B-side label of the French Arnold Layne EP, featuring an edit of "Interstellar Overdrive"
|Instrumental by Pink Floyd|
|from the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn|
|Released||5 August 1967|
|Recorded||March and April 1967|
|Length||9:41 (album version)|
16:49 (London '66-'67 version)
3:02 (Tonite Let's All Make Love in London version)
14:57 (1966 recording)
"Interstellar Overdrive" is an instrumental composition written and performed by Pink Floyd. The song was written in 1966 and is on their 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn , clocking in at almost ten minutes in length.
The song originated when guitarist Syd Barrett heard the band's manager Peter Jenner humming a song, which Barrett tried to interpret by playing it on his guitar. Sharing the same emphasis on chromaticism with "Astronomy Domine", the piece was recorded in several takes between March and April 1967. An earlier, longer recording of the song can be heard on the soundtrack to the film Tonite Lets All Make Love in London , which was recorded at Sound Technique Studios in early 1967 and was released in the same year. Other versions of the track appear on various bootleg recordings. The piece has been covered by acts such as T. Rex, Pearl Jam, Hawkwind, the Melvins, and Simon House.
"Interstellar Overdrive" was one of the very first psychedelic instrumental improvisations recorded by a rock band.It was seen as Pink Floyd's first foray into space rock (along with "Astronomy Domine"), although band members would later disparage this term. It has also been described as an experimental rock and psychedelic rock song as well as an example of proto-prog. "Interstellar Overdrive" originated when early Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner was trying to hum a song he could not remember the name of (most commonly identified as Love's cover of "My Little Red Book"). Guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett followed Jenner's humming with his guitar and used it as the basis for the principal melody of "Interstellar Overdrive". Bassist Roger Waters once told Barrett that the song's riff reminded him of the theme tune from Steptoe and Son (by Ron Grainer). Around the time the song was written, Barrett was also inspired by AMM and their guitarist Keith Rowe, who had a pattern of moving pieces of metal along his guitar's fretboard. The free-form section (and also, "Pow R. Toc H.") was inspired by Frank Zappa's free-form freak-outs and The Byrds' "Eight Miles High".
"Interstellar Overdrive" shares an emphasis on chromaticism with "Astronomy Domine". The main theme descends chromatically from B to G, before resolving to E, all chords major.The opening hook of the piece is a distorted, descending guitar riff, played by Barrett, its composer, with Waters on bass and Richard Wright on organ. Nick Mason's drums then kick in, and after the riff repeats itself a bit, the track turns into improvisation, including modal improvisations, flourishes on the Farfisa organ, and quiet interludes. The song gradually becomes almost structureless and in free-form tempo, punctuated only by strange guitar noises. Eventually, however, the entire band restates the main theme, which is repeated with decreasing tempo and more deliberate intensity. Waters once called the song "an abstract piece". A bass riff in the song later evolved into another Pink Floyd song, "Let There Be More Light", which was written by Waters.
The stereo version of the song has an organ moving from speaker to speaker; the effect is lost on the mono version of the song, where it simply gains an extra organ and guitar sound.However, the organ is very prominent during the first 50 seconds of the mono version—along with some special effects—but inaudible in the stereo mix until the improvised section. Five takes of the song were originally recorded on 27 February 1967, with a sixth later recorded on 16 March 1967, in an attempt to create a shorter version, with overdubs in June of that year. The Piper version also appears on the official compilation albums Relics and A Nice Pair . Despite Smith trying to bring the rest of the album's tracks from a jam-long length to something more manageable, Smith relented for "Interstellar Overdrive", as Jenner recalled: "It was definitely the deal that—hey, here you can do 'Interstellar Overdrive', you can do what you like, you can do your weird shit. So 'Interstellar Overdrive' was the weird shit . . . and again, hats off to Norman for letting them do that." A delay effect was created by producer Norman Smith by superimposing a second version of the song over a previous version. Smith played the drum roll on the song near the very end.
The studio recording on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the one that most listeners are familiar with, yet several other versions survive from both the recording studio and the stage. It was first recorded as a demo on 31 October 1966,recorded live-in-studio at Thompson Private Recording Company. This version was used as the audio sound to the film San Francisco , which was made by a friend of Barrett's, Anthony Stern. While filmmaker Peter Whitehead and his secondhand Stern were having a discussion, the topic about Pink Floyd was brought about by Stern, to which Whitehead told him, "yeah, terrible music". Stern said that "they're successful now", and suggest the pair go watch Pink Floyd, at their gig at the Royal College of Art. Whitehead recalled that they "went to UFO and I liked them. Not connected to pop music, a long improvisatory quality, ideal for what I wanted." Whitehead convinced Pink Floyd to record "Interstellar Overdrive" for a film he was working on. Before turning up at the recording studio, the band held a rehearsal, and the next day, 11 January 1967, went to Sound Techniques studios. The studio, which was originally a dairy factory, was run by engineers Geoff Frost and John Wood.
