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Transitional Floyd: Pink Floyd in the ’70s

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In the ’70s Pink Floyd evolved from a relatively popular psychedelia-and-experimental-noise band to the superstar album rock heroes they are known as today. The key albums in this transition were Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals. With the dawn of the ’80s came the band’s popular apex and death knell, The Wall. Coincidentally, I recently got around to picking up the CD versions of Meddle, Wish You Were Here and Animals, finally.

My beloved Meddle, released in 1971, was the band’s transition album from the Barrett-influenced ’60s to the Waters-Gilmour Floyd of the ’70s. “One of These Days” romps along on classic pulsing triplets and Gilmour’s careening slide guitar — interrupted only by Waters’ frighteningly distorted declaration “One of these days I’m going to chop you into little pieces” (which I never exactly understood until I saw him say it in the Live At Pompeii DVD).

Following is Gilmour and Waters’ gentle “A Pillow of Winds,” a lilting and unabashed love song to both a person and the night, with psychedelic remnants of the Barrett era. The still gentle, but slightly more forceful “Fearless” is lovely with a memorable rising guitar figure and a sample (in 1971!) from “You’ll Never Walk Alone” thrown in for dislocating effect – always one of my Floydian faves.

Waters’ breezy “San Tropez” is rather too twee, and the desultory blues number “Seamus,” complete with dog howls from the guest of honor, is harmless but pointless. But then a pillar of Floydian experimental rock greatness, “Echoes” begins pinging and continues apace for over 23 minutes of purposeful meandering, ingratiating harmony vocals from Waters and Gilmour, choogling organ from Richard Wright, atmospheric axemanship from Gilmour, drifting whale noises, and a world of confident creativity. You can hear the fertile seeds of Dark Side of the Moon here.

Then came Dark Side – no need to discuss here.

Wish You Were Here was the follow up to the elephant in the room, Dark Side, and as such was doomed to unfair and moslty unflattering comparisons when it was released in ’75. I hadn’t listened to it in its entirety in at least 20 years, and I am pleased to say that it has grown greatly over the years: it is a brilliant, ruminative, ambient, long-form look at the disintegration of band founder and ’60s icon Syd Barrett, intermingled with Roger Waters’ souring view of the world, and in particular the music industry.

Without the necessity of flipping vinyl sides, the album now flows, a great aural river from the long, slow entry of “Shine On YOu Crazy Diamond (Part One)” with exquisite guitar work from David Gilmour (surely one of the ten greatest rock guitarists: endlessly inventive, supple, apt, often perfect), to the dark mechanization of “Welcome to the Machine,” “Have a Cigar” with guest vocals by Roy Harper (I had forgotten that), the beautiful poignancy of the title track, and a final nod to lost soul Barrett, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 2).”

It is seamless, moving, musical and is every bit the stand-alone monument that Dark Side was and is.

After all of this crunchy goodness, Animals, released in 1977, was a palpable disappointment for musical reasons and for the sourness of Roger Waters’ lyrics, which he now monopolized. A kind of musical Animal Farm, Waters compares people — again seemingly the music industry — variously and unflatteringly to “Sheep,” pigs (“Pigs On the Wing, part 1 and 2,” “Pigs (Three Different Ones”) and “Dogs.”

“Dogs” is the worst song the Floyd recorded in the ’70s: 17 minutes of tuneless vitriol, only slightly mitigated by some interesting lead work from Gilmour (but of course). 17 minutes is very long time for such ickiness, and what may have been merely unpleasant is overwhelming at such length.

“Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is a success, albiet a Grinchian one, creating a genuine porcine feel within a memorable tune, cowbell beat (“gotta have …” ah forget it) and guitar that feels like it was processed through a washing machine – in a good way.

“Sheep” begins with a bucolic, engrossing electric piano solo from Wright, before segueing into a rolling triplets rock groove (not unlike “One of These Days”) that conveys the pursuit of sheep by marauding dogs. After a victim is caught, the tumult dies down into some very atmospheric electronic work, followed by more turmoil and revolt capped by some classic Gilmour descending chord work.

Animals ends as it began, with Waters and his acoustic lamenting rather uninterestingly. It is not difficult to see that The Wall, Waters’ appalling plunge into self-pitying introspection, was just around the corner – pity.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Is “Choogling” a word?

  • http://www.dawnolsen.com Dawn

    Excellent review, with one caveat: I have always liked Animals although my opinion of the “lyrical content” has decreased significantly as I have become more musically sophisticated and now recognize what Pink Floyd once was before Roger Waters’ systematic decline into a self-absorbed spiral of both personal flagellation and an all out assault on anyone he perceived ever betrayed him poured out into the horrific, The Wall.

