KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – PINK FLOYD “THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN”

This week’s Satur-debut selection comes from Pink Floyd, a band I’ve loved for more than 40 years. Their debut album from 1967 is far removed from anything that came after it, especially the world-conquering records they released in the ’70s that still dominate classic rock radio, and there are some fans who consider it the peak of their career.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 1:

Pink Floyd is probably my second-favorite artist of all-time, just behind Led Zeppelin, but it took me a long time to fully embrace their debut album. My first exposure to their music was 1977’s Animals, shortly after my 11th birthday, and within a couple of years I loved everything from Meddle through The Wall. Their earlier releases were a little less accessible, especially to my teenage ears, with The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn being as far removed from the Pink Floyd sound I loved as anything I could imagine. That makes sense when you consider it was the only album they released under the guidance of founding member Syd Barrett, whose brief solo discography I previously discussed. His whimsical, almost-childlike and distinctly British songwriting was mixed with psychedelic arrangements and occasional journeys into complete weirdness, resulting in off-kilter gems like “Matilda Mother,” “Bike” and “Lucifer Sam.” The musically adventurous side of the band is also represented by “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive.” I started appreciating this album in the ‘80s, but it wasn’t until the release of the mono version in 1999 that I fully understood its mad brilliance. Prevailing wisdom might suggest that stereo is the preferred format for this type of music, but in this case the mono mix packs a much stronger punch, and I highly recommend it as the definitive way to hear this record.

 

 

All of the audio clips feature the mono versions since, as mentioned above, I think they pack more punch than their stereo counterparts. If you’re a fan of their later work but never heard this album, I recommend thinking of them as a completely different band and listening with open ears and an open mind. I also suggest finding some of their early singles, like “Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play” and “Apples And Oranges” for a fuller picture of Barrett-era Floyd. I look forward to hearing from other fans of this album, and anyone who’s hearing it for the first time.

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36 comments on “Satur-debut – PINK FLOYD “THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN”

  1. DanicaPiche
    January 26, 2019

    A great Saturday treat — matcha tea and a KamerTunesBlog post. I’ll be in that first-time camp. Also, mono is the best when it comes to listening to quality music.

    Like

    • Hi Danica. Matcha tea is a nice choice, although a classic English breakfast tea might have been a more apt accompaniment for this very British album. I hope you like what you hear if you choose to play the clips. Mono isn’t always better than stereo, but certainly back in the ’60s the mono mixes were the ones artists & their producers focused on, so they’re often the better choice.

      Like

      • Bill P
        January 28, 2019

        If you are going to be even more British, it will be PG Tips with a little cream or milk!

        Mono was meant to be played out of the single speaker radio systems that were more prevalent in the 60s. While the Hi-Fidelity sound systems that would later come around showcased the more creative sound engineering techniques of stereo mixes, it is funny that we might be coming back to mono. I’m sitting here listening to these tracks on my desktop computer speaker. As there really isn’t much distance between the left and right channel speakers, being able to listen to a mono mix most closely replicates what the impression the artist was trying to accomplish.

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      • As an Anglophile I should have gotten your PG Tips reference but I had to look it up (hangs head in shame). Well played.

        I’ve found that good mono mixes sound great even through stereo speakers, no matter how separated they are. This certainly applies to The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. They definitely sound better (to my ears, at least) than many early stereo mixes, which were very gimmicky, or sometimes hard to listen to when all vocals would be in one speaker. I seem to recall Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Suzie Q” suffering from this. Made it almost impossible to enjoy through headphones.

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      • Bill P
        January 31, 2019

        I have an unfair advantage….I lived in the UK for 3 years. Hard not to pick up some of those cultural things when immersed. Also hard to swallow paying a premium to shop in the “American Food” aisle to pay ~$7.50 for a box of Lucky Charms or $5 for a jar of marshmallow Fluff. I’m good with Shreddies (like Wheat Chex) or Frosties (Frosted Flakes), thanks! When in Rome….

        Like

      • I’ve been to the UK several times but not enough to immerse myself in the food options (beyond chocolate, of course). I can imagine if I was there for several years my taste buds (and wallet) would have adapted to the local fare.

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  2. Aphoristical
    January 26, 2019

    Definitely right about the split style thing – took me a long time to like it too. I actually prefer Barrett’s first solo album, The Madcap Laughs, but Piper is very good too.

    Like

  3. 80smetalman
    January 26, 2019

    I don’t think I have ever listened to any Pink Floyd albums before Dark Side of the Moon. These songs were definitely out there in a good way so I’ll have to go back in time I guess.

    Like

  4. Murphy's Law
    January 27, 2019

    Like you, I had to approach this album from different angles until I finally got it. I’ve never been able to get into Syd’s solo work, other than Octopus and Effervescing Elephant – hearing him slowly coming unraveled just makes me sad.

    Like

    • Syd’s solo work was a tough nut to crack for a long time, and I agree that much of it was hard to listen to knowing what he was going through, but it’s also amazing (especially when I’m in the right mood) and sounds like no one else but Syd.

      Like

  5. stephen1001
    January 28, 2019

    On the 1001 list & deservingly so!

    Like

    • Happy to hear that. With those four gajillion-selling albums from the ’70s I wasn’t sure the book would go back to the beginning of their career. Well done to the folks at 1001.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bill P
    January 28, 2019

    While I’ve heard “of” this album, I don’t really know if I’ve ever heard it before. I know the song “Astronomy Domine” but only from the Voivod cover done in the early 90s–it was trippy but much more heavy metal in sound.

    You are right that you need to approach this work as that of a different band. This is not “Comfortably Numb” by any stretch. That said, I really enjoyed “Lucifer Sam” Sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to one of those 60s beach movies. Maybe a cut scene for a zany Monkees episode? Very much a garage band sound that would come back in the early 00’s with bands like the Libertines, The Hives, etc. I was hopeful for something fun and new and interesting.

    Sadly, I didn’t find the rest of the album as accessible. There are a lot of extended songs that are just part and parcel of the psychedelia of the time like Interstellar Overdrive and perhaps lesser so Pow R. Toc. H. Not discounting them for the “art” that they are, just not my cup of tea. I guess I needed some black lights, lava lamps, and burning incense to set the mood. I will certainly revisit it again to see if my opinions change, but this has the feel of one that “grows on you” or perhaps for that lazy, rainy Saturday when-I’m-in-a-funk sort of moods.

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    • Glad you enjoyed “Lucifer Sam.” I like your suggestion that it could fit in a zany Monkees episode. I always thought it sounded like the theme from a spy movie, at least musically. I love the eclectic nature of this album but it took many years for it to make that impact. I now revisit it as much as my favorite ’70s Floyd albums. I heartily recommend you check out some of those early singles, like “Arnold Layne” and “Apples And Oranges.” They help give a much fuller picture of the Barrett-era. The album would probably have more fans if those songs were included.

      Like

      • Bill P
        January 31, 2019

        I checked out those tracks under your advisement. After all, that is what this whole enterprise is about, isn’t it? I feel they have the same DNA. Especially Arnold Layne. I like the music but I found the lyrics for Apples and Oranges to be a bit simple. Put it on a “Vegan” album with Vega-Tables from the Beach Boys’ SMILE album. Probably both songwriters dropped a tab and then looked around the immediate surrounds for inspiration.

        I can totally see your spy movie reference for Lucifer Sam. It has a theme that could have been co-opted by an 8-bit video game like Spyhunter or similar. It would have worked with Austin Powers even or any of the movies that they were intending to spoof.

        So having heard these as 2 separate bands, it will lead the discussion inevitably towards the choice of “which is better?” Instead, I would pose to you: Do you think Syd’s meltdown forced Roger Waters to take a greater creative role in the band? Would he have contributed the same amount had Syd remained sane and healthy? Or would he have been overruled? I don’t know. I certainly appreciate the qualities that David Gilmour brought to the mix and that DEFINITELY wouldn’t have happened had Syd not “dropped out.” I somehow feel that Pink Floyd would have remained a quirky, trippy band that achieved success but nowhere near the stratospheric heights of “Dark Side” or “The Wall.”

