"Irregular Head" book

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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by Wolfpack »

A critical review, written by Felix Atagong, can be found on the blog page 'A Syd Thing' at 'The Holy Curch of Iggy the Inuit':
http://atagong.com/iggy/archives/cat_asydthing.html
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:
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.
A recording studio is not a rehearsal room. Barrett wasn't behaving like a professional artist anymore.

Another except. About ignoring a critical witness:
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.
For a good biographer, this biased behaviour is a terrible shame. It's almost laughable to see a biographer work this way.

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 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?
Animals: 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'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 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.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by nosaj »

"the book is guilty of history revisionism"? [-D-]

Ha, ha. Don't read it. Believe the shitty reviews you quote. :-;

*shrug*
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by Wolfpack »

nosaj wrote:Believe the shitty reviews you quote. :-;
The review is not shitty. It fully explains what 'Irregular Head' contains and what is wrong about it. For example ignoring a critical neighbour, while including a romantic story about a kid going to Barrett. From a distance, Chapman can judge Barrett better than one of Barrett's neighbours can.
I didn't only read the review, but also the Q&A with the author. And I've read the many praisings of Barrett fans who think the book finally tells history how it really is: poor Barrett being a victim of a Pink Floyd conspiracy.

But I think I get away easier with critizing the Holy Bible among Jews and Christians, or the Quran among Muslims, than critizing a book that tries to make Barrett the victim of evil Pink Floyd. :)
Barrett was just doing wonderful performances and then suddenly evil Gilmour stepped onstage, secretly invited by evil Waters, and they kicked poor Barrett in a corner and locked him away. And when poor Barrett tried to survive by making solo albums, they turned up once again and ruined those recordings. A lot of Barrett fans love to see Pink Floyd's history that way. And now finally they have their book to make it seem true.

I think that Barrett fans who look at Pink Floyd this way, should take consequences and just burn their post-Barrett Pink Floyd records.
Just ignore the fact that, even if the post-Barrett history is just "accountancy", Pink Floyd's accountancy turned Barrett into a millionaire.
Turn loose the strings of your guitar and make Barrett's late 1967 concept of Pink Floyd a succes.

Imagine that the book 'Irregular Head' is shitty... I'd end up with a 'Decapitated Head'. :lol:
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by nosaj »

Wolfpack wrote:
nosaj wrote:Believe the shitty reviews you quote. :-;
The review is not shitty. It fully explains what 'Irregular Head' contains and what is wrong about it.
Oh, what is wrong about it? Oh, the reviews explain what it contains?

Oh well, I shall just wave my hands in the air. <ii>
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by Wolfpack »

nosaj wrote:Oh well, I shall just wave my hands in the air. <ii>
Maybe that's the best, if one can only answer with rethorical questions. \:D/
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by nosaj »

Indeed. I can't be bothered with explaining why I think the critical reviews are biased about the book's bias...the whole neighbor question versus the little girl being interviwed really doesn't matter.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

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nosaj wrote:the whole neighbor question versus the little girl being interviwed really doesn't matter.
Why doesn't it matter to you? The neighbour being left out and the little girl being included, proves that Chapman is biased. He doesn't give a full history of Barrett. He only gives one side. The neighbour's information on Barrett deserves to be included in a good biography. The information is as much a rumour as the little girls story, if not much less.

As reviewer Felix Atagong observes:
It is not because someone [a neighbour] 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 [a little girl] turns up who has got some positive things to say about Barrett.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by burp »

is the little girl named in the chapman book ? and what date does the biographer state this occured ? if she's not named did the encounter really happen ? clearly rob chapman didnt speak to syd so this story comes from someone else so who told him this?
once my copy arrives and ive read it ill let you know what i think about it as ive read the other syd biographys and they were good.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

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Wolfpack wrote:
nosaj wrote:the whole neighbor question versus the little girl being interviwed really doesn't matter.
Why doesn't it matter to you? The neighbour being left out and the little girl being included, proves that Chapman is biased. He doesn't give a full history of Barrett. He only gives one side. The neighbour's information on Barrett deserves to be included in a good biography. The information is as much a rumour as the little girls story, if not much less.

As reviewer Felix Atagong observes:
It is not because someone [a neighbour] 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 [a little girl] turns up who has got some positive things to say about Barrett.
For me, if he left the little girl out, it wouldn't make one bit of difference - it is a very insignificant part of the story. I personally would have cut that bit.

A significant part of the story is the evidence provided that Syd spent time in a mental institution...I have never heard that before.

EDIT: Also, if one is inclined to read this book, they have probably read other books about Syd (well, maybe), and thus get a fuller picture by reading ALL of them.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by oldperfume »

I don't think you can base one book as being THE book on Syd. I believe that Mr. Chapman is a little biased, but so am I. I don't "Hate" the other Floyd members, but if a childhood friend of mine was going thru what Syd went thru, I would've done a hell of a lot more than what Mason, Waters & Wright did. I don't condone what they did, but I understand it. I also don't think they used Syd's plight to make money, I think, personally, they all feel they could have done more & I think they have said it as well. Read all the Barrett books & I think you get a clearer picture of him,his bandmates & why he did what he did. Syd just had a real tough time with reality. LSD didn't help, but look how he was raised. He was a "Momma's Boy" if I ever saw one. And there was something off-kilter with him to begin with. I think Pink Floyd has always been "The Thinking Man's Rock & Roll". I grew up with them on my headphones. I just think Syd's Floyd took me to places I was never at before & the Waters Floyd made me look at my own mortality. It's just an opinion though....
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by Idisaffect »

nosaj wrote:..the whole neighbor question versus the little girl being interviwed really doesn't matter.
Wolfpack wrote:Why doesn't it matter to you?
It doesn't matter to me because it has nothing to do with Barretts music.

