SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND: Roger "Syd" Barrett, the troubled former lead singer and songwriter of Pink Floyd died last Friday at the Cambridgeshire home to which he retreated as a recluse more than 30 years ago. It has been reported that he died from complications related to diabetes or cancer. Barrett named the band, which became a favorite in the underground movement, playing at such prominent venues as the UFO club, the Marquee Club and the Roundhouse. You can see rare live (and a little NSFW) footage from the UFO club in a video featuring "Interstellar Overdrive" and dedicated to Barrett. He wrote the band's first hit singles, "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play." The band's debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, predominantly written by Barrett, is considered to be a prime example of British psychedelic music, and is still viewed as one of the better debut albums by many critics. But Barrett quickly grew to hate playing note-perfect renditions of the pop hits live, leaned further in favor of trippier, freer-form numbers like "Astronomy Domine" and began to publicly lash out at record-company executives who were pressing him for more commercial material. Barrett infamously suffered from a psychedelic-drug induced breakdown in late 1967, though many think that the drugs aggravated a pre-existing condition, possibly schizophrenia. You can see him struggling through the "Jugband Blues" video from this period. In January 1968, Barrett was replaced by the band with his old Cambridge chum David Gilmour.
Barrett had a brief solo career, releasing two solo albums in 1970 -- The Madcap Laughs and Barrett --with production help from Gilmour and Roger Waters. However, much of the material was drawn from late '66 to mid-'67, as his mental health continued to decline, as demonstrated in a rare 1971 interview. Barrett's fate nevertheless continued to haunt Pink Floyd, as material on their greatest works, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall all deal with mental breakdown, with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" expressly written as a tribute and elegy. You can see Roger Waters talk about "Crazy Diamond" and the rest of the band talk about Syd in the opening segment of VH1's Legends documentary on Pink Floyd, which also has loads of Syd bio. (Part Two charts Syd's rapid rise and the start of his fall; Part Three covers his accelerating decline during Pink Floyd's first -- and truncated -- US tour, followed by his replacement with Gilmour.) Barrett continued to live as a recluse in Cambridge, indifferent to the Pink Floyd reunion for the Live 8 concert last summer. Gilmour, Floyd's original managers and others all talked about Barrett with the Independent to mark his 60th birthday in January. Tributes from David Bowie, Graham Coxon and more began to be issued as news of Barrett's death became public. Obviously, there's plenty of early Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett getting posted on music blogs streamable via the Hype Machine.
GUIDED BY VOICES: At the GbV database,Robert Gray has a nifty compilation of rare and unreleased GbV radio sessions, broadcasts, and interviews. You can stream a sampler from the Captain's Dead blog. From the sampler, I would pick the roaring "Watch Me Jumpstart," the early take of of "Bulldog Skin" and the unplugged "Surgical Focus," but you really need to go to the first link to download "Alone, Stinking and Unafraid."
STOLEN BEATLES TAPES contained more than 200 one-off performances and unique covers, including Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" and Bob Dylan's "Blowing In The Wind," according to court testimony from original Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall.
TOP DEBUT ALBUMS, according to Uncut magazine.
TOP SOPHOMORE ALBUMS are discussed on the Rolling Stone blog.
BONO has come under fire from left-wing political activists after investing in a video game which depicts Venezuela in a negative light.
TILLY AND THE WALL, recently featured on All Things Considered, gets some print from the L.A. Daily News, with Nick White declaring that "putting the records on the Internet was probably the best idea (label) Team Love has had yet." You can download the whole album for free via the label's website. You can see the video for "Bad Education" on YouTube or stream some from the Hype Machine.
PITCHFORK INFINITE MIXTAPE adds Girl Talk's "Smash Your Head to the prior list of 21 free MP3s. A little too dance-rap for me, but YMMV.
KINKY FRIEDMAN will be allowed to appear on Texas election ballots as Richard "Kinky" Friedman, the state's top election official said on Monday.
SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE: At Timedoor, Enik shares memories and versions of the REM hit, including a cover by former REM producer Mitch Easter.
MY SPACE: The social networking site, which has become a haven for bands as well as teens, due to its free music streaming capabilities, now has more traffic than Yahoo e-mail and Google.
PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer's latest BBC interview can be seen in three parts via YouTube. Meanwhile, the supposedly sober supermodel was partying hearty on a trip to the Maldives, much to the chagrin of traveling companion (and Jude Law ex) Sadie Frost. The trip was previously rumored as having a detoxing element.
