Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

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"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"
Song by Pink Floyd
from the album A Saucerful of Secrets
PublishedMagdalene Music
Released29 June 1968 (UK)
27 July 1968 (US)
Recorded7–8 August, October 1967, January 1968
Abbey Road Studios, London
Length5:27 (A Saucerful of Secrets version)
9:27 (Ummagumma live version)
Label EMI Columbia (UK)
Tower (US)
Songwriter(s) Roger Waters
Producer(s) Norman Smith
Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd track listing

"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). [3] It was written by Roger Waters [3] 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. [4] The song was regularly performed between 1967 and 1973 [3] and can be heard on the live disc of the 1969 album Ummagumma [3] and seen in the 1972 movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii . [3] 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 [5] (the other being "Jugband Blues") 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.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Pink Floyd English rock band

Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London in 1965. Gaining a following as a psychedelic band, they were distinguished for their extended compositions, sonic experimentation, philosophical lyrics and elaborate live shows, and became a leading band of the progressive rock genre. They are one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in popular music history.

<i>A Saucerful of Secrets</i> 1968 studio album by 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. The album was recorded before and after Syd Barrett's departure from the group. With Barrett's behaviour becoming increasingly unpredictable, David Gilmour was recruited to complement Barrett, and eventually to replace him.


Lyrics and music

According to an interview with Gilmour in the 2006 documentary Which One's Pink?, the studio version of the song contained minor guitar work both from Gilmour and Barrett, making "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" the only Pink Floyd song that features all five band members, though some listeners may not fully discern the guitar tracks as they largely blend in with Richard Wright's keyboards and organs.

Richard Wright (musician) English keyboardist of Pink Floyd

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.

The song's recording commenced in August 1967, with overdubs recorded in October of that year and in January 1968. In an article reprinted in the Bruno McDonald book Pink Floyd – Through the Eyes of ..., Waters borrowed the lyrics from a book of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty (which was later identified as the book Poems of the late T'ang, translated by A.C. Graham). [6]

Chinese poetry literary tradition of China

Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language. While this last term comprises Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Yue Chinese, and other historical and vernacular forms of the language, its poetry generally falls into one of two primary types, Classical Chinese poetry and Modern Chinese poetry.

Among the borrowed lines from Chinese poetry (as translated by Graham) were those written by Li He, whose poem "Don't Go Out of the Door" contains the line "Witness the man who raved at the wall as he wrote his questions to Heaven "; [7] Li Shangyin, whose poetry contained the lines "watch little by little the night turns around", "countless the twigs which tremble in dawn" and "one inch of love is one inch of ashes"; and Du Mu, whose poetry contained the line "Lotuses lean on each other in yearning" (多少綠荷相倚恨).

Li He Chinese writer

Li He was a Chinese poet of the mid-Tang dynasty. His courtesy name was Changji, and he is also known as Guicai and Shigui.

<i>Heavenly Questions</i> poem written by Qu Yuan

The Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven is a piece contained in the Classical Chinese poetry collection of Chu Ci, which is noted both in terms of poetry and as a source for information on the ancient culture of China, especially the area of the ancient state of Chu. Of all the poems attributed to Qu Yuan, "Tianwen" contains more myths than any of the other pieces which may be attributed to him; however, due to the formal structure of "Tianwen" as a series of questions, information regarding the myths alluded to appear more as a series of allusive fragments than as cohesively narrated stories. According to legend, Qu Yuan wrote this series of questions in verse after viewing various scenes depicted on temple murals; specifically, it is said that following his exile from the royal court of Chu, Qu Yuan looked upon the depictions of the ancestors and the gods painted upon the walls of the ancestral temple of Chu; and, then, in response, wrote his questions to Heaven, upon these same walls.

Li Shangyin Chinese poet and writer

Li Shangyin, courtesy name Yishan (義山), was a Chinese poet and politician of the late Tang Dynasty, born in Henei. Along with Li He, he was much admired and "rediscovered" in the 20th century by young Chinese writers for the imagist quality of his poems. He is particularly famous for his tantalizing "no title" (無題) poems.


In a negative review for A Saucerful of Secrets, Jim Miller of Rolling Stone described "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", along with "Let There Be More Light", as "boring melodically, harmonically, and lyrically." [8] Miller further described the production work as "not as glittery as the first album's, and the instrumental work is shoddy and routine. [8] Miller also described the track as too long. [8]

Let There Be More Light original song written and composed by Roger Waters

"Let There Be More Light" is the opening track on Pink Floyd's second album A Saucerful of Secrets. It was also released in edited form as the fourth American single by the group.


Roger Waters English songwriter and musician, co-founder of Pink Floyd

George Roger Waters is an English songwriter, singer, bassist, and composer. In 1965, he co-founded the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. Waters initially served solely as the bassist, but following the departure of songwriter Syd Barrett in 1968, he also became their lyricist, co-lead vocalist, and conceptual leader.

The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent in a performance where multiple voices may be heard. The lead singer either leads the vocal ensemble, or sets against the ensemble as the dominant sound. In vocal group performances, notably in soul and gospel music, and early rock and roll, the lead singer takes the main vocal part, with a chorus provided by other band members as backing vocalists.

The bass guitar is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses. Since the 1960s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music.

Alternative and live versions

Pink Floyd performed the song from 1967 to 1973. A performance on 9 September 1967 featured Barrett and Waters switching guitars. [9] The last ever performance of the song by Pink Floyd took place on 13 October 1973 at the Stadthalle, Vienna, during the Dark Side of the Moon tour.[ citation needed ] . Live versions of the song appear on the 1969 Ummagumma album and the 1972 Live at Pompeii music film. During these live performances, the song was significantly extended with a wide range of dynamics, including a white noise middle section. [10] [11]

Waters performing the track on his The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour Set the Controls.jpg
Waters performing the track on his The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour

The song has been a staple in Waters' solo tours. Beginning with the 1984–1985 tours, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" was presented in a radically rearranged rendition - with female backing vocals, saxophone solos and a guitar solo (and even a shakuhachi solo in 1985). A truncated version (just the three verses) of the song featuring a simple acoustic guitar part was performed on a handful of occasions during the Radio K.A.O.S tour of 1987. The song was included in the setlist for his 19992002 In the Flesh tour, featuring stills from the promotional videos of "Arnold Layne" and "The Scarecrow" projected on large screens. This version featured a psychedelic guitar solo by Snowy White, as well as a sax solo, and this version appears on his 2000 In the Flesh – Live DVD and live album. In June 2002, Waters' former Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason performed as guest drummer on the track for two nights at London's Wembley Arena, the first indication of a reconciliation following the acrimonious split of the mid-1980s. It was also performed at Waters' 2006–2008 tour. [12]

In 2016, Waters performed the song again on his concerts at the Zocalo Square and Foro Sol in Mexico, as well as the Desert Trip festival in the United States, but it was dropped from the setlist of his 2017 Us + Them Tour.

The song was played by Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets between 2018 and 2019. [13] During an April 18, 2019 performance in New York City, Roger Waters made an appearance performing lead vocals and gong. [14]

Cover versions

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