You Won’t Expect Nick Mason’s Pick For The Greatest Drummer Of All Time
Nick Mason for a drum Masterclass - BIMM / Youtube
Typically, when people recount the history of prog rock titans Pink Floyd, they tend to focus on the following: the decline of their original frontman, Syd Barrett; the band’s evolution into a more refined sound with a series of successful concept albums in the 1970s; and the significant split between creative director Roger Waters and guitarist David Gilmour in the subsequent decade.
While these aspects are certainly important, they often overshadow the contributions of keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason. More often than not, they are frequently mentioned in a somewhat secondary manner.
Nevertheless, they played equally crucial roles in the band’s journey. Nick Mason, in particular, stands out as one of the most accomplished drummers of his generation, seamlessly blending artistic sensibility with a deep appreciation for jazz and rock ‘n’ roll.
He drew inspiration from other drum deities of his time, such as Ginger Baker and Keith Moon. But there was one whom he thought was his greatest personal drum icon: Mitch Mitchell.
“There’s no one else like him,” Mason stated.
Nick Mason’s drum icons
But before the Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer mesmerized Nick Mason, it was Ginger Baker who he wanted to be like.
“Most of my icons are the people that were my heroes when I was kicking off. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Ginger Baker,” the Pink Floyd percussionist revealed in a 2010 interview with Music Radar, where he revealed his favorite drummers.
In 1966, Mason had the unforgettable experience of attending a legendary performance by Cream at Regent Street Polytechnic, a moment that profoundly altered the course of his life.
“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,” Mason elaborated.
“There’s no one else like him”
As he named his favorite drum heroes, he recalled how he was captivated by Mitchell, the rhythmic powerhouse responsible for steering The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The often-overlooked drumming virtuoso, Mitchell’s remarkable talent is evident in his ability to match wits with Jimi Hendrix’s exceptional guitar artistry, providing the ideal foundation for creating a plethora of timeless compositions.
Mason described, “In terms of style and rock drummers I like, it was Mitch Mitchell. Whether it’s behind the beat or not, it’s so lazy, but it worked perfectly under Jimi and that slightly jazzy thing. There’s no one else like him.”
The other drumming icons he mentioned in the interview were Keith Moon of The Who, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and jazz legend Chico Hamilton.
Nick Mason’s unique place in Pink Floyd
Mason played on every Pink Floyd album, although there are instances where specific songs feature session drummers, drum machines, or even no drumming at all.
The only Pink Floyd tracks credited solely to Mason as the composer are “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party Parts 1–3” from Ummagumma and “Speak to Me” from Dark Side of the Moon. Furthermore, a one-off song by the band, titled “Nick’s Boogie”, bears his name as well.
On occasion, Mason lends his vocal talents to Pink Floyd’s music. However, he took on the role of lead vocalist for two unreleased but widely bootlegged tracks: “Scream Thy Last Scream” (1967), written by the original frontman Syd Barrett, and “The Merry Xmas Song” (1975–76).
In live renditions of the song “Sheep” from the 1977 album Animals, Mason is responsible for delivering the spoken section.