Fonthill Media [Publication date: 28.07.2017]
There is a whole library-worth of books already penned about Pink Floyd, the third-best selling band in the history of popular music. So why, you may wonder, does the world need another?
Well, having delved rather deeply into this opus, it is safe to say Andrew Wild has produced an essential piece in the Pink Floyd jigsaw for the die-hard; and an accessible, humorous and engaging book for the casual fan.
At its heart, this is a paperback encyclopaedia of facts, quotations and anecdotes that casts an illuminating light into the various phases of Pink Floyd. The chronological treatment of every recorded track details who wrote what, who played what and when it was played live. Alternative versions and outtakes are chronicled, together with releases on which they can be found.
Much of the critical analysis of the songs provided by Wild is augmented by contemporary reviews, together with comments made by the band or those close to them in various publications since. In this way, a balanced picture is built up of the band’s complete body of work. Wild is forthright in his view that the band barely put a foot wrong between ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970) and ‘The Final Cut’ (1983). Nevertheless, inclusion of other commentary and secondary sources provides a valuable counterpoint.
The author has distilled the key moments in the band’s history. For instance, the influence of Syd Barrett across the band’s output is acknowledged without letting the subject become overly mystical. He says, “While there is almost no trace of Barrett’s direct musical influence on ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Wish You Were Here’ or ‘The Wall’, his fall from grace and slide into insanity colours all three of these significant – and massively selling – albums.”
The song-by-song format enables the book to pick out repeated themes in the construction of songs. Talking about ‘Echoes’ on ‘Meddle’ (1971), Wild observes that this was the first time the band took an essentially simple song, defined it with a couple of verses, lengthened though a semi-jam, deconstructed it and then built it back up in a way that was “used to great effect on later compositions such a ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, ‘Dogs’, and in more compact form, ‘Money’”.
There are incisive and revealing notes on the development of landmark albums like ‘Dark Side…’, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Wall’. Wild is probably more forgiving about ‘The Final Cut’ and less kind about Floyd’s post-Waters output than I might be, but the crucial point is that his descriptions of the material are informed and thought provoking; and have caused me to go back to revisit the music, listening, as it were, with new ears.
A subsequent publication about Pink Floyd in the ‘All The songs…’ series has just been released, but that book weighs in at an overlong 500-odd pages and over-expensive 40-odd quid. For my money, Wild’s tome is the better option, providing an insightful, erudite and extremely well researched stocking filler for Christmas. Thorough.
Review by Dave Atkinson
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