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on 25 April 2012
I thought this book would be a little light relief - a fun but not particularly stimulating break from endless academic reading. In actuality, its a bit of both. Its a lot of fun - the interviews with key players in the 1970s music scene and the stories of madness, mania, drugs and, of course, rock and roll are all great fun. At the same time though, the author gives us a pretty expansive discussion of what madness is, how it interacts with creativity and how destructive as well as liberating it can be. I enjoyed this book even more for this more sensitive and intellectual approach and I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in music and how it interacts with us socially and politically.
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on 11 June 2012
Heylin's big idea - that, under the influence of the counter-culture's relationship with "anti-psychiatry", British rock from 1967-75 was preoccupied with mental illness, and frequently created by those who suffered from it - is one of those ideas that, in hindsight, seems so bleedin' obvious you wonder why no-one picked up on it earlier.

His analysis of the roots of the phenomemenon, and the work which came out of it, is commendably thorough, thoughtful and reads very smoothly. He's particularly good on some of the less well-known works, such as "Jackson Frank", the more obscure corners of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac albums, and the depressing tale of Vincent Crane. You could, if you wish, probably pick a few additional artists he could have covered, but there are no serious gaps.

Overall it's an interesting and engaging read, though it has a couple of flaws. Heylin's tone gets rather churlish at times - he's really got the knives out for David Bowie and the Nick Drake estate - and while his points may be valid he does himself no favours by writing about them in a style reminiscent of the people who used to write to the papers in green ink and make their obsessive points in CAPITAL LETTERS. More importantly, the book just seems to come to an end: there are interesting appendices, but the overall narrative arc ends abruptly, without any attempt to pull it all together, in chapter seven. There are a couple of hints that the punk and post-punk eras kept on this exploration of inner space, but more is needed, and in particular the roles of transitional figures like Peter Hammill and Richard Strange could have been used to show how this admittedly peculiar torch was passed on.

All said, though, a highly readable, stimulating and original book on a mysteriously overlooked aspect of music history.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 June 2014
Having read many biographies of David Bowie; a Kinks biography; a Nick Drake biography; and numerous Mojo magazine articles on Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Peter Green, and The Who, I came to this book reasonably well informed about the artists under discussion.

Clinton Heylin links these artists in terms of their relationship with mental illness. It's a reasonable enough jumping off point for an exploration into their key works.

Clinton Heylin is opinionated and, whilst I didn't learn much new, I enjoyed some of his more outspoken views on some of the music not least his complete dismissal of pretty much everything Bowie produced from Diamond Dogs onwards.

The book inspired me to listen to a few tunes I'd not properly listened to before, particularly some by Syd Barrett and The Who.

Overall it's inessential, but enjoyable enough, particularly if you like David Bowie, Nick Drake, Syd Barrett, The Kinks and early Fleetwood Mac.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 October 2015
A strange mix of a book, in parts enjoyable, educational but also confusing.

It takes the lives of some of rock music's more manic personages and discusses their drug abuse, excesses and madness. At the forefront of this are Syd Barrett and Nick Drake - complete fruitloops for most of the time. David Bowie, Ray Davies of the Kinks and a cast of other strange rock stars are also featured.

The book concentrates on the great years of rock music of the early 1970s when excess was the order of the day. The book starts off with a chapter on psychology and closes with an appendix on the history of madness - neither of which seem greatly relevant almost as if the author was determined to include them whatever the subject matter was. Nevertheless it is a highly readable book. It doesn't add anything new, culling most of its material from existing sources but it does give and insight into the strange times that were the late sixties and early seventies.
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on 29 December 2012
`All The Madmen' by Clinton Heylin

I enjoyed this book very much. It is well-researched and full of interesting information. The central idea is that madness is a key theme of British Rock in the 60s and 70s, and was frequently the context from which it emerged. Syd Barrett and Nick Drake are two obvious candidates for consideration but I didn't realise the extent to which David Bowie, Pete Townsend, and Ray Davis and their work can also be usefully explored in this light. Heylin is concerned to emphasise that madness is a strong aspect of the British cultural tradition and an appendix sketches out this wider theme. However, he also stresses the exacerbating influences of LSD and the theories of R.D.Laing, during the period particular to this book. Loads of anecdotes. The only thing that jarred a bit was the author's occasional slip into very long sentences with many clauses and parentheses. Overall, a stimulating and entertaining read with much to reflect on afterwards.
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on 18 April 2014
Bought as a gift for my husband, who loves reading about slightly eccentric people from this era. The book kept him entertained for hours and caused much amusement. Would recommend as a purchsse for anyone of a certain age perhaps, who can remember seeing some of these people live on stage and who has taken an interest in their live and work.
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on 30 May 2014
I found this by chance and thought I'd try it, as it seemed to concentrate on the only period of rock history I'm really interested in. The thesis is interesting and original. Well written and well worth a look if you're into this era and topic.
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on 20 February 2014
i simply couldn't put this book down. i never reaiised that being a rich successful musician was fraught with danger, all my heroes are very very rich,and also very very insane. a brilliant book, my advice buy it
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Most of this has been told several times in several different contexts, but Heylin puts a new spin on the stories of these stars by approaching it with the focus on madness – latent, drug/alcohol induced or a mixture of the two. The six main protagonists fall into two groups: those who more or less never recovered (Barrett/Green/Drake) and the ones who worked their way back (Davies/Townshend/Bowie).

Of the three survivors, it’s stretching the scope a bit to include Townshend; he was several times near to breakdown, but appears to have had sufficient reserves to get through it. Being not a great fan of post-Ziggy Bowie, I hadn’t realised what a low, drug-induced state he reached in the mid 1970s, but he too had the strength to recover. Heylin maintains a healthy scepticism about Bowie’s loyalty to his tragic half-brother Terry (and the many other members of his family with lesser mental issues), almost suggesting that Bowie welcomed this as a source for songs and lyrics. Heylin displays unremitted sympathy for Drake, using the saddest phrase in the book: “He was internally shutting down.”

And what of Syd? All the old anecdotes are trotted out, plus some new ones, but Heylin infuses new interest by his suggestion that, up to Wish You Were Here, Syd wasn’t quite as off the beat as one might think, and that the madcap was still having the odd laugh at his old band’s expense.

Another theme is to what extent a band moving on to super-stardom tends its casualty founder. The book reminds us how Gilmour, in particular, did all he could to look after Barrett, artistically and otherwise, whereas there’s not much hint given that Fleetwood and McVie had much later contact with Green.

As far as Drake’s concerned, there were several support networks available, e.g. his family and the sympathetic Joe Boyd, but it seems he was too far gone to benefit.

The book ends with a chapter on the history of madness in the development of English folk music over the centuries, which I couldn’t be bothered with. The implied link is tenuous, as the only one of the six who can remotely be described as having folk roots was Drake.

There have been some better books about this period of rock, but this is far better than the majority that keep on recycling the same old tales with no attempt at analysis.
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on 23 May 2014
Superb Book Very informative & very well written. The less said here the better. Just buy it & read it! You will not be disappointed.
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