This week, 17 years ago, the guitar world lost one of its most mysterious yet influential pioneers, Syd Barrett.
A rare musical visionary, Barrett spearheaded London’s psychedelic rock scene of the Swinging ‘60s as singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of Pink Floyd.
But it would be Pink Floyd’s 1967 singles – including "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" – along with the band’s Summer of Love debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn that Barrett became more widely known for.
In this kaleidoscopic clip of Pink Floyd’s epic instrumental opus "Interstellar Overdrive", Barrett can be seen playing a Danelectro model 3021 and his famous reflective disk-covered Fender Esquire.
Combining a Binson Echorec Baby delay machine with an improvised slide (thought to be either a ruler or Zippo lighter) Barrett stirs up the kind of tripped-out textures that made Pink Floyd a hit in London’s UFO Club.
Though the band went on to achieve monumental success during the '70s and beyond following Barrett’s departure, his influence endured – not just within the Pink Floyd camp but throughout the music world at large.
Indeed, many guitarists and songwriters – including Graham Coxon and John Frusciante – have cited Syd Barrett as a major inspiration.
Over the years, Barrett has remained a cult figure of psychedelic rock – an enigma whose reclusive life only fueled the interest of curious fans.
Aiming to address some “unanswered questions” about the troubled artist is a brand-new documentary titled Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd that begins screening in theaters across North America later this month.
Directed by Roddy Bogawa and the late Storm Thorgerson, Have You Got It Yet? features fresh interviews with family, friends and lovers of Barrett, plus input from his Pink Floyd bandmates Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason.
“You know you couldn’t over emphasize his importance, because he was, he was that, the creative genius,” said drummer Mason, whose own band – Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets – continues to celebrate the songs of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
Get The Pick Newsletter
All the latest guitar news, interviews, lessons, reviews, deals and more, direct to your inbox!
Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
This one-day-only Fender Play deal is the cheapest we’ve ever seen - get a year’s worth of top-notch guitar lessons for just $29
“I picked up my Fender and thought, ‘How the hell did I ever play this?’”: Jeff Beck once said “there was no turning back” to the Strat – here's why he eventually did just that