A Saucerful Of Secrets

Album: A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968)
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  • On some pressings of Ummagumma this was broken down into four sections, which helps make sense of the song. These sections are called:

    a. "Something Else" - 00:00 (ominous opening noises)
    b. "Syncopated Pandemonium" - 03:57 (with the drum tape-loop and such)
    c. "Storm Signal" - 07:16 (organ-based section)
    d. "Celestial Voices" - 10:14 (closing spacey part with the voices)
  • Roger Waters described this as being about war or a battle. The sections "Something Else" and "Syncopated Pandemonium" are the actual battle, "Storm Signals" the aftermath, and "Celestial Voices" the mourning of the dead. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Phil - Liverpool, England, for above 2
  • Dave Gilmour told Guitar World February 1993: "'A Saucerful of Secrets' was a very important track; it gave us our direction forward. If you take 'A Saucerful of Secrets,' 'Atom Heart Mother' and 'Echoes' - all lead logically to Dark Side of the Moon. 'A Saucerful' was inspired when Roger and Nick [Mason, Pink Floyd's drummer] began drawing weird shapes on a piece of paper. We then composed music based on the structure of the drawing."
  • Guitar World asked Gilmour about the techniques he used to get such unusual guitar tones back then. He replied: "Well, on the middle section of 'A Saucerful of Secrets,' most of the time the guitar was lying on the studio floor. And I unscrewed one of the legs from a mic stand... You know how mic stands have three steel legs about a foot long? I just whizzed one of those up and down the neck - not very subtly. Another technique, which came a bit later, is to take a small piece of steel and rub it from side to side across the strings. You just move it and stop it in places that sound good. It's something like an E-bow."

Comments: 23

  • Boabb from GlasgowFirst experience listening to this album in the early 80s after consuming an inordinate amount of magic mushrooms and smoking hash. It left quite an impression on me!
  • Hollywood from Winnipeg, Mb. CanadaI thought maybe this particular song title had something to do with Pompeii and the history of this ancient city. This was my take on this song.
  • Oldpink from Farmland, InTo Wyomarus, Boston, MA, I can definitely confirm that it is indeed a full pipe organ you hear on the Concertgebouw recording.
    In fact, you can get a really good look at it (it's huge) on the Wikipedia page for the venue.
    I can also confirm that the recordings of "The Man & The Journey" at the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall both feature real pipe organs.
    In fact, there is footage of Rick Wright himself playing the organ at Royal Festival Hall during rehearsals.
  • Mreenal from Darjeeling, Indiaanother beautiful song.. and what a meaning.. this album is a masterpiece.. i love all the songs except corporal clegg & see saw.. rest are all so wonderful.. the five musicians are masters of their respective art.. they and the Beatles around those times created rock in its most dark and philosophical form..
  • Kevin from Dallas, AkI think that the studio version of the piece remains the best, myself. It is much more subtle and complex than any of the live versions. Parts of it rate with the best of the "serious" electroacoustic music of the time, and the mournful "Celestial Voices" section with organ and choir, to me, works much better than the rock band version with Gilmour's solo voice wailing. In the main, the studio version has a haunting quality that the live rave-ups, however powerful and worthwhile in their own right, tend to lack.

    Among the live versions, I am again a contrarian. The "Pompeii" version is much too harsh and rushed sounding, for my tastes. Wright's limiting himself solely to tone clusters on the piano during the "Syncopated Pandemonium" section does not help. As others have suggested, the best live versions of the piece are from 1970 and 1971, and appear on bootlegs. I am partial to the Fillmore West version from April 29, 1970.

    Also, I second the "battle" interpretations of the piece, although I wonder what that has to do with the title!
  • Wyomarus from Boston, MaThis song is an amazing work. The combination of avante garde mixed with a classical song structure and the mastery of each of the Pink Floyd members make it a piece I can listen to over and over again.
    Many phenomenal versions can be found by searching the internet. One of my favorites is that recorded at Concertgebouw as part of "The Man and the Journey" concept on 17 September 1969. The organ at the beginning sounds like it may be a pipe organ. It has a fullness of sound that makes this piece huge. Can anybody confirm whether this is a pipe organ.
  • Laura from Ft. Lauderdale, FlThe Pompeii version is truly a spectacle (to see and hear)Just amazing. David's singing at the end is angelic.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InThe description that Roger Waters gave for what this piece conveys is accurate, i.e. it represents a furious (possibly outer space) battle.
    The studio version is pretty decent, but this piece really came to life when performed live.
    The Pompeii version is terrific, with some gorgeous cosmic violin guitar from Dave and some major gong smashing from Roger.
    April 29, 1970, Fillmore West is incredible, with a guitar riff from Dave at the end that reminds me of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
    The most mind-blowing and longest ever (26+ minutes!) is found on the April 3, 1971, Ahoy, Rotterdam performance.
    Roger cuts loose with a Pict rant during a silence between "Storm Signal" and "Celestial Voices," Dave does some fantastic dive bomber effects on his guitar, then "Celestial Voices" is nicely extended.
    I just LOOOVE RoIOs!
  • Alex from Dublin, IrelandREALLY FREAKY!!!!!!!!!!!!Especially at the beginning
    with the close-miked cymbol. My 3 freakiest choices for pink floyd are #1 Saucerful Of Secrets #2 One of these Days #3 Set the Controls fir the Heart of the Sun.
  • Scott from Portland, OrPink Floyd really got this song down in the 1972 concerts which are on several bootlegs. The best is the "Hollywood Bowl 1972". "Celestial Voices" has Gilmour playing the melody through a long long delay that seems to float over you and the song ends with the sounds of fireworks being launched. It's well known that EMI gave Pink Floyd 10 minutes on the record to do whatever they wanted and this was the result.
  • Peter from Chicago, IlI love Pink floyd, especially this early, pre-DSOTM stuff. I heard the live a Pompeii version of this song, which I loved, but I was really disapointed by the studio version. To much lack of any content. But pompeii version is very good.
    btw Alex, my theory (probably not right but a guess) is that Roger Waters was a bit too into being a "rock star" and for some reason thought it would be acceptable to make teridactle noises. maybe so maybe not.
  • Bill from Erie, PaI think I hear some distant voices about 9:32 into the song. Does anyone else hear this?
  • Bill from Erie, PaRick Wright reaches one of his highest peaks on this song. He is the scary old man in church behind the organ during a funeral, and this instrument and persona dominate the song.
  • Ryan from Plano, TxThe studio cut of this song is great, but Ummagumma's live cut kinda distorts the atmosphere of the "Celestial Voices" bit. In the studio cut, that part sounds like a funeral dirge, while the live version makes it sound a bit too energetic.
  • Alex from Fort Mill, ScYeah i agree with notmyrealname @ Buffalo, "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" is a great song, its even better on the Pompeii dvd. Speaking of which does anybody get the deal with the way Roger Waters sings on the song?
  • Bill from Erie, PaDanny- why do you find it so hard to trust the Floyd on this song's meaning? If you listen to the song, it is indeed about a battle. Something Else is the setup, complete with Roger Waters hitting a gong. Syncopated Pandemonium is the battle itself, recognizable by the heavy drum and bass. Storm Signal is the view of the dead after the battle, recognizable by that sweet organ, and Celestial Voices describes the mourning of the dead.
    All in all, I think this is the Floyd's best instrumental recording. Nick Mason said that it's "one of the most comprehensive pieces we've done" and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
  • Danny from Denver, TxThis song is not at all about war or battle: it is an LSD trip, perfect up to the slightest detail. The 'saucer' cannot be anything else than the one where they put the acids onto, before eating them.

    Also, the 4 section are wrongly given: 'Something Else' is the first part, up to when the rolling drums begin. 'Syncopated Pandemonium' is the drum parts, 'Storm Signals' is the very short part from the subdising of the drums to when the final organ begins, "Celestial Voices" is the whole final organ and voice part.
  • David Corino from Hawley, PaSweet drumming, as well as the genius of Rick Wright on the keyboard.
  • Notmyrealemail from Buffalo, NyHow come this site does not have "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" Speeking of Ummagumma, that is a great song.
  • Lisa from Philadelphia, PaThe best version is definitely on the Live at Pompeii video. Amazing version.
  • Antonio from Brugge, BelgiumThe BEST version fo this song is in Live At Pompeii...no doubt about it.
  • Charlotte from Seattle, WaI agree, the live album is amazing. The last song when the vocals come is is great - I think all Pink Floyd fans should hear this album and Meddle.
  • Kelly from Los Angeles, CaI prefer the live Ummagumma version to the studio version. To have been in the audience when they performed that song would have been so cool!
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