TOM-KAT UPDATE: According to the ever-reliable National Enquirer Cruise and Holmes have been fighting over the Tom-Kitten's naming ceremony. Cruise has been demanding a Church of Scientology ceremony, natch, while Holmes is insisting that she be baptized as a Catholic. So they will do both, supposedly. There are more problems with the Tom-Kitten's birth certificate. And Variety has to write about Paramount's reluctance to sign a new, rich production deal with Cruise's company without using phrases like "PR poison" and "crazy train."
PIRATES: The opening of Dead Man's Chest reminded a Hollywood screenwriter to sue pretty much everyone involved with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for copyright infringement. Otherwise, he might have forgotten about the original, which grossed over 300 million domestically.
SUPERMAN RETURNS, BUT MAYBE NOT AGAIN, unless the movie grosses 200 million in the US.
BRADGELINA: Jolie's still-estranged father, Jon Voight, has yet to see his granddaughter Shiloh outside the pages of People magazine. You figure he sends someone else to get the magazine, right? How sad would it be to see Voight standing in the checkout lane of some grocery store, ponying up his buck-fifty?
LINDSAY LOHAN is creating a new book of sexy photographs of herself -- suggesting she has become Darth Lohan and apprentice to Madonna. Meanwhile, MiceAge has gossip on La Lohan's 20th birthday party at Disneyland: "Between the obvious smell, rude behavior and the snotty attitude the entire party displayed, there were very few Lindsay Lohan fans working at Disneyland by the end of that night..."
BRITNEY SPEARS has quashed reports she was planning to quit the music business. I didn't report them here, as it was too good to be true.
JESSICA SIMPSON: The pneumatic blonde claims that she has had "no dates" since her break with Nick Lachey. Which presumably means that she distinguishes between a date and shagging Adam Levine or Jude Law at the Chateau Marmont.
ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. has psychic powers that allow him to dream about film projects years before they become reality. If had those powers about the rest of his life, he might have avoided that whole madly-addicted, waking up in a skeevy hotel room with someone dressed as Wonder Woman phase. BTW, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is on cable "on demand" now, so look for it.
EVA LONGORIA: The Desperate Housewife has some sort of cosmetics deal with L'Oreal, iirc, so they could use these "before" pictures to show how good you can look with the make-up.
THE FRENCH HOTEL is reportedly giving up sex for a year. And the "ding" you just heard was the timer on her 15 minutes.
MISCHA BARTON: The former O.C. hottie has enrolled in acting classes at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I heard it was a suggestion from Sir Richard Attenborough.
ERNEST AND BERTRAM: Suppressed by lawyers' threats years ago, this controversial documentary spoof has resurfaced on YouTube.
WHEW: After train bombings killed 160 in Bombay (which might have an al Qaeda connection) and learning that an alleged plot to bomb New York transit tunnels had an al-Qaeda connection, the train derailment and fire on Chicago's Blue Line was a bit disconcerting, particularly on an 11th. Fortunately, there appears to be no terror angle.
THE MILITARY IN THE MEDIA: The New York Times recently ran a story claiming that recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military," based on a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in turn claimed that the numbers could run into the thousands. Working backwards, if you read the report, you will find little basis to conclude that the number is in the thousands. Moreover, Scott Barfield, the Defense Department investigator quoted by both the SPLC and the NYT, is actually discussing 320 soldiers identified over 4 years as gang members, mostly from street gangs like the Gangster Disciples and Latin Kings, which are not known as white supremacist groups. So there's little to no evidence of thousands of neo-Nazis signing up to fight in a war that most of them probably think is a war fought for the Jews they hate. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command admits there are gang members in the military, but claims the number is not significant in a million-man Army. Barfield himself said he knows of a gang member who fought valiantly in Iraq as an Army Pvt. Sgt. 1st Class Domingo Ruiz is a former Coney Island Cobra who apparently served well in Mosul. Conversely, we have yet to hear of gang members being involved in the cases of war crimes currently under investigation and prosecution. The increase in cases of waivers for enlistees with a criminal record -- generally misdemeanors -- may be due in part to screening applicants more closely than ever, requiring a national electronic fingerprint check for every applicant and searching sex offender databases. So gang members in the Army may be a problem, but it's not clear that they are a big problem, let alone the neo-Nazi threat claimed by the NYT.
A GREEN SEA TURTLE had to be rescued in Hawaii due to flatulence.
MICE ARE BRED WITH ARTIFICIAL SPERM, but defects mean the technique is still too risky for humans. Which is okay, as we could always use more mice.
PET HOARDING, WITH A TWIST: Police in Dover, MD, went to a home to remove about 110 cats and three dogs -- the decomposing 84-year-old mother found in a large blue tupperware container was just a bonus. (Thanks, Dad!)
MOJO THE POLICE DOG: You can try to beat him with an iron bar, but he knows where to take a bite out of crime.