on 22 October 2011
So much has been written about 'Piper' there's not much point in me adding my ha'penny's worth, though it remains one of the great debut albums of all time in my opinion (along with 'In the Court of the Crimson King' and 'Led Zep 1'). But there's a 'but'. There's already much speculation about possible 'Experience' and even 'Immersion' editions of this album (either singly or, in the case of the Immersion ed, paired with 'Saucerful'), so why buy this now? I think enough time has elapsed now that Piper shouldn't be treated as some kind of holy artefact that cannot be sullied with (whisper it) bonus tracks or even a bonus CD. There's an awful lot in the can that could result in a 'Piper Era' package, rather than Piper on its own. BBC Radio 2's 'The Record Producers' programme (2011) gave tantalising glimpses into the 4track originals of 'Arnold Layne' and its flip side, proving they're being investigated. I (and zillions others) would far rather the remaining members of Floyd bury any misgivings they have and allow as much as possible from the band's earliest days to be put out there.
on 27 May 2007
Yes, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' is undoubtedly imbued with the effects of LSD, and is one of the first true paradigms of psychedelic rock, however, for me, this album will always be Syd Barrett's immortalisation of childhood. The 'eccentric' Floyd frontman presents a wonderful array of withdrawn, introspective and seemingly naïve imagery, with lyrics that are dreamlike, unearthly and peculiarly ominous: appositely reflecting the process of childhood and growing up, in my opinion.
Due to this masterpiece, Barrett's first and last Floyd album, he will always remain a childlike genius in my eyes, not the drug-ravaged recluse the media gleefully portrayed him as. This album has made Syd eternal, and has simultaneously encapsulated memories of my own childhood. Songs such as: 'Bike', 'Scarecrow' and 'Lucifer Sam', illustrate the boundlessness of existence when young, yet also creepily depict the portentous nature of one's youth, and this is cleverly echoed in the cacophonous nature of tracks such as 'Astronomy Domine' and 'Interstellar Overdrive'.
Furthermore, this album also showcases Pink Floyd as brilliant musical innovators, in particular, Barrett's creative, dissonant guitar passages, such as those found on the expansive epic, 'Interstellar Overdrive'. Keyboardist, Rick Wright, also contributes significantly, most notably with eerie organ interludes, such as those which punctuate 'Matilda Mother' and 'Scarecrow', accentuating the psychedelic element of the music.
As long as people keep appreciating this album, Syd Barrett will live on forever. The music industry owes him a massive debt for his enterprising, beautifully ethereal work, and he must never be forgotten.
on 26 May 2009
Pink Floyd were formed in London in 1965, the darlings of the UFO Club, they were at the forefront of the emerging Psychedelic movement coming out of England during the post Beat period. A group of talented musicians, they were led by a charismatic guitarist from Cambridge called Syd Barrett.
On the back of the success of the single, Arnold Layne, in 1967 the band cut their first LP, and as it turns out the only Pink Floyd album to fully include Syd Barrett in its conception and creation. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released on EMI during that magical Summer of 1967 and is now heralded in the same bracket as Sgt Pepper as a game changer, an album that changed the nature of music forever, this despite the album appearing on paper to be not very accessible at all.
That said this album is obviously something special, mixing whimsical and fairytale like lyrics with the avant-garde and space rock, creating a sound quite clearly new and dynamic. The album begins with Astronomy Domine, surely one of the most fascinating songs to come out of 1967, it literally has everything you can ask for if you're a connoisseur of space rock or Psychedelia in general.
Following this staggering opener, the album moves to Lucifer Sam, a surprising song for Pink Floyd. The descending riff is actually more akin to Swinging London than it is to Underground London, but Syd Barrett's eerie voice takes the song back into the vibe of the album as a whole.
Track three on this album actually is my favourite song from the LP; Matilda Mother is a song performed by keyboardist Richard Wright. It is naturally a beautiful song, spooky and fairytale like and arranged flawlessly to create a masterpiece if ever there was one. Roger Waters has a chance to shine on this album too, taking the album from fairytale and the space age to the realms of West Coast, with Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk.
But this album at the end of the day is tilted in favour of the talents of Syd Barrett, songs like the marvelous The Gnome and the closer, the bizarre Bike, a song so silly and off the wall that there was really only one person on the planet in 67 who could have written it, sheer Barrett, sheer brilliance.
