pays the piper

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is Pink Floyd's debut album and the only one made under Syd Barrett's leadership, although he made some contributions to the follow-up, A Saucerful of Secrets. It has been regarded as one of the most influential albums ever made, being a tremendous influence on the psychedelic rock scene of the time and much of what followed. The album has whimsical lyrics about space, scarecrows, gnomes, bicycles and fairytales, along with psychedelic instrumental passages. Special limited editions were issued to mark its 30th and 40th anniversaries in 1997 and 2007.


In January 1967, prior to recording The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the band had produced at Sound Techniques Studio in London a single entitled Arnold Layne. The single was later released in March of that year and reached #20 in the British charts. Also in January the band had recorded a 16-minute version of Interstellar Overdrive and an improvised jam called Nick's Boogie, for Peter Whitehead's documentary film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London. (The latter track wasn't released until 1991 on the CD reissue of the film's soundtrack). The band's live show consisted mainly of instrumental numbers and blues covers, however they had started to introduce songs which were written primarily by guitarist and lead vocalist Syd Barrett. Many of these songs written by Barrett appeared at the Games For May concert several months before the release of the album.

Recording history

Recording of the album began on the 21 February 1967 in studio three of Abbey Road Studios at the same time The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Pretty Things were recording S.F. Sorrow. The album was produced by Norman Smith, an EMI staff member who had previously engineered all of The Beatles recordings up to 1965's Rubber Soul. Smith would go on to produce Pink Floyd's follow up album, A Saucerful of Secrets. "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Matilda Mother" were two of the first tracks recorded, as the latter was viewed as a potential single. An early, unoverdubbed, shortened mix of the album's "Interstellar Overdrive" was used for a French EP released that July. In April, the band recorded both "Percy the Rat Catcher" (this would later be called "Lucifer Sam"), and a currently unreleased track called "She Was a Millionaire". At some point during the album's creation, Nick Mason recalled that they were "ushered" into studio 2 where The Beatles were recording "Lovely Rita". Several conflicting views surround how efficiently the recording of the album actually went. In his book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason recalled that the sessions went smoothly and that the whole process was extremely efficient. Norman Smith however, condemned both the album's recording and the band members' musical abilities. Smith later stated that the sessions were "sheer hell". However, both "The Gnome" and "The Scarecrow" were recorded in one take. Indeed a large proportion of the album is credited solely to Barrett, with tracks such as "Bike" having been written in late 1966 before the album was even started. "Bike" was originally entitled "The Bike Song", and it was recorded on 21 May 1967. The last recording session took place on 5 July 1967, with the track "Pow R. Toc H." being one of the last songs added to the album.

Album cover and title

Vic Singh photographed and designed the album cover, unlike subsequent Pink Floyd albums. The album remains one of the few to actually feature the band members on the front cover. The album's title comes from the title of Chapter Seven, "THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN," of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, where Rat and Mole, while searching for Portly, the lost son of Otter, are drawn to a place where the 'Piper' is playing on his reed flute.

"`This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. `Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'"

(The 'Piper' referred to is the Greek god Pan.)

Portly was found near Pan.

The title was later referred to by Stevie Wonder in the song "Power Flower" from the 1979 album Journey through the Secret Life of Plants ("Fire and air, earth water I prepare/I am the piper at the gates of dawning"), by Van Morrison in the song "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" from his 1997 album The Healing Game and also by the metal band Iron Maiden in the song "Wicker Man" from the 2000 album Brave New World ("The piper at the gates of dawn is calling you his way"). Furthermore, Pink Floyd's later song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," dedicated to Barrett and detailing his decline, refers to him as "you piper, you prisoner;" this may also be an allusion to the album's title.

Release history

The original UK LP (with a monaural mix) was released on 5 August 1967, and one month later it was released in stereophonic mix. It reached #6 on the UK charts.

The original U.S. album appeared on the Tower Records division of Capitol Records in October 1967. This version (Tower ST-5093) was officially entitled simply Pink Floyd though the original album title did appear on the back cover as on the UK issue. The U.S. album featured an abbreviated track listing and reached #131 on the Billboard charts. A UK single, "See Emily Play", was substituted for "Astronomy Domine", "Flaming" and "Bike". The Tower Records vinyl issue also faded out "Interstellar Overdrive" and broke up the segue into "The Gnome" because the songs were re-sequenced. Later U.S. issues on CD had the same title and track list as the UK version.

The Canadian LP (Capitol ST-6242) had the same title and track listing as the UK version.

In 1973, the album, along with A Saucerful of Secrets, was released as a double disc set on EMI/Capitol's Harvest Records label entitled, A Nice Pair. (Note - in the U.S. version of that compilation, the original 4 minute studio version of "Astronomy Domine" was replaced with the 8 minute live version found on "Ummagumma"). The U.S. edition of "A Nice Pair" also failed to properly restore the segue between "Interstellar Overdrive" and "The Gnome."

The stereo mix of the album was first released on CD in 1987, and re-released as a digitally re-mastered CD in 1994 and then in June 1995 in the U.S. In 1997 EMI released a re-mastered, limited-run mono mix version in a hefty digipak with 3-D box art for continental Europe and the world outside America. This mono CD included a slightly edited version of "Flaming". A six track bonus CD 1967: The First Three Singles was given away alongside the 1997 30th anniversary edition of the album. This release has been cited by many as having poor sound quality.

