Born in Birmingham, England back in 1944, Nick Mason helped to form Pink Floyd in 1965 and since then was part of all the albums the band ever released. However, he didn’t play in all the tracks they recorded, seven times during their discography it was another drummer who recorded the song in the studio.
Famous names like Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge), Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton) and even David Gilmour himself already played the drums for Pink Floyd.
The 7 Pink Floyd songs that Nick Mason wasn’t the drummer
Norman Smith – “Remember a Day” (A Saucerful of Secrets – 1968)
The first time Nick Mason didn’t record the drums in the Pink Floyd discography was in the song “Remember a Day” released on their 1968 album “A Saucerful of Secrets”. During the recording of the song Mason wasn’t happy because he was not being able to come up with the drum part the song needed. On the other side, Norman Smith, the producer of the album, knew exactly what the track needed and he recorded himself the drums.
He said in an interview with Digital Trends in 2016, Mason said he was not mad about Smith playing the drums in that track. “Norman was great. He had been engineering The Beatles, and he absolutely got the idea he was there to teach us as well as produce. In those days, bands were never allowed in the control room. That was the thing. When you finished your tracks, they’d say, ‘Thank you, boys,’ and then you were sent off to the pub. But Norman was absolutely happy to let us handle the faders if we wanted to.”
He would also help with arrangements. I’m not mad about them, but he helped arrange the backing vocals for [Piper’s] Corporal Clegg and also Remember a Day — and he actually plays drums on that one too. He could set his hand to almost anything, really. Later on, post-Saucer, he wasn’t the right guy for us anymore, but he was really influential and helpful in those early days,” Nick Mason said.
That track had another rare aspect present in Pink Floyd’s discography. Besides being written by Richard Wright he also was the lead vocalist in it. Besides Mason, Gilmour also didn’t play in the track.
David Gilmour – “Narrow Way” (Ummagumma – 1969)
The second Pink Floyd song that had another drummer was “Narrow Way” from the 1969 album “Ummagumma”. But curiously, it was the singer and guitarist David Gilmour. He wrote the track and recorded by himself the vocals, guitars, bass, piano, organ, mellotron, drums and percussion.
Gilmour was very insecure during his first years as a member of Pink Floyd and when they recorded “Ummagumma” they decided they should write each one their own piece of music. He recalled that in an interview with Guitar Heroes magazine in 1983 “Well, we’d decided to make the damn album, and each of us to do a piece of music on our own.”
“It was just desperation really, trying to think of something to do, to write by myself. I’d never written anything before, I just went into a studio and started waffling about, tacking bits and pieces together. I haven’t heard it in years. I’ve no idea what it’s like,” David Gilmour said.
Jeff Porcaro – “Mother” (The Wall – 1979)
The most famous Pink Floyd that Nick Mason didn’t play the drums was certainly “Mother” released on the acclaimed album “The Wall” (1979). The group called Toto’s Jeff Porcaro, who was also one of the most respected session drummers in the world to help in the recording of the track. According to Gilmour it was Roger Waters‘ idea to call him because it was a difficult track and different from what Mason used to play.
He recalled that in an interview with M. Resnicoff in 1992. “On Mother the timing follows the words: ‘Mo-ther-do-you-think- they’ll-drop-the-*bomb*?’ How many beats is that? Nine. It was very very difficult to get it to work. You can’t (mimes standard Floyd 4). There’s no rhythm that carries on straight through like that. You’ve got to find a way of floating through it, which Jeff Porcaro did immediately,” David Gilmour said.
Mason curiously admires Jeff Porcaro and already said that he loves Toto.
Andy Newmark – “Two Suns in the Sunset” (The Final Cut – 1983)
It took Pink Floyd four years to release “The Final Cut” their follow-up to “The Wall” and there was also one track without Mason on drums. “Two Suns in the Sunset” had the American session drummer Andy Newmark, who also played with names like George Harrison, John Lennon, David Bowie and Roxy Music.
Besides Mason, that track also didn’t have Richard Wright since “The Final Cut” is the only Pink Floyd album he wasn’t in the band. It also was the final Pink Floyd album with Roger Waters, he left the band the following year. This song was featured on his 2023 tour “This is Not a Drill”.
Newmark was the drummer on Roger Waters’ debut album “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” also released in 1983.
Carmine Appice – “Dogs of War” (A Momentary Lapse of Reason – 1987)
In the era of Pink Floyd without Roger Waters, Nick Mason wasn’t the drummer in three songs. The first one was “Dogs of War” from “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” released in 1987. The experienced American drummer Carmine Appice, famous for his work with Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and more was the one the band chose to lay down the track.
In an interview with North Coast Music Beat in 2021, Appice recalled that it was the producer Bob Ezrin who called him at the time. “I got a message from Bob Ezrin. He left a message and said he’s producing a band that is just gleaning for Carmine drum fills. I called Bob and said ‘Hey Bob, who’s the band?’ He said, ‘Pink Floyd.’ I said, ‘Pink Floyd? Where’s Nick?’ He said,’Oh, he’ll be there.’ I said, ‘Why isn’t he playing?’ He said, ‘Well, his calluses are soft. He’s been racing his Ferrari’s and they want to get some new blood.'”
“So I went in and spent the day with them. But I never got to hear the finished product until it came out. I played to a four-track and I filled up I don’t know how many fifteen minute reel to reels. There were a lot of drums on there. I would call him up and say “How’s the drum part?” He would say, “wonderful, fantastic, unbelievable!”
“Finally, I was up in Canada doing a movie called “Black Roses”. I heard the Pink Floyd album was released, so I went downstairs in the underground mall and I bought the cassette. I put it on my Walkman and I heard it and I was blown away! That’s a great drum part! Then I saw them on that tour and I saw Nick trying to play my drum parts. I thought that was funny seeing Nick Mason trying to play Carmine Appice’s drum part,” Carmine Appice said.
That song also didn’t have Richard Wright. Who played the keyboards was Jon Carin, while Bill Payne was in charge with the Hammond organ.
Jim Keltner – “One Slip” (A Momentary Lapse of Reason – 1987)
“One Slip” was another track from “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” that didn’t have Nick Mason on drums. It was the famous session drummer Jim Keltner, who played with names like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan who played.
But although Keltner was on drums during the recording of that track, Mason was the percussionist in it. In an interview with Galore Magazine back in 2005, Mason mentioned Keltner, saying he was one of the best drummers around.
“In retrospect I rather regret that. Although it wasn’t the first time (having other drummers). There’s an early single on which the producer played the drums, for example. If we hadn’t got much time and I couldn’t play a part, somebody else did it instead.”
“The thing is that on ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’, too many things were played by other people. That was a mistake, but at the time David Gilmour had an awful lot on his plate. At least with Jim Keltner I chose one of the best drummers around,” Nick Mason said.
Jim Keltner – “On The Turning Away” (A Momentary Lapse of Reason – 1987)
Probably the second most famous Pink Floyd song that had another drummer was “On The Turning Away” that became a classic song from the era without Roger Waters. Besides Gilmour on guitars and vocals, the track also had Richard Wright on the Hammond organ, Jon Carin on synthesizer and Tony Levin on bass guitar.