Thursday
Sep302004

Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd

Nick Mason | Edited by Philip Dodd

 In addition to his own memories and research, Nick’s account of life with one of rock’s most creative, imaginative and successful bands has drawn on the thoughts and reminiscences of key players in the Floyd story. Inside Out makes use of his extensive personal archive including many extremely rare and remarkable photos.

Philip Dodd worked with Nick Mason on this project for the best part of ten years: the fruit of their labours appeared for the first time in Autumn 2004, and has now been updated for the publication of the paperback and audio editions (the latter read by Nick), covering a period which includes Pink Floyd reuniting with Roger Waters for the Live 8 Hyde Park concert in July 2005.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Hardback, 360 pages
Published 30 September 2004
ISBN 0 29784 387 7
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Paperback
Phoenix/Orion
ISBN 0 75381 906 6
Published 6 October 2005
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Audiobook
Orion Audiobooks
Published 20 October 2005
CD: ISBN 0 75287 327 X
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American Edition
Chronicle Books
ISBN 0 8118 4824 8
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Reviews

“I laughed out loud so many times my wife thought that I had Tourette’s. It’s so well written, full of detail, self-deprecating and funny. A seminal book – an intelligent, literate rock and roll memoir full of candour and wit.”

Alan Parker

Crazy Diamonds

Most rock stars have a decent story to tell. But there can be extreme variations in how they go about telling it. Some have literary aspirations, while others - such as Nick Mason of Pink Floyd - simply want to set out the achievements of a lifetime with the accuracy and attention to detail they believe is their due.

Then there is the confessional route as taken by Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of veteran headbangers Status Quo in their joint memoir XS All Areas. A broadly candid account of what went on behind the scenes both on and off the road during 40 years of Quo-related activity, it celebrates two mirror-image lives dedicated to the time-honoured pursuit of success and drugs and rock’n’roll. The authors’ failure, or perhaps unwillingness, to combine their two stories results in a major faultline running right through the book. Instead of a single, seamless narrative, there are two parallel stories covering much the same ground…

The death of Parfitt’s two-year-old daughter in a swimming-pool accident prompts the most profound stretch of writing in the book (although we first hear about it as an aside from Rossi). But while there are many less tragic tales of debauchery and general “XS”, there are no revelations that would be considered remotely shocking - unless you count the information that the band used to sit around watching porn films together while having what they called a “good polish”.

While Rossi and Parfitt fail to make any connection with what was going on outside their own individual little bubbles, Mason has made a considerably greater effort to fill in the gaps in his (and our) knowledge of the labyrinthine history of Pink Floyd in his book Inside Out. As the drummer and only member to have been with the group from the start in the mid-1960s to the present, Mason is ideally placed to tell one of the greatest stories in the pantheon of rock. The production values of the book reflect those of the Floyd themselves: solid, lavish, heavy, beautifully bound and illustrated, Inside Out is an object suitable for only the most sturdy of bookshelves or coffee tables. Everything about the design of the book – the layout, the hundreds of colour pictures, the text – has been executed with the utmost care, but for the one curious and mildly irritating omission of an index. Even the picture captions have been sculpted into precise, informative and often amusing nuggets of information.

Which would all be of little avail if the writing itself were not worth reading. Fortunately, it is. Indeed, if Mason, who studied architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London (now the University of Westminster), had failed as a musician, he could very probably have plied a successful trade as a writer. He has a measured, uncluttered style which he leavens with a dry, original wit. Recalling the fact that keyboard player Rick Wright was the first member of the Floyd to have a composition published and recorded, Mason notes that Wright thus “received a publishing advance of £75, years before any of the rest of us knew what ‘rip-off’ really meant...”

The Pink Floyd story is certainly not without its areas of conflict and excess. The rapid descent into LSD-aggravated madness of the group’s original songwriter and resident genius, Syd Barrett; the sacking of keyboard player Rick Wright during the making of The Wall; the acrimonious and eventually litigious departure of bass player Roger Waters after the release of The Final Cut in 1983; all these and other episodes are thoroughly covered by Mason. But instead of the shrill, sensationalist tone employed by so many “professional” commentators, he writes with the calm authority of someone who was actually present at the time, and wishes the story to be told in the most dignified way possible.

If you want to know how the Floyd achieved some of their astonishing lighting effects or which instruments were deployed on certain key recordings or how some of the songs came to be written, Mason can tell you. Marriages, divorces, drug-taking (what there was of it) and other personal travails that are not directly related to the running of the group are put firmly to one side and, thankfully, the only thing that gets a “good polish” are his cymbals.

Summing up the strengths of the individuals in the group in 1968, the year the ailing Barrett departed, Mason writes that David Gilmour was an “able” guitarist who “had managed to leapfrog the phase when a hair perm was considered the height of tonsorial fashion”, while Rick Wright was supplying “texture and melody” and Roger Waters “drive, discipline and musical forethought”. Turning, reluctantly, to his own abilities, Mason concludes: “As drummers are a law unto themselves, I fortunately have never had to justify my existence in quite the same way.”

Well, he has certainly justified it now.

David Sinclair, The Guardian 6 November 2004

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