Life Could Be a Dream – The Nick Mason film

A review by Vernon Fitch

*** originally published May 8, 2000 ***

© copyright 2000

Life Could Be a Dream is a short film about the life of Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason. This Mike Shackleton film, released in 1986, with original soundtrack music written and played by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn, was a Roger Cherrill Limited Production for NVC Media Limited, in London, England. It clocks in at only 26 minutes, but is an interesting glimpse into Nick Mason’s world of motor sports and drumming with Pink Floyd.

The movie appropriately begins with the sound and vision of a racing car speeding over a hill. As the hum of a Porsche 956 engine is heard, a brief glimpse of Nick Mason performing a drum roll begins the song Profiles, which serves as the background music during the introductory segment. Nick Mason is shown putting on his racing helmet and racing gear, playing drums with Pink Floyd, and racing his Porsche 956.

The opening sequence of the movie takes place at the Mosport Race Track in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in August 1984. This is the 1000 k.m. Budweiser GT Endurance Race, where Nick Mason is making his North American racing debut (he was the official camera car, driving a Porsche 956 as a member of the Rothman’s racing team). Excitement builds during pre-race activity as an announcer tells the crowd that Nick Mason of Pink Floyd is driving the number 3 Porsche car in the race. Mason is seated inside his car beginning the warm-up lap, and as he rounds the track, he begins narrating.

“I suppose from my early childhood, I’ve dreamt about driving the ultimate sports car. I must have been about ten when I started going to races with my father. We used to set off for Silverstone in the early morning and drive up through the English country side.” The scene then switches from present day racing at Mosport, to a picturesque film portraying Mason as a child, riding with his father through the English countryside in an old Bentley.

As the Bentley with the young Nick Mason and his father drives along the English country road, the old Crew Cuts song, Sh’Boom (aka Life Could Be a Dream), begins. This is a re-recording of the song by Mason and Fenn, with Eric Stewart on vocals. It has the production feel of the Mason + Fenn album, Profiles, yet maintains the carefree air of the original nicely. The Bentley looks beautiful on the road, and Mason explains that, in those days, it was incredibly windy and he had to devise a rather clever way of keeping warm by exposing just his head and wearing his fathers old crash helmet. If it got too windy, he would just tuck himself away completely. The young Mason’s head can be seen peeking out from underneath an oversize crash helmet. Life Could Be a Dream. Sh’Boom. Sh’Boom.

Mason explains that, at that time, Bentley’s were considered antiquated but they still offered great performance. In a bit of English humor, the young Mason and his father are pictured in a Bentley stopped at a stoplight as a couple of young drivers in a modern sports car pull up beside them. The young drivers make fun of the old Bentley, yet are left behind as the light turns green and the Bentley speeds off.

Mason reminisces about one of his most vivid memories, that of his father and Wally riding in the front seat of the Bentley as he observed them from the back seat. Wally had been a racing mechanic for Bentley’s in their heyday, back when mechanics were expected to ride in the car with the drivers so that they could hop out and fix anything that went wrong on the spot. Mason’s father had liked Bentley’s because the car served two purposes. He could use it as an everyday car for the family. And when he desired, he could drive it to the racetrack and race it. The young Mason with his father and Wally are shown driving into the Silverstone Racing Complex in 1954 where they prepare the family car for the race.

Mason explains that Wally would get the car ready for racing as young Nick would go around listening to the sounds of the engines of the other cars. He remembers the smell of Castrol oil as he would watch the drivers of their cars getting ready for the race. All the classic cars, Talbots, Healeys, MGs, ERAs, and of course Bentleys, are shown driving past the young Mason, on their way to the race. Mason’s favorite races were the Vintage Sports Car Club events, with the all-comers scratch race being the most exciting. Mason then describes how he would try to do little things to help prepare his fathers Bentley for racing. They would remove weight and make the car more aerodynamic by removing the spare tire, and tape up the headlights.

One of Mason’s favorite cars was the Type 35 Bugatti and a beautiful blue Bugatti is shown, with the driver insisting that the young Mason get in and sit behind the wheel. Like most small boys, he revels in the opportunity and dreams of what it would be like to drive it.

