Pink Floyd: Meddle - Album Of The Week Club review

Meddle is the sound of Pink Floyd distilling their psychedelic past into a scintillating future

Pink Floyd - Meddle
(Image: © EMI)

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Pink Floyd - Meddle

Pink Floyd - Meddle

(Image credit: EMI)

One of These Days
A Pillow of Winds
Fearless (including You'll Never Walk Alone)
San Tropez

Pink Floyd had come a long way from the hallucinogenic whimsy of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and its less satisfactory follow-up A Saucerful Of Secrets. The psychedelic chaos was left behind and a new Pink Floyd emerged. They were still adventurous and experimental, but they were also more structured and stable. 

By the end of the 60s they had developed into a formidable live touring band. Meddle, although it was an album that revelled in its use of the recording studio, was the first album to capture some of the potency and excitement of the Floyd live experience. 

Starting in early 1971, the band recorded at Abbey Road, sometimes bringing in ideas that they had worked on at home. They continued to gig, setting up the gear in the studio then going off at night to play headline shows, albeit at colleges and polytechnics.

Nick Mason remembers: “Abbey Road had just invested in an eight-track, but were ready to go 16-track. So we went to Air studios, which was great. A very different atmosphere to EMI. EMI was very established, had the big canteen... there was already a lot of change, though. The Beatles did that a few years before. But Air was state-of-the-art.” They also recorded at a third studio, Morgan in Willesden.

Meddle was released in October 1971 in the US and November in the UK. It was packaged in a sleeve that Hipgnosis partner Storm Thorgerson has said was his least favourite Pink Floyd sleeve: “I think Meddle is a much better album than its cover,” he said. 

The cover was supposed to have been a close-up picture of a baboon’s bum. The band told him that they wanted something to do with water, maybe an ear underwater. It certainly fit with the mood of the album in a way that somehow you don’t feel that an ape’s anus would have done.

It’s a sobering lesson for anyone who makes a living writing about music to go back and read the sort of reviews that were written in the music press at the time of an album now considered an undisputed classic. Reviews of Meddle were lukewarm though favourable. Some seemed to miss the point: one reviewer compared Meddle unfavourably with More and Ummagumma. Arguments as to whether Meddle belonged in the same file as Fragile, Tarkus or Nursery Cryme now seem fatuous.

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Other albums released in October 1971

  • Teaser and the Firecat - Cat Stevens
  • The Morning After - The J. Geils Band
  • 200 Motels - Frank Zappa
  • In Search of Space - Hawkwind
  • Message from the Country - The Move
  • 18 Other Voices - The Doors
  • Restrictions - Cactus
  • American Pie - Don McLean
  • Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead
  • Chicago at Carnegie Hall - Chicago
  • Rough and Ready - The Jeff Beck Group
  • Fearless - Family
  • Bloodrock U.S.A. - Bloodrock
  • Fog On The Tyne - Lindisfarne
  • Focus II (Moving Waves) - Focus
  • Memories - John Mayall
  • Pawn Hearts - Van der Graaf Generator
  • Rainbow Bridge - Jimi Hendrix
  • Reflection - Pentangle
  • R.E.O. Speedwagon - REO Speedwagon
  • Stoney & Meatloaf - Stoney & Meat Loaf
  • Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison
  • UFO 2: Flying - UFO
  • War War War - Country Joe McDonald

What they said...

"The real heroes here are Dave Gilmore and Rick Wright. Together they ignite all the funky dung from those Atom Heart Mother sessions that never managed to catch fire. Those guys burn these grooves. Gilmore comes into his own guitar sound that sonically melts blues, psych, and hard rock into prog heaven. And Richard Wright, who would later suffer the indignity of being fired(!) from the band, plays with Fearless abandon and lays open the depth of his musical soul." (Soundlab)

"If there aren't pop songs in the classic sense (even on the level of the group's contributions to Ummagumma), there is a uniform tone, ranging from the pastoral A Pillow of Winds to Fearless, with its insistent refrain hinting at latter-day Floyd. 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." (AllMusic)

"Pink Floyd has finally emerged from the Atom Heart Mother phase, a fairly stagnant period in their musical growth, marked by constant creative indecision... Their new album, 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." (Rolling Stone)

What you said...

