Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
“Careful with That Axe, Eugene” By Pink Floyd, Album: Ummagumma (1969)
“Careful with That Axe, Eugene” is the kind of song title that stays with you: unique, portentous, darkly humorous, and equally mysterious. You recall that soft, swirling organ build, that persistent D on the bass, tinkled percussion, and sparing guitar stings. Then Roger Waters whispers those nonsensical words, whistles into the mic, and delivers a pre-emptive yet lightweight scream. The net effect unsettles you. There is menace in the air, an as-yet-undefined threat, but the music lulls and entices you into a near-soporific state. It doesn’t last.
Naturally, the second Waters lets out that full-bodied scream. (For full effect, scan to 3:06 on their version from Live at Pompeii.) The screams continue for 20 odd seconds, exorcised by an intense band jam, led by David Gilmour’s cutting guitar until the music dies away in a retreat to the darkness from whence it came. Eugene may have been no ordinary axe murderer, but then again, how would “Careful with That Axe, David” have sounded?
This was released as the B-side of the single, “Point Me At The Sky.” The title is a reference to the first line of that song: “Hey, Eugene, this is Henry McClean.”
Ummagumma was a double album, with one disc of live performances and the other record divided into four sections devoted to songs by each band member. This track appears on the first disc as a live version.
Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
The story behind Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here cover photo
Themes of absence and void of meaning play out as an executive-looking gentleman greets his doppelgänger with a firm handshake. And did we forget to mention one of the guys is on fire?
The concept started for design team Hipgnosis, as it often did, with close examination of the music. “We just sit in a very ordinary room, listen to Floyd music, and talk,” Hipgnosis co-founder Storm Thorgerson explained in his 1997 book, “Mind Over Matter: The Images of Pink Floyd.”
“We discuss what the music feels like to us. Or the intention of the lyrics. Or what the album may really be about, even if the Floyd haven’t said it, or don’t yet know it.”
“‘Wish You Were Here’ was a different story altogether,” he added. “Lengthy discussions, particularly with the band, much internal focusing, and repeated exposure to the haunting brilliance of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ led inexorably to one point, led to one theme, in fact to the one word, ‘absence.’”
The team devised a concept for the cover involving two men — record execs fashioned in a style suggested by the album’s “Have a Cigar” — shaking hands to seal some unknown deal. Hipgnosis explained a handshake is often seen as an empty gesture, void of meaning or purpose. And the flames? A visualization of people’s tendency to remain emotionally withdrawn (or absent) for fear of “being burned.”
They continued the theme of absence throughout the album’s back cover, inside gate-fold and liner bag with photos of a faceless pitchman hawking a transparent LP record, a diver making no splash, and a floating veil masking nothing. (Or is it?) A shot not used for the original album showed a swimmer — the same model who posed as the faceless pitchman — doing the crawl stroke in an ocean of sand devoid of water.
Hipgnosis, responsible for the majority of Floyd’s album covers during the band’s long history, chose to shoot the photo on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank for a reason. After all, Thorgerson and designing partner Aubrey “Po” Powell explained, it’s “the land of make-believe; where nothing is real and all is absent.”
The precise location of the photo would seem to be the intersection of Ave. D and 5th St. on Warner’s back lot. The massive hanger-like buildings in the background are soundstages used for film and TV work. (The Warner Bros. front lot, to the northeast and closer to California St., is where the studios’ faux exteriors reside.)
Map of Warner Bros. studios in Burbank
The numeral 20, visible on a building in some versions of the photo, would seem to verify the theory: Stage 20 would indeed appear two buildings back and on the right, if the photo had been shot at Ave. D and 5th.
“Floydian Slip” took the official Warner Bros. tour in October 2011. Upon request, the tour guide took us to what he said was the photo location. (At the time, we hadn’t yet consulted a map.) The drainage grate was there, but, otherwise, it was impossible to be certain we stood at the real location, since the property is a maze of nearly-identical structures and intersections.
Photos published on the Web purport to show the location today looking very much as it did in ’75.
Hipgnosis hired Hollywood stuntmen Ronnie Rondell Jr.(pictured) and Danny Rogers (inset) to pose for the photo. Rondell arguably had the tougher job of being lit on fire, which, no surprise, presented challenges.
“I’d been doing a lot of fire work in those days, and I had the special suits and all this stuff for fully enveloped fire,” Rondell explained in the 2012 documentary “Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here.”
“But a partial is basically pretty safe, pretty easy one to do,” he added, “in most cases.”
