Friday, September 28, 2007

talkin buat M

tanah ini kontang pecah merekah
alir air dari hulu sejuk menusuk
segala rasa memakan segala bisa
kini hanya membawa dosa durja
hampas nafsu kuasa yang terleka
lekat bagai nanah kering di bawah
hangat mentari

dirampok dikoyak tanah ini rabak
anakanak bangsa berbagai rasa
dalam kancah tidak menentu
nun dipuncak menara berdiri segak
tergelak berpeluk tubuh bagai berhala suasa
mata buta dalam fikiran buntu
membawa sesat

terbaring bagai murahan
dikatil perawan rakus diterkam
diramas ganas mata terpejam
tak mampu kau menerjang
jalang yang menyerang

siapa Tuhanmu
kuasa ketuaku
siapa penghulumu
ketamakan panduanku
apa kitabmu
hati kujunjung

semadi lah kau
nesan hitam


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chapati Moments: Maya and the Fire of Love

Letchoomi and Maya are having a slight difference of opinion. The girls are at Uncle Veloo's house.
"What's wrong with Kylie Minogue? I think she is a great singer." Letchoomi insists.
"Great singer?? Great singer is someone like Placido Domingo, not some skinny runt with a silicon padded arse. Kylie is the face of Aussie culture at its naffest if at all you can say that Australia has any culture." Maya retorts.
"What about the kangaroos, koala bears and aborigines?" Letchoomi is defiant.
"Granted that kangaroos and koala bears are animals unique to Australia but this does not form part of their culture! As for their aborigines, they've exterminated most of them except for a token few whom they ensure are kept perpetually drunk to prevent them from claiming their rights." says Maya.
"I see its Anti Australia day ..." drawls Sosya as she strolls in to join her friends who are sprawled out in Auntie Roopah's sitting room. "So what has brought on this sudden hostility towards Australia? Could it have something to do with the Italian chef?"
"He has an Aussie wife" mutters Maya into her cuppa Massala tea.
"Ooh .... the bell ringeth... so what does this cow look like?" Letchoomi asks.

"Like any Holstein Friesian. Oh no, more like a Holstein/Jersey cross" says Maya.

"So what would you like us to do? Chop her up and serve her as a vindaloo dish?" asks Sosya trying to be helpful.

"God no! We'd be having vindaloo Fresian/Jersey for the next 5 years!" exclaims Maya.

"I take it she is a trifle rotund?" enquired Sosya.

"She has a sizeable rump and is not terribly prepossessing. Lets just say she has seen better days" says Maya uncharitably.

"Ohoo! The cat is really out to play here ... meowww Maya! Don't forget that you're not exactly unattached yourself." Sosya states the obvious.

"Androo is hardly an impediment." Maya retorts.

"So how is the Fresian cow an impediment?" asks the practical Soysa.

"She's here for a visit and she might stay on. And they are Catholics." Maya explains.

"He is Italian dahling ... of course he is Catholic. What has his religion got to do with anything? I thought the cross he wore, dangling from his neck, resting on his bed of hairy chest clearly advertised his religion to all and sundry. Why is this now a problem?" asked the worldly wise Sosya, the author of 'How to Fuck a Man and Forget him After he Pays'.

Maya remained silent, struggling with her emotions. Letchoomi, the diehard Kylie fan, has a stroke of genius "Ah, I see someone has fallen in love!"

Maya glares at her whilst Sosya pats Letchoomi on the head "Really dahling.... who?" She then turns her Sophia Loren act on Maya "Dahling ... love them and leave them - don't fall in love with them! At least not for free anyway... You are such a pathetic excuse for a mistress. Here is a rich Italian chef and you don't get even a bracelet for your troubles."

Letchoomi chips in "I think she gets free fettucini from him." Maya is indignant "I pay for my own food! I have my own money. I don't need any money from him."

" Dahling...." Sosya drawls in her afffected Hollywood movie star accent "women don't take money from men because they need it - they take money from men because they deserve it. If they need money, they would get a job." Letchoomi and Maya ponder on this pearl of wisdom for a few seconds. Letchoomi in her little girl naivety breaks the contemplative mood with an irreverent remark "At least she gets to taste his Italian salami." Sosya looks exasperated "There is no point tasting something which you don't get to chew on and digest!"

"Ahhh you girls!" Auntie Roopah bursts in "always talking about food - I wonder how you stay so slim when you are so obsessed with food. Why don't you go hang out at your Uncle Veloo's restaurant. There is plenty of food there." Auntie Roopah wants the girls out of the way so that she can be alone with her very own Mandingo - her manservant from Chagos Island.

Enter the Chagossian lad with pail and mop in hand. He is wearing a white tshirt which seems a tad too small for him - stretched to its maximum capacity across his chest and biceps. So tight you could see the outline of his nipples. The tshirt stops short above his waist revealing his taut washboard stomach. The apparel covering his lower half is equally tantalising. He is wearing track bottoms which is disconcertingly too small for him. It rides up and tucks itself snugly into the crack of his bum as he carries out his chores, oblivious to the effect he is having on the four women in the room. The women stare at his deletable taut derriere. "That's the choicest rump I've ever set eyes on ..." whispers Letchoomi to Sosya.

The young lad turns around to ask Auntie Roopah something about the Dettol. The women let out a gasp in unison. The clingy material seems glued onto his lower half, leaving nothing to the imagination. Auntie Roopah felt her throat go dry and dashed out of the room before she passed out. Uncatholic thoughts floating through her mind. She felt as though she has struck a gold mine. The other 3 women remain rooted to their seats, not daring to blink in case they missed something - anything. Sosya hands a hankie over to Letchoomi "You are frothing at the mouth, dahling. Best clean it up before he thinks you have mad cow disease."

"I think those are Androo's old clothes he is wearing" whispers Maya.

"Androo should give all his clothes to this fella. It looks much better on him" Letchoomi whispers, gasping for breath. Sosya asks him where he's from. But no one is looking at his face when he answers. They are mesmerised by the cluster of dark curly wurly hair gathered just above the elastic band holding up his track bottoms. Sweat is trickling down his dark torso, past his belly button, getting trapped in the little cluster of hair but persisting on, disappearing underneath the elastic band ... heading for his crotch ... they imagine. A sigh escapes all 3 of them. Maya's obsession with the Italian is momentarily forgotten as she asks him "Where is Chagos Islands?" "It is near Mauritius" he answers.

Sosya asks him what its like there - is it like, Hawaii? The girls are just shooting questions at him, feigning a sudden interest in geography to prevent him from turning around to continue with his chores. Not that his rear view is less stimulating but full frontal is certainly a sight to behold. Men who have been confronted by a formidable pair of boobs will be able to understand how these 3 women feel at the moment. "Perhaps we can go there for a holiday" Letchoomi says hopefully. If all their men look like this, she's taking the next flight there.

"You cannot go to Chagos Islands for a holiday, the Americans have taken over our homeland. It is now called Diego Garcia. They have set up a military airbase there. Our people have been cruelly ousted from our beloved homeland."

[the American Airbase in Diego Garcia]

"Oh these Americans!" says Letchoomi in a fit of disgust" they are always destroying other people's homeland and ruining their lives..." Sosya and Maya listen with interest at Letchoomi's virginal foray into political discourse until she continues with "just the other week they opened a MacDonald's next to Uncle Veloo's restaurant and the smell of fried beef is making us feel sick ....."

