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On This Day : Pink Floyd debut released 50 years ago today

Pink Floyd’s ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ came out on 5th August 1967 in the UK. Before this crucial debut, most of the band’s fans were those who frequented London’s UFO Club, famous for providing a platform for psychedelic music. The record helped Pink Floyd leave behind the underground scene and achieve mainstream success in the UK.

Just like the group’s early singles, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ was almost exclusively the work of guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, who wrote eight of the 11 songs and co-wrote two. Barrett was Pink Floyd’s original composer and conceptual leader, and he’s often described by fans and critics as a genius and visionary for his role in shaping the band’s distinctive sound. Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour shortly after ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ was released due to his mental health problems, and Roger Waters subsequently became the chief songwriter.

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The record’s first song ‘Astronomy Domine’ is now considered a definitive piece of 60s psychedelia. Its genre is often said to be space rock, and it’s also an important predecessor to progressive rock. The American edition replaced ‘Astronomy Domine’ with ‘See Emily Play’, a pleasantly melodic tune and one of three Pink Floyd songs to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” list.

The 10-minute instrumental track ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ was born out of Barrett’s eagerness for experimentation, and it’s one of the first examples of psychedelic improvisation ever recorded. The album also includes Waters’s debut songwriting credit: ‘Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk’ has many avant-garde elements characteristic of the psychedelic music of the time. The rhythm of the song keeps on continuously increasing in speed until all the instruments merge into an abstract sound.

Interestingly, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ was recorded at the same time as the Beatles were working on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in a different room at Abbey Road Studios. It’s fascinating to consider the potential influence that the two bands may have had on each other, especially since ‘Sgt. Pepper’ is the most psychedelic Beatles album.

The release of Pink Floyd’s debut marks an important chapter in music history. Its critical acclaim has been on the rise since 1967, and it has inspired generations of musicians. It lay down the foundation for the progressive sound that eventually made the quartet one of the world’s most influential rock bands.

Pink Floyd attained worldwide fame in 1973 with ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, and their career spanned nearly two decades with the line-up of Waters, Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason. They released 11 albums under Waters’s leadership, seven of which achieved Platinum certification. They made three more records after Waters left the band in 1985, the final one being 2014’s ‘Endless River’, posthumously featuring Wright, who had passed away in 2008, six years after Barrett.

Waters is currently on a North American tour after releasing his fourth solo album earlier this year. Gilmour’s concert film ‘Live in Pompeii’, recorded in 2016, is going to be shown in cinemas all over the world for one night only on 13th September.

Pink Floyd