Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

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"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"
Song by Pink Floyd from the album A Saucerful of Secrets
Published Magdalene Music
Released 29 June 1968 (UK)
27 July 1968 (US)
Recorded 7–8 August, October 1967, January 1968
Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock, space rock, progressive rock,[1] avant-garde[2]
Length 5:27 (A Saucerful of Secrets version)
9:27 (Ummagumma live version)
Label EMI Columbia (UK)
Tower (US)
Writer Roger Waters
Producer Norman Smith
A Saucerful of Secrets track listing
Ummagumma track listing
Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd track listing

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is a song by the English rock band Pink Floyd and is featured on their second album A Saucerful of Secrets (1968).[3] It was written by Roger Waters[3] and features a drum part by Nick Mason played with timpani mallets. The track was arranged to be released as a single, with "Scream Thy Last Scream" on 8 September, before it was vetoed by the band's record company, EMI.[4] The song was regularly performed between 1967 and 1973[3] and can be heard on the live record of the 1969 album Ummagumma[3] and seen in the 1972 movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.[3] It also appears on the 2001 compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.[5]

Lyrics and music[edit]

According to an interview with David Gilmour on the 2006 documentary Which One's Pink?, the studio version of the song features minor guitar work both from Gilmour and Syd Barrett, making "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" the only Pink Floyd song that features all five band members, though some listeners may not fully discern the guitar tracks as Richard Wright's keyboards and organs are overlapping the guitars.

The song's recording commenced in August 1967, with overdubs recorded in October of that year and in January 1968. In an article reprinted in the book Pink Floyd – through the eyes of ... by Bruno McDonald, Roger Waters admitted to "borrowing" the lyrics from a book of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty period (which was later identified as the book Poems of the late T'ang, translated by A.C. Graham).[6]

Among the borrowed lines from Chinese poetry (as translated by Graham) were those written by Li He, whose poem "Don't Go Out of the Door" contains the line "Witness the man who raved at the wall as he wrote his questions to Heaven",[7] and Li Shangyin, whose poetry contained the lines, "watch little by little the night turns around", "countless the twigs which tremble in dawn" and "one inch of love is one inch of ashes."

Personnel[edit]

Alternative and live versions[edit]

  • Pink Floyd performed the song from 1967 to 1973. A performance on 9 September 1967 feature Barrett and Waters switching guitars.[8] The last ever performance with Waters, took place on 13 October 1973 at the Stadthalle, Vienna.[citation needed] In 1984/1985 and from 1999–present, Waters has performed the song.
  • On both the live Ummagumma disc and the Live at Pompeii, the song is significantly extended with a wide range of dynamics, including a white noise midde section.[9][10]
  • A version of the song, containing a saxophone solo, features on Waters' In the Flesh – Live DVD, as well as Disc 1 of the 2002 album of the same name.
Waters performing the track on his The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour

The song has been a staple in Waters' solo tours. Beginning with the 1984–1985 tours, "Set the Controls" has been presented in a radically rearranged rendition - with female backing vocals, saxophone solos and a guitar solo (and even a shakuhachi solo in 1985). A truncated version (just the three verses) of the song featuring a simple acoustic guitar part was performed on a handful of occasions during the Radio K.A.O.S tour of 1987. The song was included in the set list for Waters' 2006–2008 tour,[11] and previously his In the Flesh tour, featuring stills from the promotional videos of "Arnold Layne" and "The Scarecrow" projected on large screens. In June 2002, audiences enjoyed a surprise when the two nights at London's Wembley Arena saw the appearance, as guest drummer for the performance of the track, of Waters' former Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason, the first indication of a reconciliation following the acrimonious split of the mid-1980s.

The song is also found on Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972).

Cover versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun Review". Stewart Mason. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Gulla, Bob (2009). "David Gilmour". Guitar Gods: The 25 Players Who Made Rock History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-313-35806-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus,. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X. 
  4. ^ Palacios, Julian (1998). "'Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears' (July 1967–January 1968)". Lost in the Woods: Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd. London: Boxtree. p. 180. ISBN 0-7522-2328-3. 
  5. ^ "Echoes: the album credits". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Allusions to Classical Chinese poetry in Pink Floyd
  7. ^ Palacios, Julian (2010). Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark globe. London: Plexus. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-85965-431-9. "Waters borrows a succinct line from 9th-century poet Li He's 'Don't Go Out of the Door', which appeared in the original poem as: 'Witness the man who raved at the wall as he wrote his questions to Heaven.'" 
  8. ^ Palacios, Julian (2010). "Summer Tempests". Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe (Rev. ed.). London: Plexus. p. 271. ISBN 0-85965-431-1. 
  9. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). "The Albums". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 160. ISBN 1-84353-575-0. 
  10. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun - Pink Floyd : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Sweeting, Adam (20 May 2008). "Roger Waters: set the controls for the heart of the Floyd". Telegraph. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 

External links[edit]