The Chagossian lad nods his head in sympathy though not quite grasping the similarity between being tossed out of one's homeland and having a MacDonald's open up next door to one's restaurant. One can only appreciate her comments if one lived or worked next door to a MacDonald's joint. I have to call it a joint for lack of a better word. It is definitely not a restaurant. In fact, to call any place an "American restaurant" would be an abuse of the word "restaurant". An American joint is more appropriate. It is not difficult to spot an American joint. All the dishes on the menu are served with potato chips or fries, as they call it. They are the only people who get their verbs and nouns mixed up. Google is now a verb.

The girls' choice rump steak is called away by Auntie Roopah who urgently needs him to clean the bathroom upstairs. Sigh.

The girls continue with their earlier discussion on Maya's plight. Maya opens up to her friends on her feelings towards the Italian. What started as intense physical chemistry between them has turned into something much deeper than Maya felt capable of experiencing. What does one do when one realises that one has found one's soulmate and neither has the freedom to indulge in each other's company as and when they please? Fleeting meetings for a sexual tryst is all very exciting if and only if the relationship is purely physical in nature. But when one has fallen deeply in love, the sexual aspects of the relationship takes second place to the simple act of basking in each other's company, enjoying an intimacy which may not even entail sexual activity.

The heart has a mind of its own, independent of one's thought processes. The Sufis say that what you feel in your heart is God's way of communicating with you.

The heart is where man's connection with the Divine lies. When man ignores his soul's desires and he lives solely through his head, his intellect and his physical being, he does not truly live. Because to ignore one's soul is to ignore one's very reason for being. But there are many who live this way. Many who think that intellectual superiority is an achievement. That a life dedicated to intellectual enlightenment is much better than a path dedicated to spiritual elevation. Oh what folly. Humans fall for the trap they set themselves. Whether they bask in intellectual glory or swim in an abundance of spiritual enlightenment, they have fallen into a deep hole filled with self glorification. A hole which they have dug up themselves.

For life, my friends, is quite difficult for most of us, too complex for the complex mind but yet it is so extremely simple it defies reason. Love is the key to everything. I know the word Love has been much abused, maligned beyond recognition, commercialised to the extreme, bandied about by careless utterances of "I love you" by people who have no idea what "to love" means. Only one love is true - that is unconditional love. That is the love that God shows us. There are many who argue that God loves us with conditions:-

* that we are faithful to Him;

*that we pray 5 times a day;

*fast during Ramadan;

*go to Church regularly;

*slaughter cows;

*don't slaughter cows; etc.

Why do we place these human thoughts onto God and attribute human feelings onto Him? Is it because we cannot understand Him, grasp even the concept of God, unless he is similar to us? Human. Should it not be us who should strive to be more like Him? And that is why I say that the closest thing you can experience with the Divine is through unconditional love.

Unconditional love does not mean self sacrificing, abuse-me-all-you-want kind of love. It is a strong love. A brave and courageous love which says:

I love you - as you are. You don't have to love me back. And I love you enough not to let you abuse me.

You are only capable of achieving this kind of love if you love yourself. So that is why we love falling in love. That feeling of euphoria, the breathlessness, the whole magical experience that makes one feel special. But then suddenly you find yourself tortured, all your insecurities raise their ugly heads, surfacing at this inconvenient time, exposing your flaws to your loved one. Will he still love me once he sees me like this? Once he knows me as the person I really am? Warts et al.

Do we show our ugly side just to test the other's love or does it surface in order to allow the love you feel for each other to heal them? It is a mixture of both. The love you feel makes you more confident to allow the "ugly" side of you to surface as you trust the other person to love you no matter what. Unfortunately this is the time and part where it gets too hard for both parties to continue on. The euphoria is gone. There is an element of unpleasantness. Hard issues to deal with. All is not honky dory. It feels like hard work. Those afraid to carry on are afraid of deeper feelings. Its too scary for them. Uncharted territory. Dare they venture into the dark beyond? Where will it lead them? Are they strong enough to survive this journey? Together? Will they still be together at the end of the journey?

Well let me tell you this. Your soul made you fall in love. You, the physical and thinking side of you, enjoy these feelings up to a point. Its like a drug that makes you happy - until... it starts making you miserable and you decide to amputate your feelings like a gangrenous limb and cut the source out of your life. And this is where you fail to listen to your soul... You go on seeking the initial euphoria of falling in love, not understanding that the feeling will not last - it is whimsical and fleeting, its purpose is just to attract you and lead you to real love - the love which will lead you to Divine Being. That, one day you will wake up and realise you cannot even remember the name of the person you so obsessed over when you realise whom your soul was really seaching for. A return to Divine Being.

So do not be fooled by this intoxicating spell of being in love. It is God's way of attracting your attention, lulling you with the ebbs and flow of the tides of Love, then thrashing you against the rocks till your bones have splintered to many thousand pieces and your flesh has smashed to pulp ... and all that remains is your stubborn heart, still beating, lying on the rocks, unrestrained by the complicated web of your thoughts and unshackled from the chains of your intellect.

That, my friends, is how you will feel, at the end of this journey. You, the physical self, would have died, before the hour of your death is due, and all that remains is your soul, shining in its true beauty. By then it does not matter if your are still together with the initial object of your desires, of your love. You understand that what is most important is the Journey. And that you fell in love with Love in the first place.

So our dear Maya, finds herself now, in the first throes of passion, staring at love. Paralysed by her fears. The fear of darkness. And how can you understand light, if your haven't journeyed through darkness? All your preconceived values, morals come into play. Adultery, fornication, how can such a union be blessed? How can something impure lead to the pure? Marriage is sacred - so how can breaking your marital vows lead to Divine Revelation?

You can argue with me till your face turns blue. And I will say to you - the only union that is sacred is your union with God. You belong to no one and no one belongs to you. The only unfaithfulness is your unfaithfulness to God. And your only binding vows are to Him, your Creator. There are no conditions attached to His Love for you. There are no obligations attached to Divine Love. We have created all this to measure our worthiness and yet God measures not our love. God loves us is the only true statement. We love Him may not be a true statement as we may not have the capacity nor have we evolved enough to have the true knowledge and understanding of how to love Him. Those who say they love God have made an untrue and arrogant claim. Only God knows, who truly loves Him. It is in His Mercy that He allows us to experience this state of being. The state of being in love with each other. The state of loving each other.

And so, our Maya is caught in a dilemma many of us have been through. The thrill of falling in love, the anguish of loving a person you cannot have, the pain of acknowledging to yourself that you love this person and the fear that you may never feel this way about another person again ... that one day, because of this fear, you will settle for something less. Something and someone who will not make you feel like you are being thrashed mercilessly by powerful, angry waves of love against jagged rocks. One day you will settle for less. Maybe that is why people call it "settling down". What they mean is that you have settled for less.

And Maya is awakened to this fact. As she speaks to her friends she is realising the folly of her life and her present existence. Blighted by her bad choice of husband. Granted that Androo was her parents' choice but she allowed it to become her choice too by not raising any strong objections. Today she realises that her life is tainted by self deceit - a heinous crime we all commit unto ourselves, and that she must choose between a shattering admission of failure or a lifetime spent in self deceit, staying married for the tawdry sake of keeping up appearances. Our choices are normally made on what is most convenient for us. That is why we prefer to coninue living our desperate lives in self deceit, fearing the unknown, afraid to follow our treacherous heart which refuses to be tamed into quiet submission. We would rather walk around like the living dead than face the ensuing cacophony of making a decision based on the heart. That is why we say "rational thought" and describe feelings of the heart as "irrational". We have conditioned ourselves to trust our intellect over our heart. Following our heart gets us hurt, listening to our thoughts keeps us safe.

So how would you want me to continue with Maya's tale? Maya is a woman .. so... of course, she is irrational and follows her heart! Ahh, another stereotype. But Maya is not like other women. And neither is Sosya. Sosya operates mainly on her survival instincts. Her heart has long been ignored and silenced. The door to her heart locked but the keys may not necessarily have been thrown away. But another day on Sosya.

