Pigs Might Fly – Pink Floyd

Over the coming months we’ll be looking back from different angles at some of THE great bands of the 20th century. One band definitely in the list are Pink Floyd.

While Roger Waters takes a break before the European leg of his amazing reinvention of ‘The Wall’ tour, I thought I’d tell you about a great Pink Floyd book called ‘Pigs Might Fly’. It follows the journey of early Floyd with Syd Barrett in the 60’s and leads us through their history all the way to their last ‘almost’ performance together ironically at the Syd Barrett Tribute concert in 2007.

I got in touch with the author Mark Blake and asked him how the book came about.

Mark: I was approached by the publishers, Aurum, shortly after Floyd played Live 8 in 2005, and the news broke that the band’s record sales had gone up by something like 800 per cent. There hadn’t been a Pink Floyd biography for several years, so there was a feeling that the time was right.

What the most enjoyable part of writing the book?
Mark: Unearthing various characters from the band’s early days: people they hung out with in Cambridge and London in the early and mid-1960s. You end up turning private detective, and there was always a sense of satisfaction when one of them left a message on your mobile or replied to a speculative e-mail. Their input helped contextualise the band’s story and helped shed light on the band members’ very different personalities.

Mark indeed compiles the views from a formidable supporting cast. Filling in the bands history with intimate anecdotes and sometimes touching off the cuff comments, including one from a middle-aged bike riding Barrett. Never at any time in the book are you left feeling short changed in the information department. Capturing the reserved quintissential Englishness of a band with more than their fair share of stiff upper lips, and probably most difficult of all, takes no-ones AND everyone’s side.

What was the most surprising thing you found out when writing the book?
Mark: Pink Floyd, like many bands of the time, were making it up as they went along. They were allowed an unprecedented amount of freedom by their record company to do so. The jump from, say, an album such as Ummagumma – half of which was made up on the spot – to Dark Side Of The Moon was incredible. Researching their story really brought that to life.

Not dis-similar to the time Premiership football managers now get to achieve results, a modern day Pink Floyd would’ve possibly never had the chance to blossom before being shelved or dropped.

Mark revealed some things were left out from the finished book, mostly related to ex-wives. And, told me once it was out, he had several interviewees phone him up to tell him all the stuff they wouldn’t tell him earlier. I could tell you, but i’d have to kill you.

rock n roll

What are your top 3 Pink Floyd tunes?
Mark: That would be a struggle, but, predictably I’d say Time and Comfortably Numb, but also Dogs (from Animals). That’s a brilliant, harrowing piece of music.
By the way David Gilmour has said he will join Roger on one of his 2010 Wall Shows, which one… we don’t know yet, but let’s hope it is in the UK (especially the O2 concert I am going to).

For books about bands Mark recommends, Robert Greenfield’s “Exile On Main Street: A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones” (I agree) and Jon Savage’s story of Punk “England’s Dreaming”. You can buy ‘Pigs Might Fly’ from Amazon here

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