Syd Barrett Melts Brylcreem in His Hair Onstage
Classic rock juggernaut Pink Floyd was originally, without question, Syd Barrett's band. He wrote 10 out of 11 songs on Floyd's landmark debut Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and his haunting vocals and experimental guitar work (on the mono mix of Piper, you can hear him rolling ball bearings down the strings of his guitar) made the album an arresting masterpiece. But almost as soon as he arrived on the British rock scene, he became its most famous acid casualty. Frequent use of LSD rendered him unable to function, particularly in live performance with the band. He'd spend entire concerts playing one chord, de-tuning his guitar and, most memorably, melting an entire tube of Brylcreem in his hair under a stage light. Audiences thought all this was funny, but his fellow band members were incensed, particularly fledgling control-freak Roger Waters, Floyd's bassist.
The band brought in David Gilmour as a second guitarist; soon to be its only guitarist. Barrett contributed only one song to Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, called "Jugband Blues," which saw Barrett sadly acknowledging his gradual ouster from the band by singing, "It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here. And I'm much obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here." The band officially terminated Barrett in April 1968, but to their credit, Waters and Gilmour attempted to assist Barrett as he began recording his first solo album the following month. The result, the aptly titled The Madcap Laughs, was packed with great songs and performances but Barrett's singing and songwriting had become even more harrowing. A second, final solo album followed before Barrett dropped out of sight forever. Decades passed with no word from him as his former band became a massively successful arena act. When Barrett died of pancreatic cancer in 2006 it felt strange, as in a way he was already long gone.