**Author's note: For those expecting the usual concoction of sex, violence, perversion and political angst, I am sorry to disappoint you. This is the holy month of Ramadan. This is my way of fasting. Note, the first few paragraphs on the Chagossian lad were written before Ramadan. Then I was rudely interrupted by a lot of work and continued the story much later on. By the way, anyone who has read this and think I am encouraging people to commit adultery or to disrespect the sanctity of marriage, has really missed the point. The fact that you have to use your willpower to remain faithful to your life chosen partner shows that you have lost it ie the sacredness of your union. Salaams, Shalom, Peace, Namaste my friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

Johnny died one night, died in his bed
Bottle of whiskey sleeping tablets by his head
Johnny's life passed him by like a warm summer's day
If you listen to the wind you can hear him play
Don't you know, don't you know

Dont ya know
Dont ya know that you are a shooting star

Shooting Star: Bad Company

Rock and roll’s folklores are filled with tales of fame, fortune, excesses of life and the attendant self indulgent, which ultimately would culminate in self-destruction to those unlucky few, the “shooting stars”. “Johnny” was, and indeed, is a common name. Nobody knows exactly who “Johnny” was in the above song. But Jimmy Hendrix was born Johnny Allan Hendrix, and he did die in his sleep after taking alcohol with sleeping pills called Vesperax (or was it Asperax? – I am not too sure) causing him to choke on his own vomit. The period within which the song was written by Paul Rodgers also coincides with the death of Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Paul Kossoff (Paul Rodger’s guitarist in the group “Free”), Jim Morrison (The Doors) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). The song could thus be about rock and roll’s “shooting stars” generally. Those stars which would shine so bright, lit the night with such illuminating colours and lights, which would later dive into self destruction accompanied by a blazing trail of fire leaving behind a world awestruck by their genius and musical passion. Yes. Rock and roll’s folklores are filled with their tales.

Non however, would be sadder, more dramatic and more tragic than that of the “Crazy Diamond”.

“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the cross fire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger,
you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter,
you piper, you prisoner, and shine!”

Shine On You Crazy Diamond(part 1): Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was a little band with an identity crisis – having changed its name 5 times in one year – when Syd Barett joined them in 1965. Barett himself was born Roger Keith Barett and had adopted the name “Syd” after a local Cambridge drummer, Sid Barett. It was therefore only natural that the Cambridge University art student would change the name of the band he joined, “The Tea Set”, to “The Pink Floyd Sound”, by marrying the first name of two obscure bluesmen , Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The band would later ditch the long version of their name for the now famous “Pink Floyd”. (And thank God for the name changes as I could not imagine an album as great as “The Wall” or “Dark Side Of The Moon” being released by a band called “The Tea Set”! – for that matter alone, I am indebted to Syd Barett!).

Nothing was amiss during his childhood as his pathologist (some say his father was a zoologist) father, Arthur Max Barett and his mother, Winifred, encouraged the young Roger to be active in music. He took up instruments such as a banjo, later played bass and ultimately settled for a guitar while delving into old blues and jazz. At the age of 14, he opted for the name “Syd” and from then on, rock and roll history book was to be written with a chapter named after Syd Barett with a cross reference to Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd was a little band but by no means it was a struggling one. It was already playing numerous gigs or live performances with a cultish followings of its brand of psychedelic rock and the then underground progressive rock. Incorporated in its set would be psychedelic light shows and a long improvised version of songs such as “Interstellar Overdrive” which apparently would go on for half an hour in an LSD-fuelled jams. Pink Floyd’s place in the swinging London era was then well carved. The only thing that was wanting was an album.

