“I don’t think I’m easy to talk about. I’ve got a very irregular head. And I’m not anything that you think I am anyway” (Syd Barrett, Rolling Stone, 1971).
Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was the definition of a golden boy. With good looks and an aptitude for music, he was a charismatic child who fast became a teenage leader in 1960s England. Along with three school chums - Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason - he formed what would become Pink Floyd. Starting as a British cover band, they soon pioneered a new sound: British psychedelic rock. With early, trippy, Barrett-penned hits, Pink Floyd captured the zeitgeist of swinging London in all its technicolor glory.
But there was a dark side. Barrett fell in with some hardcore hippies and began taking large quantities of LSD. His already-fragile mental state - most believe him to have been schizophrenic - further unraveled. The once bright-eyed lad was quickly replaced by a sinister, dead-eyed shadow of his former self given to eccentric, reclusive, and sometimes violent behavior. Sacked from the band, Barrett retreated to his mother’s house, where he remained until his death, rarely seen or heard.
A Very Irregular Head lifts the veil of secrecy that has surrounded Syd Barrett for nearly four decades, drawing on exclusive access to family, friends, archives, journals, letters, and artwork to create the definitive portrait of a brilliant, tragic artist. Besides capturing the promise of Barrett’s youth, Chapman challenges the notion that Barrett was a hopelessly lost recluse in his later years and creates a portrait of a true British eccentric who is rightfully placed within a rich literary lineage which stretches through Kenneth Graham, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, John Lennon, David Bowie, and on up to Damon Albarn of Blur.
A tragic, affectionate, and compelling portrait of a singular artist, this will stand as the authoritative word on this very English genius for years to come.
©2010 Rob Chapman (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This is one of the finest biographies about an artist that I have ever read, on par with David Sheppard's Brian Eno bio "On Some Faraway Beach" (no audiobook, sadly), Joyce Johnson's Jack Kerouac bio "The Voice Is All" (excellent audiobook) and Kay Larson's John Cage bio "Where the Heart Beats" (another great audiobook).
This book is lovingly, and exhaustively, researched. Chapman made a concerted effort to separate man from myth. It is part bio and part artistic examination. His assessments on Barrett the artist are well considered. He also pursued new sources from Syd's connections to the London underground, which was surprising, illuminating and wonderful.
No, but Simon Vance was a perfect choice to read this book. He is excellent.
This is the definitive biography on Syd Barrett the man and artist.
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