Tonight (February 9th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
Having initially come together in 1962, guitarist Syd Barrett, bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright adopted the name The Pink Floyd Sound in 1965. Two years later, now under the name The Pink Floyd, they signed their first deal with EMI, releasing the controversial single Arnold Layne, which was banned by some radio stations for its references to transvestism. A second single, See Emily Play, scored the band their first UK Top 10 hit, putting them at the forefront of the psychedelic rock scene of the era.
Though only Barrett was a drug user, the British media associated The Pink Floyd with the LSD scene.
While EMI paid the band only £5,000 for their contract, this allowed them creative freedom. Shortening their name once again to simply Pink Floyd, the band began recording their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, at Abbey Road Studios. They benefitted from the studio staff’s familiarity with experimentation, having worked with The Beatles. Barrett recorded his vocals in an isolation booth as his singing was so quiet. A technique called automatic double tracking was employed to add echo effects to vocals and some instrumentation.
The driving creative force on the album was Barrett, whose LSD use heavily influenced the trippy nature of the album. The album sees the band perform a mixture of brief garage rock tunes and longer, experimental psych tracks that hint at what’s to come for Pink Floyd.
During recording, tensions began to rise between Barrett and the other members of the band, who found it difficult to communicate with their frontman when he was taking drugs. The other three members would conduct their own jam sessions independent of Barrett, a sign of how the band would ultimately evolve. Producer Norman Smith was particularly frustrated by Barrett’s methods. “With Syd, I eventually realised I was wasting my time,” he said of his attempts to communicate with the troubled musician.
Released on August 5th, 1967 in separate mono and stereo versions, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn reached number six on the UK album chart. In October it was released in the US under the title Pink Floyd, but could only reach number 131 despite an appearance by the band on American Bandstand.
The British music press were quick to hail Pink Floyd with Cash Box calling their debut album “a particularly striking collection of driving, up-to-date rock ventures” while Record Mirror said the “psychedelic image of the group really comes to life.” Paul McCartney was said to have been highly impressed by the album.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is considered one of the most important albums of the psychedelic era. Rolling Stone rank it at number 253 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Sadly, it’s the only Pink Floyd album to fully feature Barrett, who left during recording of follow-up A Saucerful of Secrets due to his declining mental health and addiction issues.
You can hear the debut of one of rock’s greatest acts at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.