Shane Reho: The golden age of Pink Floyd starts here. With the possible exception of Seamus, this album is perfection. One of These Days is one of the best instrumentals ever recorded (yes, I know Mason has the one line in the middle, but I've yet to see that included in the lyrics on a copy of this album). 

A Pillow of Winds may seem lightweight, but it is one of the most beautiful songs in their catalog. Fearless seems to be a bit of a cult classic, which it deserves, even if it does have Liverpool fans (ugh). San Tropez is one of the most underrated songs they ever did, while it doesn't accomplish much, it's a pleasant little tune that's hard not to enjoy. I wonder if they considered releasing it as a single, may have done some good. Who knows? Seamus isn't that great, but it doesn't really hurt anything. It's better as a visual thing on Live at Pompeii (retitled Mademoiselle Nobs on that video). 

That leaves us with Echoes, which is one of the greatest side-long prog jams ever recorded, so by extension one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Not a single one of its 23 minutes are put to waste, hell, even the siren sounding section works. That song is also better on Live at Pompeii (side note: Live at Pompeii is one of only two concert movies I remember watching a lot, Stop Making Sense is the other). This album set the groundwork for the next five (or six, if you like The Final Cut, which I do) albums, a streak of albums that stands as one of rock's greatest. 10/10.

Bill Griffin: Meddle is Pink Floyd transitioning from what it was to what it became starting with Dark Side of the Moon. I don't think I've ever heard a more obvious transitional album than this one so it may seem unfocused to some. It all works to my ear though. Unfortunately, it also marked the beginning of Roger thinking the other three were his backing band and treating them accordingly.

Iain Macaulay: This is going to be a short review because, basically, what more can you say about Meddle?

All I can really add is what songs I like, or don’t like. So, here goes. I’m not a fan of San Tropez at all, however, I don’t mind Seamus, in small doses. And the rest of it... well, it’s simply magnificent.

One Of These Days and Echoes are definitely the pillars of the album and the strongest tracks. They even harbour shades of what nineties Gothic rock bands like the Fields of the Nephilim used to great effect. By that I mean (before anyone explodes) the use of the delayed bass sound and the textured guitars and atmosphere. Not lyrically, or vocally, I hasten to add.

This is not my favourite Floyd album but it is still one I listen to rather than ignore. And it must be said that it’s been nice listening to is through this last week.

Carl Black: Pretty much all the pink Floyd albums I've every listened to have been for this club. And it's always the same. I trick myself into thinking that this is the Pink Floyd era and album that will turn me into a fan. And like the others, I end up very disappointed. I just find them boring. Very little happens. A wise man said to me, "there's prog, and then there is sleeping on the job". For large amounts of this album PF are tucked up – much like their fans – who buy sleep-inducing album after coma-inducing album by the truck load. The first song type intro showed promise and the blues track was good. But then it's back to bed until the next time the club decides to pick another PF album. I'll count sheep until then.

Gary Claydon: In which the boys take a big stride towards Dark Side Of The Moon and ensuing global super stardom while still dangling a toe in the days of El Syd. In the process they became a 'group', in the true sense, arguably more than at any other time in their history.

Meddle is book-ended by brilliance: The exhilarating One Of These Days and the imperious Echoes. OOTD borders on hard rock at times and I can't listen to it without thinking of the Ian Emes animated film shown on The Old Grey Whistle Test. The side 2-spanning Echoes is where they lay out the road map for much of what would follow in the next few years, that single 'ping' (apparently a high b on piano relayed through a Leslie speaker by Rick Wright) ushering in Floyd's 'golden' era like a beacon.

In-between is a mixed bag. I've always liked the languid A Pillow of Winds, partly because of the way it contrasts with the driving opener that precedes it. Fearless, with its laid-back vocal and neat guitar (some of which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Led Zep III!), has a great vibe although I don't like the use of You'll Never Walk Alone. I get the symbolism but it just grates with me I'm afraid. The other two tracks are throwaways in my opinion. And I don't care if the dog did belong to the great Steve Marriott, it just didn't work!