    Whew!!

    Not unlike another personal hero from my past, NIN’s Trent Reznor, both Waters’ and Reznor’s disgust and hatred of the industry that propelled them to fame and wealth, leads me to proclaim “thou protesteth too much.”

    That said, Dark Side Of The Moon is amazing and everything up to The Wall is worth owning and listening to more than once.

    Oh, and David Gilmour, is THE greatest rock guitarist of ALL TIME.

  • Eric Olsen

    Tim, if the great John Fogerty can use it, so too can I.

  • duane

    There’s this guy named Louie that lives across the street. He works in a sewer (lawd!). He tells me that he’s gonna be chooglin’ tonight. So, I guess it is a word.

    “Sheep” — I love that song. The “descending chord work” is one of my favorite guitar parts in rock music.

    I assume that Dawn is joking around, so I won’t have to pull out my “What about Slash?” rejoinder.

  • http://masshole.blogspot.com Dave

    (nitpick: The voice on “One of These Days” is Nick Mason.)

    I didn’t care much for any Pink Floyd albums before “Meddle” or after “Animals”.

  • Dawn

    Dave,

    When we watched the “Live at Pompeii” DVD, Eric thinks he remembers Waters doing the infamous growl, but according to some research it appears you are correct – but knowing Eric, we will re-watch it again just to be sure.

  • http://www.unproductivity.com Tom Johnson

    I love Animals, every bloated minute of it. Even “Dogs.” That album, to me, is musically more about mood than anything else, which is why “Dogs” works for me – I just put that album on and let it go. I’d go so far as to say it’s probably my favorite Floyd album, actually.

    The Wall is just too emotionally draining to me. I don’t think I ever really “enjoyed” that album much . . . but I don’t really get into Dark Side Of The Moon either. I get the big deal about DSotM . . . I just don’t particularly enjoy listening to it. But then Meddle, Piper, and Saucerful all get more time in my CD player than DSotM, oddly. I’m just a weirdo and have a very soft spot for the formative psychedelic years of Floyd. Or maybe I’m just a weirdo.

  • JR

    Huh. “Dogs” is one of my all-time favorite Pink Floyd songs. When I was a kid I even diagrammed out the structure of the piece. Those guitar harmonies made me all tingly.

    I recently got the Pompeii DVD and I remember it being Roger Waters on “One of These Days”. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t Nick Mason on the studio version.

    Also, wasn’t it Richard Wright singing harmony vocals with David Gilmour?

    The funniest thing in that movie is seeing how defensive they are about all the electronics they used. Apparently in the early seventies, the rap on Floyd was that they weren’t real musicians because they had to hide behind all those synthesizers. That, and they were a washed-up psychadelic band playing to nostalgic hippies.

    Pink Floyd not “real musicians”. That’s an accusation you don’t hear much these days.

  • Eric Olsen

    Very interesting guys, thanks. I agree that just because it’s Waters on the DVD doesn’t mean it was him on the record – I just assumed, but we all know about assumptions.

    After a 25-year cooling off period, I can now really love Dark Side again, which is kind of nice, although I like the Dub Side of the Moon that came out last year just as much.

    My actual Floyd fave is Ummagumma – you cannot possibly beat the lineup of “Astonomy Domine” “Careful With that Axe, Eugene,” “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun” and “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i just love “One Of These Days”. you can’t turn it up too loud.

    i saw Floyd play an outdoor show in foxboro ma. man, the show just lifted off during that tune. Gilmore made a big ‘ole messy noise during that one (as the big pig got stuck on the cable and some poor roadie had to make his way out to it hangin’ upside down. crazy)

  • Eric Olsen

    I saw the Animals tour at Cleveland Stadium and it was the best use of a stadium-sized space I have seen, before or since: the surround-sound, the props, the fact that I was 19 – awesome.

  • Josh

    Regarding comment #9, I totally agree with Eric Olsen. I think the older Pink Floyd stuff was much better. Starting with “Dark Side”, they got WAY too commercial. “The Wall” is hideously overrated, but still okay. The movie is out of this world!

    “Animals” is indeed a great album, and probably their only 70’s album that’s great from start to finish. But like I said, the older stuff was better (From “Piper” up to “Meddle”). My personal favorite Floyd album is “More”. It never gets the credit that it deserves. Any of you guys ever heard it?

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, it’s a movie soundtrack, I believe

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i like Atom Heart Mother, tho it’s completely different from everything else they’ve done.

