• A Very Irregular Head

  • The Life of Syd Barrett
  • By: Rob Chapman
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (215 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“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.

©2010 Rob Chapman (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about A Very Irregular Head

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Very Touching

Wonderful Book. Very calm study by Rob Chapman. Giving due respect to Syd Barrett and his family. Simon Vance is a pleasure as always.

5 people found this helpful

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Unlocks the Mystery.

As a fan of Syd's work, I was excited to hear this book - am not disappointed!
An intimate, beautiful portrait of a struggling soul, who has often been sidetracked as a madman with very little regard.
Check it out!!

4 people found this helpful

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The best Syd Barrett biography

While not breaking any new ground in terms of the rock ‘n’ roll biography template, Rob Chapman‘s book is fantastically researched and extremely well written. He clearly understands personalities and has no trouble explaining music. Granted the first quarter of the book is a little slow, but after that it is exceptional in its efforts to understand the subject, not as a madman, but somebody who Ultimately was just uncomfortable with the demands of pop stardom. Yes, drugs played a role but more than anything Syd was neither equipped nor willing to continue down the path that left him unfulfilled. His last years are particularly sad but nowhere near as bleak and catatonic as the legends would lead you to believe. Chapman certainly uncovers some interesting new nuggets and I learned so much. I didn’t want the book to end; if anything, I wish it were twice as long.

1 person found this helpful

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Extremely boring

This audible story reminded me of someone reading an essay. Very monotone. Good to fall asleep to.

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Deconstructing the myths

This is a great retrospective of Syd’s life, and a must for any fan.

When I was much younger, I idolized and romanticized Syd the myth, the “mad acid casualty.” Over the years it became increasingly clear to me that very little fact was actually known, and what filled that vacuum was myth, exaggeration and mis-remembered stories.

Chapman comes across as a man on a mission, not only to tell his story as accurately as possible, but to dispel the erroneous myths and portray Syd’s humanity, rather than trading on time-worn romanticization. He wholly succeeds.

If you’re one that still clings to those myths, you may be disappointed that Chapman rains on your parade. But there is still so much known about Syd that is truly remarkable that it is more than sufficient for a compelling narrative. Well done!

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Excellant book

I enjoyed this book. It is very well written and narrated. Syd's light went out too early, so sad.

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Rip Syd

Pink Floyd is much better band without Syd But there would not be a Pink Floyd without Syd.

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Excellent in all respects

Beautifully and eloquently written, impeccably narrated. I will probably listen to this many times over. Loved it.

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Intimately Detailed Lifestory

Nice voice. Breathes life into a far away legend of a man. The inner struggles / turmoil were indeed one of Duration. How frail the mind can be, yet also can remain above water through diversion.

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Story of Syd

If you’re wanting to get a deep dive into the life and times of Syd Barrett, this has got to be the book to pick up (or listen to in this case) It’s very well researched and detailed. Like Barrett’s life, the book has mainly two halves. The first half analyses and interprets his early life, influences, creativity and peak with Pink Floyd’s first album and singles. After that, the second half of his life (and the book) is detailed; from his solo albums to his slow steady decline into mental health issues and a semi-secluded life. The last quarter of the book (like Barrett’s life) does become a bit sad and dreary.

That being said, the author has many excellent insights and information about everything from the psychedelic era in London to the troubled relationship between the commercialization and commodifying of art and music and those creative souls caught in that machinery.

If I had one negative criticism, it would be that I don’t think enough was written about how the other members of Pink Floyd truly felt about Syd’s demise and ouster from the band. It is certainly covered but I would’ve liked a little more in-depth input from the other band mates in what has to be considered one of the most difficult decisions in music history. It literally changed the direction and sound of the band.

Very good read though. A must for anyone intrigued with Syd Barrett and that early groundbreaking Pink Floyd output.

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  • Wildschwein
  • 11-30-21

Well researched and respectfully written

I loved this book. It's a sad tale indeed but highlights the connection between art. psychology, music history, literature and rock star trappings (amongst other things). I have been oddly inspired by this story. It doesnt unravel the mystery per se and leaves you with more questions which you know can never be answered. I tend to think Syd was more an architect of his own isolation than the traditional mythologies about him would have you believe. He was certainly damaged and a sad and misunderstood soul but seemed to find some solace in his own company. There are some very well used quotes from Susan Sontag in the text that tallk about the artist and silence that resonates so clearly with Syd's story. Upon finishing the book and listening to Syd's solo LPs I now get a sense of nausa that is difficult to explain. I feel out of my body and out of my own head!