I have a friend who insists that Meddle was Floyd's last great album. His belief is that this is where the "real" Pink Floyd ended. For me, though, Meddle is the true herald of the great Floyd albums to come.

Jay Turner: I won't say that it's my favourite, but I do really like it! I guess it's place in the evolution of the band makes it a little better than it would be if it were a stand alone album from some random band. I could say the same for Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by Clouds. They are figuring it out as they go along and that's okay by me. I'm happy to listen and figure it out for myself.

Mike Knoop: I prefer Pink Floyd at their most cosmic, so, for me, along with Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle is studio Floyd at their best.

I like opener One of These Days and the 23-minute closer Echoes so much it took me 30 plus years to listen to the four songs in the middle after blowing them off when I was a college kid.

I now think Fearless is pretty great with a nice hook and features some of Gilmour's best singing. San Tropez is kinda fun and breezy faux-jazz and the only time Roger Waters sings lead on the album. It's a pretty shocking contrast to Animals, the Floyd pick from earlier in the year, which was a full serving of Waters at his most bilious and bitter. A Pillow Of Winds continues to grow on me, but it's the one I'm second-most likely to skip. Seamus is an inconsequential goof but it's barely more than two minutes long. Compare that to the patience-testing 13-minute Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast from last year's Floyd club pick, Atom Heart Mother, or practically all of the studio half of Ummagumma. All Pink Floyd artistic indulgences are not created equal.

Echoes may be an artistic indulgence too, but it's definitely one I'm attuned to. From the starting sonar pings to the long and languid passages to the understated vocals by Gilmour and Rick Wright to what I refer as the "creepy murder of crows bit" in the middle to the chugging finish, it all works for me. One Of These Days is a similarly fantastic voyage, but completed in a quarter of the time.

I generally like any Floyd from '68-'75. After that, the Waters just got too cold and dark, pun fully intended. By the time Gilmour and company wrested control of the band back, I was long gone. I have listened to those albums for the sake of completion, but they don't bring me in or take me way out like Meddle does.

Elad Winberg: Meddle is up there with the best Pink Floyd albums! I think that it's a unique and atmospheric album, and that it's always very interesting to listen to. For me, Pink Floyd were at their prime between 1970 to 1979, and Meddle is one of their most memorable releases. Not as good as Dark Side of the Moon, but I kinda prefer it over The Wall. The same can be said about Animals and Atom Heart Mother, all of these albums are classics to me.

Hai Kixmiller: The album Meddle is like haggis, you have to have a palate for it. "Hey, is there any meat in this? Um... well... sorta?! It's an album only Pink Floyd fans can rave about.

The opening track, One Of These Days is the only song on the entire album that has any potential to attract new listeners. Fearless has some potential as it comes off as a song that came right off of Led Zeppelin III. Seamus could've been a decent blues song except for all that ridiculous dog noise. Everything else will put you to sleep faster than a Xanax. I want my music to be more cocaine than Xanax.

Meddle is like a bad marriage. It starts out great, then things change, things get weird and boring until you're wondering when will this end, but it just keeps going on and on for like over 23 minutes... and that stupid dog won't shut up.

Jonathan Novajosky: As I mentioned in my review of Animals a while back, my love of Pink Floyd is mostly restricted to Dark Side, The Wall, and a few other songs here and there. But I can still enjoy and appreciate this album. One Of These Days is probably my favourite song here – it's so dark and moody and overall a fantastic start to Meddle. To me, Fearless serves as a sort of contrast to this opener in bringing a much gentler sound (sort of like Pigs On The Wing in Animals).

I like the piano in San Tropez but aside from that it's pretty forgettable, and Seamus is quite horrible. Awful, really. Of course, the big epic here is Echoes and I've got to be honest, I don't really get it. I wish it did something to move me, but I find it hard to get through the whole thing. It just doesn't excite me in ways like other 70s prog classics do like Karn Evil 9 or Close To The Edge, although maybe it's unfair to compare it to those.

