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Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  506 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Syd Barrett was the lead guitarist, vocalist, and principle songwriter in the original line up of Pink Floyd. During his brief time with the band (1966-68), he was the driving force behind the unit. After he left the band he made just two further solo albums which were both released in 1970, before withdrawing from public view to lead a quiet, and occasionally troubled ...more
Paperback, 441 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2010)
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David Czuba No comparison. A Very Irregular Head is definitive. A Saucerful of Secrets, while including Barrett, merely regurgitated many of the myths tabloids…moreNo comparison. A Very Irregular Head is definitive. A Saucerful of Secrets, while including Barrett, merely regurgitated many of the myths tabloids fed the public about Syd. That book is more about the music, I suggest, than the person.(less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Carole Tyrrell
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
While I was reading this book I saw Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys on Jools Holland. I had mixed feelings about it; on one level I was glad to see him still being able to perform but on another level I felt uncomfortable as he looked ill at ease as he launched into California Girls. Would Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd and a source of dodgy myths, have ended up like that if he'd been persuaded out of retirement?

There have been several biographies of Syd Barrett over the years; some content
...more
Tosh
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
My heart sank when I heard the news in 2006 that Syd Barrett passed away. Yet for many he has been dead since the early 1970's. Overall he left one Pink Floyd album and two solo albums - plus various singles - and all I think are quite magnificent.

Anyone who loves the rock mythology knows the Syd Barrett legend. Man burned out by LSD, and became a total eccentric recluse - which is basically true, but the important aspect of him is not his life really, but his music. And that, according the
...more
Dan
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, music
This is THE definitive biography of Syd Barrett. Well written and exhaustively researched, it also benefits from being written after Barrett's death in 2006 and so paints a complete picture of the legend's life. Chapman cuts through the mythology and puts to rest - though he admits it won't be permanent - all of the more hyperbolic tales of Syd's post-breakdown existence.

In addition to complete - or as complete as available - detail of Syd's life, the book delves deeply into Syd's lyrics both
...more
Daniel
Aug 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biography of Pink Floyd founder and frontman Syd Barrett.

Solid biography paints a compelling portrait of his life and evokes the psychedelic era in London, based on plenty of interviews with Barrett's friends and contemporaries. Chapman's efforts to contextualize Barrett's work and analyze his influences are maybe a bit too wordy and need to be organized better. He also explores the influence his subject had on the larger world of pop and rock music via interviews with Robyn Hitchcock and Blur
...more
Bob
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very good, partly because it was written competently and literately, but largely because so much of what has been written about Mr. Barrett has been so full of urban legend and freakshow fascination that the person behind the stories is entirely eclipsed - as if on the dark side of the moon. This book provides much more verifiable detail, and debunks a goodly portion of the untruthful "conventional wisdom" with a measure of compassion. A bit hard to find in the States, but worth the effort for ...more
Nick Bernstein
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
i’d definitely recommend this book if you are interested in a) pink floyd b) schizophrenia/mental illness c) psychedelic culture. it concerns the life of syd barrett, the mercurial original frontman of pink floyd who wrote their first songs and subsequently was forced out of his own group after having a “nervous breakdown” from which he never recovered. the book definitely tries (and mostly succeeds) to subvert the conventional wisdom about barrett that mythologizes him an acid casualty whose ...more
Allyson
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting to read about the intelligence and incredible talent (and genius?), of the musician/songwriter who formed Pink Floyd. There are so many mysteries and myths surrounding him, especially his in regard to his mental illness, but this author relies instead on research and 'evidence' to give an accurate and balanced portrayal of the life of Syd Barrett.
Helen
Dec 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Blog on Books
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
It is common wisdom that the clarion call that ushered in the advent of psychedelic rock began with the Beatles and their “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” opus. Yet, it could be argued that the movement was quietly developed by another band on the English rock scene – Pink Floyd. After all, while the Beatles (and all other recording artists of the era) were recording like it was a job – daytime hours from 9 to 5pm, it was The Pink Floyd (yes, they had the ‘the’ in their name back then) ...more
Carol
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Edward Sullivan
Chapman does a superb job of demystifying all the absurd myths and rumors about the "madman" Barrett and offers a very human and poignant portrait of a man with considerable creative juice who lost it to drugs or mental illness or both, or just simply burned out all he had to give very quickly. Chapman's admiration of and affection for his subject is obvious. He tries unconvincingly to tie Barrett's "genius" to giants of English literature and western art. A fascinating, sad story.
Garry Evens
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Syd has always been a bit of a novelty for me. I enjoyed his work with the Floyd, and was amused by his solo work, but I never really considered myself a fan until I read Rob Chapman's book. Chapman humanizes Syd, and for a casual fan like me, it is a breath of fresh air. Finally, I see what all the fuss is about.
Dylan Lancaster
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
A very good insight into the life of Syd Barrett. Delves very deeply into his childhood and teenage years with early Pink Floyd and talks in great detail about his solo work. Gets rid of all the myths and untruths to give us Syd as he was very intelligent, and genius who had frame thrust upon him far too soon.
Adam
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed and sympathetic portrait. Chapman forgoes the sensationalism of many previous biographies and debunks some of the more outrageous myths that have surfaced around Syd. The man's life and work are finally put into the proper context.
Mickey
Nov 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Best ever biog of the fragile genius. Syd flamed brightly and briefly, and left a comet's tail of glorious and beautiful songs, that portrayed his descent into mental chaos and tragedy with poignancy and genius. Chapman's book chronicles his fatal trip with elegant, insightful prose.
Simon
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly engaging read, Rob Chapman brings in the 60's vibe and the whole movement that Syd was involved in, rather than just going he did this, then that, then went mad. He sensitively covers the period after Syd left Pink Floyd (Left, yes...!).
Shannon Humphreys
A biography that cuts through all the hype and legends and tries to take a look at the man that was.
Andrew Nix
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music-biog
Incredibly well-written and researched.
Ed Wagemann
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
One summer afternoon in 1988, I was at a stoner party--back in those days 6 or 7 unemployed small town teenagers sitting around, listening to albums and drinking 7up in a basement constituted a stoner party--when an aquaintance of mine said, "Enough of this snake-charmer shit," then got up out of his seat and began filing through the stack of cassete tapes beside the stereo.