Though he was protected by a fire-retardant layer underneath his business suit — which extended over his head underneath a wig — Rondell didn’t make it out of the shoot unscathed.
After being dowsed with gasoline, sparked up and taking position, Rondell withstood 15 shots before being singed. “The flames were blown back and ignited his real moustache for an instant,” Thorgerson recalled. “A close shave, one might say.”
“There’s a funny thing about fire,” Rondell said. “When it gets in your face, you’re going to move.”
“He fell to the ground, absolutely smothered with foam and blankets and everything like that, and he got up, said, ‘That’s it. No more,’” according to Powell, who was behind the camera. “Luckily, I got it in the can.”
As told by Thorgerson and Powell in “100 Best Album Covers,” wind direction presented a problem. To allow Rondell to appear on the right with Rogers on the left, Rondell actually posed on the left, Rogers on the right, and the two shook hands using their left hands. Hipgnosis then reversed the image in the darkroom.
If this is true, we presume some darkroom trickery must have been applied to un-reverse the number 20 that is seen on the building in some versions of the photo.
In the end, it was just another job for Rondell. “It was pretty easy to do, not too life threatening, and paid well,” he said.
Two photographs from the shoot were used for the album cover. One, shot using 35mm color transparency film, was used for the album’s U.K. release. Another, using 120mm transparency, appeared on the U.S. release.
They can be distinguished by one’s leaning forward and down by the flaming man; and the other’s leaning back and up by the flaming man, who is consumed by much more flame than in the alternate shot.
Outtakes from the “Wish You Were Here” cover photo shoot
Decades later, with so many reissues of the album having been released, which photo corresponds to which edition of the album, is uncertain — to us, at least. Furthermore, several photo outtakes have been made public in the interim.
As a final act of commitment to their theme and a bold coupe d’grâce, Thorgerson and Powell remarkably chose to conceal the fruits of their labor inside an opaque black wrapper. A graphic designed by Hipgnosis’s George Hardie — the same man responsible for Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” prism design — was the only identifying mark on the album’s exterior as it was originally displayed on store shelves. The graphic depicted a twist on the cover image: a mechanical shaking of hands. “Welcome to the Machine,” indeed.
“I have heard it said that some folks carefully cut the edge with a blade and slid the record out,” Thorgerson said. “Thus they have the album to this very day still wrapped in black plastic and have never seen the burning man on the front.
“How absent can you get?”
“There’s nothing better at Christmas than you get a present that’s wrapped up and you tear off the wrapping paper, you look inside, and then the box, and you open the box and there’s your present,” Powell told us in our 2015 interview with him. “Well, the same thing applied when we did ‘Wish You Were Here.’”
Drummer Nick Mason said the shrink-wrap was delicious icing on the cake for the band, which, at that point, had begun to view the industry with no small amount of cynicism. “I suspect we probably enjoyed the shrink-wrapping more for the trouble it caused in the boardroom than its artistic excellence,” he said. “It was obvious that the record company was not familiar with the work of Christo.”
The band’s reception to the artwork was swift and enthusiastic.
“I was very self-conscious,” Thorgerson said. “Luckily they thought it was fine.”
After Thorgerson presented the it to the band, management, producer, engineer and others at the EMI’s Abbey Road Studios commissary, he received a round of applause. “Very moving, for me,” he said.
The label’s reaction was less enthusiastic. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when EMI executives learned the new album from Pink Floyd would be nearly as black as Spinal Tap‘s “Smell the Glove.”
In the early-’80s, Thorgerson, Powell and third Hipgnosis partner Peter Christopherson, aka Sleazy, began to focus on film-making, eventually founding film company Greenback. Shortly thereafter, “a very difficult financial situation had occurred due to our own bungling mismanagement,” Thorgerson explained to us in our 1997 interview. “We were in a state of severe financial loss in ’85,” he added, and their financial difficulties exacerbated the partners’ differences of opinion.
“I don’t think any of us, particularly me, behaved very well,” he admitted. They eventually went separate ways. Thorgerson continuing doing design work under the moniker StormStudios; Christopherson went on to a career in music with Throbbling Gristle and Coil; and Powell continued film work using the name Hipgnosis.
Thorgerson passed away on April 18, 2013, succumbing to cancer at age 69. Christopherson had died a few years prior: Nov. 25, 2010, at age 55.
Rondell was already an accomplished stuntman when he posed for the album cover. Rogers’ career was just beginning. Both continued their work in Hollywood for many years following “Wish You Were Here.”
