"...because I understand that you're different from me..."

I've come across a rare photograph of Syd Barrett taken in 1972 in Cambridge, England during a concert for his short-lived band Stars. He's holding a guitar, has a beard & long hair, and is surrounded by people (on his way on or off stage?). [The link to the photo no longer seems to work.] Stars played a handful of times before a bad review for one of their shows prompted Barrett to quit the group, effectively ending his public appearances as a musician. I've read that some of their concerts around Cambridge might have been recorded, though none of those tapes have ever surfaced. What's astonishing is how such a musical genius could have been playing his final concerts to small handfuls of people in his hometown, with hardly any exposure. In some sense, that's fitting, since his brief career was always based on a disdain for the very notion of a career and the subsequent fame it might bring. One might explain that aversion to success as an awareness of the diluting aspects of any type of prolonged exposure. Limited editions, or limited production, might help insure the "purity" of an artist's work. Especially in our age of ultra-commodification, where art in all its forms ends up serving as a backdrop for the hyper-speed of global capitalist colonization.

As a writer, I don't presume to know an alternative to this commodification. And surely, the demands of commodification can often benefit an artist. An example might be the second half of Barrett's first solo album,
The Madcap Laughs, which was recorded in a matter of days under intense pressure from EMI deadlines. The hurried glitches of those songs on side 2 of the LP have a beautifully raw energy unmatched by much of his more polished work.

In the sphere of poetry today, one finds small-run chapbooks and pamphlets that carry infinitely more emotional and aesthetic grace than any mass edition might provide. A few examples from my recent reading come to mind: Michael Carr's Platinum Blonde (Fewer & Further Press, 2006), Cedar Sigo, Micah Ballard & Will Yackulic's
Death Race V.S.O.P. (Red Ant Press, 2005), and David Larsen's Syrup Hits (Kenning Editions, 2005). Or, one can find that grace in larger editions that manage to maintain a pamphlet's semi-secret stance. I'm thinking of Stephanie Young's Telling the Future Off (Tougher Disguises Press, 2005), Anna Moschovakis's I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone (Turtle Point Press, 2006), David Larsen's The Thorn (Faux Press, 2005), or Stacy Szymaszek's Emptied of All Ships

Barrett's final recordings at Abbey Road studios in 1974, all instrumental tracks lacking any sense of cohesion or useable form, might be seen in at least two ways. First, as an artistic failure, evidence of his last attempt at making music, sabotaged by whatever psychological and artistic pressures he might have been facing at the time. On the other hand, those recordings (which I still haven't had a chance to hear) could also be read as a necessary destruction of his aesthetic, a very expensive way of deconstructing the remnants of his musical talent. A taking apart of one's materials (blues chords, melodies) so as to avoid any further commodification. (Litmus Press, 2005). Thankfully, the list goes on for a very long time.

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