The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is the debut album for Pink Floyd. It is the only record that Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s troubled bandmate would take the lead on. The record was released on August 5, 1967. Since it’s release, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest psychedelic albums of all time.
The title of the album is taken from the book The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and is a depiction of the god Pan.
The record is considered experimental, as well as psychedelic. It sounds like what Pink Floyd would sound like after their psychedelic days were over, with it’s long playing, hard driving jams. Syd Barrett’s contributions to the record were more poppier. The Barrett influence would be short lived as David Gilmour would be brought in to take his place.
The first song on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is Astronomy Domine, as song written by Syd Barrett, and was seen as Pink Floyd’s foray into space rock. It is also a song that was played in concerts regularly along with another song on the record, Interstellar Overdrive. Both songs were usually played as a long jam in concerts which made them very popular.
Astronomy Domine has a dark, haunting feel to it, with the lyrics being chanted, and the guitarwork spacey sounding. A song that feels as if Floyd was going for the space rock sound.
The second song on the album is Lucifer Sam, and is about Syd Barrett’s Siamese cat. The guitar riff sounds a lot like the beginning of a James Bond theme. Very catchy and a great song.
Matilda Mother was another Syd Barrett song that shows his recollection of a childhood that he couldn’t ever return to. It has a nostalgic feel to it.
Flaming is another Barrett song wandering through childhood, with it’s frolicky lyrics. Even after Barrett was out of the band, the Floyd still performed Flaming in concert for a while.
Pow R. Toc H. is an instrumental piece, the the beginning sounding as if the guys were on some serious LSD, which it is pretty commonly known that throughout the making of the album, they were. The influence was definitely there on this particular song. It is weird but catchy, with some good piano work.
Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk was the first song that Roger Waters got songwriting credits for, with much of the morbid lyrics penned by Barrett. It is not a very highly regarded song due to it’s lyrical content, but it is among themes that Waters would write about at later times.
Interstellar Overdrive is an instrumental piece on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn that lasts almost ten minutes, and is considered to be one of the first psychedelic instrumental improvisational songs to be recorded by a rock band, and is a song that was regularly improvised in concert. It is a classic piece of psychedelic rock, very hard at times, that worked great in concerts against a psychedelic backdrop.
The Gnome was another Barrett song, it was inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and shows Barrett’s creative side, and some of the childlike themes that he used to write. The song is sung as if he was singing to a little child.
The last two songs on the record, The Scarecrow and Bike, were both Barrett pieces and ends the record on a whimsical note.
In my opinion, there are two very different Pink Floyd’s on this record. The is the childlike lyrical content and music of Syd Barrett, and then there are the rest of the album, harder, more improvisational and psychedelic.
It is too bad that Barrett could not coincide with the rest of the band due to his drug abuse and mental instability. This would be his only real work with Floyd, and the music, though similar sounding in some respects, took on more of the Waters/Gilmour sound on most of the other records. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn will go down as one of the best psychedelic records of them all.