"Where's my Van Halen tape?" he asked, "I'm outta here."

The music coming from the speakers that so repulsed this
...more
David Czuba
One of the finest biographies I've read, strategically strewn and sewn with contemporary retellings by those who knew the artist as a young man, as he found his voice and audience in the popular music world, and then as the burnt-out and withdrawn, sensitive creature burdened with unrecoverable mental damage. The eccentric (though normal, for Cambridge) background and increasingly erratic behavior of Roger Keith Barrett after his thrust into stardom are critically and nearly scientifically ...more
Maximum
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best guide to trying to understand the headspace of Pink Floyd's mythical founder. Rob Chapman as a Syd Barrett fan doesn't try to present any singular narrative about Syd Barrett's life but instead tries to uncover the truth no matter how much certain facts appear to contradict one another.

The story starts by painting a picture of Syd's school life, his romantic life, and just the general atmosphere of the world he grew up in. It then follows what we know about him until his death
...more
Charly Fitzpatrick
Just spent some time writing about this excellent book and then my computer crashed and I lost it! Anyway, "Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head" was recommended to me some years ago by Michael Jones and a few months ago, I went to the Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains Exhibition at The V&A. At the shop at the end of exhibition, I bought lots of things including this book.

It does not disappoint and Chapman has not written a sensationalist tome about Mad Syd - and Syd did have extreme mental
...more
Kevin Scott
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
most in-depth book you will ever read about someone plus it clarifies all the myths, exaggerating & lies about the character Syd Barrett. The 4th and by the far the most serious and intelligent biography so far published about Syd Barrett. it is well written and very impressively researched, this biography on this subject will never be bettered.
Allan Heron
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book about Syd Barrett and his times. It succesfully deconstructs the myths about Syd and makes for a very melancholy excursion.

Chapman places Barrett's work solidly within an English culture which reinforces how much we should treasure the fleeting years of creativity.
Paul
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A well written account 0of the life and mental collapse of an obscure founding member of the band Pink Floyd. Well researched.
Brian
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know if this is a sad story or just a story of a talented guy who did a few amazing things musically and then realized it really wasn't what he wanted, or bargained for. A lot of mythbusting in this book, even though I didn't know many of the myths only to be introduced to them here.
Diana Lankford
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
A plethora of information - too much. Read like an encyclopedia.
Anjanette
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book as an overall biography about Syd Barrett. I got a good understanding of his overall life story. But I never got a deeper understanding of Syd and what occurred -- what specific events shaped him, his rise, his arc and his downfall. I did get a sense from the book that Syd's sister was right, and that Syd probably wasn't schizophrenic. I did get a sense that Syd did have a significant mental decline related to drug use. But I never got a sense of the particulars. Much seemed ...more
Mark
Mar 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentlyread
An enjoyable biography of an intriguing casualty of the acid sixties. Rob Chapman is a lifelong fan, a fact he makes abundantly clear in the first part of the book, but he does distance himself from the fanatics -- the slavering nutters or muckraking gossipmongers or simple-minded neo-hippies who alternately stalk, smear, or worship Syd Barrett, or the various myths they've woven around him. Health organizations (e.g. schizophrenia.com) want to pathologize him (Syd was never diagnosed); ...more
Denis
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in audiobook form. The narrator was excellent. This biography was very well researched and told with the utmost compassion. One of the most thorough biographies I've ever come across. It's a study on the development of mental illness and, perhaps unintentionally, how the those afflicted during the late sixties and seventies, were unfortunately undiagnosed and maltreated.

The descriptions of the genius of Roger Keith Barrett's work is, perhaps at times, a little overly dissected and
...more
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