  • 1999 CD Capitol 59857
  • 1987 CD Capitol C2-46384
  • 1967 LP Tower ST-5093
  • 1995 CD EMI 7243 8 31261
  • 1994 CD Capitol 46384
  • 2001 CD EMI 65731
  • 1994 CD Capitol 1073


At the time of release, the album was received positively and in subsequent years the record is recognised as one of the seminal psychedelic rock albums of the 1960s. In 1967, both Record Mirror and NME gave the album four stars out of five. Record Mirror commented that "the psychedelic image of the group really comes to life on this LP, which is a fine showcase for both their talent and the recording technique. Plenty of mindblowing sound." Cash Box called it a "striking collection of driving, up to date rock ventures." Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd's past producer Joe Boyd, both rated the album highly. Some, most notably Pete Townshend, voiced the opinion of the underground fans, by suggesting that the album did not reflect the band's live performances. In recent years the album has gained even more recognition. In 1999 Rolling Stone Magazine gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5, calling it - "the golden achievement of Syd Barrett". Q Magazine described the album as "indispensable", and included it in their best psychedelic albums of all time. It was also ranked 40th in Mojo magazines, The 50 Most Out There Albums of all Time. In 2000 Q magazine placed The Piper at the Gates of Dawn at number 55 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.

Track listing

All songs written by Syd Barrett, except where noted.

UK release

Side one

  1. "Astronomy Domine" – 4:12
  2. "Lucifer Sam" – 3:07
  3. "Matilda Mother" – 3:08
  4. "Flaming" – 2:46
  5. "Pow R. Toc H." (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason) – 4:26
  6. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (Roger Waters) – 3:05

Side two

  1. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason) – 9:41
  2. "The Gnome" – 2:13
  3. "Chapter 24" – 3:42
  4. "The Scarecrow" – 2:11
  5. "Bike" – 3:21

U.S. release

Side one

  1. "See Emily Play" – 2:53
  2. "Pow R. Toc H." (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason) – 4:26
  3. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (Roger Waters) – 3:05
  4. "Lucifer Sam" – 3:07
  5. "Matilda Mother" – 3:08

Side two

  1. "The Scarecrow" – 2:11
  2. "The Gnome" – 2:13
  3. "Chapter 24" – 3:42
  4. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason) – 9:41

40th Anniversary Edition (2007)

A two-disc 40th anniversary edition was released on 4 September 2007, and a three-disc set was released on 11 September 2007. The packaging, designed by Storm Thorgerson, resembles a cloth-covered book, along with a twelve page reproduction Syd Barrett notebook. Discs one and two contain the full 'Piper' album, in mono (disc one) and stereo (disc two) versions. Both have been newly remastered by James Guthrie.

The third disc includes bonus material including all of the 1967 Pink Floyd Singles and other rarities. Other tracks are a rare mix of "Interstellar Overdrive" - Take 2 of the original recording sessions, the pre-overdubbed abridged mix previously only available on an EP in France - and the 1967 stereo version of "Apples and Oranges". Plus an alternative "Matilda Mother" (from the first session for the album mentioned in the 33 1/3 book on Piper). (At their first EMI session in February '67, Pink Floyd recorded a 4-minute version of Matilda that had different vocals compared to the album version). Plus another alternative Interstellar Overdrive (take 6). (On 3/16/67 Pink Floyd recorded four additional takes of IO. Each was reported to be about 5 minutes long, save for one false start.)

All songs in mono, except where indicated.

  1. "Arnold Layne" - 2:57
  2. "Candy and a Currant Bun" - 2:45
  3. "See Emily Play" - 2:54
  4. "Apples and Oranges" - 3:05
  5. "Paint Box" (Rick Wright) - 3:45
  6. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Take 2/ French EP Version) - 5:15
  7. "Apples and Oranges" [stereo] - 3:11
  8. "Matilda Mother" (Belloc Version) - 3:09
  9. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Take 6) - 5:03

Live performances

Although there was never an official tour of the album, the band visited both Ireland and Scandinavia, and in November the band embarked on their first tour of America. It was an unsuccessful tour, mainly because of the mental breakdown of the band's frontman Syd Barrett.

For the American tour, many numbers such as "Flaming" and "The Gnome" were dropped , while others such as "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" remained, and were central to the band's setlist during this period, often performed as encores until around 1970. "Astronomy Domine" was later included on the live disc of Ummagumma, and adopted by the post-Waters Pink Floyd during the 1994 Division Bell tour, with a version included on the 1995 live album P*U*L*S*E.

Tracks 8-11 on the UK album edition were played the least during live performances. The success of "See Emily Play" and "Arnold Layne", meant that the band were forced to perform some of their singles for a limited period in 1967, but they were eventually dropped after Barrett left the band. "Flaming" and "Pow R. Toc H." were also played regularly by the post-Barrett Pink Floyd in 1968, even though these songs were in complete contrast to the band's other works at this time. Some of the songs from Piper would be reworked and rearranged for The Man and the Journey live show in 1969 ("The Pink Jungle" was taken from "Pow R. Toc H." and part of "Interstellar Overdrive" was used for "The Labyrinths of Auximines").

From September 1967, the band played several new compositions. These included; "Reaction in G", which was a song created by the band in reaction to crowds asking for their hit singles, "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". The latter track, written by Waters (and later included on A Saucerful of Secrets) became a mainstay of the band's setlist until around 1973, and was revived for live performances by Roger Waters in the 2000s.




Year Chart Position Notes
1967 UK Albums Chart 6
1967 Billboard Pop Albums 131
2007 UK Albums Chart 22 40th Anniversary Edition
2007 Norway's album chart 10 40th Anniversary Edition


  • Manning, Toby. (2006) The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd, Rough guides Ltd, Italy.
  • Mason, Nick. (2004) Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Phoenix publishers, Great Britain.
  • Povey, Glenn. (2007) echoes - the complete history of Pink Floyd, Mind Head publishing, Great Britain.

Further reading

  • John Cavanagh (2003) The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Continuum International publishing.

External links

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