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VINE VOICEon 15 July 2009
Some acts, such as the Beatles, Dylan and the Floyd, have had so many books written about them that it is hard to come up with anything new. This book succeeds in describing two aspects of the Pink Floyd story to a level of detail I haven't found elsewhere:
-The size and diversity of the Cambridge scene; there were many other creative people, e.g. Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, and the friendships lasted a long time; the Floyd have a long history of supporting old mates on hard times. Syd Barrett was of course the classic instance of this. Blake makes the point that many of the people involved had missing fathers, e.g. Waters and later Barrett, and implies that they may have thus lacked role models and conventional direction; he argues that Barrett was not the only one from the Cambridge scene whose talent failed to fulfil all its promise.
-The power struggles of the post-Barrett group, with Waters and Gilmour as the strong antagonists, Mason as the diplomat, and Wright as the nice guy who would rather avoid all this aggro. This makes one wonder how the group politics would have evolved if Barrett had stayed in the band (like many "what ifs", fascinating but frustrating).
Chronologically, the book was published soon after Barrett's death, so the penultimate event is the "hell freezes over" reunion at Live8. Blake justifiably spends a long time on this, and (bearing in mind that Wright was to die not long after Barrett) Blake's view could be summed up in another well-known song lyric: "It's too late when we die to admit we don't see eye to eye".
Perhaps not the perfect Floyd biography, but probably the best to date, complementing Julian Palacios' excellent Barrett biography "Lost in the Woods". Blake is an ideal biographer, on the one hand being a devotee of his subjects (his website tells us that the first concert he saw was the Floyd performing The Wall in 1980) but on the other able to exercise analytical detachment.
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on 15 January 2008
I have read a fair few Floyd books now including Nick Masons and i have to say this is by far and away the best and most comprehensive. It starts right back at the begining in the mid 60's right through to 2007, covering literally everything. It also covers their solo ventures during and after Floyd and also gives great info on how all the albums faired in the US and the UK (Solo's included). He must have been working on this book for years. I was very impressed that he mentioned Dave Gilmour turned up on Parkinsons show in 1999 as a session guitarist for Paul McCartney who was having a full show dedicated to him. Dave Gilmour was never mentioned on the show and i only noticed myself that he was there playing. Very impressive research. I learn't a lot about the band and its members that i never knew and will have to read it again as its hard to remember everything. Its a great story and also quite sad (Syd's decline). Roger Waters comes out of it the worst, looks like he gave Gilmour a very hard time and the rest of the band also. His ego and tempermant being his main problem. And considering the abuse he has taken, Dave Gilmour comes out of it with dignity in tact.

If your a Floyd fanantic or a casual music listener with a passing interest in the band, its a must buy.
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on 27 December 2010
Ultimately, I found this book depressing.

Written chronologically with a 'flash forward' at the start of each section, it tells the tale known by most Floyd fans: the pre-pro bands and teenage rebellion in Cambridge; drugs; cool 60s London; and trips to Europe and India by some band members and hangers-on. The one album of the Syd Barrett Floyd featuring his whimsical, eclectic talent, followed by Floyd 2 with Gilmour; a band who spent the next three years aimlessly thrashing around, producing dodgy albums, whilst trying to keep Barrett alive and sane, although as a drug victim Syd was by then both mentally ill and incapable. Meddle (and Echoes especially) eventually summarised Floyd 2's early output in a convincing manner, and while the band were toying with Dark Side they slipped off to produce the 'solid' Obscured by Clouds in a couple of weeks - a feat they were unable to achieve (or couldn't be arsed to achieve) with their main Floyd output to that date. Then Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, the high point, followed by Water's increasing domination leading to less and less musical content and more and more lyrical angst about Waters' father's death, his childhood, and Syd . Gilmour was seemingly culpable in not being bothered, despite his talent, to write anything to complement Waters' vision during the late 70's and early 80's. By the time of The Wall & The Final Cut, Wright had been sacked and the other members of the band could barely manage to be in the same room with each other. This divide and bitterness continues for 25 years, during which Waters re-stages The Wall and produces a number of very variable solo albums, including an opera, provoking modest interest, while Gilmour's Neo-Floyd create two very popular records that make a fortune, and Wright and Mason also engage in a number of relatively low-profile projects. In the end, a brief reconciliation at Live8 and a crappy 'not quite a reunion' at a post-mortem Syd memorial concert prove to be the final gasp before Wright sadly dies of cancer.

Blake indicates that Waters is a damaged, domineering, determined bully who takes it out on Wright in particular, but has mellowed by the new millennium. Wright is passive and quiet, losing musical influence because of that at time goes on. Mason is the 'happy go lucky' balanced one who mediates and would doubtless be prepared to admit he is the least competent drummer who ever made a major rock career. Gilmour is quiet, gentlemanly, but incredibly stubborn (and seemingly lazy as a composer), while the 'old' Syd was madcap but ultimately mentally ill.

The style of Blake's book is very workmanlike, while it is also very much a chronological list of, 'he did that, they did that, they said that', which is ultimately rather dull over 400 pages. But what gets me is how he almost never mentions anything positive. Was being in the Floyd really this miserable? ALL the time? The only hint of fun is their having an endless succession of 60's fashion model girlfriends - but this is quickly superseded by a collection of miserable, failed marriages. If it really was that ghastly, then poor sods (what a waste: such privileged success, ruined by bickering and bitterness) and since there MUST have been some good sides to their massive 'success' story, then, for me, Mr. Blake has somehow failed to create a rounded picture.

Solid, detailed, but flat and miserable.
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on 1 October 2007
Having enjoyed Nick Mason's insider's view of the Floyd, I found this book to be the perfect companion volume. Blake doesn't suffer from Mason's need to ameliorate the bad feeling and massage the egos of the people with whom he grew up. This means Blake can take a more objective assessment of what happened with Syd Barrett, and just exactly what went on during the recording of "The Wall" to kick off such bad vibes between Roger Waters and the rest of the band. Where Nick Mason, diplomatically following Gilmour's lead, chose to 'forget' details, Blake interviews not just the band members, but others who were involved on the management, production and session aspects. Nobody comes out smelling of roses, and it's clear that there was often more than two sides to many of the conflicts, and more players than those who were officially in the band.

An excellent book for anyone interested in the Floyd story.
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on 22 October 2007
There have been many books written about Pink Floyd, but apart from 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' by Nicholas Shaffner, which was written in the 1980's, none of them have even tried to examine the characters that make up the band. 'Pigs Might Fly' goes far far beyond 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' as the writer seems to have interviewed dozens and dozens of people close to Pink Floyd, especially when they were growing up in Cambridge. This means lots and lots of new stories and recollections you haven't read hundreds of times before. It sometimes misses the fresh input of the band themselves if only to help explain their actions over the years. But overall this is a fascinating read, which will surely turn out to be the last word on Pink Floyd at least until Roger Waters or David Gilmour dare to tell their stories. Don't hold your breath!
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on 12 August 2013
I had to give it five stars, because I don't see how it could have been any better.
I anticipated a mammoth read, a long slog through 430-ish pages trying to sift through rigid quotes and dates, more like a historical thesis than an enjoyable read. I was pleasantly surprised.
Blake's thoroughly extensive research makes for an interesting, pleasantly-paced book with no notably boring parts (which is quite a feat for its length). It covers everything and was the first Floyd book I've read, and was satisfying enough to probably qualify as the last.
In parts it's as if Blake was an extra member, there at the scene, a fly-on-the-wall. He wasn't, he's evidently just a brilliant writer. This covers everything, leaves no holes, no cobwebs. All bandmates, all albums, all tours and everything. Just excellence.
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on 30 November 2015
I had numerous attempts at picking up this book as at laboured for ages on the band members growing up and then loads about Syd Barrett. Once you get passed the early stuff the book then flows at a much better pace for me. Others of course will find the very early stuff interesting.
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on 9 January 2014
This was a very interesting read in certain sections, especially around Syd and Dark Side. However, it does drag in some places where I struggled to stay attentive as endless names were mentioned then quickly forgotten or a reasonably innocuous event was described in too much detail.

I suspect it's great for the obsessive Floyd fan, but still just interesting enough for a casual Floyd fan like myself
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on 26 May 2009

It is extremely well written by Mark Blake who has gone in to great detail about each band member's background. He has explained to the reader where they came from, who their families and friends were and the schools they went to.
Mark Blake writes intelligently and with great fluency. It is a pleasure for a Pink Floyd fan, who has grown up with their music, to read through.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who would like more of an insight and understanding of the band, it's members and music.

I will not easily lend this book!

Shine on......
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on 29 January 2014
I like most of Pink Floyd's work, but am far from being a Floyd nerd, so when I borrowed this book with its mass of detail I didn't expect to do more than dip into it. I started at the beginning, and it's a testament to the writing that I read it through to the end (over several weeks). I still feel I could have done with less information about each of the hundreds of musicians, friends, artists, managers, roadies, etc who all contributed to the Pink Floyd story, but I do recognise that the way MB carefully lays out this extensive network does end up giving an excellent insight into the shape of the music industry in general and the Pink Floyd operation in particular.

If you're interested in the who, the when, the where, this is a fantastic reference book for you. This is also good if you want to explore the personalities of the five main protagonists; MB is not judgemental but by the end of the book you feel you know all their strengths and weaknesses. That includes their musicianship and song-writing skills. There is brief analysis of most of the songs along the way, but that is not a major feature of this book and of course MB's evaluation of their relative merits is a bit subjective.

If you are a committed (I had better not say obsessive) Pink Floyd fan, this is obviously a must-read. If you are simply someone who has always admired them and bought a couple of their albums in the past, you may still find this a satisfying read (if something of an endurance test) and it will send you back to listen afresh to the music.
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