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Former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason looks back on ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’

If you own a Pink Floyd album, odds are it’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” or “The Wall,” which between them have sold more than 60 million copies.

And if it’s not one of those, it’s one of the two in between – “Wish You Were Here” or “Animals.”A much less celebrated part of the band’s oeuvre are the albums they released before they became arena-rock deities and were pioneers in the psychedelic sounds that were pulsing out of Swinging London in the aftermath of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” For their first two albums, they were led by the gifted and mercurial Syd Barrett, who descended into LSD-accelerated madness and died a recluse in 2006.It’s this part of Pink Floyd’s legacy that Nick Mason, the band’s former drummer, hopes to reclaim.“I think that’s particularly the case in America,” Mason said in a phone interview from Virginia last week. “Because what happened with ‘Dark Side…,’ it became so big that it obliterated everything else.”

To that end, Mason has been out on tour with a five-piece band, playing songs from “A Saucerful of Secrets,” the second Pink Floyd album, along with other selections from the group’s maiden days. Next Friday he’ll perform at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. The tour is being carried out on a smaller scale than the stadium spectaculars Pink Floyd staged until the band was put on ice in 1994, but Mason said that confers some advantages – this show leaves more room for improvisation, he explained, sidestepping note-for-note renderings of songs designed to please fans in the furthest reaches of the upper deck.“What’s quite nice is it’s relatively fresh, this early music. It’s a bit freer than the later albums, that became more accurate in the playing and in the structure of them.” said Mason, who is now 78 and first signed on to Pink Floyd in 1965. He added that he’d like to explore other areas of the band’s output “only if they fall into that early period. It only makes sense to stick with the era that we want to explore, rather than wandering off into what I call tribute-land, if you start picking some of the later music.”

During the making of “A Saucerful of Secrets,” Barrett left the band and embarked on a solo career that lasted for two albums before fizzling out. After Barrett’s departure, Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour took center stage in the group and drove it to its greatest success. They were also participants in one of rock music’s most vicious and long-running feuds. After Waters was kicked out of the band in 1983 amid creative and personal differences, Waters unsuccessfully sued to stop the group from using the name Pink Floyd, but it carried out on through two subsequent albums as a trio, with Gilmour and Mason joined by keyboard player Richard Wright. The whole band came back together just once, with Waters rejoining them for a reunion at London’s Live 8 concert in 2005. The possibility of another complete band reunion was foreclosed with the death of Wright from lung cancer in 2008.And even though the three surviving members are all pushing 80, they’re apparently not ready yet to let bygones be bygones. A remixed and expanded version of “Animals” released this month was delayed amid raging disagreements between Waters and Gilmour over the package’s liner notes, a battle that Mason said he sidestepped.Still, Mason said if Waters and Gilmour settled their differences and asked if he would like to participate in a reunion, he’d be glad to get onboard.

“Oh yeah,” Mason said. “I’m still really proud of what we did with Pink Floyd, and there’s still a huge audience out there of people who love it. It only works if everyone wants to do it, and wants to do it together. I can’t see that really happening. The only other way there might be some way of working together would be the equivalent of Live 8, when it’s about something more important than musical differences.”

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