The arrival of Syd Barett as lead guitarist, partnering his old pal, Roger Waters, the bassist, together with Nick Mason on drums and keyboardist Rick Wright ensured that a place in rock and roll super stardom would be reserved for Pink Floyd. Coinciding with his arrival, Pink Floyd would a little later engage a reliable management team consisting of Andrew King and Peter Jenner, who in turn befriended Joe Boyd, an American who was building a name in the British music scene for himself. Boyd produced a recording for Pink Floyd in January 1967 during which session Syd Barett’s “Arnold Layne” was recorded as a demo single. This single was later released and peaked at number 20 on the chart. Consider the lyrical simplicity and spontaneity of Barett’s lyric:

“Arnold Layne had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes
Moonshine washing line
They suit him fine

On the wall hung a tall mirror
Distorted view, see through baby blue
He dug it
Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same, takes two to know
Two to know, two to know, two to know
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne

Now he's caught - a nasty sort of person.
They gave him time
Doors bang - chain gang - he hates it

Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same, takes two to know
two to know, two to know, two to know,
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne
Don't do it again”

Arnold Layne: Syd Barett/Pink Floyd

Apparently, Arnold Layne was about a guy who used to steal underwear from Waters’ mom’s clotheslines. BBC would, upon its release, ban the song for its cross-dressing and transvestism themes. Be that as it may, Barett’s psychedelic work caught the attention of the fickle British music fans who was then accustomed to The Beattles, The Yardbirds et al. Pink Floyd’s music was driven by Barett’s improvised and free style guitar techniques coupled with a tight, and yet to a certain extent, indulgent, rhythm section anchored by Mason’s drumming and Water’s mastery of the bass. Rick Wright, on the other hand, would give an extra dimension to the band’s work on the keyboard.

Barett was an instant hit. He was technically gifted and added to that, he was an experimentalist. He loved exploring the sonic capabilities and possibilities of his guitar. One of his trademark was of course his mirror covered Telecaster Esquire, wired to a distortion and echo box, played by Barett by sliding his Zippo lighter on the fret board creating a rather mysterious and chilling out-of-this-world sound. He was, not unlike Jimmy Hendrix, a showman, ever ready to take centre stage in term of stage performances or creative inputs that one wonders what would have happened between him and the mega-egoistical Roger Waters had he not left, or rather been dumped from Pink Floyd. History would later show that Waters single-handedly destroy the balance of the band by demanding control of creative inputs and directions culminating in an acrimonious break-up.

Barett followed up the success of Arnold Layne with another single, “See Emily Play” which peaked at number 6 on the chart. Barret initially claimed that Emily was a girl he saw when he was hallucinating after a drug binge but he later admitted that he made up that story as a publicity stunt. Be that as it may, he might as well have written the song for himself, considering the theme of the song:

“Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh
She often inclined to borrow somebody's dreams till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Soon after dark Emily cries, ah ooh
Gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow

There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play”

See Emily Play : Syd Barett

It was reflective, to a certain extent. God knows whether Barett was feeling the pressure of rock stardom at the time the song was written. But the theme of a girl, who tried so hard to understand the world while being isolated, depressed and sad was, in retrospect, resonant of a lonely and hard life, despite fame and fortune. Put on a gown that touches the ground/float on a river forever and ever…how hopeless can one be?

The single Apple and Oranges followed soon after, also with a degree of success. Pink Floyd was by then a force to be reckoned with. It was perhaps inevitable that a full debut album was to be released, with Barett as a creative pillar behind it. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn was recorded between January-July 1967 at Abbey Road with Barett penning 9 of the songs and co-writing another 2 out of the 11 songs in it. It was an instant hit with the album hitting number 6 on the UK chart although a much limited success was achieved in the US. Nevertheless, Pink Floyd was by now developing a large following and was deeply entrenched in the psychedelic and progressive rock world. And the pressure was just building up for Barett.

