Pink Floyd’s Meddle Turns 50

Today, 50 years ago, Pink Floyd released their sixth studio album Meddle, yet another gem in the treasure trove of 1971 to hit the big milestone. Coming just a little over a year after Atom Heart Mother, Meddle is considered a transitional album that foreshadowed what arguably were the band’s Mount Rushmore releases The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. While the two latter records were always among my favorite Floyd albums, Meddle is a record that grew on me over the years. Nowadays, if I could only pick one, I might actually go with Meddle.

According to Wikipedia, when Pink Floyd went into the studio in January 1971, they had no clear idea what kind of record they wanted to make. Apparently, the work started out with some novel experiments that inspired what would become my favorite Pink Floyd track these days, the mighty Echoes. Unlike the group’s later albums that increasingly were dominated by themes and lyrics devised by Roger Waters, Meddle featured lyrical contributions from each band member.

Meddle inner gatefold (from left): Roger Waters, Nick Mason, David Gilmour and Richard Wright

The recording sessions for Meddle stretched out over eight months from January through August 1970. That’s because Pink Floyd had concert commitments throughout that period, which forced starts and stops. During that same timeframe, the band was also working on Relics, a great compilation album of their early work with Syd Barrett. Considering all these distractions, it’s quite remarkable to me that Meddle turned out to be such a masterpiece.

There were also some technical challenges. At the time Pink Floyd started work on the album at Abbey Road Studios, the facility only had eight-track recording technology, something the band found insufficient for their needs. As such, they ended up working at other smaller studios in London, which already were equipped with 16-track recording technology.

Time for some music! Let’s start with the opening instrumental One of These Days, which is credited to all four members of the band. The dominant pumping bassline was double-tracked, with each Roger Waters and David Gilmour playing one track. The cheerful line, “One of these days I will cut you into little pieces,” was spoken by drummer Nick Mason. Songfacts notes it was “digitally warped to give it an evil sound to it” – mission accomplished!

Fearless is an acoustic tune co-written by Gilmour and Waters. According to Wikipedia, Waters played it in a guitar tuning called open G, which Syd Barrett had taught him. In this tuning, the lower E and A strings and the high e string are each tuned down by one note to D, G and d, respectively, so a G major chord can be played without fretting a string. The crowd of people that can be heard near the beginning and at end of the song is a field recording of Liverpool soccer fans chanting their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The final track on side one is Seamus, a country blues style song credited to all members of the band. The tune was named after a dog that belonged to Steve Marriott, the frontman of Humble Pie at the time. Songfacts notes the dog would bark and howl every time he heard music, or if someone played the guitar. In fact, the dog can be heard barking and howling throughout the entire track. Pink Floyd biographer Nicholas Schaffner dismissed the tune. Gilmour essentially admitted the song wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, saying, “I guess it wasn’t really as funny to everyone else [as] it was to us.”

This brings me to the only tune that makes up the entire side two of the album. While at 23 and a half minutes Echoes is a pretty long track, no post about Meddle would be complete without it. Once again, Echoes was credited to the entire band. The ambient sound effects and musical improvisation resemble what Pink Floyd would take to the next level a few years later on The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. I’ve really come to love this epic track!

Overall, Meddle was well received by music critics when it came out. It also enjoyed significant chart success, especially in Europe where it climbed to no. 3, no. 7, no. 11 and no. 2 in the UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands, respectively. The performance was more moderate in the U.S. and Canada where Meddle reached no. 70 and no. 51, respectively.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

Advertisement

10 thoughts on “Pink Floyd’s Meddle Turns 50”

    1. I started my Pink Floyd journey with “Wish You Were” and “Dark Side of the Moon” in like 1978 or so and fell in love with those records. Then “The Wall” came out in ’79, and I liked that album as well and got it right away. Somehow that line, “Teachers leaves us kids alone,” sounded attractive to a pseudo-rebellious 13-year-old! 🙂

      Only sometime in the ’80s did I start to explore Floyd’s earlier music. I got to “Meddle” relatively late, and it was a bit of an acquired taste. Nowadays, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s funny how music can grow on you.

      The title track is just unbelievable and really foreshadows “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”. I also dig that pumping bassline on “One of These Days.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never got into them a lot until I heard their debut album…I love that sound they had. I do like a selection of their songs of course but I need to dive into this one.

        Like

    1. Naja, das sind ja dann schon mal locker ca. 61 Prozent der Platte, d.h. nicht allzu weit entfernt von zwei Drittel. Und “two out of three ain’t bad” wie der weise Meat Loaf einst sang! 🙂

      Sicherlich besteht hier kein Zweifel, dass “Echoes” und “One of These Days” die herausragenden Stuecke sind. Von den anderen Sachen gefaellt mir insbesondere “Fearless”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Musik ist halt Geschmackssache. Für mich haben Pink Floyd mit ihren 69er Album „A Saucerful Of Secrets“ einen musikalischen Trip gefahren, der später nur noch bombastischer und perfekter geworden ist, aber nie mehr so gefühlsnahe und unvermittelt daherkam.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Mein Einstieg zu Pink Floyd in den spaeten siebziger Jahren waren “Wish You Were Here” und “Dark Side of the Moon,” die mir beide sofort gefielen und die nach wie vor zu meinen Lieblingsalben von Floyd zaehlen.

        Mit den frueheren Sachen wurde ich erst spaeter warm, hier insbesondere “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. “A Saucerful of Secrets”, “More” und “Ummagumma” finde ich zwar ebenfalls nicht schlecht, haben mich allerdings nie so angesprochen wie die einfuehrend genannten Album und “Meddle.”

        Aber Du sagst voellig zurecht, dass Musik letztlich Geschmackssache ist. Und dies ist ja auch gut so!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: