Sunday, 18 March 2012

REVIEW: 'All the Madmen' by Clinton Heylin

As the more observant of you all will have noticed, whereas there are exceptions to the rule (the ever lovely Mimi Page being an obvious one) a lot of the music that Gonzo Multimedia puts out is from the sixties and seventies, which were somewhat of a golden age in British music.
So I felt justified in getting hold of a copy of Clinton Heylin's new book, because OK, Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, The Who and Nick Drake are not actually Gonzo recording artistes, but they are very much part of the artistic milieu that Gonzo covers. The book covers - broadly - the links between mental illness and creativity in a disparate bunch of classic British recording artistes. And that is where the problem with this book lies; the artistes in question are too blasted disparate.

Not that this is a bad book. It isn't. I am a great fan of Clinton's writing (Great White Wonders - his book about the history of bootlegs, is probably my favourite), and I don't actually think he is capable of writing a bad book. This book is excellently researched and very well written, and I enjoyed it immensely. Then why, I hear you all ask, am I complaining about it?

I'm not complaining exactly, but I do have a problem. I'm not sure what the purpose of this book is. It tells some fascinating stories, and furthermore it tells them in an engaging fashion; one that kept me happily entertained for a couple of days when - in between doing more onerous tasks - I curled up in my favourite chair with the cat on my knee, sipped tea, and read. At the end of it, I look back at what I have read and I realise that - for me at least - there was no real conclusion. I learned stuff I dodn't know before about some of my favourite artistes, but at the end of the day, there was no great a-ha moment to tie it all together. I wanted to put the book down with a big sigh, and the thought that I had finally got my head around one of life's great truisms. But I didn't.

I finished the book, finished my tea, scratched the cat behind his ears, thought "well, that's it I guess", and came in to write this review. Sadly, when it comes to an author of Heylin's calibre, that is no longer enough...

But then again, like so many of the artistes whose stories are recounted within, I am bi-polar, and perhaps, like Nick Drake, David Bowie, Ray Davies etc I am never satisfied...

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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.