Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason doesn’t receive the same high praise bestowed upon his bandmates, but the drummer played an understated role in the group morphing into an institution, and his opinion on all things music is worth its weight in gold.
Bob Dylan is an artist that Mason has had a love for that even pre-dates the formation of Pink Floyd. While almost everything in his life has changed after he was first absorbed by Dylan when he was still a schoolboy, the drummer’s opinion that he’s “the greatest songwriter” is a view that’s not wavered.
Speaking to NME about the songs that mean the most to him, Mason was asked to name the one track that he wishes he had written, and picking just one favourite from Dylan’s repertoire proved to be an impossible task: “Anything by Bob Dylan really,” he said. “The greatest songwriter of all time. It was so radically different from everyone else.”
However, during a conversation with Classic Album Sundays, Mason successfully narrowed it down his favourite record by the singer to 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Mason isn’t alone in believing that this LP signifies the zenith of Dylan’s six-decade-long career, and the seminal brilliance of the body of work is still mesmerising to this day. Recorded in 1962 at Columbia’s studios in New York, Dylan became the voice of his generation on his sophomore album. The project signalled him out thanks to his clever lyricism, which also shined a light up to society’s failings with its political themes.
On reflection, the tracklisting reads like a compilation record featuring Dylan classics, including ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, which opens up the album. As well as loved efforts such as ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, ‘Girl From The North Country’, ‘Masters Of War’, ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, and closer, ‘I Shall Be Free’.
Mason appeared on Jools Holland in 2020, which provided him with another opportunity to fly the flag for his favourite songwriter. When asked about what draws him into Dylan’s universe, the drummer mused: “There’s an abstraction to some of them that means you can interpret them in the way that means the most to you, and I think that’s one of the great skills of great songwriting.”
His Pink Floyd bandmate Roger Waters is of the same perspective, and once said, “There is an honesty and a truth in everything that he’s done. You feel the man’s integrity and passion,” he commented while appearing on the BBC feature Desert Island Discs. “I can feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck now remembering the purity with which he hits the first notes of this song. It’s extraordinarily moving and eloquent.”
Discovering Dylan allowed Nick Mason to feel emotions swirl through his body in a way that had never before. Similarly, Pink Floyd have made millions lose themselves in their albums just like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan did to Mason, even if they were “abstract” in a completely different way.