Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour is his own harshest critic, and if given the opportunity to tinker with his career, there are a number of things he’d change if given a chance — none more so than the band’s fifth studio album, Atom Heart Mother.
The record was the last to be produced by Norman Smith, who played an integral role in shaping the early Pink Floyd sound. The 1969 LP More was the only record out of their first five that didn’t have Smith at the helm, but due to their unhappiness with the final result of Atom Heart Mother, they parted ways with the long-time producer and started a clean slate.
Pink Floyd felt as though were treading water, and despite having bright ideas, the band didn’t execute them as they envisaged. While their fans and critics still acclaimed the album, Pink Floyd were collectively furious with the final product, which Gilmour would later deride as “dreadful”.
Ron Geesin had previously worked with Roger Waters and was brought into the Pink Floyd camp by his friend to assist the group. He contributed to the title track and received a songwriting credit on the record, which was unusual in 1970.
Geesin was thrown into a nightmarish scenario and later reflected: “When we did Atom Heart Mother, they were at their lowest point of creativity.” He put this down to fatigue and added: “They were pretty exhausted, and they didn’t really know where to go. It just happened that I was on the spot around that time.”
The addition of Geesin was a decision that becomes unfathomable when you discover that he wasn’t even a fan of Pink Floyd. “I wasn’t interested much in their music,” he once explained. “I’m still not. It doesn’t do anything for me.”
In 2001, Gilmour looked back upon the album solemnly and admitted to MOJO Magazine: “Atom Heart Mother was a good idea, but it was dreadful. I listened to that album recently: God, it’s shit, possibly our lowest point artistically. It sounds like we didn’t have any idea between us, but we became much more prolific after it.”
Not only was he unhappy with the final result of the album, but the creative process was also an arduous time. In an interview with BBC Radio in 1984, Waters replied, “You must be fucking joking,” when he was asked if he’d re-record the album for the right amount of money.
By no stretch of the imagination is Atom Heart Mother “dreadful”, but it’s also far from Pink Floyd’s pièce de résistance. After this album, they collectively found another gear and proved themselves as true innovators on the pioneering, Meddle.