A remarkable album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is considered by many to be the holy grail of British Psychedelia, a staggering creation from a band on top form. In later years the band would lose their leader but still re-emerge as the figureheads of the Progressive Rock era. Barrett would go on to attempt to launch a solo career but sadly his demons would catch up with him in the end. But the fact remains, in 1967 Barrett and Pink Floyd created something quite wonderful, a must for us all.
on 7 March 2011
I was slightly at a loss when I first heard this, aged about 15. Weaned on the mid-70's Floyd, this sounded like a different band - and of course, it was. One of the things that make Pink Floyd such a fascinating band is the way in which they developed musically, through three different principal songwriters, and the complex and often sad relationships between the various band members.
Syd Barrett's Floyd only made this one album, a sparkling dose of English Psychedelia. It still sounds fantastic today, a class 60's production forming the perfect backdrop to Barrett's unique songwriting. It's easy to see why Pink Floyd's management thought that they wouldn't be able to manage without Syd when he later succumbed to mental problems - Syd writes most of the songs, sings lead vocals and plays lead guitar. He was the heart and soul of the band at the time. Big space-rock numbers like Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive are complemented by whimsical short numbers like The Gnome and Bike.
I'm going to go out on a limb now and admit that I have NEVER liked Interstellar Overdrive. Maybe I'm just a peasant, but the almost total lack of form and the relatively uninteresting sounds have never floated my boat. If it's improvised space-rock Floyd you want, I much prefer the more rhythmic and (let's face it) tuneful stuff from the immediate post- Barrett period, best heard on the live half of Ummagumma.
To give Barrett all the credit for this album would be a long way off the mark - Rick Wright's keyboards are hugely important to the sound, and Wright also co-wrote the best track on the album (Astronomy Domine in case there was any doubt!). Roger Waters' one contribution so the songwriting was angular oddity Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk, a rather inauspicious debut for one who later developed into such a great songwriter. There's hope for all budding songwriters yet...
on 25 May 2001
The title of Pink Floyd's debut album is taken from a chapter in Syd Barrett's favorite children's book, The Wind in the Willows, and the lyrical imagery of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is indeed full of colorful, childlike, distinctly British whimsy, albeit filtered through the perceptive lens of LSD. Barrett's catchy, melodic acid pop songs are balanced with longer, more experimental pieces showcasing the group's instrumental freak-outs, often using themes of space travel as metaphors for hallucinogenic experiences - "Astronomy Domine" is a poppier number in this vein, but tracks like "Interstellar Overdrive" are some of the earliest forays into what has been tagged space rock. But even though Barrett's lyrics and melodies are mostly playful and humorous, the band's music doesn't always bear out those sentiments - in addition to Rick Wright's eerie organ work, dissonance, chromaticism, weird noises, and vocal sound effects are all employed at various instances, giving the impression of chaos and confusion lurking beneath the bright surface. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn successfully captures both sides of psychedelic experimentation - the pleasures of expanding one's mind and perception, and an underlying threat of mental disorder and even lunacy; this duality makes Piper all the more compelling in light of Barrett's subsequent breakdown, and ranks it as one of the best psychedelic albums of all time.
Space pixie Syd Barrett's crowning achievement was ultimately his first and last album recorded under the banner of Pink Floyd, when he was the driving force. Inspired by the harmonies and guitars of the Byrds' "Fifth Dimension" album of 1966, Syd penned the classic space rock opus Interstellar Overdrive and the album's opener Astronomy Domine. Building on the success of the early singles Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, Syd's songwriting talent came to the fore, and although typifying the whimsical edge of British psychedelia of the mid 1960's, his songs always had something extra that prevented them from degenerating into cheesy pop like many others did. Quite simply Piper was the best album of the era, with the driving, sinister Lucifer Sam and simply transcendant Mathilda Mother among the album's strongest cuts, also featuring the complete nonesense Bike song and the I-Ching inspired Chapter 24 among others. All areas of psychedelia were explored and to my mind never bettered by anyone. I used to love Sgt Pepper, but Piper blows it away making it sound overdone and pompous as if the Beatles were cashing in rather than innovating. Many people at the time of the album's release complained that Piper did not actively reflect the band's live music shows, which were apparently even more deranged. Little matter now. Over 30 years later Piper still sends shivers up my spine and makes me grin deliriously. Nothing will ever come close to this record, and I mean nothing. I've been an ardent fan of psychedelia in all it's forms for the past twenty years so I feel reasonably qualified to say this. As an afterthought, I would recommend this album to anyone, even if they are not fans of the era or style of music; this cd just might change your mind.
The sad passing of Syd Barrett has lead me back to the records he made, though these are records that draw me back time and again regardless. Pink Floyd's debut album manages to distill the avant garde act of the UFO club and Barrett's otherworldly lyrics into something not that far from pop - producer Norman Smith did wonders (though the UFO band is still present and correct on epic wigout 'Intestellar Overdrive' which was often the Floyd's live set at the time). I'd recommend the excellent 33 1/3 book on this album to anyone who wants to know more about this record...
'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' takes its title from 'The Wind in the Willows', Syd fixated not only on psychedelia and its possibilities, but a certain type of Englishness found in 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Peter Pan' & 'Jabberwocky.' Alongside Ray Davies' lyrics on 'The Village Green Preservation Society' it offers a very English outlook later to be taken up by XTC, Blur, Julian Cope, The Libertines, Robert Wyatt and others. Coming on the back of the classic singles 'Arnold Layne/Candy and a Currant Bun' and 'See Emily Play/Scarecrow' (why are 'Candy...', 'Apples & Oranges'/'Paintbox' & a few other oddities missing from this or 'Relics'?), most of the songs here last a pop song duration, but distill that transcendental thing Syd was on. It should be pointed out that this cd version is far superior to the slapdash budget price version previously issued - though why no bonus tracks????
'Astronomy Domine' is the memorable opener, like closing track 'Bike' it showcases a proto form of sampling with its use of tapes - advancing on approaches made by Joe Meek and the BBC Radiophonic workshop. This method would recur on the Floyd's most famous LP 'The Dark Side of the Moon' which used tape recordings of interviews - without this version of the Floyd, there would not have been the 8-track wax-jacket Jeremy Clarkson approved version! It should also be pointed out that Syd was the chief songwriter at the time, Joe Boyd recently mentioned a tape he lost of other songs Barrett had composed - here's hoping they were those great songs that followed on those solo records. Blur's Syd-tribute 'Far Out' (composed by Alex James!!!) re-quotes 'Astronomy Domine', a song the Floyd started playing again in the mid-1990s and placed at the opening of the compilation 'Echoes.' Next up is my favourite track 'Lucifer Sam', which blends a psychedelic surf-guitar groove with suitably odd lyrics that centre on felines and twins. This is a song that seems to set up lots of material after - The Beatles best psychedelic work 'I am the Walrus' and albums by The Pretty Things and Tomorrow. "That cat's something I can't explain..."
'Matilda Mother' is another gorgeous Syd-composition, centring on the child world that would undo him - "Why'd you have to leave me there/Hanging In My Infant Air, Waiting?" Rick Wright's keyboards here are fantastic and show what a pseud Ray Manzareck is!!! 'Flaming' continues the greatness, underlining the fact that this is probably the key psychedelic album - though I guess we should mention 'Surrealistic Pillow', 'SF Sorrow', 'Easter Everywhere', 'Odessey & Oracle', 'Younger Than Yesterday' & 'Their Satanic Majesties' Request.' 'Flaming' seems to implode, making way for 'Pow R Toc H' whose odd noises anticipate parts of Brian Wilson's 'Smile' (technically the same year) and something like 'Monkey Island' by the Elevators. The sleevenotes poorly don't let you know who composed this or 'Intestellar Overdrive'. The interlude between 'Pow R Toc H' and the epic 'Overdrive' is Roger Waters' 'Take Up Thy Stethoscope & Walk' which fits in wonderfully - mad surf guitar and nonsense lyrics that hold their own with Syd.
The latter half of the album returns from the freaked out to the whimsy of the earlier material - 'The Gnome' and 'Bike' both showcase the quirky side of Syd, nodding to Tolkien and an England that was probably already gone. 'Chapter 24' is closest to the solo material that would follow, though managing to weave in the Mason-Waters-Wright backing band wonderfully. 'Scarecrow' really sets up that whole Canterbury Scene, so English and pastoral, again this is very close to 'The Madcap Laughs' and 'Barrett' and probably not that far from shocking unreleased material like 'Vegetable Man' - a thin line between genius and madness I guess...
'Piper' is one of the key records of the era, one of the great debut albums, the best Floyd album, and a key psychedelic release. How could you live without it?
on 11 September 2002
To fully appreciate "A Piper At The Gates Of Dawn", you have to consider what else was going on in 1967. Yes, The Beatles had just finished Sgt. Pepper down the other end of Abbey Road studios. Yes, The Floyd had already had minor chart success with two perfect examples of Barrett's creative and furtive songwriting ("See Emily Play" and "Arnold Layne"). But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared anyone for this...
