After touring ‘Atom Heart Mother’, Pink Floyd went back into the studio in early 1971 to record the follow-up.
Album opener ‘One of These Days’ is based around an ostinato bassline of two double-tracked bass guitars but with one of the basses sounding muted and dull due to having old strings (the story is a roadie was sent to get new bass strings but went to see his girlfriend instead). It is an instrumental but there is a distorted voice of Nick Mason saying, “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces.” When it is played live, the song has a fantastic animation sequence by Ian Emes of kids dancing and a multitude of clocks and other objects that fit perfectly to the music.
‘A Pillow of Winds’ is a beautiful pastoral piece on acoustic guitar. There is also fretless bass and slide guitar as well as Richard Wright’s distinctive Hammond organ (and a bit of piano as well) but very little drumming apart from hi-hats. The song title is a reference to one of my favourite games, mah-jong. Which the band played a lot of while on tour.
‘Fearless’ is another acoustic guitar-based song with a lot more piano that has a harder edge to ‘A Winds; but is no less beautiful. There is a field recording of Liverpool fans singing “You’ll never walk alone.” It was never played live by the band, but Roger Waters has played it a few times in his solo shows in 2016.pillow Of
‘San Tropez’ is the third of the four acoustic songs on the first side. Written by Roger Waters (who also sings and plays acoustic guitar on the song), the lyrics are about the small town of Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera in southern France famous for being a hang out of the jet set. Quite a mellow song with a jazz feel, it has both a slide guitar solo and a simple but extended piano solo at the end.
‘Seamus’ is a little bit of silliness before ‘Echoes’. It is a short two-minute country blues novelty (with more acoustic guitars and piano) featuring vocals by (wait for it) a dog. The dog was owned by Steve Marriot of Humble Pie and David Gilmour was looking after it. Though it is quite silly, and many Pink Floyd fans have called it one of their worst songs, I think it is a nice little ditty that actually fits well with the rest of the album and makes ‘Echoes’ worth waiting for. I hope the dog claimed royalties.
“Give us a ping, Rick”. This was a heckle from one of David Gilmour’s solo shows featuring Richard Wright on keyboards. It is that distinct ping at the beginning that maybe feels out of place, but you also know that ‘Echoes’ will not be quite the same without it.
The song opens quite softly with the ping repeating and slowly bringing in the piano (the ping itself was created by a piano through a Leslie speaker) with the guitar coming in afterwards. The drums then emerge after a couple of minutes with the vocals by Richard and David kicking in at about the three-minute mark. The song follows a simple verse, chord and riff structure for the next four minutes with a lovely soulful guitar solo toward the end of this section.
At about the seven-minute mark, the song gets quite funky with the guitar and organ laying down an improvised groove. There are no vocals in this part but some of David’s best guitar playing. Not quite guitar solos but close enough to be interesting.
At about eleven minutes, the song changes again and the funky part fades out and into an ambient piece. There is slide guitar here creating what sounds like screeching and a throbbing wind like sound mixed with a rising and falling organ sound that is just about audible. The wind sound was apparently created by Roger vibrating his bass strings with a steel slide and running it through an Echorec, which is an echo machine. This section gives the impression of marine animals communicating. The screaming sounds like a lot like a seagull and was discovered by David after he accidently plugged in the cables to his delay pedal the wrong way around.
Around the fifteen-minute mark, the ambience dies away and is replaced by a sustained organ chord mixed with the ping from the song’s intro. Ride cymbals slowly build up and the rhythm develops. The guitar comes in, playing what sounds like muted notes as the rhythm builds up, the organ repeats a two-chord progression over a four-note bassline.
A quiet keyboard solo plays over this section as anticipation builds. At about eighteen minutes, the song has a wonderful crescendo with arpeggiated electric guitar line played over crashing cymbals and a heavy bass line.
At nineteen minutes, the vocals come in again with the same melody as earlier in the song but as a different lyrical verse. After the vocals end, the song returns to its riff from the first verse and builds to a final climax with powerful drum fills filled over the main riff.
After the climax, all the instruments quieten down and revert into the verse progression with the guitar and piano trading solos over a mellow drum beat. For the next couple of minutes, the song starts to fade away until all that is left is the ambient throbbing wind from earlier until that eventually fades out as the song ends at twenty-three minutes and thirty-one seconds.
Meddle may not be one of the top five of Pink Floyd’s best albums but it was very well received both by critics and fans and contains two of their best and most imaginative songs. One of which is the epic ‘Echoes’. Roger Waters even said of the songs that they had served their apprenticeship and they can now go on and make Dark Side.