as Barrett lost his hair and adapted his songwriting to the 1980s. Indeed, Barrett’s next album, 1985’s Groove Time, drew frequent comparisons to Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, released that same year. Groove Time spawned three singles, two of them which reached #1. The album was a smash hit worldwide and sat at the top of charts for several weeks. The music video for "Everything You Touch" won several video of the year awards. Barrett also came under criticism for "Americanizing" his accent during this period, a charge which was derided by Barrett in exchanges with the press. The issue was compounded when Barrett rerecorded "See Emily Play" with what was widely characterized as an American accent. Despite this criticism, "See Emily Play" reached #5 in December 1985.

In 1987, Barrett released Chapter 87, which was did not sell as successfully as its predecessor, but became a fan favorite in later years. The album was marketed as a return to "vintage Syd" in the words of his record company, and was seen as reminiscent to the neo-psychedelic band The Dream Academy by many critics, whose debut album Barrett had helped produce. No singles broke the top 25, but a music video for "I Stand Before You" was rotated heavily on MTV.

1990s Until The Present

In 1996 Barrett released his last studio album, One Of A Kind, which charted at #43 on the Billboard 200 Chart. The title track made it to #1 on the adult contemporary chart. Following a few appearances to promote the album, Barrett retired to Los Angeles and remained out of the spotlight. Barrett is thought to have spent most of the remainder of the 90s and the early 2000s painting and spending time with his family. In 2007, Barrett reunited with Pink Floyd for the  anniversary of the band's debut album. They had recorded a studio album, Broken China, in 1997, without a tour. Barrett performed the song "Remember A Day" at a tribute show to Richard Wright, who passed away in 2008. In 2012, Barrett hosted an exhibition of his paintings dating back to the 1960s at a gallery in San Jose.

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