Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
A Saucerful Of Secrets
Ummagumma (½ live–½ studio)
Atom Heart Mother
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