Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason has been awarded a CBE for a career in music spanning more than five decades.
The stalwart of one of Britain’s most successful bands joked “I’ve got the long service medal” for his stint with the progressive rock group he co-founded in the mid 1960s and which had huge commercial and critical success in the following decades.
Looking back at his career the 75-year-old said: “It’s quite extraordinary, because you never have a sense of that time passing.”
He also revealed he briefly chatted to the Duke of Cambridge, who hosted the Buckingham Palace investiture, about their shared love of flying.
Pink Floyd’s psychedelic rock was the sound of the late 1960s, but after their influential frontman Syd Barrett left they regrouped and produced a progressive sound that saw them notch up huge sales for albums like The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall.
Mason, who has a priceless collection of Ferraris, Maseratis, Aston Martins and Bugattis, said about his brief chat with William, a former air ambulance helicopter pilot,: “What was quite nice was I’ve met him very briefly before and one thing we do share is flying helicopters.
“Cars are my thing, originally when they told me I’d got this award they said it’s for music – I thought they were going to say it’s for services to the used car trade.
“But if you fly helicopters there’s always a whole bunch of things you end up talking about.”
Mason began drumming in bands alongside fellow Regent Street Polytechnic student Roger Waters in the early 1960s, before they teamed up with keyboard player Richard Wright and Barrett.
From their debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Pink Floyd gathered an adoring audience and achieved major commercial success, but before the end of the decade guitarist Dave Gilmour had replaced Barrett.
Speaking about their success after Barrett, Mason said: “That’s not unusual, and there are almost better examples of that if you look at Fleetwood Mac and Genesis where you lose the principle person and somehow the band reworks itself into something else.”
Mason was influenced by jazz music, which helped him provide the distinctive percussive elements to the band’s concept albums. He also had a hand in lyrics and co-wrote several songs, including Echoes.
He still tours with his newly formed band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, and has indulged his passion for motor racing and Ferraris between touring commitments throughout his career.
The drummer added: “People always ask about the success of Dark Side Of The Moon, which is our most famous album. It’s actually because there’s great writing from Roger, great playing from David and Rich.
“But also Storm Thorgerson, (from design group) Hypnosis, designed the cover, Alan Parsons who was the engineer, went on to become really well known as the Alan Parsons Project – there was probably eight different inputs that made it into something.”
Pink Floyd are famed for the flying inflatable pigs that have accompanied many of their concerts and for the theatrical backdrops and light shows for tours like The Wall.
Mason joked: “The visuals were also important and almost a way of trying to improve the ability of the show to hook-up with an audience – when we really hadn’t got any dance moves organised.”