MEDDLE: The Classic Pink Floyd Begins

October 31, 1971. MEDDLE by Pink Floyd

MEDDLE was Pink Floyd becoming the classic band most listeners are familiar with. After Syd Barrett’s 1968 departure from the band, Floyd flailed along releasing several uneven, sporadically excellent, but often directionless albums. MEDDLE is Pink Floyd finding their post-Barrett musical voice and direction where the songs are allowed to breath and grow. Everything you hear on DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, and onward, started on this album.

ROLLING STONE magazine’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.”

The band returned from the ATOM HEART MOTHER tour across America and England and in January 1971 they returned to Abbey Road Studios to work on new material. However, at the time, Abbey Road was equipped with only eight-track multi-track facilities, and the band found that insufficient for their increasingly technical demands of more layered music. They transferred their Abbey recordings to George Martin’s sixteen-track AIR studio, and Morgan Studios in West Hampstead, London. Without a central theme for their new project, each band member created separate tracks, 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. The band labeled these tracks “Nothing”, which they ultimately turned into a track called “Son of Nothing,” and with more experimentation, it was called “Return of the Son of Nothing.” One of these “nothings” consisted of keyboardist Richard Wright feeding a single piano note through a Leslie speaker, which created a submarine-like “ping!”.

“Return of the Son of Nothing” was finally renamed “Echoes” and this is first magnificent song where Pink Floyd finds its groove – atmospheric, spacey dreamy melody featuring Waters and Gilmore singing together, Gilmore’s stinging guitar playing over the lush bed of keyboards, drums and bass, with Rogers’ first set of insightful lyrics. It is now acknowledged as one of the greatest Progressive Rock songs.  

The NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS called it “an exceptionally good album.” 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” However, MELODY MAKER described it as “a soundtrack to a non-existent movie”.