Pink Floyd's Nick Mason tells Jon Perks of the 'painful process' en route to their classic 1975 album, Wish You Were Here.
Plenty of rock bands “experimented” in the 1970s– and a lot of the time it had nothing to do with music.
When it comes to thinking up new ways of making and recording songs, however, Pink Floyd would surely win a medal for their Household Objects project.
Born off the back of the success of multi-million seller The Dark Side Of The Moon, Floyd entered the studio with the aim of recording a collection of songs played, literally, on household appliances and objects. Old hand mixers, rubber bands and wine glasses would all take the place of their conventional set-up of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.
One of the tracks from these sessions – previously unreleased – finally gets an airing, more than 35 years later, on two new remastered editions of the album that did follow Dark Side – Wish You Were Here, originally released in September 1975.
A new 16-track ‘best of’, A Foot In The Door, has also been released this week.
The five disc “Immersion” and two disc “Experience” editions of Wish You Were Here, Floyd’s ninth studio album, both feature the track, Wine Glasses.
It comes on a bonus CD which also includes tracks recorded live at Wembley in 1974 and alternative versions of Have A Cigar and the title track, Wish You Were Here. The latter features legendary violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who, along with Yehudi Menuhin, had popped in from the studio next door to the Floyd at Abbey Road.
“Unless they’d been stalking us for a while, which is possible but unlikely,” laughs Floyd’s Birmingham-born drummer, Nick Mason.
“It’s something that is far more prevalent in the US than in the UK, that thing of people being in the same studios and popping in, meeting each other and then doing something – which always seems to be very much a Los Angeles concept.”
“The Stéphane Grappelli track is, without doubt, the jewel in the crown,” says Mason of the unlikely collaboration that never made the finished version.
“It was assumed – certainly by me – that we’d lost it when we were making the record, that we’d decided not to use it and consequently we’d wiped it because we were short of tracks, so credit to the engineer.”
Wish You Were Here is generally considered to be one of Floyd’s three greatest albums (the other two, The Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall, have also both been given the “Experience” and “Immersion” treatment).
Weren’t the band a little daunted by the prospect of having to follow such a critical and commercial success as Dark Side?
“I think we felt that we were reasonably confident that we could do something else really good,” says Mason. “We’d sort of got better at the whole thing – by ‘73 we were bordering on becoming professional rather than enormously gifted amateurs.
“Being wise after the event, my thinking now is we just made a big mistake in that we did go back into the studio so quickly... if one knew then what one knows now, what we really should have done was more touring, because we would have developed the show more and learned more about how to make it work properly and not been in the studio casting around for what to do next.
“It was quite a long painful process to get to Wish You Were Here, going through all that Household Objects business – that was very much a case of going into the studio with nothing to actually record.”
While the Grappelli track is a rediscovered joy, Mason admits listening back to the tapes of rubber bands and hand blenders was not such a pleasure: “Just painful really,” he says. “The problem with that is it’s something that can now be done in 10 minutes. It would be really easy to do now – pluck a rubber band, put it into the computer and it’ll give you two octaves of it – whereas we were trying to do it by recording, slowing it down and using a speed adjuster on the recorder to tune it.
“We were years ahead of our time,” he chuckles. “There’s quite a good argument that suggests you shouldn’t necessarily be ahead of your time because, give it long enough, and technology will have moved on.”
The surviving members of Pink Floyd – Mason, Roger Waters and David Gilmour – have been working on this new wave of reissues for more than two years; the final element, the “Experience” and “Immersion” remastered versions of their 1979 opus The Wall, are set for release in February 2012.
“I’m tempted to say we sat in a room and said ‘what on earth can we do now?’” Mason jokes. “The reality is that this whole enterprise was really led by EMI – much as I hate to give credit to the record company, painful though it is.