Nick Mason Recalls Pink Floyd’s Struggle With Syd Barrett’s Breakdown
Nick Mason said that revisiting early Pink Floyd material made him think about how the band had been too “young and immature” to react effectively as frontman Syd Barrett succumbed to health issues.
Barrett co-founded the English prog group in 1965, but was edged out three years later as his behavior became more erratic. It’s thought a combination of mental health issues and heavy drug-taking were to blame. During his tenure, he contributed to Floyd’s first two albums, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets, helping establish their psychedelic reputation.
Mason, who last year launched his new band Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets with the aim of celebrating that early material, recently picked his favorite Barrett tracks for Rolling Stone.
He chose “Bike” as one of his five. “The lyrics to this are so very Syd, astonishingly clever," he noted. "It’s fun, but there’s a depth of sadness to them. When I listen to it now, I realize how young and immature we were and how hopeless we were at coming to grips with Syd’s breakdown.”
Listen to Pink Floyd's ‘Bike’
He added that “so many songs were written by Syd in such a short time period. It was less than two years from out first public show in October of 1967. At that time we had only two or three original songs. And just about a year later, it was already sort of burning out. … The weird thing is that I think back in ’67, and the end of ’66, we thought we wanted to be an R&B band, and somehow got completely distracted by writing songs like ['Arnold Layne'] and 'Bike' and 'Gnome' and that whole rather weird English way of life.”
Mason was also named among the U.K.’s new year honors and will receive a C.B.E. for services to music later this year. He’ll soon start his first Saucerful of Secrets U.S. tour, and hinted that audiences might be treated to a new take on the Floyd classic “Interstellar Overdrive.”
“This is a track that is open to improvisation and reinterpretation,” he reflected. “When you play the opening riffs, you can freestyle it so many different ways. At the moment, we have one way of playing it, but I think once we get back on the road, I’m hoping it will take some other directions.”
Listen to Pink Floyd's ‘Interstellar Overdrive’