Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon album turns 50 this week. I interviewed drummer Nick Mason upon the album’s deluxe re-issue for this article in The West Australian, originally published in September 2011.

If ever there was a band to come in for constant re-examination and theorising, it’s Pink Floyd. The band had many trademarks, they made music that circled high and wide, that tripped the universe yet could make biting social comment on the world we live in.  

And it has been analysed to the nth degree, but importantly it also has been oft-celebrated. Drummer, Nick Mason, has written about his life in Pink Floyd and has had a lot of sense-making done on his behalf by both journalists and fans. 

“I’ll have to put you onto my psychiatrist to respond on my behalf,” laughs.” But, like most people who do peculiar things, for me it’s normal. It’s what I’ve done for the last 40 years.” 

Fans of Pink Floyd will be happy to know that shortly there will be a new kind of normal. From September 23 the band and their label, EMI Music, will embark on Why Pink Floyd?, a full re-issue of all Pink Floyd albums, remastered. These will be known as the Discovery editions, but for more avid fans there will be staggered Immersion releases (CD/ DVD/ Blu-ray /memorabilia box sets) and Experience editions (coupling a classic album with a second disc of related content from that album).  

The band’s long-charting 1973 LP, The Dark Side Of The Moon, will be the first to receive this release treatment on the kick-off date. 

“It’s a lovely thing, particularly, to have young audiences discovering something they can get something from,” Mason says. “We’re all so brought up with the idea that rock’n’roll is ephemeral and only lasts a few years. It’s quite a change, really.” 

Technological advancement has been kind to Pink Floyd fans, with previously unearthed gems now being made available simply because it’s possible. The Wish You Were Here box includes a Wembley Stadium live concert from 1974, which Mason says couldn’t have been released 10 years ago. Band-endorsed engineers Andy Jackson and James Guthrie repaired and sorted through various recordings, which were then given the all-clear by the three surviving band members, Mason, vocalist/bassist Roger Waters and guitarist/vocalist Dave Gilmour (keyboardist Rick Wright passed away in 2008). 

Pink Floyd have sold over 200 million albums, but the point that some albums are more iconic and better known to the world at large than others, prompts Mason to offer some listening tips. 

“I think Dark Side Of The Moon is always a good start,” he offers. “It’s shorter than something like The Wall (1979), which is a bit more epic, kind of like Wagner’s Ring Cycle (laughs).   

“What’s nice is when people find something interesting in some of the less-known ones. I have a great affection for Saucerful Of Secrets (1968, Syd Barrett’s final album), because there’s some interesting ideas there that were carried on all the way through Pink Floyd history. I also think the track, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, was one of the really great live Pink Floyd songs.”  

The Wish You Were Here box also contains a version of the album’s title track featuring jazz violinist, Stephane Grapelli. The fact that it wasn’t used on the album suggests that Pink Floyd may have been spoilt for riches. 

“I cannot understand why we would have discarded it,” Mason says, in reflection. “It’s terrific. As you say, we were spoilt for riches, but even so we were absolutely convinced that we should try and make the album ourselves. We didn’t want the other people… but weirdly, we ended up using Roy Harper (on Have A Cigar), so we were open to using other people. I mean that, to me, is a bit of a mystery.”  

Another mystery in the Pink Floyd realm is original singer/guitarist, Syd Barrett, who left the band in 1968, as a result of drug excess and psychological strife. Barrett, who died in 2006, turned up unannounced and disoriented at the 1975 sessions for Wish You Were Here. He was overweight, with a shaven head and eyebrows, a scenario referenced in the film version of The Wall. While it was an unsettling day for all concerned, it proved strangely helpful to the album’s strained creative process. 

“That was very odd,” Mason confides. “It was all a bit of a puzzle, I think, for each of us. It was upsetting for all of us, actually. But in a way that became the catalyst to give some real point to the record.” 

The Immersion edition of Wish You Were Here is released on November 4 (along with new best-of, A Foot In The Door), with The Wall just over the horizon, scheduled for a February 24 issue. While Roger Waters will soon hit Australia with his own tour of The Wall, the mega-release of Pink Floyd re-issues does prompt the question if Mason, Waters and Gilmour would consider reforming for a tour, as per their 2005 Live8 appearance? 

“I don’t think it’s very likely,” Mason considers. “But my own prognosis is that the one thing that could make it happen would not be money, it would be a Nelson Mandela or Bill Clinton type figure, and some sort of reason why us playing together would change the world or enhance some sort of peace process. Whether music is capable of doing that, who knows?” 

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