Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Out of Print Gems: The Pink Floyd Holy Grail

Simultaneously one of the most endearing and irritating aspects of the resurgently popular LP format is that (at least) once during the playing of each album, you have to get up and flip the record over to continue. The most noteworthy aspect of the persistently unpopular, defunct 8-track format is that it plays in a continuous loop until stopped. Countless bands designed their albums with the 2-sided format in mind: an easy example is Led Zeppelin IV, on which each side begins with 2 rockers, is followed by a ballad, and ends with a 7-minute+ song of absurdly epic proportions. Even at the height of the 8-track, though - and it's easy to forget that there was a time when the ridiculous tapes were enormously popular, especially in cars - few bands, popular or otherwise, tailored their albums to the format.

The most notable exception by far was Pink Floyd, who by the late 70s were riding high in the wake of The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, and were, with the possible exceptions of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, the most popular band in the world. In 1977, the Floyd released Animals, the second in a trilogy of albums which toyed with the idea of cyclical music. 1975's Wish You Were Here was bookended with two halves of an extended song, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," and 1979's The Wall ended with the question fragment "Isn't this where..." and began with its completion, "...we came in?" Similarly, Animals was bookended by two short acoustic song fragments, "Pigs on the Wing," parts 1 and 2. Given the nature of the 8-track format, the band decided to record a guitar solo that would connect the 2 halves of the song and explicitly bring the album back full circle. Floyd associate Snowy White was assigned the task after David Gilmour's take was accidentally erased, and the resulting "complete" version of "Pigs on the Wing" was included exclusively on British and American pressings of the 8-track tape when the album was released.

As time passed and the 8-track went extinct, though the Floyd remained as popular as ever well on through the beginning of the CD era, this solo slipped out of the discography as the catalog was standardized to reflect the more familiar tracklisting associated with the original LP. As time went by, Snowy White's solo took on mythic stature among the band's fanbase, particularly as reissues continued and it became the only commercially unavailable piece of music the band had ever officially released.

Spurred by a love of outmoded electronic crap and the challenge of tracking down a cartridge that included the solo (and there were 2 unsuccessful attempts), over my last year in college, I procured an 8-track deck and the original British-release tape. You can listen to the long-lost track in the video below, and until such time as the song sees an official re-release, an mp3 ripped from the tape can be downloaded here.


  1. Interesting info. Thanks for your efforts.

  2. I'm so glad I found this. I can't wait to ski down a mountain listening to it.