Both seem to have stopped performing stunt work in the mid ’00s. Rondell’s resume boasts more than 150 stunt-related projects; Rogers’ includes nearly 100.
“Wish You Were Here” went on to become a platinum-selling album for Floyd many, many times over. It’s considered by many, along with “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall,” to be one of the band’s best works.
Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Roger Waters wrote the lyrics. While many people thought the song was about drugs, Waters claims it is not. The lyrics are about what he felt like as a child when he was sick with a fever. As an adult, he got that feeling again sometimes, entering a state of delirium, where he felt detached from reality. He told Mojomagazine (December 2009) that the lines, “When I was a child I had a fever/My hands felt just like two balloons” were autobiographical. He explained: “I remember having the flu or something, an infection with a temperature of 105 and being delirious. It wasn’t like the hands looked like balloons, but they looked way too big, frightening. A lot of people think those lines are about masturbation. God knows why.”
In a radio interview around 1980 with Jim Ladd from KLOS in Los Angeles, Waters said part of the song is about the time he got hepatitis but didn’t know it. Pink Floyd had to do a show that night in Philadelphia, and the doctor Roger saw gave him a sedative to help the pain, thinking it was a stomach disorder. At the show, Roger’s hands were numb “like two toy balloons.” He was unable to focus, but also realized the fans didn’t care because they were so busy screaming, hence “comfortably” numb. He said most of The Wall is about alienation between the audience and band.
Exploring further, Mojo asked Waters about the line, “That’ll keep you going through the show,” referring to getting medicated before going on-stage. He explained: “That comes from a specific show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia (June 29, 1977). I had stomach cramps so bad that I thought I wasn’t able to go on. A doctor backstage gave me a shot of something that I swear to God would have killed a f—ing elephant. I did the whole show hardly able to raise my hand above my knee. He said it was a muscular relaxant. But it rendered me almost insensible. It was so bad that at the end of the show, the audience was baying for more. I couldn’t do it. They did the encore about me.”
Dave Gilmour wrote the music while he was working on a solo album in 1978. He brought it to The Wallsessions and Waters wrote lyrics for it.
Gilmour believes this song can be divided into two sections: dark and light. The light are the parts that begin “When I was a child…,” which Gilmour sings. The dark are the “Hello, is there anybody in there” parts, which are sung by Waters.
Waters and Gilmour had an argument over which version of this to use on the album. They ended up editing two takes together as a compromise. Dave Gilmour said in Guitar World February 1993: “Well, there were two recordings of that, which me and Roger argued about. I’d written it when I was doing my first solo album [David Gilmour, 1978]. We changed the key of the song’s opening the E to B, I think. The verse stayed exactly the same. Then we had to add a little bit, because Roger wanted to do the line, ‘I have become comfortably numb.’ Other than that, it was very, very simple to write. But the arguments on it were about how it should be mixed and which track we should use. We’d done one track with Nick Mason an drums that I thought was too rough and sloppy. We had another go at it and I thought that the second take was better. Roger disagreed. It was more an ego thing than anything else. We really went head to head with each other over such a minor thing. I probably couldn’t tell the difference if you put both versions on a record today. But, anyway, it wound up with us taking a fill out of one version and putting it into another version.”This was the last song Waters and Gilmour wrote together. In 1986 Waters left the band and felt there should be no Pink Floyd without him.
When they played this on The Wall tour, a 35-foot wall was erected between the band and the audience as part of the show. As the wall went up, Gilmour was raised above it on a hydraulic lift to perform the guitar solo while Waters was spotlighted in front of the wall below. It was Gilmour’s favorite part of the show.
In the movie The Wall, this plays in a scene where the main character, a rock star named “Pink,” loses his mind and enters a catatonic state before a show. It was similar to what Syd Barrett, an original member of the band, went through in 1968 when he became mentally ill and was kicked out of the band.
This song is the final step in Pink’s (Roger Water’s) transformation into the Neo-Nazi, fascist character you see in the movie The Wall. Medics and the band manager come in and give Pink a shot to pull him out of his catatonic stupor, the manager pays protesting Meds some cash to shut up and let him take Pink to the concert in the state he’s in (obviously a threat to his health, but the Meds, who probably don’t make enough money, accept). In the movie Pink begins to melt on the way there, and underneath he finds that he is the cruel, fascist model of a Nazi party representative by the time he arrives at the concert. Supporting this, afterwards are the songs “The Show Must Go On” (Pink realizing as he gets to the show that there isn’t really any turning back, and he’s forced to go on-stage), “In the Flesh II” (the redone version of the first song on the album, now with Nazi-Pink singing, threatening random minorities), and “Run Like Hell” (after the crowd, loving nazi-Pink, has been whipped into a frenzy, now hunting minorities in the street, much like late 1930 Germany). While it does seem that this is a song about the “joy of heroin,” it has little, if any connection to heroin even if it’s condition resembles that of somebody who’s totally wasted.
