Meddle

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Meddle
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 30 October 1971
Recorded January – August 1971 at
AIR Studios, Abbey Road Studios, and Morgan Studios
(London, United Kingdom)
Genre Progressive rock
Length 46:46
Language English
Label Harvest, EMI
Producer Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd chronology
Atom Heart Mother
(1970)
Meddle
(1971)
Obscured by Clouds
(1972)
Singles from Meddle
  1. "One of These Days" / "Fearless"
    Released: 29 November 1971

Meddle is the sixth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released on 30 October 1971 by Harvest Records. It was produced between the band's touring commitments, from January to August 1971. The album was recorded at a series of locations around London, including Abbey Road Studios and Morgan Studios.

With no material to work with and no clear idea of the album's direction, the band devised a series of novel experiments which eventually inspired the album's signature track, "Echoes". Although many of the group's later albums would be unified by a central theme with lyrics written mainly by Roger Waters, Meddle was a group effort with lyrical contributions from each member. The cover, containing a close-up shot of an ear underwater, was, as with several previous albums, designed by Hipgnosis, though Storm Thorgerson was unhappy with the final result.

The album was well received by music critics upon its release. However, despite being commercially successful in the United Kingdom, lacklustre publicity on the part of their United States-based label led to poor sales there.

Recording[edit]

Returning from a series of tours of Atom Heart Mother across America and England, at the start of 1971 the band started work on new material at Abbey Road.[1] At the time, Abbey Road was equipped only with eight-track multitrack recording facilities, which Pink Floyd found insufficient for the increasing technical demands of their project. They transferred their best efforts, including the opening of "Echoes", to 16-track tape at smaller studios in London (namely AIR, and Morgan in West Hampstead) and resumed work with the advantage of more flexible recording equipment. Engineers John Leckie and Peter Bown recorded the main Abbey Road and AIR sessions, while for minor work at Morgan studios in West Hampstead Rob Black and Roger Quested handled the engineering duties.[2]

Lacking a central theme for the project, the band used several experiments in a divergent attempt to spur the creative process. One exercise involved each member playing on a separate track, with no reference to what the other members were doing. The tempo was entirely random while the band played around an agreed chord structure, and moods such as 'first two minutes romantic, next two up tempo'. Each recorded section was named, but the process was largely unproductive; after several weeks no complete songs had been created.[3]

John Leckie had worked on albums such as George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Ringo Starr's Sentimental Journey, and was employed as a tape-operator on Meddle, partly for his proclivity for working into the early hours of the morning. Pink Floyd's sessions would often begin in the afternoon, and end early the next morning, "...during which time nothing would get done. There was no record company contact whatsoever, except when their label manager would show up now and again with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of joints."[4] The band would apparently spend long periods of time working on simple sounds, or a particular guitar riff. They also spent several days at Air Studios, attempting to create music using a variety of household objects, a project which would be revisited between their next albums, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.[5]

Following these early experiments—called "Nothings"—the band developed "Son of Nothings", which was followed by "Return of the Son of Nothings"—the working title of the new album. One of these early works involved the use of Richard Wright's piano. Wright had fed a single note through a Leslie speaker, producing a submarine-like ping. The band tried repeatedly to recreate this sound in the studio but were unsuccessful, and so the demo version was used on what would later become "Echoes",[3] mixed almost exclusively at Air Studios.[6] Combined with David Gilmour's guitar, the band were able to develop the track further, experimenting with accidental sound effects (such as Gilmour's guitar being plugged into a wah-wah pedal back to front). Unlike Atom Heart Mother the new multi-track capabilities of the studio enabled them to create the track in stages, rather than performing it in a single take. The final 23-minute piece would eventually take up the entire second side of the album.[7]

"One of These Days" was developed around an ostinato bassline created by Roger Waters, by feeding the output through a Binson Echorec. The bass line was performed by Waters and David Gilmour using two bass guitars, one on old strings. Nick Mason's abstruse "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces" line was recorded at double speed using a falsetto voice, and replayed at normal speed.[8]

