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‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Pink Floyd’s 1968 Album
In Depth

‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Pink Floyd’s 1968 Album

With its potent brew of psychedelic rock, Pink Floyd’ second album, ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’, set the controls for the heart of the stunning.

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Released on 29 June 1968, Pink Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, continued the group’s journey into the uncharted reaches of experimental rock and cemented their status as pioneers of the genre. Featuring a mesmerising blend of psychedelic soundscapes, haunting vocals and oddball instrumentation, the album built upon the success of their debut, 1967’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, by exploring the band’s otherworldly musical impulses and expounding upon their musical vision.

Marking a significant turning point for the group, A Saucerful Of Secrets also saw the arrival of new guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, as well as the departure of founding member Syd Barrett, who left the band halfway through recording sessions at De Lane Lea Studios, London. With bassist Roger Waters and keyboardist Rick Wright contributing more material of their own, Pink Floyd cohered as a collective entity, paving the way for the rise of progressive rock. While Barrett’s influence can still be felt on A Saucerful Of Secrets, the combined efforts of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason would define Pink Floyd’s sound for years to come.

Listen to ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ here.

‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ Track-By-Track: A Guide To Every Song On The Album

Let There Be More Light

A classic example of Pink Floyd’s early psychedelic period, Let There Be More Light takes inspiration from works of science fiction to imagine an alien spacecraft landing at a Royal Air Force base near Mildenhall, in Suffolk. With lyrics alluding to the John Carter Of Mars book series, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the song kicks off with a propulsive Rickenbacker bass riff from Roger Waters and a relentless ride cymbal from Nick Mason, perfectly capturing the wide-eyed awe of UFO fanatics everywhere.

While describing the spaceship’s arrival and the reactions of military personnel, the lyrics even feature a playful psych-pop nod to The Beatles (“The service men were heard to sigh/For there revealed in glowing robes was Lucy in the sky”). As the song unfurls, courtesy of Rick Wright’s churning Hammond organ riff, it builds to a climax with David Gilmour’s first-ever guitar solo on record as a member of Pink Floyd. A fascinating and intriguing song that showcases the group’s willingness to break with convention, Let There Be More Light’s dizzying combination of sci-fi-inspired lyrics and unearthly music makes it a standout track from Pink Floyd’s early years.

Remember A Day

A beautifully wistful song that taps into the same vein of nostalgia associated with Syd Barrett’s songwriting, Remember A Day was penned at the same time Pink Floyd were recording The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Offering a bittersweet reflection on childhood reverie and the loss of innocence that comes with growing up, the lyrics are infused with a sense of longing for the carefree days of youth, when friends would lark about without concern (“Why can’t we play today?/Why can’t we stay that way?”)

Evoking a melancholic nostalgia that is hard to resist, Remember A Day is one of only a few A Saucerful Of Secrets songs on which Syd Barrett plays the guitar, and his contribution is unmistakable. Using a Zippo lighter to play slide on his white Fender Telecaster, which is fed through a Binson Echorec echo machine, the Floyd co-founder adds a touch of dreamy surrealism to an eerily beautiful song.

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

Opening with a mesmerising Eastern-tinged bass riff, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun tells the tale of a depressed pilot who commits suicide by sending his flying saucer into solar oblivion. Written in the autumn of 1967, the song was reportedly inspired by sci-fi author Michael Moorcock’s 1965 book The Fireclown and cleverly draws upon Eastern wisdom to ponder mortality and humanity’s place in the universe.

Haunting and hypnotic, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is a truly engrossing meditation on insanity and loneliness, following the wayward astronaut as he embarks on a five-minute-long death-wish fantasy. As the song reaches its close, Syd Barrett can be heard discreetly playing the main riff on lead guitar, making the track’s gloom-filled journey into the abyss all the more unsettling. Showcasing Pink Floyd’s unique ability to create a sonic landscape that is both captivating and thought-provoking, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun would go on to have a huge impact on the development of progressive rock, thanks to its poetic thrust and enchantingly meandering groove.

Corporal Clegg

Pink Floyd at their most playful, Corporal Clegg is a hilariously absurd song that uses sarcasm to reflect upon the consequences of World War II. In its narrative, the titular soldier comes home from the battlefield with more than he bargained for – a wooden leg, which he treats as a trophy. With Clegg finding his medal in a zoo, the song humorously conveys the madness and brutality of war, and makes for a satirical musing on whether such sacrifices are worth fighting for.

While Clegg’s wife downs bottles of gin and descends into alcoholism, the barmy horn section of the Stanley Myers Orchestra is joined by David Gilmour on kazoo, and it’s particularly fun to hear the members of Pink Floyd engage in some Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. A unique and quirky track that showcases the band’s zanier side, Corporal Clegg remains a gleefully over-the-top psychedelic-pop gem that delivers social commentary in a humorous and entertaining way.

A Saucerful Of Secrets

This beguilingly weird 11-minute instrumental voyage into avant-gardism is said to have begun as an architectural diagram drawn by Roger Waters and Nick Mason, who were attempting to illustrate the sonic peaks and troughs that they hoped to capture in the song. Resembling the musique concrète compositions of John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, A Saucerful Of Secrets evolved into a multi-faceted proto-prog workout, beginning with a slow, atmospheric section featuring spacey sound effects and eerie keyboard lines.

As the song builds into a short, frenzied instrumental passage featuring pounding drums and a cacophony of discordant sounds, Rick Wright’s dark and sinister Hammond organ tones are as unsettling as they are compelling. The arrival of a driving, rhythmic beat and a menacing bassline give way to the most melodic and ethereal part of the song, featuring a choral arrangement of voices singing wordless, angelic harmonies. An intriguing foray into Pink Floyd’s experimental breed of psychedelia, A Saucerful Of Secrets demonstrated the group’s innovative approach to music-making and their eagerness to tackle lengthier compositions.

See-Saw

Immediately striking a pastoral tone, See-Saw conjures images of a lazy summer afternoon by the river, with a 60s Mellotron pop sound and xylophone embellishments adding to a dreamlike sense of childhood innocence and wonder. Allegedly stemming from conversations between Rick Wright and Syd Barrett, the lyrics tell the story of a brother and sister spending their days playing in a park, skipping stones by the river and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The sense of nostalgia is palpable, as if the song is intended as a snapshot of a bygone era. It perfectly captures the essence of carefree days spent in the English countryside.

Jugband Blues

As his one and only songwriting contribution to A Saucerful Of Secrets, Jugband Blues is a unique work of offbeat psych-pop that showcases Syd Barrett’s incredible talent as a songwriter. Putting a full stop on Barrett’s time with Pink Floyd, the album’s closing song uses unconventional instruments, such as the kazoo and castanets, to create a hallucinatory and disorienting quality. In a nod to Barrett’s fondness for jazz, the Salvation Army brass band also make an appearance. A testament to Pink Floyd’s ability to convey the human experience in all of its many facets, Jugband Blues remains one of the group’s finest moments of the 60s, securing their legacy as pioneering figures in the realm of psychedelia.

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