It had a cow’s arse on the cover and a track sampling their roadie cooking bacon, but the wild genius of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic art rock made Atom Heart Mother their first No. 1
Floyd’s next release, 1969’s double album Ummagumma, included Roger Waters’ musique concrète experiment, Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave And Grooving With A Pict. The piece was fashioned out of found sounds, with its composer ranting in a Scottish accent.
Zabriskie Point was the next stage on Floyd’s varied musical journey, but the band quickly discovered that Antonioni was an impossible taskmaster. “We did some great stuff,” insisted Waters. However, the director, worried their music would overpower his movie, criticised everything: “You’d change whatever was wrong and he’d still be unhappy. It was hell.”
Floyd lasted two weeks in Rome and then came home. Zabriskie Point appeared in February 1970 and was a resounding flop. The soundtrack included just three Floyd tracks, padded out with songs by the Grateful Dead, among others. However, Floyd’s discarded outtakes contained a musical sequence around which the Atom Heart Mother suite would evolve.
“Dave [Gilmour] came up with the original riff,” Waters told Capital Radio (now TeamRock) DJ Nicky Horne. “We all listened to it and thought, ‘Oh, that’s quite nice…’ But we all thought the same thing, which was that it sounds like a theme from some awful western.”