Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sound in Pictures With Floyd and The Who

Music: Tony Nunes reviews Marcus Hearn's pictorial biographies on Pink Floyd and The Who

Biographer Marcus Hearn just released a pair of books outlining the careers of two of the most famous English rock bands to emerge out of the late 1960's. The books, simply titled The Who and Pink Floyd are detailed pictorial histories with extensive, biographically relevant context interlaced throughout. Both books are great insights into the humble beginnings of two bands that are now synonymous with grand tours, multi-platinum records and rockstar living. It's a fitting time for the books release as Roger Waters just finished touring The Wall across the US and The Who are ready to embark on their new Quodrophenia tour this Fall.

The psychedelic history of Pink Floyd is on display throughout Hearn's book. Page after page details their emergence from a small club band in the 1960's to their reign as the "darlings of the psychedelic underground" shortly thereafter. The book covers the band's early years by following them along on their journey of self discovery. Hearn does a great job recounting the story of Roger Waters, Syd Barrett and company on their road of experimenting with the poppy sounds of the 60's all the way to their identity defining release of Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. The book also captures the turmoil of Barrett's departure from the band and the addition of his iconic replacement David Gilmour.

The photographs which accompany the text make up the bulk of the book, chronicling Pink Floyd's hits and misses of experimentation. Floyd aren't known for their stage presence per se, but the enormous props and showmanship of their live shows is what truly set them apart. It's hard to capture Floyd's uniquely psychedelic sound. One series of photographs by photographer Marc Sharratt attempts to capture the bands psychedelic nature by using colored filters of deep reds paired with distortion techniques. Depictions of the bands 1980 The Wall tour in London however, is where the surreal nature of their sound most successfully played into the visuals of their stage show. Another great series of London press photos show an inflatable bed floating over the Thames River in celebration of the release of the bands live album Delicate Sound of Thunder.    

The Who album is equally informative about the bands upbringing, with photos that are less striking than Floyd's but better suited to a band like The Who's raucous Brit-pop sensibilities. Photos of the band performing at the Rolling Stones 1968 Rock and Roll Circus are epic. Where Pink Floyd make up for their lack of stage presence with props and sets, The Who are shown as a charismatic band with a flair for performing. The best section of the book is a series of shots taken by photographer David Magnus in 1968 as he chronicled one fans dream date with Who bassist John Entwistle. More than any of the photos in either book, these capture the life of a 60's rockstar best.

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