The thing about Syd Barrett is that he lived a relatively privileged life, with a certain amount of normalcy even, in his later years. His sister's portrait of him in The Sunday Times (post below) takes him out of the recluse myth and renders his break with music as a choice, difficult but chosen nonetheless. Turning to painting and gardening, riding a bicycle and going to London museums semi-anonymously, living off Pink Floyd royalties but beyond that, far out of range from a former world.
The obituary in The Economist mentions his final visit to Abbey Road studios:
"His band saw him last in 1975, as they recorded, in "Shine on you Crazy Diamond," a tribute to him that sounded like yet more encouragement. [...] Mr Barrett wandered in, fat and shaven-headed and hardly recognisable. As his friends sang "You shone like the sun," he seemed to laugh sarcastically. He stayed a while in the studio, and then went away."
Marked by a convoluted personal tragedy, powerful as the prefatory image of a specter (foreboding, ecstacy, ghost) in Tom Stoppard's new play, "Rock 'n' Roll." I've enjoyed The Madcap Laughs very much since first hearing it two years ago, the album's rich details and off-tunings that glow with repetition. Eras or seasons, Rimbaud's "saisons," create their own mythologies, sometimes with catastrophic or mundane results, dreaded beyond the initial glamour one acquired as a drug. Syd Barrett's silence could be a prescient abandonment of art's deadly commerce and gossip. Or, he knew when he was finished and how to leave.
Thanks to Jesse Crockett for including my work in his new project, listenlight.