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Music

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason picks his 10 favourite songs of all time

@jackwhatley89

Trying to pick a soundtrack to one’s entire life is a task we usually spend every day attempting to complete. When you add to this notion that you’re a world-renowned musician, picking such a selection of songs becomes a near-impossible challenge. But, thanks to BBC Radio 2, we can listen back to the ten songs that Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason, has noted soundtracked his life.

Tracks of My Years is a running feature on the network and sees the ever-faithful Ken Bruce ask his guests to note some of the songs that have soundtracked their lives. It always provides a searing insight into their lives in a way that only music can. When speaking with legendary drummer Mason, Bruce reveals not only the inner workings of one of the greats of rock and roll but also the songs that opened him up to the greatness of music itself.

Music has nearly always been a part of Mason’s life. Mason and his drums are two of the most understated rock institutions the world has ever known. As the lead drummer and the only member of Pink Floyd to have been a part of every single one of their albums, Mason’s drumming skills and input in making the Floyd sound the way they do, have been an essential part of helping the band reach dizzying heights they did.

Regardless of what you think, Mason is one of the most iconic drummers of the past six decades. He ballasted Pink Floyd’s mythic prog odyssey with a sincere adoration for his position. They would not have been the same without his understated brilliance, particularly throughout their classic 1960s and ’70s periods. Naturally, for Mason, this is where most of his selections derive from.

Mason picks out some of the classic songs from the era, including paying homage to his band, with the picks of ‘Wish You Were Here’ and one of their first-ever songs ‘See Emily Play‘. But, aside from noting his own group’s robust contributions to the pantheon of rock and discounting them from his list, he picked out some of the greats of the period, including Joni Mitchell, selecting her ironic landmark single ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Mason told Bruce of the song: “love her songs, I love her writing, and the whole thing is sort of encapsulated in this one track. Great lyrics and just a really good song.”

Another legendary song that gets the nod from Mason is Jimi Hendrix’s thunderous cover of Bob Dylan’s song ‘All Along The Watchtower’. “Well, I chose this because it was really covering two bases,” confessed Mason. “First of all, big fan of Jimi Hendrix. I saw him the first time that he came to the UK. It was an extraordinary evening; he came on as a guest of Cream. That in itself was a pretty extraordinary moment for me. Because that’s when I decided I wanted to be a full-on rock drummer like Ginger Baker rather than an architect, which was the way I was heading at the time.”

“Plus the fact that the song itself was written by Bob Dylan. I’m a huge fan of Dylan, as I think so many people in bands are. He is such an influence with his writing,” confirmed Mason, as he notes the over-arching inspiration Dylan gave everybody n the rock circles at the time.

Another hugely influential artist of the time was The Beatles. The band can be put at the centre of rock’s explosion during the 1960s, and they had a considerable influence over the entire rock scene, most notably on Pink Floyd’s first footsteps into the wide-open plains of pop. Mason picks ‘Lovely Rita’, a track that is connected to the band for more personal than sonic reasons. “I put this in because it was such a great moment for us, we were recording our first album in Abbey Road. We were in studio three recording The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and down the corridor, The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper. There was an invitation to go and visit the gods on Mount Olympus.”

“It was a pivotal moment because actually without The Beatles, we probably wouldn’t have existed,” continued Mason, “because Sgt. Pepper was the album that absolutely changed the face of the record industry because up until then, it was all about singles. Sgt. Pepper was the first album that actually outsold singles. That enabled bands like us to have more studio time and more freedom to do what we wanted,” the drummer said.

While ‘Lovely Rita’ may not necessarily be thought of as The Beatles’ finest work, Mason did pick out The Who’s defining anthem ‘My Generation’. Mason was clear on not only the band’s inspiration but one-quarter of the group, Keith Moon. “‘My Generation’, The Who, again a huge influence I think in me in particular. I mean, once you’ve met Keith Moon, you sort of lived, and I didn’t know him that well. But we spent some time together. We did some shows where we were supporting The Who. We did some radio show afterwards, and Keith on the radio was an extraordinary event in itself. It was like having the circus but just in one man.”

It’s just one part of an extensive list of songs that have soundtracked the impressive life of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. You can find the Tracks of my Years episode here and find the complete list of songs below. To soundtrack a little bit of your day, we’ve also created a perfect playlist for you to boot.

Nick Mason’s 10 favourite songs:

  • ‘All Along the Watchtower’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘I’ll See you In My Dreams’ – Joe Brown
  • ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – Joni Mitchell
  • ‘Woodstock’ – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • ‘Rosanna’ – Tot
  • ‘I’m A Believer’ – Robert Wyatt
  • ‘Lovely Rita’ – The Beatles
  • ‘The Way It Is’ – Bruce Hornsby and the Range
  • ‘My Generation’ – The Who
  • ‘The Living Years’ – Mike + The Mechanics