The roar of engines is heard as the race begins, a sound that still excites Mason today. A vintage sports car race from the 1950s is recreated, with the young Mason shown working a stopwatch to keep a record of all the lap times. Mason explains that this exercise taught him that good consistent lapping is very important for a good result. As Mason clicks the stopwatch, the Pink Floyd song, The Scarecrow, begins.

The stopwatch fades into a Wall clock in Mason’s house. Sports car memorabilia is shown on shelves, while Mason, who is seated on a couch, flips though a photo album. He views with pleasure pictures of racing at Silverstone in 1954 as he explains that he trained as an architect at the Regent Street Polytechnic. It was there that he met the rest of the band, Pink Floyd. Mason continues flipping through his photo album, which now shows pictures of Pink Floyd in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mason talks about the early years of the band, when things seemed to move rapidly from them doing student parties to the point when they were rushing up and down the motorway between exotic locations. He explains that eventually it reached a point where a kindly teacher suggested that Mason take a year off, and he hasn’t managed to get back yet.

Mason then reaches over and turns on a film projector. As the song Arnold Layne plays, home movies of the Pink Floyd in 1968 are projected onto a screen. Roger Waters gets out of a van as David Gilmour happily mimes playing a guitar. In a bit of jest, Waters is shown miraculously putting the neck of his bass guitar through Mason’s chest as Mason laughs. Gilmour looks on in amazement as Mason turns and laughs at the camera. Richard Wright also laughs at the humor. All in good fun! This is followed by a film of giant inflatable octopus with it’s tentacles all laid out on a lawn next to a lake. Steve O’Rourke wanders up a hill as scenes of Pink Floyd performing on stage at the Crystal Palace Bowl on May 15, 1971, are shown. Home movies of this concert include scenes of the band performing live on stage, various scenes of the audience relaxing and taking in the concert on the bank of the lake, and band members backstage. It was a memorable performance. After the Crystal Palace Bowl film comes home movies of the filming of the movie, Live at Pompeii. Nick Mason is seen enjoying himself behind one of the huge movie cameras as it is raised up in the air on a crane. At this point the film grinds to a halt, the screen fades to black, and the song One of These Days begins. A montage of pictures of Pink Floyd at Pompeii flash across the screen. With a butterfly on his chest, Nick Mason plays his drums with mallets, then sticks, driving the song on. As the song, One of These Days, ends, the scene switches back to the Mosport Racetrack with Nick Mason behind the wheel of his Porsche.

Mason continues his narration by explaining about the safety of driving the Porsche 956 and the peculiarities of racing it at Mosport. Once again the song Profiles is played, and scenes of the actual race are shown. Shots of the race from inside Mason’s car, at ground level outside the car, and from above the race track flash across the screen. Additionally, films of his pit stop are included, as Mason is shown taking a short breather from the race. All the aspects of a day at the races are covered. As the song plays on, scenes of the race fade into shots of Mason and Fenn in a recording studio recording the song, Profiles. Mason is shown playing drums and bells, while Rick Fenn is playing keyboards. Scenes of Mason playing drums, and racing at Mosport, alternate. And in the end we see the checkered flag. Although Mason doesn’t win the race, it is apparent that his life is still a dream, and shots of Mason behind the drums in the early days of Pink Floyd are followed by a picture of the young Nick Mason wearing his fathers crash helmet. Fade to back, followed by the credits. Life Could Be a Dream.

Production credits:

Writer and director - Mike Shackleton
Producer - Sharon Gold
Executive producer - John Barnard
Assistant directors - Vic Priggs and Roger Inman
Editor - Michael Webb
Assistant editor - Tracy Thorne
Sound Mixer - Owen Langevin
Dubbing mixer - Paul Carr
Opticals - Cherry Opticals Ltd.
Soundtrack: Original music written and played by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn.

Production crew:

Camera assistant - Paul Hennessy
Camera grip - Joe Garrett
Camera man - Harvey Harrison
Camera operator - Chris Moore
Make-up - Hajera Coovadia
Porsche 956 camera mounts - David Earl
Production buyer - Geoff Godbold
Props - Dave Sugden, Ray Perry, Jr.
Sound mixers - Bill Burgess, Richard Daniel

Canadian production unit:

Camera assistants - Chris Barry, Mike Hall
Camera grip - Dave Derry
Camera man - Robert Ryan, Doug Barry