Celeberated auteur Michael Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point was described as “one of the most extraordinary disasters in modern cinematic history”. But one of the things about the art-drama film that stood out and was unanimously appreciated – both in the 1970s and now, almost fifty years later – is the soundtrack.
Antonioni chose Pink Floyd to compose the score after listening to their 1969 album Ummagumma. However, only three numbers made it to the final film: the opening sequence track Heart Beat, Pig Meat (above), Crumbling Land, and, most famously, Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up (below – a version of Careful With Your Axe, Eugene) which plays during the famous explosion sequence at the end.
Now, some of the other tracks composed but not used are available outside of bootleg albums. This was Pink Floyd’s transition to experimentation – Heart Beat, Pig Meat was the first time the band used a human heartbeat as a musical instrument, though certainly not the last. Richard Wright’s The Violent Sequence, in fact, which was scrapped by Antonioni from the soundtrack, was later reworked as Us and Them on the band’s biggest album Dark Side of the Moon (1973).
“It was hell, sheer hell,” recalled Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, as he spoke to The Guardian about the soundtrack-recording sessions, which would have normally taken the band a week to record, but were stretched to a month by a fussy Antonioni.