The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 4 August 1967
Recorded February–July 1967,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 41:52
Label Capitol/EMI Records
Producer Norman Smith
Pink Floyd chronology
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
A Saucerful of Secrets
Singles from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  1. "Flaming"
    Released: 6 November 1967

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the debut album by the English rock group Pink Floyd, and the only one made under founding member Syd Barrett's leadership. The album contains whimsical lyrics about space, scarecrows, gnomes, bicycles and fairy tales, along with psychedelic instrumental songs. The album was initially released in 1967 by Columbia/EMI in the United Kingdom and Tower/Capitol in the United States. Special limited editions were issued to mark its thirtieth and fortieth anniversaries in 1997 and 2007, respectively.



Architecture students Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, and art student Syd Barrett, had performed in various guises since 1962, and began touring as "The Pink Floyd" in 1965.[1] They turned professional on 1 February 1967, when they signed with EMI, with an advance fee of £5,000.[2][3] Their first single, a song about a kleptomaniac transvestite titled "Arnold Layne", was released on 11 March to mild controversy - Radio London refused to air it.[2] About three weeks later the band were introduced to the mainstream media.[nb 1] EMI's press release claimed that the band were "musical spokesmen for a new movement which involves experimentation in all the arts", but EMI attempted to put some distance between them and the underground scene from which the band originated by stating that "the Pink Floyd does not know what people mean by psychedelic pop and are not trying to create hallucinatory effects on their audiences".[4] The band returned to Sound Techniques Studio to record their next single, "See Emily Play", on 18 May.[5] The single was released almost a month later, on 16 June, and reached number six in the charts.[6]


The band's record deal was relatively poor for the time—a £5,000 advance over five years, low royalties, and no free studio time. It did, however, include album development, and unsure of exactly what kind of band they had signed, EMI gave them free rein to record whatever they wanted.[7] They were obliged to record their first album at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London,[8] overseen by producer Norman Smith, a central figure in Pink Floyd's negotiations with EMI.[9] Although in his 2005 autobiography Mason recalled the sessions as relatively trouble-free, Smith disagreed, and claimed that Barrett was unresponsive to his suggestions and constructive criticism.[10] In an attempt to build a relationship with the band, Smith played jazz on the piano, while the band joined in. These jamming sessions worked well; Waters was apparently helpful, and Wright was "laid-back", but Smith's attempts to connect with Barrett were less productive: "with Syd, I eventually realised I was wasting my time." Smith later admitted that his traditional ideas of music were somewhat at odds with the psychedelic background from which Pink Floyd had arrived, but nevertheless he managed to "discourage the live ramble" (as Jenner called it), and guide the band toward producing songs with a more manageable length.[11] Barrett would end up writing ten of the album's songs, with Waters creating the remaining composition, "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk".[12]

I opened the door and nearly shit myself, by Christ it was loud. I had certainly never heard anything quite like it before.

Abbey Road engineer Pete Bown describing his introduction to "Interstellar Overdrive".[13]

"Interstellar Overdrive" had first been recorded earlier in the year at Sound Techniques Studios in London, between 11–12 January, for producer Peter Whitehead's documentary, Tonite Lets All Make Love in London.[14] At one point the band were invited to watch The Beatles record "Lovely Rita". Recording sessions began at Abbey Road in January 1967.

"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 release 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".

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 titled "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.


The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967. Pink Floyd continued to perform at the UFO Club drawing huge crowds, but Barrett's deterioration caused them serious concern. The band initially hoped that his erratic behaviour was a phase that would pass, but others, including manager Peter Jenner and his secretary June Child,[nb 2] were more realistic:

… I found him in the dressing room and he was so … gone. Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, we got him out to the stage … and of course the audience went spare because they loved him. The band started to play and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck and his arms just hanging down.
—June Child [16]

To the band's consternation, they were forced to cancel their appearance at the prestigious National Jazz and Blues Festival, informing the music press that Barrett was suffering from nervous exhaustion. Jenner and Waters arranged for Barrett to see a psychiatrist—a meeting he did not attend. He was sent to Formentera with Sam Hutt (a doctor well-established in the underground music scene) but this led to no visible improvement.[17][18][19][20]

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 number six on the UK charts.[21]

The original U.S. album appeared on the Tower Records division of Capitol Records in October 1967. This version (ST-5093, stereo; T-5093, mono) was officially titled simply Pink Floyd though the original album title did appear on the back cover as on the UK issue. The US album featured an abbreviated track listing and reached number 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 US issues on compact disc had the same title and track list as the UK version.

