Interstellar Overdrive

Interstellar Overdrive

Name = Interstellar Overdrive

Artist = Pink Floyd
Album = The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Released = August 5, 1967
track_no = 7
Recorded = February-June 1967
Genre = Space rock, psychedelic rock
Length = 9:41
Label = Columbia/EMI (UK) Capitol (US)
Producer = Norman Smith
prev = Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
prev_no = 6
next = The Gnome
next_no = 8
"Interstellar Overdrive" is a psychedelic composition by Pink Floyd, which appears on their 1967 debut album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" at almost ten minutes in length. An earlier, longer recording can be heard on the soundtrack to the film "Tonite Let's All Make Love in London", which was released in the same year. Other versions of the track appear on various bootleg recordings.

Like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's slightly earlier song "East-West," "Interstellar Overdrive" was one of the very first psychedelic instrumental improvisations recorded by a rock band. It was seen as Pink Floyd's first foray into space rock (along with "Astronomy Domine"), although band members would later disparage this term. Despite its encapsulation of their concert repertoire under the leadership of guitarist and composer Syd Barrett, the long, improvisational, freeform structure of the piece is not particularly representative of the group's recorded output. As drummer Nick Mason states in his book "", live versions of the song featured many sections that did not appear on the album, and would often last more than 20 minutes. During the band's days playing in residence at London underground clubs such as the UFO (Underground Freak Out), the song usually opened their show. It occupied other positions, including the encore, until it was retired from the band's setlist in 1970.


The opening hook of the piece is a distorted, descending guitar riff played in unison by the band. This riff eventually turns into improvisation, including modal improvisations, percussive flourishes on the Farfisa organ, and quiet interludes. The song gradually becomes almost structureless and in free-form tempo, punctuated only by strange guitar noises. Eventually, however, the entire band restates the main theme, which is repeated with decreasing tempo and more deliberate intensity. The novel use of stereo (in the second mix of the album, the original being monophonic) makes sound oscillate between speakers towards the composition's conclusion.

This riff originated when early Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner was trying to hum a song he couldn't remember the name of (most commonly identified as Love's cover of "My Little Red Book"). Barrett followed Jenner's humming with his guitar and used it as the basis for the principal melody of "Interstellar Overdrive." Roger Waters once told Barrett that the song's riff reminded him of the theme tune from "Steptoe and Son".

Recorded on March 16, 1967, with overdubs in June of that year, the "Piper" version also appears on the official compilation albums "Relics" and "A Nice Pair".

Alternative and live versions

The studio recording on "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is the one that most listeners are familiar with, yet several other versions survive from both the recording studio and the stage. It was first recorded as a demo on 31 October 1966. Other alternate early versions that survive include one used as a backing track for a Canadian Broadcasting Company interview with the band in December 1966, two five-minute excerpts of versions performed at the UFO Club on 20 January and 24 February 1967, and a chaotic, late-Barrett era rendition recorded live in Rotterdam in November 1967. An earlier, 16-minute rendition (recorded for the film "Tonite Let's All Make Love in London" by Joe Boyd on 11 January 1967) may actually be superior in its more kinetic approach to the early sections, though it is perhaps more tedious and drawn-out as a whole. The soundtrack for "Tonite Let's All Make Love in London" (released in 1968) includes an edited version of the recording and two reprises of it. The full version is available on the album "London 1966/1967" (Snapper SMACD924X).

The song was a staple of Pink Floyd's live shows throughout the late-1960s; the last ever performance took place on the 21 November 1970 in Montreux, Switzerland. The 40th anniversary edition of "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" contains two different, five-minute-long versions of the song.

The plethora of bootleg live recordings, with and without Barrett in the band, show that the band often improvised upon and changed the arrangement with each passing performance. One post-Barrett BBC radio broadcast, for example, is arguably superior to the studio version, introducing a wholly new middle section in which the keyboard melody dramatically rises and the guitars are pick-scraped for an almost "demonic" effect. The finale in performances from 1969 and 1970 features David Gilmour playing a metal bar slide across his guitar at the end of the piece, in a slower tempo than Barrett's frenetic slide work.

An especially powerful version of "Interstellar Overdrive" was rumoured to have been cut from the "Ummagumma" live album. Tapes of this performance may still exist. "Interstellar Overdrive" has been covered by many artists, including Particle, Hawkwind, Camper Van Beethoven, The Melvins, moe., Spiral Realms, Pearl Jam and The Mars Volta.

*John Frusciante mentioned in a recent interview given to radio station The End in Seattle, that the Red Hot Chili Peppers led off their performance with "Interstellar Overdrive" on the night Syd Barrett died.
*The Mars Volta incorporated a cover of the song into their live shows as a tribute to Syd Barrett. []
*The Amiga demo [ "Aerial"] by the demo group M4nkind has a cover version of "Interstellar Overdrive" as the soundtrack.
*Professional wrestling stable Generation Next used the cover version by The Melvins as their theme song.
*Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard uses the "Interstellar Overdrive" riff on the song "Pigeon", released on his solo album Bayleaf.


*Syd Barrett - guitar
*Richard Wright - organ
*Roger Waters - bass guitar
*Nick Mason - drums, percussion

External links

* [ AMG song review]

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