Echoes (Pink Floyd song)

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Song by Pink Floyd from the album Meddle
Published Pink Floyd Music Publ
Released 30 October 1971 (US)
5 November 1971 (UK)
Recorded January 1971
Abbey Road, London
March, April 1971
AIR Studios, London
May 1971
Morgan Studios, London
June, July 1971
Morgan Studios, London
AIR Studios, London
August 1971
AIR Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock,[1] psychedelic rock, avant-garde, space rock, ambient
Length 23:31 (Meddle version)
16:30 (Echoes version)
Label Harvest
Writer(s) Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, David Gilmour
Producer(s) Pink Floyd
Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd track listing

"Echoes" is a composition by Pink Floyd including fully extended instrumental passages, continuous sound effects, and musical improvisation. Written in 1970 by all four members of the group, "Echoes" provides the extended finale to Pink Floyd's album Meddle. The track has a running time of 23:31 and takes up the entire second side of the vinyl and cassette recordings.[2]

It also appears in shortened form as the fifth track on the compilation album which took its name, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.[3] "Echoes" is the third-longest song in Pink Floyd's catalogue, after "Atom Heart Mother" (23:44) and the combined segments of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (26:01). Unlike those pieces, it is not explicitly divided into separate parts; however, 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. It retains the title as the longest song by Pink Floyd that is not split into parts. The song was used to open the band's 1987 A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour after not being played for over a decade, but was retired again after 11 shows. The song was finally revived again for Gilmour's 2006 On an Island Tour where it was performed every night and a live version was released on Live in Gdańsk and Remember That Night.


Each verse of the song follows a pattern of three strophes.

The composition uses many progressive and unconventional musical effects. The ping sound heard at the beginning of the song was created as the result of an experiment at the very beginning of the Meddle sessions. It was produced through amplifying a grand piano, played by Richard Wright, and sending the signal through a Leslie rotating speaker.

David Gilmour used a slide guitar for certain sound effects on the studio recording and for the introduction in live performances from 1971 to 1975. A throbbing wind-like sound was created by Roger Waters vibrating the strings of his bass guitar with a steel slide and feeding the signal through a Binson Echorec. The high-pitched electronic "screams", resembling a distorted seagull song, were discovered by Gilmour when the cables were accidentally reversed to his wah pedal.[4] 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."[4]

The "choral"-sounding segment at the end of the song was created by placing two tape recorders in opposite corners of a room;[5] 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.[6] Harmonic "whistles" can be heard produced by Richard 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"). The second half of the song, where Gilmour plays muted notes on the guitar over Wright's slowly building Farfisa organ solo, was inspired by The Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations".[7]

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.

Early versions and alternative names[edit]

The piece had its genesis in a collection of musical experiments written separately by each band member, referred to as Nothing, Parts 1–24. 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.[8]

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; the phrase appeared in an episode titled "The £50 Cure")[9] and The Dam Busters, respectively.[8]

Live performances[edit]

The song was a concert staple for the band between 1971 and 1975. The Live at Pompeii version was split in two halves. 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, but now the vocal harmonies were swapped to have Wright singing Gilmour's original lower part and Gilmour singing Wright's original high parts. The band dropped it after eleven shows, as they were not happy with the performances. Also of note, Wright used synthesisers instead of the Farfisa organ.

Gilmour resurrected the song on his 2006 On an Island tour with Gilmour and Wright singing the low parts and Jon Carin singing the higher parts. Wright would bring the Farfisa out of retirement just for this song for the tour. These performances appear on Gilmour's Remember That Night DVD/Blu-ray and Live in Gdańsk album/DVD.

Echoes and 2001: A Space Odyssey synchronisation rumours[edit]

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 segment (titled "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite").

"Echoes" was released three years after the film's production and is 23 minutes and 31 seconds in length, quite similar to the "Infinite" segment. Sound effects in the middle section of the song convey the feeling of travelling through, or flying over, an alien world. The drone vocalisations heard in the final scenes of 2001 seem to match with the discordant bass vibrations in the middle of "Echoes", as well as the choral glissandos of its finale. Another notable link occurs during a change in scene at precisely the moment when guitar and keyboards crescendo as the lyrics re-enter for the final verse. The early lyrics vaguely convey reference to planets, which seems entirely suitable for the film's depiction of Jupiter and its moons. Adrian Maben re-created this marriage of music and image in his director's cut of Live at Pompeii using CGI.

The members of the band always denied that the synchronisation was intentional. Furthermore, the technology necessary to do the synchronisation in a recording studio circa 1971 would have been expensive and difficult for the band to acquire. However, the band had experience with creating film soundtracks by that point, having created the soundtrack to the French art house film More in 1969. It is rumoured that Kubrick asked Pink Floyd to compose the soundtrack to 2001. However, this is unlikely, as the band had only released their first album when Alex North was hired to score 2001. (Kubrick later decided to use classical music instead). Waters is sometimes misquoted as saying that the band's failure to contribute music to 2001's official score was his "greatest regret", when in fact he was referencing his declination to Kubrick using the "Atom Heart Mother" suite in his film A Clockwork Orange.[10]

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.[11]

Alleged plagiarism[edit]

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.[12]


Cover versions[edit]

The song was covered by Jana McCall on her 2002 album Slumber.[13]


  1. ^ Murphy, Sean (22 May 2011). "The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time". PopMatters. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Echoes: the album credits". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Mason, Nick, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Chronicle Books. 2004, ISBN 978-0-297-84387-0
  5. ^ Harris, John: The Dark Side of the Moon. The Making of the Pink Floyd Masterpiece, Da Capo Press 2006, p. 74: "We had two stereo tape machines on either side of the room," says Leckie. “We put the tape on the first machine, and then ran it maybe five feet across the room on to a second machine, with both of them recording. The signal started on the first machine, and much as eight or nine seconds later, it would come out of the next one and then feed back. You could sit there for hours, with everything you played being repeated; and after a while, incredible things would start to happen. The abstract bit at the end of "Echoes"—the part that sounds kind of choral—was done like that."
  6. ^ a b Harris, John. Dark Side of the Moon- the Making of the Pink Floyd Masterpiece. N.p.: Da Capo Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-306-81500-3
  7. ^ a b "Pink Floyd news :: Brain Damage, 7 April". Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c "Echoes FAQ". Retrieved 29 August 2006. 
  9. ^ a b "The Goon Show Site - Script - The 50 Pound Cure (Series 9, Episode 17)". Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "The Kubrick FAQ". visual-memory. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Wu, Su (9 October 2015). "A Meditative Surf-Film Soundtrack for Your Chill Weekend Ahead". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Who the hell does Roger Waters think he is?". Q Magazine. November 1992. Archived from the original on 5 December 1998. Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  13. ^ "Jana McCall Songs". Rovi Corp. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  14. ^ Turner, Col (2004). "An Interview with Venetta Fields". A Fleeting Glimpse. Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  15. ^ Blake, Mark (2008). "The Dream is Over..." (PDF). Mojo. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 

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