The dawn of a new Pink Floyd

In 1970, “Atom Heart Mother” became a familiar and often dynamic presence in Pink Floyd’s live show. Laurens Van Houten /Frank White Photo Agency

“Atom Heart Mother” is utterly unlike anything else Floyd recorded (or would, for that matter).

Geesin rewrote and rearranged entire sequences of the pudding and created harmonies and melodies their initial vision lacked. Geesin provided the extracurricular musicianship that would give the piece its flavor and then about halfway through announced that he was completely exhausted and should be replaced.

Classically trained orchestrator John Alldis took over, completing the piece of music and introducing his own visions and notions. What could have been a clash of ideals instead developed into a musical creation that veers from hot jazz to soporific richness without a second thought; a piece that Frendz magazine promptly labeled “huge, timeless, sweeping, universal … ”

When Geesin listened to the playback of the final mix he announced, “OK, that’s a good demo. Can we do it for real now?”

Floyd members were also less than happy with the way the final piece came out. Waters went so far as to suggest the whole thing be “thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again.” Impressive though it is, the musicians believed that was all it was: an impressive wall of sound but lacking in substance or any real sense of creativity. “I think we were scraping the barrel a bit,” David Gilmour mourned. “To be honest with you, [it was] a load of rubbish.”

Both “Atom Heart Mother” and the album it titled feel less than complete compared to what the band would go on to achieve, beginning with their next full LP titled “Meddle.” “Atom Heart Mother” lacks the warmth and imagination that would so soon become an integral part of Pink Floyd’s musical approach. Elements of the title piece feel grating today, particularly when the horns kick in with their bludgeoning fanfares. It is not a piece of music that you can comfortably relax into.

But should we expect it to be? If “Atom Heart Mother” was Pink Floyd’s first masterpiece, Nick Mason points out it was “the beginning of an end” as well. It was the end of Floyd’s years as a fearlessly experimental band and the beginning of their career as superstars. To paraphrase one of the title track’s principle movements, it might be dung, but it sure is funky.


For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Buy the brand new edition of “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991, 7th Edition”

• Get the new John Lennon book: “John Lennon: Life is What Happens, Music, Memories & Memorabilia”

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