Syd Barrett - Pink Floyd
Credit: Colin Prime/Jill Furmanovsky Archive
Before We Vanish by Ayeen Forootan Featured Film

“Have You Got It Yet?” The Story of Syd Barrett And Pink Floyd — Roddy Bogawa & Storm Thorgerson

July 20, 2023

On July 7th, 2006, Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett died of pancreatic cancer and complications from diabetes at the age of sixty. Although he was the founding member and vocalist of legendary British rock group Pink Floyd, not many people today, outside of the band’s die-hard or older fandom circles, may know exactly who Barrett really was and to what extent his contributions were the driving force and guiding light for the band’s seminal artistic visions. It’s also true that ever since Barrett’s departure from Pink Floyd, the group’s music, indeed, has drastically differed from what listeners found in their most well-known records like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, which means Barrett hasn’t been remembered as much as he should have been. And while such an outcome certainly isn’t fair, it’s understandable to some degree: Syd Barrett’s story is one of those tragic tales of a talented young rock artist who burned out too quickly, and his stardom subsequently waned far sooner than anyone could have expected. Barrett’s legend has become something of a ghost story, and Roddy Bogawa and Storm Thorgerson’s biopic documentary Have You Got it Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd is an admirable effort that intends to explore the life and career of the charismatic, enigmatic, and psychedelic rocker, an assemblage of diverse materials that seeks to shed light on the dark side of Barrett’s psyche.

Roughly structured around five chapters — titled after Barrett’s rock poetry: “Set Control,” “Interstellar,” “Obscured by the Clouds,” “Divided Self,” and “Make Your Name Like a Ghost” — plus an intro and outro, Have You Got it Yet? faithfully chronicles the musician’s biography, from his childhood and teenage years as an “emotionally and intellectually curious” Cambridge fellow, including his initial influences and practices as a guitar player and painter, to his days as a young art student in London where he met classmate Roger Waters and formed Pink Floyd along with Roger Wright and Nick Mason. Typically performing at the famous UFO Club until Barrett’s LSD-induced psychotic breakdown, Pink Floyd was quickly billed as a groundbreaking, multimedia act of rock psychedelia, even as Barrett was subsequently entirely unavailable during the group’s live performances and had to be replaced by his childhood friend, guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour. The film broadly covers all this, along with the stories behind Barrett’s later two solo albums (The Madcap Laughs and Barrett) in 1970, before culminating in the lost and confused rock saint’s final years when he sought complete reclusion and anonymity.

Have You Got it Yet? relies on a bevy of various new talking head conversations: with Barrett’s sister Rosemary Breen, his former bandmates (Waters, Gilmour, and Nick Mason), Pink Floyd managers, other musicians — including The Who’s Pete Townshend, Blur’s Graham Coxon, and The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala, among others) —and even a couple of psychiatrists (whose function here is to detail the effects of psychedelic substances on one’s mind and the relationship between madness and artistic creation). This approach allows Bogawa and Thorgerson to form a kaleidoscopic biographical portrait and comprehensive tribute to Barrett’s legacy. The talking heads are interspersed with old footage of Barrett, a handful of solo and group performances, and a few surrealistic and “re-imagined” interval sequences. Indeed, given that Syd Barrett was a free-spirited and freedom-seeking loner who rarely explained himself, it’s expected that a documentary like Have You Got it Yet? will ultimately lead further into existential questions the more it searches for absolute answers, and this is where the film proves most evocative. In this sense, Bogawa and Thorgerson remain faithful to that which defined Barrett’s iconic cult status, undefinable lyricism, and odd artistic reveries: his ability to find the unusual connections between various ideas to expand one’s psychic capacities and indescribable wonderment in the face of the great unknown.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 28.