What I’ve been Reading: March 2015
Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd
by Mark Blake
I’ve been on a reading binge of sorts and have countered my “serious” reading with a slew of pop culture works. I am constantly amused with the self-indulgent, peter-panism of our great rock heroes and have enjoyed reading each of these three works. All of them well written and researched.
Mark Blake’s Pink Floyd tome is as dry as a strong gin and tonic as he chronicles the details of the enigmatic Floyd ensemble. Over the course of their existence Pink Floyd has reflected the personalities of three distinct people: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour. While Barrett comes off as a creative and ultimately tragic figure, both Waters and Gilmour are portrayed as calculating business men…creative…yet reserved. The story itself however is very interesting as this Cambridge based troupe plunge on through the pschedelic ’60’s on in to the self-indulgent ’70s and beyond. Barrett of course flamed out early, a sort of Oscar Wilde-super nova, leaving Waters to take over as the main song-writer. Water was stoic and calculating as he mapped out the mind-numbing traits of the 70s Pink Floyd sound. Gilmour developed his own sense of Floyd in the background for many years and the band seemed to finally fizzle out circa 1982…legal fights soon developed over the rights to
the “Pink Floyd” name but many fans enjoyed the Gilmour led ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’ that emerged circa ’87.
Pink Floyd remains an aquired taste for many but this book does a wonderful job putting their saga in focus, each chapter perhaps taking another brick out of the wall….hahah..
Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band: Barney Hoskyns
If you are an avid pop music fan like myself..then you will already know that Barney Hoskyns is a god himself….each of his works has a magical story-telling quality (get ‘Hotel California’ his epic on the 70’s southern Cal scene- a must have for classic rock lovers)….for this Zep volume Hoskyns has done something different and creative…he’s presenting the story by way of actual quotes from the principals invovlved. Sometimes this approach is disatrous as it can lead to flowery and rose-coloured memories telling us how wonderful the subject is…but Hoskyns has been shrewd with his editing and his sources and this reads like a smooth documentary on one of the most successful rock bands ever. One of the wonderful things about Zeppelin was their honesty…they never let any of themselves get to full of themselves, they partied hard for 12 years and created a canon of wonderful melodies that were melded on to high quality instrumentation and production. Page knew what he wanted each record to sound like before hand and never really over did it. Led Zeppelin was concise (they never even issued a 45 in their native UK) and when John Bonham died the curtain came down literally.
Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones
by Stephen Davis
This book was a joy to read and vividly describes the trials and tribulations of the Stones as they attempted to reign as the Kings of Rock over the ensuing decades. Brian Jones, kind of the Syd Barrett of the band, died early in the story and does come off as a bad seed if the tales can be believed. Keith Richards became zombie junkie in the early 70s even as the band created some of their best LP’s and singles. Jagger of course seems to turn into a Peter Pan type of figure who never seems to mature much but this may be part of his own plan to cover his more serious and fascinating side. His connections and appreciation of Burroughs ran deep into the psyche of the Stones throughout the 70s and 80s, perhaps culminating with the last great Stones track ‘Undercover of the Night’ in 1983. After 1983 the story kind of runs its course with the details of those huge money-making tours and lousy albums. It’s ok to get old guys..it’s ok to call it a day….they should have become a comedy troupe…like Monty Python …Spinal Tap….oh wait…they were…hehhe