David Gilmour played this on his 2006 solo tour, where he was joined by Pink Floyd keyboard player Rick Wright.
Van Morrison played this with Roger Waters at a 1990 concert Waters organized in Berlin to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. This version was used in the movie The Departed and also appeared in an episode of The Simpsons.
Gilmour’s second guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” regularly appears in Best Guitar Solo of All Time polls. In an August 2006 poll by viewers of TV music channel Planet Rock it was voted the greatest guitar solo of all time. For the solo, the Pink Floyd guitarist used a heavy pick on his Fender Strat with maple neck through a Big Muff and delay via a Hiwatt amp and a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet. Gilmour told Guitar World that the solo didn’t take long to develop: “I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good. In other words, I make a chart, putting ticks and crosses on different bars as I count through: two ticks if it’s really good, one tick if it’s good and cross if it’s no go. Then I just follow the chart, whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase and trying to make a really nice solo all the way through. That’s the way we did it on ‘Comfortably Numb.’ It wasn’t that difficult. But sometimes you find yourself jumping from one note to another in an impossible way. Then you have to go to another place and find a transition that sounds more natural.”
Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Enjoy the trip!
Pink Floyd “One Of These Days, ” this was built around a bass riff Roger Waters played through an echo unit. They worked off that for the rest of the song.
At the time, Pink Floyd was intrigued by minimalist composers who were experimenting with electronic patterns. They used a pattern this type of pattern throughout the song.
Dave Gilmour called this “The most collaborative effort of anything we ever did.” In later years, the band didn’t collaborate on songs nearly as much.
The only vocal is the line, “One of these days I’m gonna cut you up into little pieces.” It was spoken by drummer Nick Mason, and was digitally warped to give it an evil sound to it. Nick Mason said he liked how it sounded when it was all finished up.
Pink Floyd performed this on their video and album recorded live at Pompeii. When they started recording this album, they put down 24 pieces of music with no idea how it would develop. The working title was “Nothing, Parts 1-24.”
The spoken threat is reportedly aimed at Sir Jimmy Young, the Radio DJ.
Dave Gilmour in Guitar World February 1993: “‘One of these Days’ evolved from some of my experiments with the Binson [an Italian made delay unit], as did ‘Echoes’ [also from Meddle]. One day, Roger decided to take some of the techniques that I was developing and try them out himself on bass. And he came up with that basic riff that we all worked on and turned into ‘One of These Days.’ For the middle section, another piece of technology came into play: an H&H amp with vibrato. I set the vibrato to more or less the same tempo as the delay. But the delay was in 3/4 increments of the beat and the vibrato went with the beat. I just played the bass through it and made up that little section, which we then stuck on to a bit of tape and edited in. The tape splices were then camouflaged with cymbal crashes.”
Guitar World asked Gilmour about playing bass on “One Of These Days.” Gilmour replied: “The opening section is me and Roger. On ‘One of these Days,’ for some reason, we decided to do a double track of the bass. You can actually hear it if you listen in stereo. The first bass is me. A bar later, Roger joins in on the other side of the stereo picture. We didn’t have a spare set of strings for the spare bass guitar, so the second bass is very dull sounding. [laughs] We sent a roadie out to buy some strings, but he wandered off to see his girlfriend instead.”
David Gilmour’s guitar collection set several auction records when nearly 130 instruments went up for bid at Christie’s in New York today. The formerPink Floydfrontman’s most iconic instrument, the so-called Black Strat, fetched $3,975,000, well above the estimated range of $100,000 to $150,000. Other big-ticket items included a 1954 Fender Stratocaster with the serial number 0001, which was used on the recording of “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” went for over $1.8 million, a 1958 Gretsch White Penguin went for $447,000, and a 1955 Gibson Goldtop Les Paul, also used on “Another Brick” sold for $447,000. Christie’s declared all to be “world auction records.”
