The music consists of a light organ based jam (using the “Egyptian” style organ that is common of Rick Wright in this period), and an accompanying bass guitar playing just one tone (in this case, D) in octaves with a segue into the song’s only lyrics: the title of the song whispered menacingly, followed by a Roger Waters scream, as in “Candy and a Currant Bun”. This scream would reappear on many subsequent songs such as “Run Like Hell”, the very beginning of “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” and “Two Suns in the Sunset.” In the heavier parts and later, quieter parts, David Gilmour can be heard with guitar and scat vocals; in concert, Gilmour would often sing along with his guitar line.
Pink Floyd performed the song at almost every show from 1968-1973 and once in 1977. An embryonic form was performed as early as 23 May 1968 (captured in a recording at The Paradiso in Amsterdam) under the original title of “Keep Smiling People”, and another version was recorded on 25 June 1968 at BBC Piccadilly Studios and broadcast on John Peel’s Top Gear radio program 11 August 1968 with the title “Murderistic Woman”.
During the 1969 tour, it was performed as “Beset by Creatures of the Deep” as part of The Man and the Journey. From autumn 1969 till spring 1971 it was often played as a medley in conjunction with “Green Is the Colour”.
During Pink Floyd’s late 1972 European tour, the song was occasionally performed with a loud (and largely indecipherable) Pictish rant preceding the uttering of the song’s title and its trademark scream. A particularly well-known example is the performance from the band’s December 1972 concert in Zürich, and their concert on November 15, 1972 in Germany.
Pink Floyd last performed “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” in Oakland, California, on May 9, 1977, as an encore. For this rendition, Rick Wright had to use a mini-Moog synthesizer in place of the Farfisa organ he used originally on the live version and the Hammond organ on the studio version.
Alternative Versions & References
* The song title has been referenced in the lyrics of Dream Theater’s song “Octavarium”, from the album of the same name.
* This song is referenced also by Half Man Half Biscuit on their Back in the DHSS album. In “Time Flies By (When You’re The Driver Of A Train)”, Eugene is asked to be ‘careful with that spliff’.
* In The Damned’s “Nasty” where Dave Vanian sings “Careful with that axe you meanie”. Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason had produced The Damned’s second album, Music for Pleasure.
* Phish also references “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” in their 1997 live release Slip Stitch and Pass during “Mike’s Song”.
* The song was covered by the punk rock band Stukas Over Bedrock on the Mystic Records 1984 Covers LP.
* The German electronics pioneer Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook released a series of albums titled “The Dark Side of the Moog”. Each carried a play on words inspired by Pink Floyd tracks. On “The Dark Side Of The Moog VIII” the eight tracks are “Careful with the AKS, Peter Parts 1-8”.
* The live version of this song that appears on the album Ummagumma was used as background music during the first episode of the thirteen-part BBC television series The Ascent of Man, a series written by mathematician Jacob Bronowski about the history of science and first aired in 1973. The use of the song is timed so that Waters’ primal screaming conicides with a sequence depicting a prehistoric hunter bringing down an antelope with a spear.
Jerry Garcia Urban Myth
One of the most popular Floyd myths states that “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” was a reference to Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, who famously lost a portion of his right-hand middle finger in a childhood wood-chopping accident. Thus, the title refers to Garcia’s older brother (who was responsible for the accident), wryly instructing him to be more careful with his “axe” (presumably, the axe that severed part of Jerry’s finger).
While the story behind Garcia’s missing finger is true, there is no connection between the childhood accident and the song, as neither Garcia, the Dead, nor the story of the childhood accident were widely known when this song was written. Furthermore, Garcia’s older brother was named Clifford.
Edited by elchingolense on 10 Oct 2008, 01:47
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