The Joup Friday Album: Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs

Sydbarrett-madcaplaughsHey kids, did you know that if you start playing ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ after the MGM lion growls at some off-screen heel that probably just flicked a filterless cigarette in his mane to make him react at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, and smoke some pot, that it’s a moderately diverting expenditure of 43 minutes and 17 seconds? It’s awesome because the most ill-fitting song on the album, ‘Money’, kind of almost exactly starts within the five second period of time in which Dorothy opens the door on the Technicolor Munchkin village, not only that, the album climaxes with the showstopping Omega of ‘Eclipse’ while the Tin Man is getting his long overdue oiling – before the Cowardly Lion has even been introduced, let alone the narcotic associations of the narcoleptic poppy field or the psychedelics of the Emerald City itself.

This Camberwell Carrot happenstance is the extent of many people’s dalliance with the mythology of Pink Floyd, but for some it begins and ends with their bafflingly talented founder and architect Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett who spearheaded the penning of Floyd’s debut named after the chapter of a book called ‘The Wind in the Willows’ about a bunch of fucking talking animals at the dawn’s early light, seeing a buff-stomached, Goat-legged nature-God playing pipes with a chubby otter sleeping at his feet. My Dad always used to tell me about that chapter as a kid, alluding the best he could about it’s decidedly lysergic flavour and taking me out in the early hours to sample that natural magic.

Recorded concurrently at Abbey Road Studios, ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ easily psychs-out Sgt Pepper and is the clearer epitome of the cataclysmic shift of blotter acid beneath the stiff upper lip. While The Beatles had the conflicting personalities and technical assistance to better measure their approach to interpretation and representation of the doors of perception opening in Grey Britain, Barrett seemed to plough incisively, (crazy) diamond-tip drilling himself into uncharted territory to an unfortunately blunt full stop as his faltering mental health eventually put paid to any interest in the pursuit of music by the mid 70s. Evaluating his influence is an archeological endeavour, salvaging the fragments that have been spread across three albums worth (two compiled without assistance from their author) of material that rarely gets out of the starting blocks sonically, but more than rewards in its instinctive compositional brilliance.

Barrett’s solo meanderings flitter between the laconic and ingeniously spasmodic, but are never devoid of their narrator’s naif, free-association stream of consciousness that left contemporaries in the mire and admirers agog. While it’s a nauseating prospect to potentially introduce a newcomer to his work without the aid of the transcendent opening track of ‘Opel’, or the surreal mise en scene of ‘Baby Lemonade’ (“In the sad town, cold iron hands clap the party of clowns outside. Rainfalls in grey, far away”) his first and last attempt at an official solo album ‘The Madcap Laughs’ is the best overall encapsulation of his talents.

Sara Farr, come close and open up our lugholes to your next aural drug of choice for easing into weekend.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    Great pick, fantastic write-up. My weekend is complete!

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