Item description for Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's Lost Genius by Tim Willis...
Beautiful, charismatic, and talented, in 1966 Syd Barrett invented the British Psychedelic scene---founding Pink Floyd---before collapsing into madness two years later. This book traces the history of rock's lost genius, through exclusive access to those closest to Syd throughout his life.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5" Height: 7.5" Weight: 0.42 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2003
Publisher Short Books
ISBN 190409550X ISBN13 9781904095507
Reviews - What do customers think about Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's Lost Genius?
Brief, but the most accurate story of Syd's life Jun 3, 2008
I'll admit I was a little dismayed at the length of the book, but if you own this, you probably also own Lost In The Woods, Crazy Diamond, Random Precision... you get the idea. I don't need stories to be told to me, or scenes to be set - we all know the story - Willis' main achievement here is to separate fact from fiction and present Syd's story in a straightforward way, skipping the myths and presenting actual information, which is welcome. I enjoyed some of the other Syd books available, but they all had some inaccuracies that are set straight here, as well as a lot of new perspectives from people who were there and haven't spoken on record about Syd.
Willis does a fine job, and to me, this is the final word on Syd. If you want flowery, mythological tales about Syd, don't buy Madcap... there are several other books available that perpetrate the Syd myth. If you want a clear account of his life from those who knew him best, it starts and ends with Madcap.
syd's half life Feb 9, 2008
this is the best book on syd that i've read.tim willis did a good job of interviewing the people close to syd,including his younger sister rose. it gives good insight on how syd lived in his younger days and what led to his leaving the floyd.very interesting.
A Considerable Disappointment Aug 6, 2006
I understand that marketing strategy is key to the success of any book, but in interviews regarding his biography, Tim Willis has been misleading with respect to his purported "interview " with Syd. I think the intention was to build up suspense, saying that he had interviewed Syd, while In fact, it was no more than a doorstep encounter (borderline harassment) that is already all over the internet. Which brings me to another point : you may read a good 90% of this "book" on the internet as part, or all of, various Syd-related articles, I recognised the descriptions word for word, as I knew I was not reading it for the first time. Worse, Willis goes on to criticise other biographical efforts on Syd by name, it just didn't make me feel right. The rare photos, however, were good, notably courtesy of Lindsay Corner.
Shine on for eternity, You Crazy Diamond
A Missed Opportunity Jun 15, 2005
I wish this book had been published by a press other than the "Short Press" and I wish that someone other than Tim Willis would have written it. It's criminally brief, and it is written by someone with no sense of descriptive detail or how to conduct an interview which is a supreme pity, because Willis got to interview all the people necessary to write a proper book about the early Floyd. But he didn't. Willis should be tarred and feathered and dumped on Trafalgar square with copies of this book heaped on top of him. Let me give you an example of the type of thing I'm talking about, by using the Beatles, as an example: Paul meets John. On the day the two boys meet, I know that while Paul is strumming some chords John doesn't know, that John puts his arm on Paul's shoulder and leans over him and that Paul can smell beer. I know that that steeple in the distance is sandstone, I know where they are, the churchyard. John is thrilled to be learning a new chord. I can picture the exact scene-the sun, John's checkered shirt. I can describe more, but space doesn't permit. It's a wonderful image. People have written this scene down, with much, much detail, and I am glad. It helps me understand their relationship. It helps me understand why they made such beautiful music together and the later acrimony and pain when they broke up. Now, in the MADCAP book, I get a sentence that tells me that David Gilmour and Barrett were camping and in a tent read the "Story of O" and "Naked Lunch" out loud together. But that's all the sentence tells me. When Gilmour told the interviewer this anecdote they probably both smiled, and when Gilmour now reads the sentence in the book, he remembers a wonderful scene, but I, the reader, essentially know nothing. That sentence doesn't give me an image that I can turn over, when I listen to some of the early Pink Floyd songs. Were David and Syd camping near a river? Was the moon full? Were they smoking and drinking cheep beer and laughing till tears ran down their eyes. What passages did they read? Would they break out in song. Was there a guitar in the tent? How old were they? Did they also talk about their rock and roll dreams? Was their hair half way down their backs? Were there crickets, were there trees, had they