Enigmas are only satisfying if they’re solved in the end, which is why the Syd Barrett story, like a murder mystery with the last page torn out, is a mass of frustrations. Those dark, reclusive decades after he blankly cut short his final show with Stars in 1972 and wafted away from music to paint abstracts at his mother’s house in Cambridge remain secretive, his broken psyche remains un-probed and unexplained.
This workaday 2001 Omnibus documentary adds nothing to our knowledge of Syd’s wilderness years, but does paint a vivid portrait of an artist built to shatter. There’s footage of him wearing mushrooms on his eyes during his first madcap acid trip and photos of his disturbing teenage artworks, early signs that drug culture was to be a liberating, but ultimately destructive force for a somewhat tormented talent.
The best value here is in the dissections of classics like Bike by Graham Coxon and Robyn Hitchcock, hilarious tales of painting himself into his bedroom from old landlords, and the fascinating interviews with Gilmour, Mason, Wright and Waters – all included in full as extras – detailing the trip that sent Syd over the edge, his meltdown during the See Emily Play sessions, his more disturbed live performances and his bloated appearance, unannounced, at the recording of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Floyd’s grandiose tribute to him. Having shunned talk of Floyd in his later years, it’s perhaps this track that prompted Syd himself to declare the doc “a bit noisy”.