Meddle was recorded between the band's various concert commitments, and therefore its production was spread over a considerable period of time.[2] The band recorded in the first half of April, but in the latter half played at Doncaster and Norwich before returning to record at the end of the month. In May they split their time between sessions at Abbey Road, and rehearsals and concerts in London, Lancaster, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Nottingham. June and July were spent mainly performing at venues across Europe.[2][9] August was spent in the far east and Australia, September in Europe, and October to November in the US.[2] In the same period the band also produced Relics, a compilation album of some of Pink Floyd's earlier works.[10] A quadraphonic mix of the album was prepared at Command Studios on 21 and 26 September, but remains unreleased.[11][12]

Composition[edit]

"Echoes" may best demonstrate the band's change in style from psychedelic to progressive rock

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Though the tracks possess a variety of moods, Meddle is generally considered more cohesive than its 1970 predecessor Atom Heart Mother.[13] The largely instrumental "One of These Days" is followed by "A Pillow of Winds", which is distinguished by being one of the few quiet, acoustic love songs in the Pink Floyd catalogue. These two songs segue into each other across windy sound effects, anticipating the technique that would later be used on Wish You Were Here. The title of "A Pillow of Winds" was inspired by the games of Mahjong that Waters and Mason, and their wives, played while in the south of France.[14]

The song "Fearless" (the title is the football equivalent of 'formidable') employs field recordings of the Liverpool F.C. Kop choir singing "You'll Never Walk Alone", their anthem, which brings the song to an end in a heavily reverberated fade-out. "San Tropez", by contrast, is a jazz-inflected pop song with a shuffle tempo, composed by Waters in his increasingly deployed style of breezy, off-the-cuff song-writing. The song was inspired by the band's trip to the south of France in 1970. Pink Floyd give a rare glimpse into their sense of humour with "Seamus", a pseudo-blues novelty track featuring Steve Marriott's dog (which Gilmour was looking after) howling along to the music.[14][nb 1] "Seamus" often tops polls as the worst song Pink Floyd ever created, but the band would later use animal sounds again, in Animals.[15]

The final song on the album is the 23-minute "Echoes". First performed as "Return of the Son of Nothing" on 22 April 1971 in Norwich,[16] the band spent about six months on the track in three studios (Morgan, Air, and Abbey Road).[12] The track opens with Richard Wright's 'ping'. "Echoes" was recorded almost entirely at Air Studios,[6] and completed in July 1971.[12] "Echoes" also gave its name to the compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd, on which a much-edited version of the title track was included. In the compilation, multiple edits throughout the entire song cut the running length of the piece down by some seven minutes. Some of the material composed during the production of Meddle was not used, however one song would eventually become "Brain Damage", on The Dark Side of the Moon.[13][17]

Packaging[edit]

The album's title Meddle is a play on words; a medal, and to interfere.[15] Storm Thorgerson originally suggested a close-up shot of a baboon's anus for the album cover photograph. He was overruled by the band, who informed him via an inter-continental telephone call while on tour in Japan that they would rather have "an ear underwater".[18] The cover image was photographed by Bob Dowling. The image represents an ear, underwater, collecting waves of sound (represented by ripples in the water).[15] Thorgerson has expressed dissatisfaction with the cover, claiming it to be his least favourite Pink Floyd album sleeve: "I think Meddle is a much better album than its cover".[19] Aubrey Powell (Thorgerson's colleague) shares his sentiments—"Meddle was a mess. I hated that cover. I don't think we did them justice with that at all; it's half-hearted."[20] The gatefold contains a group photograph of the band (Floyd's last until 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason).[19]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[21]
BBC Music favourable[22]
Billboard favourable[23]
Blender 4/5 stars[24]
Robert Christgau B−[25]
Q 3/5 stars[26]
Rolling Stone favourable[27]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[28]

Meddle was released on 30 October 1971 in the US, and 13 November in the UK.[nb 2] Meddle was later released as a remastered LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab,[32] and in April 1989 on their "Ultradisc" gold CD format.[33] The album was included as part of the box set Shine On on 2 November 1992.[nb 3][35]