both gotten laid that day? When Willis interviewed Gilmour, he should have stopped him, and demanded more details. He should have given enough detail so that ANYONE can share that moment with Syd, the same way David did. It's the kind of thing that helps you understand the music more. The more you understand and know something, the more you can love it. Such a scene would explain why David later produced Barrett, thanklessly, and has looked after his money and made sure he's gotten it all these years. A scene like this would explain why Gilmour sings haunting Barrett songs when he gives a concert. A really well described scene would explain why David's eyes twinkle so merrily, and his description of Syd is so poetic, in the Syd DVD. There isn't a SINGLE well, fleshed out scene with Syd in this book. Not ONE! You really never experience what it was to be with him. In the new Beatels book by Tony Bramwell, you get to actually spend time with the Beatles at their peak. He really does a good job of describing some really magic moments. In this book you get NOTHING! The book gets even worse though. The Floyd play at a "Love in" where someone gets stabbed to death, and we get less than a paragraph-none of it descriptive. None of it with any concrete detail. Hundreds of pages worth of material have been written about Altamont and the Stones, and we get this friggin lousy little non-descriptive paragraph. Garbage. It's criminal! The writer of this book spends a number of pages on his own meeting with Syd Barrett-all of which lasts less than a couple of minutes. What does he give us about the meeting between the Beatles and Pink Floyd, both at some sort of peaks? This is a mythic moment. He gives us a couple of lousy little footnotes. A good journalist could write five pages on that meeting, even if it only lasted three minutes-even if Nick Mason was bored. I don't care so much that the author briefly met Barrett. (It's actually the best written part of the book. The ONLY well written part of the book.) I don't care, because the author does not interest me-it's an interesting scene, but so what. I do much more care about the Beatles and Pink Floyd. The Pink Floyd toured with Jimi Hendrix. Again, nothing! This books is rich with names and venues and fairly bereft of story, images and personality. Supposedly major characters come and go in this book and you never have a clue-are they fat are they thin, are they liars, are they handsome are they ugly are they heroic, are they chainsmokers, are they worms? You just get these names. You don't ever get an idea of what the venues were like, the concerts. There's absolutely nothing about money in this book. The subject of money is always interesting. I'm really beginning to despair that a really good books is going to be written on the Floyd. Of the seven with the most memories in the core circle of the band, one is dead, one has already had a stroke and the Floyd themselves are entering that dreadful age where you start to forget everything. And I mean almost everything. I suspect that the Floyd members don't understand what's at stake. Their standing in history won't simply be determined by their music. It will partly depend on their story-which is pretty much unavailable. One of the reasons the Beatles are so big is that their story is so interesting and widely available-the characters are all fleshed out, the drama all too real-it's better than fiction. But with the Floyd we don't have a good story to ponder, enjoy and discuss. We don't really know the characters, and we don't really know what happened. The books that have been published so far are skeleton outlines with none of the flesh. Take this book. There's a ridiculous paragraph near the beginning where he says that all the major Syd anecdotes can be found in this book-that everything else revealed would be minor. Is he a lunatic? Has he completely lost it? Does he have no understanding of the complexities of humans and life? Do you know how easily, and how many great stories are overlooked and/or forgotten in any epic? He's given us a book where the text is double spaced and minus the appendices comes to roughly 150 pages. How stupid an assertion is it-what hubris, to think you've hit all the high points and there's not much else to tell-with a lousy little book like this! There are layers and layers and caves and mountains of material about Syd that never get probed here in these awful little pages. I hate this author. The writer doesn't seem to bat an eye when he reveals Barrett burned all his old diaries. No declaration of horror and regret. Oh well, at least the sap spends a little time on the genesis of a few of the early songs, and uncovered the fact that Barrett originally suggested the Floyd hire David. But it's not enough, to redeem him for all his other sins of omission. What a strange, wonderful, exciting, crazed adventure it must have been, for the Pink Floyd--their journey. I'm sure that its every bit as interesting as the one Jim Morrison took. How come he gets some decent print, and even a movie, and the Floyd get crap. Why oh why, won't someone capable, with a passion for the Floyd write us a decent book their fantastic journey?