Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Album: Meddle

Cloudless everyday you fall upon my waking eyes
inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no-one sings me lullabies
And no-one makes me close my eyes
And so I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky

I think of Pink Floyd in five different eras, or phases.

The Syd Barrett Era:
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
A Saucerful of Secrets

The Experimental Era/The Trying-to-Figure-Out-What-to-do-Without-Syd Era:
Atom Heart Mother
Obscured by Clouds

The Mainstream Era:
The Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here

The Wall Era:
The Wall

The Downfall Era/The Let-Us-Never-Speak-of-it-Again Era:
everything that came after The Wall

I suppose the casual rock fan is familiar with everything from Dark Side onwards, especially since anything older than that is apparently verboten on classic rock stations. In fact, I think the KZEP chronology of the universe begins in 1973.

However, there are a lot of forgotten gems from the Experimental Era, and I think that Meddle may be the best of the lot. Arguably, because the sheer scope of Ummagumma is hard to compete with. Since Obscured by Clouds is really a movie soundtrack, not just a straight-out album, it might be said that Meddle was the bridge into the Mainstream Era.

It might also be said that my whole idea of dividing their discography into discrete "eras" is nothing but a big load of guano. I would not argue with you if you said that.

Like many other groups, I discovered Pink Floyd late in their career, with The Wall, and had to work my way backwards from there. I don't remember exactly where or when I bought Meddle, but I do remember that it made a big impression on me, especially side 2.

If you have never heard Meddle (and since it seems most readers of this blog are Floyd fans, I think this quite unlikely), you really should give it a listen. Side 1 is somewhat rambling, opening with the essentially instrumental "One of These Days," which does have lyrics of a sort if you want to get technical. Lyrics and music for the other songs tend to be dreamy and floating, closing with a silly little blues number about a dog called "Seamus." The interesting thing about "Seamus" is that it sounds like they intentionally pitched the song to match the pitch of the dog howling in the background.

Side 2 is what really makes the album. A 23-minute mostly instrumental piece called "Echoes." A dedicated listener might notice echoes of "Echoes" rippling across genres into new age and ambient music years down the line. I think that this album, and especially this track, is much more influential than most people give it credit for.

It's a good one. If you're a Floyd fan and you don't have it, you should add it to your collection.

P.S. The piece "Echoes" is so strong in my mind that I originally mistitled this post.


  1. Most of the stuff I listened to was from the earlier years; I remember their concert here from either 1969 or 1970. Back at that time they were considered part of the hippy-psychedelic section of rock and were extremely popular among that bunch.

  2. Okay; I'll be the first to quibble. To lump "The Final Cut" into the unspeakable last era is an injustice. Sure, it is more of a Roger Waters album with Floyd backup, but it is a heartbreakingly great album; honest, brutal, painful, in some respects hard to listen to because of the nature of the subject matter, I'll grant that, but of all the Floyd Albums the writing is the most mature, cohesive, and adult. It actually gets better with time to me, I guess because it is in some ways a meditation on middle age. And the contributions Gilmour did make, well, the guitar solo on the song "The Final Cut" is in my view his best work; summing up with his instrument all the emotions that Waters' lyrics invoke, and then stabbing even deeper into the soul of it. If it has been a while since you listened to it, darken the room, put it on, and hang on. It isn't the feel good album of the year, but it does make you really feel, and I think it is Roger's high water mark (no pun intended) and a fittingly wistful coda to the "real" Floyd era.

  3. Okay, I'll give it another try. It has been years since I listened to it and I never liked it, so I just sort of mentally wrote it off.