For all his talents within the legendary output of Pink Floyd, drummer Nick Mason often seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to acclaim and adulation.
Perhaps it was because Mason wasn’t a flashy drummer. In a genre where advanced technique and explosive skill were valued above all else, Mason never actually seemed to have much of an ego about what he played. He would often keep simple and hypnotic beats, occasionally swapping out sticks for mallets to add a more symphonic flavour to songs. On some tracks, he sits out completely, content with letting songs like ‘A Pillow of Winds’ mostly float on without him.
But Mason always played to whatever the given song’s strengths were. ‘Money’ required a drum pattern that was highly repetitive and uncluttered so that the band wouldn’t get caught up in the atypical 7/4 time signature. When ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2’ called for a disco beat, that’s exactly what Mason delivered. On sprawling tracks like ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ or ‘Dogs’, Mason buckles down and simply keeps the momentum going, preferring to keep his part of the arrangement from getting in the way.
It’s genius, and his drum tracks are just as essential to the makeup of Pink Floyd as any of the other instrumentalists. But Mason also had one major disadvantage when compared to his other three bandmates: he was the only member of the band who didn’t sing. While Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Richard Wright all got lead vocal opportunities throughout the band’s catalogue, Mason never got a true lead vocal.
Mason contributed some non-singing parts to Floyd songs, like the exaggerated voice during the verses of ‘Corporal Clegg’ and the spoken word section of ‘Learning to Fly’. But he also provided a single spoken word line in one of the group’s most famous instrumentals.
That was during ‘One of These Days’, the opening track to the band’s 1971 album Meddle. A roaring instrumental featuring aggressive instrumentation and prominent delay, ‘One of These Days’ was a concert staple that represents one of the earliest examples of Pink Floyd truly beginning to find their sound outside the immense influence of Syd Barrett. The piece is almost entirely without vocals, except for a sinister message delivered around the halfway point of the track: “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces.”
That low and garbled threat actually came courtesy of Mason, who direct it at BBC radio announcer Jimmy Young. “Possibly the most interesting thing about ‘One of These Days’ is that it actually stars myself as vocalist, for the first time on any of our records that actually got to the public,” Mason explained to Charlie Kendall in 1984. “It’s a rather startling performance involving the use of a high voice and slowed down tape.”
Mason originally voiced the sentence in falsetto, and when it was slowed down to appropriate speed, took on a gravelly and demonic cadence. Although it isn’t really “sung” by Mason in the traditional sense, ‘One of the These Days’ would be one of Mason’s only vocal contributions for the entirety of Pink Floyd’s career.