erasing clouds

Book Review: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh

by anna battista

"Sold Out" is written outside Glasgow's Mono, the restaurant-cum-record-shop-cum-fair-trade-stall, because tonight there's something special going on in here, a book promotion. A very particular book promotion to tell you the truth. Tonight John Cavanagh, Radio Scotland DJ, ex-Electroscope and the man behind music project Phosphene, is presenting his book The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a sort of analysis of Pink Floyd's eponymous album, and he's presenting it during a proper happening, almost a tribute to the more famous '60s happenings that involved beat poets, writers and bands. John reads a few pages from his work, then Teenage Fanclub, helped here and there by Bill Wells, play with him impeccable Floyd numbers such as "Chapter 24" and "Interstellar Overdrive". It's a short but intense set, like Cavanagh's book.

Published by Continuum, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is a 124-page book, part of a series of volumes about music that includes works on the most disparate bands around. Those of you who are now thinking, 'Please, don't give us another book about Pink Floyd', are wrongly getting despaired since this is more an in-depth book about the first Floyd album than about the Floyd themselves. Cavanagh divides the book in five short chapters that tell the stories behind some of the most famous Piper songs such as "See Emily Play", "Matilda Mother", "Bike" and "Interstellar Overdrive". The readers will also discover how Pink Floyd recorded the album in the EMI studios with a little help from engineer Norman Smith and who were the people, among them artists and groupies, who gravitated around the band during those years.

Written in the style of a radio programme, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is packed with interviews with the likes of Nick Mason, Jenny Fabian and Vic Singh (legendary photographer who took the Floyd picture for the album cover and also took the back cover picture of Cavanagh himself in Floyd-prismatic-lenses-style) and with great stories such as the one about Syd Barrett climbing over the railings at London Zoo at night with his friend Anna Murray and wandering around. John Cavanagh's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn will certainly give you a new perspective on Pink Floyd, a seminal band that psychedelically shaped the lives of many of us.


Issue 17, November 2003

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