‘Lasted fantastically well’: Nick Mason on the Pink Floyd album that changed everything

Pink Floyd’s 1968 sophomore release Saucerful of Secrets represents the bridge between their first, Syd Barrett-led phase and everything that would follow — as the group performed in a brief, but endlessly fascinating five-man edition.

The looming departure of Barrett as the band’s frontman, coupled with the arrival of David Gilmour, had changed forever the focus and scope of Pink Floyd’s music. Nick Mason, the only member to have played in every Floyd phase, says it also strengthened the group’s bond. “I think the big thing,” Mason tells Dave Kerzner, “was that sort of sense of all wanting to achieve the same sort of goal.”

Later-period quarrels seem distant, indeed, as the album explores Gilmour’s first collaborative contribution (on the epic, largely instrumental title track) and the first compositional successes (notably, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun“) for Roger Waters — who previously had only had the dark and experimental “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” on Pink Floyd’s debut disc. We’d also hear Barrett’s last original song with the band (“Jugband Blues”), but an ascending Waters would write or co-write four of the seven songs on Saucerful of Secrets — presaging his subsequent role as Pink Floyd’s principal composer into the late 1970s.

“With Saucer, I think there were all sorts of indicators in the album that showed the progression we were going to continue on,” Mason says, “particularly the title track and things like ‘Set the Controls’ — which is a song I think has lasted fantastically well. That was Roger’s sort of second song, really. Previous to that, he’d written ‘Doctor Doctor’ on Piper, which is nowhere near as sophisticated as ‘Set the Controls.’”

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