Pink Floyd fans should be prepared for an exciting few months: The band announced yesterday that they are launching "Why Pink Floyd…?", a massive reissue campaign meant to deepen and expand the band's extraordinary musical legacy. "Some of the very early demo stuff from '66 is extraordinary – things we recorded in Broadhurst Gardens mainly so we could enter the Melody Maker beat competition," Floyd drummer Nick Mason told Rolling Stone. "It's extraordinary primarily because of Syd [Barrett], hearing him so crystal clear, the way he was playing, and bringing back memories of that first year, when I first met him."
In going through material for the additional CDs and DVDs, he said he found himself drawn to the tracks that emerged "from the very back of the cupboard," material that includes Barrett, the band's original singer, guitarist and songwriter.
On September 26th, a remastered Dark Side of the Moon will be released both as a six-disc "Immersion" box set, as well as a two-disc "Experience" set and a vinyl LP. Fourteen remastered Pink Floyd albums will also be released at that time, both separately and as a box set. Then, on November 7th, Wish You Were Here will be released in five-disc and two-disc versions, along with the single-disc collection, A Foot in the Door: The Best of Pink Floyd. And on February 27th, The Wall will appear in a seven-disc "Immersion" version and a three-disc "Experience" set.
The set includes a "Wish You Were Here" demo with Stephane Grappelli wailing on violin, which Mason greeted with wonder upon hearing it. "That is just fantastic," he said. "I had assumed it was lost. The incredible thing is that [classical violinist] Yehudi Menuhin was there as well, but he never went in to play, because he felt that he couldn't improvise."
Since the Sixties, of course, Pink Floyd has become an essential rite of passage for generations of music fans, a phenomenon that Mason credits, in part, to bassist Roger Waters, who emerged as the band's main songwriter in 1968, after Barrett's emotional troubles made it impossible for him to continue in the group. "I hate to say this, because Roger is insufferable already," Mason said, sighing, "but his writing is extraordinary. The lyrics to Dark Side were written by a 20-something-year-old guy, but they're relevant to a 50- or 60-year-old guy. 'Time' or any of those songs have lasted extremely well. And the music has an abstraction to it that allows people to put their own visions on it. The songs leave a lot of scope for people to use their imaginations, paint their own pictures and make it a soundtrack to their thoughts and their lives. And you're most susceptible to that when you're a teenager."
Syd Barrett died in 2006, and keyboardist Rick Wright passed away in 2008, leaving Mason (who is now 67), Waters and guitarist David Gilmour as Pink Floyd's only surviving members. Gilmour and Waters, in particular, have fought bitterly over the years, preventing, with the notable exception of a Live 8 appearance in 2005, any reunion that includes both men. Did everyone agree on the "Why Pink Floyd" project?
"To put it bluntly, Roger would prefer that we pretend that nothing ever happened with Pink Floyd after he left, so we always have that one to go through," Mason said with a laugh. "But after that, once we know what we're trying to do, we do a lot of work to be sure that we have the right mix, and it tends to be quite well done. We can be quite grown up at times!"
So, any chance of any Pink Floyd performances in the future involving all three surviving members? "There are absolutely no plans," he said immediately. "But Live 8 was fantastic. We did something for other people, but we also proved that we could all work together again. I'm really pleased that my children saw that. I would have thought that could be regenerated at some time. So I live in hope – but that's no reason to put it out on Twitter that 'Nick Says Band to Re-form!'"
Finally, and perhaps inevitably, why "Why Pink Floyd"? "I really think that this could be the last chance for really nice packaging – boxes, books, the whole thing," Mason said. "We've tried to give everyone all the various alternatives. There is Dark Side as it was recorded on vinyl, but there is also the ultimate, high-end stereo version. And there's also live performances. So now, even if we all just download from here on out, they will at least be there as a document of how it used to work. And I do think there will be people who will still be interested and who will want that."