Although in the UK it reached number three, lacklustre publicity on the part of Capitol Records led to weak sales in the US, and a chart position of number 70.[30][36] On 29 November 1971, "One of These Days" was released as a 7-inch single in the US, with "Fearless" on the B-side.[37] "One of These Days" and "Echoes" were performed during Live At Pompeii (the latter in two parts) and also on the BBC's 1971 In Concert.[38][39] Meddle was later certified gold by the RIAA on 29 October 1973 and then double platinum on 11 March 1994, following the added attention garnered by the band's later successes in the United States.[40]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its release, Meddle received generally positive reviews from music critics.[23] Rolling Stone's Jean-Charles Costa wrote "Meddle not only confirms lead guitarist David Gilmour's emergence as a real shaping force with the group, it states forcefully and accurately that the group is well into the growth track again",[27] and NME called it "an exceptionally good album".[41] Steve Peterson of Hit Parader cited "Fearless" as its best song and said of the album, "This has got to be their best ever."[23] Ed Kelleher of Circus called it "another masterpiece by a masterful group", noting "Fearless" as "fascinating" and praising "Echoes" as "a tone poem that allows all four group members much time to stretch their muscles."[23] However, Melody Maker was more reserved, claiming that it is "...a soundtrack to a non-existent movie".[41] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a B- rating,[25] indicating "a competent or mildly interesting record that will usually feature at least three worthwhile cuts."[42] He called it "not bad", commenting that "Echoes" "moves through 23:21 of 'Across the Universe' cop with the timeless calm of interstellar overdrive, and the acoustic-type folk songs boast their very own melodies."[25] Although he criticized the lyrics of "A Pillow of Winds", Christgau quipped, "The word 'behold' should never cross their filters again, but this is definitely an improvement: one eensy-weensy step for humanity, one giant step for Pink Floyd."[25]

In a retrospective review, Daryl Easlea of BBC wrote of the album in comparison to Atom Heart Mother, "In many respects, Meddle, released a little over a year later, is the same again, only with much, much, better tunes and less clutter."[22] Easlea commented that "Echoes" "dominates the entire work", calling it "everything right about progressive rock; engaging, intelligent and compelling."[22] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), music journalist Rob Sheffield gave the album three-and-a-half out of five stars and stated, "Meddle introduced the Floyd's mature style in the 23-minute instrumental 'Echoes,' coloring the slow guitar ripples with deep-in-the-studio sonic details that only the truly baked would notice, much less appreciate."[28] Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented that the album "spends most of its time with sonic textures and elongated compositions, most notably on its epic closer, 'Echoes.'" He noted a "uniform tone", but not song structure, and wrote the album's significance in the group's catalogue, "Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era [...] [T]he album is one of the Floyd's most consistent explorations of mood, especially from their time at Harvest, and it stands as the strongest record they released between Syd's departure and Dark Side."[21]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
1. "One of These Days"   Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour Instrumental[nb 4] 5:57
2. "A Pillow of Winds"   Waters, Gilmour Gilmour 5:10
3. "Fearless" (including "You'll Never Walk Alone") Waters, Gilmour (including Rodgers, Hammerstein II) Gilmour 6:08
4. "San Tropez"   Waters Waters 3:43
5. "Seamus"   Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour Gilmour 2:16
Side two
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
1. "Echoes"   Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour Gilmour and Wright 23:29

Sales chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Position
1971 UK Albums Chart 3[12][44]
1971 Billboard Pop Albums 70[45]

Personnel[edit]

Credits taken from sleeve notes.[46]

Pink Floyd
Additional personnel
  • Rob Black – engineering (Morgan Studio)
  • Peter Bown – engineering (Air and EMI Studios)
  • Peter Curzon – design on album remaster
  • Bob Dowling – outer sleeve photos
  • James Guthrie – remastering
  • Hipgnosis – band photo
  • John Leckie – engineering (Air and EMI Studios)
  • Tony May – inner sleeve photos
  • Pink Floyd – album cover design
  • Roger Quested – engineering (Morgan Studio)
  • Doug Sax – remastering
  • Seamus the Dog – vocals on "Seamus"
  • Storm Thorgerson – design on album remaster

