“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.
A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968)
Let There Be More Light/Remember A Day/Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun/Corporal Clegg/A Saucerful Of Secrets/See-Saw/Jugband Blues
Whereas the first album had been pretty much Syd Barrett's album, the other members all contributed to this one and, for me, it is notably an improvement on its predecessor. During the recording of the album, Barrett was ousted from the band.
This album reveals a movement away from the Syd Barrett doped-up childlike songs of the debut album and towards more lengthy, spacey instrumental workouts such as Roger Waters' admittedly Barrett-inspired spaced-out Let There Be More Light and the hippy, trippy beautifully pulsing bass-driven bliss of Nick Wright's Remember A Day.
Waters' Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun is a magnificent piece of dreamy space rock, underpinned by a sumptuous bass line and some mysterious keyboards. It is just so wonderfully weird and trippy (sorry for using that phrase again, but it is so very apt). Who would have thought that so many years later artists such as Paul Weller would derive inspiration from this. Waters' military-World War II obsession first manifested itself on the musically robust and impressive but lyrically wanting Corporal Clegg. I say that, though, but like it or not, it would prove to be typical Waters, an intrinsic part of Pink Floyd.
Then it was time for what was rapidly-becoming a prog rock favourite, the suite comprising several different passages. Here it is A Saucerful Of Secrets and unfortunately, it is a complete waste of everyone's time, the appeal of the first three space-rock tracks. It is a mess of discordant noise, piano pounding, drum loops and aural nothingness. It is like Revolution 9 in its utter uselessness. Many no doubt think it a work of genius - I find it a waste of nearly twelve minutes of my life.
Nick Wright's blissed-out See-Saw is a bit of an ethereal improvement. Barrett's Jugband Blues is an oompah, brassy folky knees up with nothing bluesy about it whatsoever.
Although its second side isn't up to much, for me, I much prefer this album to Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, although many critics would seem to disagree with me. For me the difference is measured in light years, maybe appropriately.
The Live album - Astronomy Domine/Careful With That Axe Eugene/Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun/A Saucerful Of Secrets
The Studio album - Sysyphus Parts 1-4/Grantchester Meadows/Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict/The Narrow Way Parts 1-3/the Grand Vizier's Garden Party Parts 1-3
Nick Mason said of this album, which was a double - the first half a live recording, the second a studio creation - that
"....I thought it was a very good and interesting little exercise, the whole business of everyone doing a bit. But I still feel really that that's quite a good example of the sum being greater than the parts ...".
I remember as a young teenager in 1972, pre-Dark Side Of The Moon, that those boys I knew who were (incomprehensibly, to me) into Pink Floyd treated this album as the Holy Grail - the best The Floyd had to offer thus far. Hmmm. It is notable how many of the group's members, in retrospect, criticised their early work.
Anyway, to the studio album - each band member has their own particular chance to shine - Sysyphus being keyboardsman Richard Wright's piece of indulgence. To me, it gets nowhere - the keyboard sounds are neither tuneful not appealing discordant. The piece just doesn't go anywhere, being made up of ambient noise, really. Not for me. A total waste of listening time.
Roger Waters' Grantchester Meadows is far more appealing - a bucolic, acoustic folky number that is not like anything else the group ever did, not at all. Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict is four minutes plus of pointless repeated tape sounds and animal noises. What? You mean people listen to this for pleasure? Surely not? Some may find it deliciously bonkers I guess.
David Gilmour's guitar (acoustic and electric) dominated piece, The Narrow Way, is the one that holds the most appeal for me. Its last part holds the most hints of subsequent Floyd music, with its ethereal vocals and solid but walking pace rock backing.
Drummer Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party takes six minutes of pointlessness with occasional drum noises to wake up into an actually all-too-brief drum solo.
Bar a few minutes here and there, personally I find this album an unlistenable waste of my time. Sorry.
The live album is much more accessible, to a point, although it is still too rambling and ambient for my liking (that is just personal taste). The four cuts all improve on their studio equivalents but they all go on way too long and simply don't excite me. Roger Waters' bass guitar work is excellent, I have to say. as indeed are Mason's drums.
Look, I'm just not really a Floyd man, am I? I have gone into their weird world with my eyes and ears open but I remain unconvinced, particularly by this.
Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Atom Heart Mother Suite/If/Summer ‘68/Fat Old Sun/Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast
After their previous indulgent outing, The Floyd were full-on weirdo prog by now.
The first track, Atom Heart Mother, took up the whole of side one, and lasted twenty-three minutes. It is a classically-influenced, largely quiet piece that features a consistently subtle, warm bass sound, some nice drums and guitar too, but, as with so many of these prog suites, you have to sit through the whole lot for the good bits that come around every three or four minutes, such as the guitar-bass-organ interplay at around eleven and a half minutes, which is inspired. The peaceful guitar passage at the end is great too. Indeed, shave fifteen minutes off the track and it would be so much better!
Quite a bit of it reminds me of Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. Maybe he drew inspiration from this. As these prog suites go, it is ok, give me this over much of Yes’s output all day long. Furthermore, I have to admit that, for 1970, it was pretty adventurous, falling into the category of classical rock music, something that Emerson, Lake and Palmer would specialise in.
The band have all expressed negativity towards it subsequently. Maybe the last word on it should go to Roger Waters, speaking in 1984, who said “if somebody said to me now – right – here's a million pounds, go out and play Atom Heart Mother, I'd say you must be fucking joking”.
The old side two started with Waters’ If, a pleasant, gentle folky song played largely on acoustic guitar. Nick Wright’s Summer Of ‘68 is a track that features some Beatles-style brass and a catchy drum rhythm as well as some slightly jazzy piano. Fat Old Sun, a David Gilmour song, is again quiet and folky, with some very Ringo Starr-influenced drums. Some strong guitar and bass arrives near the end.
Despite some equally attractive guitar and bass, a lot of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (complete with cornflakes noises and frying sizzles) is an indulgent waste of time that nobody should ever part with money for.
There were some good bits on this album, but some dross too. Would I ever play this album out of choice, in order to gain satisfaction? Would I hell. I'm with Roger Waters on that one. Never mind, the best of Pink Floyd was to come, or so I'm told by those who know better than me.
”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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In The Flesh/The Thin Ice/Another Brick In The Wall Part 1/The Happiest Days Of Our Lives/Another Brick In The Wall Part 2/Mother/Goodbye Blue Sky/Empty Spaces/Young Lust/One Of My Turns/Don't Leave Me Now/Another Brick In The Wall Part 3/Goodbye Cruel World/Hey You/Is There Anybody Out There?/Nobody Home/Vera/Bring The Boys Back Home/Comfortably Numb/the Show Must Go On/In The Flesh/Run Like Hell/Waiting For The Worms/Stop/The Trial/Outside The Wall