The Six-Part Pink Floyd Song Roger Waters and David Gilmour Ended Up Hating

Even through all of Pink Floyd’s epicly lengthy compositions, from each individual member’s own song on Ummagumma through the longest track the band ever recorded, “Echoes” from Meddle to their Syd Barrett tribute “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” there was one extended track that Roger Waters and David Gilmour regretted recording.

The title track of their fifth album Atomic Heart Mother from 1970, the song was also the band’s longest uncut studio piece. Made up of six sections, “Atom Heart Mother” runs for nearly 24 minutes and took up the entire first side of the album.

“God, it’s s–t,” said Gilmour of the song in 2001. “Possibly our lowest point artistically.”

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Before “Atom Heart Mother,” Waters was never keen on some of the band’s earliest music, particularly Pink Floyd’s first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. “I don’t want to go back to those times at all,” said Waters in 1992 of the band’s 1967 debut. “There wasn’t anything ‘grand’ about it. We were laughable. We were useless. We couldn’t play at all, so we had to do something stupid and experimental.”

Gilmour was also never a fan of one of his own compositions, “The Narrow Way” from Ummagumma. “Well, we’d decided to make the damn album, and each of us to do a piece of music on our own,” said Gilmour in 1983. “It was just desperation really, trying to think of something to do, to write by myself. I’d never written anything before, I just went into a studio and started waffling about, taking bits and pieces together. I haven’t heard it in years. I’ve no idea what it’s like.”

Collectively, the only song Gilmour and Waters agreed on disliking was “Atom Heart Mother.”

“[It was] a load of rubbish, to be honest with you,” said Gilmour of the song. “We were at a real down point. We didn’t know what on earth we were doing or trying to do at that time, none of us. We were really out there. I think we were scraping the barrel a bit at that period.”

When Waters was asked if he would play Atom Heart Mother live he said, “If somebody said to me now, ‘Right, here’s a million pounds: go out and play ‘Atom Heart Mother,’ I’d say, ‘You must be f–king joking.'”

Pink Floyd, (L-R; Rick Wright, Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters) pose for a publicity still circa 1973. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Waters added, “‘Atom Heart Mother’ is a good case, I think, for being thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again.” 

[RELATED: Pink Floyd’s Bookending Opus to Syd Barrett: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”]

Atom Heart Mother was Pink Floyd’s first album to hit No. 1 on the UK charts. The album was remastered on CD in 1994, and again in 2011. In 2023, Atom Heart Mother was rereleased along with previously unseen performance footage from Japan’s 1971 Hakone Aphrodite Festival with a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary.

“The only Floyd footage at Hakone Aphrodite that exists is that of the 16-minute-long suite ‘Atom Heart Mother,” read a post by the band in 2023. “The location of the master film and how it was shot had been a mystery for a long time. However, after 50 years, the original 16mm film was discovered in a fan’s garage. The meticulous processes of digitizing, restoring and remastering was undertaken and finally this enhanced video will be released outside of Japan.”

The last time “Atom Heart Mother” was played live by Pink Floyd was in 1972 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, according to the 2006 book Echoes: The Complete History of Pink Floyd.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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