Release date 25 October 1969
|Artist Pink Floyd|
Label Capitol Records
|Released 25 October 1969 (1969-10-25)|
Recorded 27 April 1969 at the Mothers Club, Birmingham, England 2 May 1969 at Manchester College of Commerce, Manchester, England
Producer Pink Floyd Norman Smith
Ummagumma (1969) Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Ummagumma (1969) Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988)
Genres Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock, Art rock, Experimental rock, Avant-garde music, Musique concrète
Similar Pink Floyd albums, Progressive rock albums
Astronomy domine live
Ummagumma is the fourth album by the English rock band Pink Floyd. It is a double album and was released on 25 October 1969 by Harvest Records in the UK and by Capitol Records internationally. The first disc consists of live recordings from concerts at Mothers Club in Birmingham and the College of Commerce in Manchester that contained part of their normal set list of the time, while the second contains solo compositions by each member of the band recorded at the Abbey Road Studios. The artwork was designed by regular Floyd collaborators Hipgnosis and features a number of pictures of the band combined to give a Droste effect.
- Astronomy domine live
- Release history
- Dragonfly species
Although the album was well received at the time of release, and was a top five hit in the UK album charts, it has since been looked upon unfavourably by the band, who have expressed negative opinions about it in interviews. Nevertheless, the album has been reissued on CD several times, along with the rest of their catalogue.
The album's title supposedly comes from Cambridge slang for sex, commonly used by Pink Floyd friend and occasional roadie, Iain "Emo" Moore, who would say "I'm going back to the house for some ummagumma". According to Moore, he made up the term himself.
Although the sleeve notes say that the live material was recorded in June 1969, the live album of Ummagumma was recorded live at Mothers Club in Birmingham on 27 April 1969 and the following week at Manchester College of Commerce on 2 May of the same year as part of The Man and The Journey Tour. 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, and "The Embryo", which was recorded in the studio before it was decided that the band members each come up with their own material.
The studio album came as a result of Richard Wright wanting to make "real music", where each of the four group members (in order: Wright, Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason) had half an LP side each to create a solo work without involvement from the others. Wright's contribution, "Sysyphus", was named after a character in Greek mythology, usually spelled "Sisyphus", and contained a combination of various keyboards, including piano and mellotron. Although initially enthusiastic about making a solo contribution, Wright later described it as "pretentious". Waters' "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" contained a variety of vocal and percussion effects treated at various speeds, both forwards and backwards, and was influenced by Ron Geesin, who would later collaborate with both Waters and Pink Floyd. Waters' other contribution Grantchester Meadows was a more pastoral acoustic offering and was usually played as an opening to concerts over 1969. Gilmour has since stated he was apprehensive about creating a solo work, and admits he "went into a studio and started waffling about, tacking bits and pieces together", although part one of "The Narrow Way" had already been performed as "Baby Blue Shuffle in D Major" in a BBC radio session in December 1968. Gilmour said he "just bullshitted" through the piece. He asked Waters to write some lyrics for his compositions, but he refused to do so. Mason's three-part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" featured his then wife, Lindy, playing flute, and Mason playing a seven-minute drum solo as part two of the piece.
The album was the first album by the band released on the Harvest label. The cover artwork shows a Droste effect featuring the group, with a picture hanging on the wall showing the same scene, except that the band members have switched positions. 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. At a talk given at Borders bookstore in Cambridge on 1 November 2008, as part of the "City Wakes" project, Storm Thorgerson explained that the album was introduced as a red herring to provoke debate, and that it has no intended meaning. 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 American remastered CD edition. On the Australian edition, the Gigi cover is completely airbrushed, not even leaving a white square behind. The house used as the location for the front cover of the album is located in Great Shelford, near Cambridge.
On the rear cover, roadies Alan Styles (who also appears in "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast") and Peter Watts are shown with the band's equipment laid out on a taxiway at Biggin Hill Airport. This concept was proposed by Mason, with the intention of replicating the "exploded" drawings of military aircraft and their payloads, which were popular at the time.
Song titles on the back are laid out slightly differently in British vs. North American editions; the most important difference being the inclusion of subtitles 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. Gilmour is seen standing in front of the Elfin Oak. Original vinyl editions showed Waters with his first wife, Judy Trim, but she has been cropped out of the picture on most CD editions (with the original photo's caption "Roger Waters (and Jude)" accordingly changed to just "Roger Waters"). The uncropped picture was restored for the album's inclusion in the box set Oh, by the Way.
Ummagumma was released in the UK and US on 25 October and 10 November 1969, respectively. It reached number 5 on the UK albums chart and number 74 in the US, marking the first time the band reached the top 100 there. The album was certified gold in the US in February 1974 and platinum in March 1994. American versions of the cassette retained only "Astronomy Domine" from the live set and omitted the three other tracks. In 1987, the album was re-released on a two-CD set. A digitally remastered version was issued in 1994.
In 2009, to mark the 40th anniversary of the album's release, Thorgerson sold a limited number of autographed lithographs of the front cover. Although the 2011 re-release campaign Why Pink Floyd...? presented all fourteen albums newly remastered in 2011, only the studio disc of Ummagumma was remastered – the live disc is the previous 1994 version. Both the live and studio album will re-issue on 3 June 2016 with Pink Floyd Records label.
On release, Ummagumma received favourable reviews. International Times were particularly positive about the live album, with the reviewer describing it as "probably one of the best live recordings I have ever heard". Vox included the live half of this album on its list of "The Greatest Live Albums Ever". Stylus Magazine were very positive towards the album, saying the live half "as a visceral document of the early Floyd’s proclivity for atmospheric, energetic jamming, there's nothing else like it" and the studio half "somehow transcends its fractured construction to make a full album-length statement".
However, the band have since been dismissive and critical of the work. Recalling the album in later years, Waters said: "Ummagumma – what a disaster!", while in 1995, Gilmour described the album as "horrible". In a 1984 interview, Mason said: "I thought it was a very good and interesting little exercise, the whole business of everyone doing a bit. But I still feel really that that's quite a good example of the sum being greater than the parts ..." Later, he described it as "a failed experiment", adding that "the most significant thing is that we didn't do it again".
Paste, reviewing the 2011 re-release, described the album as "rock excess of the worst kind", although the writer praised the live version of "Careful with that Axe, Eugene". Robert Christgau has suggested that the album's "hypnotic melodies" made it "an admirable record to fall asleep to".
In December 2015 scientists named a new found insect of the genus Umma – a damselfly – Umma gumma after the album.
2Careful With That Axe - Eugene8:51
3Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun9:12