Piper at the Gates of Dawn – Pink Floyd (1967)

Album no. 89/1001

Speaking of psychedelic. This is the first Pink Floyd album and the only one that founding member and original frontman Syd Barrett appears on. 

This somehow got to number 6 in the UK. What a time to be alive.

About the time this album came out the band were getting press for making music that simulated being on acid, or at the very least music for people who were properly on acid. While Syd Barrett was meant to have indulged a bit of the old LSD from time to time, apparently the rest of the band had a pretty minimal drug intake. Good boys.

Have you listened to this album before?

NK: According to my iTunes yes I have, but it must have been a while ago because I have no recollection of it.

CL: I know so little by Pink Floyd, it’s a bit embarrassing. I reckon I could maybe name 3 songs? None of those songs are on here.

Standout track

NK: OK I feel like we’ve hit proper psychedelia now. I have a couple of thoughts for standout tracks. If you want a more approachable song try ‘Bike’, or even ‘See Emily Play’ (which was on the US version of this but not the UK). If you want to be on drugs but are too afraid to take any try ‘Interstellar Overdrive’. If you want to be confused, upset and probably frightened, listen to ‘Pow T. Toc H.’, and if you want a weird psychedelic song that still has a catchy pop hook, ‘Lucifer Sam’ is the track for you. SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY.

CL: I… feel a bit weird after this album. Like, it was not a comfortable listening experience – BUT having said that, I still found parts of it enjoyable. ‘Lucifer Sam’ is good, probably because it was something I could grab onto, like a life jacket in a sea of unsettling noise. There are some VERY high vocals on ‘Mathilda Mother’, which is interesting I suppose. ‘Flaming’ has these weirdo lyrics, almost like a nursery rhyme. That freaked me out. But I love the opening of ‘Take Up Thy Stethoscope’ – the one drumbeat, then two, then three.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

NK: Good question! This is good, but it’s pretty weird. I was listening to this through headphones, and the last minute or so of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ where everything pans wildly left and right made me feel sick. I think that’s what they were going for, but you kind of have to be in the right frame of mind for that sort of thing. It really freaked me out through the headphones, I’ll tell you that much.

CL: I would recommend being in a safe space with access to water and a soft blanket. DO NOT LISTEN ON A PLANE. I started doing that and it exacerbated my already anxious frame of mind.

NK: Parts of this album sound make your nerve endings fritz out. Listen to it when you need to take your mind off something? It should do that at the very least.

Why has this album been included on the list?

NK: Well. The freaky whispering vocals on ‘The Gnome’? the stereo freakout on ‘Interstellar Overdrive’? The bizarro double-tracked vocals:

‘I know a mouse and he hasn’t got a house I call him Gerald’

on ‘Bike’? The way the start of ‘Lucifer Sam’ makes you think your headphones aren’t connected properly? The vocal percussion that kicks off ‘Pow R. Toc H.’? You can take your pick. This is the strangest album so far, with the possibly exception of the last few tracks off Freak Out!. Musically it’s inventive and unsettling in equal parts, the lyrics are really strange, the vocals often strangely jaunty – even the song titles are a bit off-kilter (I’m looking at you, ‘Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk’). You can call The Byrds and Love and Moby Grape psychedelic, but they’re closer to the Everly Brothers than they are to this.

CL: I think this album certainly takes home the weirdest listening experience award in the list thus far. What is everyone’s fascination with medieval fantastical things? WHY DO I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT A GNOME? I don’t.

Will you be listening again?  

NK: Yeah probably. I quite liked this, although you do need to be in the right mood. I can’t believe the next Pink Floyd isn’t until number 262. That’s a long time between drinks.

CL: I’m a little relieved actually, it’ll give me a chance to recover. I did listen to this more than once to try and get my head around it, but I don’t think I’ll just chuck it on for a cheeky listen. There are a handful of songs I would put on again.

Rating

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to Piper at the Gates of Dawn on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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