For the session, which was booked for two hours, Wood and Joe Boyd operated the mixing desk, while Whitehead and Stern were filming.This recording of the song lasted nearly 16-minutes in length, recorded onto a 4-track recorder in one take, as the band didn't want to have to play through the song again. The band then played another original instrumental, titled "Nick's Boogie". While 5 seconds of the band playing was included in Whitehead's Tonite Lets All Make Love in London film, edits of the recording was included on the film's respective soundtrack. The soundtrack (released in 1968) includes an edited version of the song and two reprises of it. The full version is available on the album London '66–'67 . While attempting to get the band a record deal, Boyd returned with the group to Sound Techniques studios. There, Boyd and the band recorded a demo tape which was to be given to various record labels, one of the songs that features on the tape was "Interstellar Overdrive". An early, unoverdubbed, shortened mix of the album's "Interstellar Overdrive" was used for a French EP released in July 1967. The 40th anniversary edition of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn contains two different, five-minute-long versions of the song, one of them being take 6 from 16 March.
Despite its encapsulation of their concert repertoire under the leadership of guitarist and composer Barrett, the long, improvisational, freeform structure of the piece is not particularly representative of the group's recorded output. As drummer Mason states in his book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd , live versions of the song featured many sections that did not appear on the album, and would often last more than 20 minutes. During the band's days playing in residence at London underground clubs such as the UFO (Underground Freak Out), the song usually opened their show. It occupied other positions, including the encore, until it was retired from the band's setlist in 1970.The song had first appeared in live performances in the autumn of 1966. During one performance of the song, at a gig organized by Hoppy Hopkins, Pink Floyd managed to blow out the power of a venue. Hopkins called it "Very cold, very dirty but very nice." After recording session for Piper were over, Pink Floyd played a 30-minute version of "Interstellar Overdrive". Pink Floyd were filmed performing the song for Granada Television's Scene Special documentary, in January 1967 at the UFO Club. A late-Barrett era rendition was recorded live in Rotterdam in November 1967, at the Hippy-Happy Fair. The song was later replaced by "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" as the main part of the band's set lists, after Barrett left the band. A version of "Interstellar Overdrive" was cut from the Ummagumma live album. The song was played by Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets in 2018.
In 1969, Frank Zappa joined the band onstage at the Actuel Festival in Amougies, Belgium, to perform a long loose version of the song.Although Zappa himself later had no recollection of the performance, Floyd drummer Mason praised him saying Zappa is really one of those rare musicians that can play with us. The little he did in Amougies was terribly correct.
The song has been released in many different lengths across different releases, original 1967 Piper at the Gates of Dawn releases have the track at 9:41, whilst the edited 1968 Tonite Let's All Make Love in London version clocks in at 3:02. This same recording was released in its entirety twice, first on the 1990 reissue of the album, and then again in 1995 on the EP London '66-'67 clocking in at 16:49. The earliest studio recording of the song to be released was the 1966 recording with a running time of 14:57 and was released in 2017 on the Interstellar Overdrive single. Three live performances of the song featured on The Early Years 1965–1972 boxset, with timings being 4:24 (recorded in 1969), 8:57 (recorded in 1967) and 9:37 (recorded in 1968).
"Interstellar Overdrive" has been covered by many artists, including Teenage Fancluband Kylesa.
The album version was ranked number 36 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.While the song did feature on their compilation Relics , it was under consideration for—but ultimately left off–their career-spanning "best of" retrospective, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd .
"Interstellar Overdrive" was used in the 2016 film Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.
Personnel per The Piper at the Gates of Dawn liner notes.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the debut studio album by English rock band Pink Floyd, released 4 August 1967 by EMI Columbia. The only album made under founding member Syd Barrett's leadership, it takes its title from chapter seven of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, and was recorded at EMI Studios in London from February to May 1967 with producer Norman Smith. The band at the time consisted of Barrett, Nick Mason (drums), Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. Barrett also served as the band's primary songwriter, though two tracks on the album are credited to the band collectively and one track was written by Waters. The album was produced by Norman Smith, who would go on to produce two more albums for Pink Floyd.
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 released on 27 July 1968 in the United States by Tower Records. It is the only album to be credited to the band as a five-piece, consisting of Syd Barrett (guitar), David Gilmour (guitar), Nick Mason (drums), Roger Waters (bass) and Richard Wright (keyboards). Barrett's behavior had become unpredictable during the recording of the album, so David Gilmour was recruited to complement Barrett, who eventually left the band before the completion of the album. While the prior record had been creatively driven by Barrett as the band's leader and principle songwriter, this album showed a much more diverse set of influences, with every member contributing to songwriting and lead vocal roles. Gilmour, new with the band, appears on five songs, while Barrett, in his final appearance on a Pink Floyd album, contributed to three. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" was the only song all five members appeared on together. The band's drummer, Nick Mason, has declared A Saucerful of Secrets to be his favourite Pink Floyd album.
