How Roger Waters made the clock sound in Pink Floyd song ‘Time’

roger Waters

Pink Floyd appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1967 to perform ‘See Emily Play’ and appeared to be on their way to conquering the world. However, early bandleader Syd Barrett had become increasingly unreliable as a result of LSD abuse and related mental health issues. When Barrett was eventually replaced by David Gilmour, bassist Roger Waters took over as the band’s creative leader.

Pink Floyd’s psychedelic sound evolved in the late 1960s with an open-minded, eclectic approach. Pink Floyd, along with Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and King Crimson, pioneered the prog-rock wave with a style defined solely by colourful experimentalism.

Released in 1971, Pink Floyd’s album “Meddle” stands out as one of their most eclectic works. “One of These Days” introduces synthesized effects, while “Echoes” offers expansive, atmospheric composition on band’s eclectic 1971 album, “Meddle”. The digressive movie soundtrack album Obscured by Clouds released in 1972. However, Meddle is considered a precursor to the seminal success of The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973.

The Dark Side of the Moon, like Meddle, offers a diverse range of styles, tempos, and emotions, from the heavy blues of ‘Money’ to Richard Wright’s arresting piano composition in ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’. What set The Dark Side of the Moon apart was its seamless cohesion as a balanced concept album.

Under Waters’ conceptual guidance, the album explores existential anxiety, examining themes of greed, death, insanity, and time’s march. Pink Floyd created The Dark Side of the Moon in such a way that the songs on each side blend together as a single piece. The band incorporated recurring motifs, including the heartbeat, a clinking cash register, insane laughter, footsteps, clock ticks, and alarms. These elements played a crucial role in unifying the conceptual theme of the album.

The opening to ‘Time’ features several clocks ticking before a cacophonous chorus of alarms begins to sound. Legendary engineer Alan Parsons captured this effect during a quadrophonic test in an antique store. While he hadn’t made the recording specifically for the album, it fits Waters’ concept perfectly.

As the alarms fade, a new clock tick appears as a prelude to the main composition. Surprisingly, as Pink Floyd’s late-career bassist Guy Pratt revealed in a 2023 appearance on the Scott’s Bass Lessons podcast, Waters created this sound solely with his bass guitar.

That’s why Roger was brilliant, for coming up with things that a bass player wouldn’t do. Using the instrument in ways other than just technical”. Pratt told podcast hosts Scott Devine and Ian Martin Allison.

The bassist, who frequently filled in as bassist for Pink Floyd after Waters’ departure in 1985, recalled having difficulty replicating the sound onstage. “With Floyd, I had to do it in time with this giant cartoon of a spinning clock. And you have to be in time with the clock,” he said.

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