Pink Floyd bent the rules to understand the spaces between with a plutonium prototype pacemaker, transmogrifying an amazing pudding into this psychedelic symphonic bovine breakfast. Syd Barrett's involvement with the band had diminished after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn with minimal involvement on A Saucerful of Secrets. Roger Waters and David Gilmour had helped him to produce his solo album The Madcap Laughs; while the band carried on in 1969 with the half live, half studio double album Ummagumma and the soundtrack to More directed by Barbet Schroeder. In 1970, they worked on the soundtrack to the film Zabriskie Point
directed by Michelangelo Antonioni before heading back to England to begin work on their next album.
Pink Floyd produced 'Atom Heart Mother' with Norman Smith at Abbey Road Studios in London with Roger Waters on bass guitar, tape effects, tape collages, plus acoustic guitar and vocals on "If"; David Gilmour on guitars, vocals, plus bass and drums on "Fat Old Sun"; Rick Wright on keyboards, plus vocals on "Summer '68"; and Nick Mason on drums, percussion, tape editing, tape collage, plus additional engineering on "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast". The sessions included the EMI Pops Orchestra providing brass and orchestral sections, Haflidi Hallgrimsson contributing cello, John Alldis Choir doing vocals, Alan Styles with voice and sound effects on "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast". Peter Bown and Alan Parsons engineered the sessions, and Ron Geesin did the orchestration.
The sprawling title track takes up the entire first side of the album in six sections. It had been performed as "The Amazing Pudding" before they brought in Ron Geesin to assist with the orchestration. Geesin says: "The opening section is clearly a critical statement about the nature of so-called 'progressive rock'. I've got very mixed feeling about rock music, I find my part embodies a dilemma for and against. The group's drone is on the tonic note of E, my brass drones pull and twist that in tension, up and down, never settling on it...It could have been called 'Argument In E Minor For Band And Orchestra'."
Mason calls the title track: "a composition that we remain fond of, proud of, and in my case slightly bemused by...There are various sections on Atom Heart Mother that I'm very happy with. I love the choir section, both the singing and the spoken choir section...All we did after Atom Heart Mother was realizing we would never record with a big orchestra again, that's it. We wanted to go back to being a band."
Waters would wax: " I’m not bored with doing “Atom Heart Mother” when we get the brass and choir together, because it’s so weird doing it. It always comes out as so odd because of the problems of rehearsing musicians, it’s like everybody throwing their lump of clay at the wall, and seeing what it looks like when it’s happened. It depends on so many other things as well. It depends on how it mixes, you know, and we’re working with this ludicrous situation where we don’t have anybody out mixing the sound in the audience, which we obviously ought to. I’m beginning to come to a position now where I don’t think we ought to play any more on a kind of Heath Robinson level – go and do it, play the numbers, do the stuff, get the money and go home. We should not go along and play a whole load of numbers, most of them old and some of then new, with things patently wrong, like with some people balancing from the side of the stage. I think we, and a hell of a lot of other groups, are in a position now to start raising standards a bit, but we don’t – well, we haven’t, but we’re always intending to. The reason that they haven’t is that the money’s there, and people are prepared to spend it on them doing what they’re doing now, so they go on schlapping around the country, doing it all, and maybe they get a new and wonderful buzz out of it, communicating with the audience every night, but I don’t believe it. It’s a job, a fucking well-paid job, with all the ego-boosting and stuff and everything, and I think it becomes very mechanical. I’m going on a ten-day tour tomorrow night – Frankfurt, Vienna, Montreux – but why am I going? To spread the gospel, to make people happy by playing them wonderful music? No, it’s not true. I’m going to make bread. I’m going because I’m caught up in the whole pop machinery business and so are the majority."
The album sleeve was designed by the Hipgnosis art collective with the band wanting to get away from the psychedelic imagery of their previous releases. Storm Thorgerson drove out into the countryside and took a picture of a cow named Lulubelle III in Potters Bar. The original pressings did not have the name of the band on the sleeve.
It was their first album to be mixed in quadrophonic sound and their first album to go to the top of the British album chart. It also went to number eighty-one in Switzerland, fifty-five in the US, thirty-nine in Canada, thirty in Australia, eleven in France, eight in Germany, and number five in the Netherlands.
"Atom Heart Mother"
Bath Festival 27 June 1970
Gilmour's first solo composition for the band, "Fat Old Sun" has some similarities to the Kinks' Lazy Old Sun. Dave considers: "Maybe I ripped it off subconsciously. Who knows? They've never sued me. One sometimes gets the feeling about something that maybe one pinched it from someone; you can't figure out where on earth it's from. The added coincidence is that there were only one or two tape libraries around: the EMI Abbey Road library and one or two others, which mostly had the same sound effects. It can make a magical difference in a track if you put some bit of real atmosphere in the background, like church bells. Usually, you'd go find the bells, and it's the only set on tape that anyone can use. You'd often recognize exactly the same bit of birdsong on different records from that period."
Wright: "My lyrics are really bad and they're not saying anything that's important. A couple of songs I haven't minded being put out in terms of lyrics, like Summer '68. Although I don't think that the lyrics were good, they did at least say something that — I felt — was a real genuine feeling and therefore that's cool."
Improvisation-French TV 1970
'Atom Heart Mother'
1. "Atom Heart Mother"
I. "Father's Shout" (00:00)
II. "Breast Milky" (02:50)
III. "Mother Fore" (05:23)
IV. "Funky Dung" (10:13)
V. "Mind Your Throats Please" (15:28)
VI. "Remergence" (17:56)"
Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Ron Geesin Instrumental, wordless vocals by the John Alldis Choir 23:44
2. "If" Waters 4:31
3. "Summer '68" Wright 5:29
4. "Fat Old Sun" Gilmour 5:22
5. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast"
I. "Rise and Shine"
II. "Sunny Side Up"
III. "Morning Glory"
Waters, Mason, Gilmour, Wright Instrumental, vocalisations by Alan Styles 13:00
'Dark Side of the Moo' bootleg