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ "Seamus" was remade as "Mademoiselle Nobs", featuring a different dog and no lyrics, in the film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.[14]
  2. ^ Povey (2007) suggests that the UK release date was 5 November,[29] but Mabbett (1995) and Pink Floyd's official website both state 13 November. All sources agree on the US release date.[30][31]
  3. ^ UK - EMI PFBOX 1, US - Columbia CXK 53180 S1[34]
  4. ^ The song is entirely instrumental, except for a spoken line by Nick Mason.[43]
Footnotes
  1. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 152–153
  2. ^ a b c d Mason 2005, p. 157
  3. ^ a b Mason 2005, p. 153
  4. ^ Harris 2006, p. 62
  5. ^ Harris 2006, pp. 63–64
  6. ^ a b Mabbett 1995, p. 42
  7. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 153–154
  8. ^ Mason 2005, p. 155
  9. ^ Povey 2007, pp. 142–144
  10. ^ Mason 2005, p. 158
  11. ^ Povey 2007, p. 148
  12. ^ a b c d Snider 2008, p. 103
  13. ^ a b Schaffner 1991, p. 160
  14. ^ a b c Mason 2005, p. 156
  15. ^ a b c Schaffner 1991, p. 155
  16. ^ Harris 2006, p. 64
  17. ^ Povey 2007, p. 155
  18. ^ Mason 2005, p. 160
  19. ^ a b Blake 2007, p. 166
  20. ^ Harris 2006, pp. 142–143
  21. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas, "Meddle: Overview", Allmusic, retrieved 6 September 2009 
  22. ^ a b c Easlea, Daryl (17 April 2007), Pink Floyd Meddle Review, bbc.co.uk, retrieved 20 August 2009 
  23. ^ a b c d "Pink Floyd - Meddle", Billboard, 1972, retrieved 6 September 2009 
  24. ^ Twist, Carlo, Meddle - Blender, blender.com, retrieved 20 August 2009 [dead link]
  25. ^ a b c d Christgau, Robert, Pink Floyd: Meddle, robertchristgau.com, retrieved 20 August 2009 
  26. ^ Q, October 1995: 137, "3 Stars - Good - "...The four were at their most collectively prolific at this time..."" 
  27. ^ a b Costa, Jean-Charles (6 January 1972), Pink Floyd: Meddle, rollingstone.com, retrieved 19 August 2009 
  28. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (2 November 2004). "Pink Floyd: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media, Fireside Books. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  29. ^ Povey 2007, p. 150
  30. ^ a b Mabbett 1995, p. 39
  31. ^ Pink Floyd - Echoes (click Echoes image link), pinkfloyd.co.uk, retrieved 22 August 2009 
  32. ^ MFSL Out of Print Archive - Original Master Recording LP, mofi.com, retrieved 3 August 2009 [dead link]
  33. ^ MFSL Out of Print Archive - Ultradisc II Gold CD, mofi.com, retrieved 3 August 2009 [dead link]
  34. ^ Povey 2007, p. N/A
  35. ^ Eder, Bruce, Shine On - Review, allmusic.com, retrieved 15 August 2009 
  36. ^ Harris 2006, pp. 158–161
  37. ^ Povey 2007, p. 344
  38. ^ Mabbett 1995, p. 43
  39. ^ Harris 2006, p. 67
  40. ^ US Certifications Database, riaa.com, retrieved 22 August 2009 
  41. ^ a b Schaffner 1991, pp. 155–156
  42. ^ Christgau, Robert (15 October 2000). "CG 70s: The Grades". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  43. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "One of These Days". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  44. ^ "Pink Floyd UK Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  45. ^ Pink Floyd - Charts & Awards - Billboard Albums, allmusic.com, retrieved 19 August 2009 
  46. ^ Meddle (sleeve). Pink Floyd. Harvest Records. 
Bibliography
Further reading