The story & evolution of Pink Floyd: A playlist

The marathon six-hour session

My friend Berty and I are big fans of Floyd. He is a walking encyclopedia, and I love digging down archives of famous bands. We’ve both done guided listening sessions for Headphone Zone (we talk on a Zoom webinar, then listen to tracks on Spotify/Tidal/Apple Music) in the past — the history of rock, guitar solos, an exploration of TOTO. A dedicated session on Floyd was one of our most requested and we decided to finally put the damn thing together. Most of these sessions are scheduled for 2 hours, and would go on for 3, and even that would be made possible only by listening to segments of some tracks. For Pink Floyd, though, there was no way this time limit could be adhered to: Berty himself could talk for a day non-stop on the band, I tend to ramble a fair bit, and even the most liberal Floyd fan would not excuse Echoes being truncated — itself 23 minutes long. So we cleverly scheduled the session to start at 6 PM on a Sunday — knowing we had the leeway to go on for a while. We joked that we might end up at midnight, and guess what — we did. What’s more, Berty hosted an “after-hours” for another hour or so.

The playlists

While I’ve embedded YouTube videos below, for better audio quality, use the streaming links: Spotify | Apple Music | TIDAL. Then read through the below. Some tracks are not there on some platforms, so use the YT links for those.

Lucy Leave

Before Floyd found even their early sound, Syd experimented with many sounds varying from R&B to pop. This is a fine example. Remember, our journey that ends in High Hopes starts here.

See Emily Play

One of two early Syd-led singles that saw Floyd capture considerable underground interest (the other being Arnold Layne). This is whimsical and poppy. This madcap video was made post-Barrett (for a promo) but pretty much summed his own music up.

Interstellar Overdrive

The centerpiece of their debut album, 1967’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. A long instrumental, often improvised during live performances. You can also hear the spacey elements here and get a sniff of the Floyd that was to come.

Flaming

This is also from the same album and my personal favourite off it. Sounds closer to those early singles. Completely poppy and whimsical. A combination of the two above sounds + Water’s biting lyrics + Gilmour’s brilliant playing is what Floyd would eventually become.

Reaction in G

This is kinda similar to Interstellar Overdrive. Another song they used to play a lot live, never released on any formal album. Nice bluesy-spacey instrumental track. This is from a 1967 Stockholm show. Barrett, sadly, was losing it slowly and his live performances deteriorated badly.

Paintbox

The first non-Syd song we’ll play is a lovely track composed & sung by Wright. Not on any album. Nice tune, this, one of my favourites from that era. Also say hello to David!

Let There Be More Light

The opener of the second album (A Saucerful Of Secrets, 1968) is also the first to feature a Gilmour solo in a studio track. You can feel the transition from Piper to Echoes!

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

The Interstellar Overdrive of the second album was a cornerstone of the band’s psychedelia and atmosphere-building capabilities. This is the only song to feature all 5 members of the band on one recording (Syd was only partially involved in this album’s recording). The original studio version is nice, but it’s the live versions that REALLY do this track justice. So here’s a nice one for ya!

Jugband Blues

Syd’s last contribution to Floyd was the closer of the second album, a biting song about being shoved out of the band, perhaps more sarcastic than anything Waters himself wrote. “It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here, and I’m most obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here”, he sings gut-wrenchingly in a beautiful melody. Thank you, Syd.

Biding My Time

After Syd left, Floyd mucked about for a bit looking for direction till they found it on Echoes. But that was Floyd mucking about, meant we got some great songs spanning various genres. They did some excellent blues-y stuff, like this.

Julia Dream

Or beautiful wistful melodic music like this. Gilmour’s developing into a fine singer, as you can hear.

The Embryo

My favourite track of that experimental era is this magnificent blues track which shows Gilmour really coming into his own as a guitarist. These three tracks were not there on any Floyd album proper, but were released as part of box sets. Enjoy this, especially if you’ve never heard it before.

Cymbaline

Floyd also provided music to a music called More, whose OST is considered their third album. It’s a nice listen but nothing very essential, if I were to be honest. This is a good track and representative of the album as a whole.

Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Them boys showing their atmosphere-building skills again, often using minimal notes and a repeated bassline to put the listener in a trance. This is an excellent example and remains a cult favourite. Oh, and… Wait for it :)

Atom Heart Mother

The Echoes before Echoes and Floyd’s first foray into writing a ‘suite’. A 24-minute instrumental to cap off their fourth studio album of the same name, which features prog’s most famous bovine, Lullubelle III on the cover. This song is an absolute trip.

One of These Days

Kicking off Meddle, often considered to be their best pre-DSOTM album. I think this is their most aggressive song and has some of Waters’ best bassplaying. And features a Nick Mason scream for the only ‘lyrics’.

Childhood’s End

We’re going to break the chronology a bit here and skip ahead to the next album, their 6th — Obscured By Clouds. This album is often forgotten, sandwiched between the brilliant Echoes that ends Meddle, and the hockey-stick-curve-point that was the brilliant Dark Side of The Moon. That being said, it’s a decent album on its own, this being a good track from there. It sounds very much like Have a Cigar from two albums down. Ideally, this album should have come pre-Meddle for a cleaner transition!

