ECHOES

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

A Saucerful Of Secrets

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Ummagumma (½ live–½ studio)

Atom Heart Mother

Meddle

Meddle (1971) was the first Pink Floyd album I owned. Purchased second-hand from Bentleigh Sewing & Records, probably in late 1973 or early ’74, its centrepiece, the side-long “Echoes” mesmerised me as I sat in the dark with two small speakers for company. Over forty years later, it still enthrals.

An unfolding epic, “Echoes” defines prog rock for this listener and is doubtless the most progressive music Pink Floyd ever produced. That it intrigues and entertains almost half a century later is largely due to its ability to involve the listener in a journey—no, more than that—in a mysterious pilgrimage.

Overhead the albatross

Hangs motionless upon the air

And deep beneath the rolling waves

In labyrinths of coral caves

An echo of a distant time

Comes willowing across the sand

And everything is green and submarine

I remember being in London in 1990 and finding a small backstreet record shop selling bootleg CDs. There were several Floyd concerts in the rack but my choice was a no-brainer; the one with the live “Echoes” was the one I lunged for. Is there a name for that particular thrill, both acquisitive and anticipatory? 

Not long after, settled into a rented apartment back in Melbourne, I recorded the music parts of the soundtrack to Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii from VHS video onto cassette, largely to get that particular version of what I had come to see as their signature piece. It took forever, the quality was absolute crap; it was a labour of love.

And no one called us to the land

And no one knows the where’s or why’s

Something stirs and something tries

Starts to climb toward the light

There is something dreamlike about “Echoes”, something crepuscular and other-worldly. It casts a spell, if you let it.

Fearing that I may destroy the magic yet harbouring a desire to compare the numerous versions now residing in the Pink Floyd section of the VC library, I decided (one night, late, possibly after a few glasses of Rutherglen red) to plot the movement of the piece, inspired by the schematic inside the gatefold of Tangerine Dream’s Alpha Centauri.

Strangers passing in the street

By chance two separate glances meet

And I am you and what I see is me

And do I take you by the hand

And lead you through the land

And help me understand

The best I can

“Echoes” dominates Meddle, as it must. So much so that the five songs comprising side one are often overlooked. Yet opener “One of these days” is also a Floyd favourite, one pleasingly revived for their 90s tours. “Pillow of winds” is an atmospheric follow-up to the chugging intensity of the first track, and after that it kind of trails off, really. Until, of course, you turn over the record.

In this moment, as I write, an unofficial recording of a 2007 David Gilmore concert is playing in the background. The last piece before the mandatory encores is a full-length version of “Echoes”. So in a few minutes I’ll sit down with my tatty little fold-out diagram, hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on my forehead, and welcome a million bright ambassadors of morning, reflecting how it was, perhaps, no random choice that led to Floyd’s 2001 four LP retrospective being called Echoes. 

And no one sings me lullabies

And no one makes me close my eyes

So I throw the windows wide

And call to you across the sky

A series of articles about sixth albums to mark a 6th anniversary

#1  The 70s

39 comments

  1. Great record. I have a lot of time for Fearless as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure!
      This reminisce focussed on Echoes, but I, too, enjoy the other side.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I know – always like Meddle getting some attention as it’s just about as good as the commercial behemoths that followed it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good timing. I’m about 1/2 hour away from seeing a tribute band called Brit Floyd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool. Hope it’s a blast1

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  3. Lovely reminiscence Bruce. One of my all-time favourite albums, and Echoes is one of the pieces of music that inspired me into doing what I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s nice (and rather cool) Peter. Makes me curious as to some of your other influential pieces.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t think you’d find them that surprising – Tangerine Dream ‘Phaedra’ & ‘Atem’; King Crimson ‘Islands’ & ‘Wake of Poseidon’; Kraftwerk ‘Man Machine’; and maybe an outsider, T. Rex ‘Unicorn’. Amongst others…

        As to individual tracks, well, too many to name really.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. All glowing artefacts from the prog pantheon (to mix metaphors somewhat). 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That’s my pedigree!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Meddle and Echoes always mean Easter time and the advent of spring for me. Those other five albums were a journey to Meddle and then nothing would ever be as simple again it seems, it’s almost the end of one band and the beginning of another, the brief summer of Obscured By Clouds and then the decline into autumn and winter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Harsh! But I know what you mean. The behemoth was starting to trundle, even on Meddle, but it became unstoppable thereafter.

