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Music / The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

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Floating down, the sound resounds around the icy waters underground.

"Iíve got a bike, you can ride it if you like
Itís got a basket, a bell that rings
And things to make it look good
Iíd give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it

Youíre the kind of girl that fits in with my world
Iíll give you anything, everything if you want thing"

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the debut studio album by Pink Floyd, released in 1967 through EMI Columbia Records in the UK and Tower Records in the US. Released long before the band developed the Progressive Rock style that would come to define them in the public consciousness, this album is starkly representative of the Psychedelic Rock sound that they had started out with in the early phases of their career, thanks in no small part to then-frontman Syd Barrett's knack for eccentric and esoteric sound and subject matter. That said, they weren't exactly unknowns when the album released; they'd already built up a mainstream following over the course of that year, and by the time Piper released they were already seen as an important enough act in the psychedelic scene to influence the likes of David Bowie years down the road.

Aside from the band's early prominence and influence, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is most notable for being Pink Floyd's only full-length album that features Barrett on every track. He would suffer a rapid and never-quite-explained mental decline over the course of the next year that resulted in his presence in the band being rapidly reduced before ultimately being kicked out after their second album. As such, this album is an integral part of his legacy.

Upon release, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was a strong commercial success in the band's native UK, peaking at No. 6 on the UK Albums charts. In the US, where it was released with a considerably different tracklist (as was common practice for British albums at the time), it performed far more modestly, peaking at only No. 131 on the Billboard 200. It would continue to maintain strong sales in Britain in the decades ahead, peaking at No. 44 during its 30th anniversary and at No. 22 ten years after that. It would eventually be certified gold in the United Kingdom and Italy.

The album was supported by exactly zero singles. However, the British non-album track would be added to the American release, with the track "Flaming" (which was cut from the latter) being released as a non-album single Stateside.

Followed by A Saucerful of Secrets.

Tracklist (Standard Version):

Side One

  1. "Astronomy Domine" (4:12)
  2. "Lucifer Sam" (3:07)
  3. "Matilda Mother" (3:08)
  4. "Flaming" (2:46)
  5. "Pow R. Toc H." (4:26)
  6. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (3:05)

Side Two

  1. "Interstellar Overdrive" (9:41)
  2. "The Gnome" (2:13)
  3. "Chapter 24" (3:42)
  4. "The Scarecrow" (2:11)
  5. "Bike" (3:21)

Tracklist (US Version):

Side One

  1. "See Emily Play" (2:53)
  2. "Pow R. Toc H." (4:26)
  3. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (3:05)
  4. "Lucifer Sam" (3:07)
  5. "Matilda Mother" (3:08)

Side Two

  1. "The Scarecrow" (2:11)
  2. "The Gnome" (2:13)
  3. "Chapter 24" (3:42)
  4. "Interstellar Overdrive" (9:41)

Bonus Disc (40th Anniversary Edition):

  1. "Arnold Layne"
  2. "Candy and a Currant Bun"
  3. "See Emily Play"
  4. "Apples and Oranges"
  5. "Paintbox"
  6. "Interstellar Overdrive (Alternate Mix)"
  7. "Apples and Oranges (Stereo Version)"
  8. "Matilda Mother (Alternate Version)"
  9. "Interstellar Overdrive (Alternate Version)"

Principal Members:

  • Syd Barrett - lead vocals, guitar, tape effects
  • Nick Mason - drums, percussion, cymbals, tubular bells, temple blocks, metal cups, timpani, chimes, tape effects
  • Roger Waters - bass, backing and lead vocals, whistle, gong, tape effects
  • Richard Wright - organ, backing and co-lead vocals, piano, celeste, keyboard, pianet, cello, harmonium, flute, violin, tack piano, harpsichord, tape effects

That trope's something I can't explain:

