Pink Floyd’s debut 1967 long player, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, came out 45 years ago this week in the UK. A stereo mix of the album came out a month later and the American version of the album was released in October of that year. The US version had a different track listing that omitted “Flaming,” “Astronomy Domine” and “Bike,” if you can imagine such a travesty, while the “See Emily Play” single was added.
Piper was recorded off and on February through July of 1967 at Abbey Road Studios (while the Beatles recorded “Lovely Rita” in the studio next door) and featured mostly songs written by the group’s founder Syd Barrett. By the time the album came out, however, Barrett’s behavior had become increasingly erratic and David Gilmour was soon after brought in to augment the group. It was the sole Pink Floyd album to be recorded under Barrett’s musical leadership of the band.
Although today Piper is justly considered a classic, indispensable album, it was not a commonly encountered record until after Dark Side of the Moon became such a monster hit, in the US at least, and it was re-released as part of the A Nice Pair two-record set (which included Piper along with the restored tracks and A Saucerful of Secrets).
The startling lead off number on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is the tremendously tremendous “Astronomy Domine” as seen here in this wild clip from The Look of the Week BBC television series. Includes the hilariously contentious interview with classical music critic Hans Keller, who introduces the group with the faintest of feint praise. In fact he more or less tells the TV audience that what they are about to see is going to suck! Imagine how completely INSANE this would have seemed beamed into your home in 1967. Keller’s bewilderment at their music is a pretty clear indicator of how such a performance would have been regarded back then. Speaking of, notice how far ahead of his time human beat box Barrett is at the start of this clip:
Peter Whitehead’s footage of the first Pink Floyd, recording session, the legendary 14-hour Technicolor Dream event at Alexandria Palace and a gig at the underground UFO Club. Starts off with an outstanding 16-minute-long jam of “Interstellar Overdrive.”
“Arnold Layne,” the first single from The Pink Floyd, about a kleptomaniac transvestite who steal woman’s underwear from clotheslines.
A color British Pathe film of “The Scarecrow”:
Below, a personal favorite track from Pink Floyd, the rocking “Lucifer Sam” (I had an extraordinarily smart black Bombay cat for 16 years who was named after this song):
An early audio interview with Pink Floyd:
“Apples and Oranges” very badly lip-synced on American Bandstand in 1967. Note Syd’s tragic, 1000-yard stare: