Pink Floyd created music as an art form. It was self consciously that way, and there was no pretension about it in their work. The original line up of Pink Floyd consisted of Syd Barrett on guitars and vocals, Roger Waters on bass guitar, Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason. These four men knew each other from their art school background.
Within this context, the group moved quickly from rhythm and blues covers to a full-blown psychedelic art form of their own. Led by Syd Barrett, this album released in 1967 is a psychedelic masterpiece.
We begin our trip via Astronomy Domine. It’s a joy to listen to, with a spacey intro and a tale about space travel itself. It introduces Syd’s Fender Esquire-ish sound, logical basslines, out of this world sound and calculated drums. It’s a great introduction to the music of Pink Floyd.
The follow-up Lucifer Sam is a strange tale about a devilish cat. The said cat is not to be trusted. By this point, you will be absolutely blown away by the psychedelic textures on offer, and it also blows all the competition away of the time.
Matilda Mother shows the more innocent side to Syd Barrett’s songwriting and reveals himself to be a masterful poet. “Oh, mother. Tell me more!” chants Syd. It reveals a story about childhood tales and does not disappoint.
Flaming is an LSD trip set to music. We travel through the clouds, complete with some cup-like cutlery sounds. It shows a brilliant harmony and vocal melody section too. Syd was a true legend of these psychedelic masterpieces.
The instrumental jam Pow R. Toc H. arrives with some percussive vocal sound effects before launching into a brilliant jazz-like jam. It’s so catchy that it demands close listening throughout. Ingenius.
The Roger Waters piece Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk comes next and is a good piece in itself. It is a little repetitive but Syd talks about being sick in bed and requesting some relief from said sickness. Despite the fact Syd did not write this, it’s a good song.
Interstellar Overdrive is a 10-minute long instrumental that will leave you hanging out for more. It’s closest to Pink Floyd’s live set than any other track on the album, and absolutely sounds layered and trippy in a satisfying way. It segues nicely into the next song.
The Gnome follows and tells, yep, a story about a traveling gnome. It may have been inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, we will never know. But it is so simple, catchy and beautiful. Syd was a masterful songwriter for sure.
The next song Chapter 24 may have directly referred to Syd Barrett’s love of childhood stories. Indeed, the title of the album is actually from the famous childhood story The Wind In The Willows. But the best part of this particular song is the absolutely wonderful vocal harmonies on the recording. Beautiful and melancholic.
The single The Scarecrow follows. It features organs and interesting percussion abound, whilst Syd tells us about a scarecrow who is sadder than Syd himself. It’s a disturbing look into Syd’s own mental health issues of the time.
Bike concludes the album with a great pop song that is good to listen to. Syd talks about bikes, cloaks and a mouse without a house called Gerald. The song concludes by going into the clock room to turn on the musical clocks and features a quacking duck outro.
So there you have it. An absolutely wonderful recording for the late 1960s and a variety of innovative and interesting sounds. Dark Side Of The Moon may be the Pink Floyd recording that everybody knows, but The Piper Of The Gates Of Dawn may be the recording that everybody needs. Sadly, after this album was released, Syd Barrett entered a rapid mental health based decline. That aside, this is an album to truly be treasured by. It’s a psychedelic art masterpiece.