In fact Barett was already displaying a certain degree of, what was then thought as, eccentricity while The Piper was being recorded. Barett was then known to be heavily on dope, acid , Mandax (or Mandies, as known to junkies those days, a hypnotic tranquillisers) and of course psychedelic drugs such as LSDs coupled with alcohol. There were in fact allegations that he was being “fed” with drugs although David Gilmour, who would later replace him in Pink Floyd, said that Barett would not need any encouraging if drugs were available to him. Sue Kingsford, Barett’s one time one-night stand once said, “We were all feeding it (drugs) to each other. It was a crazy time”.

David Gilmour would later recount how he had met Barett while “Emily” was being recorded. Syd didn't seem to recognise me and he just stared back,' he says. 'He was a different person from the one I'd last seen in October.' Was he on drugs, though? 'I'd done plenty of acid and dope - often with Syd - and that was different from how he had become.'

Whatever it was that Barett was taking, or suffering, the effects were soon beginning to manifest itself on and off stage. Barett would increasingly hate to perform “Emily” and “Arnold” as he did not want to be stuck with the standard 3 minute something “pop” song. During live performances, he would, in a middle of a set or song, suddenly detune his guitar until the strings were flapping and he then hit a note and held that note all night with the echo-machine at full steam! He would, some other time, just stand on stage with his hands by his side, the guitar hanging from his neck, staring blankly at nothing while his band mates played on. Perhaps he was exploring his artistic boundaries. The crowd loved his antics. Or perhaps he was sick. Plain sick.

After the release of “The Piper” in August 1967, Pink Floyd was on a mini US tour in November. And things could not get any worse. The band was not really prepared for the US tour in the sense that it was expecting things to be the same with England. They found out that they had to play at big venues supporting bands such as Holding Company (led by non other than Janis Joplin). They found out that Americans were not really into feedbacks or English psychedelia. Barett would still hit just one note per night or just standing without doing anything at all. When he played, it would be a different tune altogether.

Back in the studio, Barett would turn up one day with a nice new composition titled “Have You Got It, Yet?” for the band to practise. According to Waters, the band thought the composition was quite nice and they set to practise it only for Barett to change the arrangement in the middle of the practice. While practising the newly altered version, Barett would again arbitrarily change the arrangement again and he would the same repeatedly while asking the band “have you got it, yet?” It was only then the band realised that Barett was being cute and stopped practising the song!

It was in the US that the famous Brylcream incident happened. Apparently, Barett had had his hair permed at Vidal Sassoon. And badly too. He hated it. He thought that the “punk” style he had been experimenting with suited him better. And so, he poured a whole tin of Brylcream onto his head in the dressing room. He then crushed a handful of Mandrax and put it onto his hair. David Gilmour however suggested that Barett would not have wasted any “Mandies” but apparently the Mandax addition was confirmed by a lighting man. He then rushed onto the stage and under the heat of all the lightings, the Brylcream melted and ran down his face, making him look like a “gutted candle”! Looking at him as if he was decomposing on stage, with the crowd screaming, apparently enjoying his antics, some of the band and crew apparently abandoned the place for drinks. Later, arriving from San Francisco at Las Vegas, Barett would forget to bring his guitars, fall into a swimming pool and left his wet clothes behind.

Coming back to England, the band was supposed to play with the likes of Hendrix for 3 weeks. Barett could not perform and he had to be stopped from running away on a train. The band struggled along with a borrowed guitarist from another band. It was at this time that Messrs Waters, Mason and Wright hatched a plan. They were to ask Gilmour, a long time pal of Waters and Barett, all form Cambridge, to stand in for Barett. Gilmour was known to be an excellent guitarist and being broke and was driving a van for a living, he accepted a try out. On stage, Gilmour would play and Barett would just walked around or pretended to play. There was no input whatsoever from Barett. On the way to their gig one night, they decided not to pick Barett up. And Gilmour had, on that night, effectively replaced Barett. Barett’s days, as a co-founder of Pink Floyd, and the creative pillars behind the band, were effectively, though not officially, ended that night.

