Careful with That Axe, Eugene

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"Careful with That Axe, Eugene"
Single by Pink Floyd
A-side "Point Me at the Sky"
Released 17 December 1968
Format 7"
Recorded 4 November 1968
Length 5:45 (single version)
8:49 (Ummagumma live version)
Label Columbia (EMI) (UK)
Songwriter(s) David Gilmour
Roger Waters
Richard Wright
Nick Mason
Producer(s) Norman Smith
Pink Floyd singles chronology
"Careful with That Axe, Eugene"
"The Nile Song"
"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" "The Nile Song"
Zabriskie Point soundtrack track listing
"Dance of Death"
"Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up"
Relics track listing

"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is a composition by the British rock band Pink Floyd.[1] The studio recording was originally released as the B-side of their single "Point Me at the Sky" and is also featured on the Relics compilation album; live versions can also be found on Ummagumma and in the film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. Pink Floyd re-recorded the track for Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point, retitling it "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up" on the film's soundtrack album.[2] This song was one of several to be considered for the band's "best of" album, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.[3] It was included on the multi-artist Harvest compilation, A Breath of Fresh Air – A Harvest Records Anthology 1969–1974 in 2007.[4]


The music consists of a light, organ-based jam, with Richard Wright using the Phrygian mode and an accompanying bass guitar playing just one tone (in this case, D) in octaves, with a segue into the song's only lyrics: the title of the song whispered menacingly, followed by Roger Waters' scream. The song becomes much louder and more intense before gradually settling down again.[5] In the heavier parts and later, quieter parts, David Gilmour can be heard with guitar and scat vocals; in concert, Gilmour would often sing along with his guitar line.

For the re-recording made for Zabriskie Point, "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up", whispering and a choir were added. Gilmour and Waters provided the vocals, and Waters' screaming is noticeably louder. It is a complete instrumental; unlike the original "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", "Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up" does not feature the spoken words "Careful with that axe, Eugene", and is in the key of E minor instead of the original D minor. In the film, it plays at the end during an explosion sequence filmed in slow motion. In the booklet of the soundtrack's reissue, David Fricke writes: "'Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up' is a cryptically titled remake of the Floyd's volcanic 1968 B-side 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene.' But its bonfire sound — all roaring guitars, crashing drums, and death-throe screaming — is the perfect complement to the movie's cataclysmic finish."

The name "Come In Number 51, Your Time is Up" was a surrealistic line by comedian Spike Milligan shouted through a megaphone as part of his act in the BBC TV show Q5. Milligan's phrase, and means of delivery, was based on the type of command issued on boating lakes to individual boat renters to return to shore because their hourly rental period had expired.[6]

Live history[edit]

Pink Floyd performed the song frequently in concert from 1968 to 1973 in progressively slower and alternative formats, and once at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977.[7] An embryonic form was performed as early as 31 May 1968 (captured in a recording at the Paradiso in Amsterdam), under the original title of "Keep Smiling People",[8][9] and another version was recorded on 25 June 1968 at the BBC Piccadilly Studios and broadcast on John Peel's Top Gear radio programme on 11 August 1968 with the title "Murderotic Woman", later re-titled "Murderistic Woman".[10] A version was recorded live in May 1969 for the Ummagumma live disc.[11] This version is considerably longer than its studio counterpart, as well as having the organ parts played on Wright's Farfisa Compact Duo rather than a Hammond.[12] Footage also exists of the group performing the song live in Australia on GTK. The song was also played on their 1969 The Man and the Journey Tour, under the name "Beset by Creatures of the Deep".[13] The live renditions on a whole were much slower, with the piece gradually building in intensity before a drum fill signaled Waters' screams.


Other use[edit]


  1. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X. 
  2. ^ "Albums: Zabriskie Point (1970), Pink Floyd". Floydian Slip. Retrieved 25 February 2011.  Roger Waters revisited this theme in "One Of My Turns" from the Wall, in a lyric that reads "Run to the bedroom, in the suitcase on the left, You'll find my favourite axe."
  3. ^ Guthrie, James. "James Guthrie: Audio: Building A Compilation Album". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "A Breath of Fresh Air: A Harvest Records Anthology, 1969-1974 - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Reisch 2011, p. 108.
  6. ^ Jones, Cliff. Another Brick in the Wall: The stories behind every Pink Floyd song. London: Carlton Books Ltd. pp. 60–61. ISBN 1-85868-849-3. 
  7. ^ "Pink Floyd Oakland Coliseum 9/5/77". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Pink Floyd : Keep Smiling People". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Hodges, Nick and Priston, Ian (1999), Embryo: A Pink Floyd Chronology 1966–1971. Cherry Red Books, p. 126.
  11. ^ Mabbett, Andy (2010). Pink Floyd – The Music and the Mystery. London: Omnibus. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-84938-370-7. 
  12. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). "The Albums". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 160. ISBN 1-84353-575-0. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Retro View - Revenge of the Mutant Camels play tips from Jeff Minter". 


  • Reisch, George (2011). Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene!. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-812-69745-2. 

External links[edit]