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

The album was certified Gold in the US on 11 March 1994.[21]


It was unusual and different, and they were delighted with it, and Syd did his own little drawing on the back cover.

Vic Singh[22]

Up-and-coming society photographer Vic Singh was hired to photograph the band for the album cover. Singh shared a studio with David Bailey, and asked Jenner and King to dress the band in the brightest clothes they could find. Singh was also friends with Beatles guitarist George Harrison, and once the band had been relaxed with several joints, he shot them with a prism lens that Harrison had given him.[22]

The album's title comes from the title of chapter seven of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, one of Barrett's favourite books.[12] The title was later alluded on the song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", where one of the names used to describe Barrett is "you Piper".[23]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[24]
Blender 4/5 stars[25][dead link]
Pitchfork Media 9.4/10 stars[26]
Q 5/5 stars[27]

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 "a particularly striking collection of driving, up to date rock ventures."[28]

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 magazine's 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. In 2003, the album was ranked number 347 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[29]


The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was reissued in the UK in 1979 as a stereo vinyl album,[nb 3] and on Compact Disc in the UK and US in 1985.[nb 4] A digitally remastered stereo CD, with new artwork, was released in the US in 1994,[nb 5] and in 1997 limited edition 30th anniversary mono editions were released in the UK, on CD and Vinyl.[nb 6]

In 1973, the album, along with A Saucerful of Secrets, was released as a double disc set on Capitol/EMI's Harvest Records label, titled A Nice Pair. (On the American version of that compilation, the original four-minute studio version of "Astronomy Domine" was replaced with the eight-minute live version found on Ummagumma). The American 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 Compact Disc 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 the United States. 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.

For the 40th anniversary, a two-disc 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 of a Syd Barrett notebook. Discs one and two contain the full album in its original mono mix (disc one), as well as the alternate stereo version (disc two). Both have been newly remastered by James Guthrie.

The third disc includes several Piper-era outtakes from the Abbey Road vaults, along with the band's first three mono singles. Unreleased material includes an alternate shorter take of "Interstellar Overdrive" that was previously thought lost, the pre-overdubbed abridged mix of "Interstellar Overdrive" previously only available on an EP in France, an alternative mix of "Matilda Mother" as it appeared early in the sessions, and also the 1967 stereo mix of "Apples and Oranges", which features extra untrimmed material at the beginning and end.

Piper was remastered and rereleased on 26 September 2011 as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? rerelease campaign. It is available in this format as either a stand alone album or as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? "Discovery" box set, along with the 13 other studio albums and a new colour booklet.

  • 1999 CD Capitol 59857
  • 1987 CD Capitol C2-46384
  • 1967 LP Tower ST-5093
  • 1995 CD EMI 7243 8 31261 2 0
  • 1994 CD Capitol 46384
  • 2001 CD EMI 65731
  • 1994 CD Capitol 1073
  • 2011 CD EMI
  • 2011 Catalogue EMI

Live performances

A few dates in September were followed by the band's first tour of the United States,[17] and in his capacity as tour manager Andrew King travelled to New York to begin preparations. The tour suffered serious problems. Visas had not arrived, prompting the cancellation of the first six dates.[18] Elektra Records had turned Pink Floyd down, and so the band were by default handled by EMI's sister company, Capitol, which assigned them to their subsidiary, Tower Records. Tower released a truncated version of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn on the same date as the band's American première at The Fillmore in California, on 26 October 1967. Communication between company and band was almost non-existent, and Pink Floyd's relationship with Tower and Capitol was therefore poor. Barrett's mental condition mirrored the problems that King encountered;[19] when the band performed at the Winterland Ballroom, he detuned his guitar during "Interstellar Overdrive" until the strings fell off. His odd behaviour grew worse during further performances, and during a recording for The Pat Boone Show he confounded the director by miming the song perfectly during the rehearsal, and then standing motionless during the take. King quickly curtailed the band's US visit, sending them home on the next flight.[20]

Shortly after their return from the US, beginning 14 November the band supported Jimi Hendrix on a tour of England,[20] but on one occasion when Barrett failed to turn up they were forced to replace him with David O'List.[17] Barrett's depression worsened the longer the tour continued.[30] Wynne Willson left his role as lighting manager at the end of the Hendrix tour, and allied himself with Barrett, whose position as frontman was now becoming insecure. He was replaced by John Marsh.[31] Pink Floyd released "Apples and Oranges", but for the rest of the band Barrett's condition had reached a crisis point, and they responded by adding a new member to their line-up.[17]

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. David Gilmour resurrected "Astronomy Domine" for his On an Island tour.

