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Book Review: Crazy Diamond – Syd Barrett & the Dawn of Pink Floyd by Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson

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This was one difficult book to read. Even if you don’t particularly care for Syd Barrett the man, or for Pink Floyd the group, you’ll find the graphic day-to-day description of a person slowly unraveling and disintegrating in front of your very eyes tough to take. And what makes it more difficult, of course, is that sometimes there is literally nothing you or anybody else can do to remedy the situation. It’s like watching a train hit the car directly in front of you at a crossing. Father driving, mother and four small children all singing. You know there’s going to be significant property damage, personal injury, and perhaps loss of life, but all you can do is watch it happen and do nothing.

Crazy Diamond: Syd Barrett & the Dawn of Pink Floyd gives a very detailed examination of a very critical time in the life of Barrett and the other members of the group. Which makes it all the more painful, because we already know the outcome. On the other hand, if also gives us a fairly clear picture of just how the other members of the band coped with Syd’s increasingly bizarre antics. A band is a team, and must operate as a team. Otherwise, the band won’t be together for long. A cliché, to be sure, but there’s no ‘I’ in team. So if just one part of the team is operating independently, it can seriously disrupt or even destroy the team. Regardless of how it happens, the end result is they’re no longer a team.

When Syd failed to show up for a performance, it doesn’t take a genius to gauge the crowd’s reaction, let alone that of the rest of the band. If the recognized key link in the band turns his back on his fans, goes to the rear of the stage, then detunes his guitar, or begins playing something totally different than what the rest of the band is playing, there’s obviously going to be a negative reaction on the part of the crowd. And it’s a given that even the most understanding band will also have a less than positive reaction.

People say there are no places left on the Earth to discover and explore, but these people are dead wrong. There are six billion places left to discover and explore, and that number goes up hourly. What we know today of the human brain and its inner workings is exponentially greater than what we knew a hundred years ago, or even a hundred days ago. Yet there are other people who say we’ve explored, truly explored, less than one percent of the human brain, and our understanding is even less. Look around and you’ll immediately see quite clearly that the latter are far closer to being correct than the former.

Realistically, we don’t understand why we do some of the things we ourselves do. So how can we expect to understand what somebody else’s brain dictates to them? And dictate is exactly the precise and correct term to use. How much of what you do is really what you’ve told your brain to do? Virtually nothing, when you stop and think about it. You don’t control your brain; your brain controls you. Sure, you can tell your brain to pass on a specific instruction to raise your left index finger, but that’s not controlling your brain. That’s controlling your finger. The brain decides whether it will raise that finger. But all that is for people far smarter than you and me, or at least than me. It’s probably the stuff of theoretical textbooks for at least the next hundred years. So let’s deal with the things we can comprehend.

About Lou Novacheck