‘It was kind of tragic': David Gilmour on joining Pink Floyd as his friend Syd Barrett faltered

When David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in January 1968, it wasn’t simply to become their frontman and guitarist. It was, for all intents and purposes, to replace his school-boy friend — the increasingly drug-addled and mentally unstable Syd Barrett. Even so, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up.

“I was 21, and one is fairly ambitious,” Gilmour says, as part of an unedited bonus interview on the newly released Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story via Eagle Rock. “You want to get on with stuff. That sort of offer is a very hard one to turn down. And, logically speaking, it wasn’t working. Syd was not performing at all on stage. It was kind of tragic. I don’t suppose I saw any option, but to just do the best that I could. I’m sure we were all full of some sort of guilt, and remained that way for a long time.”

Initial talk among original members Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright had them retaining Barrett in a back-channel role. The five-man lineup actually pieced together June 1968’s brilliant Saucerful of Secrets, featuring a final original track from Barrett, before abandoning the idea altogether.

“There was discussion that he would eventually sort of stay home, being a Brian Wilson sort of writing character, and we’d continue using his material,” Gilmour says. “I would be the frontman, on stage. But it wasn’t really workable. The notion passed by very quickly. In fact, I think there were only five gigs, as I remember it, where there was the five of us played together. Then we ceased to go pick him up.”

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