July 30, 2007
“Dark Globe” is the most emotionally devastating song of Syd Barrett‘s short and often brilliant career, in part because it’s the one that most perfectly encapsulates his frail, somewhat child-like expression of both joy and sadness. In the late ’80s, the song became a staple of R.E.M.’s live shows, most often appearing in the second or third encore, just before the end of the night. The band’s version was more streamlined than Barrett’s, translating its peculiar rhythms to a simple, sentimental piano arrangement and a vocal performance by Michael Stipe that was mostly sweet, and occasionally off-key. The studio version sounds a bit dashed off, but nails its emotional tone, particularly in the way Stipe sings the words as though he is the saddest little boy in all of the world. “Won’t you miss me? Wouldn’t you miss me at all?” It’s a bit cartoonish and lacks the context and weight of the Barrett recording, but it’s heartbreaking all the same.