It's titled 'The Big Barrett Conspiracy Theory' and dated 2010-06-26.
Being in doubt whether I should buy Rob Chapmans' 'Irregular Head' book, this review confirms my expectation that book contains a lot of bad writing. The book contains some unique material, like letters from Syd, but I'd rather have a book with solely such material - instead of having to take pearls out of the dirt.
As the review reveals, Rob Chapman nearly literally copies 7 pages of information from a 12 page essay titled 'Untangling the Octopus', written in 2005 by Paul Belbin. The review mentions that Chapman neglects to mention the source of his findings.
Untangling the Octopus v2 (2006 version, PDF file)
Untangling The Octopus (2009 version, published by Julian Palacios)
A quote from the review, about Chapman seeing a conspiracy:
A recording studio is not a rehearsal room. Barrett wasn't behaving like a professional artist anymore.Chapman more or less suggests that, over the years, there has been a Big Barrett Conspiracy going on, claiming that Syd went mad while he was just being artistically misunderstood. It is obvious that Waters, Mason and Wright, and to a lesser extent Gilmour, were behind the conspiracy. They quit their studies and promising architectural career to follow the narrow path of psychedelic pop music and when money was finally starting to come in a whimsical Barrett wanted to turn the clock back [...] and concentrate on experiment again (proto-Floyd members Bob Klose and Chris Dennis had left the band in the past just because their profession stood in the way). Chapman doesn't even try to hide his disgust for post-Syd Floyd, but more about that later.
What is less understandable is that Peter Jenner and Andrew King are part of the conspiracy as well, because when Syd and Pink Floyd went separate ways, they choose to manage Syd instead of following the goose with the golden eggs. Jenner assisted Barrett during his first batch of sessions for The Madcap Laughs (1968) but commented later that these were 'chaos'. The sessions had been going on from May till July and Jenner reported that they weren't getting anywhere.
Chapman disagrees, he states that during the 6 studio sessions in 1968 Barrett recorded half a dozen of rough tracks dispelling the myth of a 'muse run dry'. I count 9 sessions, by the way, making Barrett's tracks per sessions ratio one third less performing as Chapman wants us to believe, but that is not the issue here. The main problem is not that Barrett was out of songs. [...] The main problem with Barrett was that the songs never outgrew the rehearsal or demo stadium. Simply said: Barrett wasted a lot of studio time. And these were still the days that a record company expected an artist to cut an entire album in three or four sessions, the only exception perhaps being The Beatles.
Another except. About ignoring a critical witness:
For a good biographer, this biased behaviour is a terrible shame. It's almost laughable to see a biographer work this way.Apart from some anecdotes that happened at family parties or random encounters on the street with old friends and (past) lovers, we don't know a lot about Syd Barrett's life in Cambridge. So if a witness does turns up it would perhaps be a chance to check him (or her) out. But in a Q&A that was published on the official Syd Barrett website Chapman tells why he didn't contact the Barrett neighbour who has not always been positive about the rockstar next door:
"My thoughts, clearly and unambiguously are that I didn’t want to give this individual a scintilla of publicity. (…) I did check him out, quite extensively as it happens, and my enquiries lead, among other places, to a website where he gives his enlightened views on capital punishment and who should receive it – most of us, by the look of it."
It is not because someone has a dubious opinion about capital punishment that his memories about Barrett are - by definition - untrue or unreliable. However Chapman is not that reluctant when a witness turns up who has got some positive things to say about Barrett.
On pages 365 and following, Chapman recites the charming anecdote of a young child who ran into Barrett's garden to ask him a pertinent question about a make-believe horse. Not only did Barrett patiently listen to her dilemma, he also took the time to explain her that in fairy tales everything is possible, even flying horses.
After reading several descriptions by readers, I think that Chapman's biography is a goldmine for people who want to have a Good News Show dedicated to Barrett. Not Barrett was mad, but the world around him was. The book seems to be more of a love story than a biography.
In the past I also thought that Barrett was being misunderstood by almost everyone except me. I'm glad I've passed that phase.
About Chapman being biased:
I'm aware that people will advice to just first read the book myself, but then I've already bought it and thus supported it. I think that the quote of Chapman ignoring notably Barrett's neigbour, proves that the book is guilty of history revisionism.I started reading this biography and was genuinely intrigued by the author's style, his wit, his knowledge, but also his unhealthy habit of demeaning anyone who doesn't share his ideas. But I could live with it, despite the odd tsk-tsk that would leave my mouth once in a while.
The passage that made me loose my marbles can be found halfway the book on page 213. It describes how Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd legally split up. Peter Jenner and Andrew King stayed with Barrett, the rest of the band had to choose a new agency, a new manager and a new recording contract. The rest of the band's history, so writes Rob Chapman, is accountancy.
The Early 70 Tours with the Embryo suite: accountancy?
Meddle (with Echoes): accountancy?
Dark Side Of The Moon: accountancy?
Wish You Where Here: accountancy?
The Wall: accountancy?
[...] In Chapman's opinion an entire generation of musicians (in the Seventies) began to make music 'more appropriate to the rocking chair than to the rocket ship'. The man has a way with words, that I have to admit.
I had heard of these Pink Floyd haters before, people who really think that the band died when Barrett left the gang. The problem is that most of these people are aware of Syd Barrett thanks to the fame and glory of a dinosaur called Pink Floyd.
I wish that one there will be a book full of Barrett material, without it being (mis)used by writers who use unique material to lure the reader into their ramblings.