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Echoes

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This article is for the song Echoes. For the compilation album see Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd.


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Echoes

Song Name: Echoes

Artist: Pink Floyd

Album: Meddle, Shine On

Run Time: 23:30

Year: 1971

Track Number: 6

Sung By: David GilmourRichard Wright

Written By: Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason

Info:

  • The lyrics begin with a marine theme, inspired by the "ping" created by Wright when his grand piano's high B was put through a Leslie speaker. Ad-lib notes fade in and build from random notes into a backing harmony. Gilmour enters with his 1st solo that has extensive use of his trademark expressive bends. Bass and drums enter shortly after, as guitar and the piano continue through the first verse. The opening lyrics put the listener underwater where "everything is green and submarine". A chord progression of C♯m, G♯m, F♯m, G♯ hints to themes explored later. Gilmour plays a chromatic riff between verses, accompanied with A and C♯m chords, which segues into his 2nd solo. This contains multiple guitars harmonizing at various points, after which it gives way to the 1st break. The solos and backing riffs are replaced by a drum and bass groove with a funk-like chordal backing, then the 3rd solo begins with a less controlled feel and prominent improvisation. A distant 2nd guitar starts accompanying the first with distortion, feedback, wah-wah, and whammy bar effects. The latter provides this solo with exaggerated pitch bends. Wright plays brief phrases on the Hammond, which slowly increase in intensity. These organ fills, along with the bass and drum groove, fade away as lead guitar gradually becomes more distant. A throbbing wind sound is introduced, created by Waters vibrating the strings of his bass with a steel slide and feeding it through an Echorec. This increases in volume as high pitched guitar 'screams' enter, resembling a distorted whale song. It was created when Gilmour discovered that a roadie accidentally reversed the cables of his wah-wah pedal, making the pedal's input go into the guitar's output, and played around with his guitar. In the second half of the interlude, the screams die down to become background noises under the sound of rooks, which were added to the music from a tape archive recording. It eventually fades into a sustained Farfisa organ chord underneath the pings' reprise. Volume swells on the guitar accompanied by sustained organ chords combine to create a stark contrast to the screams of the previous interlude. This strongly suggests the clearing air and receding winds after a violent storm. Gilmour starts strumming muted notes from B to F♯ to D to E (rhythmically reminiscent of Another Brick In The Wall) on a guitar tuned to drop D over Wright's slowly-building organ solo. Drumming becomes a combo of ride cymbal work and tom-tom fills. Eventually, a glissando guitar riff with echo and distortion creates a buildup of melodic tension, then in an anticlimactic moment, this segues into the  third verse. Unlike the first 2 verses, this is accompanied by intermittent guitar fills. After a final refrain, the song recedes into another wind-like noise: a tape loop of multi-tracked ascending male voice glissandos, similar to a Shepard tone. A soft call-and-response passage between guitar and keyboards retreats into improvised phrases, before the 'winds' finally take over and end the song.
  • The piece had its genesis in a collection of experiments written separately by each band member, referred to as "Nothing, Parts 1-24". Subsequent tapes of work in progress were labelled "The Son Of Nothing" and "The Return Of The Son Of Nothing". During this stage of development, the song's first verse had yet to be finalized. It originally referred to the meeting of two celestial bodies, but perhaps because of Waters' increasing concerns that Pink Floyd was being pigeonholed as a space rock band, the lyrics were rewritten to use underwater imagery instead. The title "Echoes" was also subjected to significant revisions before and after the release of Meddle: Waters, a devoted football fan, proposed that the band call its new piece "We Won The Double" in celebration of Arsenal's 1971 victory, and during a 1972 tour of Germany he jovially introduced it on two consecutive nights as "Looking Through The Knothole in Granny's Wooden Leg" and "The March Of The Dam Busters", respectively. The song, then entitled "The Return Of The Son Of Nothing", was first performed in public on April 22, 1971 with the unrevised 'planetary' lyrics. These remained in place until sometime in late July of that year, when they were replaced by the more familiar 'albatross' lyrics. The song was first introduced as "Echoes" on the sixth of August, 1971. It was a staple of Pink Floyd's live performances until 1975 and was also played 11 times in 1987, near the beginning of the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour. Most recently, David Gilmour has performed the song on his 2006 solo tour.
