“Come on you target for faraway laughter. Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!” - Pink Floyd
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
Astronomy Domine/Lucifer Sam/Matilda Mother/Flaming/Pow R. Toc H./Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk/Interstellar Overdrive/The Gnome/Chapter 24/The Scarecrow/Bike
The debut album from Pink Floyd was a most odd affair - full of Syd Barrett's strangely child-like lyrical imagery, mixed with lots of very English whimsy, the band's often bizarre psychedelic innovation and a few tiny signs of Roger Waters' wry, often cynical, world-weary too soon witticism.
Musically, it is often a discordant, psychedelic, hallucinogenic trip of weird keyboard noises and "spacey" sound effects. There is a real dichotomy apparent between Barrett's lightly mischievous ditties like the very early David Bowie-esque The Gnome and Flaming and the rest of the band's lengthy, experimental psychedelic, weird workouts like the pretty much unlistenable Interstellar Overdrive and the not much more tolerable (but slightly so) Pow R. Toc H. (whatever that meant). It results in an overall impression of disharmony and drugged-up chaos. Yes, The Beatles went druggy at the same period, but their offerings had nothing on this. This was madness put to music. It is like aspects of The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request gone completely ape-shit.
I'm not sure what I prefer, all those "space rock" freak outs or irritating nonsense like Barrett's Bike. In fact, I don't go much for either of them. There was so much better stuff around in 1967, and better material from early Pink Floyd too. No subsequent albums would sound anything like this. I have to admit to a bit of a liking for the James Bond theme bassy backing on Lucifer Sam, however. Matilda Mother is strangely tolerable too and there are bits of the sound of Pow R. Toc H. that get into my system, particularly the drums and the keyboards. The same can be said for odd bits in Waters' Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk.
The beguiling Chapter 24 has an understated appeal but Scarecrow has little redeeming about it.
The opener, Barrett's psychedelic, spacey maelstrom of Astronomy Domine was probably the best track, featuring a fine, deep, rumbling bass and some inspired drumming, but it is pretty much downhill after there, for me. I guess I am supposed to accept it as a work of tortured genius, but, unfortunately, I don't. Listening to someone's LSD trip and eventual decent into mental breakdown is a challenging experience.
** Two non-album tracks from the same era that I did like, however, were the single 'b' side Candy And A Currant Bun and the next 'a' side, See Emily Play.
”Pink Floyd's sessions would often begin in the afternoon, and end early the next morning, during which time nothing would get done. There was no record company contact whatsoever, except when their label manager would show up now and again with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of joints" - John Leckie - engineer
Firstly, I have to make the point that I have done on all the Pink Floyd albums that I have reviewed - I am not a ‘proper’ Pink Floyd fan. I am a Floyd dilettante. Therefore my approach will be a slightly different one. Anyway - this was, I have to say, a most interesting album, packed full of lengthy, often ambient, often heavily rocking, instrumental passages spread over only six tracks.
The opener, One Of These Days, is a pounding instrumental featuring a few distorted vocal grunts of the like Mike Oldfield would use on Tubular Bells and some grinding, Kraftwerk-style chugging rock parts. The beat stays regular throughout, but it is a string, muscular, great-sounding one, overflowing with early seventies rock power.
A typically airy, folky Roger Waters sound is found on the slow, acoustic and bucolic strains of A Pillow Of Winds.
San Tropez is a jaunty, quirky piece if McCartney-esque fun that sits as a bit if a surprise, but it is actually relaxingly pleasant.
Overall, it is a really fine early seventies rock album and another Pink Floyd album I prefer to Dark Side Of The Moon.
Speak To Me/Breathe (In The Air)/On The Run/Time/The Great Gig In The Sky/Money/Us And Them/Any Colour You Like/Brain Damage/Eclipse
The success of the album brought enormous wealth to the members of Pink Floyd. Waters and Wright bought large country houses while Mason became a collector of expensive cars
I have to say, initially, that I am not a proper Pink Floyd fan, as such, just someone who felt he ought to listen more times to this iconic album. The thing is, I have never quite understood the hype about it. Yes, it is immaculately played, for sure, and the sound on this latest remaster is superb. However, I find much of the actual album vacillates between stunningly good and intensely irritating, with lots of strange noises, sound effects and occasional vocals, not forgetting some pretentious lyrics. The snippets of voices talking in between tracks and often at the beginning and fade out of tracks is a good idea, and is effective.
Breathe In The Air isn’t a bad song, but it ends too soon, and On The Run is a very Kraftwerk-esque frantic and rumbling instrumental which has its appeal.
The album’s only really credible stand alone track is the funk rock of Money, which I have to say I do like. Great saxophone on it to. Just a quality rock track, actually. A pity the rest of the album on occasions doesn’t match it.
The first half of Time, I have to say, beats David Bowie with regard to ambient instrumentals by about four years, but when the vocal kicks in it just seems an irritation. I would have liked it much more if it had stayed as an instrumental. There is some great guitar on there, though, displaying Floyd's ability to be slightly funky when the mood took them.
Us And Them has a nice saxophone opening and a laid-back groove, but Roger Waters’ voice and delivery just annoys me somewhat. I know I am being a little unfair, in many ways this is a well-crafted song. As with most of this album, there are bits I really like and others that I don’t so much. This one track exemplifies that within itself.
Any Colour You Like has an almost reggae-like guitar opening and some exhilarating guitar stereo interplay in its three minutes of instrumental. I like this too.