An acoustic 1969 Martin D-35, which Gilmour has used as his main acoustic in the studio since 1971, went for a little over $1 million, surpassing a record set by a Martin owned by Eric Clapton. A 1974 Electric Console stele guitar that Gilmour used on live performances of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” went for $300,000 (it was estimated at $2,000). The 1976 Ovation Custom Legend he used to demo “Comfortably Numb” on went for $399,000. The guitar Gilmour played at Live Aid, a 1983 Fender Strat, went for $187,500. A 1984 Fender Stratocaster that George Harrison once played went for $212,500, while a 1986 Strat that Ringo Starr played went for $100,000. And Gilmour’s primary guitar for recording and performing between 1988 and 2005, the “Red Strat,” went for $615,000.
The auction’s centerpiece, the Black Strat, has a unique history, which is why it was so desirable. Gilmour purchased it at the instrument shop Manny’s in New York in May 1970 to replace another Strat that was stolen. Over the years, he made many modifications to it, changing its pickups, switches, inputs, tuners, and neck in the quest for the perfect sound. He played the instrument on nearly all of Pink Floyd’s iconic recordings from 1970 to 1983, includingDark Side of the Moon,Wish You Were Here,Animals, andThe Wall. In the mid Eighties, Fender introduced a new line of Stratocasters and Gilmour picked up the Red Strat, retiring the Black Strat and loaning it to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was displayed in the restaurant chain’s Dallas location until 1997. Gilmour started using it again live for Pink Floyd’s reunion with Roger Waters in 2005 at Live 8. He continued to record with it on his solo albums, but Fender wound up making a replica of it in 2006 that he liked.
Shortly after I began this marathon project last year it occurred to me that my start date was 4/21, meaning my final review would fall on 4/20. From that point it became clear that there was only one possible outcome for the last album in the series…Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd! Everything about this album is classic, iconic, and larger than life.
It spent an unfathomable amount of time in the charts (over 900 to date), sold a staggering 45 million units (and counting!), has one of the most recognizable covers in all of rock music (with no title or band name listed), and continues to be a staple of rock radio all these many years later.
Dark Side Of The Moon explores timeless topics like death, greed, mental illness, and time itself.
The music was impeccably recorded and engineered, appealing to audiophiles and casual listeners alike. Dark Side was also a more collaborative effort from the band, recorded in a time before Roger Waters became the primary songwriter.
Of course, the songs themselves have become beloved to generations of Floyd fans; Money, Us And Them, Brain Damage, Time, Breathe, Eclipse, and The Great Gig In The Sky.
David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason created something epic and cosmic and ultimately relatable to countless people across the globe and across a significant span of time.
Music is indeed the universal language, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon speaks to the universe.
Animals (1977) by Pink Floyd is kind of an almost forgotten or underrated album by the space rock giants. Although it went 4x Platinum in sales, Animals has no songs that are played on the radio, and when compared to Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, it just seems like it has a much lower profile these days.
Maybe I like to cheer for the underdog, but I really love this album, perhaps for the very reason that it isn’t over played.
The 3 main songs (Dogs, Pigs, and Sheep) are long, complex pieces of music with deep lyrical themes of political and personal meanings. They also have some of the best musical performances that Pink Floyd ever recorded.
I used to listen to this one with headphones a lot and just get lost in the sonic atmosphere of it all.
The two parts of the opening/closing song Pigs On The Wing were a lovely little acoustic number to bookend the majestic expanses of the main course of the album.
Animals is where Roger Waters took firm control of Pink Floyd as the primary writer.
The Wall was 2 years away at the time, but the bricks were already being constructed. In the meantime, the giant inflatable pig on the album cover became another indelible image in the Pink Floyd arsenal. If you’ve never heard it, check out Animals…it is thoroughly thought provoking and sensational ear candy.
Pink Floyd + headphones = sonic bliss. That was one recipe for success in my teenage years when I was discovering the artists who would become the foundations of my musical taste. Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd’s 1975 masterpiece, was just so beautifully produced and conceived. I would just get lost in Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which opened side one and closed side two. Built on that haunting 4 note refrain, the song perfectly captured the essence of madness, mental instability, and the mysterious Syd Barrett, who allegedly showed up at one of the recording sessions (nearly unrecognizable with shaved eyebrows) after being away from the band for nearly 8 years at that time. The title song is a timeless classic that will still sound amazing 100 years from now. Have A Cigar was sung by Roy Harper, another British singer and friend of the band, and was another favorite of mine. There will be more Pink Floyd showing up on this list, but this is definitely my favorite album of theirs.