Every now and again you stumble upon an exciting little tidbit of musical history that just puts a smile on your face. It’s hardly new news, and it has no consequential meaning or relevance really, but it’s fun and interesting nonetheless. Did you know: Pink Floyd recorded their debut album Piper At The Gates of Dawn at the same time, in the same studio, as The Beatles recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The year was 1967. The Beatles were well into their career by this point, Sgt. Pepper’s being their eighth, and ultimately one of their most influential album in terms of sonic exploration, lyrical prowess and both thematic and musical progression. Having passed the halfway mark of their relatively short career (it’s hard to believe, but their entire core discography was released within just seven years) and in the midst of their increasingly tumultuous relationships with one another, The Beatles entered EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in November 1966, and set to work on creating one of their finest masterpieces. They worked in Studio 2, where they remained until April 21, 1967, crafting and honing some of Fab Four’s greatest triumphs, like With A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds, and When I’m Sixty Four.
The album was released on June 1 1967 and has gone on to be one of the most revered and acclaimed records of all time.
Just across the way, meanwhile, a relatively unknown band known as Pink Floyd were setting to work on their debut album. The four-piece had begun to form their sound and style in the years leading up to their signing with EMI, and had made a name for themselves in London’s underground music scene, particularly at the UFO Club. Now with a record deal under their belt, they were ready to begin their genre-crafting journey toward the eternally revered, game-changing name they would soon become.
With a newly minted record deal worth just £5000, (compared to The Beatles’ £25,000 budget for Sgt. Pepper’s), they entered Studio Three on February 21 and remained there until late May. The album was released on August 5, 1967.
This was to be Pink Floyd’s only full album led by the late Syd Barrett, whose increasing drug use and deteriorating mental state was reportedly having a seriously damaging effect on him both personally and musically, to the point where the band were later forced to cancel several shows – including support slots for one Jimi Hendrix. That this was his core record with the band has given it additional historical significance; decades later, superfans are still engaged in the enduring debate between Pink Floyd’s years with Barrett, and those with David Gilmour. With beloved tracks like See Emily Play and the gargantuan Astronomy Domine, the LP laid foundations for the flourishing mounds of psychedelic rock that would soon follow.
So literally next to one another, The Beatles and Pink Floyd – two of the most important musical pioneers in the entire history of rock and pop music – created some of their most seminal works. That’s pretty cool.
The connections don’t end there. Both albums were engineered by EMI’s Norman Smith, who undoubtedly had a pretty busy few months at Abbey Road. While Smith is best known for engineering almost every single Beatles album, he went on to work on three Pink Floyd records, and even played drums on Remember a Day, from their second album A Saucerful of Secrets.
The groups didn’t interact much, although Pink Floyd were invited to actually watch the Beatles record Lovely Rita in March 1967. In a recent podcast with Marc Maron, Roger Waters recalls only briefly meeting the group during those recording sessions: “I only met John Lennon once, to my huge regret, and that was in the control room at Number 2. He was a bit acerbic, he was quite snotty – so was I!”
Anyway, there’s your fun little piece of rock ‘n roll trivia for the week.