  • Alliterative Name:
    • "Matilda Mother"
    • "The Gnome"
      A gnome named Grimble Gromble.
  • Animal Motifs: "Lucifer Sam" (Siam Cat) and "Bike" (Gerald the Mouse)
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': In "Arnold Layne", the titular Panty Thief ends up in jail for his crimes.
  • Compilation Rerelease: Piper was reissued in 1973 alongside A Saucerful of Secrets as A Nice Pair.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: This album can be considered this in the Pink Floyd canon as it's the only one made under the leadership of Syd Barrett and the only one without David Gilmour. Plus unlike their later, more progressive albums, Piper is an incredibly psychedelic album with lyrics that sound childlike and charmingly naïve at the same time.
  • Epic Rocking: "Interstellar Overdrive"note  clocks in at over 9 minutes.
  • Evil Laugh: The tape-manipulated laugh at the end of "Bike".
  • Face on the Cover: The band on the album cover, as seen through a diamond note .
  • Frankenslation: Keeping in line with American releases of British albums at the time, the original US release drops "Astronomy Domine", "Flaming", and "Bike", inserts the non-album single "See Emily Play", and rearranges the rest of the tracklist, adjusting the between-track segues as necessary. The UK version would first become officially available Stateside with the compilation A Nice Pair in 1973 (albeit with the live version of "Astronomy Domine" swapped in), and like other modified British albums from its era, it would become standard on both sides of the Pond when it was reissued on CD (with the studio version of "Astronomy Domine" this time around).
  • Gratuitous Panning: "Interstellar Overdrive" — in the stereo mix, once the main riff of the song reappears about 8 and a half minutes into the track, the entire song starts rapidly bouncing back and forth between the left and right speakers.
    • Thankfully averted in the Mono version.
  • Homage: The lyrics of "Chapter 24" are borrowed from Chapter 24 of the I Ching, which deals with the Fû hexagram. Barrett seems to have based the lyrics on a combination of the more literal James Legge (1899) translation and the more poetic Richard Wilhelm and Cary Baynes (1950) translation.
  • I Am the Band: Piper is essentially a Syd Barrett solo album. (Except "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk", which is Roger Waters' first released song).
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: "Bike".
  • Last Note Nightmare: The gobbling goose near the end of "Bike".
  • Left Hanging: In "The Gnome" we're informed that Grimble Gromble "had a big adventure amidst the grass", but we never find out what this event actually was.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Pink Floyd's later, more heavily laced lyrics on albums later in their career, with songs about the human condition, politics, and search for individual expression, this album has mostly very light, almost childlike lyrics about topics such as gnomes, bikes, mice, fairy tale kings and scarecrows.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is taken from the title of the seventh chapter of The Wind in the Willows.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Much of the lyrics are charming childlike fantasies, but still the music is awesome and there's something escapist about them.
    • "Lucifer Sam" about a Siamese cat named Lucifer.
    • "The Gnome" about "a gnome named Grimble Gromble".
    • "The Scarecrow" about... a lonely and sad scarecrow.
    • "Bike", where Barrett tells us he owns a bike, a cloak, knows a mouse called Gerald, has a clan of gingerbread men and knows a room of musical tunes. Then it all ends in a psychedelic rockout, with bizarre sound effects.
  • The Not-Remix: Like a lot of rock albums from the '60s, the stereo version differs significantly from the mono version apart from being in stereo. Since the mono mix is the one Syd Barrett actually participated in, fans generally prefer it over the stereo version. This is probably because listening to the later part of "Interstellar Overdrive" won't require Bonine/Dramamine and a barf bag.
  • One-Word Title: "Flaming", "Bike".
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: In "The Gnome" Barrett tells us of a gnome called "Grimble Gromble" who "wore a scarlet tunic, a blue green hood" and had a big adventure amidst the grass.
  • Panty Thief: The bonus track "Arnold Layne".
  • The Power of Love: "Bike"
    You're the kind of girl that fits in with my world
    I'll give you anything, ev'rything if you want things.
  • Psychedelic Rock: One of the classics.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk"
    I'm in bed
    Achin' head
    Gold is lead
    Choke on bread
    Gold is lead
    Jesus bled
    Pain is red
  • Rule of Seven: "Chapter 24"
    The seven is the number of the young light
    It forms when darkness is increased by one
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • This is evident on Barrett's part from the bonus track "Apples and Oranges", as well as the A Saucerful of Secrets track "Jugband Blues" which is explicitly about Barret's experience suffering from this trope.
    • There are other songs from the same era (such as "Scream Thy Last Scream (Old Woman with a Casket)" and "Vegetable Man") that display even more of this; they were not been officially released for a long time, as the other members of Pink Floyd felt they were too voyeuristic, although they were available on bootlegs. Both tracks were eventually included on the Pink Floyd: The Early Years compilation in 2016, nearly 50 years after they were originally recorded.
  • Scatting: "Pow R. Toc H.", as well as on the bonus track "Apples and Oranges"
  • Self-Titled Album: The album was marketed as one in the US (thanks to the cover art only saying "PINK FLOYD"), though it still kept the name The Piper at the Gates of Dawn on the back cover. Consequently, it'd be referred to by its UK name when the band debuted on American Bandstand in November of 1967.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Richard Wright sings co-lead vocals on "Astronomy Domine", "Matilda Mother", "Bike" and "Arnold Layne", as well as full lead vocals on the bonus track "Paintbox".
    • Roger Waters sings lead on "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk", the only song on the album that he wrote.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The protagonist of Apples & Oranges....a guy who gets infatuated with a lady he first sees at the supermarket.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Near the end of "Bike" a gobbling goose is heard.
  • Textless Album Cover: The 2011 Discovery reissue removes the "PINK FLOYD" logotype; the 2016 Pink Floyd Records reissue brings it back.
  • Trilling Rs: Syd is fond of doing this on the album.
  • Ur-Example: "Pow R. Toc H." is quite possibly the first song to feature beat-boxing, of all things.
    • Both this song and the B-side "Candy and a Currant Bun" feature the earliest Roger Waters scream noises, though in these songs, he does it more like a chaotic velociraptor than a straight-up "horror movie scream".
    • The once-unreleased single, "Vegetable Man" is basically straightforward punk rock.