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The Madcap Laughs, Syd Barrett

Capitol Records, January 3, 1970

Track Listing: 1. Terrapin, 2. No Good Trying, 3. Love You, 4. No Man’s Land, 5. Dark Globe, 6. Here I Go, 7. Octopus, 8. Golden Hair, 9. Long Gone, 10. She Took a Long Cold Look, 11. Feel, 12. If It’s In You, 13. Late Night

“And I stood very still by the window sill
and I wondered for those I love still”

-fromLong Gone

The hanging beads were installed between the kitchen and living room in order to infuse a little Greg Brady grooviness to the college apartment. That the beads also served to block the view of the growing pile of dirty dishes in the severely unkept kitchen from the vantage point of the living room was merely a bonus. Johnny Bravo could not have his mind obscured by clouds like kitchen duty or studying or really anything else at the moment. He was tapped out, adrift in a stratosphere of serious contemplation—deliberating what CD to play next—while lounging in the warmth of an illumination brought on by a methodical flow of neon orange lava oozing inside a lamp.

At last, he blinked, which seemed to break a trance that he may very well have been stuck in for years. His eyes actually moved—a good sign—scanning the carpet in front of the stereo, reviewing evidence of recent play: The Beatles, Dylan, The Doors, Neil Young, Roxy Music, more Neil Young.

As if there wasn’t enough already going on in Johnny Bravo’s Center for Critical Thinking, it turns out that choosing the next CD was not the only important task on the docket. A concurrent decision was required on another front, with the outcome dictating proper alignment of a RadioShack TV input adapter whose correct setting depended on whether Johnny would choose to spend the next hour playing Konami’s Blades of Steel on Nintendo or Universal’s Lady Bug on ColecoVision.

“I tattooed my brain all the way”

-fromDark Globe

And the winners … drum roll please … to the sound of an envelope opening too close to a microphone as the obligatory sparkle from a presenter’s sequin dress showers the audience in shimmering silver streams of glitter …

Lady Bug. (No real surprise here as Johnny was so hopped up on Lady Bug of late that he had started seeing visions of the game just about everywhere: in dreams certainly, in car taillights that reminded him of Lady Bug eyes, in grocery store aisles or campus trails that somehow felt like mazes despite not having the hinged-doors that he used so deftly in the game when he made Walter Payton-like moves to dodge would be tacklers or, in this case, menacing-pixelated-scorpion-like thingies.)

“Please leave us here
Close our eyes to the octopus ride!”


To be played to the accompaniment of … Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs. (The buzz of the imaginary crowd suggests some sort of upset. Although he has been a Pink Floyd fan for some time, Johnny’s exposure to Barrett’s solo work was still in its infancy. Still, new love has a tendency to run hot.)

“I really love you and I mean you
The star above you, crystal blue
Well, oh baby, my hairs on end about you”


The buzzkill of coming down: Mulling over the mysteries of Syd in exile, Johnny was left to contemplate the hows and whys of what could have been, and wonder how one explorer could find himself so far gone, so many miles removed from the expedition.

“It’s no good trying to place your hand
Where I can’t see because I understand
That you’re different from me”

-fromNo Good Trying’

Contemplating the causalities of rock and roll is a difficult gig. Blood-stained glasses collected from a sidewalk in front of The Dakota on an incomprehensible December night still remind us that questions without answers are just part of the deal.

“Oh where are you now?”

-fromDark Globe

Syd Barrett did not lack uniqueness. It should not be surprising then that, as far as casualties go, he managed to separate himself from the crowd here too in that he was a casualty who was still very much alive.

“When I live I die!”

-fromNo Man’s Land

When it comes to legend, the penning of history is not always weighted heavily toward accuracy. The version that paints Syd into a corner as a recluse, a mad genius not only holed up in a room but also holed up in his own head, may be an example. But the legend remains. As if in a coma that loved ones could only pretend would one day end, Syd was here but gone.

“She was long gone, long, long gone”

-fromLong Gone

Whatever the complete untold story of Syd Barrett may one day reveal, the condensed version will probably always go something like this: wildly-imaginitive-musician-turned-mythical-recluse-turned-painter. Forever the artist, forever his art.

“I can make you smile”

-fromNo Man’s Land

Mythology has a knack for monopolizing the last word. And so, overshadowing a rich, playfully intricate, condensed but no less influential musical legacy, a complacent image settles like soot. A sweet soul simply slips away, departing for reasons unknown.

“I’ve left my room”

-fromGolden Hair