Arts and Entertainment

Don’t “Meddle” With Pink Floyd’s Most Influential Album

A review of Pink Floyd’s “Meddle” (1971), as well as discussion about why it was crucial to the band’s later successes.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By way of introduction, Pink Floyd was a rock band formed in England in 1964. After the ‘65 and ‘68 departures of founding members Bob Klose and Syd Barett, the band’s lineup consisted of Nick Mason (drums), Richard Wright (keyboard/organ), Roger Waters (bass/vocals), and David Gilmour (guitar). In the mid-to-late sixties, Pink Floyd first became known for their psychedelic music, which consisted of long, eccentric, and spontaneous compositions, and caught the eye of several small English venues. However, throughout the seventies, they switched from the improvisation involved in their earlier work to a more formal approach to psychedelic rock, adopting progressive rock: a fusion of psychedelic rock with jazz, the blues, folk, and other genres. By the mid-seventies, Pink Floyd was one of the world’s leading rock bands, having released renowned classics such as “Dark Side of the Moon” (1973) and “Wish You Were Here” (1975).

Though it may not be as critically acclaimed as “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Meddle” (1971), their sixth studio album, was without a doubt pivotal in the path of the group, acting as a manifestation of Pink Floyd’s change in direction from psychedelic rock to progressive rock in a period during which they were struggling to stay afloat––the group’s last few years had been plagued by poor management and creative disagreements, leaving it without a substantial creative force and direction.

In order to revitalize their creative process, Pink Floyd tried something new (these experiments were dubbed Nothings) by separating the members and having them play on separate tracks without knowing what the others were doing. Though this process didn’t yield much, the band found inspiration from a single piano note that Richard Wright fed through a speaker, producing a ping-like sound. From this, the band developed “Return of the Son of Nothings,” which became the working title of this album and went on to be included in many parts of the 23-minute-long monster track “Echoes.” Though “Meddle” didn’t have a promising start, contributions from all four members helped evolve it into a diverse album, from trippy subliminal sounds to playful, lazy ballads layered over wind sound effects.

In typical Floyd fashion, the first song, “One of These Days,” is composed of a several minute long buildup with disorienting wind sounds and a resonating bassline, which rapidly spirals into a lively jazzy rock song––a symbolic representation of Meddle as Pink Floyd’s transitions from a more psychedelic sound to progressive rock. This track beautifully segues into “A Pillow of Winds,” a soft, light-hearted acoustic love ballad. The next song, “Fearless,” largely gives off the same mood as its predecessor with a twist––recordings of soccer team Liverpool FC’s fans singing their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” fade in and out of Gilmour’s calming vocals.

“San Tropez” continues the happy vibe evoked throughout the album. The jazzy, playful tone set by this pop hit makes it one of Pink Floyd’s happier songs. “Seamus”, the last song on the A-side of this album, is a two-minute bluesy track featuring a dog named Seamus howling in response to guitar music. It really isn’t anything to write home about, but if any group can make something ridiculous work, it’s Pink Floyd.

The entire B-side of the album consists of the 23-minute epic “Echoes.” Starting with the same high-pitched ping that streamlined the creative process for “Meddle,” the song drifts into a calm melody with a seriously addictive riff, similar to those from “Dark Side of the Moon,” accompanied by soft vocals and Nick Mason’s drumming. After 10 or so minutes, the song shifts to desolate, haunting howling wind effects, eventually drifting back again into something reminiscent of “Brain Damage/Eclipse” from “Dark Side of the Moon.” This monumental track quite literally serves as a musical predecessor to many of the tunes heard in Pink Floyd's most critically acclaimed album––a stepping stone in itself.

Although it only peaked at #70 on the Billboard 200, “Meddle” is one of Pink Floyd’s most important albums, serving as inspiration not only for their later work, but for progressive rock as a whole. Countless artists and bands, including Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, and My Bloody Valentine––have been influenced by Pink Floyd’s music, especially by “Dark Side of the Moon,” which would not have come about if it weren’t for its 1971 predecessor. The mixture of psychedelic sounds and jazzy rock typically associated with progressive rock made “Meddle” an organic segue from nascent Pink Floyd to the world-beating Pink Floyd everyone knows and loves.