An Ultimate Interstellar Overdrive – a track-by-track review of “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” By Andrei Kiisler, aka: moom

Piper cover
Piper cover as shot by Vic Singh

If you are looking for THE BEST soundtrack to your acid trips, you won’t find any better than Pink Floyd’s debut album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. Recorded and released at the same time as The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” with ideas borrowed from one another, it sounds much trippier- while The Beatles’ album – much hippier.

1. Astronomy Domine- Speech effects that were on the forefront of music technology, combined with spacey lyrics and melody into a whole new music science… Where astronomy dominates the mind.

2. Lucifer Sam- Although the song is about a cat, it sounds like one of James Bond’s movie themes. Every instrument represents something about a cat: Wright’s organ meows, the bass is a sneaking sound, “and whip-like sounds and special effects further the feline theme”. The cat’s real name was “Percy the Ratcatcher”, as was the song’s original title.
This song is one of the most covered from this album.

3. Matilda Mother- The first lines tell about “a king, who ruled the land,” and his “scarlet eagle,” who “showered silver on the people”. It turns out that his mother tells him the story… This is where songwriter Syd Barrett’s interest in fairy-tales first becomes evident. Yet it’s not sung by Barrett, but mostly by keyboardist, Richard Wright.

4. Flaming- This song describes a “trip,” (a state when one sees hallucinations shortly after taking drugs;) making it’s further analysis pointless … You can’t analyze a hallucination, can you?

5. Pow R. Toc H- The army signallers’ code for TH, the Talbot House, a club where officers and enlisted men were equals. This song is no more than strange (probably) animal sounds, and a jazzy melody. According bassist Roger Waters, it was an attempt to create a sequel to Interstellar Overdrive, and was included in the album just because it sounded suitable, though it wasn’t enlisted at first. Also known by the alternate title, “The Pink Jungle”.

6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk- Roger Waters’ first published song; The title is inspired by a phrase in the bible: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”
Although he doesn’t like the song, you can clearly see his way of writing: disturbing images put down in a row…

7. Interstellar Overdrive – Clearly a late 60’s party favorite, and, like “Flaming”, it’s a reference to a “trip”. “Interstellar Overdrive was one of the very first psychedelic instrumental improvisations recorded by a rock band”. It was the soundtrack for “Tonite let’s all make love in London”, and “was seen as Pink Floyd’s first foray into space rock, although band members would later disparage this term. Despite its encapsulation of their concert repertoire under the leadership of guitarist and composer Syd Barrett, the long, improvisational, freeform structure of the piece is not particularly reflective of the group’s recorded output. As drummer Nick Mason states in his book “Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd”, live versions of the song featured many “sections” that did not appear on the album, and would often last more than 20 minutes. During the band’s days playing in residence at London underground clubs, such as the UFO (Underground Freak Out), the song usually opened their show. It occupied other positions, including the encore, until it was retired from the band’s setlist in 1970.”

8. The Gnome- Children, here’s another fairy-tale for you. This one’s about Grimble Grumble, and other little gnomes. Probably a reference to Celtic mythology.

9. Chapter 24- A reference to the ancient Chinese tome I Ching (The Book of Changes). A special nod to the lyrics, describing the appearance of everything new.

10. The Scarecrow- Another reference to Barrett’s childhood, spent in Cambridgeshire. Wandering around the county, he probably saw tons of scarecrows that stood alone, in fields, with birds on their hats, strawing everywhere with no care. Their life is not unkind… The lyrics are supposed to reflect Barrett himself: While “sadder,” he is also “resigned to his fate.” Such thematic content would later become a mainstay of the band’s lyrical imagery.

11. Bike- Take a trip on the streets of Cambridge, Barrett’s hometown; you’ll see a hundred bikes. Probably every child rides one. Was Barrett an exception? In the song, Syd Barrett offers a girl (who is, actually, his girlfriend Jenny;) some of his things, just because he loved her. It ends with them going into the “room of musical tunes,” to have sex. An instrumental section is a representation of that room: a noisy collage of oscillators, clocks, gongs, bells, maniacal laughing, and other strange sounds edited with tape techniques.

In the end, all and none of these words begin to describe a tenth of the album. Some things, one must experience for oneself to understand. It takes a listen to this album to know that Pink Floyd is the master of psychedelic music… You may not remember the 60’s, but here’s a taste of them for you… Now go and listen.

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