  • Unlike the Atom Heart Mother Suite, it was relatively easy for Pink Floyd to reproduce this onstage (as can be seen in the Live at Pompeii film) without requiring additional musicians, though the swapping of keyboard sounds during the piece sometimes proved problematic in concert. Originally, Wright would start the song by playing his grand piano through a Leslie speaker, then switch to the Hammond just before the first verse, switch again to the Farfisa during the 'seagull' middle section, back to the Hammond for the last verse, and finally to piano for the outro. This required Waters to provide the 'pings' at their re-entry after the middle section. The Farfisa was dropped from the band's live setup and its parts were played on the Hammond instead. The 1987 performances had synthesizers replacing the Farfisa. Unlike Pompeii, regular live performances played the song as a whole - the bridge between "Part 1" and "Part 2" was simply done by Waters stopping the bass riff of the jam section in the former and starting to play the wind sounds of the latter. The rest of the band would just play quieter and quieter until silent. Starting in 1974, the musical arrangement was augmented by backing vocals from Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams and saxophone solos by Dick Parry added directly after the second verse and at the song's finale. All three artists joined Pink Floyd's touring party to take the latter The Dark Side Of The Moon performances, and added their own parts to the remainder of the concert, largely because the former artist was reluctant to leave and re-enter the stage throughout the show). The last time the song would be played by all four members of Pink Floyd was at Knebworth closing their 1975 world tour. During performances by the 'three-man' Pink Floyd in 1987, "Echoes" was played in a much shorter form. It was dropped because Gilmour didn't feel 'right' about singing the lyrics at the time, and the backing artists played it without the improvisation that makes this a powerfully affecting piece.
  • On Gilmour's 2006 tour, Wright plays a key part in the touring band, performing vocals and keyboard parts on this (he sang in the same pitch as Gilmour originally did with Jon Carin singing the higher harmonies that Richard originally sang. This new arrangement of the song is close to the album version, often clocking at 22 minutes at the beginning of the tour, later performances even outlengthened the studio version by almost 3 minutes.)
  • It's rumored this synchronizes with 2001: A Space Odyssey when played concurrently with the final segment. This was released 3 years after the film and is 23:30 long, similar to the "Infinite" segment. Sounds in the middle of the song suggests the feeling of traveling through an alien world. The drone vocalizations heard in the final scenes of 2001 seem to match with the discordant bass vibrations in the middle of this song as well as the choral glissandos of the finale. Some argue that there's moments when the song and film soundtrack are indistinguishable. A notable link occurs during a change in scene at precisely the moment when the guitar and keyboards crescendo as the final verse starts. As a bonus, the early lyrics contain references to planets, which is entirely suitable for the film's depiction of Jupiter and its moons. Adrian Maben re-created this marriage of music and image in the director's cut of Live at Pompeii using CGI.
  • No member has ever declared that the synchronization was intentional, because the technology to play back film in a recording studio in 1971 would have been expensive and difficult to acquire. However, Waters is quoted as saying that the failure to contribute to 2001's official score was his "greatest regret". Kubrick asked the band if he could use Atom Heart Mother Suite in A Clockwork Orange. Pink Floyd refused on the grounds that it would sound silly when played out of context; nevertheless, a copy is displayed behind the counter of a record shop in the film.
  • Decades later, Waters asked permission to sample sound clips from 2001 into Amused To Death. Waters' intention was to insert dialogue and breathing sounds from the scene prior to "Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite", when Dave Bowman deactivates HAL 9000 into the instrumental intro of "Perfect Sense, Part One". After much deliberation, permission was denied to uphold Kubrick's precedent of refusing such requests. Instead, Waters inserted his own shouting, whispering and breathing in a backwards message that refers to Kubrick by his Christian name. However, a recording from In The Flesh - Live uses the original film dialogue as Waters had intended.
  • The George Greenough film "Crystal Voyager" concludes with a segment in which this accompanies a montage of images shot by Greenough from a camera mounted on his surfboard.  
  • Waters has said that Andrew Lloyd Webber had plagiarized "Echoes" for sections of The Phantom Of The Opera; however, he declined to file a lawsuit against Webber because he thought that "life's too short".

Yeah, the beginning of that bloody Phantom song is from Echoes. *DAAAA-da-da-da-da-da* [sic]. I couldn't believe it when I heard it. It's the same time signature - it's 12/8 - and it's the same structure and it's the same notes and it's the same everything. Bastard. It probably is actionable. It really is! But I think that life's too short to bother with suing Andrew fucking Lloyd Webber.


  • Waters "got even" by adding a mean-spirited reference into It's A Miracle on Amused To Death ("Lloyd Webber's awful stuff runs for years and years and years / An earthquake hits the theatre but the operetta lingers / Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his fucking fingers. It's A Miracle").


  Credits  |  Chronology  

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