Meddle

meddle

Meddle is the sixth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released in 1971. The album was recorded at a series of locations around London, including Abbey Road 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.

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.

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.’ The band would apparently spend long periods of time working on simple sounds, or a particular guitar riff. They also spent several days 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.’

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.’

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). The final 23-minute piece would eventually take up the entire second side of the album.

‘One of These Days’ was developed around a bassline created by Roger Waters, by feeding the output through an echo machine (a sound processing device used with electronic instruments to repeat the sound and produce a simulated echo). 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.

Though the tracks possess a variety of moods, ‘Meddle’ is generally considered more cohesive than its 1970 predecessor ‘Atom Heart Mother.’ 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.

The song ‘Fearless’ employs field recordings of the Liverpool Football Club 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 humor with ‘Seamus,’ a pseudo-blues novelty track featuring Steve Marriott’s dog (which Gilmour was looking after) howling along to the music.

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.’

The album’s title is a play on words; a ‘medal,’ and ‘to interfere.’ Storm Thorgerson originally suggested a close-up shot of a baboon’s anus for the album cover photograph. He was over-ruled 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.’ The image represents an ear, underwater, collecting waves of sound (represented by ripples in the water).

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