A Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett

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“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’s last interview, Rolling Stone, 1971 Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett (1946–2006) was, by all accounts, the very definition of a golden boy. Blessed with good looks and a natural aptitude for painting and music, he was a charismatic, elfin child beloved by all, who fast became a teenage leader in Cambridge, England, where a burgeoning bohemian scene was flourishing in the early 1960s. Along with three friends and collaborators—Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason—he formed what would soon become Pink Floyd, and rock ’n’ roll was never the same. Starting as a typical British cover band aping approximations of American rhythm ’n’ blues, they soon pioneered an entirely new sound, and British psychedelic rock was born. With early, trippy, Barrett-penned pop hits such as “Arnold Layne” (about a clothesline-thieving cross-dresser) and “See Emily Play” (written specifically for the epochal “Games For May” concert), Pink Floyd, with Syd Barrett as their main creative visionary, captured the zeitgeist of “Swinging” London in all its Technicolor glory. But there was a dark side to all this new-found freedom. Barrett, like so many around him, began ingesting large quantities of a revolutionary new drug, LSD, and his already-fragile mental state—coupled with a personality inherently unsuited to the life of a pop star—began to unravel. The once bright-eyed lad was quickly replaced, seemingly overnight, by a glowering, sinister, dead-eyed shadow of his former self, given to erratic, highly eccentric, reclusive, and sometimes violent behavior. Inevitably sacked from the band, Barrett retreated from London to his mother’s house in Cambridge, where he would remain until his death, only rarely seen or heard, further fueling the mystery. In the meantime, Pink Floyd emerged from the underground to become one of the biggest international rock bands of all time, releasing multi-platinum albums, many that dealt thematically with the loss of their friend Syd Barrett: The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall are all, on many levels, about him. In A Very Irregular Head, journalist Rob Chapman lifts the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the legend of 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 and tragic artist. Besides capturing all the promise of Barrett’s youthful years, Chapman challenges the oft-held 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 that stretches through Kenneth Graham, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, John Lennon, David Bowie, and on up to the pioneers of Britpop. A tragic, affectionate, and compelling portrait of a singular artist, A Very Irregular Head will stand as the authoritative word on this very English genius for years to come.
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About the author

Rob Chapman has written for Mojo,The Times, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Uncut, Word, and the dance music fanzine Jockey Slut. He is the author of two books of nonfiction and a novel. He has compiled and written liner notes for CD reissues by artists as varied as the Last Poets and John Faley, as well as numerous psychedelia and loungecore compilations. He lives in Manchester, England.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Da Capo Press
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Published on
Oct 26, 2010
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9780306819360
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Entertainment & Performing Arts
Music / Genres & Styles / Rock
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Rob Chapman
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Rob Chapman
Get the behind-the-music story of the New Barbarians, the short-lived band founded by the Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ron Wood!

In 1979, Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ron Wood founded the New Barbarians. The group's all-star lineup included Wood's fellow Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, Stones confederate and saxophonist Bobby Keys, and drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste from the Meters. The band formed in 1979, toured, and played its final concert in 1980-gone, but not forgotten. Now fans can learn the untold story of this legendary band, recounted through never-before-seen photography and in-depth interviews. The New Barbarians offers an intimate look at the brief history of a band that built a cult following in record time.

The band became known for hard-edged music, but it also gained notoriety for events such as the riot at the New Barbarians' first concert in Milwaukee-a riot that broke out when the "special guests" did not appear during the show. This and more wild, rollicking stories are included in The New Barbarians, which features behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the band members as well as dirt about its famous tour, plus background on the widespread influence of its music.

Featuring never-before-published photography of the band by Bruce Silberman, who accompanied the New Barbarians on their US tour in 1979, this book is a feast for Stones fans and an essential contribution to rock and roll history.

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