Meddle is a key record in Pink Floyd's career, as the band finally found the sound that helped them emerge from Syd Barrett's long shadow, and turn them into giants.
It all happened, more or less, by chance, when the band formed by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason entered Abbey Road studios at the beginning of 1971. They would spend hours playing around with a riff, making a chord progression and each recording separately without any interaction with the other members. They also experimented by trying to get the most peculiar sounds out of domestic objects. Most of the time they didn't find anything that could be used, to the frustration of engineer John Leckie, but in one of those attempts they found a sound, like the click of a light bulb, that helped them get the best of themselves and find their definitive style.
It was a single note on Richard Wright's keyboard, passed through a Leslie speaker, which sounded like the ping of a submarine sonar. On it they began to create a musical mantle with Gilmour shining on slide. It also included another of their experiments, those seagull-like sounds, which were nothing more than the product of a previous mistake. Before a concert a roadie had plugged in Gilmour's wah pedal in the wrong way, achieving that peculiar effect.
Then the melody began to appear and the first words: "An echo of a distant time comes willowing across the sand, and everything is green and submarine". The main influence for the melody was one of Waters' favorite songs from the Beatles, Across The Universe, of which he would make a solo version in 1985. Waters acknowledged the influence by including a veiled tribute in the lyrics: "Inviting and inciting me to rise". Echoes runs for over 20 minutes and takes up the entire second side of Meddle, without once feeling too long. Its melody flows like the tide from the times of creation, carried gently by the voices of Gilmour and Wright, which sound as good together as those of Lennon and McCartney.
For his part, the guitarist, like the band, definitely finds his style and sound, making magnificent use of the slide. For his recording Gilmour used the Black Strat for the rhythmic parts, but he recorded the solo with another of his secret weapons, the guitar that Bill Lewis made for him with 24 frets, and that has been with him since November 1970, used together with a Fuzz Face.
Echoes is, without a doubt, Meddle's outstanding song, but on the A Side we find two other highlights of Pink Floyd's career, the instrumental One Of These Days and Fearless, which were released together as a single. The first is pure Floyd, built on a Waters bass line passed by a Binson Echorec, with Gilmour playing another bass. It is a group composition, like Echoes, and demonstrates the collaborative nature of the album, with the band still working together before Roger Waters definitively began to lead the band.
Even so, it is the bassist and Gilmour who co-wrote the remaining songs, with the exception of Saint Tropez; the only one exclusively written by Waters, and the only one on which Gilmour does not sing. The fact is that people always talk about Gilmour’s incredible qualities as a guitarist but you only have to listen to him caressing the words on Fearless to see that he was also a singer with something special, capable of moving people with his delicate voice. The song is a marvel, built on a great chord projection that ends with a recording of Liverpool fans singing You'll Never Walk Alone; a real curiosity, especially if we consider that Waters is a die-hard Arsenal fan.
A Pillow Of Winds followed One Of These Days showing us the acoustic side of the band with Gilmour, as on almost all the album, standing out with his use of slide. Saint Tropez sounds like music hall, as if Waters had been listening to the Kinks, and there is a solo by Gilmour on slide guitar and Wright on the piano; the latter being the most interesting of the two. The only cloud on the album is Seamus, an acoustic country blues to the greater glory of Steve Marriott's dog, Seamus. They included it because they found it funny but, as Gilmour later said, "I guess it wasn't really as funny to anyone else [as] it was to us.” He guessed right.
Of course, all was forgiven when you turned over the record and heard those strange beeping sounds, and immersed yourself in Echoes. It was a song that opened a new path for the band... one that would take them to the dark side of the moon.