"I had some criticisms of 'Dark Side of the Moon'. One or two of the vehicles carrying the ideas were not as strong as the ideas that they carried. I thought we should try and work harder on marrying the idea and the vehicle that carried it, so that they both had an equal magic… It's something I was personally pushing when we made 'Wish You Were Here'" - David Gilmour
Written as a tribute to former member Syd Barrett, for many ‘proper’ Pink Floyd fans, it would seem to be an album they don’t revere as much as others. Maybe I’m wrong there, but it certainly as if it wasn’t a favourite of the band themselves, finding it the most gruelling to complete. From my point of view, as a sort of non-Floyd fan, I really like it a lot. It is packed full of superb instrumentation, particularly David Gilmour’s guitar work and several outstanding extended instrumental pieces which render the vocals almost unnecessary. I would enjoy it just as much without them, but I have to say that the relatively sparse use of them is really effective.
Personally, I much prefer this to Dark Side Of The Moon - don’t shoot me Floyd obsessives! Just the way it comes over to me from considerably my more detached viewpoint.
Anyway, to the music - Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V is instrumentally brilliant, when the drums kick in, the bass, the almost early Roxy Music-like saxophone. Excellent. Although over thirteen minutes long it never outstays its welcome, seeming to be only about half that length, so engrossing is its music. The electric guitar solo around half way through is mesmerising, scintillating and any other 'ing' you may care to think of
The interesting Welcome To The Machine starts like David Bowie's Station To Station (surely he was influenced by this) and those glorious 'industrial' synth breaks must have had an effect on the output of numerous eighties post punk/new romantic keyboard-dominated, introspective bands. Bass, keyboards and acoustic guitar merge perfectly. This really is a mightily impressive composition - the bass/keyboard interplay near the end is spectacular. For me, as with many Pink Floyd songs, the lyrics are somewhat superfluous. It is about the music as far as I'm concerned, which just as well, as I find Roger Waters' voice and vocal style a little bit grating.
Have A Cigar has a captivating slow rock drum beat, more fine keyboards and a bit of a funky guitar undertow. It is the most convincing rock number of the album, the equivalent of Dark Side Of The Moon's Money. Actually, just as solid and appealing is the plaintive but simultaneously Wish You Were Here, which is a classic "intelligent rock” muscular ballad.
The second batch of Shine On You Crazy Diamond is truly superb - wonderful deep rumbling bass throbbing away somewhat menacingly as the keyboards cut and thrust, swirling around like an incense stick's smoke. Then the track gets a bit rhythmic and some catchy drum/cymbal work arrives. The vocals and some killer guitar take six minutes to introduce themselves as we revisit the lyrical/melodic conceits of the earlier sections (I-V) of the song. The funky bass and keyboard (clavinet) bit half way through is breathtaking, and positively Traffic-esque. There is so much going on this track and indeed on all this highly impressive album. The sound quality is great too.
"The album described the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals" - Glenn Povey
Released in 1977, at the height of punk, this Pink Floyd album could not be further from the short, sharp, raw punk ethic if it tried. It is a further outing down the lengthy, instrumental/occasional vocals road and, although immaculately played, is seemingly culturally out of time. Now, I may think that, but, casting my mind back to 1977, Pink Floyd fans outnumbered punks by ten to one - probably more. To lots of people punk meant nothing - this was what they wanted, and they lapped it up. It was a very successful album.
The album, in true prog rock style, is based around a vague concept of George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' linked to the political landscape of Britain in 1977. Its bloatedness was possibly inspired as an answer to punk's anarchic nihilism, but, in many ways, this is as anti-establishment an album as anything punk came up with. Indeed, the punk/established rock antipathy was all a bit of a pose - Johnny Rotten secretly liked some prog rock and Floyd's Nick Mason produced The Damned's second album. Personally, in 1977, I hated this and those who liked it, but my views have mellowed over the many subsequent years. Ironically, many Floyd aficionados at the time disliked the album due to its iconoclasm, cynicism and dark edginess.
The work is basically three extended workouts bookended by two short pieces. It begins with the short acoustic and vocals of Pigs On The Wing (Part One) before we get the album's first big track - the impressive Dogs, featuring some semi-funky guitar work from David Gilmour amongst many other changes of pace and sound. In places there is almost a soulful bass sound to the groove. Look, what the hell, I like this. The band revisit the use of canine vocals too, following on from 1971's Seamus.
Pigs (Three Different Ones) has a great rock drum sound and, together with a deep, resonant bass line, recreates the sound of the previous album's Have A Cigar. In places it sounds not unlike US proto-punk band Television, for me. Check out those guitar chops and harsh drums - very post punk too - almost Joy Division in its harsh sonic bleakness. Many post punk groups will have been (possibly secretly) influenced by this, no question.
Sheep begins with some melodic electric piano, a nice bass and steady drum sound for nearly two minutes before it breaks out into some upbeat rock rhythms, full of excellent guitar and swirling organ. Play this loud and, to me, it sounds almost punky in a 1978-79 bleak style, Roger Waters' vocal even sounds Rotten-esque in its sneering tone at times. If you had played this over the speakers before a post punk gig, people would have been enthused, I'm sure. Maybe people will disagree with me but I find a lot of Joy Division/early New Order/early Simple Minds in much of this. The problem for many with Floyd was that the tracks lasted so long so it came across as indulgent, but various passages in the tracks are not much different to the noir sound of post punk.
The final track, the short Pigs On The Wing (Part Two) is exactly the same length as the opener - 1:24. Odd that, isn't it?
It was an album caught between two cultures but that didn't stop it being very successful. indeed, and probably rightly so.