  • http://www.glassharp.net Robert Brandt

    EO,

    Great reading as always. I’m one of thousands of the 2nd gen. fans who only got to see them when they toured “Division Bell”, so my perspective is pretty much all hindsight with Floyd.

    That said, I thought they peaked with “Meddle”; they had very little “new” ideas to offer music after that, IMO. By the time DSotM hit, there were dozens of other people who were light years ahead of them as far as gadgetry and innovation are concerned (taking nothing away from the work in the booth of Alan Parsons, Chris Thomas and Peter James).

    However, it’s understandable why they get so many props…how many American kids were down with Amon Duul, Can, or Tangerine Dream at that point? :)

    On the other hand, I agree that they were a band in constant transition…which always led me to believe they never reached their full potential. I would have loved to have seen what The Wall would have been like had all 4 of them actually been involved.

  • David

    Why do people feel that, just because they like something a lot, it’s necessary for them to proclaim it “the greatest (blah blah blah).” This is meaningless tripe.

  • Josh

    I still say that “More” is their best album. EXTREMELY underrated.

  • Eric Olsen

    Josh, at your recommendaton I will check out More again – it’s been many years. Thanks!

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    I always liked “The Wall”, even though it flagged in places. But I can’t think of any double studio albums that don’t suffer from that weakness.

    My opinions are probably coloured by the fact it’s the first LP I ever bought.

    Heresy I know, but the one Floyd album I really can’t get into is “Piper”, which just sounds terribly dated compared to the timelessness of their 70s output.

  • Eric Olsen

    I can certainly hear the dated part of “Piper,” some of which I find charming, others I find too twee, and some I think is still great.

  • Josh

    Some parts of “Piper” may sound dated now, but you have to remember that in 1967, it was quite revolutionary and unique. “Astronomy Domine” and “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” are unlike anything else that was being recorded at the time.

    Also, I don’t think their 70’s stuff is more timeless than the earlier stuff. Vice versa, if you ask me!

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Eric,There is a Dictators bootleg which
    has an ass-kicking version of the early
    Pink Floyd tune “Interstellar Overdrive”
    on it.Have you heard the Dics version???
    It rocks,no fooling.The boot is called:
    “Two Tub Men” by the way.I’m not sure where it was recorded,I think that it is
    taken from different shows.Being a boot,
    there is like NO info at all on the LP’s
    jacket.

  • Eric Olsen

    Well, I love the Dictators and I love that song, but I have about a grand total of five boots, and I don’t have that one. Sounds great.

  • http://www.glassharp.net Robert Brandt

    VH1 Classic’s Metal Mania show rolls out “Astronomy Domine” as done by that new band with Jason Newstead…err…Voivod, pretty frequently.

    Didn’t know about the Dictators doing “Interstellar Overdrive”, though. MUST check that out.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Robert for the kind words – I guess I see the downward movement coming after “Wish You Were Here,” which I find quite moving and beautiful. I like Dark Side again now after detoxing from it for 25 years.

  • Josh

    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS yet. What do you guys think of this one?

    Eric, I noticed that you described WISH YOU WERE HERE as “moving and beautiful”. Well if you want REALLY moving and beautiful music, you must check out MORE! Hate to sound like a broken record, but that album is so overlooked that it’s practically ridiculous.

  • http://masshole.blogspot.com Dave

    David wrote:

    Why do people feel that, just because they like something a lot, it’s necessary for them to proclaim it “the greatest (blah blah blah).” This is meaningless tripe.

    That’s the greatest comment I’ve ever read on blogcritics.

  • duane

    Well, I don’t know about that. It might be the greatest comment about tripe ever made at blogcritics.

  • Anthony G

    Nirvana is stupid, and everyone else involved in rock is wack also. You guys need to listen to some Eminem or something.

  • Josh

    You’re right, Anthony, we should all listen to Eminem. After all, why would we want to hear passionate rock music when we can hear boring, monotonous rap that all sounds the same?

    You’re right, dogg!

  • Anthony g

    Josh, LIke you said in post 374 in
    ja rule vs 50 cent feud you said you
    like right. Now your goin back on
    what you said just so you can diss me.

  • Josh

    Anthony, please drop it, okay? I see you’re still pretending that I wrote comment 374 on the Ja Rule/50 Cent thing, when you KNOW that it was you. So please give up already. You’re pathetic.

  • Anthony g

    Look dogg everyone,jose,obie,steve,shaun,
    you and me know you wrote 374 and you
    do like rap otherwise you wouldnt
    be at hip hop sites. Then after you
    wrote 374 you posted my name several times
    man you are a loser.

  • Anthony G

    You will never get the last word,cuzz i am crazy and will never stop until you
    lose and show everyone how much a loser you
    really are.

