Written before his final departure – update to follow…….
Out of here.
I started writing this with one eye on the reality TV show ‘Jungle – I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, thinking about Syd, again. It strikes me there is some analogy here of what he experienced in the surreality of his life. In many ways, in many eyes, Syd became a celebrity and wanted out. Celebrity came to him through his looks, his charm, his intelligence, his talents and skill; but somehow amongst the mayhem of his success, he over-balanced. Sensitivity and heightened sensation, paranoia, confusion, ego and inertia, caused him ultimately to withdraw inside himself, to escape attention, to get out of here – the real jungle outside, inside.
My story with Syd started somewhere in the mid-sixties, sharing with many others a home in Cromwell Road. To some, this is a place of alarming mythology. To me it was both home, and centre of creativity, filled with many amazing and wondrous events and beings, of whom Syd was one of the most charismatic. Magnetic and edgy, provocative, stimulating and fun, but even then already both wanting to be the focus of attention, and needing to stay behind a locked door to escape it. By the start of 1969 we were living in the home in Earls Court I still live in today 35 years on, and whilst I haven’t had any contact with him for over two decades or so, the echoes of his life still ripple through mine, constantly. The floor-boards of his room, now my studio, are long covered over, but I’ve often had his pilgrims at my door.
They’ve come from Denmark, Yugoslavia, Australia, expecting to find I don’t know what, lured by the music and the myth, sometimes on their own or in groups. I’ve had Lithuanians quote his words to me and Italians play me their musical tributes; many demands for history, anecdote and information over years; even an American request to perform two Syd Barrett songs in the place where they were created (I buried myself in my computer for that encounter, but did appreciate the chocolates sent to me from Colorado as a thank you more than 5 years later). Bizarre occurrences, yet sometimes the odd bit of inspired outcome, such as an English ‘house’ version of Syd’s ‘No Use Trying’. His output, though small, has a potency that seemingly still reaches out across continents to touch minds in new generations constantly. Whilst the myths surrounding his departure to a place we hope provides him with more inner peace are tinged with the sadness at the loss of his light, undoubtedly there was a magic to the man that lingers in many consciousnesses still.
The photographs in the exhibition last year at Zoltar the Magnificent by Mick Rock captured him at a point when his departure wouldn’t be too far away. Huddled in my brown herringbone double-breasted Brick Lane bought “Demob’ over-coat, too small for him, in his pink-velvet trousers he sits dishevelled on the turquoise and orange striped floor, Iggy naked as she frequently was in the background. They stir distant memories in me now. Living with Syd was a mixed blessing. Likewise, living with the on-going mythology of his life, as it was and must be for him.
Creativity always comes at a price. The artist’s requirement for solitude is in constant conflict with the performer’s need for an audience. Appreciation and rejection add to the tension. Stimulation overload imploding as the subject becomes the object of other’s mythology at the expense and confusion of it’s own sense of self. Celebrity may be a by-product of success, fortune a reward, but maintaining balance in the eye of the storm, possibly just the luck of the draw. For in reality, we are all celebrities to ourselves in the jungles of our own imaginations, and like the game show some will last to the end, and some won’t. And some like Syd, leaving behind the mediated reflections and echoes of their lives, will exit into ‘No Man’s Land’,
Duggie Fields, May 2003./jan2004