Complex instrumentalisation, thoughtful lyrics about the state of humanity and immense live-shows. That’s what Pink Floyd are remembered for, nowadays. Roger Waters, the band’s bassist and singer, still tours with tracks from the biggest records in the band’s history. Additionally, it’s widely known that the beginnings of Pink Floyd lie in psychedelic rock. Their, often overlooked, debut is living and breathing the genre. Today, it’s celebrating its 50th birthday.

Pink Floyd in 1967

The strongest association with the late-60s is obviously the one with the movement around LSD. Widely believed to be harmless, and one of the main motors of pop culture up to the mid-70s. In the middle of it all, were Pink Floyd. Their late singer Syd Barrett was known to have consumed drugs and arguably, the consequences of his lifestyle have become a burden to the band. Nevertheless, it also influenced the band’s early releases, especially when Syd Barrett was the main singer- and songwriter. After the departure of the band’s frontman, Pink Floyd have tried to distance themselves from his style, but developing their own proved to be a slow and uneven process.

Coming from well-settled Cambridge families, the four founding members of the band have been friends since childhood. Their joint musical career began with blues and jazz improvisations, going quickly into the, then famous, psychedelia. Being the resident band of the UFO nightclub in London, their innovative, loud and eerie lit live-shows, only attracted bigger and bigger audiences. This was obviously incomparable with what was to come, but it helped them snub a contract with EMI. That way, Pink Floyd could record their debut in the Abbey Road Studios, in a studio next door to The Beatles. Their psychedelic album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was released the same year. Yet, it’s debatable whether they overshadowed Pink Floyd’s debut, or if it even mattered at all.

‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ is a standout album from the rest of Pink Floyd‘s discography. Syd Barrett’s lyricism is often more reminiscent of nursery rhymes, rather than Water’s melancholic state-of-the-world texts. Barrett mostly sings about simple things, like about his cat on ‘Lucifer Sam’. Some songs talk about stories from Cambridge, like the single released alongside the album, ‘Arnold Layne’. The band’s friends often knew these very well. Seeing the lightheartedness of the songs Barrett has written, it’s kind of hard to imagine the inner turmoil he was going through.

It’s not only lyrics that only count, obviously. Pink Floyd‘s live shows often consisted out of long improvisations, so it was difficult to create short, industry-ready 3 minute-ish tracks that still contained the Pink Floyd soul. Maybe the truest leftover of what the live-shows may have sounded like is ‘Interstellar Overdrive’. The 9-minute long track starts out with a coherent tempo, goes through something that sounds like each musician to their own, just to find themselves again. The guitars create a collage of different sound, in addition to the somewhat spacey organs. Often described as one of their foray into space rock, even though the band disliked that term. It surely is one of the few songs that’s a reminder of the live-experience of early Pink Floyd.

50 years later, looking back at the band’s history, it is an odd record to listen to. It still kept its lightheartedness and fairly fascinating soundscape, but could confuse those who have found their way to Pink Floyd listening to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ or ‘The Wall’. Comparisons of the debut to the later work are somewhat purposeless, as it is undeniable that ‘The Piper…’ has been an important start to one of the biggest bands in history. Without it, The Pink Floyd Sound (their previous band name), we know today, would surely never exist.

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