Mothers Secrets (Wright1)
Manchester College of Commerce, Manchester, England – May 2nd, 1969
(56:14): Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Interstellar Overdrive, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets (Mother’s, Birmingham, England – April 27th, 1969)
While preparing for Ummagumma, Pink Floyd believed that their new material would be so radically different that, in order to actually sell the album, they would include a disc of live material. They also believed that the songs currently in their live act would be dropped forever and a live recording would be a good memento.
The liner notes on the LP claim they were recorded in June, 1969, but in reality three gigs were recorded that spring. The first was on April 26th at Bromley Technical College, April 27th at Mother’s in Birmingham, and finally on May 2nd at the College of Commerce in Manchester. The first gig has never been mentioned and it isn’t known if tapes still exist, but the LP was composed of material from the second two gigs.
The May 2nd show contributed most of the material to the album because, as Richard Wright was quoted, “‘The live part of the album we had to record twice. The first time, at Mothers in Birmingham, we felt we’d played really well, but the equipment didn’t work so we couldn’t use nearly all of that one. The second time, at Manchester College Of Commerce, was a really bad gig but as the recording equipment was working really well, we had to use it. Part of ‘Saucer’ came form the Birmingham gig which we put together with the Manchester stuff but the stuff on the album isn’t half as good as we can play.”
Mothers Secrets on the Wright1 label is a one disc, fifty-six minute stereo soundboard recording out outtakes of the first disc of Ummagumma. The sound quality is on the whole outstanding stereo. The May 2nd tapes were cleaned up for official release and were given new vocal overdubs. But this tape is the raw performance as it occurred before studio tinkering.
“Astronomy Domine” begins the disc and is listed as a different mix than the finished product. It has different vocals, starting with the whisper on the left channel. They aren’t as accurate as on the album. The instrumental is the same though and at the end of the song Roger is audible, telling the audience that the show is being “committed to posterity” on tape.
The liner notes state that “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” has a longer introduction and no vocals in the mix. Dave’s low wailing and Roger’s trademark screams were overdubbed on the final product but it is not much different.
“Interstellar Overdrive” is the center of most interest on this release. This thirteen minute version of the tracks was supposed to be included on the album, and indeed it was included on early acetates, but was omitted before the final pressing. The reason for its omission is unclear. Theories range from the band wanting to preserve the sound quality of the record to its being dropped because of publishing rights since Syd Barrett was listed as a writer. But most likely it was for time constraints since the song would have had to be cut in half to fit onto the LP.
It is a very good version of the piece although there are better versions from the era (something that can be said for all of the songs), but this is still an excellent, spaced out track. They intermingle parts from other songs such as snippets of “Work” from “The Man” suite from Nick. There are pieces of “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party,” snips of “The Narrow Way,” then “Up the Khyber.”
“Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” seems to be the track with the most amount of studio overdubs on it. The entire vocal is much different as it appears on Ummagumma. The middle has some very strange parts too like the humming in the Arabian section and particularly Waters’ laughing at one point. Some collectors speculate that is actually from the studio sessions, done because they were bored or as a prank. Nevertheless it is good to hear the different mix. At end of the song Waters tells the audience: “Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, ladies and gentleman. I must say I really enjoyed singing that for you. And now, I’m a … I’m a Manchester College of Tech, or whatever it is that you are, man at heart. Fine. For our next song, which I wrote myself…”
Finally “A Saucerful Of Secrets” closes the disc. The version on Ummagumma is a composite of the Birmingham and Manchester recordings, but this comes from the Birmingham tape. The recording is a mixed bag. Some of the strengths are that there are parts in “Syncopated Pandemonium” not heard before, but there is a strange “jingle bell” in the beginning of “Celestial Voices.” It does on for a bit before ending abruptly. This might have been a reminder for the edit since the sound quality drops from that point onwards.
Mothers Secretsis a fascinating piece to hear and is essential for understanding late sixties Pink Floyd. These five songs formed the basis of their live act for more than a year at this point. Their premier of “The Man And The Journey” several months before shows the direction they wanted to perhaps take their music and to resign these numbers to the back catalogue, something which didn’t happen and these songs remained for several more years. There are hopes that the complete Mothers, Birmingham soundboard exists and will surface. And maybe even the Bromley tape will appear. Regardless, this is a great silver pressed edition of these outtakes, packaged in a tri-fold gatefold glossy sleeveIf you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)