Definitions

Ummagumma

Ummagumma

Ummagumma is a progressive rock double album by Pink Floyd, released in 1969. The first disc is a live album of their normal setlist of the time, while the second one contains individual compositions by each member of the band.

Title

The album's title supposedly comes from a Cambridge slang word for sexual intercourse, commonly used by one of Pink Floyd's friends and occasional roadies, Iain "Imo" Moore. However, some band members have since stated that the word was "totally made up and means nothing at all".

Background

The first disc of Ummagumma was recorded live at Mothers Club, Birmingham, on 27 April 1969 and the following week at Manchester College of Commerce, on 2 May 1969; the second disc included four solo segments, one half-side of vinyl each by, in order: Richard Wright, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason.

The band had also recorded a live version of "Interstellar Overdrive" (from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), intended for placement on side one of the live album. The track was dropped at the last minute, some say to maintain the sound fidelity of the record, but numerous test pressings with the original track list were given to friends of the band, including John Peel. Other sources have claimed that the song was dropped because of a conflict over the music publishing rights. (It would have been one of only two songs on the record to include Syd Barrett as a writer.)

The album was released in the UK on 25 October 1969 and then in the U.S. on 10 November 1969. The album reached #5 on the UK album charts and #74 on the US album charts, marking the first time the band reached the top 100 in the U.S. The album was certified Gold in the U.S. in February 1974 and Platinum in March 1994. In 1987, the album was re-released on a two CD set. A digitally re-mastered version was released in 1994 in the UK and 1995 in the US.

Cover art

The cover shows the members of the band, with a picture hanging on the wall showing the same scene, except the band members have switched positions. The picture on the wall also includes the picture on the wall, creating a recursion effect, with each recursion showing band members exchanging positions. After 4 variations of the scene, the final picture within picture is the cover of the previous Pink Floyd album, A Saucerful of Secrets.

The cover of the original LP varies between the British, American/Canadian, and Australian releases. The British version has the album Gigi leaning against the wall immediately above the 'Pink Floyd' letters. On most copies of American and Canadian editions, the Gigi cover is airbrushed to a plain white sleeve, apparently because of copyright concerns; however the earliest American copies do show the Gigi cover, and it was restored for the U.S. CD edition. On the Australian edition, the Gigi cover is completely airbrushed, not even leaving a white square behind.

On the rear cover, roadies Alan Stiles and Peter Watts are shown with the band's equipment laid out on a runway at Biggin Hill Airport; a concept proposed by Nick Mason.

Song titles on the back are laid out slightly differently in British vs. North American editions; the most important difference being the inclusion of sub-titles for the four sections of "A Saucerful of Secrets". These subtitles only appeared on American and Canadian editions of this album, but not on the British edition; nor did they appear on original pressings of A Saucerful of Secrets.

The inner gatefold art shows separate black and white photos of the band members. David Gilmour is seen standing in front of the Elfin Oak. Original vinyl editions showed Waters with his first wife, but she has been cropped out of the picture on all CD editions.

Track listing

Disc one: live album

Side one

  1. "Astronomy Domine" (Syd Barrett) – 8:29
  2. "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" (Roger Waters, Rick Wright, David Gilmour, Nick Mason) – 8:50

Side two

  1. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (Waters) – 9:15
  2. "A Saucerful of Secrets" (Gilmour/Waters/Mason/Wright) – 12:48
    • "Something Else"
    • "Syncopated Pandemonium"
    • "Storm Signal"
    • "Celestial Voices"

Disc two: studio album

Side one

  1. "Sysyphus" (Wright) – 12:59 (on LP); 13:26 (on CD)
    • Part 1 – 4:29 (on LP); 1:08 (on CD)
    • Part 2 – 1:45 (on LP); 3:30 (on CD)
    • Part 3 – 3:07 (on LP); 1:49 (on CD)
    • Part 4 – 3:38 (on LP); 6:59 (on CD)
  2. "Grantchester Meadows" (Waters) – 7:26
  3. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" (Waters) – 4:59

Side two

  1. "The Narrow Way" (Gilmour) – 12:17
    • Part 1 – 3:27
    • Part 2 – 2:53
    • Part 3 – 5:57
  2. "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" (Mason) – 8:44
    • Part 1: "Entrance" – 1:00
    • Part 2: "Entertainment" – 7:06
    • Part 3: "Exit" – 0:38

On the remastered CD, "Part 1" of "Sysyphus" was split into two tracks and called "Part 1" and "Part 2". "Part 2" on vinyl became "Part 3" on CD, and "Part 3" and "Part 4" were combined into the CD's "Part 4". (The original "Part 4" begins with the large orchestral thud.) "The Narrow Way" and "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" were also split into their three parts for easier navigation.

