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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (10 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rob Chapman Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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, Rolling Stone, 1971).

Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was the definition of a golden boy. With good looks and an aptitude for music, he was a charismatic child who fast became a teenage leader in 1960s England. Along with three school chums—Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason—he formed what would become Pink Floyd. Starting as a British cover band, they soon pioneered a new sound: British psychedelic rock. With early, trippy, Barrett-penned hits, Pink Floyd captured the zeitgeist of swinging London in all its technicolor glory.

But there was a dark side. Barrett fell in with some hardcore hippies and began taking large quantities of LSD. His already-fragile mental state—most believe him to have been schizophrenic—further unraveled. The once bright-eyed lad was quickly replaced by a sinister, dead-eyed shadow of his former self given to eccentric, reclusive, and sometimes violent behavior. Sacked from the band, Barrett retreated to his mother’s house, where he remained until his death, rarely seen or heard.

A Very Irregular Head lifts the veil of secrecy that has surrounded 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, tragic artist. Besides capturing the promise of Barrett’s youth, Chapman challenges the 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 which stretches through Kenneth Graham, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, John Lennon, David Bowie, and on up to Damon Albarn of Blur.

A tragic, affectionate, and compelling portrait of a singular artist, this will stand as the authoritative word on this very English genius for years to come.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Chapman’s portrait is the most sympathetic and reliable yet published. It is well written and impressively researched.”

    Times Literary Supplement

  • “Chapman has unraveled the skeins of rumor, exaggeration, and anecdote that have been wound so tightly around Barrett…The best book yet about him.”

    Observer (London)

  • “The most serious and intelligent of the four Barrett biographies…The first since his death in 2006, it is also the first that has the cooperation of his family. And Chapman is a fan, so it is done with genuine passion. Written in simple, unpretentious prose, it is particularly good at contextualization: explaining the social and political roots of the London psychedelic scene; detailing Barrett’s musical and literary influences.”

    Daily Telegraph (London)

  • “A compelling work about a star who burned brightly, burned out, and become a different person.”

    Boston Herald

  • “Rob Chapman bravely hacks his way through the undergrowth of innuendo and speculation to give us the clearest insight yet into the rise and fall of one of rock’s greatest enigmas. His critical analysis is inspired. His panorama of what he calls Barrett’s found world, an unprecedented meeting of a whimsical English tradition and modernist techniques, is impressively researched.”

    Wire

  • “Though Syd has been the subject of various biographies, none has approached his peculiar life, inspirations, and struggles with both drugs and mental illness with anything like the sensitivity and rigor of Rob Chapman’s heavyweight account…Chapman’s obvious feel for his subject and palpably zealous research make for a book that comes as close as any maybe will to capturing Barrett’s wayward lightning in a bottle.”

    Time Out London

  • “Perhaps rock’s most intriguing figure gets his due in this fascinating biography.”

    Birmingham Weekly

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Claire | 1/1/2011

    " I think that if I were a Syd devotee I might have felt differently about this book but I was new to his story and felt like there was a lot Chapman tried to make out of Barrett's life that is pretty difficult, since Barrett was a cipher in so many ways. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mickey | 11/16/2010

    " 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. "

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About the Author

Rob Chapman drifted into full-time music journalism in 1995 when he began contributing to Mojo, including classic cover stories on Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Massive Attack, and Brian Wilson’s Smile album. After eight years he moved to Uncut. He returned in 2006 just in time to write the obituary of his hero, Syd Barrett. He has also contributed to the Times, Guardian, and Independent on Sunday. He is the author of three other books and lives in London.