Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason Reflects On The Lasting Legacy Of Syd Barrett In New Interview

Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Mick Rock

In a new interview with Irish Times Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason reflects on why it is the band’s former frontman Syd Barrett continues to fascinate fans.

He begins by looking at an incomplete Barrett composition long revered by Pink Floyd aficionados and not officially released until 2016.

I think ‘Vegetable Man’ is interesting,” Mason shares, “because it’s almost like a punk record.

(Mason performs the song, along with several other of Syd’s Pink Floyd compositions with current band Saucerful of Secrets.)

I think there is a quite a lot of anger in it,” he states, “but who knows. The problem is, it was never finished or finally mastered and so it’s very hard to know what he would have done with it.”

Syd could move between two and three genres,” he then adds, “he could write something that was quite whimsical and rural like a folk song such as ‘The Scarecrow’ but he also put together something like ‘Astronomy Domine.”

He then reflects on the longevity of pop culture’s fixation with Barrett, who formally retired from the world of music following the release of second solo album Barrett in 1972.

It’s a bit like the James Dean thing,” Mason contends. “The music still has some meaning for people and that keeps him in the public’s mind. I think the mystery of Syd is that we still don’t know and probably will never know what went wrong for him.

The percussionist does, however, offer theories of his own.

There are a few different theories as to whether it was overdosing on LSD or some element in him that was already showing some signs of a breakdown,” he notes. “Also to be included is that he didn’t actually want to be in a band and wanted to go back to painting. I think we were probably very unsympathetic to this because we couldn’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to carry on being in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

After living in seclusion for more than three decades, Barrett passed away from cancer in July 2006.

Mason’s full interview here.

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