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It's the 50th Anniversary of Pink Floyd's Debut Album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'

Pink Floyd at the mixing desk whilst recording their album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' in Abbey Road Studios. © Andrew Whittuck

50 years ago on the 5th August 1967 Pink Floyd released their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It came out two years after the band formed and is the only full album recorded with Syd Barrett. It was not only an album that tapped into the psychedelia of their live performances of the time, it also had the experimental elements that would come to define their sound. Like the use of acousmatic audio—seemingly random or fragmented sounds—and musique concrète.

The recording took place at Abbey Road studios. The album was produced by Beatles producer Norman Smith and was recorded at the same time, in the next studio, that the Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Candid image of Roger Waters at Abbey Road Studios in June 1967 whilst Pink Floyd finished off recording their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'. © Andrew Whittuck

In his memoir, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason recalls that the recording of it seemed relaxed. He notes that they were finishing songs in just one or two days, recording in three hour blocks in the morning, afternoon and evening. Then they’d go off and do gigs.

In fact Mason notes how the album was very much influenced by the sound of their live shows at the time, which were taking place at legendary venues like the UFO Club and the Roundhouse. Mason saying they were “effectively recording our live set” while noting that “listening to Piper now gives a rough indication of the set list we’d been playing [at the clubs].”

The original members of Pink Floyd onstage at the Roundhouse, London in July 1967. © Colin N. Purvor

Smith’s contribution can’t be understated either, bringing his production skills to the album. This meant adding structure through harmonies and arrangements, along with opening the band’s eyes to the potential of Abbey Road’s library of sounds and equipment.

“[Smith] also helped to reveal all the possibilities contained in Abbey Road’s collection of instruments and sound effects.” notes Mason. “Once we realised their potential we quickly started introducing all kinds of extraneous elements, from the radio voice cutting into 'Astronomy Domine' to the clocks on the outro of 'Bike'. This flirtation with ‘music concrete’ was by no means unique...but it was a relative novelty at the time, and from then on became a regular element in our creative process.”

Syd Barrett captured in a candid moment at Abbey Road Studios whilst rehearsing for the recording of 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' in June 1967. © Andrew Whittuck

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn went on to become a top 10 album in the UK on its release, climbing to No. 6. It has gone on to become a classic of 1960s psychedelia and a cherished LP from the band, especially due to Syd Barrett’s input. At the time the Record Mirror said, “the psychedelic image of the group really comes to life on this LP, which is a fine showcase for both their talent and the recording technique. Plenty of mind blowing sound, both blatant and subtle here, and the whole thing is extremely well performed.

Writing about the album in 1999 Rolling Stone noted it was “the golden achievement of Syd Barrett”. They also included it as number 347 in their 500 greatest albums of all time.

Since the album debut it has had a few re-releases, most notably in 2007 for the 40th anniversary when EMI released a deluxe 3-CD edition of the album. It's a must for fans and features stereo and mono mixes of the album, along with a bonus CD of the band's early singles and two unreleased alternate takes, one of "Matilda Mother" and "Take 6" of "Interstellar Overdrive".

The original band members of Pink Floyd relaxing at Abbey Road Studios whilst recording their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' in June 1967. © Andrew Whittuck

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these iconic Pink Floyd images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.

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