On this day in 1968, Pink Floyd recorded "Point Me at the Sky" and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" at Abbey Road Studios, London. Written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the two tracks were released as a single, in December 1968.
Floyd were keeping themselves busy during this period. Between dipping in and out of recording sessions at Abbey Road, the group were playing small club dates around the UK as well as visiting Europe for live shows.
Released as Pink Floyd’s fifth UK single, backed with "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," "Point Me at the Sky" was Floyd’s last calculated shot at writing singles, after which they would focus more on the creation of album collections, releasing no more UK singles till 1979 ("Another Brick In The Wall" would give Floyd their only No.1 hit in ’79).
Floyd had enjoyed seeing both "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" reach the UK charts the previous year, but follow up releases "Apples and Oranges" and "It Would Be So Nice" had failed to make any impression on the charts.
The plaintive vocals of "Point Me at the Sky" have a touch of Ray Davies in the verses, before becoming more aggressive in the choruses. In November 1968 the group made a promotional film for the song in which they posed in goggles and flight outfits with a 1920s vintage aeroplane, a Tiger Moth. The plane took off from, and flew around, Biggin Hill aerodrome, in South-East London, a location they returned to for the back sleeve shot from Ummagumma which featured all the band’s equipment laid out, US fighter-style.
"Point Me at the Sky" has since become one of the most obscure of all officially released Pink Floyd recordings. It was left out of the 1971 collection Relics and was not re-issued until the 1992 CD collection The Early Singles, a bonus disc in the Shine On box set.
The single’s instrumental B-side, "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," became a permanent fixture of Floyd’s live set, who performed the song at almost every show from 1968-1973. The track was also sometimes played with different titles, including "Murderistic Woman" and "Keep Smiling, People."
One unconfirmed theory is that the song is based on a real episode that one of the band members experienced in a hotel during a tour one night. Not sure whether it was Syd Barrett or Roger Waters who wielded the axe to the detriment of many objects in the room, including the TV. Some say the event is played out in the movie The Wall, and is featured on that album as the song "One Of My Turns."
"Point Me at the Sky" didn’t chart, but Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, had peaked at No.9 on the UK charts which set the trend for the following two album releases — the More film soundtrack and the double album Ummagumma, both of which peaked inside the Top 10.
Pink Floyd were an albums band for whom singles didn’t matter; they were a million miles away from The Beatles, who were nearing the end of their career, and The Stones, who were now in a new post-Brian Jones phase. No one sounded like Pink Floyd, no one played live shows like Pink Floyd.
"Point Me at the Sky" was now behind them; in less than two years Floyd scored their first UK No.1 album with Atom Heart Mother, the follow-up Meddle sat in the charts for 82 weeks, and their next album, released in 1973, would set new and still unbroken records for the longest run on the US charts.
"Point Me at the Sky" has now been restored and will be included on the forthcoming This Day In Pink Floyd iPhone and iPad app, available on 14 November.