The first Floyd album for the 70's reflected the band's aimlessness, exhaustion, pressure for a new album, and the then prevailing trends on the British music scene. The 'Rock opera' trend and the called upon help of Ron Geesin, helped to launch PF into the fray with the hope of a workable and serious piece. Despite the band's reservations about the album, it marked the beginning of the end of the image of PF as a spacey, 'out there', anachronistic band. It neatly fit into the end of rock's prolonged pop adolescence and served as a catalyst in the merging progressive scene with work that mixed classical and rock.
The title 'Atom Heart Mother' was found when Ron Geesin pointed to a copy of a newspaper and suggested to the band that he would find a title in it. Roger saw an article about an operation that had been done on a mother to provide her with an atomic powered pacemaker. and remarked, "That's a nice name. We'll call it that. Atom Heart Mother. "
Exhausted from touring, and facing yet another tour looming on the horizon, the band lacked inspiration and was under the gun to get it finished. Ron Geesin...at the time considered a pioneer in experimental music, work in electronics, tape & traditional instrumentation...was brought in to write the orchestral score after the band had laid down the backing track.
Geesin conducted at Abbey Road, with EMI hired session musicians. The brass players were an ongoing problem for Geesin, he could not get them to play what he wanted. Syd Barrett also wandered into the sessions, adding to the confusion. "I just thought he was a nutter.. he didn't know what was going on".[Geesin]
AHM's stage premier took place at the Bath Festival, 6/27/70, augmented by French horns, trombones, trumpets, tuba and the John Aldiss choir. A few weeks later they brought the production to Hyde Park for a free concert.
After hearing David toss off a chord sequence that he had been experimenting with, Roger decided he liked it, and he and Rick began working on further themes and variations. "We sat and played with it, jigged it around, added bits and took bits away" [Dave]...and then under the working title 'The Amazing Pudding' an early version of the piece was performed in mid-January of '70 at Fairfield Hall.
'If' is considered by some to be Roger's one and only song he's ever done in which he seems to express regret for the 'confrontational' traits in his character.
With 'Fat Old Sun', Dave chronicled passage from childhood to the adult world. Set in Cambridge, he would revisit it in 'High Hopes', from a middle aged perspective.
The sound effects of "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", titled in honor of roadie Alan Stiles, was recorded in Nick's kitchen. The band tried to keep it off the album...they thought it was deeply flawed and pretentious. " 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast' never achieved what it was meant to. It was meant to be how it *should've been*..it was the most throw together thing we've ever done." Dave
The "cow album" concluded with a long sequence of kitchen noises.
The original British pressings of AHM had a water tap dripping
right into the run-off groove, so that the sound might be repeated
endlessly on record players lacking automatic changers.
'Summer of 68' was one of only a few of Rick's songs that he felt
happy with, not because he thought the lyrics were great but because
they expressed a very heartfelt and genuine emotion.
Those who bought the 1994 Remastered CD were treated to a double sided insert. This flyer contained two recipies printed on greaseproof paper ".. so that all you good housewives out there in Floydland could take it out and put it up on your kitchen wall and consult whilst cooking, or listening - or both". The first Tip was written in (a slightly incorrect) German Bavarian/Frankonian dialect.
Geesin's original title for 'Funky Dung' was 'Split Knees', which the
band changed at the last minute.
AHM set the precedent for the mystique of the band by a title and LP cover that bore little connection with one another, let alone the music.
The band and Steve Thorgerson decided that the AHM sleeve be as "unpsychedelic as possible, as un-floyd-like, and completely off the wall". After toying with images of someone diving into the water (later used for WYWH), and others, Storm was inspired by talk of Andy Warhol's famous cow wallpaper as the ultimate in ordinary. Storm drove through the countryside and photographed the first cow he saw. The result was, "the ultimate picture of a cow; it's just totally cow." [Storm]
Lulubelle III, the cow who graces the album cover, was a Holstein- Friesian, owned by Arthur Chalke. Mr. Chalke claimed he should have been paid one thousands pounds for Lulubelle's services, but Steve O'Rourke dismissed Mr.Chalke's claim.
Harvest Records arranged a special AHM promo photo opportunity at the Mall in the heart of London, with the guest appearance of a herd of cows...police had to redirect traffic to make way for the bovines.
Capitol Records, in a long overdue campaign to 'break' Pink Floyd in America, pasted up Lulubelle's image on L.A. Sunset Strip billboards, and furnished a few leading U.S. rock critics, disk jockeys, and a few others, with inflatable plastic udders.
Leonard Bernstein attended a performance during the American leg of the tour, and in a later conversation Mr. Bernstein stated AHM was one segment of PF's program that he didn't care for...yet AHM soon thereafter garnered PF the honor of becoming the first rock band ever to perform at the Montreux classical music festival.
Hugely successful in Britain where it fit perfectly with
the prevailing fashion of "symphonic rock", AHM gave Pink Floyd
their first number one record. It reached #55 on the Billboard
charts in the U.S.
"That whole main theme came out of a little chord sequence I had written, which I called 'Theme From An Imaginary Western' at the time. It sounded like 'The Magnificent Seven' to me." - Dave
"AHM wasn't conceived for brass and choir, it started off as a theme for a Western with the chord sequence." - Dave
"There was a sense that everyone was just coasting along, waiting for someone else to become inspired. - Dave
"Steve O'Rourke was a heavy pusher, they just needed some other kind of input-another thinking being in there." - Ron Geesin
"My first encounter with them was on the "Atom Heart Mother" album, which I was asked to mix for them. The album had actually been 8-track, but the amount of special effects and machines we had running--I just couldn't believe. It was like every machine in the whole building had been latched up, so that we could use every conceivable special effect. And, at the same time, it was probably the biggest challenge that I had ever been confronted with: to actually mix that-to mix a Pink Floyd Album." - Alan Parsons
"The day we were trying to think of it, we had a newspaper, sitting outside a pub in London, in our break in recording, 7 o'clock on a sunny evening in London, and there was a woman who had had heart surgery, and had an atomic heart pacemaker fitted on her heart, and she was a mother. It said "Atom Heart Mother blah blah blah..." We thought "Atom Heart Mother....title!...Simple as that." David
"All I've ever tried to do is play music that I like listening to. Some of it now, like Atom Heart Mother, strikes me as absolute crap, but I no longer want or have to play stuff I don't enjoy. I don't know...all we've been trying to do is make music that will move people." - David
"...a load of rubbish, to be honest with you. We were at a real down point. We didn't know what on earth we were doing or trying to do at that time, none of us. We were really out there. I think we were scraping the barrel a bit at that period." - David
"..thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again." - Roger (re: AHM)
"I'd say the transition was between Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother. Like a lot of bands, we got interested in the concept album. At the time I thought we were making the most incredible music in the world, but looking back it wasn't so good." - Rick
"'Now I listen to it with acute embarrassment because the backing track was put down by Roger and me, beginning to end, in one pass. Consequently the tempo goes up and down. It was a 20-minute piece and we just staggered through it. On the other side, Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast was another great idea -- gas fires popping, kettles boiling, that didn't really work on record but was great fun live. I've never heard Roger lay claim to it, which makes me think it must have been a group idea." - Nick
"I don't mind admitting that 'Atom Heart Mother' was very rushed- we had to go on an American tour right after that." - Nick
"We'd all like to do it again, we'd all like to re-record it. It
wasn't entirely successful but it was extremely educational." - Nick