When Pink Floyd Tried to Make an Album with Household Objects: Hear Two Surviving Tracks Made with Wine Glasses & Rubber Bands

There are bands one casu­al­ly encoun­ters through great­est hits or break­through albums, on which they sound exact­ly like them­selves and no one else. It’s impos­si­ble to imag­ine any­one but Fleet­wood Mac mak­ing Rumors or Tusk. Or any­one but Pink Floyd record­ing Wish You Were Here or Dark Side of the Moon. But just like Fleet­wood Mac, when we look back before Floyd’s best-known work, we find, as Mark Blake writes at Team Rock, that “they were a very dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion.”

And yet it was­n’t that Pink Floyd rad­i­cal­ly shuf­fled the lineup—though they had, since their first album, lost found­ing singer and gui­tarist Syd Bar­rett to men­tal ill­ness and tak­en on David Gilmour to replace him. It’s that the same four musi­cians who re-invent­ed psych-rock in the ear­ly 70s with “Mon­ey,” “Time,” and “Great Gig in the Sky,” sound­ed noth­ing like that blues/funk/disco/prog hybrid in the late 60s. Some of the same ele­ments were there—the sar­don­ic sense of humor, love for sound effects and extend­ed jam sessions—but they cohered in much more alien and exper­i­men­tal shapes.

The title track of 1968’s Saucer­ful of Secrets, for exam­ple, opens with four min­utes of dis­so­nant hor­ror-movie organ drones, which give way to pri­mal drum­ming around which piano chords and sci-fi nois­es fall hap­haz­ard­ly, then resolve in a clos­ing word­less choral pas­sage. Not a sin­gle, cyn­i­cal lyric about the pains of mod­ern life to be found. The fol­low­ing year’s Ummagum­ma con­tin­ued to build the band’s exper­i­men­tal foun­da­tions, and in-between these projects, they record­ed film sound­tracks that, again, do not make one think of laser-lit are­na rock shows.

But there is plen­ty of con­nec­tive tis­sue between the var­i­ous phas­es of Floyd, much of it, like the bulk of their 1970 sound­track for Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, offi­cial­ly unre­leased. We can add to that list an attempt­ed album called House­hold Objects, which they began in 1970 and aban­doned in ’74. The project, drum­mer Nick Mason admit­ted, rep­re­sents the then-large­ly-instru­men­tal band “still look­ing for a coher­ent direc­tion,” and in so doing, aban­don­ing instru­ments alto­geth­er. On House­hold Objects, they made serendip­i­tous dis­cov­er­ies using—as the title clear­ly stated—found sounds, in the vein of John Cage or the avant-garde com­posers of musique con­crete.

In 1971, Abbey Road stu­dios tape oper­a­tor John Leck­ie, who went on to pro­duce the heav­i­ly Floyd-influ­enced Muse, remem­bers the band “mak­ing chords up from the tap­ping of beer bot­tles, tear­ing news­pa­pers for rhythm, and let­ting off aerosol cans to get a hi-hat sound.” Key­boardist Richard Wright recalls spend­ing “days get­ting a pen­cil and a rub­ber band till it sound­ed like a bass.” The idea began two years ear­li­er when the band per­formed a com­po­si­tion called Work that “involved,” writes Blake, “saw­ing wood and boil­ing ket­tles on stage.”

House­hold Objects record­ing ses­sions, writes Rolling Stone, “con­sist­ed of Pink Floyd play­ing songs on hand mix­ers, light bulbs, wood saws, ham­mers, brooms and oth­er home appli­ances. Record­ing in this man­ner was excru­ci­at­ing.” Wright and Gilmour grew exas­per­at­ed and the band moved on to oth­er things, name­ly Wish You Were Here. All that seem­ing­ly remains of House­hold Objects are the two tracks here, “The Hard Way” (an instance where rub­ber bands sound like a bass) and “Wine Glass­es,” the lat­ter employ­ing, you guessed it, wine glass­es. But like so much of Floyd’s less­er-known or for­got­ten exper­i­men­tal work, these ses­sions cre­at­ed the back­drop for their more acces­si­ble hits. “Wine Glass­es” sur­vived in “Shine on You Crazy Dia­mond.” In the video just above, you can see David Gilmour work out the glass arrange­ments for his per­for­mance of the song in the 2006 Roy­al Albert Hall con­cert film Remem­ber That Night.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Lost” Pink Floyd Sound­track for Michelan­ge­lo Antonioni’s Only Amer­i­can Film, Zabriskie Point (1970)

Hear Lost Record­ing of Pink Floyd Play­ing with Jazz Vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li on “Wish You Were Here”

Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” Pro­vides a Sound­track for the Final Scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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