Pink Floyd

Time has a marvelous ability to render the absurd familiar. Mankind can harvest vast energy from the basic stuff of matter, using means that only people with considerable higher education can even describe accurately. But nobody’s taken aback by this fact because, welp, they’ve been doing that shit since your grandpa’s time. Humans can fly! We cured smallpox! You can talk to anyone on the planet instantaneously! These facts are insane when you think about them, but nobody does because we’re used to them. (My favorite Louis C.K. bit deals with this phenomenon, but I digress.)

In the same way, Pink Floyd — one of the most popular musical groups of all time — has been normalized by their ubiquity. Their record sales figures alone boggle the mind. According to Wikipedia, they’ve sold roughly 250 million albums.

The human brain tends to gloss over numbers of that size when they’re delivered without context, so here’s some. In 1990, there were just under 250 million people living in the United States of America. Pink Floyd has effectively sold an album to every single one of those people. That puts them ahead of Celine Dion, AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, and ABBA, among others. Only the Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, and Elton John have done better.  And that figure doesn’t include all of the people who’ve pirated their albums, or who never bought their albums but have heard their music on the radio for decades, or who’ve lived with family members and spouses who played Pink Floyd in their homes, and so on. Their cultural reach is epically, imperially huge.

And that reach does not end with their album and merchandise sales, which continue to pile up almost 20 years after their demise. Pink Floyd’s songs have been covered, referenced, and parodied into oblivion. Planetarium laser shows set to their music are so popular that they’ve become a stoner cliché. The poster of six naked women with Floyd album covers painted on their backs is a dorm-room staple, rivaling Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory and the Scarface film poster in popularity. Even Pink Floyd tribute acts do incredibly well: Easy Star All Stars’ dub reggae revision of The Dark Side of the Moon held onto a spot in the reggae charts for five years.

This band is so popular, and has been for so long, that it’s basically impossible to imagine the rock/pop landscape without them. They’re like Isaac Asimov — many of their tropes seem hackneyed now, but that’s because everyone has been ripping them off for decades.

And yet, in spite of their impossible sales and disarming omnipresence, Pink Floyd might be the most unlikely success story in rock history — an extremely dark, thoroughly experimental group that began their career with a madman at the helm and with a (partially media-devised) affinity for scary underground drugs. The list of 60s-era pop music diktats they gleefully violated over the course of their career is too long to enumerate, but here’s a partial version:

– Do not write 25-minute songs.

– Do not devote entire albums to strange formal experiments.

– Do not neglect to release a single for much of your peak creative period.

– Do not go crazy.

– Do not sing about going crazy.

– Do not bum everyone out with harsh critiques of your society.

– Do not spit on your fans, even if they’re being rude.

And this stuff is just the beginning. Even by rock-god standards, Pink Floyd were sublimely bizarre, both as an artistic entity and as a group of people. Though it’s impossible to imagine the 2013 rock/pop landscape without them, it’s just as tough to imagine an equally daring group blowing up today.

So how did Pink Floyd get so immensely popular? Some of their success can be traced to timing and serendipity. They formed in 1965, when rock’s frontiers were wild and unexplored — there was still plenty of territory for them to pioneer. Their association with the psychedelic drug scene, accidental though it may have been, helped make them a youth-culture buzz band. Chief lyricist/bassist Roger Waters’s turn towards social and psychological ruminations in the 1970s resonated with the widespread societal soul-searching of the era. Exogenous market forces helped as well, of course. Music culture was more homogenized back then, and people still bought records.

None of this is to suggest that Pink Floyd succeeded the way they did mostly because of luck or timing. The main reason that Pink Floyd is so beloved — and this fact sometimes gets lost amidst the heaps of cultural baggage and ephemera that surround them — is because they were a fucking great band. It’s impossible for fans to even describe their sound without spewing breathless superlatives, so I won’t go down that road. (Yet.) After all, you already know what Pink Floyd sounds like. Who doesn’t?

This week, the entire Pink Floyd catalog was made available on streaming-music service Spotify, so it’s an apt opportunity for us to cull that catalog and come up with a list of the ten best Pink Floyd songs. Uh, about that: I’m not sure these are the ten best Pink Floyd songs. Hell, I’m not even sure these are my own ten favorite Pink Floyd songs.

This band released 14 albums. Some of those albums focus on oddball experimentation — Atom Heart Mother, Ummagumma, and the adapted film scores More and Obscured By Clouds. Some of them came out during transitional or waning periods in the band’s discography — Saucerful Of Secrets, The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, and The Division Bell. These albums are (mostly) good, but they’re outshone by the towering brilliance of the remaining six: The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, Meddle, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall. Big swathes of these six albums deserve to be included. To make matters more complicated, several of them are organized into unified suites that don’t break down easily. I considered including all of Dark Side and The Wall as single tunes, but that’d be a cop-out. I also elected not to unify non-consecutive suites, so you won’t see “Shine On You Crazy Diamond I-IX” or “Another Brick In The Wall (Parts 1-3).”

Ultimately, I chose the entries based on whether I’d be able to forgive myself for excluding them. (Even that didn’t really do the trick, but in the face of deadlines, ugly decisions must be made.) In the process, I left out a lot of choice cuts from the Floyd catalog. Put my picks on trial in the comments.

10. “Astronomy Domine” (from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 1967)

Even 46 years after the release of “Astronomy Domine,” it remains one of the oddest tunes ever to launch the recording career of popular rock band. The vocals — usually the focal point of a rock song, especially at the time — consist of guitarist Syd Barrett and keyboardist Richard Wright chanting nonsense verse about space, which is weird enough on its own. Their surroundings get even spookier: Nick Mason’s staggering leadoff fill, Barrett’s pinched-nerve intro riff, the spiraling chromatic chorus, and producer Norman Smith’s encompassing collage of astral beeps and echo-effect clatter.

Despite being the only Pink Floyd song that lyrically deals directly with space, “Astronomy Domine” played a huge role in launching space rock, which remains in orbit today. It’s also significant because it’s the most succinct expression of Barrett’s spectacular but short-lived chemistry with Floyd. The drug-induced breakdown that eventually forced him from the band would color their work’s emotional character for the remainder of their run.

9. “Echoes” (from Meddle, 1971)

A buddy of mine used to play a fun game with this tune. When he was in college, he’d go to the local watering hole, which had a copy of Meddle in its jukebox. He’d pay for 12 songs, the first of which was always the 24-minute “Echoes.” The bartender would become agitated as soon as its opening chime cut through the air. The playlist would then return to a normal roster of boozy bar jams, until it reached its last song…which was, of course, always “Echoes.”

This isn’t Pink Floyd’s longest song; that honor goes to the ungainly but beautiful title track from Atom Heart Mother. It is, however, their first wholly successful effort at writing and recording a side-length multipart epic. Conceived in pieces and composed collaboratively by the entire band, “Echoes” cleared the path for the ambitious full-album compositions that Pink Floyd would crank out for the rest of the decade.

Fittingly, “Echoes” has echoed in other famous musical works. Check out Mason’s robotically crisp snare/closed-hat attack starting at around 7:30 of the killer Live at Pompeii version, which foreshadows Phil Selway’s drum tone on Radiohead’s OK Computer. Even more uncanny is the similarity between the song’s instrumental refrain and the overture from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s 1986 musical The Phantom Of The Opera. Waters elected not to file plagiarism litigation over the matter because, as he put it, “Life’s too long to bother with suing Andrew fucking Lloyd Weber.”

8. “Comfortably Numb” (from The Wall, 1979)

The Wall rightly has a reputation as the first of Roger Waters’s two quasi-solo albums under the Pink Floyd name. Ironically, one of its best cuts involved only a gentle touch from his creative hand. “Comfortably Numb” is mostly a David Gilmour tune; Waters contributed only lyrics and a snippet of chord work. (He also mumbles Dylan-style through the verses; the rest of the vocals are all Gilmour.)

People often confuse “Comfortably Numb” for a song about drug addiction, but Waters’s real lyrical inspiration was a 1977 incident in which he was forced to soldier through a lengthy gig in Philly while under the doctor-directed influence of tranquilizers. The real story on this tune, though, is Gilmour’s two legendary guitar solos. On the eve of the 80s, he had adopted a steely lead tone that foreshadowed the arena-metal flash of the decade to come. Of course, there’s no self-indulgent shredding here — just Gilmour’s pointillistic precision and impeccable phrasing, which are more than enough to set this drifting song ablaze.

7. “Money” (from The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)

“Money” is a rite of passage. Whenever a young lad or lass picks up a bass guitar and learns the ways of rock ’n’ roll rhythm, there comes a time when he or she must grapple with the challenge of odd time signatures. And when that time comes, the bass line from “Money” awaits.

Though the most iconic features of “Money” are its 7/4 verse rhythm and its opening tape loop, everything else in the song is equally great. Waters’s lyrics ridicule middle-class greed — a theme he would memorably return to several times on the albums that followed Dark Side. Wright and Gilmour dart in and out of view during the song’s first half, adding sting to the rhythm section’s sardonic funk. The lengthy lead section is outrageous—session sax man Dick Perry gets things cooking with a wheedling blues solo, which in turn sets up an explosive wet-dry-wet sequence from Gilmour. Even Mason kinda rages out beneath Gilmour’s last solo, flaunting the chops that hide behind his typically spare, metronomic timekeeping.

“Money” is a rare show of pure force on a largely abstract album; no wonder that it’s become one of Pink Floyd’s most omnipresent tunes. But it’s not quite as omnipresent as…

6. “The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” (from The Wall, 1979)

This two-song sequence is so famous and popular, so thoroughly internalized and referenced and joked around with and bitched about, that it’s almost hard to think about as actual music. It’s more of a cultural artifact now — a collectively-owned heirloom, like The Great Gatsby or Star Wars.

Ironically, even the members of Pink Floyd agree that “Happiest Days/Another Brick (Part 2)” doesn’t really sound like a Pink Floyd song. Two of its most identifiable features — Mason’s four-on-the-floor beat and the gang of children who sing the second chorus — were included at the behest of producer Bob Ezrin. Waters, who despised disco, found both ideas distasteful until he heard the fully assembled version of the song.

And it is good that he relented. Had he followed through on his original desire to write a shorter song expressing his frustration with Britain’s schooling system, the world would’ve been deprived of one of its greatest anti-authoritarian youth anthems. Even after decades of endless critical dissection and commercial overexposure, “Happiest Days/Another Brick (Part 2)” remains a song of incredible resonance. We still don’t need no thought control.

5. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” (from Animals, 1977)

By the mid-70s, punk rock had begun to take hold in the United Kingdom. Psychedelic drugs were out; huffing glue and punching cops were in. Punk musicians and fans routinely slammed Floyd as exemplars of contemporary rock’s dowdy politics and sonic flabbiness.

These criticisms purportedly influenced Floyd’s work on Animals. You wouldn’t know it by the music itself, which sounds stark but sprawls hard — roughly 39 of its 42 minutes are spread over just three songs. It also gives more space to Gilmour’s ever-glorious soloing, which is at its weirdest on “Pigs” — he uses a talk box to imitate the titular animal’s squeal, and even rips some fretless bass leads while Waters holds down the rhythm guitar.

The lyrics on Animals are a different story. Each of those three monster tunes compares a British social caste to an animal, and the comparisons are not flattering. “Pigs” snipes at upper-crusters who cynically exploit the insecurities of others: “Bus-stop rat bag, charade you are / You fucked-up old hag, charade you are / You radiate cold shafts of broken glass / You’re nearly worth a laugh,Waters sneers during the second verse. His notorious spitting incident took place during a performance of the song.

Oink, oink.

4. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)” (from Wish You Were Here, 1975)

The emotional aftershock of Syd Barrett’s crack-up reverberates through much of Pink Floyd’s catalog, but only “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” addresses him directly. The famous episode in which Barrett — fat, bald, disoriented, and unrecognizable to his former friends — stopped by Abbey Road Studios unannounced in the midst of the song’s mixing process is one of the saddest and most poignant anecdotes in all of rock history. Waters, who considered Barrett an avatar for the ravaging effects of 20th-century society on the human soul, reputedly broke down in tears.

Floyd’s great sorrow over Barrett’s fate seeps from every note of their group-composed tribute to him. Waters delivers some of his most direct and heartfelt lyrics over Mason’s 6/8 sway: “Now there’s a look in your eyes / Like black holes in the sky…Come on you raver, you seer of visions / Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!” Wright, rarely in the spotlight, opens the song with a beautiful synth collage and supports its dramatic climax with weeping chordal organs. And the Gilmour lead that starts around 6:10? Pretty sure that’s the sound of man’s soul draining away.