For "A Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is one of those Marmite albums - you either love it or hate it. Floyd fans may argue all day over if its warped storytelling and whimsy, almost childlike songs about gnomes, scarecrows and bikes even deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dark Side Of The Moon or The Wall. Well, let them, but for the rest of us there's a magical world out there to discover...
Consider that, up until this album had been released, that everyone at EMI thought the Floyd would end up being a finely-fashioned, if a little off-kilter beat group. Well, after 30 seconds of "Astronomy Domine", you just know that Syd Barrett had other ideas. Get beyond that track (and many don't, believe me), and then you're into the dream-like, acid-drenched core of the album. There's no point concentrating on lyrics - the only man who could interpret them is, well, unavailable for comment.
For anyone who thought that the aformentioned Beatles were the kings of 60s psyche then forget it. A Piper... is more awash with sounds of burlesque, comedy and Gepetto's-workshop-gone-mad that it could knock 50 "For The Benefit Of Mr Kite"s into a rather large stetson. How on earth Norman "Hurricane" Smith produced what was ostensibly a band whose frontman had a notorious knack of changing lyrics mid-session is a feat that no modern producer could hope to equal. Take "Interstellar Overdrive" - no lyrics, one helleva riff and nearly ten minutes of arseing around and yet it still sounds revolutionary. That, my friends, is talent.
The album itself is, as you can probably gather, a complete triumph and a modern masterpiece in the avant-garde only rivalled by The Velvet Underground's "White Light / White Heat" and Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica". However, the advantage that "Piper" has over both of those is that Syd's eschewed vision of perfection has none of the politicism or angularity of his contemporaries. Indeed, the most venomous tirade on an album that is typified by infantile innocence is Roger Waters' tiresome "...Stethoscope".
And so back to Syd. For despite this is a Pink Floyd album (their debut, in fact), it sounds completely like anything else before or since. And in this lies its charm - a very English rusticism, the expression of a child let out to wonder the green and lush meadows, and a sense of humour to match. Aside from this is the album's stand-out track - "Chapter 24" - a hymn referring to Chinese prophescy which, considering that their contemporaries were singing about Lonely Hearts Club Bands and 64-year olds, was a seismic shift away from the maschimo that their lumineries possessed.
I can't recommended this album highly enough - shut yourself away for a while, dim the lights, sip some tea and put on your headphones. It may take you a while, but you'll get it eventually. It's a shame Syd didn't stick around for the ride...
Change returns success? Yes, but if only it hadn't... we can but imagine...
on 27 March 2003
When this band began, they went by the name of "The Pink Floyd Sound", and I think that this is the only of their many studio albums that perfectly catches the Pink Floyd sound.
The excellent opener - Astromine Domine - is a good sign of what to expect from this album, crazy lyrics, wild guitar playing and a psychadelic humour that makes this album so enjoyable to listen to.
Syd Barret's vocals are so innocent that even when he's explaining the most ridiculous of scenarios (e.g. "A gnome named Grimble Gromble") you really sense he believes what he's saying. As for his guitar, he's not the greatest guitarist you'll ever hear, far from it, but maybe this helps with his experimental sort of random style.
Richard Wright's organ playing really adds to this album, especially on the classic song "Bike", and Nick Mason's drumming is as distinctive as it ever was on the later albums.
Roger Waters was only a secondary character in this band at the time, but we get a taste of his song-writing gene in the song I personally feel is the best off this album, "Take Thy Stethoscope and Walk" with interjecting shouts of 'DOCTOR DOCTOR!' and someone complaining about their aching head.
Interstellar Overdrive is a bizarre piece of music lasting 8 minutes with strange interjections of chromatic guitar work and drum solos - not the sort of music you play at a party, but great for when you're absolutely toasted...
Other highlights are Lucifer Sam with it's gangster-style guitar riff (and lyrics about a devilish cat), Matilda Mother and of course, Bike.
Every Pink Floyd fan should own this album, just to see where it all began. It's a great listen and one to be treasured, but after listening to it I can't help but wonder how this crazy psychadelic rock band turned into the ambient guitar soloing hook masters they are today...
on 16 July 2006
If you like British psychedelia, and you like the 60's, you'll love this.
If you don't it won't sway you, that simple.
This is an awesome album, and the beginning of a career for one hell of a band. This is the album they built on.
Some of the stuff is more poppy, some is slightly mad (see 'Bike'), some is more experimental.
Just ignore the bad reviews, they were probably written by Phil Collins fans.
This is the beginning of something big, and a pioneering album for its time.
Far better than Pink Floyd now anyway.