Books

'Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd': a Very Detailed Look Into the Man Behind the Myth

Artist unknown

Julian Palacios' writing style is stuffed with lush prose and dense description growing and branching out, often looping back and winding around itself like ivy leisurely climbing a great stone wall toward the sky.


Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe

Publisher: Plexus
Length: 448 pages
Author: Julian Palacois
Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2010-09
Amazon

Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe is a very detailed look into the artist, the man, behind the myth that is Syd Barrett. Author Julian Palacios has thoroughly researched his subject, far beyond any previous publications related to Pink Floyd. We all know the basics: that Barrett was an art student when he formed Pink Floyd, that he was famous at 20-years-old, he became a casualty of his career by the end of the '60s, and he was one of the most intriguing, most enduring and most mythologized men in rock 'n' roll.

Palacios' writing style is stuffed with lush prose and dense description growing and branching out, often looping back and winding around itself like ivy leisurely climbing a great stone wall toward the sky. At first, the text seems so rambling, round-about and repetitious that it's difficult to get into. However, if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded with the most complete and engaging portrait of Barrett and the world in which he lived that any biography has ever attempted.

Barrett was a star long before he was famous. Through extensive interviews with family members, band mates and childhood friends, and accounts of his early life in Cambridge, it is made clear he was always the mercurial spirit and the apple of every eye. Palacios paints a dreamy, impressionistic picture of young Roger Barrett roaming through the bucolic environs that would later feature in so many of his lyrics. His daily life is often described as though it were straight out of the children's books he read and loved, and Barrett himself seems some sort of faerie tale prince. While it's true a lot of this can be attributed to Palacios's romantic writing style, much of it also comes directly from the obvious affection those who knew him had for Barrett. Nearly everyone interviewed mentions that, upon meeting him, it was instantly, unmistakeably apparent that Syd Barrett was special.

By the time he was in his teens, Barrett had begun incorporating music—specifically rock music—into his artistic arsenal. He soon formed a band, playing with other local boys, including Roger Waters. It's to this book's great credit that Waters is presented in a positive and balanced manner throughout, because many others tend to vilify him when discussing Barrett's tenure with Pink Floyd. Barrett, arguably of course, was the impetus, the spark, behind the entire psychedelic rock movement in London, and while it's true that his artistic vision (as well as his guitar playing and lyrical talents) is what initially garnered all the attention, Pink Floyd was a band.

Dark Globe has a wealth of detailed information about the mid-'60s scene and the famous UFO club where Pink Floyd gained notoriety. Personal accounts are woven with press documentation to create a palpable sense of what it must have been like to be in London at such an exciting and pivotal moment in music history. These accounts also give an all too vivid picture of how the stress of sudden fame, coupled with a great deal of LSD, affected the already sensitive Syd Barrett. He lived the role of rock star, of psychedelic darling, to its fullest, because that's how he did everything. Palacios doesn't shy away or sugar-coat the darker parts of this period, but neither does he become mired in them. He shows that, as in Syd's early years, there was some joy in later years, as well. He treats Barrett's exit from Pink Floyd, his sometimes brilliant solo work and his subsequent drift from the public eye with the same fascination exhibited in the exploration of Barrett's youth and formative influences.

With 24 pages of photographs, an exhaustive bibliography and ten years in the writing Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life. It's a stunning testament to his art, to his singular vision and to his unique spirit.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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It's perhaps too trite and rash to conclude that the age of good, cogent film criticism is over. They still exist out there, always at print publications such as The New Yorker and at major newspapers like The New York Times. An argument can be made that the late, legendary film critic Roger Ebert became a better writer when he departed from cinema and covered literature, book collecting, or even the simplest pleasures of life. If we look at the film criticism of James Agee from the '40s, or even the short but relevant stint of novelist and short story writer Graham Greene as a film critic, we come to understand that the greatest writing about film went beyond the spectrum of what they saw on the screen.
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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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