How ‘God-like’ Beatles inspired one of Pink Floyd’s earliest classics
The Beatles changed the musical landscape forever when they burst onto the scene in the 1960s, their was no sound that they couldn’t turn to gold and mesmerise millions in the process. The Fab Four smashed down the barricades of what and what wasn’t deemed plausible in popular music, a movement which caused a ripple effect that is still prevalent in music today. One band who would be inspired by the magical music of The Beatles was none other than Pink Floyd, a progressive group who might have never blossomed into the beautiful beast they did if it wasn’t for those four boys from Liverpool.
Fate would bring the two bands into close proximity following Pink Floyd’s signature being signed up by EMI and word soon spread about the excitement towards the band. Led by Syd Barrett, the Floyd had a growing reputation for being the men at the forefront of the new acid-rock movement that was hitting Britain which The Beatles were in awe of. They had made themselves the talk of London town in such a short space of time thanks to their mindblowing live shows and, before they knew it, they were in Abbey Road recording their debut album.
Given the opportunity to finally record their first record was already a dream come true for Pink Floyd but to create it at Abbey Road studios made the experience even sweeter. One particular moment from their time in the studio arrived when they were given the opportunity to sit in and watch The Beatles work on their song ‘Lovely Rita’. The Fab Four were in the middle of recording for Sgt. Pepper and were in the zenith of their creative experimentation and, for Pink Floyd, being able to sit in to watch on would be something that would stick with the band for years. In the more immediate reaction, however, the meeting would inspire one of the best tracks from their debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
“We were recording in Abbey Road, the temple of greatness, and they were recording ‘Lovely Rita’,” recalled drummer Nick Mason in an interview the Wall Street Journal in 2011. “They were God-like figures to us. They all seemed extremely nice, but they were in a strata so far beyond us that they were out of our league.”
There are clear similarities between ‘Lovely Rita’ from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and the track ‘Pow R. Toc H.’ which featured on Pink Floyd’s debut. They both feature voice effects and noises similar to those heard in the famous recording session which was taking place in the studio next door.
Hearing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club would have a lasting effect on Roger Waters and the rest of the Floyd, a moment which made them believe like anything was potentially musically speaking. “I remember when Sgt. Pepper came out, pulling the car over into a lay by, and we sat there and listened to it,” Waters once said whilst in conversation with KLCS. “Somebody played the whole thing on the radio. And I can remember sitting in this old, beat up Zephyr Four, like that [sits for a long period, completely agape].
“I feel as if I learned my lessons from [early blues legends] Huddie Ledbetter and Bessie Smith and I listened to a lot of jazz and Woody Guthrie,” Roger Waters says. “I learned a lot from all of that protest music when I was a very young teenager. But I learned from John Lennon and Paul McCartney and George Harrison that it was OK for us to write about our lives, and what we felt — and to express ourselves. … That we could be free artists and that there was a value in that freedom. And there was,” Waters added.
This was backed up by Mason who claimed that “Sgt. Pepper’s was the album that absolutely changed the face of the record industry. Up until then, it was all about singles. Sgt. Pepper’s was the first album that actually outsold singles, and that enabled bands like us to have more studio time and more freedom to do what we wanted.”
As Nick Mason says, The Beatles were ‘God-like’ and the range of artists who felt empowered and inspired to create is unparalleled. On the surface, The Beatles and Pink Floyd appear as though they come from a different universe but, in truth, the basis of their growth stems from a place of considered admiration. The inventiveness of The Beatles, an aspect which made them such pioneers, gave Pink Floyd the ammunition they needed to become one of the most intuitive acts that have ever graced the earth.