All The Madmen
By Clinton Heylin
Constable & Robinson – £20.00
What is it with certain rock stars, predominantly English ones at that, that are deliberately drawn to professing they’re a snare drum short of a full drum kit?
In so doing, do they somehow (cryptically) mis-comprehend that it makes them more cool? More interesting? More important? More lavishly idiosyncratic? Or is it more a case of them feeling less likely to be horribly ridiculed – by both fans and critics alike – should they release the repetitive dregs of their long-forgotten years of former fabness?
In other words, should they release pointless pants.
Indeed, madness can quite often come to the aid of many so-called maudlin musicians such as Nick Drake et al, because madness, for all its seemingly kooky sense of diversion, is quite often regarded as something of a sexy smokescreen. A top topic of both crude and complacent conversation, which is honestly analysed and infectiously wrought to bear by one of the world’s leading rock historians, Clinton Heylin in this, his most recent and un-put-down-able book All The Madmen – Barrett, Bowie, Drake, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, The Who and A Journey to the Dark Side of British Rock.
Un-put-down-able for several reasons really: partly because of some of the new light it sheds (particularly in relation to the ever fantastic Peter Green), partly because of some of the author’s pert rawness (especially with regards Roger Waters) and partly because of some of the sheer audacity: ‘‘It would be great for me to be actually mad, [but] I’ve got a terrible feeling that I’m not.’’
Said pathetic words are myopically espoused by none other than Ray Davies of ye Kinks following the disappointing sales of Muswell Hillbillies (what a complete and utterly annoying bell-end cum twat of the highest order).
I’ve worked within the Mental Health Service and it really, really isn’t a lot of fun.
Those who suffer with mental health problems are quite often taken hideous advantage of – socially, financially as well as sexually. They are also abused, ostracised, isolated and are only begrudgingly accepted within the everyday norm of society – a deplorable symptom of madness I should imagine the apathetic Davies knows very little about.
A deplorable symptom of madness which Clinton Heylin touches on quite substantially, especially when quoting R.D. Laing (who in 1960, released the rather inflammatory The Divided self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness): ‘’The [divided] individual in the ordinary circumstances of living may feel more unreal than real; in a literal sense, more dead than alive; precariously differentiated from the rest of the world, so that his identity and autonomy are always in question… He may feel more insubstantial than substantial, and unable to assume that the stuff he is made of is genuine, good, valuable. […]. It is lonely and painful to be always misunderstood, but there is at least from this point of view a measure of safety in isolation… He maintain(s) himself in isolated detachment from the world for months, living alone in a single room… But in doing this, he (begins) to feel he (is) dying inside… (so) he emerge(s) into social life for a brief foray in order to get a ‘dose’ of other people, but ‘not an overdose’… (before) withdraw(ing) again into his own isolation in a confusion of frightened hopelessness.’’
So how dare the likes of Davies, and perhaps to a marginally lesser degree, David Bowie – whose own manager Tony Defries, in referring to Bowie’s half-brother Terry, is herein quoted as saying: ‘’The only thing about Terry’s madness that seemed to be a constant was David’s ability to use it as a public-relations ploy, something he would refer to when he wanted to capture someone’s attention or impress a reporter with ‘’truths’’ about the pain of his existence’’ – tread the murky waters of madness to suit their own (Wretched? Selfish? Financial?) needs?
All the Madmen is a fractious, fabulous and what’s more, truly fascinating read. But then it was written by he whom many refer to as ‘’the only Dylanologist worth reading,’’ so it ought hardly be surprising.