A Saucerful of Secrets (song)

A Saucerful of Secrets (song)
"A Saucerful of Secrets"
Song by Pink Floyd from the album A Saucerful of Secrets
Released June 29, 1968 (UK)
July 27, 1968 (US)
Recorded April 1968
Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock, space rock, progressive rock, instrumental rock, experimental rock
Length 11:52 (A Saucerful of Secrets version)
12:48 (Ummagumma version)
9:43 (Live at Pompeii version)
Writer Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
Producer Norman Smith
A Saucerful of Secrets track listing
"Corporal Clegg"
"A Saucerful of Secrets"

"A Saucerful of Secrets" is a multi-part instrumental composition by the rock band Pink Floyd from the album A Saucerful of Secrets, released in 1968.[1][2] The track lasts 11:52 and was composed by band members Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and David Gilmour. It is an experimental, avant-garde piece featuring guitar feedback, a percussion solo section, and wordless vocals.



"A Saucerful of Secrets" was originally known as "The Massed Gadgets of Hercules" in its earliest performance and became a Pink Floyd live staple from 1968 until 1972. A live version of the track is available on Pink Floyd's 1969 double album Ummagumma, and the version seen and heard in the film Live at Pompeii: Director's Cut is considered by many to be the definitive version. In 1969, its fourth movement, "Celestial Voices", was incorporated into the live concept The Man and the Journey as "The End of the Beginning". On the remastered Compact Disc versions of the album, the song is listed on the CD itself as "A Saucerful of Secret".[3]

'The band felt we achieved something with the title track of A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). I can't say as I fully understood what was going on when it was being made, with Roger sitting around drawing little diagrams on bits of paper. But throughout the following period I tried to add what I knew of harmony and bring it slightly more mainstream, if you like. And the way they worked certainly educated me. We passed on all our individual desires, talents and knowledge to each other.'

Live performances of the song differed significantly from the studio version. The closely miked cymbal sound that starts the piece was instead performed as a two-note drone on the bass. For the "Syncopated Pandemonium" section, Richard Wright usually had to be content with playing his Farfisa organ instead of pounding a grand piano with his fists as on the studio recording (the version on Pompeii being a notable exception). The "Celestial Voices" section started with just organ as per the studio version, but gradually added drums, bass, guitar and wordless vocals, provided by David Gilmour.

The Japanese release of this song was simply titled 神秘 (shinpi?), which translates as "Mystery". The album A Saucerful of Secrets, itself, also carried this title.

The song was David Gilmour's first songwriting credit with Pink Floyd. On the original vinyl, and early CD issues, his name was misspelled as "Gilmore".[5][6][7] This was corrected with the remastered version released in 1994.[8]


Although the song is listed on all pressings of the album as "A Saucerful of Secrets", some pressings of Ummagumma break the piece into four different sections. Roger Waters once stated in a Rolling Stone interview that the song was about a battle and the aftermath. "Something Else" represents the setup of the battle. "Syncopated Pandemonium" represents the actual battle. "Storm Signal" represents the view of the dead after the battle has ended, and "Celestial Voices" represents the mourning of the dead.

  1. "Something Else" (0:00–3:57, slow closely miked cymbal fade-in and echoing organ)
  2. "Syncopated Pandemonium" (3:57–7:04, drum tape loop, cymbals, distorted guitar)
  3. "Storm Signal" (7:04–8:38, chimes and organ)
  4. "Celestial Voices" (8:38–11:52, bass, organ, mellotron and wordless chorus)

Other versions

  • Pink Floyd performed the song 1968–1972, with the last performance taking place on 23 September 1972 at the Winterland Auditorium, San Francisco, California. It was regularly performed as an encore throughout that year. Nick Mason and Richard Wright briefly considered resurrecting the song for the 1987 'Lapse' tour, but Gilmour suggested that the song sounded too archaic.
  • The version found on the Live at Pompeii: Directors Cut is seen by some as the definitive version of the song. Nick Mason's drumming is much faster, and is also featured in the last two sections. David Gilmour does the vocalisations for only the last chord progression, instead of for the last two.
  • The Ummagumma live version is only slightly longer than the studio version at 12:48.
  • Live performances of the song initially had a length of about 12–13 minutes, but later performances commonly ran for about 17–20 minutes.
  • "Syncopated Pandemonium", the second part of the track, was one of the many tracks which were played at some point or another as "Doing It" (part of the conceptual concert The Man and the Journey, the focus of their 1969 tour). Others include "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Entertainment)", "Up the Khyber", and "Party Sequence". All of these prominently feature drums.
  • As mentioned above, the "Celestial Voices" section was used as the finale to "The Man and the Journey" concept suite. At a performance of the suite on 26 June 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall, the Floyd were joined by a full brass band and choir for the piece.



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