Saturday, January 20, 2018

Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, by Nick Mason

Pink Floyd is my all-time favorite band, and I really enjoyed this inside account of the band's history by the only member to have been part of the band during its entire existence. Nick Mason's writing style is charming and funny; he takes a dry and witty approach to telling their story. I often found myself laughing as he clearly pokes fun at himself and others.

Inside Out opens with a description of how Nick met Roger Waters at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) where both were studying architecture. After they became friends, they formed a series of bands with a number of their friends and schoolmates, eventually settling on the name Pink Floyd and with the lineup of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and the author. They became known as a psychedelic rock band, based on their practice of using lights, video, and sound effects to enhance their shows. Mason describes the circumstances that led the band to replace Syd with David Gilmour. Ostensibly hired as a second guitarist because Syd was becoming increasingly unreliable in the live shows, David effectively took over Syd's part in the band when they decided one day not to pick Syd up for a show, although they did eventually have to make it official. Roger Waters took over as the lead songwriter.

Subsequent chapters lead the reader through the development of each new album, including two collaborations with Barbet Schroeder, two of whose films they provided soundtracks for, More and La Vallee. I remember going to see More as a sophomore at Penn State. Back then (1982-83) student groups raised money by showing movies all over campus, and students had a dozen or more choices every weekend. My interest in seeing More was primarily because of the Pink Floyd soundtrack, and I remember the movie being incredibly depressing (it's about a German student who meets a girl on vacation; she introduces him to heroin, and it ends tragically). But the soundtrack is good. I listened to it while reading this book and was impressed all over again. I recommend The Nile Song.

The author doesn't shy away from describing the personality conflicts that arose throughout the 1970s and which culminated with the release of The Final Cut. I was impressed with his ability to tell the story without recrimination, but that's perhaps easier after decades have passed. Inside Out was originally published in 2004, but it's been updated to bring the story up to 2017. I could tell from the first page that I was going to like this book, and not just because I'm a fan; it's extremely well-written, with a lot of humor and compassion. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who's a Pink Floyd fan.

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