Cassette

Side one

  1. "Sysyphus" (Wright) – 12:59
  2. "Astronomy Domine" (Syd Barrett) – 8:29
  3. "Grantchester Meadows" (Waters) – 7:26
  4. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" (Waters) – 4:59
  5. "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" (Waters/Wright/Gilmour/Mason) – 8:50

Side two

  1. "The Narrow Way" (Gilmour) – 12:17
  2. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (Waters) – 9:15
  3. "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" (Mason) – 8:44
  4. "A Saucerful of Secrets" (Gilmour/Waters/Mason/Wright) – 12:48

Personnel

  • Roger Waters – bass guitar; vocals on "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", "Set the Controls…" and "Grantchester Meadows"; acoustic guitar on "Grantchester Meadows"; tape effects and voices on "Several Species…".
  • David Gilmour – guitars; vocals on "Astronomy Domine" and "A Saucerful of Secrets"; all instruments and vocals on "The Narrow Way"
  • Richard Wright – keyboards; vocals on "Astronomy Domine"
  • Nick Mason – drums and percussion

with:

  • Lindy Mason (then Mason's wife) – flute on "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" (uncredited)

Miscellaneous

  • In the "Weird Al" Yankovic mockumentary, The Compleat Al, Al is trying to describe the synchronicities between famous rock albums and "ancient astronauts". He holds up an Ummagumma LP and jokingly says, "Remember this? Well, I did a little research and found out that "Ummagumma" is actually an ancient word for: 'We're running out of ideas for songs, help us.'"
  • MFSL announced their plans to release Ummagumma on their ultrasound series, but later withdrew those stating that the master tapes were below quality.
  • After Pink Floyd's 16 May 1970 performance at The Warehouse in New Orleans, the equipment shown on the rear cover of Ummagumma was stolen. The remaining concerts on this U.S. tour were cancelled. After the theft, and the Grateful Dead's drug bust after their 31 January 1970 performance, also at The Warehouse; New Orleans was shunned by most rock bands for the first half of the 1970s. The Grateful Dead would not play in New Orleans for another 10 years. Pink Floyd wouldn't play there for another 24 years.
  • The original intention of the band with the live album was to release those songs and then stop playing them. However, with the popularity of the album, the public kept wanting to hear songs from the live album, and so they stayed in their set lists for some time.
  • Although the sleeve notes say that the live material was recorded in June 1969, these tracks were actually recorded at shows in April and May 1969.
  • Part 3 of "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is amongst the shortest Pink Floyd studio recordings ever released. Only "Stop", which was 0:32, from The Wall, and "A New Machine (Part 2)", which was 0:38, from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, are of equal or shorter length.
  • This album, More, Atom Heart Mother, and Obscured by Clouds were the only Floyd studio albums to not be represented on Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd
  • The sequencing of the studio album later inspired the arrangement for the Minutemen double album Double Nickels on the Dime.

Quotes

"What was your inspiration for The Narrow Way (on Ummagumma) your first major Floyd composition?"
"Well, we'd decided to make the damn album, and each of us to do a piece of music on our own... it was just desperation really, trying to think of something to do, to write by myself. I'd never written anything before, I just went into a studio and started waffling about, tacking bits and pieces together. I haven't heard it in years. I've no idea what it's like." - David Gilmour - Sounds "Guitar Heroes" Magazine, May 1983

"What do you think of your early records like Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma today?"

"I think both are pretty horrible. Well, the live disc of Ummagumma might be all right, but even that isn't recorded well." - David Gilmour - German news magazine Der Spiegel No. 23 - 5 June 1995

"When you listen to Ummagumma, you get the feeling that each one of you is doing his own music, not caring much about the others."

"That's right. I can't be precise, but we were very individualistic at the time." - Nick Mason - March 1973

"The back of Ummagumma comes from something Nick Mason did." - Storm Thorgerson - Guitar World - February 1998

Charts

Album

Year Chart Position
1969 UK Albums Chart 5
1970 Billboard Pop Albums 74

References

External links

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