Nick Mason has been with Pink Floyd right from the beginning – through all the band’s incarnations and troubles. He makes a genial host in his biography of the band, yet he proves too easygoing and unconfrontational to give us much analysis of the internal politics (and problems with Syd) that have periodically torn the relationships between the four/five-some apart. Added to that, Syd apart, the Floyd appear to have been about the only band that didn’t turn up, tune in and drop out in the late 60s and 70s, continuing their studies and gigging hard until it became impossible to maintain both when their musical success started to take off. All this apart, it is a good story and is deftly told for us.
My real exposure to Pink Floyd started off with Dark Side of the Moon – I had the posters on my wall and the stickers on my school binder. Reading this book, it was lovely to imagine them tinkering around to produce all the sound effects, and funny to hear that they rejected Paul McCartney’s recorded comments for the background. The four albums starting with Dark Side of the Moon, running through Wish You Were Here and Animals to The Wall were hugely influential to me, (I discovered the charms of Meddle later). There is a theatricality about these four – from a band determined to create coherent albums and give the audience a good show. Of course by the time of The Wall, the show was everything – I was so jealous of my brother who went to see it at Earls Court. Mason outlines the creative processes behind the albums and the shows as they became dominated by Roger and led to increasingly tense times for all involved.
What does come through is that Mason, although not a flashy drummer was, like Ringo, incredibly important to the music. He was also instrumental in keeping the peace in and out of the studio. Being a non-songwriter, it helps that Mason has another obsession in motorsports, but this is mostly mentioned in passing, letting Pink Floyd rightfully star.
Given the sad passing of Syd and recently Rick, we may never hear their side of the story and how they were forced out, maybe one day the others will tell their sides of the story. The Live8 reunion was a fitting coda to the Pink Floyd story and is added as an afterword in the latest edition. In summary this is an entertaining and light read together with some great photos of the history of one of the greatest rock bands in the world.