3. “Brain Damage/Eclipse” (from The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)

These two songs are often collectively mistaken for the title track from Dark Side (there isn’t one) — “Brain Damage” uses the title as its chorus and runs seamlessly into the finale “Eclipse.”  Together, they provide the emotional zenith to one of the most seamlessly constructed albums of all time, and what a zenith it is.

It’s basically impossible to address the emotional impact of “Brain Damage/Eclipse” without discussing about the album as a whole, so instead I’ll say this: engineer Alan Parsons (yes, that one) achieved one of the great production feats of the analog era with these two tunes. The balance between spare, nervous verse and lush, organ-and-choir-driven chorus on “Brain Damage” perfectly matches the lyrics, which see Waters agonize over his psychological similarity to his crazy ex-bandmate — “And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too / I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” And the way that the stately, all-encompassing swing of “Eclipse” collapses, with signature Pink Floyd circularity, into the heartbeat that opens the album…yeah, you can start to understand why this peculiar little record has sold well.

2. “Dogs” (from Animals, 1977)

This song holds a special place in my heart. The first time I heard it was the (17-minute-long) moment at which I realized that Pink Floyd was no dinosaur hippie group, but a musical and emotional powerhouse that will probably never stop being relevant as long as Western civilization remains a scary, tragic place.

Like the other big tracks on Animals, “Dogs” compares humanity to its eponymous beast. It boasts the most incisive and affecting lyrics of the three, though: a brutal examination of a conniving businessman’s flaws and weaknesses. The final verse summarizes its subject’s lifetime of abjection with such devastating precision that it’s tough to listen to. Only “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” matches it for sheer intensity.

“Dogs” also marks the career high-water mark for David Gilmour’s lead playing. Since Gilmour occupies a high seat in the rock-soloist canon, “Dogs” has a considerable claim to the title of Best Guitar Song Ever. (Got a better pick? Let’s hear it.) His playing on this song channels so much heart through such economical phrasing that…well, here come the superlatives. Just listen.

1. “Wish You Were Here” (from Wish You Were Here, 1975)

Let’s be straight: every song on this list could’ve landed in the top slot. I chose “Wish You Were Here” because it’s the strongest distillation of the traits that made this band great. For all of Pink Floyd’s relentless progressivism — the superhuge songs, the rock operas, the musique concrète influence, the zany stagecraft — they would have never have achieved so much if they weren’t able to reign the weirdness in and write pristine songs. “They write great songs” is maybe the worst rock-writer cliché, but for Pink Floyd, it’s inescapably true. And this one wasn’t even a single!

“Wish You Were Here” finds all of Floyd’s finest attributes present and in perfect balance: sophisticated studio trickery, gorgeous instrumental textures, a timeless chord progression, restrained-but-powerful leads from Gilmour and Wright, a Syd Barrett nod (the “cold steel rail” line refers to a Barrett lyric from The Madcap Laughs) and a refrain that will lodge in your braincase the first time you hear it and stay there for the rest of your life. It manages this crazy achievement in just five minute and thirty-four seconds. And it organizes the whole affair around the emotion that defines Pink Floyd’s best work: an aching, cosmic loneliness that every living person has felt at one time or another.

And THAT is why this weird-ass band has sold 250 million records.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify here.

Comments (125)
  1. Uhhh, fuck yeah!

    You know, it’d be tough to do a list for Pink Floyd songs since there are so many great songs. But I’ll be damned if you didn’t pick out the strongest highlights from their best albums. Even managing to include the timeless classics.

    You got “Echoes” AND “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” in the list!

    But this list really wins with “Wish You Were Here” at #1 because Yes, that is correct.

    Well fucking done Doug!

    • I think I would personally go with “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” over “Wish you were Here”, but yeah, kudos for not overthinking it. I’ve only skimmed through the write ups but reading through all of them seems like it would be very worth while. Nice Job.

    • Love “Echoes”. Had to sign up to comment about “Echoes” sync with the end of 2001 a space Odyssey. My brother showed this to me when I visited him at college many years ago. The first ping of “Echoes” should happen exactly when Jupiter and beyond appears on the screen. Hell somebody even created a vimeo of it:

      You should watch it if you have the time.


      This stereogum account will now self destruct.

      • Bravo!

        This commenter’s dedication to informing the world about “Echoes” & 2001 sync should not be ignored! If you have not seen this you really, really should.

        I wanted to bring it up, but I swear I’ve mentioned it many times before on this site. It’s the greatest way to enjoy one incredible Pink Floyd song, one of the greatest movie endings all while getting your mind blown.

        The above comment makes me happier than it should. So happy there are other people out there as dedicated as I’ve been to make people aware of “Echoes” bonus awesomeness.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. This is pretty solid.

  3. You must be rather brave to do this type of lists, but rather crazy to do this one in particular.

  4. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  5. there must be a space for Us and Them

    • why not connect it with Brain Damage and Eclipse?

      • You have to draw a line somewhere. As I said in the intro, I would’ve liked to count that whole album as a single tune, but that would be a cop-out.

        • Good point. It really is amazing how good their catalog is, despite how jaded we’ve become towards it. It’s hard for me to listen to and appreciate a lot of these songs only because classic rock radio has destroyed any sense of novelty they once had. Yet, if you can actually sit down and listen to “Dark Side of the Moon” without any premonition, it becomes mind-blowing how genius that album truly is.

          • One of the reasons that I was happy to write this piece is because I grew up in a household where almost no classic rock—radio or otherwise—was played. Their music is probably fresher for me than it is for most people.

        • Draw a line but you put “Pigs” in there?! you gotta be kidding me, dude

  6. Guys, you probably had a lack of Time

  7. I’ve always felt like “Fearless” is a pretty underrated tune. That’d be pretty high on my personal list. But so would “Bike.”

    • “Bike” is the fucking shit and if you disagree suck a pimple covered dick. Also, I be digging some “Fearless.” And let us not forget “Mothers” or “Welcome to the Machine.”

      Opossum out.

  8. Heck of a list. I don’t know about a few choices here, though. For what it’s worth, I would’ve included “Run Like Hell”, “Time”, “See Emily Play”, maybe “Hey You”… ah this is all too hard!

  9. Damn, it’s a shame that nobody told Doug Moore while he was working so feverishly on this that Pink Floyd already went to the trouble of compiling a list of their ten best songs—they published the list on the back of their Dark Side of the Moon album cover.

  10. As a Syd Barrett fan, it’s hard for me to not want “See Emily Play” or “Arnold Layne” near the top of this list.

  11. I very rarely listen to Pink Floyd songs as single tracks, so these type of comparisons would be difficult for me, but great list! I have always gravitated toward Wish You Were Here and Animals over Dark Side of the Moon, but have always felt like I was in the minority. Glad to see others feel the same way.

    • Yeah, I’m the same – they are sooooo not a singles band.I find it hard to choose single songs out from others, since albums are all one piece – but if I had to choose, it would be Wish You Were here, album and song.

  12. I’m glad to see some loves for Animals (maybe my favorite record of theirs), though I would drop Dogs and replace it with Sheep. Holy shit that’s an amazing song.

  13. Still waiting for some lunatic to complain about “Saucer Full Of Secrets” not making the cut. Solid list IMHO.

  14. i feel like this list was put together by corporate at a classic rock radio station in florida.

    • As those who know me can attest, “corporate at a classic rock radio station in florida” pretty much sums me up.

      • I just listened to Pyrrhon for the first time. Holy shit. You guys are fanfuckingtastic!

      • allow me to explain: this list was a beast, i applaud you for trying. but do you really consider some of these songs their absolute best? i know in the article you wrote “these may not even be my picks for the best pink floyd songs”, and yet the ones you picked are the ones that everyone is uber-familiar with. you can’t possibly put another brick part 2 seriously as one of their best even from that album. 95% of the songs on that list are being played on classic rock stations as we speak, and you culled your list from basically four albums, from a band who’ve put out almost 20. don’t get me wrong, i think a list of this undertaking is hard, and NOBODY is going to please everybody, but this list is fairly safe. wish you were here, another brick part 2, comfortably numb, money?!, i mean, you gotta admit the list is really classic rocks radio-y. there’s no fucking way money goes on there but us and them doesn’t. there’s no way comfortably numb goes on there but fearless doesn’t. or one of these days. or mother.

        also, this was mentioned somewhere else on the list, but nothing from obscured by clouds? or really anything with syd barrett? nothing from atom heart mother? fat old sun is one of the best guitar parts david gilmoure ever wrote. i’m glad echoes and shine on made the list, but come on, those are really easy calls too. echoes simply for the sheer bombasity of it. if you want to shake the classic rock radioness off of it, there are tons of other calls that could have gone on here, but another brick in the wall part 2, a song that deaf people could sing in their sleep thanks to it being overplayed, got put on there. i’m really not trying to insult you or anything, i think dogs, echoes, astronomy, even wish you were here, and shine, those are great songs and deserve consideration and placement, but money? that album is incredible and you picked the one song on there that does NOT need to anywhere near a best of pink floyd list, especially considering the very next song is the BEST song on that album.

        anyway, sorry, i quit smoking two days ago and that’s the reason i wrote all this shit out like that. it’s like there are dogs barking and i’m the only one that can hear them. i’ve been eating like a horse and i don’t know what to do with my hands anymore.

      • okay, well let me explain what i mean. first, i applaud you for making this list, it’s a toughy, and i recognize there is no way you’d be able to please everyone all the time with it. it’s fucking impossible. so i’m not going to criticize the list for that. but come on, some of these picks are straight out of the rotation of tampa’s classic rock lunch hour. another brick part 2? money? you said yourself that you don’t even know if this is really your favorites list, but look at what you decided to go with. 90% of it can be heard in regular rotation on the radio. you can’t tell me another brick in the wall part 2 deserves to be on that list while fearless, a FAR superior song to virtually every song on here is left off. money is on there but the next song on dark side, EASILY the best song on that album, us and them, doesn’t make the cut. comfortably numb? while good, any number of songs off of the wall would be better picks: mother, goodbye blue sky, run like hell, etc. none of the songs you picked are bad, but they cover the same ground that lazy classic rock computers pick out every day, and they cover the same four albums starting from dark side and ending with the wall. this is one era out of many that they had, and it’s the one everyone knows to death. even picking echoes and shine on, two POWERHOUSE songs that i agree with, is fairly predictable. echoes of course would go on there, simply because of it’s sheer bombastity. fearless, one of these days, careful with that axe eugene, stay, childhood’s end, the nile song, mother, us and them, brain damage, welcome to the machine (a song so stunning and utterly full of bile that i sometimes can’t believe they got it onto the album), all of these have places over the songs selected. or not, but at least they’re not on the radio.

        also, look. i quite smoking two days ago, and this shit sucks. i don’t know what to do with my hands at all and i’m eating like a horse. nothing is safe, i’m one step away from pouring garlic powder down my throat. this is awful.

      • i’ve written two different responses to this and every time i’ve submitted them they just disappear. is this something wrong with the site? or is this just me?

    • You’ve obviously never seen the author shirtless and screaming like a Victorian mental patient at one of his performances.

  15. one more for “fearless”.

  16. You almost have a great list here. It’s not fair to pick top songs with this band. They base their existence on concept and maybe one song separated from an album is fun to ponder, but taken as whole is the only way to realistically go here.

    I think it’s only practical to include Arnold Layne, I mean, it’s sorta what got everyone’s attention. Or, See Emily Play. “astronomy” is surely the sexy pick here, but we need to acknowledge a songs place in their popularity. I mean, we all love Dig a Pony, but Twist and Shout put The Beatles on the map, right?

    “If” from Atom Heart Mother would be another great early pick. Then again, the fact that nothing from Ummagumma is represented here is a travesty.

    Although technically, The Final Cut was more or less a Roger Waters album, still songs like Gunner’s Dream, The Final Cut and Not Now John are some of the best examples of Gilmore’s guitar and Waters emotional songwriting working in an incredible collaborate effort. They despised each other at this point in their careers, and the pain drips off each track.

    Echoes is an obvious great choice, but to not mention “One of These Days” is a travesty. I often think there is great similarity between that and Radioheads’, “National Anthem” for some reason.

    Pigs & Dogs are great but Sheep is as good or better. Impossible to rank these apart. Animals as an album should maybe be treated as just one long song. Christ, Pigs on a Wing alone is 2 minutes of sheer perfection.

    The Wall, oh The Wall…where to begin here. First, having ABITW Pt2 and ‘Numb’ the pick from here is good (obviously) but not it’s best representation. ‘Mother,’ ‘Hey You’ Run Like Hell, and on and on and on…

    “Us and Them” not included is a bit disturbing. Also, ‘Time’ includes one of Gilmore’s most underrated guitar solos.

    From Wish You Were Here, I cannot accept the non mention of Welcome to the Machine. So dark and brooding…so many songs have followed the formula used in this song. Won’t even bring the argument of ‘Have a Cigar’ to the table and its rock star finger pointing.

    One thing that I think should also be awarded is the post break up Pink Floyd only because the name is still intact so the next chapter should be awarded. I know there is great argument in the fact that Pink Floyd can only be what Waters and Gilmore created together, but the time of Momentary Lapse of Reason could have been an abrupt end to this incredible band, but they survived it, and songs like ‘The Dogs of War’ and ‘Sorrow’ still carried the overall energy of the band, regardless of who was or wasn’t there. The same could be said with Waters and his ‘Pros and Cons’ and ‘Radio KAOS’ days but we all remember the war over their band name at the time, so I spose we must accept that.

    I’m sure this was a hard one for you Doug and so respect your efforts here, but the only true way you could fire off a Pink Floyd list would be by album.

  17. pretty nice list. i agree with many of the choices, but think there should have been one or two more barrett-era tracks, “see emily play” being the most obvious. however, “astronomy domine” is an amazing recording and definitely a great pick. love seeing “dogs” at number two.

  18. woozefa  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2013 +6


  19. Can’t really argue much with this, though there are many forms this list could take that I wouldn’t argue with. This was a fun read… turns out I don’t know much about Pink Floyd’s history other than Syd Barrett stuff that’s common knowledge.

  20. man, “dogs” though. those final two minutes are so incredible — “who was born in a house full of pain” etc.


  21. I likewise would like to push the love for Fearless. It’s hard to argue against any of the tracks you’ve included, but I would say you unfairly relegate Obscured by Clouds to second-tier album status. That one perfectly captures the moment between Meddle and Dark Side and is full of classics (and Free Four).

    But I’m posting here to contend with your assertion that Dogs is the best guitar solo. I would argue that the economic soloing on Wish You Were Here or the soaring flights on Comfortably Numb are better within the Floyd catalog. However, best solo is from one of two songs in my book: either Fripp’s blissfully breaking robotics on St. Elmo’s Fire by Eno or, more probably, Tom Verlaine painting a sunrise with six strings on Marquee Moon. The solo they captured on Marquee Moon is nothing short of pure joy.

    • FWIW, as great as “Dogs” is and as awesome as Gilmour’s lead playing is in general, Jimi Hendrix takes my personal cake for best rock soloist ever.

      • Have to agree with that – Dave Gilmour is such a great guitar player, but he still sounds like a human being playing guitar, while Jimi Hendrix just sounds like a force of nature.

      • That’s a hard point to argue. He was so expressive with his guitar playing and soloing and he did so much to widen rock solos. Hendrix was god.

  22. Beautifully written piece.

    Hey You, The Great Gig in the Sky, On the Turning Away, Us and Them and One of These Days. Incredible stuff.

  23. Now do one for Led Zeppelin so everyone can rage really hard.

  24. Hmm, my list will be different, but likely include a couple of those. I’ll have to think on it and soak in the article a bit.

  25. Great list. Personally, I’d switch out some of those Dark Side and The Wall segments for others, but Astronomy Domine, Echoes, Dogs, Pigs, Comfortably Numb, Shine On I-V and Wish You Were Here are unimpeachable picks. Throw in Sheep, Us & Them and Goodbye Blue Sky and that would be my list. Although Welcome To the Machine, Time, Great Gig in the Sky, One of These Days, Run Like Hell, the whole live album part of Umma Gumma, Breathe, On The Run…

  26. Great job on a very serious undertaking. It reminded me that time hasn’t softened Pink Floyd’s impact on my life, nor will I allow their music to be saturated by classic rock radio. Even after I had been blown away years before the first time I listened to “Dark Side,” I was rocked just as hard by “Animals” and some of their more obscure avant garde works. Sometimes you just have to submit to the fact that classics are still classics, no matter how many times we’ve heard them.

    By the way, not too many classic rock stations play “Dogs,” a tune that I think rightfully deserved to be high on this list.

  27. No See Emily Play or Arnold Layne? Two of the greatest psychedelic singles ever made. Sorry Doug, I think these were a major omission. Syd Barrett!

  28. Shout out to The Flaming Lips who creatively reconstructed Dark Side of the Moon and bringing it back to the stage for our generation, and allowing us to experience (somewhat) what an amazing thing Dark Side live is.

  29. Pretty good list, but I don’t see In The Flesh.

    • I see your “In The Flesh” and raise you a “One Of My Turns”. My two favorite Wall tracks but I can see why they weren’t included.

  30. Careful with that axe, Eugene…

  31. Great list, but, let’s be honest, you could probably chose ten other PF songs and make another list just as compelling.

    One of These Days should have been on this list, though. In fact, it’s sole lyric (One of These Days I’m Going to Cut You Into Little Pieces…) is on my short list of greatest lyrics ever (right below JC’s “I Shot a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die.”)

    Also, I would put Astronomy Domine at the top rather than at the bottom.

  32. Awesome list. Dogs at #2 is absolutely correct, and I’m glad that someone who actually understands the band wrote this article. Only things I would have changed would be:

    Time instead of Money,
    One of These Days instead of Pigs

    Thanks for writing such a great article though!

  33. Gotta give respect to this list and the one devoted to the Who. I would have added See Emily Play but solid none the less.

  34. Not bad – once you got in Pigs I thought for sure you were gonna leave off Dogs, but great job getting that up in the top 3. I also have no problem with Wish You Were Here taking top honors. If you’d gotten Time in there you’d have nailed my top 3.

    Nice job laying off the Barret era, too, and I’m not being sarcastic.

    • My thoughts exactly…scrolling down slowly I see Pigs and think “so Pigs is gonna be the Animals song on the list…bullshit” then he comes back with Dogs at #2 and totally redeems himself. Dogs would be my personal #1 but can’t quibble Animals is so underrated nice to see it well represented here.

  35. I’m putting Time in my #1 slot.

  36. Takes balls to make a list like this, Doug. So hats off for that in the first place. It’s a very, very strong list. The only real wish I had, and I’m sure it’s not a popular pick, but “High Hopes” is such an amazing song. I feel it is one of their strongest.

    Again, great list and hats off for having the gall to make one in the first place.


  38. Yeah sure, I’ll give it a crack:

    1. Time
    2. Dogs
    3. Wish You Were Here
    4. Us & Them
    5. Run Like Hell
    6. Fearless
    7. Sheep
    8. Mother
    9. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
    10. Brain Damage/Eclipse

  39. A Saucerful of Secrets.

  40. “According to Wikipedia”

  41. Good list, I particularly like the way Happiest Days… and Another Brick in The Wall Pt. II are together. The start of Another Brick… has so much more emphasis when you listen to the previous track.

  42. Great list. Love seeing the Meddle and Animals love. Band saved my noggin one night on a hilltop of paper Barrett. Friend put on Meddle, starting with Echoes, on repeat at the beginning of Disney’s Fantasia (a la Dark Side and Wizard of Oz). To hear Echoes crashing as the Wizard Mouse takes the axe to the broomsticks is something to behold. As the seasoned changed with Meddle so did my noggin and down from the mountain I slid, in peace. Gawd bless the other side.

  43. Didn’t Johnny Rotten wear an “I hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt that ended their career? Why still talk about them?

  44. Jugband Blues? :(

    (or is that considered to be more of a Syd Barrett piece?)

  45. I am probably the biggest Floyd Head on the planet. This is not an easy task to undertake however I think you did a great job and I like your descriptions for the most part. While my ten are not necessarily the ten listed, I think this still accurately describes the bulk of their work in a nutshell but we know you can’t fit pink floyd into a nutshell. While some classic rock snobs might argue what is best/ worst that is just conjecture. The only thing I would like to have read is more mention of Rick Wright’s work on Animals even though he doesn’t get writing credit. While Gilmore’s talk box work IS some of the best example of that medium, Animals is the album where Wright’s keyboard work shines from nice Rhodes intros to Waters voice cross fading into minimoog madness. Nice Work! I was skeptical at the beginning but I’m glad I read through till the end.

  46. I was a little hesitant to read this but glad I did. It would be very difficult for me to put together a Floyd Top 10. I would have to throw “A Saucerful of Secrets” and “Careful with that Axe Eugene” in there. If I only had the live half of Ummagumma to listen to I’d remain a happy man.

  47. This is a terrible Stereogum list, because a real Stereogum list would have something off THE DIVISION BELL in the top 5.

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