Syd Barrett’s Last Interview
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Mick Rock/Press
In 1982 Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, who had retired from public life in 1972, had been living in seclusion for closing in on a decade. Unperturbed, French journalists Michka Assayas and Thomas Johnson tracked Barrett down on behalf of Actuel Magazine. Occurring outside of Syd’s mother Winifred Barrett’s house in Cambridge what followed would be the last formal interview Pink Floyd‘s original creative visionary would ever give.
Actuel: I’ve been looking for you. I’ve been to Chelsea, they told me there were some clothes for you and that you were living with your mother.
Syd Barrett: Thanks very much. Do you want some money? Did they pay you?
A: No, no that’s okay. What are you doing now? Do you paint?
S: No. I’ve just had an operation, but nothing too serious. I’m trying to go back down there, but I’ve got to wait. There’s a train strike at the moment.
A: But that’s been over now for several weeks.
S: Oh, good! Thanks very much…
A: What did you do in the apartment in London. Do you play guitar?
S: No, I watch TV, that’s all.
A: Don’t you want to play anymore?
S: No, not really. I don’t have time to do very much. I must find myself a flat in London. But it’s difficult, I’ll have to wait…
[Syd rummages through a bag of his old clothes the journalists have given him and smiles.]
I didn’t think I’d get these things back. And I knew I couldn’t write. I couldn’t have made my mind up to go and get them…To get the train and all that…But then…I didn’t even write to them…Mum said she’d get in touch with the office…Thanks, anyway.
[Syd becomes uncomfortable.]
A: Do you remember [painter and former friend] Duggie Fields?
S: Uh…yes…I never saw him again. I’m not going to see anyone in London.
A: All your friends say hello.
S: Ah thanks…that’s nice…
A: Can I take a photo of you?
S: Yes, sure
Good, that’s enough now. It’s painful for me…Thank you.
[Syd glances away at a nearby tree.]
A: It’s nice, that tree.
S: Yes, but not anymore. They cut it, not long ago Before that I liked it a lot.
[Syd’s mother calls him from inside her house.]
Good…there you are. Maybe we’ll see each other in London. Bye
[The interview ends.]
Barrett would later be approached by a Guardian reporter in 2001 for another attempted interview.
The Guardian: Excuse me! I’m writing a piece about Syd Barrett.
Syd Barrett: Who?’
G: Syd Barrett. He used to be in Pink Floyd.
S: Never heard of ‘im. Is he one of them rappers?
G: No. He was a psychedelic genius. Are you Syd Barrett?
S: Leave me alone. I’ve got to get some coleslaw.
[The interview ends.]
Barrett passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 7, 2006.