Pink Floyd‘s back catalogue is so extensive that it’s understandable that many songs get overlooked or are left hidden under the shadows cast by titans such as ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Money’. In fact, up until 1979’s The Wall, Pink Floyd’s career was so game-changing that nearly every song of theirs until after The Wall could be hailed as a classic.
One would argue that one of their most constantly overlooked songs is ‘Fearless’ from the band’s 1971 album Meddle. Recorded around a series of London studios, including the iconic Abbey Road and AIR, Meddle is perhaps the most underrated record from the band’s Gilmour/Waters fronted era.
In some ways, it is a transitional record between the Syd Barrett incarnation of the band and the new, what is now considered the ‘classic’ lineup of the band. Meddle is brilliant in the way that it contains flecks of their earlier, grandiose psychedelia and the more cerebral moments that we’d see them increasingly create as the 1970s wore on.
Although when the discussion of Meddle is underway, the conversation turns typically to the 23-minute long goliath that is ‘Echoes’ and how Andrew Lloyd Webber may or may not have stolen the riff for The Phantom of the Opera. However, people often seem to forget just how good ‘Fearless’ actually is.
A washed-out stoner classic, if you’ve never heard it before, you’ll instantly have it on repeat. One of the most luscious productions Pink Floyd ever issued; its hazy essence and dovetailing vocal melodies are some of the most sonically soothing they ever penned. Aside from the catchy acoustic guitar melodies or the warmth of Waters’ bassline, the song is also genius for another reason.
Dropping in at the start deep in the mix and coming to the fore again at the end may sound like a strange, almost Gregorian chant to those of you not from the British Isles or familiar with the game of football (soccer). This chant is actually a field recording of fans in Liverpool F.C.’s iconic Kop stand at Anfield singing their iconic anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
The football club sing the hit Gerry & the Pacemakers’ 1963 version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein original from the musical Carousel. At the end of ‘Fearless’, the music fades out and gives way to the crowd belting out the famous chorus then bursting into thunderous applause at its close.
The strange thing about this inclusion is that none of the Pink Floyd members are Liverpool fans. In fact, three of them, Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason are self-confessed and rather devoted Arsenal supporters. Waters is such a massive fan of the Gooners that he originally wanted to call ‘Echoes’ ‘We Won the Double’ in celebration of Arsenal’s historic 1971 victories.
Hailed as a “clever spoof” by Jean-Charles Costa of Rolling Stone when the album was released, the only reason we can think that Pink Floyd would include the anthem was as a part of that very Pink Floyd styled sarcasm. Part of Arsenal’s double-winning season was beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final 2-1. Given that Waters is also very adept at irony, this would make a lot of sense.
On the face of it, the song is regarded as being about meeting challenges in the face of adversity. This can also be taken as an inference of Arsenal coming back from 1-0 down to win the final. Additionally, you can’t help but think that the line, “Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd, smiling”, is about Liverpool’s most hallowed manager, Bill Shankly.
Clearly, ‘Fearless’ is an incredible song for many reasons. Classic Pink Floyd, and duly multi-faceted, the song is one of the best examples of just how masterful the band were at packing their songs with both wondrous musical scores and dense lyricism. The early kings of subtlety, the ’70s period of Pink Floyd is unmatched.