Real Chords #3: Pink Floyd, "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" (Morning Glory Section)

I've been on a Floyd kick lately, what with my The Early Years: 1965-1972 box set waiting to be opened at Christmas. I love me some early Floyd, and this thing has it all: 27 CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays and five 7" vinyl singles, plus loads of memorabilia. It's also the size of a small microwave oven. Can't wait! Anyway, I had this song on over dinner tonight, got curious, picked up the guitar, checked for chords online and ... well, the usual. I found an almost-there transcription with a few wrong chords and a disinclination to acknowledge that the capo has been invented.

Now, don't get me wrong: the fine folks who post these things are rabid fans like you and me, brother and sister, and this particular punter's efforts pointed me at the sky—i.e., the right direction—for which I thank him. But if there's an even slightly easier way to play the song, why not take full advantage and use a capo? In fairness, "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" is hardly an obvious candidate for that. It's chock-full of awkward chords no matter what you do, and features one chord that's especially unusual (it took me about five run-throughs to finally land on Bbdim7, a chord that eluded Mr. Punter despite his valiant attempt).

I should note that I transcribed this more as an academic exercise, just to see if I could do it. You know how it is: you hear something and go, "Yowza! I want to play that," even if it's not suited to solo performance. I wouldn't recommend attempting this at an open stage unless you were at a Floyd convention, put it that way. At the very least you'd need piano accompaniment, 'cause that's where the melody lies. Even so, the song's Wikipedia entry notes that Rick Wright played three pianos in this section, so make that a magnificent concert pianist, ideally one with a few extra hands. All told, it's more fun to try at home along with the record.

Okay, I'll admit to a second reason for wanting to figure this one out: the chords are so achingly beautiful that I wanted to learn them now so I can use them in modified form later. Some of these progressions will be heard again, trust me. (Next month we'll discuss the fine art of recycling in music, so stay tuned.) Some highlights for you: referring to the transcription below, that intro section is pure chordal magic. The Bbdim7 is the key to its success, the pivot upon which the whole sequence turns. The end of the theme (from the Eb on) is plenty bizarre but somehow they make it work with a lovely piano melody that flutters atop all those weird chords. And finally, the Bb to Abm7 to Eb transition is sublime, worthy of any highfalutin' "serious" composer. Full marks to whoever wrote that section (Wright, I'm guessing).

As with our previous Real Chords entry, the acoustic rhythm guitar transcribed here doesn't exist on the recording. Look at it this way: you can play producer on a Pink Floyd song and add a track that, in your esteemed professional opinion, should have been there all along to add some colour. Here, then, are the real chords to "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" (Morning Glory section), written by Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason and David Gilmour. For those of you playing along with the record, this section begins at 8:18.

Capo 2

  • Intro:  D F# Em C Bbdim7* A
  • Theme: D F# G A Bb Abm7 Eb Ab C F E Esus A
  • Theme Variant: D F# G A Bb B Db Eb Ab C F E Esus E
  • Outro: (A Gmaj7 Fmaj7 G) x3, A Gmaj7 Fmaj7 E Esus E
  • Double Time: A Gmaj7 Fmaj7 G A Gmaj7 Fmaj7 E Esus E
  • Quadruple Time: As above, then end on A

* Fingering, low to high: x12020

Notes: I play the Eb using a standard C shape moved up three frets. If you want to try it out, make sure you finger the top string (as if you were playing the high G in a C major chord). Unsurprisingly, an Eb doesn't sound too good with an open E ringing out on top. Anyway, I think the Eb sounds nicer this way and it also makes for an easier transition to the Ab that follows.
 

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Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
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Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
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