Nick Mason is one of the most iconic drummers of the past six decades. An integral part of Pink Floyd, the prog-rock machine, he was the principal mind behind some of their most enduring pieces such as ‘Echoes’, ‘Time’ and ‘One of These Days’.
An accomplished drummer who underpinned all of Pink Floyd’s increasingly dynamic rhythms, Mason was the only member of Pink Floyd that featured on all of their album’s and who was there at the band’s inception in 1965.
His role in the pioneering work of Pink Floyd is somewhat overshadowed by the virtuosity of peers David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Also, when one thinks of the long, winding history of Pink Floyd, one of the glaring factors is ex-frontman Syd Barrett’s mental health struggles and departure. It’s a hot topic that has also perhaps contributed to people overlooking Mason’s importance to the band.
Of course, to diehard Pink Floyd fans, his integral stature is fully understood. The son of documentary maker Bill Mason, and a self-confessed petrolhead, Mason is a fairly colourful character in his own right. He has competed in the lauded 24 Hours of Le Mans race and even owns a stake in Bolton Wanderers football club.
The interesting part of all of Pink Floyd‘s former members is that there existed a certain degree of calculation inherent to the band. The group rarely did things on a whim, and from the dawn of the ’70s onwards, their pieces were dense reflections of the intricate machinations operating inside each of their minds. This well thought out songwriting blueprint is a defining feature of the band. In a way, you would not be wrong to label its members as geniuses in their own right.
A little known fact about the band is that their early sets were mainly comprised of rhythm and blues numbers, a far cry away from the cerebral prog they came to embody by the time of 1994’s The Division Bell. But we all have to start somewhere. Even David Bowie went through a significant musical journey of discovery until he began to find his feet on his third album, 1970’s The Man Who Sold The World.
Of course, Pink Floyd were influenced by rock in its most rudimentary form, it was the ’60s after all, and the concept of a Soundcloud rapper was still light-years away. Relating to technology and society, when the members of the Floyd were growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, music was not the vast field it is today. It was a shallow pool in comparison to the deep sea of contemporary times.
For most of their childhoods, it was the ’50s, and the cultural phenomenon of the day was rock ‘n’ roll. The attitude of the likes of Bill Haley, Elvis and Little Richard would leave an indelible mark on the generation who would become our “classic” rock stars. You would be stretched to find any of the “rock gods” of the ’60s and ’70s who were not influenced by Elvis and Co.
Pink Floyd are no different. In 2020 Mason remembered the start of his musical life: “The beginning of rock’ n’ roll. Elvis was moving things on slightly from Bill Haley. Bill Haley was the first record I ever bought, and I almost certainly bought it as a 78″, not as a 45″, which shows my age!”
Following in this trajectory, the first album Mason ever bought was by none other than “The King”. It was Elvis Presley’s 1956 eponymous debut.
Mason recalled: “That black and white picture of Elvis and ‘Elvis Presley’ in neon green and neon pink lettering, the first album he made. It had ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ on it and ‘Hound Dog, ‘Ring My Telephone’, it was absolutely stuffed with his early hits.”
Showing just how markedly different the times are now, and how far music has come along, Mason remembered the environment in which he physically bought the record: “It was still a period when you bought records from an electrical shop, somewhere at the back of the shop after you’d gone past all the washing machines and fridges, there’d be a booth with records. I would’ve bought it there rather than a record store with those weird hairdryer booths.”
There we have it, Nick Mason, prog-rock extraordinaire and driver of unusual time signatures, was influenced by Elvis Presley, perhpas the most likely source of rock and roll as anyone could imagine. Mason’s revelation serves as a reminder of how far Pink Floyd took music.
Inspired by the relative simplicity of early rock ‘n’ roll, they turned it into a gargantuan, complicated beast. For this reason, they are hailed as one of the most pioneering and influential bands of all time. Along with other groups, they took music from the past, redefined possibility and catapulted it into the present.
Listen to the Mason penned ‘Echoes’, below.