Book Review: "All The Madmen" by Clinton Heylin (2012)

Written by Clinton Heylin and published in November 2012, “All the Madmen: Barrett, Bowie, Drake, the Floyd, The Kinks, The Who and a Journey to the Dark Side of English Rock” puts the microscope on six of English rocks biggest stars, who in the years following the often mythicized “Summer of Love” experienced various problems with their mental wellbeing, while often battling to maintain their sanity. In this fascinating and insightful read, Heylin explores the drug problems of Syd Barrett and Peter Green, the battle David Bowie faced over his identity in the guise of Ziggy Satrdust, the depression faced by Nick Drake and Ray Davies often in response to their lack of commercial success, and the eccentricity of Pete Townshend. Heylin also looks into how these musicians were able to take their own personal experiences and use them as fuel for their work, highlighting how during this period (the early 1970s) these great musicians used their somewhat fragile state of minds to produce some of the greatest British albums of all time. He puts the spotlight on the making of albums such as Quadrophenia, Ziggy Stardust, and The Dark Side of the Moon looking into the influences behind these albums and the themes they explore, as well as how a lot of the music on these albums came about as a response to how the likes of Bowie and Townshend were feeling at the time. This book is very well researched and pays great attention to detail in its subject matter, while Heylin does a good job in presenting what can often be sensitive areas to go into including the issues of drug abuse and mental illness in a carefully considered manner. I would recommend “All the Madmen” to anyone interested in rock history, as well as those interested in the psychological side of music making. “All the Madmen” is a highly informative and interesting read that examines an area which is often overlooked in rock history, the madness and mystery of its participants, and how psychology and self-examination came to play a massive role in influencing the art that was created.   
– Sam

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