Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Syd Barrett. A very irregular head
Syd Barrett (1946 - 2006) is surrounded by so many myths, that at least half of them could be demythified (not a word, is it?), and that´s just what Rob Chapmann seems to be doing in his book "Syd Barrett. A very irregular head" (Faber 2010).
I like the way he describes the man behind the myths, and the way he places Barrett´s life and his work (music, lyrics, "hobby" painting) in his time and culture. Barrett was a good looking psychedelic rocker, Pink Floyd member on their first albums and with two solo albums out (that totally got me in the early 70s), before he left the rock circus to try to live in peace in Cambridge.
Of course stories and myths are built around such a man, but Chapman questions the level of Barrett´s madness in the Floyd period, and kills some of the crazy stories about the man, a couple of which he takes the blame for!
Some of the strongest parts of the book are about the life of a lonesome man, trying to get away from downright stupid fans and evil press people, while the family and neighbors try to protect him.
Since this is a Wyatt (and stuff) blog, let me mention citations (good index!) from Soft Machine members (Robert Wyatt included) who actually played on the first solo album ("The Madcap Laughs"), Fred Frith and Kevin Ayers. Kevin Ayers had plans to start a band with Syd Barrett and wrote "Oh wot a dream" for him.
Syd Barret´s lyrics was inspired by old nursery rhymes and poems, and every chapter of this book starts with parts of "The wind in the willow" by Kenneth Grahame. "A very irregular head" used in the book title, is the way Barrett described himself to the photographer Mick Rock.
Enough, just read the book!
And another book on Syd Barrett will be released this autumn, coffee table format and lots of illustrations too, and called nothing but "Barrett".