Seamus

Random noodling and a dog howling is this song. At this point in their careers, Floyd sounded more confident and sure of their sound than before, so my only guess as to why this excrescence of a track was here was to make the next track sound EVEN better. Almost like deliberately underperforming in order to elevate the real performance even more. Or how drinking raw lime juice can make even water taste sweet. And for that, I doff my hat to them. So, please endure the next two minutes. It will be worth it after that.

Echoes

That. One. Note.

Speak to Me + Breathe

Kicking off one of the most celebrated albums of all time, Dark Side of The Moon, are these two. Too much is already written about this album and its concept, and you really should look it up (reading about Floyd’s songs makes them seem even more powerful).

Time (cover by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

Exactly what it sounds like. Justice totally done. Original here in case you haven’t heard it yet.

Money (cover by Edgar Winter, Bill Bruford & Tony Levin)

When members of King Crimson & Yes cover your song, you know you’re a big deal. Phew. Original here. The song itself is wonderful, the highest-charting song to be written in 7/4 time, and features a great sax solo.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts 1–5) — Live version

Right, now we move on to my favourite Floyd album, Wish You Were Here. A tribute to Syd Barrett, who randomly landed up in the studio during its recording causing members to break down (neither party recognized each other at first). SOYCD is one of Floyd’s most popular songs, made even more powerful if you know the story behind it. I once imagined Barrett, alone in his Cambridge attic, watching this, as a band he founded at the height of their powers, bringing his vision to life in a way he himself could have never done. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a small tear when I had that scenario in my head. The version that Gilmour plays at his Gdansk concert is one of the best versions of this song — complete with glasses and all! Original here.

Welcome To The Machine (cover by Kassogtha)

This is one of the best, most imaginative covers of a Floyd song I’ve ever heard and when I played this with great trepidation during the listening session, the response was more than what I ever expected — people loved it. Just… Check it out. Totally brings the atmosphere of an already heavy song to another level. Warning: A little heavy. Original here.

Have a Cigar (cover by Bobby Kimball, Bruce Kulick, Mike Porcaro, Greg Bissonnette)

A prog-star-cast cover of a very very fine song with a lovely guitar-bass riff through the song. Original here.

Dogs

I didn’t think anything could ever replace Comfortably Numb as my favourite Floyd song, but every time I listen to Dogs, that position looks increasingly at risk. Dogs has everything, man — Roger at this finest, lyrically. Gilmour’s playing. It’s freakin’ 16 minutes long. The chord changes are glorious and highly rewarding to play on an acoustic. That ending. Everything. Just a work of 70s prog art, this. Roger Waters could be a very frustrated ol’ man and boy did he channel that angst into his lyrics.

In The Flesh?

A nice little ditty to start The Wall, Floyd’s last great album, and possibly their deepest, darkest one.

Another Brick In The Wall — Part 1 & 2 (cover by Layne Staley, Tom Morello, Stephen Perkins+)

Everyone’s heard ABITW (Originals here — Part 1, Part 2 — latter being the more famous one with Waters’ iconic bassline). This quite excellent pair of covers amps up the grunge. What do you expect when Alice in Chains’ Layne Stayley and RATM’s Tom Morello are at the helm? Part 1 is a sludgy instrumental that will make you want to SCREAM out the chorus that you already know. Both are wonderful — both are combined back to back in this convenient video for your kind perusal.

The Doctor

Before we get into THAT track, here’s an initial version of it :)

Comfortably Numb

Oh, gosh, here we are. Floyd’s greatest? The most magnificent guitar solo of all time? What everyone looks forward to during any classic rock session? What every college guitarist tries hard to master given the deceptively easy notes (including myself — sorry, MICA).

Two Suns in The Sunset

A good track of a good album, except it had the misfortune of following DSOTM, WYWH, Animals & The Wall. Oh and it was acrimonious and pretty much a Waters solo effort, pissing off Gilmour, getting Wright fired and the eventual departure of its protagonist. Not pretty. But hey, at least we got some nice music, eh?

Sorrow & Marooned

The next two albums were Gilmour-led and it shows. Both A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Divison Bell were nice albums and gave us some memorable songs but lacked the ‘bite’ of Waters’ songwriting and lyrical input. Still, any excuse to hear Gilmour play guitar. Two damn good tracks, one off each, here.

Allons-Y (part 1) + Autumn ’68 +Allons-Y (part 2) + Talkin’ Hawkin’

Bike

“Never forget your roots” is something that both Indian parents and fans of Floyd might well say. It’s amazing to think that Comfortably Numb, SOYCD and Money wouldn’t have come about if it weren’t for Syd Barrett’s madcap beginnings. Floyd’s sound was an evolution, not a drastic shift away. So, let’s give this one a listen… And it’s a shocking kick back to the 1960s, where we started this journey.

High Hopes

This is one of my favourite solos ever. Gilmour plays a lap steel guitar and I could hear him play this for hours. In my mind, their finest song post-The Wall. And I can’t think of a better way to close. I’ve heard every version of this available on YT, including the covers, and in my opinion, its best version is from the 1994 PULSE concert. Enjoy.

And there you have it!

Thank you for reading to the end, if you did and coming on this voyage with me :)

Chuck & Berty

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Deepak “Chuck” Gopalakrishnan

Deepak “Chuck” Gopalakrishnan

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Content handyman. Mumbai. Rock+metal fiend. Cold water aficionado. The Origin Of Things, Simblified, Getting Meta, Things of Internet & a few other experiments.