A similar mischief drives the disc’s quietest and most devastating composition, “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives.” A decade before the song came out, its subject, Pink Floyd’s first stoned singer, conspicuously disappeared from public life. Treacy knows where to find him: Cambridge. He probably heard some rumors on the King’s Road, but the point is not the disturbing accuracy of the story. The young artist intends to transcribe the modern legend, weaving threads of psychedelia, English rural fantasy and the innocence of fandom. A child’s voice responds to the teenage speaker of the song, who describes Barrett’s “little house”, his “little pet dog”, and “a little pet mouse”. During his visits, he and the rock star “have tea on Sundays, sausages and beans.” Treacy continues: “he was once very famous / and nobody knows if he’s alive.” The boy yells: “We do it!”
Addiction and depression led Treacy to struggle in his career, but he also chose not to be commercial. A lingering sense of irreverence got him kicked out of a high-profile 1984 tour with David Gilmour; he read the address of Syd Barrett’s house to the crowd. His music became prickly, atmospheric and sad, and he constantly replaced his cleverly played characters with cheeky first-person dispatches of his emotional life. Rather than fight in the trenches of the major labels, he founded a couple of independent labels of his own, Whaam! and later Dreamworld, a DIY business decision that would prove almost as important to the future of indie rock as Treacy’s own compositions. However, the music continued to be fruitful, after the painted word, 90s pop friendly Privilege and the 1992 double album closer to god he scattered the aesthetic seeds of his early work, letting them germinate in distant lands.
Treacy was also deep in her habits. The heroine became the center of her existence, and later in the ’90s, she disappeared as Syd Barett, prompting similar speculation that he might be dead. He went to prison for robbery multiple times and lived on the streets or bumped into friends for long periods. In 2011, just as TV personalities were making a comeback, he nearly died from a blood clot, and his health problems have escalated ever since. According to biographer Benjamin Berton, the 62-year-old singer is currently in a nursing home, where he has limited mobility, vision problems and some memory loss.
Making sense of such a tragedy is foolish, as the angry youths demonstrated, narratives can represent, inspire and activate politically, but they will not reverse the cruelty and cruelty of life. However, Treacy left behind several generations of fans who discovered the many gifts of his work and repackaged them for times to come, squealing like children whenever someone asks them if they know anything about the famous London group Television Personalities: “I’m sorry.” we know!”
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