Echoes (Pink Floyd song)
|Song by Pink Floyd|
|from the album Meddle|
|Released||30 October 1971|
|Recorded||January – August 1971|
|Length||23:31 (Meddle version)|
16:30 (Echoes version)
"Echoes" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd, and the sixth and final track from their 1971 album Meddle. It was written in 1970 by all four members of the group. Containing several extended instrumental passages, largely ambient sound effects, and musical improvisation, the track has a running time of 23:31 and comprises the entire second side of the vinyl and cassette recordings.
It also appears in shortened form as the fifth track on the compilation album which took its name, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. The composition was originally assembled from separate fragments, and was later split in two parts to serve as both the opening and closing numbers in the band's film Live at Pompeii. The song was used to open the band's 1987 A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour after not being played for more than a decade, but was retired again after eleven shows. It was revived for Gilmour's 2006 On an Island Tour, where it was performed at every show. Live versions were released on Gilmour's albums Live in Gdańsk and Remember That Night.
The song begins with a "ping sound", created as a result of an experiment very early in the Meddle sessions, produced by amplifying a grand piano played by Richard Wright, and sending the signal through a Leslie speaker and a Binson Echorec unit. After several "pings", a slide guitar played by David Gilmour gradually joins. David Gilmour used a slide guitar in other certain sound effects on the studio recording and for the introduction in live performances from 1971 to 1975. The song adopts a structure that changes between C# minor and F# minor, with all instruments joining in for two swells of B♭/C# major, A major, and A♭sus4 which resolves to a A♭ major.
After three minutes, the instruments play in C# minor in 4/4 time, and the main verses are sung in harmony by Gilmour and Wright. In place of a chorus, a guitar riff descends chromatically from C# to A, and re-ascends chromatically to C#, several times before playing E major, B major, and C major. Another verse and "chorus" follow the first, and then a guitar solo plays over a verse progression and climaxes at the end of two "chorus" progressions. In some live versions, a third "chorus" progression was added.
Following the climax is the beginning of an extended improvisatory passage, at the seven-minute mark. The bass guitar, played by Roger Waters, plays a repeating sequence of B and C#, while drummer Nick Mason plays a driving 4/4 beat and Wright plays accompaniment on a Hammond organ. Gilmour plays several short, sometimes distorted, guitar solos in C# minor as well as E major, F# major, A major, and B major.
At eleven minutes, the improvisatory section crossfades with the "noise" section of the song which begins with a "wind" crescendo, created by Waters using a guitar slide on his bass strings and sending the signal through a Binson Echorec. A high-pitched screeching noise, played by Gilmour on guitar, is prominent during this largely ambient section. After observing the song being created, Nick Mason noted: "The guitar sound in the middle section of 'Echoes' was created inadvertently by David plugging in a wah-wah pedal back to front. Sometimes great effects are the results of this kind of pure serendipity, and we were always prepared to see if something might work on a track. The grounding we'd received from Ron Geesin in going beyond the manual had left its mark." Harmonic "whistles" can be heard produced by Wright pulling certain drawbars in and out on the Hammond organ. Rooks were added to the music from a tape archive recording (as had been done for some of the band's earlier songs, including "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun").
At fifteen minutes, the "noise" section melts away and a Farfisa Compact Duo organ played by Wright fades in. Several more "ping" noises are heard, and then an extended "build-up" sequence plays over B minor, F# minor, D/B minor, and E/F# minor. Mason's cymbals begin faintly, then crescendo as the section continues. Gilmour plays muted guitar notes to match the bassline, which Waters himself begins halfway through the section. Wright plays an organ solo, which lasts through the end of the "build-up". At the end of the "build-up" is a musical climax, where Gilmour plays high guitar notes in A major while the rest of the band plays only the bass notes. Following this is a short sequence structurally similar to the "build-up", except the entire chord progression is transposed up a whole tone to match the tonic of the song, C# minor.
The end of the instrumental climax leads into the song's third verse, followed by another "chorus". The band plays over two more "chorus" structures, and then a repeated, quiet verse progression serves as the outro of the song. In this section, a "choral"-sounding segment is heard. This was created by placing two tape recorders in opposite corners of a room; the main chord tapes of the song were then fed into one recorder and played back while at the same time recording. The other recorder was then also set to play what was being recorded; this created a delay between both recordings, heavily influencing the structure of the chords while at the same time giving it a very "wet" and "echoey" feel. This effect also results in a Shepard tone.
