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2023/4 Albums Thing 274 - Pink Floyd “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”

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Well here’s one I’m sure no-one who knows me would have expected…If you’ve ever spent any time talking with me about music and the subject of Pink Floyd has arisen then you will know I am no fan of theirs. I was influenced at any early age by stories and pictures of Johnny Rotten and his “I hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt, if that stance was good enough for John it was good enough for me. As time passed and I actually heard some of their stuff it quickly became clear to me that this stance was correct and what they produced was some of the dullest, leaden, soulless boring “rock music” it had ever been my misfortune to encounter. So why do I own and am about to eulogise about a Pink Floyd album ?

For starters, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” is a very different animal (pardon the pun) from the likes of “The Dark Side Of the Moon”, “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall”. Those, to my ears, epitomise everything that is wrong about 70’s rock music… c’mon kids it’s just f*cking boring !

“The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” however is a work of blissed out, psychedelic wonder made by what may as well be a completely different band to those 70’s rock dullards the name came to represent, this one led by the fractured, delicate genius of Syd Barrett. Syd co-founded Floyd in 1965 (in fact he named the band after two of his favoured bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council) and helmed them for around 2 years until early 1968 and he was ousted from the band when, en route to a gig, the rest of the band decided not to pick him up. Syd had written their two hit singles (“Arnold Layne”, “See Emily Play” plius the non hit “Apples And Oranges”) and of the 11 songs on “…Piper…” he wrote 8 himself and co wrote another 2 (Roger Waters is credited with “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk”). It’s probably not a surprise, therefore, that their sound changed markedly after he departed.

The Pink Floyd (as they were then known) signed with EMI’s Columbia Records in February 1967 after forging a reputation with their performances at London’s UFO Club (which I’ve only recently discovered was pronounced YouFo by its clientele). “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” was recorded between February and May at Abbey Road studios. Syd Barrett had his first LSD trip in the summer of 1965 and during the recording of the album his use increased which began to affect him significantly, ultimately leading to his departure from the band when they didn’t pick him up on the way to a gig due to his increasingly “challenging” behaviour”.

The album consists of two different types of songs, Barrett’s shorter more whimsical songs (“Lucifer Sam”. “Bike”, “The Gnome” and “Matilda Mother”) and longer improvised pieces, the sort of thing that made up their m,iuch talked about live set (“Interstellar Overdrive” and “Pow R. Toc H.”). “Lucifer Sam” is a beauty and one of the grooviest guitar riffs ever put to tape in the 1960’s, a song about Syd’s cat; “Intertellar Overdrive” is a pile-driving, almost 10 minute long instrumental based on the theme tune from “Steptoe And Son”; “Bike” is an almost comedic ditty about Syd’s bike and its bell and its basket and some things that make it look good, and he tells you about his mouse, Gerald.

It may all sound a little crazy and it is, but it sounds like like nothing else that was around at the time and it sounds nothing like Pink Floyd ever sounded again. I’ve never owned a copy until very recently, RSD 2018 in fact whence was released a remastered 180g Mono version  in all sorts of fancy packaging and I figured to hell with it, why not. Add to this album those 3 early singles and to my mind you have all the Pink Floyd you’ll ever need.

As the old saying goes “everyone has one in them”, right ? Well this is certainly Pink Floyd’s one. I wouldn’t give you tuppence for anything they did after this but “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” is a fantastic British psychedelic record and I really, really like it.

Lucifer Sam - https://youtu.be/np5z_yiuhKo

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