Despite a few songs I don't really care for, I still like Meddle as a whole. But maybe I'm just too much a fan of The Wall and Roger Waters's solo albums to love this album as much as I should. 7/10.

Graham Tarry: Love this album. The pre-Meddle era was another band. This is ground zero for us casual late developers! From One Of These Days through to Echoes, this is what Pink Floyd is to many people.

Paul Flewitt: Oh man, this is definitely Floyd finding their feet, while nodding back to the whimsical elements of Syd's era.

One of These Days is the statement of intent; a band telling you that things are about to change. From there we have a slight return to the Barrett-era with songs like A Pillow of Winds, San Tropez and Seamus. Fearless is a real rock song, with an amazing riff that gets in your ear and stays there for a long time. That all paves the way for the epic close of Echoes, which once again nods to the psych of the 60s, but with a fresh spin that presages the arrival of the band as Prog Rock Masters, a prologue to what Dark Side would be.

A worthy album, and a definite 8/10.

Mike Fildes: Still my favourite Floyd album, the one that made me realise what all the fuss was about, the most relaxed, organic and trippiest album of their classic era for me.

Keith Barry: Great album that showed the results of the experiments of the post-Syd albums. Echoes is the go to masterpiece, but side one doesn't have a weak track - and even has a sense of humour in Seamus. 8.5 out of 10

Michael Porter: An absolutely stellar album marred by one real dog of a track. Seamus has to be one of the worst songs recorded by anybody, ever.

Other than that side one is intriguing, darkly threatening with One Of These Days, juxtaposed with the beautifully relaxed Pillow Of Winds. Fearless is one of their strongest songs and even San Tropez is charming. Overall side one is an eclectic mix of different moods, all of which sets up side two, which is taken up by the single track Echoes which vies for my favourite Floyd track alongside Shine On... and Dogs.

Echoes is a masterful track which features the vocals of Gilmour and Wright duetting in a fashion that was a trademark that identifies them immediately. The track is at times languid and soporific and at other times menacing and other worldly. It is hard to pigeonhole and can be a bit off putting at first but repeated listening is a rewarding experience.

For me this would have been an easy 10 had it not been for Seamus. and so overall it is a 9.

Gerry Ranson: First prog album I ever owned. We went to see one of my dad's teacher friends, and she and her son both had a copy, so she gave me hers. I took it to my primary school Xmas disco - that's how pretentious I was even at 9! The hip DJ, the boyfriend of one of the teachers, was very impressed, and actually played a couple of minutes of one of the tracks, but I can't remember which. Consequently I hold the album in particular affection.

Philip Qvist: I guess you argue that without this album, along with Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by the Clouds, there would never have been those four great albums that followed these three.

Meddle is my fifth favourite Pink Floyd album, no guessing my Top 4, and it has plenty going for it.

One Of These Days and the epic 23-minute Echoes are both absolute classics and alone are worth the price of the album.

Fearless is a goodie, complete with the Kop singing You're Never Walk Alone (P.S. I am not a Liverpool fan), while A Pillow Of Winds and San Tropez are more than decent tunes.

The one leak wink is Seamus, a real dog of a song (excuse the pun), and really could have been left off of the album.

Not quite the perfect album, but close enough. I reckon it was, up until the end of 1972, Floyd's best album. 8.5/10 for me.

Adam Ranger: Gosh, what can you say bout this that hasn't already been said? A real transition album I guess between the older sound and Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here which were to follow (not including Obscured By Clouds as that was a movie soundtrack, album so slightly different feel)

Many have said that Seamus is the weak link, or that it works as a precursor to Echoes. I lke the blues in all of its forms and so quite like this track. And I do think as someone else suggested that it is a good lead in to Echoes. The quirkiness of the past, giving way to the longer, more epic tracks. After this there would be no more quirky songs... and so on that level it works for me.

Indeed Echoes itself is a bridge, extended jams where the music is all... but also whale song.

Echoes is a song of my younger days so will always have a high regard from me. But Pillow Of Winds, Fearless and One Of These Days are great songs in their own right.

Final Score: 8.36⁄10 (288 votes cast, with a total score of 2408)

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