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, "See Emily Play" 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.

Track listing

All songs written by Syd Barrett, except where noted.

UK release
Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Astronomy Domine"   Barrett and Richard Wright 4:12
2. "Lucifer Sam"   Barrett 3:07
3. "Matilda Mother"   Wright and Barrett 3:08
4. "Flaming"   Barrett 2:46
5. "Pow R. Toc H." (Barrett, Roger Waters, Wright, Nick Mason) Barrett and Waters 4:26
6. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (Waters) Waters 3:05
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) Instrumental 9:41
2. "The Gnome"   Barrett 2:13
3. "Chapter 24"   Barrett 3:42
4. "Scarecrow"   Barrett 2:11
5. "Bike"   Barrett 3:21
US release
Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "See Emily Play"   Barrett 2:53
2. "Pow R. Toc H." (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) Barrett and Waters 4:26
3. "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (Waters) Waters 3:05
4. "Lucifer Sam"   Barrett 3:07
5. "Matilda Mother"   Wright and Barrett 3:08
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Scarecrow"   Barrett 2:11
2. "The Gnome"   Barrett 2:13
3. "Chapter 24"   Barrett 3:42
4. "Interstellar Overdrive" (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) Instrumental 9:41
40th anniversary edition


Pink Floyd

Sales chart performance

Year Chart Position
1967 UK Albums Chart 6[21]
1967 Billboard Pop Albums 131[32]
1997 UK Albums Chart 44[33]
2007 UK Albums Chart 22[33]
2007 Norwegian Record Charts 10[34]
2007 Swedish Record Charts 43[34]
2007 Swiss Charts 87[34]
2007 German Charts 48[35]
2007 Belgian Record Charts (Flanders) 28[34]
2007 Belgian Record Charts (Wallonia) 39[34]
2007 Dutch Charts 46[34]
2007 Italian Charts 16[34]
2007 Spanish Record Charts 70[34]


  1. ^ They were already well-known in the underground scene.
  2. ^ Child was employed by Peter Jenner as a secretary and general production assistant.[15]
  3. ^ UK EMI Fame FA 3065[21]
  4. ^ UK EMI CDP 7463842, US Capitol CDP 7463842[21]
  5. ^ US Capitol CDP 7463844[21]
  6. ^ UK EMI LP EMP 1110, EMI CD EMP 1110[21]
  1. ^ Povey 2007, pp. 24–29
  2. ^ a b Schaffner 1991, pp. 54–56
  3. ^ Blake 2007, p. 74
  4. ^ Schaffner 1991, p. 57
  5. ^ Schaffner 1991, p. 66
  6. ^ Blake 2008, pp. 88–89
  7. ^ Povey 2007, pp. 37–39
  8. ^ Schaffner 1991, p. 55
  9. ^ Mason 2005, p. 87, p. 70
  10. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 92–93
  11. ^ Blake 2008, pp. 84–85
  12. ^ a b Di Perna 2006, p. 7
  13. ^ Blake 2008, p. 85
  14. ^ Povey 2007, pp. 52, 37
  15. ^ Schaffner 1991, p. 36
  16. ^ Mason 2005, p. 95
  17. ^ a b c d Mason 2005, pp. 95–105
  18. ^ a b Blake 2008, p. 94
  19. ^ a b Schaffner 1991, pp. 88–90
  20. ^ a b c Schaffner 1991, pp. 91–92
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Povey 2007, p. 342
  22. ^ a b Blake 2008, p. 92
  23. ^ The Economist. 380. Economist Newspaper Ltd. 2006. p. 83. 
  24. ^ Huey, Steve. Pink Floyd: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn > Review at Allmusic. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  25. ^ Power, Tony (9 April 2007). "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn". Blender ( 
  26. ^ Joshua, Klein (18 September 2007). "Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (40th Anniversary Edition)". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  27. ^ "Review: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn ". Q: 275. January 1995. 
  28. ^ Povey 2007, p. 66
  29. ^ 347) The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,, 1 November 2003,, retrieved 25 January 2010 
  30. ^ Schaffner 1991, p. 94
  31. ^ Blake 2008, p. 102
  32. ^ Povey 2007, p. 343
  33. ^ a b "U.K. chart info". Chart Stats. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (Album),,, retrieved 25 January 2010 
  35. ^ "Pink Floyd albums German chart info (in German)". Retrieved 3 July 2011. 

Further reading

  • Cavanagh, John. (2003) The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Continuum International publishing.
  • Manning, Toby. (2006) The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd, Rough guides Ltd, Italy.

External links

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