        Like

      • Great idea to have a compilation of vegan/vegetarian-related song although, beyond the ones you mentioned, I’m drawing a blank on others right now.

        I’m such a huge fan of Pink Floyd’s ’70s-and-beyond recordings that it’s easy for me to choose them over the Syd era, but when I’m in the right mood the Syd stuff is just as rewarding. There’s just not enough of it, and it lacks an emotional connection like much of their later work. That’s usually due to Gilmour’s smooth vocals & emotive guitar work. Every time I listen to his guitar solo on “Time” I get chills.

        Had Syd not been stricken with mental illness, exacerbated by drugs, I can’t imagine they would have been much more than a well-known late-’60s band that didn’t do much after that. Eventually Waters’ ego would have split up the group, but I don’t know what he would have accomplished on his own.

        Like

  7. Marie
    February 2, 2019

    I agree completely with you about CCR’s problems with ‘mono’, Rich, but ‘Suzie-Q’ sounds fine to my ears on their ‘Complete Singles’ collection. I’m not sure who was at the controls when they recorded or re-mastered ‘I Put a Spell On You’, though. It was so bad that I ended up deleting it from my itunes playlist.

    I’m also a great fan of ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’, in particular.

    Like

    • Hi Marie. The version of “Suzie Q” that sounded awful to me was on the initial CD pressing of their Chronicle compilation. I need to play the version I have now on 2001 box set of their complete recordings on headphones to see if that’s a better stereo master. What’s wrong with their version of “I Put A Spell On You”? Any version I’ve ever heard sounded good to me.

      Glad we share an affinity for those two early Pink Floyd singles. They’re both psychedelic classics.

      Like

  8. Richie
    February 3, 2019

    Okay Rich I knew we wouldn’t agree on EVERYTHING : ) I have listened to The Piper a couple of times in the past and again since I read your blog (courtesy of Youtube) and for me it’s okay….but just that. For me Pink Floyd hit me with Meddle and from that point on. Like you, I would say they were my second favourite band of all time. One anecdote I will share with you, when the album Wish You Were Here was about to be released in the U.K. , Alan Freeman (a famous DJ) played the entire album on his Saturday afternoon radio show. When it it got to the part where there is “radio interference” between two tracks I thought it was MY radio and so switched it of! It wasn’t until I bought the album a couple of weeks later that I realised it was a sound effect ON the album itself, doh! : ) Keep up the good work.

    Like

    • I think we’re still pretty much in agreement, since my go-to Floyd will always be early-’70s through the ’80s, with Meddle and Obscured By Clouds being the starting points of the classic era for me. Gilmour’s voice & guitar work gives me so much joy. I can’t imagine I would have had a similar emotional connection to them had Barrett stuck around and they went in a completely different direction.

      Great anecdote about your initial exposure to Wish You Were Here. I didn’t hear them until Animals, when I was 11, and I was amazed they got away with saying the f-word on an album. I wrote more about that album here in 2017:
      https://kamertunesblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/forty-year-friday-pink-floyd-animals/

      Like

  9. christiansmusicmusings
    February 11, 2019

    Pink Floyd was an acquired taste, especially the early Syd Barrett era. Now, I pretty much dig most of their music, including this album!

    Like

    • I agree that the early stuff is an acquired taste (which I happily acquired) but most of what they released from The Dark Side Of The Moon onwards was pretty radio-friendly, as evidenced by the…well…radio play. Haha. Glad you’re a fan. I couldn’t imagine my life without their music.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        February 11, 2019

        Me neither. I’ve been fortunate to see them twice, though both times without Waters – still, an unforgettable show.

        Great blog, btw. I see you’ve been at it significantly longer than I have!

        Like

      • I saw the Waters-less Floyd as well as Roger Waters four months apart in 1987, both shows at Madison Square Garden in almost the exact same seats. Wish I could have seen the classic lineup but I was a little too young for their ’70s tours. I nearly cried when I watched them reunite for the Live 8 concert.

        Thanks for the compliment. I will be checking out your blog as well. Looks great. I’ve been doing this about 8 years but, for various reasons, I’ve slowed down the pace the last few years. I still love connecting with fellow music lovers which is why I’m doing this weekly series on my favorite debut albums.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. christiansmusicmusings
    February 11, 2019

    Same here – too young to see the original lineup!😀

    There are a bunch of pretty good Floyd tribute bands out there. I’ve seen one called Echoes twice and thought they did a great job. I’m going to see another one called Brit Floyd at the end of March. Based on some YouTube footage I’ve watched, they look very impressive!

    Nice chatting. Music is my passion and I could easily go on for hours and hours, though I’d probably get in trouble!😆

    Looking forward to continuing our conversation. It appears you and I dig much of the same music!🎸

    Like

    • It does seem we have a lot of music in common. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of conversations and I look forward to them. I’ve heard good things about both of those Floyd tribute bands. Hope you enjoy the Brit Floyd show. The closest I came to seeing a Floyd tribute band was Blue Floyd, a collection of musicians from The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule doing blues/jazz/fusion/jam versions of Pink Floyd songs. Saw them at a long-shuttered small club in New York called The Bottom Line (my all-time favorite music venue) on a frigid day sometime in the ’90s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        February 11, 2019

        Right, The Mule, how could I forget? Saw one of their Dark Side Of The Mule shows last summer – enjoyed that one as well, though they didn’t strictly play the songs note by note.

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      • I think I prefer bands that add their own twists over note-for-note recreations, although the latter can certainly be impressive when handled by capable musicians.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        February 11, 2019

        Both can be compelling, in my opinion. Ultimately, it depends on execution. When it’s billed as a tribute, I guess I generally like when it stays close to the original material, especially when it’s a band I really dig. Otherwise, I’d consider it more of a cover band. But again, nothing wrong with a great cover band!😀

        Like

      • I’ve played in both, sort of. During high school & college I was only in cover bands. After that it was all original bands in multiple genres. As I mentioned in my Velvet Underground post, the band I was in back in 2001 played a Halloween gig where we performed the entire first VU album essentially note-for-note with various guest vocalists & performers. That was my one taste of being in a tribute band and it was a lot of work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        February 11, 2019

        I don’t doubt it for one minute that a tribute act can be a ton of work. I’ve seen many tribute bands, and some of them pay an amazing amount of attention to the details.

        My band experience as a bassist dates back almost three decades and only lasted for a few years. This all happened in Germany where I was born and grew up.

        We played a mix of originals and covers. I spent a lot of time with music back then. It was a great time.

        It all came to an end when I moved to a different city for my graduate studies. Ever since I’ve thought more than once about returning to active music.

        But it never happened. While now, almost 30 years later, I still oftentimes get the itch when I see bands play live, I think it’s safe to assume a return is extremely unlikely. Working full-time and having a family would make the necessary investment it would take to return after all these years a tough proposition.

        Instead, I suppose I’ll continue listening to music, going to concerts and blogging while occasionally fooling around my guitar at home. I sold all of my bass equipment before I came to the States more than 20 years ago.

        That’s my music in a nutshell!😀

        Like

      • Hi Christian. Sorry for the delayed response. I had to deal with a family emergency a few days ago, which is something that comes up periodically and is the main reason I’ve had to scale back my blogging activities in the last year. Thanks for sharing your musical history. Not surprised to hear that you’re a bass player (and I use the present tense even though you’re not actively playing because once you’re a musician you’re always a musician), and it makes sense that we have a lot of music in common considering I’m a drummer. We’re locked in like any good rhythm section should be. Your love of music is obvious and you bring a lot of knowledge to everything you write about. I hope to find time to comment on some of your posts, but even if I don’t you should know I’ve been reading & enjoying them. Keep ’em coming.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        February 15, 2019

        Thanks, no worries, and I hope everything is okay. In fact, I’ve been dealing with a medical issue in my close family as well all week. Luckily, the worst seems to be over for now!

        Like

      • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with a family medical issue as well, but happy to know the worst is behind you. Sending good wishes your way,

        Liked by 1 person

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