5 fundamentally flawed albums you need to own
4. Pink Floyd – Meddle
As Pink Floyd’s sixth studio album, 1971’s Meddle was a rare collaborative effort in which the band’s members made equal lyrical contribution – contrasting with later fare like The Wall and Dark Side Of The Moon, which were essentially the musings of Roger Waters. The album is a result of creative experiments, such as one in which each member played on a separate track with no reference to what the others were playing. (As you can imagine, that particular experiment was jettisoned when no useable material was produced.)
Sessions were lazy affairs, with almost no contact with the record company. The band would drink, get stoned, play around with various riffs and ideas that would inevitably come to nothing. Finally, Rick Wright fed a single piano note through a Leslie speaker and produced a submarine-like ping. They were unable to replicate the sound, but managed to obtain a sample from a demo they’d made and developed the note from there into the basis for ‘Echoes’. The ostinato double-tracked bass on ‘One Of These Days’ was fed through a Binson Echorec; the famous vocal was Nick Mason’s falsetto recorded at double speed and replayed at normal speed. The seagull-squall sound on the guitar was achieved when Dave Gilmour accidentally plugged his wah wah peddle in the wrong way round.
These experiments were necessitated by a severe case of writer’s block. The band spent their days noodling around and experimenting because they literally did not have the tiniest fucking clue what they were doing. The result is collection of great individual songs that don’t really work as an album. There’s the snarling proto-metal of ‘One Of These Days’,
the tranquil ‘Pillow Of Winds’, the contemplative ‘Fearless’, the lazy jazz of ‘San Tropez’ and the canine blues of ‘Seamus’.
There’s not much here to suggest it’s even the same band, let alone the same album. While not every release needs to be a concept album – and I often make a fuss about bands needing more diversity in their repertoire – some sort of general theme that ties it all together makes for a more satisfying experience.
Why you need to own it
Because of ‘Echoes’. Yes, the preceeding five songs are pretty good, but ‘Echoes’ is one of those unique moments in music history that is like some sort of stellar convergence. It was, unusually, written by all four members of the band – and rather than pulling in all directions as they had done on the rest of the album, the genre-spanning result is a summary of all the band’s work to date. It begins as melancholic whimsy, swells to an intricate duel of guitars and organ, kicks back to a laconic funk groove, dissipates to a wasteland of distant squalls, gathers to an ominous and insistent metal thunderstorm and then relaxes into a reprise of the opening sunny bliss. It’s one song that works as one song, without sounding like a compilation tape that’s been chopped up and gaffer-taped together. If only the rest of the album was this cohesive.
Roger Waters considered legal action after hearing The Phantom Of The Opera‘s opening bars (see 3:55 on this clip), but decided against it after declaring “Life’s too long to bother with suing Andrew fucking Lloyd Webber”. That’s not the only time ‘Echoes’ has been plagiarised: I once cheated in English by submitting the lyrics as my descriptive writing assignment. I got an ‘A’.