"The lunatic is in my head"
Blogger-Slogger has done its dastardly deeds upon me yet again. I was all set to include a cool illustration here, but there is apparently yet another bug which is preventing me from posting it here. In the meantime, I am just posting this piece sans illustration, and hopefully will be able to add it in later. Sigh....
As the Fourth was my birthday, I decided to have a fireworks show in my brain by injesting some herbal supplements and listening to Pink Floyd's 1973 opus The Dark Side of the Moon,--the second-best selling album of all time, worldwide. Along with PF's Wish You Were Here and Meddle, it was in heavy rotation on my personal soundtrack for many a bong-induced bacchanalian college romp.
Even after 30 years, I find the album breathtaking, straight or stoned. What struck me most this time around, though, was how Clare Torrey's incomparable pre-Mariah, post-Arethra vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky seemed to perfectly mimic the majestic meanderings of a classic blues-tinged guitar riff. It sounded for all the world as if some fallen angel was alternately lamenting for and raging at her sad fate.
Syd Barrett, mentally ill acid casualty/musical genius, and one of the founding members of this legendary psychedelic/prog rock group, was the driving force behind Pink Floyd when the band was formed in 1965. But Barrett, whose behavior had become increasingly bizarre, was for all intents and purposes eased out of the group by '67-68. Stories, both verified and apocryphal, abound concerning his antics. From Wikipedia's article on Barrett:
"On one famous occasion, he refused to mime his performance for an apprearance on the Pat Boone TV show, and stood stock still, his arms limp by his sides, staring fixedly into the camera. In another well-known incident, shortly before going on stage, Syd crushed up the entire contents of a bottle of Mandrax tranquilizer tablets, mixing them with a large quantity of Brylcreem hair cream; he then placed the mixture on top of his head and as he played under the hot stage lights, the viscous mixture softened and began to ooze down his head, giving the appearance that his face was melting."
Forget Janet Jackson's nipple--now this, my friends, is what we call entertainment!
The mystique surrounding Barrett--and his short-lived but wildly experimental and influential musical career--endures today. As Wikipedia notes:
"Although his activity in pop music was short, his influence on 1960s artists (and those of successive generations), especially Pink Floyd, has been profound. Through his acoustic solo albums, he is cited as the first psych folk artist by many....Syd was one of the most original lyricists of his day and was also an innovative guitarist, being one of the first to fully explore the sonic possibilities of distortion and especially the recently-developed echo machine."
Dark Side of the Moon, which was peppered with such hits as Money, Time, and Us and Them, is one of several Pink Floyd recordings that are haunted by the ghost of Barrett. Again, from Wikipedia (I'm quoting them a lot, but you just can't get any better than this):
"Syd's decline was to have a profound effect on Gilmour and Waters' [Pink Floyd members] songwriting, and the theme of mental illness and the shadow of Syd's disintegration permeate all three of Pink Floyd's most successful albums. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall. ...Roger Waters drew on Syd's departure and condition as a major inspiration for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973)."
On a more metaphyical plane, there is a popular theory abroad about an alleged connection between The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. This synchronicity, called Dark Side of the Rainbow, occurs when the album is played as a "soundtrack" to the movie.
But wait: there's more...much more. See Wikipedia's excellent articles on :
Pink Floyd trivia
Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here
Asperger's Syndrome, which some speculate that Barrett suffers from.
The title of this post is taken from Dark Side of the Moon's song Brain Damage.