Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interstellar Overdrive (Tonite Let's...)

Interstellar Overdrive  16:46
Studio recording 27 February 1967 
* Released on various artist soundtrack album Tonite Let's All Make Love in London early 1968 (edited version); Tonite Let's All Make Love in London... Plus 1990 (full version)

Written by Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason
Produced by Joe Boyd and Peter Whitehead
Engineered by John Woods

1968 version release: Instant INLP 002
          Time: 3.48, with reprises of :30 and :58 seconds
1990 version release:SEE CD 258


This version of the song, the first to be professionally recorded, was recorded on the same day as the band's first single, and was supervised by Peter Whitehead. This was probably the third of the four songs recorded on this day. The full version of the song was not released until 1990, when See For Miles Records Ltd re-released the soundtrack.

Interstellar Overdrive was the most popular and frequently-played song of the early Floyd, in which they justified to some degree their reputation as innovators of sound effects, feedback, and improvisation. Peter Jenner recalls how the main riff for the song was conceived.

Peter Jenner: "I was once trying to tell him about this Arthur Lee song I couldn't remember the title of, so I just hummed the main riff. Syd picked up his guitar and followed what I was humming chord-wise. The chord pattern he worked out he went on to use as his main riff for Interstellar Overdrive."

Arthur Lee was at that time the lead singer and songwriter for a band called Love. Writer Nicholas Schaffner specifies that Jenner was humming the riff from Love's version of My Little Red Book. He quotes Jenner as saying: "I'm not the world's greatest singer; in fact I've got a terrible sense of pitch. He played back a riff on his guitar, said, 'It goes like this?' And of course it was quite different because my humming was so bad!"

Roger Waters adds: "That was nicked from Love... it was a cross between 'Steptoe and Son' and that Love track on their first album which I can't remember."

Miles talks about seeing Interstellar Overdrive played live at the UFO Club during early 1967: "Crowded on UFO's tiny stage, their flesh crawling with the pulsating blobs from their light show and dressed in standard Granny Takes A Trip frilly flower-patterned shirts with huge collars and flowing multi-coloured scarves, Roger and Syd would begin the familiar descending bass line which always meant a good half-hour of weird sound effects, experiments and free-form rock during which Nick's drums often played a melodic as well as a rhythmic role while the others all made funny noises. Unless he was soloing, Rick would maintain a spectral presence, hanging ghost-like organ chords up to wave gently in the background. They would take musical innovation out further than it had ever been before, walking out on incredibly dangerous limbs and dancing along crumbling precipices, saved sometimes only by the confidence beamed at them from the audience sitting a matter of inches away at their feet. Ultimately, having explored to their satisfaction, Nick would begin the drum roll that led to the final run through of the theme and everyone could breathe again."

The Pink Floyd also appeared briefly in the film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London itself, playing bits of Interstellar Overdrive live.

Dave Gilmour: "I've never seen that film. It was before my time, in '67. Ask Nick about that, he would know."

Nick Mason: "I don't know, I can't remember."

The covers of this piece are listed with the version on the Piper at the Gates of Dawn album, since that is doubtless the version the cover artists would have heard.

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