The piece had its genesis in a collection of separate musical experiments written by the band, some of which had been left over from previous sessions. The group then arranged the pieces in order to make a coherent 23-minute piece originally referred to as "Nothing, Parts 1–24". Not all of the pieces were used for the finished track, and out-takes included saying a phrase backwards, so it would sound correct yet strange when the tape was reversed. Subsequent tapes of work in progress were labelled "The Son of Nothing" and "The Return of the Son of Nothing"; the latter title was eventually used to introduce the as-yet unreleased work during its first live performances in early 1971. Studio recording was split between Abbey Road Studios, Morgan Studios and AIR Studios in London; the latter two were used because they had a 16-track recorder, which made assembling the individual components of the songs easier.
In an interview in 2008 with Mojo, when asked who had composed "Echoes", Wright stated he had composed the long piano intro and the main chord progression of the song. In the same interview he confirmed that Waters wrote the lyrics. During this stage of its development, the song's first verse had yet to be finalised. It originally referred to the meeting of two celestial bodies. The first verse originally took words from Muhammad Iqbal's poem "Two Planets", and later this was rewritten with the incorporation of original underwater imagery instead.
The title "Echoes" was also subjected to significant revisions before and after the release of Meddle: Waters, a devoted football fan, proposed that the band call its new piece "We Won the Double" in celebration of Arsenal's 1971 victory, and during a 1972 tour of Germany he jovially introduced it on two consecutive nights as "Looking Through the Knothole in Granny's Wooden Leg" (a reference to The Goon Show) and The Dam Busters, respectively.
The song was performed for Live at Pompeii, where it was split in two halves to open and close the film. The 1974 and 1975 performances featured backing vocals by Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams and saxophone solos by Dick Parry instead of the guitar solos in the 1971–73 performances (apart from the first show of the US 1975 tour, where Gilmour does the first middle solo then gives way to Parry's sax).
It was performed eleven times on the band's 1987 A Momentary Lapse of Reason world tour, in a slightly rearranged version trimmed down to 17 minutes. It was then replaced by "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" as the band were not happy with the performances.
Gilmour resurrected the song on his 2006 On an Island Tour as the closing number of the main set. He and keyboardist Rick Wright swapped vocal parts with Gilmour singing the high parts and Wright the low parts – the opposite to how it was performed previously. Wright would bring the Farfisa out of retirement just for this song for the tour. These performances appear on Gilmour's Remember That Night film and Live in Gdańsk album/film.
Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 2016 upon returning to Pompeii to play a solo show that he would have loved to perform "Echoes" but felt he could not do so without Wright, who had died in 2008 – "There's something that's specifically so individual about the way that Rick and I play in that, that you can't get someone to learn it and do it just like that."
In a review for the Meddle album, Jean-Charles Costa of Rolling Stone gave "Echoes" a positive review. Costa described "Echoes" as "a 23-minute Pink Floyd aural extravaganza that takes up all of side two, recaptures, within a new musical framework, some of the old themes and melody lines from earlier albums." Costa further went on: "All of this plus a funky organ-bass-drums segment and a stunning Gilmour solo adds up to a fine extended electronic outing."
Echoes and 2001: A Space Odyssey synchronisation rumours
Similar to the Dark Side of the Rainbow effect, at-large rumours suggested that "Echoes" coincidentally synchronises with Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, when played concurrently with the final 23-minute segment titled "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite". At the time of the film's production in 1967–1968, Pink Floyd was not working on any material suitable for the film, nor were they contacted about supplying music. It is likely that Kubrick never heard the band's music until after the film was finished. Kubrick would later feature copies of both the soundtrack to 2001 and Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother as props in the record store scene in A Clockwork Orange.
The 1973 George Greenough film Crystal Voyager concludes with a 23-minute segment in which the full version of "Echoes" accompanies a montage of images shot by Greenough from a camera mounted on his back while surfing on his kneeboard.
In interviews promoting Amused to Death, Waters claimed that Andrew Lloyd Webber had plagiarised the riff from "Echoes" for sections of the musical The Phantom of the Opera; nevertheless, he decided not to file a lawsuit regarding the matter. He said:
Yeah, the beginning of that bloody Phantom song is from Echoes. *DAAAA-da-da-da-da-da*. I couldn't believe it when I heard it. It's the same time signature—it's 12/8—and it's the same structure and it's the same notes and it's the same everything. Bastard. It probably is actionable. It really is! But I think that life's too long to bother with suing Andrew fucking Lloyd Webber.
British musician Ewan Cunningham covered "Echoes" in a YouTube video which featured him playing all of the parts himself. This cover was heavily based on the Live at Pompeii version and went on to receive praise from Nick Mason. British electronic music project Banco de Gaia covered "Echoes" on their 2009 album Memories Dreams Reflections.
- David Gilmour – lead vocals (lower harmony), electric guitars, sound effects
- Richard Wright – lead vocals (higher harmony), grand piano (through Leslie 145 speaker), Hammond organ, Farfisa organ, sound effects
- Roger Waters – bass guitar, slide bass, sound effects
- Nick Mason – drums, percussion, sound effects
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