  • Josh

    Yeah, you’re right, Anthony, you did write comment #374. I’m glad you finally admitted it.

    Also, I am crazier than you and I will not let you have the last word. That’s a promise.

  • Anthony g

    Just give up man ill win
    and if for some reason i dont
    Jose will do it for me, but dont worry
    Jose ill never give.

    Josh you mite be crazy but i am a phsyco

    ROCK SUCKS DOGG.

  • Anthony g

    Man i never admitted i wrote 374. And
    i never will cuzz i didnt write it. You
    wrote it.

  • Josh

    If you don’t win then Jose will do it for you? What’s the matter, can’t fight your own battles anymore? And I doubt that you’re a psycho. I guarantee that I’m crazier than you, no question about it.

    By the way, learn how to spell. I’m starting to think that you’re a ten year-old kid or something.

  • Anthony G

    I might spell like a 10 year old kid
    but you sound like an old man complaining
    about rap because its to loud for their
    ears. And like you said you listen to
    classic rock, man i am sorry but thats
    what my old grampa listens to. Dogg.

  • Josh

    Rap is too loud for my ears??!! I guess you’re right, the fake bass and the repetitive beats are just so loud and powerful. Give me a break.

    And you say that your grandpa listens to classic rock? Wow! I can’t believe that your grandpa has better taste in music than you.

  • Pycho

    My grampa listens to classic cuzz
    he liked it when everything was goody goody.

    Josh tomarrow i dare you to go up to
    a rap fan at shool and tell him the
    same stuff you say to me over
    the computer. And see what happens. Dogg

  • Josh

    Things were not “goody goody” in the 60’s. Protestors were getting shot and racial conflict was heightening, among other things.

    You dare me to go up to a rap fan and say some of this stuff to them? Oh you’re right, I should watch my mouth because they might “bust a cap in my ass”, right? Sorry, but I’ve told LOTS of rap fans what I think of rap, and all they did was talk shit, JUST LIKE YOU.

    You’re always good for a laugh, Anthony.

  • Psycho

    Josh i now you never went up to a rap fan you dont got the guts thats
    why you use the computer to get your
    message across.

    Imight be making you laugh butyou have
    no idea how much you are entertaining
    me. DOGG.

  • Josh

    Believe me, Anthony, I’ve confronted plenty of rap fans. Stop acting like you know me, ’cause you don’t know shit. DOGG.

    And you’re using the computer every bit as much as I am.

  • PSYCHO

    Gee I wonder how you answered that so
    fast, what you sit at the computer
    for 3 hours waiting for me.

    Wow i am flattered.

  • PSYCHO

    Fact: Anthony likes to smoke crack while he listens to Feminem, Shitty Cent and Ja Fool. It’s obvious, because only a crackhead would make such mindless comments.

    By the way, congratulations on creating a new person called “Christine”.
    Dumbass.

  • Josh

    Whoops, I made a little mistake there on #46. I accidentally posted under Anthony’s name. Scratch that!

  • Psycho

    Josh i dont see no christina here. Or
    anywhere.

    You love that name so much i have you
    using it minedlessly.

  • Josh

    Thanks for admitting that you posted under the name Christine, and proving to everyone how much of a pussy you really are.

    So tell me, what name are you gonna make up next?

  • Psycho

    How can you blame me for using
    a name i cant even find.

  • Josh

    You’re lying again, Anthony (big surprise). First you said “You love the name Christine so much I have you using it mindlessly”. That proves right there that you posted under that name. And now you’re saying that you didn’t.

    You’re pitiful. Please just stop, alright dogg?

  • Sam

    I am on Anthonys side

  • Josh

    Now you’ve made up a new person named Sam. You’re pathetic.

  • Anthony g

    I wonder why they call him PINK.

  • HW Saxton Jr

    It’s a combination of the names of two
    Carolina/Piedmont bluesmen:Pink Anderson
    and Floyd Council.

  • Chris Allen

    Webmaster,

    Basho Records is pleased to announce the DVD release of the 1960s film THE COMMITTEE on July 4, 2005.

    Starring Paul Jones
    Directed by Peter Sykes
    Written and Produced by Max Steuer (London School of Economics)
    With Music by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
    And a previously unreleased musical score created and performed by Pink Floyd

    Many extras with the DVD.

    For more information, including press release, click on

    http://www.thecommitteethemovie.com

    If you would like links, or participating in distribution, contact:

    info@thecommitteethemovie.com

    All the best, and please spread the word!

    Chris Allen
    Basho Records
    http://www.bashorecords.com

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