Friday, December 24, 2010

347. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Where acid meets fingerpaint.

Album: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Artist: Pink Floyd
Year: 1967
Genre: Psychedelia


  1. Astronomy Dominé
  2. Lucifer Sam
  3. Matilda Mother
  4. Flaming
  5. Pow R. Toc H.
  6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
  7. Interstellar Overdrive
  8. The Gnome
  9. Chapter 24
  10. Scarecrow
  11. Bike

Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the only Pink Floyd album to feature Syd Barrett in a leading role and it's just about as hippie as any album can be. And I'm not just talking a bit druggie I'm talking about the full-on hippie experience with lyrics that talk about riding on unicorns and a gnome named Grimble Crumble and lots of references to flowers and Kings and planets and the winter solstice and sad scarecrows and a mouse without a house named Gerald. Pink Floyd later developed a reputation for writing doom-laden bombast but on the strength of this stuff they were lucky to escape a permanent label as the Kings of Twee.

The title of this album comes from The Wind in the Willows and Barrett appears to sing the entire album as if it's the soundtrack to a children's book that nobody had bothered to write yet. It's full of magical tales with a quaint British flavour and it's the sort of thing that wanders through your mind if you enjoy reading kid's books while ripped off your head on some quality acid. Most children's writers use their power of invention and creativity when conjuring their fantasy worlds but Barrett was such a heavy drug user he just recorded what he saw in his trips. When he describes what Grimble Crumble the gnome is wearing he's hasn't imagined it up he's actually spent time in the gnome's house and probably passed out in his wardrobe.

Not long after this album was released Barrett became progressively more unreliable and started to go off the rails somewhat. He would become violent and retreated into himself so much that he became useless in a live setting. The rest of the band hired David Gilmour as second guitarist but really he was a replacement for Barrett who hung around for a while until the band stopped picking him up for gigs. Syd left to pursue a solo career which didn't really go anywhere before he stopped going anywhere himself and became a recluse. He lived for years out of the public eye amidst tales of mental instability and erratic behaviour. Pink Floyd meanwhile continued with Gilmour as guitarist and Roger Waters as band leader. They released Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall and other albums and became one of the world's biggest bands. After Waters left, Gilmour took on the role of leader and released two albums before dissolving the band for good. I'll commit a massive act of musical heresy here by saying I prefer Pink Floyd when Dave Gilmour was in charge to the incarnation led by Syd Barrett. I know I'm not supposed to think that, conventional wisdom says Barrett is a musical genius and Gilmour was just in it for the money but to be honest I'll take Momentary Lapse of Reason over this album any day of the week.

Piper at the Gates of Dawn doesn't sound like music written for adults. It doesn't even sound like music written for children it sounds like music written for stoned children. As a non-stoned adult I find it to be an impenetrable fog of annoying melodies and mid-sixties lyrical foolishness.

Influenced by: Children's fiction and adult drugs.
Influenced: Every english Hippie.

Highlight: Astronime Domine
Lowlight: Bike

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Syd Barret is NOT a genius. A genius would figure out how to survive mental illness."

-Ouch. Commenting on an album is one thing but making sweeping statements about mental health is another entirely.

So was it all downhill for the Floyd from here or was this lowpoint they climbed up from? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Part 1 of a massive career. They went onto bigger things but to most stoned out freaks this is where The Floyd start and more or less stop.