One Song/Three Versions – Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

I think everybody knows that this song is about Syd Barrett, the madman founder of Pink Floyd. The usual combination of drugs and madness (schizophrenia?) did him in and he lasted in his own band no longer than 2 – 3 years.

Interestingly, Wikipedia details a strange visit by Barrett to the studio sometime around when Floyd were recording this song. He had gained weight, was bald and it took them a long time to figure out who he even was.  A sad and decidedly awkward situation for all concerned.

Floyd recorded “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” for their 1975 (was it that long ago?) album Wish You Were Here. It’s a longer song than I usually post, maybe ten minutes although the whole thing on the album is somewhat of a suite.

You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on
You stranger

You legend
You martyr
And shine!

What really triggered this post for me was hearing Irish singer Christy Moore’s version. I was playing this on my computer and my wife heard it and said “Who’s that?” She knows this song well and it really caught her attention. It’s just him and his (very Irish) voice and guitar. As one commenter said, he really brings out the sadness and compassion in the song. Sometimes a singer causes you to hear a song you’re familiar with as if for the very first time. This is one of those:

I always like to hear women sing something a guy has already sung as when I did my post on Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” This time it’s singer Kendra Morris whose version was used for a movie called Dead Man Down. Apparently the song was the best thing about the movie. Some nice guitar on this one as well as her haunting voice.

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

On Barrett’s death in 2006, guitarist David Gilmour said, “We are very sad to say that Roger Keith Barrett – Syd – has passed away. Do find time to play some of Syd’s songs and to remember him as the madcap genius who made us all smile with his wonderfully eccentric songs about bikes, gnomes and scarecrows. His career was painfully short, yet he touched more people than he could ever know.”

Well you wore out your welcome with random precision
Rode on the steel breeze.

Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter
You piper
You prisoner
And shine!


19 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Shine On You Crazy Diamond

  1. First album I ever bought, along with Houses of the Holy at a Brighton record store. Great memories of playing my Pink Floyd to death. The two first bands that I truly loved and that got me listening to music SERIOUSLY were Led Zep and the Floyd.

    Haven’t played my Floyd albums much at all recently, though the one I put on most frequently is Meddle, as my profile gives away 😉


    1. Interesting. I hadn’t really thought about what got me listening seriously as you put it. Maybe Cream. Love to hear your take on alternate versions of this song. For the record. I also need to give your McGarrigle (and others) post a listen. Will likely do that tonight.


  2. Oh yeah, I did like both covers actually, especially that Kendra Morris one. She kinda converted it to deep soul; made me think of Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul ;).

    As for the McGarrigle sisters, I’m glad I found them but it’s just such a crying shame that virtually none of their albums are easily available or cheap. Thanks for checking it out, though.


  3. Nice words from Gilmour, he used to do (still does?) a pretty nice version of Syd’s Terrapin live.


      1. No no, I meant the 2006 quote that you featured in the article, not the song’s lyrics. 😀


    1. So yeah, i like what Gilmour does with that song. But I confess I am not familiar with it. The original is from Syd’s solo album, yeah? I’ve never heard it. Is it good?


  4. It’s from The Madcap Laughs, his first solo album (he would release two, both in 1970). I personally am a big fan of his solo career, it’s different than Piper – more low-key, more acoustic, more abstract and weird but if you’re a fan of his Pink Floyd stuff I’m sure you’ll find plenty to like in the two albums.


    1. I listened to ‘Madcap’. You’re right, it’s pretty good. Much more in an ‘Arnold Layne’ or ‘See Emily Play’ vein than later Floyd. Kind of like a twisted Ray Davies if you will. I notice that Waters and Gilmour produced a couple of numbers, this after kicking him out of the band. Wonder how that went down? Some of the vocals have that Waters pleading vocal sound from The Wall. Tribute to Syd? BTW, somebody in the comment section on this said S)hine on Y)ou Crazy D)iamond. Syd. Reading too much into it?


        1. Interesting. What do you think about my comparison of Syd’s vocals on some of this album to Waters’ on The Wall? It sounds to me like he was consciously aping him.


  5. I actually noticed that too! Especially on Dark Globe. You’re spot-on.


  6. Never heard these other versions. I will check them out. Bought Syd’s two solo albums combined in a double album when I was a trouble maker. Listened to them a lot. Dave sings Terrapin like he was there. Oh, he was. Love it. Never heard it before. Love Syd, Love Floyd. Especially this early stuff


    1. Yeah, some other commenters mentioned Syd’s early stuff. Wasn’t all that familiar with it. Checked it out. Good stuff. You’re heading to a Floyd series on my blog (April) that was pretty well discussed. Hope you dig it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool on the Floyd blog.. I really like Syd. He was an original. Not everyone’s cup a tea. After discovering ‘Meddle’ I went back and devoured all the PF I could get. ‘Relics’ and the rest. Then finding Syd’s stuff. Striped down. Even back in the day i somehow heard he was dealing with issues. Knowing that you can hear it in the music he made. Kinda sad.


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