The debut album by the pioneering rock band from the ‘70s thrusted what we now call psych-rock into pop culture.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn came out in 1967, the same year as popular albums like The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? The music of the time was pop-rock—the soundtrack of the flower children, hippies, and free love movement. Though Pink Floyd was also all about the revolution, focusing more on the systemic inequalities of wealth distribution, they chose to produce a different sound to go with their anti-establishment take.
Most music at this time was sharp and provided a finely tuned melody anyone could tap along to. Songs from the aforementioned albums like The Beatles’ “Getting Better” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” though unique at the time, were songs that still followed a clear rock ‘n’ roll sound. Pink Floyd, however, filled their debut album with dark melodies that used repetitive guitar distortion and experimental key flicks. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn took an edgier and fuzzier approach to “hippy” music that can be credited as a founding father for psych-rock.
Pink Floyd live on BBC 1967
The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix both created music adored by stoners, but Pink Floyd’s artistic choice to go towards psych-rock made them the anthem for pot smokers everywhere. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn pioneered the groovy tunes that any mind-altering fan can get lost in. This becomes blindingly obvious six years after Pink Floyd’s debut, with The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, which is now practically used as an intro to Pot Smoking 101—paired with light shows and watching films backward, you can easily see why.
Syd Barrett, the band’s original frontman, wrote most of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Barrett had to leave the group only a year after the album’s release due to his deteriorating mental health, which he exacerbated by taking massive amounts of LSD. For Pink Floyd fans, Barrett’s fleeting presence makes this album extra special.
Though The Piper at the Gates of Dawn didn’t chart in the U.S., it’s still a go-to album for anyone just getting into psych-rock and remains a classic for psych-rock fans. Current psych bands like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Oh Sees, or Stonefield would not exist today if it was for pioneering bands like Pink Floyd paving the way and introducing psych-rock to music lovers’ ears in the ‘60s.