Regardless of what you think, Nick Mason is one of the most iconic drummers of the past six decades. He ballasted Pink Floyd’s mythic prog odyssey, and without his understated brilliance, they would not have been the same, particularly throughout their classic ’70s period. Furthermore, he was the principal mind behind some of their best pieces including ‘Echoes’ and ‘Time’.
An accomplished drummer in his own right, it is actually quite a shocking fact that Mason gets overlooked by the musos of the world, as he was the only member of the band to feature on all of their albums, even if it was in varying capacities towards the latter stages. He was the last man standing from their long adventure that started back in 1965. This is a mean feat that should be respected more.
Clearly, another reason Mason gets overlooked is the virtuosity of his Floyd peers David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Added to this is the opaque yet spirited mythos that celebrates the band’s original frontman and founder, Syd Barrett. Barrett’s tragic life and personality u-turn have understandably resulted in mountains of discourse that have overshadowed Mason.
The band that we know as Pink Floyd became one of the most cerebral acts of all time. Totally calculated and increasingly grandiose in their musical evolution, the final iteration of the band on their final album 2014’s The Endless River had a sonic character that couldn’t have been any more further removed from the style of music that first inspired them all the way back in 1965.
Aided by their development as musicians and people, and the quantum leaps made in technology, Pink Floyd was a project that embodied human progress. However, way back when, when its members were just adolescents and young adults, they were inspired by rock ‘n’ roll in its most fundamental form. This is understandable, as every musician from that generation was the same. Music became weaponised as a tool of railing against the standards of their parent’s generation.
During their childhoods, it was the ’50s, a time marked by a post-War boom that saw society make its first great leap into the consumerist future. The first true cultural phenomenon was rock ‘n’ roll, and its proponents would have a transformative effect on the baby boomer generation. The attitude of the likes of Bill Haley, Elvis and Little Richard would leave an indelible mark on the generation who proceed to become the “classic” rock stars. You would be stretched to find any of the “rock gods” of the ’60s and ’70s who were not influenced by the blues and Elvis and Co.
It was in this genre that Mason would find true inspiration in a drummer. Whilst not a drummer of the ’50s, this iconic jazz/blues figure, was five years older than Mason and made his first foray into the world of music in 1961 with the inception of the now legendary London band, Blues Incorporated.
However, it wasn’t until 1966 where this drummer would start to make his indelible imprint on the world of music. The mysterious figure in question was none other than Ginger Baker, and the band was the psychedelic rock trio, Cream. At this point, Mason had been in London for nearly five years, and Pink Floyd was already up and running, but still relatively unknown.
In his 2004 autobiography, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Mason revealed the transformative effect watching the dynamic Ginger Baker had on him. He simply states, “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Ginger Baker.” Watching them play at his university venue would be a driving factor in Mason’s ascendance to greatness. He remembered: “When the curtain opened at the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1966 and there were Ginger, Eric and Jack — I thought, that’s what I’d like to be, and that was it.”
It comes as little surprise that Mason’s drumming hero was Ginger Baker. After all, who at the time wasn’t inspired by the rhythmic virtuoso? His groundbreaking drumming style that was heavily versed in jazz, the blues and world music, and the pioneering use of two bass drums made him one of history’s finest. A madcap genius, Baker lives on through those he inspired. Furthermore, you now know why Mason opted to use two bass drums.
Watch a video of Mason’s brilliance, below.