The history of Pink Floyd is a vast one that regularly gets repackaged and reissued along with astronomical prices. Considering their legacy, their mostly Syd Barrett written debut from 1967, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is an interesting starting point. Known for their deeply psychedelic shows at the UFO club in London, Pink Floyd were a main attraction on the exploding UK music scene.
The first four tracks on the debut are astonishing. The spacey, experimental “Astronomy Domine” starts with what sounds like distorted astronaut reports with computer blips that add a tension. The song is earthbound with it’s guitar riffing and steady drumming of Nick Mason. “Lucifer Sam” has 60s spy noir thriller feel with lyrics about Barrett’s Siamese cat. Mostly sung by keyboardist Richard Wright, “Matilda Mother” has a more hazy, cloudy feel to it that is repeated on “Flaming”.
The album is broken up by the nearly 10 minute instrumental track, “Intersteller Overdrive”. Credited to the band, the unsettling track adds a swirling effect that switches the sound from side to side. The last four tracks are Barrett written 60s pop songs including “Chapter 24” that sounds similar to The Beatles’ experimental tracks – a childlike playfulness mixed with Chinese philosophy. One of Barrett’s most popular songs closes out the set with “Bike”. The stomping track with carnival organ speaks of Barrett trying to impress a girl that fits into his world. The track would later be chosen to close out the band’s best of album, Echoes.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is quite the ride for those whose Pink Floyd knowledge is mostly confined to the Roger Waters dominated Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. It’s a whole other world of mostly Syd Barrett’s making, that is technicolour and full of (unsettling) wonder. Sadly this would be the only full album that Barrett would make with the group before the dark side effects of psychedelic drugs took over. He would soon be replaced by the sympathetic David Gilmour. Piper is widely regarded as a psych rock masterpiece and one certainly worth a deeper dive beyond the band’s mid-late 70s output.