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A Saucerful of Secrets

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A Saucerful of Secrets
Saucerful of secrets2.jpg
Studio album by
Released29 June 1968
Recorded9 May 1967 – 3 May 1968
Studio
Genre
Length39:25
LabelEMI Columbia
ProducerNorman Smith
Pink Floyd chronology
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
(1967)
A Saucerful of Secrets
(1968)
More
(1969)
Singles from A Saucerful of Secrets
  1. "Let There Be More Light" / "Remember a Day"
    Released: 19 August 1968 (US only)

A Saucerful of Secrets is the second studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 29 June 1968 by EMI Columbia in the United Kingdom and on 27 July 1968 in the United States by Tower Records. During recording, the mental health of singer and guitarist Syd Barrett declined, so David Gilmour was recruited to complement him; Barrett left before the album's completion.[4][5]

While Pink Floyd's debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), had been driven by Barrett as the band's leader and principal songwriter, A Saucerful of Secrets drew more diverse influences, with every member contributing songwriting and lead vocals. Gilmour appeared on all but two songs, while Barrett contributed to three.[6] "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is the only song on which all five members appeared together.

A Saucerful of Secrets reached number nine in the UK charts, but did not chart in the US until April 2019, peaking at number 158. The album received mostly positive reviews, though many critics have deemed it inferior to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Recording[edit]

Pink Floyd released their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in August 1967.[7] Work began on A Saucerful of Secrets in the same month, at EMI Studios in London, with producer Norman Smith.[8] The first songs recorded were "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Scream Thy Last Scream",[nb 1] both recorded on 7–8 August 1967.[10][11][12] The tracks were planned for release as a single on 8 September, but this was vetoed by Pink Floyd's record company, EMI.[13]

The band recorded "Vegetable Man"[nb 2] at De Lane Lea Studios on 9–11 October,[14] and returned on 19 October to record "Jugband Blues",[15] with Smith booking a Salvation Army band.[nb 3][15] During these sessions, bandleader Syd Barrett overdubbed a slide-guitar part onto "Remember a Day", an outtake from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.[14][16][18] The band took a break to record "Apples and Oranges"[15] on 26 and 27 October.[19] A few days later, they recorded the B-side, "Paint Box",[15] before leaving for a US tour.[15] In November, "Apples and Oranges" was released as a single but failed to chart.[20]

Barrett's mental health was deteriorating; he was often unresponsive and would not play his instrument, leading to the cancellation of several performances and their first US tour.[21] In December 1967, reaching a crisis point with Barrett, Pink Floyd added guitarist David Gilmour as the fifth member.[22][nb 4] According to Jenner, the group planned that Gilmour would "cover for [Barrett's] eccentricities". When this proved unworkable, "Syd was just going to write. Just to try to keep him involved."[24][nb 5]

For two days from 10 January 1968, Pink Floyd reconvened at EMI Studios, attempting to work on older tracks: Waters' vocals and keyboardist Richard Wright's organ were overdubbed onto "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun",[15] while drummer Nick Mason added vocals to "Scream Thy Last Scream".[5]

From 12 January till the 20th, Pink Floyd performed briefly as a five-piece.[26] Gilmour played and sang while Barrett wandered around on stage, occasionally joining in with the playing. In between these gigs, the group rehearsed new songs written by Waters on 15 and 16 January. During the next session, on 18 January, the band jammed on rhythm tracks, joined by Smith;[nb 6][27] Barrett did not attend. On 24 and 25 January, they recorded a song, logged as "The Most Boring Song I've Ever Heard Bar 2" at Abbey Road.[nb 7][28] The band recorded "Let There Be More Light", "Corporal Clegg" (which features lead vocals by Nick Mason)[29] and "See-Saw" all without Barrett, though manager Andrew King claimed Barrett performed the slide solo at the end of "Let There Be More Light".[30]

On 26 January 1968, when the band was driving to a show at Southampton University, they decided not to pick up Barrett.[26][31] Barrett was finally ousted in late January 1968, leaving the band to finish the album without him. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is the only song on which all five band members appeared.[32] The band struggled to come up with new material,[6][26] but in February 1968 recorded Wright's "It Would Be So Nice" and Waters' "Julia Dream".[nb 8][30] In early February, it was announced Waters’ track "Corporal Clegg" would be the band's next single;[30] however, due to pressure from the label, the song[33] was earmarked for the album, and "It Would Be So Nice" was released in April,[nb 9] with "Julia Dream" on the B-side.[34]

Throughout April, the band took stock of their work.[34] Waters blocked "Vegetable Man"[nb 10] and "Scream Thy Last Scream" from the album, but they retained "Jugband Blues" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", on which Barrett played.[34] Without enough material to fill an album, the band started putting together music that became the title track.[nb 11][34] Mason and Waters planned it out as if it were an architectural design, including peaks and troughs.[34] Smith did not approve, telling them they had to stick to three-minute songs.[34] On 25 June, the band recorded another session for the BBC show Top Gear, including two tracks from the album: the session featured two tracks from Saucerful: "Let There Be More Light" and an abridged version of the title track, "The Massed Gadgets of Hercules".[39]

Songs[edit]

Unlike Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which was dominated by Barrett's compositions, A Saucerful of Secrets contains only one Barrett original: "Jugband Blues". AllMusic described that with A Saucerful of Secrets, "the band begin to map out the dark and repetitive pulses that would characterize their next few records."[40] Wright sings or shares lead vocals on four of the album's seven songs, and contributes vocals on the eleven-and-a-half-minute instrumental opus "A Saucerful of Secrets", making this the only Pink Floyd album where his vocal contributions outnumber those of the rest of the band.

With Barrett seemingly detached from proceedings, it came down to Waters and Wright to provide adequate material. The opening, "Let There Be More Light", written by Waters, continues the space rock approach established by Barrett. "Let There Be More Light" evolved from a bass riff that was part of "Interstellar Overdrive".[27] Both "Remember a Day" and "See-Saw" use the childlike approach[41][42] that was established on their debut.[43] Wright remained critical of his early contributions to the band.[43]

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" was first performed with Barrett in 1967.[44] The success of the track was such that it remained in their live setlist until 1973 where it appeared in a greatly extended form.[45] Waters later performed the track during solo concerts from 1984 and later.[46] Waters borrowed the lyrics from a book of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty, like Barrett had used in "Chapter 24".[47]

"Corporal Clegg" is the first Pink Floyd song to address issues of war, a theme which would endure throughout the career of Waters as a songwriter for the band, culminating on the 1983 album The Final Cut.[45] The title track was originally written as a new version of "Nick's Boogie".[48] The track is titled as four parts[49] on Ummagumma.[50] A staple in the band's live set until summer 1972,[50] a live version of the song was recorded on 27 April 1969 at the Mothers Club in Birmingham for inclusion on Ummagumma.[51][52]

"Jugband Blues" is often thought to refer to Barrett's departure from the group ("It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here / And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here").[53][54] A promotional video was recorded for the track.[16] The band's management wanted to release the song as a single, but it was vetoed by the band and Smith.[15]

Unreleased songs[edit]

As well as "Jugband Blues", the album was to include "Vegetable Man", another Barrett composition.[55] The song was to appear on a single as the B-side to "Scream Thy Last Scream".[9][11] The band performed "Jugband Blues", "Vegetable Man" and "Scream Thy Last Scream" for a Top Gear session, recorded on 20 December, and broadcast on 31st.[56] Two additional Barrett songs, "In the Beechwoods",[57] and "No Title" (frequently referred to on bootlegs as "Sunshine"),[nb 12] were recorded early in the album sessions.[58] At least one other song, "John Latham", was recorded during these sessions, and has been released.[58]

Album cover[edit]

The album cover, designed by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis, contains a hidden image based on a panel from a 1967 Dr. Strange comic book story. The image used came from Marvel's Strange Tales #158 which was illustrated by Marie Severin.[59][60] This is the first of several Pink Floyd album covers that were designed by Hipgnosis,[61] and was only the second time that an EMI group (The Beatles were the first) was permitted to hire outside designers for an album jacket.[62]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[40]
The Daily Telegraph3/5 stars[63]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[64]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[65]
MusicHound2/5[66]
Paste8.3/10[67]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[68]
Sputnikmusic4.5/5 stars[69]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[64]
The Daily VaultB+[70]

The album was released in the UK on Monday, 1 July 1968 on EMI's Columbia label, reaching number 9 in the UK charts.[71][72] It was released in the US by the Tower Records division of Capitol, where it was the only Pink Floyd album not to chart until 2019, when it peaked at 158.[72][73] However, when reissued as A Nice Pair with the original version of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn after the success of The Dark Side of the Moon, the album did chart at number 36 on the Billboard 200.[74] "Let There Be More Light" was released as a single, backed with "Remember a Day", in the US on 19 August 1969.[75] On 27 April 2019, the album finally charted on the Billboard 200 as a standalone peaking at No. 158 when the mono mix was re-released for Record Store Day.[76]

