Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn mono

You haven’t heard Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd until you’ve heard it in mono

For albums released in or before 1967, when stereo was just a poorly mixed fad, mono versions are the only way to go.

One of psych’s greatest masterworks is being re-released this month, and finally in the form it always deserved: mono! Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn will be hitting the record racks and will feature the mixes the band really wanted you to hear, not the ping-ponging stereo mix most of us have become accustomed to.

Recorded at the same time as Sgt Pepper’s at BBC in 1967 while London was still swinging, this is the record that had leader Syd Barrett well in control, just before the acid grabbed a bit too much of a firm hold. The engineer on Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Norman Smith, is nothing short of a genius, but even when he was forced to try his hand in the unknown stereo field, he definitely lost his footing. Most engineers who had been steeped in mono for decades simply didn’t know how to make stereo work.

As a general rule of thumb, mono editions of records recorded in or prior to 1967 have always been the mixes to get. Mono mixes were slavishly concentrated on while the stereo mixes, a “gimmick” format, were tossed off slap-dash. Band members were present for the mono mixes as that was what most people would be hearing, and creative input was at a zenith. Stereo mixes were created with exaggerated stereo spectrum and used almost as demonstration records for brand new playback systems that would be utilizing stereo. If you’ve listened to pre-’67 Beatles stereo records, you can hear that songs don’t really punch enough, with the main meat of songs getting lost in a wash. 

I did manage to scoop up the 2007 mono edition book/CD of Piper at the Gates of Dawn years ago, but this new remastering absolutely pummels it. Syd Barret’s infatuation with whimsy-land Canterbury Tales shoot directly to the forefront. Despite the well-intentioned stereo version, this mono version turns up the psych with the more experimental sounds being pushed up on the fader. 

I love Pink Floyd (at least up to Dark Side of the Moon), but to a certain extent it was all over after their first record and Syd had relegated himself to an isolated existence with mental illness. Up there with S.F. Sorrow and The July 5th Album, this is as good as ’67 psych gets — and it’s in mono!

Current Obsession: Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (mono!)

This column was originally published in the March issue of Cult MTL. Read Johnson Cummins’ salute to Dallas Good, which appeared in the original version of this column, here.

For more about the Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn re-release, please visit the Super Deluxe Edition website.

See previous editions of Hammer of the Mods here.