Pink Floyd: Meddle (1971)

Pink Floyd, alongside the Who, were a huge factor in my leap down the classic rock rabbit hole back in junior high. The Wall came out in the middle of eighth grade, and it was perfect fodder for a somewhat introspective, awkward kid needing an escape. That of course led me to Dark Side of the Moon, which also perfectly catered to a pre-adolescent kid's sense of the profound, and Wish You Were Here. Later I stumbled over the first couple albums, from the Syd Barrett days, which were all but an entirely different band but still pretty damn cool to a kid trying to wrap his ears around the ways rock music could push (and explode) the boundaries of the pop music he was otherwise hearing on the radio.

But when it came to exploring the rest of their work, I had a much harder time finding any first-hand intelligence on the series of albums that came between the Barrett days and the 1973 Dark Side breakthrough. These didn't seem to have penetrated the suburban middle school enclave, and didn't get any airtime on FM radio, so I headed to the mall and took a leap of faith on a cassette copy of Meddle, which sounded interesting in the reviews I'd read at the library.

And it immediately became one of my favorite albums, something I play far more frequently than most of their other work (certainly more than The Wall, which I maybe pull out every year or so out of a sense of obligation).

The opening (mostly) instrumental "One Of These Days," with its booming, echoing bass guitar throb and menacing guitar/keyboard wails that explode into an orgy of stereophonic glee after the monstrous mid-song intonation ("One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces...") was an eye-opener, unlike anything I'd ever heard, jarring and cathartic. And then an abrupt change of pace into the lush, pastoral "Pillow of Winds" and the delightful "Fearless," one of the band's greatest stand-alone songs, showing the diversity of the band's sound during that pre-DSOTM era.

After a flip of the tape, I discovered the side-long "Echoes" suite, with its trippy outer space pings bleeding into a pleasant ballad before winding through some wonderful exploratory jams, back into those pings, and repeat... As a kid flirting with prog and anything that challenged the rules of pop radio, it was a perfect encapsulation of what could be done with a single album side, but without going off the rails into dispassionate musical wonkery like a lot of the prog bands I was simultaneously checking out. To this day, when I want to kick back in the sunshine with 25 minutes of sonic bliss, "Echoes" is always near the top of the list.

Here's "One Of These Days" live at Pompeii:
... and "Echoes" a few decades later:

Buy it on Amazon.