Pink Floyd released their sixth studio album, “Meddle”, today in 1971. A dramatic departure from their previous album, “Atom Heart Mother”, The Floyd gives us a foreshadowing of what will be coming in only a few short years. Shades of future landmark albums “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” are present for the first time on “Meddle”. Pink Floyd seems to be shaking loose the remnants of Syd Barrett and coming into their own as an almost new entity.
After the driving, pulsing instrumental opening number “One of These Days”, David Gilmour is thrust to the fore on this album, co-writing and singing lead on all songs except for Roger Waters’ “San Tropez”. Gilmour’s serene English countryside sound from “Fat Old Sun” on “Atom Heart Mother” returns in the form of the second song, “A Pillow of Winds”.
The third and fourth songs on the album, “Fearless” and “San Tropez”, were destined to become Pink Floyd classics. Though Gilmour provides the vocals on “Fearless”, the track carries Water’s indelible lyrical mark and explores themes that would be revisited many times in the future, most thoroughly on “The Wall”. Waters delivers his own signature song next with his idyllic tale of a lazy day on “San Tropez”. The blues song “Seamus”, featuring some nice piano work by Richard Wright and some right fine pickin’ by Gilmour, wraps up side one of the album. The song was named after Steve Marriott’s (Humble Pie) dog, Seamus, who provided the canine vocals on the track.
The entirety of side two is devoted to the 23 minute saga, “Echoes”. A lot of work and a bunch of happy accidents collided to form “Echoes” into one of The Floyd’s finest works. The song employs extended instrumental breaks punctuated with sounds invented by the band through tinkering. The novel sounds brands the song as uniquely Floydian and adds to an already complex and morphing texture. (Side note: listen at the 3:45 to hear the part of the song that Andrew Lloyd Webber ripped off for “The Phantom of the Opera”)
The band pulls off a complete 180 at the 7:03 mark, taking the song into straight funk territory. This change serves to set the listener on edge, never to be quite sure of where the song will take him next. After “Echoes” emerges from its post-funk interlude, we’re taken on the final leg of one of Roger Water’s finest lyrical journeys but, more importantly, directly into a journey much greater. The greater journey is that this marks the beginning of what Waters has called the “empathetic tone” of his lyrics and it was a tone that would color much of his future work.
The album did not take America by storm but would eventually go platinum. Much more important than any sales numbers, the legacy of “Echoes” is its place in the Pink Floyd catalog. “Echoes” serves as the foundation upon which the “Pink Floyd sound” that most listeners are familiar with was laid.
“Live at Pompeii” – starts with “Echoes”. If you’re a Floyd fan this is a must-see. It’s long but features the band playing live in an empty Roman amphitheater in Pompeii: