Careful with That Axe, Eugene

"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is an instrumental piece by the British rock band Pink Floyd.[3] The studio recording was originally released as the B-side of their single "Point Me at the Sky" which also features on the Relics compilation album; live versions can also be found on various releases. Pink Floyd re-recorded the track for Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point, retitling it "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up" on the film's soundtrack album.[4] This song was one of several to be considered for the band's "best of" album, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.[5] It was included on the multi-artist Harvest compilation, A Breath of Fresh Air – A Harvest Records Anthology 1969–1974 in 2007.[6]

"Careful with That Axe, Eugene"
Single by Pink Floyd
A-side"Point Me at the Sky"
Released17 December 1968
Recorded4 November 1968
Length5:45 (single version)
8:49 (Ummagumma live version)
LabelColumbia (EMI) (UK)
Songwriter(s)David Gilmour
Roger Waters
Richard Wright
Nick Mason
Producer(s)Norman Smith
Pink Floyd singles chronology
"Let There Be More Light"
"Careful with That Axe, Eugene"
"The Nile Song"
Relics track listing


The music consists of a light, organ-based jam, with Richard Wright using the Phrygian mode 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 Roger Waters' scream. The song becomes much louder and more intense before gradually settling down again.[7] 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.

For the soundtrack to the film The Committee, recorded in early 1968 (before the released version), one piece has the band playing a long instrumental featuring a very similar riff to this song.

In the re-recording made for Zabriskie Point, retitled "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up", whispering and a choir were added. Gilmour and Waters provided the vocals, and Waters' screaming is noticeably louder. It is a complete instrumental; unlike the original "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", "Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up" does not feature the spoken words "Careful with that axe, Eugene", and is in the key of E minor instead of the original D minor. In the film, it plays at the end during an explosion sequence filmed in slow motion. In the booklet of the soundtrack's reissue, David Fricke writes: "'Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up' is a cryptically titled remake of the Floyd's volcanic 1968 B-side 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene.' But its bonfire sound—all roaring guitars, crashing drums, and death-throe screaming—is the perfect complement to the movie's cataclysmic finish."

The name "Come In Number 51, Your Time is Up" was a surrealistic line by comedian Spike Milligan shouted through a megaphone as part of his act in the BBC TV show Q5. Milligan's phrase, and means of delivery, was based on the type of command issued on boating lakes to individual boat renters to return to shore because their hourly rental period had expired.[8]

Yet another, wholly instrumental, remake was attempted during the Zabriskie Point sessions, and was eventually released as "Explosion" on The Early Years 1965–1972 box in 2016, as part of the 1970: Devi/ation volume.

Live history

Pink Floyd performed the song frequently in concert from 1968 to 1973 in progressively slower and alternative formats, and once at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977.[9] An embryonic form was performed as early as 31 May 1968 (captured in a recording at the Paradiso in Amsterdam), under the original title of "Keep Smiling People",[10][11] and another version was recorded on 25 June 1968 at the BBC Piccadilly Studios and broadcast on John Peel's Top Gear radio programme on 11 August 1968 with the title "Murderotic Woman", later re-titled "Murderistic Woman".[12] A version was recorded live in May 1969 for the Ummagumma live disc.[13] This version is considerably longer than its studio counterpart, as well as having the organ parts played on Wright's Farfisa Compact Duo rather than a Hammond.[14] Footage also exists of the group performing the song live in Australia on GTK. The song was also played on their 1969 The Man and The Journey Tour, under the name "Beset by Creatures of the Deep".[15] The live renditions on a whole were much slower, with the piece gradually building in intensity before a drum fill signaled Waters' screams.

Release history

"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" was often performed under different titles and of varying durations. Until the release of The Early Years 1965–1972 only three versions had been officially released while many other versions were available on bootlegs. "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" has been released on the following releases:

Audio only:

  • "Point Me at the Sky" single, B-side of the single (5:46)
  • Relics, single version (5:46)
  • Ummagumma, a live rendition of the track (8:50)
  • Zabriskie Point, a re-working for the film soundtrack, re-titled "Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up" (5:01)
  • The Early Years 1965–1972 – various versions, see below
    • Volume 2 – 1968: Germin/ation, appears as the single version (5:46) and a BBC session under the title "Murderotic Woman" (3:38)
    • Volume 3 – 1969: Dramatis/ation, appears as live renditions from a BBC session (3:21), 'Live at the Paradiso' (10:09) and as part of The Man and The Journey under the title "Beset by Creatures of the Deep" (6:27)
    • Volume 4 – 1970: Devi/ation, appears as live renditions from a BBC session (8:25) and as a re-working for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack under the title "Explosion" (5:47)
    • Volume 6 – 1972: Obfusc/ation, appears on the Live at Pompeii CD. Two versions appear on this CD – the original (as seen in the film) (6:45) and another titled "Careful with That Axe, Eugene (alternate version)" (6:06).
  • Creation – The Early Years 1967–1972, a 2 CD compilation to promote the 'Early Years' box set, the track appears as the single version (5:46) and from a BBC session (3:28).


  • The Dark Side of the Moon immersion box set, 'Live in Brighton 1972' (7:43)
  • The Early Years 1965–1972 – various versions, see below
    • Volume 3 – 1969: Dramatis/ation, The Man and The Journey: Royal Festival Hall, London, rehearsal re-titled as "Beset by Creatures of the Deep"; Essencer Pop & Blues Festival and Music Power & European Music Revolution, Festival Actuel Amougies Mont de L'Enclus
    • Volume 4 – 1970: Devi/ation, An Hour with Pink Floyd: KQED (9:09) and Pop Deux Festival de St. Tropez (12:21)
    • Volume 5 – 1971: Reverber/ation, Get To Know’ Randwick Race Course
    • Volume 6 – 1972: Obfusc/ation, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (6:40) and Live at Brighton Dome
    • Volume 7 – 1967–1972: Continu/ation, The Amsterdam Rock Circus


Other use

  • "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is featured in the 2010 film Mr. Nice.
  • "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is used in the first episode of Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man.
  • "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is referenced in the Dream Theater song "Octavarium".
  • "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is a level in the Llamasoft game Revenge of the Mutant Camels.[16]
  • "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" is sampled throughout the song "Sparkles" by Shabazz Palaces on their 2009 EP Light. [17]


  1. "The 50 Greatest Pink Floyd Songs: Critic's Picks". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  2. Di Pena, Alan (2002). "Mysterius Ways". Guitar World Presents Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Alan di Pena. p. 13. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  3. Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X.
  4. Albums: Zabriskie Point (1970), Pink Floyd: Roger Waters revisited this theme in "One Of My Turns" from the Wall, in a lyric that reads "Run to the bedroom, in the suitcase on the left, You'll find my favourite axe."
  5. Guthrie, James. "James Guthrie: Audio: Building A Compilation Album". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  6. "A Breath of Fresh Air: A Harvest Records Anthology, 1969-1974 - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  7. Reisch 2011, p. 108.
  8. Jones, Cliff. Another Brick in the Wall: The stories behind every Pink Floyd song. London: Carlton Books Ltd. pp. 60–61. ISBN 1-85868-849-3.
  9. "Pink Floyd Oakland Coliseum 9/5/77". Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  10. "Pink Floyd : Keep Smiling People". Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  12. Hodges, Nick and Priston, Ian (1999), Embryo: A Pink Floyd Chronology 1966–1971. Cherry Red Books, p. 126.
  13. Mabbett, Andy (2010). Pink Floyd – The Music and the Mystery. London: Omnibus. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-84938-370-7.
  14. Manning, Toby (2006). "The Albums". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 160. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  15. Crawfurd, Jacob. "Unreleased Pink Floyd material". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  16. "Retro View - Revenge of the Mutant Camels play tips from Jeff Minter".
  17. Sample in "Light" by Shabazz Palaces is identified on WhoSampled


  • Reisch, George (2011). Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene!. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-812-69745-2.
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