Nick Mason and his drums are a package deal. You can’t have one without the other. As the lead drummer and sole member of Pink Floyd to have been a part of every single one of their albums, Mason’s drumming skills and input in making Pink Floyd sound the way they do, have been an essential part of helping the band reach great heights.
Mason has been completely devoted to his drum kit, and his array of other percussion instruments, only on rare occasions has he played any other instrument. He has had a jazz and big band music influence, a factor which has led him to take up acoustic drums. He has mastered using tuned percussions, electronic drums and rototoms as well, combining all the percussion instruments to create a harmonic and melodic sound.
He was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2019 New Year Honours “for services to music”, presented to him by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in May 2019, further solidification of his legacy. Mason, who has also been awarded a BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, now known as The Ivors Academy) Gold Badge in recognition of his contributions to music, pioneered a new way to play the instrument he loves so dearly. He has performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games and collaborated with various artists including his former Pink Floyd members to perform on stage.
Even though Pink Floyd had never officially disbanded, the band effectively came to an end with Richard Wright’s death in 2008. Nick Mason formed a new band in 2018 called Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets to perform Pink Floyd’s earlier works. The band has, since then, toured around the world, but had to halt and postpone their third tour due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here are five of Nick Masons’ isolated drum tracks for you to listen while you wait for their tour to resume.
Nick Mason’s best drum tracks:
Pink Floyd – ‘Time’
‘Time’ is the fourth track on Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon which was released in 1973. It was shared as a single in the US. The lyrics of the song deal with the classic concept of how time slips by and before one realise it, it becomes too late to go back. To make the sound of the track seem more real, long introductory passages of clocks ticking and alarms charming we included in it.
The sound of the clocks was followed by Nick Mason’s drum solo with rototoms. In the background, Roger Waters played a tick-tock sound by picking on two muted strings of his bass. Mason later said, “The drums used on the ‘Time’ track are rototoms. I think we did some experiments with some other drums called boo-bans, which are very small, tuned drums, but the rototoms actually gave the best effect.”
Pink Floyd – ‘Young Lust’
‘Young Lust’ appeared in Pink Floyd’s album called The Wall which was shared in 1979. The album revolves around a story about a character called Pink, who is an alienated Rockstar. In this song, Pink has achieved fame, and because of popular demand, he has had to lead a life on the road. Of course, that got tedious. So, to relieve the monotony, he went around having casual sex. Towards the end of the song, we hear a conversation between him and the telephone operator whom he tells about how his wife keeps hanging up on him.
Nick Mason played the drums and the tambourine on this song, which incorporated in the sound, a rather vagabond-like lifestyle that Pink led.
Pink Floyd – ‘Money’
Another song from Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, ‘Money’ became their first hit in the United States. ‘Money’ is noted for its unusual time signature and the money-related sounds played on loop (like the jingle of the coins, or the clinking of the cash register).
‘Money’ also has a very complex rhythmic background. There is a constant shift in the rhythm in different parts of the song, and Nick Mason as always on his drums, improvised his parts accordingly to make these apparently different beats be in harmony with each other throughout the song.
Pink Floyd – ‘Comfortably Numb’
‘Comfortably Numb’ was released in 1980 as a single of Pink Floyd’s eleventh album The Wall back in 1979. ‘Comfortably Numb’ is one of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs, well known for the two guitar solos. In 2005, it became the last song ever performed by Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason together.
While the guitar pieces were the star of the track, Mason’s drums did a fantastic job of keeping the uniformity in the song and carrying the melody forward.
Pink Floyd – ‘Echoes’
The sixth and final track from Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle. The song was written in 1970 by all four members of the groups. With all the different kind of sounds being incorporated into the song to form a varied but coherent melody, Nick’s 4/4 drum beat kept the entirety of the song grounded despite its wide-ranging diversity in tune.
Mason said, “Sometimes great effects are the result of this kind of serendipity, and we were always prepared to see if something might work on a track.”