As a fan, if you were asked for your favourite Pink Floyd song, then chances are you’d have a really tough time in picking just one. The prog-rock kings have had such a long and varied career that you could have a new favourite every day, if not every hour. In fact, the band are such a richly dense outfit, that you could easily go further to slice down the selections into movement or pieces found within the songs.
The choice must be even harder when you had a pivotal hand in making them. Yet, that’s the choice drummer of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason faced. His choice, as you might expect, wasn’t any truly heavy-hitting single, Pink Floyd didn’t have many, but opted for something out of the Floyd’s leftfield. It’s perhaps the place where the band feel most comfortable.
Nick Mason acted as the rhythmic foundations from which the rest of Pink Floyd could create their famous soundscapes. Alongside Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour and Richard Wright, Mason presided over an unquenchable array of eclectic records which saw the band flirt with almost every genre in the universe. It was a gift that gave the band extra potency.
One such genre-traversing influence was that of jazz on the song Mason calls his favourite. The drummer was speaking with GQ when he was posed the age-old question, ‘What’s your favourite Pink Floyd song?’ Mason replies: “I usually cite ‘Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ as my favourite Pink Floyd song.”
Opting to steer clear of any radio-ready favourites like ‘Money’ or ‘Wish You Were Here’ the drummer offered a little more background as to why he selected the psychedelic deep-cut from 1968’s Saucer of Secrets. “It’s fun to play, and has interesting dynamics,” explained Mason hinting at the jazz origins of the track.
In fact, the now-iconic use of mallets on the solo in this Roger Waters-penned tune was lifted straight from jazz. “I know exactly where it came from in terms of the drum part, which was Chico Hamilton playing in a film called Jazz On A Summer’s Day,” Mason remembers. “He does a drum solo played with mallets. It’s beautiful, and so different to any other drum solo.”
Apart from a few notable moments jazz was actually a genre the band tended to avoid getting too involved with and weren’t particularly interested in. “No, we weren’t,” Mason confirms before adding that keyboardist “Rick [Wright] was, and I went through a period of being interested in jazz. But then I realized you need to have far too much technique, so I moved on. When I watch very technical drummers, I still find myself thinking, ‘I wish I could do that.’ And I probably could if I put my mind to it, and stopped messing around with cars.”
That free form thinking and creativity did help push the band in new directions though and Mason’s favourite song offers up a clear commendation of that theory. It is songs like this that made Pink Floyd the behemoth band they are.
Nick Mason’s favourite Pink Floyd song:
- ‘Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun’