1967 – Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn

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Pink Floyd - Piper At The Gates of Dawn

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Track Listing:

01. Astronomy Domine
02. Lucifer Sam
03. Matilda Mother
04. Flaming
05. Pow R. Toc H.
06. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
07. Interstellar Overdrive
08. The Gnome
09. Chapter 24
10. The Scarecrow
11. Bike

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The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is Pink Floyd’s debut album and the only one made under Syd Barrett’s leadership, although he made some contributions to the follow-up, A Saucerful of Secrets. It has been regarded as one of the most influential albums ever made, being a tremendous influence on the psychedelic rock scene of the time and much of what followed.

The album has whimsical lyrics about space, scarecrows, gnomes, bicycles and fairytales, along with psychedelic instrumental passages. Special limited editions were issued to mark its 30th and 40th anniversaries in 1997 and 2007.

Miscellaneous Information

In January 1967, prior to recording The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the band had produced at Sound Techniques Studio in London a single entitled Arnold Layne. The single was later released in March of that year and reached #20 in the British charts. Also in January the band had recorded a 16-minute version of Interstellar Overdrive and an improvised jam called Nick’s Boogie, for Peter Whitehead’s documentary film Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. (The latter track wasn’t released until 1991 on the CD reissue of the film’s soundtrack). The band’s live show consisted mainly of instrumental numbers and blues covers, however they had started to introduce songs which were written primarily by guitarist and lead vocalist Syd Barrett. Many of these songs written by Barrett appeared at the Games For May concert several months before the release of the album.

Background Information

Recording of the album began on the 21 February 1967 in studio three of Abbey Road Studios at the same time The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Pretty Things were recording S.F. Sorrow.

The album was produced by Norman Smith, an EMI staff member who had previously engineered all of The Beatles recordings up to 1965’s Rubber Soul. Smith would go on to produce Pink Floyd’s follow up album, A Saucerful of Secrets.

“Interstellar Overdrive” and “Matilda Mother” were two of the first tracks recorded, as the latter was viewed as a potential single. An early, unoverdubbed, shortened mix of the album’s “Interstellar Overdrive” was used for a French EP released that July. In April, the band recorded both “Percy the Rat Catcher” (this would later be called “Lucifer Sam”), and a currently unreleased track called “She Was a Millionaire”.

At some point during the album’s creation, Nick Mason recalled that they were “ushered” into studio 2 where The Beatles were recording “Lovely Rita”.

Several conflicting views surround how efficiently the recording of the album actually went. In his book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason recalled that the sessions went smoothly and that the whole process was extremely efficient. Norman Smith however, condemned both the album’s recording and the band members’ musical abilities. Smith later stated that the sessions were “sheer hell”. However, both “The Gnome” and “The Scarecrow” were recorded in one take. Indeed a large proportion of the album is credited solely to Barrett, with tracks such as “Bike” having been written in late 1966 before the album was even started.

“Bike” was originally entitled “The Bike Song”, and it was recorded on 21 May 1967. The last recording session took place on 5 July 1967, with the track “Pow R. Toc H.” being one of the last songs added to the album.

Album Cover and Title – Read NPF Magazine Article by Vic Singh

Vic Singh photographed and designed the album cover, one of the few to actually feature the band members on the front cover.

The album’s title comes from the title of Chapter Seven, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, where Rat and Mole, while searching for Portly, the lost son of Otter, are drawn to a place where the ‘Piper’ is playing on his reed flute. (The ‘Piper’ referred to is the Greek god Pan[citation needed].)

Syd Barrett is referred to as “you piper” in the lyrics of the 1975 Pink Floyd song Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Reception

At the time of release, the album was received positively and in subsequent years the record is recognised as one of the seminal psychedelic rock albums of the 1960s. In 1967, both Record Mirror and NME gave the album four stars out of five. Record Mirror commented that “the psychedelic image of the group really comes to life on this LP, which is a fine showcase for both their talent and the recording technique. Plenty of mindblowing sound.” Cash Box called it a “striking collection of driving, up to date rock ventures.” Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd’s past producer Joe Boyd, both rated the album highly. Some, most notably Pete Townshend, voiced the opinion of the underground fans, by suggesting that the album did not reflect the band’s live performances.

In recent years the album has gained even more recognition. In 1999 Rolling Stone Magazine gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5, calling it – “the golden achievement of Syd Barrett”. Q Magazine described the album as “indispensable”, and included it in their best psychedelic albums of all time. It was also ranked 40th in Mojo magazines, The 50 Most Out There Albums of all Time. In 2000 Q magazine placed The Piper at the Gates of Dawn at number 55 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 347 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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