Saturday, July 15, 2006

Jeremy Harding on Syd Barrett

Last Thursday, I searched the LRB archives in vain for this article. It is clear that the editors have since made a decision to put it online, and -- even more to the point -- have made it available for free without subscription. Full article at link.


...Barrett's afternoonishness was far more supple and engaging. It superimposed the hippie cult of eternal solstice on the pre-teatime daydreams of one's childhood, occasioned by a slick of sunlight on a chest-of-drawers or a snatch of plainsong in the radiator - a daydream that quickly filled with gaudy archetypes and very private, custom-built creations. Barrett's songs are full of both: bog-standard gnomes on the one hand, homeless mice called 'Gerald' on the other. His afternoonishness is lit by an importunate adult intelligence that can't quite get back to the place it longs to be.

Remarkably, Barrett created the same, precocious longing in adolescents who heard his music at the time. I remember 'See Emily Play' drifting across a school corridor in 1967 - I was 15 then - and I remember the powerful wish to stay suspended indefinitely in that music, just as I wanted to hang about for ever in another, much darker song of the same period, 'My Eyes Have Seen You', by the Doors. I also remember the quasi-adult intimation that this wasn't possible. Which may have been why the first strains of 'Emily', even then, marked the onset of sulkiness and regret; the thing you adored was eluding you even as you heard it. Roll on teatime...


Brownie said...

Syd was a legend.
Apologies for not swinging by for a while - I have not been having 'blog leisure time', as moving house has been grueling and I will never do it again.
Best regards.

Miss Templeton said...

I'm in full sympathy of that! Just getting back into the habit of blogging myself. But now the daytime temperature limits my online times to the evenings. Will stop over by yours for a visit directly.