If Syd wanted you to know all of this random trivia bullshit about his private life he would have written you a letter.
Wolfpack wrote:From a distance, Chapman can judge Barrett better than one of the neighbors can.
"Judge". Exactly.
Wolfpack wrote:The neighbour's information on Barrett deserves to be included in a good biography.
Why? So we can find out what time he goes out for the mail?
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by Wolfpack »

oldperfume wrote:I don't "Hate" the other Floyd members, but if a childhood friend of mine was going thru what Syd went thru, I would've done a hell of a lot more than what Mason, Waters & Wright did.
I don't think they could have done anything more to keep Barrett in Pink Floyd. But I do think they could have done more on a personal level, as friends. It seems to me that they were just very busy with their own life, with their career. This is no conspiracy but something that happens with most people.
When they got older and got nostalgic about their youth, they wanted to walk down Memory Lane like a tourist, to visit a friend that they forgot for a long time. And this friend (Barrett) didn't want to see them anymore. And if the friend would have welcomed them, they would have left again after some hours of tea drinking. Giving the friend twice the experience of being left. I can imagine this is too painful. This is how society often works for those who are left behind. Everyone has his/her own life.
oldperfume wrote:He was a "Momma's Boy" if I ever saw one.
I agree. I think Barrett never really became an adult. This sounds romantic, but can be horrible. In a way of speaking, he needed his family to help him cross the streets.
Idisaffect wrote:
nosaj wrote:..the whole neighbor question versus the little girl being interviwed really doesn't matter.
Wolfpack wrote:Why doesn't it matter to you?
It doesn't matter to me because it has nothing to do with Barretts music.
Then why read this biography anyway? Most (if not all) Barrett biographies go on and on about Barrett's life: why he left Pink Floyd, why he stopped making music, what he did after that, etc. There's no Barrett book that contains sheet music and (a reconstruction) of his lyrics. If there was, I'd run to the shop. Most Barrett fans are interested in diving into Barrett's head and feeling sorry for him.
Idisaffect wrote:If Syd wanted you to know all of this random trivia bullshit about his private life he would have written you a letter.
I read this as an advice not to read Chapman's biography and any other biography.
Idisaffect wrote:
Wolfpack wrote:The neighbour's information on Barrett deserves to be included in a good biography.
Why? So we can find out what time he goes out for the mail?
The neighbour's information is much more important than that. The neighbour's information tells how Barrett behaved in society. How it was to live with Barrett. This tells quite a different story than the one by notably Barrett's sister, who rather tells only positive stories about her brother.

I think the story of the neighbour, about Barrett being very frustrated, is much more believable than the rather sunny stories by family and Pink Floyd.
Once Barrett couldn't have a career and family of his own, he just decided to have fun in painting and what a joke that he burnt the paintings in his garden. Who wouldn't? That's how the official story of Barrett seems to be. The neighbour tells about the annoyance. The neighbour's story shows Barrett to be a human. A human with an understandable anger.

Imagine how the Barrett fan would have reacted if his/her neighbour started burning household goods in the garden. Would the Barrett fan have loved the smoke going through the clothes on the washing lines? Some neighbours already complain about a barbecue. Just imagine how burning big paintings smell. Am I the only Barrett fan to think of this?
Excluding the neighbour's story about Barrett's social behaviour is a big biographical mistake. It's censorship. Everyone must just love jolly Mr. Barrett, whether he was a problematic neighbour or not.
I don't think neighbour complaints are just details. It's not normal to have your neighbours suffer with you. And if it is, I'll immediately put my amplifier on 10. \:D/

If there's any conspiracy, it would be a conspiracy to patiently love Mr. Barrett. Whether he's annoying or not.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by drafsack »

The sister isn't going to say anything bad about syd is she
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by burp »

my copy of irregular head arrived from amazon and i looked in the index for the mysterious radha person the author claims was aged 7 and lived 2 doors from syd in the early 80's ( so either number 8 or number 4) and asked syd about flying horses ... i hope mr chapman can prove this isnt made up as there was no one called radha living is syds road in the 80s ! i challenge mr chapman to prove this claim, he also lists radha as being a cherry hinton resident..does he mean now in later life she lives there? ( cherry hinton is a little village outside cambridge..syd lived in cambridge) I dont want anyone to buy a book if its made up and not labelled as fiction..so mr chapman the balls in your court. The fact theres just 2 or 3 lines in a 400 odd page biography of info from syds neighbours does prove mr chapman did no research on the matter and is guilty of revising history as someone else put it.
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Re: "Irregular Head" book

Post by dgsyd1 »

Not sure what you're trying to say, but Syd did live in Cherry Hinton, a simple search on Google Earth will show you that. And how do you know that nobody called Radha (pressuming that's their real name) lived on St Margarets Square in the 80's?
I'm not going to comment on the book, as I haven't read it yet, but it'll have to be good to beat Dark Globe, which is IMHO about as close to a definitive biography of Syd Barrett as we are likely to get.