Take 5: Notable Nick Mason Production Credits

Nick Mason is best-known as the drummer, sonic fiddler and unofficial/de facto archivist of Pink Floyd. (He currently leads his own group, the amazing Saucerful of Secrets.) But his interests and passions have long extended beyond the Floyd. Mason – who is in fact the only musician to have appeared on every single Pink Floyd recording dating back to its 1966 beginnings – has also been a racing car driver, automobile collector, author and – most relevant here – record producer. Over the years Mason has lent his behind-the-recording-console skills to a surprisingly varied array of artists. In honor of Nicholas Berkeley Mason CBE – who celebrated his 80th birthday on January 27 – here are five tracks from among his notable production credits.

Robert Wyatt – “I’m a Believer” (single, 1974)
Jazz-leaning Soft Machine were contemporaries of Pink Floyd in the earliest days, with the two groups often sharing bills. Some years later when drummer Wyatt launched a solo career, he enlisted old pal Mason to produce a number of recordings, including this non-LP single, a faithful cover of the Neil Diamond pop song popularized by The Monkees. Note than in this video from Top of the Pops, Wyatt is singing from a wheelchair; paralyzed by a fall from a window; he didn’t let that stop him from continuing to make music. And that’s Nick Mason behind his Pink Floyd drum kit.

Gong – “Wingful of Eyes” from Shamal (1976)
French-British collective Gong were exemplars of the so-called Canterbury scene, a varied lot that also included Egg, National Health, Caravan, Hatfield and the North and other bands bridging the gap between free-form psychedelic freakouts and jazz. The rotating cast of members in Gong made – and continue to make – fascinating albums. Some are more challenging than others; produced by Nick Mason, Shamal is among the most accessible offerings from the band.

The Damned – “Problem Child” from Music for Pleasure (1977)
As the story goes, pioneering punk pranksters The Damned originally wanted Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett to produce an album for them. But by the mid ‘70s Barrett had long since retired to a quiet and decidedly non-musical life in Cambridge (and he had little production experience in any event). So the band wisely settled for Nick Mason, who did a yeoman job.

Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports – “Can’t Get My Motor to Start” from Fictitious Sports (1981)
In all but name Fictitious Sports is a Carla Bley album; the avant-garde jazz composer and musician wrote most of the material on this, Mason’s only solo album credit to date. It’s wacky stuff, with a playfulness one won’t find on Pink Floyd records. And Mason did produce the sessions and play drums on them, of course.

Mason + Fenn – “Lie for a Lie” from Profiles (1985)
A much more pop-leaning effort, this largely instrumental 1985 album found Mason teaming up with 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn. The album has its experimental moments, but the highlight is this tune, featuring the welcome and familiar lead vocals of Mason’s lifelong bandmate and pal David Gilmour. The chirpy tune is closer in style to the music on Gilmour’s own solo records than it is to anything in the Pink Floyd catalog.