BOOK REVIEW! PINK FLOYD; LEARNING TO FLY by Chris Welch (Castle Communications, 1994)And it certainly will do if you're looking for a light history of one of pop's most pungent progeny that doesn't probe too deep into the core of the being and just presents everything in a nice, easy to gulp fashion for the "Classic Rock" fan who doesn't want to be bothered by things like beneath the veneer meaning and intensity. And it has a whole lotta color photos too that you can tear outta the book and paste on your wall, just like you usedta do when you wuz a kid!
Yeah we all know what a douche Welch has been and shall remain until he hits that eternal deadline in the sky. As any MELODY MAKER reader could tell you, Welch was one scribe who was eternally stuck in a progressive rock mode throughout his entire career and his writings and opines have been a major embarrassment compared to his British Weekly compats from Alan Jones to Nick Kent/Charles Shaar Murray/Mick Farren and the rest of the NME brood. Not forgetting Jonh Ingham and Giovanni Dadomo and...well, I shant go on but you get the message. Total stuck up classic rock mudstick stodginess, written for the pasty face who still holds his copy of TARKUS close to ever-puffy nipple.
It's clear even from the text in this particular tome that Welch never had a taste for the rawer aspects of music (otherwise known as "rock & roll") and continues to harbor a grudge against not only pub and punk rock but the people who had encouraged it in the first place. Fine, that's his phobia, but when Welch's preconceived notions seep too deep into this history of the Floyd, a band that you kinda get the feeling Welch only loved after their climb into the realm of superstardom via DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, the book tells us way more about Welch than it does Floyd. And although that might be more'n OK if it's any of the above-mentioned English gonzoids or some choice US under-the counterculture scribe's doing the self-adulatory schtick, but Welch? Sheesh, the resultant spew is kinda like being told about rock music by your spinster Sunday School teacher.
At least Welch delivers on the early days of the group without too much pious pontificating. He captures, even in his own stodgy fashion, just what it was that made the original Pink Floyd such an enticing group that was talked about in hallowed tones long after leader Syd Barrett was unceremoniously jettisoned from their ranks thus setting the group's controls on a quite different trajectory than originally envisioned. But still you get the feeling that there's much about Floyd he doesn't cozy up to...classic albums like A SAUCERFULL OF SECRETS and MORE seem to be brushed away if mentioned at all, while even UMMAGUMMA, a set which one arguably could call one of the major watermarks of Pink Floyd's career, is rushed through as if only a footnote with nada being mentioned of the second disc where each of the band's members perform their out-there avant garde compositions! I know that for a good number of people Floyd petered out after Barrett left only to renew themselves after MOON hit, but you kinda get the impression that Welch thought this entire period was not worthy of much if any mention and that more precious space could be spent on Floyd during their seventies/eighties megastardom period which at least would give Castle Communications more opportunities to show off those bitchin' color live photos.
Ya get what ya pays for (at least sometimes), and I kinda get the idea that having Welch tackling the subject of Pink Floyd is definitely an entirely different hoo hah than say, the long-awaited Mick Farren book on Hawkwind which has yet to see the light of day and promises to top this churn out on all levels. LEARNING TO FLY's for the one-dimensional "rock" fan, written up by one of the more one-dimensional rock critics to ever get as far as he did if only because he managed to tap into the massive dud/classic rock audience out there and did mighty well doing so. Try to seek out the other Floyd books that were hitting the shopping mall book racks in the eighties before traipsing upon this, though if by chance you do come across this 'un be sure to read it with plenty of caution, and maybe a reminder that yeah, most of the people who claim an undying adherence to "rock music" are nothing but closet stereo freak hi-fi nuts who are the 197X equivalent of Dennis the Menace's father in sideburns and fancy hippie jeans. Only Dennis' dad had better taste in music, dontcha think?