I really don’t want to write a long intro about Floyd, why they are so important to music, and why they mean so much to me. Maybe some other time, for this article is just meant to be a companion to the playlists I made, to provide a little more context behind the songs and selection. Off we go!
#1: Dogs (Animals, 1977)
This was Floyd at their peak, striking a balance between the ‘suite’ approach (which they mastered in Atom Heart Mother, Echoes and Shine On You Crazy Diamond) and a standard song. The entire Animals album — and this song in particular — was Waters at his lyrical best / most vicious. I mean, this:
And it’s too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown as you go down all alone
And while Gilmour’s solos here might not be as iconic as on some other songs, they are bloody effective — the guitar entry at 3:41 can rival that note on SOYCD. His tone and the delicate balance of notes is astonishing, the second solo leading into one of the great rock outros of all time. This track demands and rewards patience and as far as I’m concerned, is their greatest work.
PS: The original version of this song is You’ve Got To Be Crazy, also added in the playlist!
#2: Comfortably Numb (The Wall, 1979)
It’s easy to reduce this to just the solo. Indeed, I’ve always felt that impatience and anticipation during the second verse and chorus. But that’s great songwriting for you — it’s not just about the dopamine hit, but the buildup (the solo sounds WAY better once you sit through the rest of the track). Starting life as The Doctor, this evolved into a central piece of The Wall concept album and possibly the band’s best-known song. It just might be the ultimate Floyd song — the verses are broody, the chorus almost euphoric in comparison, allowing both singers to shine in different ways. But yup, as that second ‘I have become Comfortably Numb’ fades away, the anticipation is rife as Dave adjusts his volume and changes his patch. The glorious thing about the solo is how it’s open to interpretation and improvisation — as hundreds of excellent covers and versions by Gilmour himself — have shown. The B minor blues scale FTW. Everyone has a favourite version of this, and mine is from PULSE. The playlists I’ve made include the original and this one.
Also, apologies to my MICA batchmates for having subject them to 2 years of me butchering this solo.
PS: Try playing Is There Anybody Out There? before this song. That’s the song that precedes CN in the album, and it flows beautifully.
#3: Echoes (Meddle, 1971)
About half a decade and 5.5 albums of mucking about, comes THAT piano note. Those who had no idea what was to come and listened to the band chronologically could be forgiven for giving up on Pink Floyd at Seamus, an unnecessary track mostly consisting of howls by a dog of the same name, halfway through their 6th album. Meddle. Then comes that note.
All the experimentation, all the promise, all the strengths — from Wright’s astonishing layering, to Gilmour’s guitar playing, to Water’s world-building-through-poetry, to Mason’s impeccable sense of timing — comes to fruition. Echoes remains a prelude to the golden run of 4 albums that was to come, remains their first essential song, and becomes the gateway track as casual Floyd fans decide to dig more into their discography… And possibly the finest musical tribute to evolution (till The Ocean Collective dedicated their entire discography to it).
Bonus — this amazing visualization that remains one of the most underrated things on YouTube.
#4: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (all parts) (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
I’m going to start cheating a little here. So while SOYCD is technically 2 songs (complicatedly enough, one is Parts I-V, the other VI to XI) bookending the astonishing Wish You Were Here album, I think it’s simpler to think of them as ONE massive 25 minute track. Such a storied song — paying tribute to their band talisman Syd Barrett (who would drop in to the studio unannounced while they were recording this, adding to the aura) - it has all the Floyd elements in droves. Including wine glasses in the beginning (really).
By gosh, that buildup and that first guitar note. Floyd were masters of building atmosphere, and no song demonstrates that better than this. If anyone ever doubts the role of keyboards in rock music, imagine this without Wright. Here are both parts (all nine parts?) of the song.
#5: High Hopes (The Division Bell, 1994)
Okay, this might be a bit of a controversial inclusion, especially among Roger Waters fans who like to pretend nothing happened after The Final Cut. And while I’m not that much of a fan of the Pink Gilmour Floyd albums myself, I will make an exception for the closer of The Division Bell. Mostly for that astonishing guitar solo at the end. Played on a lap steel guitar, it’s probably the trippiest thing Gilmour has ever done and even more than his work on Comfortably Numb, takes you to space and back. It remains the most metal thing anyone sitting down has ever done.
The original version is great, the PULSE version even better. Close eyes when the solo hits. Enjoy the ride.
#6: Money (The Dark Side of The Moon, 1973)
The single from their best-selling and most well-known album, and for good reason. The highest-charting song in 7/8 time, don’t you know!
The sliced-tape intro engineered by Waters, Gilmour’s singing, the sax solo — it’s all perfect. Moving at a pace quicker than the average Floyd song, this is a great introduction to the band. As you listen, you’re taken away by how confident and polished it sounds. It’s easy to forget that just a few years prior, they were, well, mucking around to find their sound.
#7: Another Brick In The Wall Suite (The Wall, 1977)
I’m cheating again, because no such ‘suite’ exists. Instead, this is the combination of 4 songs. The Wall, being a concept album, is meant to be consumed top to bottom, and not as a collection of discrete songs. That way, the first three parts of this ‘suite’ do come together in the album and flow beautifully (ABITW Part 2 of course being the most well-known). Later in the album comes ABITW Part 3. I like to put all 4 together as one mega-song totalling 7:42. Try it!
The menace of The Happiest Days of Our Lives makes ABITW2 all the more powerful — much like Is There Anybody Out There? to Comfortably Numb.
Bonus: The PULSE version of ABITW2 which is probably its best version because Gilmour.
#8: Embryo (BBC Radio Session, 1971)
Early Floyd is littered with some fantastic songs that never made it to albums, enough to fill an LP up. This is one of those. Signature Floyd, Gilmour doing some fine guitar work… You know how it goes.
#9: Time (The Dark Side of The Moon, 1973)
The other ‘great’ track from this album is an aural trip and something that would never work in this get-to-chorus-fast era, what with that meandering buildup. But unlike their previous albums, that buildup looks like it has somewhere to go — and it arrives with Nick Mason’s iconic bit at 2:12. Mason shines in the intro as well , with all those glorious fills. From then on, it’s Waters and that amazing Gilmour solo.
#10: Welcome To The Machine (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
Capping off the top 10 is the stunning follow-up to the first part of Shine On You Crazy Diamond (ok, the first 5 parts, whatever). It is absolute menace, and the heaviest darkest song you will hear that doesn’t have drums. That signature Floyd chord — Em add9, I am told — is at its most effective here. This is again complete atmosphere, built with studio trickery that Floyd and co had mastered by now.
I’ve blabbered on enough about the top 10, so here are the next 10, quickly:
#11: Have a Cigar (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
Featuring guest vocals by Roy Harper — such a unique song in the Floyd canon.
#12: Coming Back To Life (The Division Bell, 1994)
also from the acclaimed compilation album “Indian Engineering College Songs”. Gilmour ❤
#13: Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Animals, 1977)
Like the rest of Animals, vicious and scathing.
#14: Wish You Were Here (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
The title track of what I think is their finest album which might be their most radio-friendly track, and possibly often thought of as a love song. Anyway, we’re all many lost souls swimming in a fishbowl.
#15: Hey You (The Wall, 1979)
Because it’s a concept album, The Wall offers precious little by means of individual songs other than Comfortably Numb. This is one of them. Again, sounds more powerful when you listen to it in the context of the album.
#16: Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun (A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968)
This early tripathon was among their most measured, mature work in the aftermath of Syd’s drug-induced lunacy. Couldn’t have been made without him, but couldn’t have been made with him, either.
While it’s off their second album, this Live At Pompeii version is the finest, allowing it to expand to a whole 10 minutes.
#17: Biding My Time (Relics, 1971)
A fabulous Waters composition that never made it to any album. Thankfully, it found a place in several compilation albums, and remains one of their best hidden gems. Showed Floyd at their transitory best, a band that had one foot in their 60s experimentation and the other in their 70s superstardom.
#18: One Of These Days (Meddle, 1971)
The opening track of the album better known for housing Echoes is probably Roger Waters’ finest bass moment. Plus, that short sweet guitar piece by Gilmour.
Floyd could be heavy if they wanted to. They’d have made a great metal band, I think.
#19: The Great Gig In The Sky (The Dark Side of The Moon, 1973)
The greatest wordless solo vocal performance in all of rock? I think so. Richard Wright’s greatest composition, and one that sits between Time and Money on the tracklist (and given that it’s about death, maybe metaphorically too). But the centerpiece of this song is Clare Torry, a guest vocalist who pulls off an absolute ripper. Chills.
#20: Reaction In G (The Early Years, 1967)
Another example of what Floyd was capable of in the early days is this total jam which doesn’t have a proper studio recording.
And here are the next 10 in my list without any gyaan. There are quite a few songs from Floyd’s early years, with some essential Syd Barrett songs like See Emily Play and Jugband Blues.
#21: Childhood’s End (Obscured By Clouds, 1972)
#22: Sheep (Animals, 1977)
#23: See Emily Play (single, 1967) — please see this video!
#24: Jugband Blues (A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968) — talk about a breakup song.
#25: Obscured By Clouds (Obscured by Clouds, 1972)
#26: Atom Heart Mother Suite(Atom Heart Mother, 1970)
#27: Remember A Day (A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968)
#28: Marooned (The Division Bell, 1994)
#29: Interstellar Overdrive (The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, 1967)
#30: Run Like Hell (The Wall, 1979) — PULSE version.
Let me know what you think! Whether you’re a newbie to Floyd or a seasoned veteran, I hope you found something new here, from one of the most essential bands in all of rock, nay, music history.
Bonus playlist: Chronological
I think a better way to explore Floyd is actually top to bottom — you can see / hear the evolution happening. This has over 60 songs, including some hidden gems like Paintbox, Cirrus Minor and Julia Dream… And yes, some tracks from that album many Floyd fans like to pretend doesn’t exist, 2014’s The Endless River (an album that would be way better if it had actual songs rather than just nice instrumental bits)
Bonus playlist: Hidden gems
So you’ve heard all the popular stuff and just want to try out the hidden / underrated gems? Excellent. Go here. This one features NO songs from the big 4 albums!
I hope you enjoyed these playlists. Let me know what you think :)