Atom Heart Mother Discography
Atom Heart Mother is a 1970 progressive rock album by Pink Floyd, engineered by Alan Parsons and Peter Bown. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, England, and reached number 1 in the UK, and number 55 in the U.S. charts, and went gold in the U.S. in March 1994. A re-mastered CD was released in 1994 in the UK, and in 1995 in the U.S.
The original album cover shows a very ordinary cow standing in a very ordinary pasture, with no text nor any other clue as to what might be on the record. (Some later editions have the title and artist name added to the cover.) This concept was the group’s reaction to the psychedelic “space rock” imagery associated with Pink Floyd at the time of the album’s release; the band wanted to explore all sorts of music without being limited to a particular image or style of performance. They thus requested that their new album have “something plain” on the cover, which ended up being the image of the cow. Storm Thorgerson, inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous “cow-wallpaper”, has said that he simply drove out into a rural area near Potters Bar and photographed the first cow he saw.  The cow’s owner identified her name as “Lulubelle III”. More cows appear on the back cover (again, with no text or titles), and on the inside gatefold.
The title track was to have been called “The Amazing Pudding”, though Ron Geesin’s original score referred to it as “Epic”. Its name was changed after Ron Geesin, who co-wrote the piece and arranged the orchestration on the recording, pointed to a copy of The Evening Standard (dated Thursday 16th July 1970), and suggested to Roger Waters that he would find a title in there. The headline was: “ATOM HEART MOTHER NAMED”.
The piece is a progression from Pink Floyd’s earlier instrumental pieces such as “A Saucerful of Secrets”. The “Atom Heart Mother” suite takes up all of side one, and is split into six parts, featuring a full brass section and choir which take most of the lead melody lines, while Pink Floyd mainly provide the backing tracks; a reverse of the 1960s pop music practice of using orchestration as the background, and putting the rock band in front. However, there is one section where a bluesy electric guitar solo by David Gilmour takes the lead.
Critical reaction to the suite has always been mixed, and all band members have expressed negativity toward it in recent times, as shown in the quotes section later in this article. But they appear to have been enthusiastic about the suite in the early 1970s, taking a full brass section and choir on tour just for the purpose of performing this piece; a move which caused the tour to lose money. A later arrangement without brass or choir, and pared down from 25 minutes to 15 by omitting the strange “collage” sections and closing reprise of the main theme, remained in their live repertoire into 1972, performed in concerts that also previewed The Dark Side of the Moon.
Side two opens with three five-minute songs: one by each of the band’s three resident songwriters, and closes with a suite which was primarily conceived by Nick Mason, but credited to the whole group. Therefore, this album’s concept is similar to their previous Ummagumma album, in that it features the full band in the first half, and focuses on individual members in the second half. Roger Waters contributes a folk ballad called “If” which he would play frequently at live shows in support of his Radio KAOS album, more than a decade later. This is followed by Rick Wright’s brass-heavy “Summer ’68”, a critique of the “rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle that would soon become characteristic of Pink Floyd. Next is David Gilmour’s “Fat Old Sun”, for which a 15 minute extended arrangement spent two years as a key part of the band’s live set, and is a staple of Gilmour’s various solo tours.
The final track, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”, is divided into three segments, each with its own descriptive title, joined by dialogue and sound effects of then-roadie Alan Stiles preparing, discussing, and eating breakfast. The original intention was to title it “Syd’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and feature the voice of Syd Barrett, but Barrett declined to participate.
The original LP ends with the sound of a dripping tap which continues into the inner groove, and thus plays on indefinitely.
“Atom Heart Mother” (David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason, Ron Geesin) ā€“ 23:44
“Mind Your Throats, Please”
“If” (Roger Waters) ā€“ 4:31
Lead vocals: Roger Waters
“Summer ’68” (Rick Wright) ā€“ 5:29
Lead vocals: Rick Wright
“Fat Old Sun” (David Gilmour) ā€“ 5:24
Lead vocals: David Gilmour
“Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” (David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason) ā€“ 13:00
“Rise and Shine”
“Sunny Side Up”
David Gilmour ā€“ vocals, guitars, bass guitar on “Fat Old Sun”, Drums on “Fat Old Sun”
Roger Waters ā€“ bass guitar, acoustic guitar on “If”, tape effects, tape collage, vocals on “If”
Richard Wright ā€“ keyboards, piano, orchestration, vocals on “Summer ’68”
Nick Mason ā€“ drums, percussion, tape editing, tape collage, additional engineering on “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”
John Aldiss Choir ā€“ vocals
Alan Parsons ā€“ engineer
Peter Bown ā€“ engineer
Ron Geesin ā€“ orchestration and co-composition on title track
Alan Stiles ā€“ voice on “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Abbey Road Session Pops Orchestra ā€“ brass and orchestral sections
James Guthrie ā€“ 1994 remastering
Atom Heart Mother is a good case, I think, for being thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again! […] It was pretty kind of pompous, it wasn’t really about anything.
– Roger Waters – Rock Over London Radio Station – March 15, 1985, for broadcast April 7/April 14, 1985.
Some of it now, like Atom Heart Mother, strikes me as absolute crap, but I no longer want or have to play stuff I don’t enjoy.
– David Gilmour – November 1994
“What do you think of your early records like Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma today?”
I think both are pretty horrible. Well, the live disc of Ummagumma might be all right, but even that isn’t recorded well.
– David Gilmour – German news magazine “Der Spiegel” No. 23 – 5 June 1995
It’s an averagely recorded album but a very interesting idea, working with Ron Geesin, an orchestra and the John Aldiss choir. Roger and I were quite friendly with Ron. I think I met him through Robert Wyatt. The thing that Ron taught us most about was recording techniques, and tricks done on the cheap. We learned how to get round the men-in-white-coats and do things at home, like editing. Ron taught us how to use two tape recorders to create an endless build up of echo. It was all very relevant to things we did later. Now I listen to it with acute embarrassment because the backing track was put down by Roger and me, beginning to end, in one pass. Consequently the tempo goes up and down. It was a 20-minute piece and we just staggered through it. On the other side, Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast was another great idea — gas fires popping, kettles boiling, that didn’t really work on record but was great fun live. I’ve never heard Roger lay claim to it, which makes me think it must have been a group idea.
– Nick Mason
At the time we felt Atom Heart Mother, like Ummagumma, was a step towards something or other. Now I think they were both just a blundering about in the dark.
– David Gilmour
I didn’t have anything, really, to do with the start of Atom Heart Mother, and when I asked them what it was about, they said they didn’t know themselves. It’s a conglomeration of pieces that weren’t related, or didn’t seem to be at the time. The picture isn’t related either; in fact, it was an attempt to do a picture that was unrelated, consciously unrelated.
– Storm Thorgerson – Guitar World – February 1998
“I think Atom Heart Mother was a good thing to have attempted, but I don’t really think the attempt comes off that well,”
– David Gilmour – Rolling Stone Magazine – November 2001
‘I wouldn’t dream of performing anything that embarrassed me. If somebody said to me now: “Right…here’s a million pounds, go out and play Atom Heart Mother”, I’d say: “You must be fucking joking…I’m not playing that rubbish!”. ‘Cos then I really would be embarrassed.’
– Roger Waters – interviewed by Richard Skinner – BBC Radio One – originally broadcast: Saturday 9th June 1984
Year – Chart – Position
1970 – UK Albums Chart – 1
1970 – Billboard Pop Albums – 55
1970 – Norway’s album chart – 13
The above article is courtesy of Wikipedia.
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