Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd, by Nick Mason
This is a book that may be too well-mannered for some, but it is difficult to imagine that an insider account of someone who managed to stay on relatively good terms with the other members of a band that was notoriously plagued by terrible communication could be written in any other way. To do otherwise would be to invite the tabloidy sort of writing that finds its writers in trouble with British libel judgments, and that does not seem likely for this book. Without being a huge fan of the band itself, I have long appreciated and respected and often enjoyed their music, and this book did convey how it was that the band operated not only in the studio but also as a live performing band and how it was that interpersonal relationships served to be such a struggle for the group throughout its history. These problems never seemed to be resolved, as the presence of deep conflicts over business and over creative control and even ambition were combined with a high degree of passive-aggressiveness when it come to dealing with conflict in general, something the author highlights without being too heavy-handed about it.
This book is a sizable one at between 300 and 350 pages of full text, a lot of it including some very worthwhile photos of the band that are themselves notable historical artifacts. The book begins with a look at the beginnings of Pink Floyd among two groups of musicians who learned their musical chops for eventually forming a band (1). After that comes a look at Pink Floyd’s time in the British underground scene during the mid-60’s (2), as well as their initial period of success as a band (3). Then comes a look at the struggle to put the parts together (4) and to deal with the loss of Syd Barrett (5). This is followed by a discussion of the immense success of the Dark Side of the Moon (6), the hard labor that followed to make albums like Wish You Were Here (7), the success of Animals (8), as well as the success of The Wall (9). After that the author discusses the communications failure that led to the fracturing of the group after their peak (10), the restart and restoration of the band in the Momentary Lapse of Reason album cycle (11), and the wisdom the band gained as it recorded The Division Bell (12), after which the author ends with a postscript and thanks as well as including a chronology of the band.
This book manages the difficult task of making a rather fussy and unlikeable group of men appear at least somewhat likeable. If it was by no means an easy task to be in a band like Pink Floyd or to work with them, the author himself appears to be relatively likeable without trying to drag anyone else down. Indeed, what makes the author likeable despite the unpleasant nature of Pink Floyd and its history is the fact that the author appears to be somewhat observant, a generally laid-back and agreeable fellow in general, as well as someone who was deeply reflective about his mistakes And this book records plenty of those mistakes, including a failed first marriage, guilt over how personnel decisions were handled (including the sad case of Syd Barrett). The fact that the author chooses not to dwell on his own grievances against the band for his own demotion to a player for years is also appealing, because one knows that had the author wanted to grind his own axes, he could have done so and chooses not to, which is highly admirable. The author’s dealing with such drama as stage crew, relationships on the road, the struggle to create and record music, and the nature of popular success as well as critical appeal are all covered thoughtfully as well. One gets a sense of artists and the legal and creative context in which they create here, and that will be richly rewarding to many readers.