A Nice Pair is a compilation album by Pink Floyd, re-issuing their first two albums—The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets—in a new gatefold sleeve. The album was released in December 1973 by Harvest and Capitol in the United States and the following month in the United Kingdom by Harvest and EMI. It reached number 36 in the US Billboard album charts, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in March 1994.
London '66–'67 is an EP and film of Pink Floyd music, containing two "lost" tracks—an extended version of "Interstellar Overdrive" and a previously unreleased track "Nick's Boogie". These tracks were originally recorded for Peter Lorrimer Whitehead's film Tonite Lets All Make Love in London in 1967, and the former appeared in edited form on the soundtrack album. Originally released in full on the 1990 See for Miles Records UK reissue of the soundtrack album, they were the earliest Pink Floyd recordings available commercially before the limited release of 1965: Their First Recordings in 2015.
Opel is a 1988 album compiled from recordings made by former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett between 1968 and 1970. The album is a compilation of unreleased material and alternate takes of recordings from sessions for Barrett's solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. Before they were vetoed by Pink Floyd, the album was to include two unreleased tracks that Barrett had worked on while with Pink Floyd, "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man".
The Madcap Laughs is the debut solo album by the English singer-songwriter Syd Barrett. It was recorded after Barrett had left Pink Floyd in April 1968. The album had a chequered recording history, with work beginning in mid-1968, but the bulk of the sessions taking place between April and July 1969, for which five different producers were credited − including Barrett, Peter Jenner, Malcolm Jones, and fellow Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Roger Waters. Among the guest musicians are Willie Wilson from Gilmour's old band Jokers Wild and Robert Wyatt of the band Soft Machine.
Barrett is the second and final studio album of new material released by former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett. Recording began at Abbey Road Studios on 26 February 1970, and lasted for 15 sessions until 21 July. The album was produced by Pink Floyd's guitarist David Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright, who also contributed on bass guitar and keyboards respectively, along with previous Madcap contributor Jerry Shirley on drums.
The 1967 Singles Sampler, or 1967: The First Three Singles, is a compilation album by English rock band Pink Floyd, released in 1997 as a limited edition CD to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the band.
"See Emily Play" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd, released as their second single in June 1967. Written by original frontman Syd Barrett and recorded on 23 May 1967, it featured "The Scarecrow" as its B-side. It was released as a non-album single, but appeared as the opening track of the American edition of their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967).
"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is a song by the English rock band Pink Floyd. It appeared on their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). It was written by Roger Waters and features a drum part by Nick Mason played with timpani mallets. The track was planned for release as a single, with "Scream Thy Last Scream", on 8 September, before it was vetoed by the band's record company, EMI. The song was regularly performed between 1967 and 1973 and can be heard on the live disc of the 1969 album Ummagumma and seen in the 1972 movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. The song is one of two songs from A Saucerful of Secrets that appears on the 2001 compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd and is the only song recorded by Pink Floyd to feature material from all five band members, as there are several different guitar parts recorded by both David Gilmour and Syd Barrett.
"Jugband Blues" is a song by the English psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd, and is featured on their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, released in 1968. Written by Syd Barrett, it was his sole compositional contribution to the album, as well as his last published for the band. Barrett and Pink Floyd's management wanted the song to be released as a single, but were vetoed by the rest of the band and producer Norman Smith. "Jugband Blues" is directed towards anyone within Barrett's proximity.
"Matilda Mother" is a song by British band Pink Floyd, featured on their 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Written by Syd Barrett, it is sung mostly by Richard Wright with Barrett joining in on choruses and singing the whole last verse. It was the first song recorded for the album.
"Arnold Layne" is the debut single released by the English rock band Pink Floyd on 10 March 1967, written by Syd Barrett.
"Astronomy Domine" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd. 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). The lead vocal was sung by Barrett and keyboard player Richard Wright. Its working title was "Astronomy Domine ". "Domine" is a word frequently used in Gregorian chants.
Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett was an English singer, songwriter, and musician who co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965. Characterised for his English-accented singing and free-form writing style, Barrett named the group and was their original lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter. His innovative use of guitar techniques, such as dissonance, distortion and feedback, proved influential to many musicians.
"Vegetable Man" is a song written by Syd Barrett for the English rock band Pink Floyd in 1967. It was considered for the band's third single or for inclusion on their second album A Saucerful of Secrets. Bootlegged for decades, the song did not have an official release until 2016, when it was included on the box set The Early Years 1965–1972.
Richard William Wright was an English musician, composer, singer, and songwriter. He was a founder member, keyboardist, and vocalist of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, performing on all but one of the group's albums including The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Division Bell, and playing on all of their tours.
"Interstellar Overdrive" was avant-garde rock music.