Vegetable Man, Where Are You?

12 Jun

I spent a good part of the day wandering around various North Fork farm stands and flower stalls.  I’m still compulsively memorizing all the Victorian meanings of flowers from that book I’ve previously told you about.  I’m pretty good with remembering definitions, but I’m massively unschooled in what the actual flowers look like.   Even common plants elude me.  Although I can tell you with certainty that a tansy (with a ‘t’) means ‘I declare war on you,’ I am just as sure to misidentify a pansy — even though I can tell you it means ‘think of me.’

My current fascination is really out of character.   I’m not someone who plants things.   I hate bugs and dirt and worms.  The meanings behind the plants that the bugs and dirt and worms surround at least give me a reason to try to overcome my squeamishness.   I’m guessing that this phase might not last too long, but I’m simultaneously hoping I’m wrong.

All of this is true but is just a prelude to what I really want to discuss:  Syd Barrett.   It’s about time Syd made an appearance, huh?  One of the original members of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett was one of the most remarkable musicians in all of rock music.  It was Syd who defined Pink Floyd’s early sound and their first thoroughly revolutionary album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was Syd through and through.  And through.

It’s hard to envision that the person who wrote almost all their material would no longer be a real member of the band by the second album, but that’s what doing a lot of LSD will do.  Syd’s behavior was becoming increasingly more erratic and pretty soon the band declared he was no longer a member.  Depending on what you believe, he was either schizophrenic, mentally unsound or just reclusive.  After Pink Floyd, he did release a couple of solo records but most of the material was written during his tenure with them.  He really had largely shut down by the time the split had occurred.

For the next 30 years, there was always some dabbling in the music world but none of it took.  He moved home with his mother, painted and gardened and shut out the world.  I wonder if Pink Floyd always suspected that he might one day return to what he was.   “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” are just two of their tributes to Syd.  In any case, he was a crazy diamond who died at age 60 leaving a lot of unanswered questions.

There are so many absolutely brilliant Syd Barrett songs I could pick but I’m going to go with the super psychedelic “Vegetable Man.”  It was supposed to be on Pink Floyd’s second album but wasn’t released.  Of course as it stands as an unreleased track, it’s not as fully realized or well recorded as the singles from the Piper at the Gates of Dawn album (“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play”) but it does go perfectly with my plant-obsessive day, no?

I’m also including another version of it by The Soft Boys because that’s a fabulous version (a) and (b) their production shows off the song really well.

Okay, while you’re downloading, I’m going to go eat some fresh-off-the-plant strawberries.  Not surprisingly, strawberries mean ‘perfection.’   Don’t believe me?  Send me some lavender (‘mistrust’).  Sick of me yet?  Yellow carnations.  (‘disdain’).  But beware (oleander), you already know I am familiar with tansies.

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