Syd Barrett

The Madcap Laughs/Barrett

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By 1974, Syd Barrett had been officially MIA for three years -- the blinking of an eye in modern musical terms, but a lifetime in the early '70s. But rumor, legend, and myth clung to him like a second skin and, in an age when the "rock & roll casualty" was still a creature to be admired, Barrett had few more romantic peers -- nor few louder cheerleaders. A massive retrospective in New Musical Express, the expressed admiration of David Bowie (he covered Barrett's "See Emily Play" on 1973's Pin-Ups), and the sonic success of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon -- all of these things and more contributed to a massive demand for "fresh" product, especially in the U.S., where neither of his solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, had previously seen domestic release, and even Floyd fans regarded him as little more than an obscure curio. This double LP remedied that sad state of affairs. A straightforward repackaging of those two albums, it hit the stores in July 1974 with a "founder member of Pink Floyd" sticker prominently gummed to the front cover -- and made an utterly unanticipated climb to number 163 on the album charts. Furthermore, sufficient quantities were exported to the U.K. to see the album score heavily on local import listings, despite a full British release being a matter of mere months away. Longtime Barrett aficionados, of course, were disappointed by the release -- though they had little evidence to the contrary at that time, the belief was already firmly entrenched that a wealth of outtakes and alternate versions existed in the vaults someplace (this suspicion was finally borne out by 1988's Opel compilation). Neither would the album's success provoke Barrett himself into stirring -- a handful of scarcely enthusiastic recording sessions convened with engineer John Leckie later in the year went nowhere, and Barrett returned to the realm of legend. However, inasmuch as it restored two long-deleted and forever hard to find albums to the shelves, the release of this collection at least gave musical substance to the oral legend, and Barrett could never be described as obscure again.

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