Who made it?: Pink Floyd (producers); Rob Black/Peter Brown (engineers); Harvest/EMI.
Who’s on it?: David Gilmour (guitar/bass/lead vocals/harmonica); Roger Waters (bass/lead vocals/guitar); Richard Wright (hammond organ/piano/backing vocals); Nick Mason (drums/percussion).
Recorded at: AIR, Abbey Road and Morgan Studios, London (January-August 1971).
Release date: 13th November 1971 (UK).
Meddle marked the end of an era for Pink Floyd. The progressive rock iconoclasts known for their perfectionism, meticulous production and album concepts weren’t always so prepared. Their sixth studio release was composed from a series of experiments and recordings at three different studios (apparently Abbey Road, which gave us Sgt. Pepper, wasn’t good enough for Floyd). It resulted in a record that was greeted with indifference, but nevertheless managed to climb to no. 3 in the UK charts. Post-Meddle, Floyd constructed their work around a unified idea and left much of the writing duties to Roger Waters. Flawed it may be but Meddle is possibly the most underrated entry in their discography.
This wasn’t the Pink Floyd that made The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) but you can sense the roots of that masterpiece here. Despite being the band’s sixth album, there is a palpable sense of artists still trying to define their sound, which was constantly evolving after Syd Barrett’s brief tenure with the group. Their previous full-length, Atom Heart Mother (1970), paved the way for their revitalised direction, particularly with its title track, which runs for an epic 23-minutes…just like Meddle‘s closer “Echoes”. The latter just might be Floyd’s crowning achievement.
“One of These Days” starts the album off in signature Floyd fashion; quiet and foreboding as it slowly fills the room with sound, before blasting into a cacophony of otherworldly noise. And then the guitars kick-in, your brain melts…and all is right with the world. Pink Floyd albums open with a statement of intent and Meddle‘s first assault on the senses is glorious for its slow escalation into unadulterated stoner rock. It also highlights their fascination with electronic manipulation. Nick Mason’s refrain “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces” was recorded at double-speed and processed at normal speed, providing an early oddball moment that sums Meddle up.
The track fades effortlessly into “A Pillar of Winds”, in a technique used to better effect on Wish You Were Here (1975). It’s an acoustic love song performed with Floyd’s inimitable style. It’s also a solid example of David Gilmour’s skill as a singer; calm and deliberate yet powerful. “Fearless” reveals Gilmour at his best and ranks as one of the group’s more accessible songs. It features a killer riff that intertwines with football match chanting; strangely hypnotic in its serene simplicity.
Meddle changes gear yet again and segues into a jazz-influnced pop track with “San Tropez”. The group seem to be having fun with this unpretentious ditty, which is easy on the ear and never outstays its welcome. Apparently, it was inspired by a trip to the south of France in 1970, and has a breezy charm that evokes images of sunny days quite masterfully. If only the same could be said for “Seamus”, a weird track even by Floyd’s standards. Just hear it and you’ll understand.
The final track is what makes Meddle great, however. “Echoes” is a peerless piece of audio work that is breathtaking in its scope and creativity. Taking up the entire second side of the LP release, it set a benchmark for music recording and a standard for technical competence that few of Floyd’s contemporaries could match. Recorded at each of the three studios it took to make the album, “Echoes” was so gargantuan that it was cut-down for the final version (a portion of it can be heard on Dark Side‘s “Brain Damage”). In many ways, you could call this their Ninth Symphony, it’s that good. It also ends the album on a high.
Meddle is a schizophrenic piece of work, and it won’t appeal to all tastes. If you’ve heard The Dark Side of the Moon and it wasn’t for you, Meddle won’t change your mind. Fans of the band are notoriously harsh on it, but it has become one of my favourite Floyd records over time. The over-indulgence of “Echoes” certainly goes a long way to make up for its shortcomings. Bold and utterly unique, it seems to get better with age. And second-rate Floyd is still better than most bands could manage in their wildest dreams. Put that in your pipe and smoke it…
- The band worked for six months on “Echoes” alone.
- The dog howling on the demented “Seamus” belonged to Nick Mason. Despite the track being hated by many Floyd fans, it didn’t stop the band from using wildlife again on the appropriately titled Animals in 1977.
- “Fearless” ends with recordings of the Liverpool F.C. Kop choir singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
- Storm Thorgersen, a regular artist for the group, suggested they use a close-up of a baboon’s anus for the album cover. The band quickly rectified this, telling him it should be “an ear underwater”. It’s difficult to tell who was higher at the time this decision was made.
Black Sabbath – Sabotage (1975)