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Home arrow Reviews arrow Books arrow "Pink Floyd FAQ" - Stuart Shea
"Pink Floyd FAQ" - Stuart Shea Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Friday, 09 October 2009

Pink Floyd FAQRecently published (July 2009) is "Pink Floyd FAQ", an absorbing, illuminating, and entertaining new book from respected author Stuart Shea that takes a totally different angle on Pink Floyd's history, and the facts, figures and trivia relating to the band.

Published by Backbeat Books (part of the Hal Leonard empire), it aims to "[tell] the band's story, dissects their most popular work, and provides little-known facts, all adding up to a provocative must-read for fans".

With around 320 pages of stories, history, observation, opinion, photos, and reminiscences from those who were there, Pink Floyd FAQ is a wide-ranging and refreshingly non-sequential look at the band, that newcomers and old-hands alike will enjoy.

The book starts with Shea's rationale behind writing the book - the frustrations he felt from previous media coverage, and his own, wide-ranging set of questions on what drove the band, what lay behind the band, and what shaped the personalities themselves.

It looks at each of the individuals in the band's story - not just band members past and present, but other key personnel: management, cover designers and such like. Even at this early stage of the book, Shea is well into his stride, and he manages to keep their stories detailed whilst avoiding waffle, and most of all, they are perhaps the most interesting (and in places, amusing) biographies of these people to date.

A chapter is given to each of the band members, with Shea sharing his views on the ten great moments on record for each of the musicians. Such material is always up for heavy debate, but Shea throws in enough reasoning for most to broadly agree with his choices, albeit maybe begrudgingly! Indeed, it is one of the few times in print that Nick's contribution to the band's sound is really covered in detail.

Shea also analyses what, if any, links there are between the band and such contentious subjects as sex, drugs, prog rock, anonymity, and mental health.

As an American author, there is some focus on things that side of the Atlantic - a good example of this is the chapter that takes a look at the early days, as Pink Floyd made various attempts to crack the US market. This covers outings such as the problematic early American tours, and the Pat Boone and American Bandstand TV shows.

Some of what Shea sees as the band's more notable errors and missteps are covered, much of which is focused on events in their early days. However, his final example of these will prove the most contentious to many - David and Nick's decision to carry on as Pink Floyd in 1986.

A short chapter written by recording engineer John Leckie - gainfully employed around the time of Dark Side of the Moon - provides an interesting insight into the earlier days of the band, both in the studio and live. Indeed, Leckie recalls seeing the Floyd at London Free School in 1967: "It was summer, so it was not totally black outside, and at Powis Square Nursery School. The audience sat on little kids' chairs (and occasionally jumped up and 'freaked out')"

An interesting chapter takes a measured look at the evolution of their live show - aurally, visually, and with some regard to the musical equipment - from their earliest days through to the mega productions in the eighties and nineties.

With some thirty chapters, there's something for everyone, with most, if not all, facets of the band's story covered. With a subject as wide and diverse as a band such as the Floyd, Shea's new approach seems to work extremely well, dispensing with the normal, chronological progression found in other tomes.

Throughout the book, there's an entertaining narrative - one of very few (alongside Nick Mason's Inside Out) books with a writing style that marks it out from the rest of the pack. Never dry, it brings the story in a lively, concise way that never gets bogged down in too much detail or minutiae. It is a good starting point for the novice fan, and yet an excellent, informative read for the "expert" too.

Along with other retailers, Amazon are taking orders (at a healthy discount in some cases) through these links: Amazon UK, (US/international), Amazon Canada, Amazon Germany, or Amazon France. Using these links will give much needed (and much appreciated) help towards site costs, and won't cost you any extra.

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