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 Jugband Blues
The death of a rock star fills me with disgust. Not the kind of disgust that comes from finding old skin mags in your grandfather’s attic – that’s for another article. It comes from the publicity-fuelled bandwagon of shameless leeches that claim to be sorry the poor sod is dead. The main culprit? Those trendy youngsters with long hair and no soul, who live and die by the National Music Express. They only knew the man existed because of the obligatory tribute issue. They will spend the week slouched at their computers, writing empty tributes on MSN Messenger to a musician they never knew or cared about. Tributes that vanish come next week’s issue. That’s the power of journalism for you.

The music press is to blame. They exploit a fucking corpse to shove a black and white photo on their next publication, sell a couple of extra copies, and name check as many living artists as they possibly can in the tribute feature. Just to help them on the way to selling a few more records. We have to watch the press throw the dead body up onto a giant pedestal for a week, waxing lyrical about his wonderful talents, and about how it’s oh-such-a-shame he’s dead. The next week, the corpse starts to stink, just a little bit, and it’s time for something fresh. Dead body thrown off the pedestal, and plummets into the dusty archives of forgotten legends. Bang goes another musical hero.

It would not matter so much if it didn’t feel so forced. The various tribute articles read like they were copied and pasted from Wikipedia. The real problem isn’t that the media drops the rock star retrospective after a week – that is to be expected. The problem is that few of the journalists that write the articles actually care about him. There are no heartfelt tributes to the man or his music in the media. It feels more like an obligation than a genuine mark of respect.

This has all been brought on by the recent death of Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett – the original founder, guitarist and songwriter for Pink Floyd. He was the godfather of psychedelia - a madcap genius, a famed recluse - a rock legend. And, of course, he was the crazy diamond.

It was sickening to read the bland, hollow praise given to a man who had – and still has – such a huge impact on British music. I felt that he should have been given a more fitting tribute – until I realised that the ultimate tribute had already been written.

By Syd.

Solo albums aside, the man left us one main musical work: his magnum opus, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It is through that work that Syd lives on; it is through that work that he is remembered. It was an album that defined the sixties, and helped shaped the future of music for so many artists. David Bowie, John Fruiscante, the Mystery Jets, the Libertines and literally dozens of others have paid Syd respect throughout his life and after his death by citing him and that album as a major influence on their work.

Then there’s the band that Syd left behind: Pink Floyd. Their two most commercially successful albums – Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall – owe many of their themes and concepts to the band’s original frontman and the legacy he left behind. Their album Wish You Were Here is itself a tribute to the man they called the crazy diamond.

And, of course, there is the music. Tribute bands dedicated to Syd-era Pink Floyd still play his material, such as the fantastic Interstellar Overcoat – who played a set in London just the other night at a psychedelic sixties’ club night dedicated to Barrett. Then there is the man who replaced Syd as the Pink Floyd guitarist – his childhood friend David Gilmour, who consistently plays Barrett songs at his solo concerts. He did this as a way to ensure Syd and his family received plenty of royalties; now it’s an even deeper mark of respect. And there are the bands such as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who have played his material in recent concerts after his death. Dozens and dozens of artists, in their own different ways, have paid their respects to Syd all over the world. It’s more than a black and white photograph and the words “rest in peace” will ever do.

All those soulless journalists who think they know how to write with feeling about a man they didn’t know can go fuck themselves. Every time somebody out there – be they a chart topping rock band or a beginner with an acoustic guitar – plays a Syd Barrett song, they are paying him more respect than any article ever could. No words can define the impact he had, or make up for his loss. But the music he left behind can.

Buy Jugband Blues now at Play.com
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