Guitarist of the month: Syd Barrett
Beat Instrumental #57, October 1967
Most guitarists start their musical career on piano. But not Syd Barrett. He launched out on a banjo. ‘I’m not quite sure why,’ he says, ‘it just seemed a good idea at the time. I picked it up in a second-hand shop and plunked away quite happily for about six months. Then I decided to get a guitar. The first one was a #12 Hofner acoustic which I kept for a year. Then I joined a local Cambridge group called Geoff Mott and the Mottos and splashed out on a Futurama 2. At the time I thought it was the end in guitars. Fantastic design and all that. Incidentally, Geoff Mott was a great singer…. wonder what happened to him?
‘We did a lot of work at private parties. And some of out material was original, but mostly we stuck to Shadows’ instrumentals and a few American songs. ‘Eventually the group dissolved and I moved into the blues field, this time playing bass. It was another Hofner, and I played that for a couple of years. One day I met a guy called Roger Waters who suggested that when I come up to a London Art School we got together and formed a group. This I did, and became a member of the ‘Abdabs. I had to buy another guitar because Roger played bass, a Rickenbacker, and we didn’t want a group with two bass players.
‘So I changed guitars, and we started doing the pub scene. During that period we kept changing the name until we ended up with the Pink Floyd. I’m not sure who suggested it or why, but it stuck. A couple of months ago, I spashed out a couple of hundred on a new guitar, but I still seem to use that first one. (Julien’s note: The guitar was Syd’s famed Fender Esquire Telecaster) It’s been painted several times, and once I even covered it in plastic sheeting and silver discs. Those discs are still on the guitar, but they tend to look a bit worn. I haven’t changed anything on it, except that I occasionally adjust the pickups when I need a different sound.
‘Who are my idols? Well, Steve Cropper is an obvious choice, and so is Bo Diddley. In the old days, he was a great influence on both me and the group. No, I don’t think they influence me now. At least, I’m not conscious of it. Apart from being a good guitarist, I don’t really have any ambitions…. yet! I haven’t been in the business that long’.