The stereo mix of the album was first released on compact disc (CD) in 1988, and in 1992 was digitally remastered and reissued as part of the Shine On box set.[77] The remastered stereo CD was released on its own in 1994 in the UK and the US. The mono version of the album has never been officially released on CD. The stereo mix was remastered and re-issued in 2011 by Capitol/EMI as part of the Why Pink Floyd: Discovery series,[78] and again in 2016 by Sony Music under the Pink Floyd Records label.[79] The mono mix was reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day in April, 2019 by Sony Music and Warner Music Group under the Pink Floyd Records label.[80]

Upon its release, Rolling Stone magazine's review was unfavourable, writing that it is "not as interesting as their first" and "rather mediocre", highlighting the near-departure of Syd Barrett as one of its detractions.[81]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Richie Unterberger draws attention to the album's "gentle, fairy-tale ambience", with songs that move from "concise and vivid" to "spacy, ethereal material with lengthy instrumental passages".[40] In a review for BBC Music, Daryl Easlea said Saucerful was "not without filler", adding that "Jugband Blues" was "the most chilling" song on the album.[82]

While promoting 2014's The Endless River, Mason named A Saucerful of Secrets his favourite Pink Floyd album. "I think there are ideas contained there that we have continued to use all the way through our career", he says. "I think [it] was a quite good way of marking Syd [Barrett]'s departure and Dave [Gilmour]'s arrival. It's rather nice to have it on one record, where you get both things. It's a cross-fade rather than a cut".[83]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Let There Be More Light"Roger WatersWright, Waters, and Gilmour5:38
2."Remember a Day"Richard WrightWright4:33
3."Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"WatersWaters5:28
4."Corporal Clegg"WatersGilmour, Wright and Mason4:13
Total length:19:52
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."A Saucerful of Secrets"
  • I. "Something Else" (3:57)
  • II. "Syncopated Pandemonium" (3:07)
  • III. "Storm Signal" (1:34)
  • IV. "Celestial Voices" (3:19)"
  • Waters
  • Wright
  • Nick Mason
  • David Gilmour
  • instrumental, wordless vocals by Wright and Gilmour11:57
    2."See-Saw"WrightWright4:36
    3."Jugband Blues"Syd BarrettBarrett3:00
    Total length:19:33

    Personnel[edit]

    (all personnel uncredited)

    Pink Floyd

    Additional personnel

    Charts and certifications[edit]

    Charts[edit]

    Chart (1968) Peak
    position
    French Albums (SNEP)[87] 10
    UK Albums (OCC)[71] 9
    Chart (2019) Peak
    position
    US Billboard 200[88] 158

    Certifications[edit]

    Region Certification Certified units/sales
    United Kingdom (BPI)[89] Gold 100,000^

    ^shipments figures based on certification alone

    References[edit]

    Footnotes

    1. ^ Despite having only two complete takes of the song,[9] "Scream Thy Last Scream" was viewed as a potential single.[10]
    2. ^ "Scream Thy Last Scream" was again scheduled for release, this time with "Vegetable Man" as the B-side, but cancelled. Both tracks were first officially released on The Early Years 1965-1972 box set in November 2016.[9][11]
    3. ^ When the Salvation Army were brought in to play on the track,[16] Barrett told them to "play whatever they want", Smith insisted on recorded parts.[17]
    4. ^ In late 1967, Barrett suggested adding four new members; in the words of Waters: "two freaks he'd met somewhere. One of them played the banjo, the other the saxophone ... [and] a couple of chick singers".[23]
    5. ^ One of Gilmour's first tasks was to mime Barrett's guitar playing on an "Apples and Oranges" promotional film.[25]
    6. ^ This jamming later formed the intro to "Let There Be More Light".[27]
    7. ^ This song later became "See-Saw".[11]
    8. ^ Originally titled "Doreen's Dream".[30]
    9. ^ The single was released on 12 April 1968, almost a week after Barrett's departure from the band was announced.[34]
    10. ^ Peter Jenner, one of the band's managers, said Waters blocked "Vegetable Man" because "it was too dark".[14]
    11. ^ It was David Gilmour's first professional songwriting credit. His name is incorrectly spelled "Gilmore",[35][36][37] an error that would persist on all pressings until finally being corrected with the 1994 remastered version.[38]
    12. ^ Not to be confused with the early title of "Remember a Day", as written on the recorded sheet, "Sunshine".[11][15]

    Citations

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    Bibliography[edit]

    • Povey, Glenn (2006). Echoes : The Complete History of Pink Floyd (New ed.). Mind Head Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9554624-0-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


    External links[edit]