The Piper at the Gates of Dawn DVD regrettably suffers from the same genetic syndrome that so many other "unofficial" Pink Floyd releases suffer: the inevitable use of ubiquitous archival and poorly edited footage found just about anywhere on the web these days. Indeed, many a true Pink Floyd fan would have to wonder whether any of the Floyd members have copyright ownership to such footage--to say nothing of whether they have "original" prints of what we see in "documentary" DVDs the likes of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Atom Heart Mother, and even Dark Side of the Moon. Hence, caveat emptor! The buyer will be purchasing footage, that not only was poorly edited, but also footage that may be found elsewhere in its entirety.
Moreover, this is not a bad disc. I believe it is a good disc. It does offer interviews with key members of the Pink Floyd early production team--whose names I will leave out of this piece. Let me just say that hearing their comments and views did expand my Pink Floyd IQ insofar as knowing just a bit more about Piper and the Madcap himself--Syd Barrett. As any Pink Floyd fan would know, the music of Floyd's first ever album is, to say the least, nothing short of one of the finest rock albums ever produced. The way I see it, if you have the Piper CD (or LP), this DVD will make a good compliment to the mystery behind the music. And, even if most of the footage of the band, and Syd, is incomplete or poorly edited, it still makes sense for a fan to own this DVD. This should perhaps be seen as one in the many tributes to the late and Great Syd Barrett.
I stated that the footage was poorly edited. I make this assertion because I have seen the same footage on other "archival" collections uncut or unedited. Although I do not believe this documentary was a masterpiece in scripting technique, it creates no expectation that you just may see an entire song performed. Additionally, the interviews that link the archival footage are not entirely award winning, but they do lend some points of interest concerning the music and mood of the psychedelic era--such as the discussions regarding the UFO (Underground Freak Out) club. By contrast, if you want to see a "rockumentary" that was truly well done, check out The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" film--which is now gloriously restored on DVD to a nice 5.1 audio track and to its original theatrical length. This was truly well edited and scripted. The interviews were fun, congenial, comic and even poignant in some instances. They never cut into a song. When you see a performance, you see the entire song. And when the director did cut into a song, he clearly had a reason to do so. Of course, I cannot compare a theatrical film production with this DVD documentary. However, I believe my point speaks for itself. The mystery inherent to SYd's musical imagination alone makes this DVD worth owning.
The Atom Heart Mother DVD is longer, but you spend more time with the arranger-composer of that masterful Pink Floyd cow. This was a more personal approach to presenting information about the 1970 album. Yet, here again, the genetic defects of archival footage crept over us again. As a Pink Floyd fan, I clearly see copyright issues in these rough documentaries. This might explain a few things about the editing of the old footage. Moreover, I will stop dreaming that some Floyd member may actually possess professionally shot footage--albeit 8 or 16mm film or old U-matic VHS or some such. Hence, what I do expect to see, is more of the same footage, but hopefully longer or uncut. As it stands, we appear to be getting snippets of old footage in poorly produced "documentary" packages. Thankfully, the Piper DVD does not fall into this category.
Lastly, and in my opinion, the Pink Floyd record labels and marketing companies should have paid more attention to the Piper at the Gates of Dawn album and its historical value. It is sad that they wait until DVDs such as these are placed on the market by groups whose good intentions were handicapped by misapplied copyright laws and an overall lack of production guidance. If the bottom line is the mighty dollar, then a few bucks investment would have gone a long way to properly use existing footage, apply good editing principles, and possibly even implement a better marketing concept: a DVD documentary and its counterpart music album--all in one package. Check out Elton John's double disc set of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on SACD and DVD-Audio with a documentary disc. Yet, as with everything else the industry fails to recognize, fans are ready for high definition audio and something more to accompany the music--a DVD, a VCD (God forbid), an additional music disc--or even a book! Go figure!
I liked the Piper DVD. The simple notion that we can glean a few bits of information about songs the like of "Astronomy Domine," "The Gnome," or "Bike" from this rather simple documentary, makes the disc worth the few bucks.