Astronomy Domine

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"Astronomy Domine"
Song by Pink Floyd
from the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
PublishedMagdalene Music/Essex Music
Released5 August 1967
Recorded11–13 April 1967
Length4:12 (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn version)
8:32 (Ummagumma live version)
4:20 (Pulse live version)
LabelEMI Columbia (UK)
Tower (US)
Songwriter(s)Syd Barrett
Producer(s)Norman Smith

"Astronomy Domine" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd.[5][6] The song, written and composed by original vocalist/guitarist Syd Barrett, was the first track featured on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967).[5] The lead vocal was sung by Barrett and keyboard player Richard Wright.[5] Its working title was "Astronomy Domine (An Astral Chant)". "Domine" (the vocative of "Lord" in Latin) is a word frequently used in Gregorian chants.


Sounds and references[edit]

It was seen as Pink Floyd's first foray into space rock[2] (along with "Interstellar Overdrive"), although band members would later disparage this term. The song opens with the voice of their manager at the time Peter Jenner reading the names of planets, stars, and galaxies through a megaphone, [5][7] sounding like an astronaut over an intercom. A barely audible line 'Pluto was not discovered till 1930' can be heard in the megaphonic mix. Guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett's Fender Esquire emerges and grows louder. At 0:19 a rapid beeping sound appears. At 0:26, Nick Mason's drum fills begin, and Barrett plays the enigmatic introductory figure. Keyboardist Richard Wright's Farfisa organ is mixed into the background. Barrett's incantatory lyrics about space support the theme in the song, mentioning planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune as well as Uranian moons Oberon, Miranda, and Titania, and Saturn's moon Titan. Barrett and Wright provide lead vocals. Bassist Roger Waters' aggressive bass line, Wright's Farfisa organ, and Barrett's kinetic slide guitar then dominate, with Jenner's megaphone recitation re-emerging from the mix for a time.

Music progression[edit]

The verse has an unusual chord progression, all in major chords: E, E♭, G, and A. The chorus is entirely chromatic, descending directly from A to D on guitar, bass, and falsetto singing, down one semitone every three beats. Strangest of all may be the intro, in which Barrett takes an ordinary open E major chord and moves the fretted notes down one semitone, resulting in an E♭ major chord superimposed onto an open E minor chord, fretting E♭ and B♭ notes along with the open E, G, B, and high-E strings of the guitar; the G functions both as major third to the E♭ chord, and minor third to the E chord. In the live version heard on Ummagumma (1969), the post-Barrett band, with David Gilmour on guitar, normalised the intro into straight E and E♭ major chords, also normalising the timing of the intro,[8] but beginning in 1994, began performing a more faithful version (as heard on Pulse), which Gilmour carried into his solo career.

Barrett's Fender Esquire is played through a Binson echo machine, creating psychedelic delay effects. The track is the band's only overt "space rock" song, though a group-composed, abstract instrumental was titled "Interstellar Overdrive".[9][10] Waters, in an interview with Nick Sedgewick, described "Astronomy Domine" as "the sum total" of Barrett's writing about space, "yet there's this whole fucking mystique about how he was the father of it all."[11]

Alternative and live versions[edit]

It was a popular live piece, regularly included in the band's concerts.[5] It appears as the first track on the live side of the album Ummagumma, released in 1969.[5] This version reflects the band's now more progressive style.[12] The song has been extended to include the first verse twice, and the instrumental in the middle,[12] before getting louder again back to the last verse. The lead vocals are shared between David Gilmour and Richard Wright.[12] While Wright sang the higher harmony in the studio version, Gilmour sang the higher harmony live. The Ummagumma version can also be found on the American release of A Nice Pair, a compilation album released in 1973.

It was dropped from the live sets in mid-1971,[5] but eventually reappeared as the first song in some sets on the band's 1994 tour.[5][13] The last time the song was ever performed with Roger Waters was on 20 June 1971 at the Palaeur, Rome, Italy.[14] A version from a concert in Miami appears as the B-side on the band's "Take It Back" single, and a version from one of the London concerts appears on the live album Pulse. Gilmour played the song at some of his appearances during his solo 2006 tour, again sharing the lead vocal with fellow Floyd member Richard Wright.[13] He said of playing the song live for the first time in over 30 years:

[I hear you've dusted off "Astronomy Domine" for the shows.] Yes, and it needed a bit of dusting, I can tell you! I don't think we'd played it since 1968.[15]

The track is also featured on the 2001 Pink Floyd compilation album, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.[16]

The Pulse version reverts to the original 4-minute length, with Gilmour and Wright taking lead vocals as in Ummagumma. This was the only song on the 1994 tour to feature Gilmour, Mason and Wright performing without backing musicians, with only Guy Pratt adding bass and vocals.

The song was also played by Gilmour and his solo band (which included Richard Wright with Guy Pratt on bass and Steve DiStanislao on drums) at the Abbey Road Studios sessions, which has been released as part of a CD/DVD On an Island package. "Astronomy Domine" was performed during the last few dates of Gilmour's On an Island tour, and features on his Remember That Night and Live in Gdańsk DVDs.

David Gilmour has inserted the song in the setlist of his last solo Rattle That Lock world tour.

The song was played by Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets in 2018.[17]

Music video[edit]

In 1968, Pink Floyd travelled to Belgium where they filmed a lip-synched promotional film for "Astronomy Domine",[18] as well as "See Emily Play", "The Scarecrow", "Apples and Oranges", "Paint Box", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "Corporal Clegg". Syd Barrett does not appear in these films, as he had been replaced by David Gilmour.

Gilmour lip-synced Barrett's voice in the "Astronomy Domine" video.




  1. ^ a b Ramirez, Carlos. "10 Best Metal Cover Songs". Noisecreep. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 180. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  3. ^ Reisch, George A. (2011). Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene!. Open Court. p. 107. ISBN 9780812697452.
  4. ^ TeamRock (6 November 2016). "The History Of Prog In 50 Albums". Team Rock.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X.
  6. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. p. 1177. ISBN 1-84195-551-5.
  7. ^ a b Palacios, Julian (2010). Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe (Rev. ed.). London: Plexus. pp. 206–207. ISBN 0-85965-431-1.
  8. ^ Pink Floyd: Anthology (1980 Warner Bros. Publications, Inc., Secaucus N.J.) Transcribes "Astronomy Domine" as heard on Ummagumma
  9. ^ A.Robbins "The Trouser Press record guide" (Collier Books, 1991), ISBN 0-02-036361-3
  10. ^ Nicholas Schaffner, "Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey", (Dell, 1992), ISBN 0-385-30684-9, p.66.
  11. ^ Sedgewick, Nick, "A Rambling Conversation with Roger Waters, Concerning All This and That", Wish You Were Here songbook, ISBN 0711910294 [USA ISBN 0825610796]
  12. ^ a b c Manning, Toby (2006). "The Albums". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 160. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  13. ^ a b Palacios, Julian (2010). Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe (Rev. ed.). London: Plexus. p. 208. ISBN 0-85965-431-1.
  14. ^ "The Concert Database Pink Floyd, 1971-06-20, A Perfect Union Deep In Space, Palaeur, Rome, Italy, Atom Heart Mother World Tour (c), roio". 28 March 2007.
  15. ^ Fuller, Graham (July 1994). "The Color of Floyd". Interview Magazine. pp. 20–21. Archived from the original on 30 July 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  16. ^ "Echoes: the album credits". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Shea, Stuart (2009). Pink Floyd FAQ: Everything Left to Know... and More!. New York: Backbeat Books. p. Astronomy Domine (1968, post-Barrett). ISBN 0879309504.

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