Gilmour thereafter replaced Barett as lead guitarist of Pink Floyd. Barett was obviously hurt by this turn of event. He would turn out at the band’s gigs and sat in front while staring at Gilmour. The band later recorded a second album titled A Saucerful of Secrets in 1968 which included Barett’s Jugband Blues. During the recording, Barett would sometime wait outside the studio to be invited to play. He however was resigned to the fact that he was no longer wanted. In Jugband Blues, he wrote, "It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here/And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear/that I'm not here", as the song opens.

In March 1968, it was officially announced that Barett was no longer a member of Pink Floyd.

By autumn of 1968, homeless and probably broke too, Barett would sometime go back to his mother’s house in Cambridge. When in London, he would crash at his friends’ flat, sometimes with disastrous result. After leaving, or was left out of Pink Floyd, Barett recorded 2 solo albums, “The Madcap Laughs” and “Barett”. He did perform live once with David Gilomour, among others, accompanying him on the bass. It was in 1970 at Olympia Exhibition Hall where they played 4 songs. Due to poor mixing, the vocals were inaudible and at the end of the 4th song, Barett politely put down his guitar and walked off stage.

He later formed a band called “Stars” but it was short-lived. He went back to Win’s house in Cambridge in 1981 and his mother managed to persuade some of her wealthy friends to take Barett as a gardener. He did become a gardener but during a thunderstorm, he threw down his tools and quit. He came back to London briefly before going back (walking all the way to Cambridge!) to Win’s house in 1982 where he led a reclusive life and was almost not seen again, ever again, by the public. His sister, Rosemary, became his only contact with the outside world. That year too, he reverted to his original name “Roger” and would refuse to “talk about Syd”.

The heart wrenching drama of Syd Barett however unfolded in 1975, when Pink Floyd was recording the album “Wish You Were Here” which contains among others, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (part 1 and 2). Shine On you Crazy Diamond was a tribute to Syd Barett by the band, which had never managed to banish its memory of Barett’s contributions and influences to the band. While recording the song, a plump bald man walked into the studio and sat down. Nobody knew who he was. He had shaven all his hair off, including his eyebrows and he would jump up and down of the sofa while brushing his teeth all the time. When the band members found that the guy was actually Barett, Waters shed some tears. It was as if by design, that Barett would appear in that state while the band was recording “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to him. Years later, in 1986, when Pink Floyd released a movie version of the album “The Wall”, there would be a scene where Pink, the lead character in that movie (played by Bob Geldof) was shown completely shaven, including his eyebrows. That scene was inspired by Syd Barett’s visit to the studio in 1975.

Barett continued to receive some royalties for his works with Pink Floyd which Dave Gilmour would ensure get to him. He later was diagnosed with ulcers and type 2 diabetes. He was in and out of hospitals for his ulcers. When Win died in 1991, he destroyed and burnt all his diaries and art books. He painted, collected coins and cooked. He died of pancreatic cancer and complications of diabetes on July 7th 2006 leaving an estate of 1.2 million pound will-ed to his 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

As it turned out, he suffered from schizophrenia. All the drugs and alcohol had just exacerbated his conditions leading to his apparent psychotic behaviour on and off the stage.

Roger Keith “Syd” Barett. The Crazy Diamond. Shine on. For your days passed you by like a warm summer’s day. And if we listen to the wind, we would still hear you play.

May God bless your soul. And may you rest in peace.

Note: The 1st photo is of a young Barett. Wonder whether the black Telecaster is the famous guitar which would later be covered with mirrors. The 2nd picture is the house in which Barett lived till his death in 2006. It was taken after his death. It was later sold for 120000 pound to a French couple who apparently did not have a clue of who Barett was and the significance of the house.

The Guardian
The Syd Barett Appreciation Society
and all the footnotes in the various articles published in the above sites.