In my earlier days, when I was starting to be the kid on the front seats to whom you could talk to about music, the one album I oft frowned upon was the Dark Side of the Moon (DSOTM) by Pink Floyd. Not because I considered it lacking in any way, but because it was the one album that everyone characterised the Floyd with; a practice which, to my disdain, continues to this day.
DSOTM is for many the start of their journey with Pink Floyd. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But the one album which everyone forgets in the acid fuelled trip of dissonance and guitar distortion of the late 60s and the haze of the commercial and mass appealing catalogue that Pink Floyd had from 1973 till 1982 is the masterpiece of Meddle. Even the Yellow Submarine-esque Obscured by the Clouds has its ardent supporters. But what is often forgotten is the album which came up in a fragile time for the band when they were still adapting to life without the madcap genius (?) that was: Syd Barrett.
A compact 6 track album, the inarguable cornerstone of which is the Kubrickian composition Echoes (the longest Pink Floyd track at that time, having a run time of just over 23 minutes); Meddle was the Floyd at its best as a band. Everything before was either being Syd Barrett’s supporting act or a cheap knock-off of that support act. Everything after was dominated by Waters – Gilmour and in true homage to their preliminary inspiration – The Beatles, the period saw Wright and Mason being reduced to nothing but session musicians. Playing what the songwriters told them to play, was somewhat eerily reminiscent to the treatment of George Harrison and Ringo Starr in the post Sgt. Peppers era. Arguably, the last time that the prog-rock Gods were in the studio as a band was Meddle, which in my humble opinion only adds to the poetry, of which the overlooked album is replete with, both musically and otherwise. The 6 tracks offer a bit of everything that made Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd throughout their career, and more. One of these Days has everything that one would expect from a Pink Floyd instrumental piece –Gilmour-Waters bending and curving their Fenders in tandem, Wright’s subtle but essential electric piano and Mason playing hard enough to put John Bonham to shame (I would highly recommend listening to the Live in Pompeii concert before calling me someone who doesn’t know music for my last remark). A Pillow of Winds gave the Floyd catalogue which it never had or has had since, a song to slow dance to with your s/o (do it and get back to me, I haven’t tried it yet).
Fearless and San Tropez gave the relaxing, almost blues-y vibe that was associated with Pink Floyd during the Barrett years, and were yet signature Gilmour and Waters tracks, respectively. Seamus, in all its nonsensical glory was the seed which became Animals, which makes it the best track in the album according to me. A song which led to one of the greatest concept albums of all time and it has a good boy singing lead vocals, asking for treats. Where do I sign up?
Finally, the 23 minute epic – Echoes, which at the time was rumoured to be in synchronicity with 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a crash course in everything that Pink Floyd would do over the course of the next decade that would make them one of the most successful bands of all time, both commercially and musically.
In closing remarks, I would just say that Meddle is where Pink Floyd finally shed off Syd Barrett’s influence and became the band all of us know and love. If DSOTM is what defines Pink Floyd then Meddle is what made it possible. There could not be an On the Run without One of These Days; there could not be a Hey You without Fearless and there could not be a 27 minute long, diversified Shine on You Crazy Diamond without a 23 minute long, meandering and stretched out Echoes.
Recommended listening – The entire album, with the exception of Seamus if you’re not into a dog howling.