Artist: Pink Floyd
Genre: Psych Rock, European
Format: Vinyl, Album, LP
It was a single note, flickering out like a beacon to lead a wayward ship through the night. Pink Floyd had no new songs prepared when they started recording in early 1971, but they did have access to the legendary Abbey Road Studios, and free rein from their label to mess around until they found their way. They spent weeks improvising with each member isolated from what the others were playing—a harebrained search for the sort of strange and spontaneous inspiration that their old leader, guitarist and songwriter Syd Barrett, conjured freely.
They called the results “Nothings 1-24”: Predictably, they were almost entirely unusable—except for this one note: a high B, played on a piano near the top of its range, warped by the undulations of a rotating Leslie speaker. It was piercing, but slightly obscured, as if it had traveled a great distance to reach your awareness. “We could never recreate the feeling of this note in the studio, especially the particular resonance between the piano and the Leslie,” drummer Nick Mason wrote later. So they used the demo tape, and began composing around it. “Echoes” grew from that note into something awesome: a 23-minute psych-prog voyage from tranquility to triumph to desolation and back, with a riff like a lightning bolt striking open sea, and a pillowy lead vocal keeping you cozy and safe below deck. It was the first song Pink Floyd completed for Meddle, their conflicted and brilliant sixth album.