'Have You Got It Yet?' Can't Solve the Mystery of Syd Barrett, but It's a Noble Attempt

Directed by Storm Thorgerson and Roddy Bogawa

Starring Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, David Gilmour

Photo: Colin Prime

BY Liam McPhersonPublished Aug 23, 2023

"[Syd's] the perfect god, you see. A god must be killed and eaten. But then he must be reborn." — Peter Whitehead

Syd Barrett (real name Roger Keith Barrett), the enigmatic artist and founding frontman of Pink Floyd, died in 2006 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, directed by Storm Thorgerson and Roddy Bogawa, aims to explain Syd's career and reclusive nature through those who knew him best: family and friends.

We follow Syd through his heady early days with Pink Floyd, playing four to five nights a week at London's UFO (pronounced yoo-foh) club. Importantly, Have You Got It Yet? does not lionize Syd, instead taking care to present the man as his real, complex self. While we celebrate with him as he and the band gain a record contract and two UK Top 20 hits within a few months, we also witness him breaking off an engagement to Gala Pinion by dumping soup on her head and shaving off all his hair. 

In the film, the talking head interviews are regularly contrasted with cuts of an actor portraying a young Syd wandering through a forest. Various childhood objects surround the actor, he kicks a teddy bear or two out of the way as he journeys on. These references to his childhood in the forest shots feel like a subtle nod to Syd's loss of innocence, a young man who lost his dad at 15 and grew up too fast, becoming a star at just 20 years old. Moreover, the cuts back and forth between the actor and Syd's loved ones add surreal spice to the storytelling, as well as an undercurrent of poignancy. 

Footage of Syd from the 1960s dominates the first half of the documentary, showing a bright-eyed and boisterous young man. The documentary takes pains to tell viewers just how different the young Syd was from his public image. Contrasted with shots of the young actor, Syd's whimsical compositions (a heavy feature in this film) take on lifelike qualities. Adding his own story as a key ingredient, Have You Got It Yet? raises intriguing questions about just how deeply Syd was moved by the essence of childhood. As we are told about Syd's lyrics, love of children's literary works and disrupted upbringing, one can't help but wonder: did Syd draw on books he read in childhood as a means of clinging to some semblance of normalcy?

Have You Got It Yet?'s latter half walks the audience through Syd's inevitable downfall and departure from Pink Floyd in early 1968. The film loses a bit of momentum along the way, exacerbated by the glaring absence of archival interviews with late Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, whose experiences with Syd are also on record and would have been an illuminating addition. Though Pink Floyd (minus Nick Mason) did assist with the shambolic recording process of Syd's two solo albums, 1970's The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, no one of the band saw him for several years afterwards. 

A disturbing part of the documentary features Syd's former bandmates recounting a spontaneous visit from him one day in 1975. On that day, Pink Floyd just so happened to be recording their tribute to him, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Gradually, the band became aware of his presence in the studio, at first assuming he was someone's friend, or perhaps that he'd wandered in off the street. When Waters realized who it was, it reduced him to tears.

Though this tale has been told in several pieces of media, Have You Got It Yet? stands a cut above using never-before-seen shots of Syd hanging out with his former bandmates in the studio that day. One shows Syd strumming on a Martin acoustic guitar; another shows him reacting as Waters plays. Syd dropped in during those sessions for Wish You Were Here one more time after that; it would be the last time most of the band saw him. 

There is a particular irony in the title of Have You Got It Yet? — and, for those who know the story, it's a plot summary in and of itself. The film gets its name from a song Syd brought to one of his last rehearsals with Pink Floyd, and, much like its namesake, try as the documentary might, it leaves viewers wondering: "Have I got Syd Barrett yet? Will I ever get Syd Barrett?" The film enhances the enigma that is Syd Barrett as much as it explains him to us.

In 2006, aged 60, Syd Barrett died where his story began, in Cambridge, UK. But as Have You Got It Yet? takes pains to tell us, Syd had really died long before. Meanwhile, his body of work, and the question of who he really was, seem to grow bigger and bigger. 

Syd's music will keep him alive long after Roger Keith Barrett's death. We will never fully understand the mystery of Syd Barrett, but Have You Got It Yet? tries honourably.
(Mercury Studios)

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