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  5. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    That gorgeous ode just carried me away (on a pillow of winds).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. If you see ‘crepuscular’ appear in one of my future posts, it should appear with a footnote thanking you for the introduction to the term!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A more accurate acknowledgement would be Mojo music magazine, Geoff. There was a period where it seemed to be a secret ‘in joke’ to include the word in every issue. Good word, though, innit?

      Liked by 2 people

  7. If I was running out of the house and had time to grab one record and it was ‘Meddle’ I wouldn’t be disappointed. ‘Echoes’ at Pompeii still does it for me. A big impression on a very young CB. I think you knew I’d weigh in on this one Bruce,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good ‘friend’ flow chart.
      ‘Do you like Echoes?’
      Y: Continue
      N: Goodbye

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I used your “flow chart” as a basis not just for “friend” but for marriage. Well, my Gal did have the record in her collection when we met. It didn’t hurt.
        Bruce, I always wondered what the locals around Pompeii were thinking when Floyd was doing their thing back then. If I ever hook into a time machine I’ll swing by and grab you and we’ll catch that day. How cool would that be?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Count me in, buddy. One strategy might be to hitch a lift with Dr Who (Tennant/Tate model) though that episode does emphasise how important timing is.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I was thinking more the Jules Verne/Rod Taylor model. Two seater.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Don’t the Morlocks hate Floyd?

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I’m trying to answering that but I can;t hold a thought because the comment is funny.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Great stuff, Bruce. Have I ever mentioned that I have a strange relationship with Pink Floyd? I go through phases of loving, hating, or feeling indifferent towards them. A band that I have tried very hard to love, but just can’t consistently. Still, this stuff is brilliant and Echoes is possibly their finest moment. Or at least that Floyd’s finest moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can really understand that ambivalence, J. For me, they were so much a part of my life (from Echoes on, working backwards to the beginning) that I have no clear view at all. Interestingly, yesterday an acquaintance described them as ‘dispiriting’ and I can see that too. Music for depressives, maybe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean and I have that same view with some artists. Sometimes I can’t really explain why someone should dig into a band that have been such a huge part of my life. Just cause, I guess. I can tell them how I felt when I first heard them, but often they look at me like I need a bit of help!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Fab to the max Bruce. I have, hugely unreliable, memories of whole sunny summers spent listening to this album with my friends, staring up into the sky as a late teen. Plus I love the gatefold photo of the band.

    I am also rather taken with the flowchart, nice one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sure is a fine ‘stare at the warm summer skies’ album, JS. Love that image.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I waited until getting home to listen to Echoes on a decent sound system rather than pipe it through the sleight Bluetooth speaker taken on holiday. And thus I found it to be the worthy journey that you said it would be.

        Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s great DD. Hooray for good sound! (And hooray for holidays).

          Like

  10. […] #1 The 70s […]

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  11. Not a Pink Floyd afficianado, but there’s lots here that pleases, your personal experiences of the album, and of Echoes in particular, most of all. I also like the Harvest label…very pleasing. And I join 1537 in really liking those pictures of the band; Roger Waters has a great smile. I found the photo on the album cover strange/disturbing enough that I had to turn to Google; Wikipedia informed me that it’s an ear, underwater, ‘collecting waves of sound…’ If you say so!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a classic of album cover art, that’s for sure. Featured not long back in the ‘Vertical gatefold’ series. In the piece I did not disclose that I’d owned the LP for over a year before I happened to open it up and finally saw the ear. Such a perceptive young man! ‘Echoes’ is a Floyd highlight for me (and indeed, for many). Try it with a nice red and some candles, one summer night.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. […] #1 The 70s […]

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  13. […] #1 The 70s […]

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  14. Always loved this track – haven’t heard it for many, many years! It was one of my first Floyd albums too and I loved it’s dreamy sound and lyrics. The heavier section and the weird bit in the middle bring it all together – a perfect instrumental composition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicely put Prince C. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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