The story & evolution of Pink Floyd: A playlist

Find a rock music fan of any shade and chances are they will be a fan of psychedelic legends Pink Floyd. At the very basic level, Another Brick In The Wall — 2 & Wish You Were Here is as much part of an engineering college’s curriculum as Thermodynamics is. At an average rock gig, you’ll have one level of snob sneering at a young kid wearing a Dark Side Of The Moon t-shirt proclaiming that he knows Echoes. Tr00 fans of course, won’t even be at that gig, they will be home listening to Reaction in G on vinyl.

In a way that’s the beauty of the band — they probably have the widest fan contemporary fan base of any music act, and are the most mainstream a band labelled progressive ever got (with the arguable exception of the Beatles, but that’s another story).

The marathon six-hour session

That’s right. 7+ hours of Pink Floyd music, stories, discussions and… puns. 200+ registered, 130–150 showed up, and even at the end we had 40 people staying on! It was an insane evening of music.

Guys, your playlist is 4 hours long :O You do have plans of stopping sometime, right? — Headphone Zone CEO Raghav Somani on seeing our playlist for the first time

Many people who had to drop out, came in early or couldn’t come asked us if we had a recording or to share the playlist. We didn’t do the former since we distinctly want to drive people towards the live experience which we believe is better. And standalone playlists don’t make sense — it’s not a compilation of the best of a band. Each song is curated to make a point and there might be some choices that might seem questionable, bereft of context.

So I thought I’d make myself a nice big cuppa French Press and get down to writing a line or two about each song and why we chose what we did. This is ideal for anyone: Fans curious about rock, those who’ve listened to only the popular tracks and are curious for more, and for hardcore Floyd nerds, too.

The playlists

In this post, I’m going to be taking mostly about the songs and not the history of the band — that would take up too much space here and there are reams written on this already.

The personnel you should know:

Syd Barrett: Founder and the creative force in the early days. Unpredictable behaviour coupled with mad drug use led to his ouster from the band. Many fans don’t even know about him, but without Syd, there would be no Floyd. Passed away in 2006, in obscurity.

Roger Waters: Mercurial bassist, primary lyricist during their peak years and de facto creative force / band leader after Barrett ‘left’. Acrimonious relationship with the band at various points of time.

David Gilmour: One of the world’s greatest guitarist, known for a ‘feel-based’ style of playing. Syd’s childhood buddy who was brought in to augment the band to hedge his unpredictability, ended up coming into his own. Leader of the band after Waters left, continues carrying the band’s name today though it’s inactive.

Richard Wright: Keyboard player who was so instrumental (heh) to the Floyd sound, and a damn fine songwriter / singer himself. Was temporarily ousted from the band by a drunk-on-power Waters, and brought back by Gilmour. Passed away in 2008.

Nick Mason: The drummer and only constant member. Often overlooked, but had a very distinctive style that was more ‘feel’ than technical virtuosity, fits in perfectly with the various Floyd sounds. Also a fine writer and artist.

Lucy Leave

See Emily Play

As a YouTube comment said: Syd was himself a genre.

Interstellar Overdrive

Flaming

Reaction in G

Paintbox

Let There Be More Light

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

Jugband Blues

Biding My Time

Julia Dream

The Embryo

Cymbaline

Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Atom Heart Mother

One of These Days

Childhood’s End

Okay, let’s go back to Meddle now and end the first half of Floyd’s career. While the album ends with the incredible Echoes, which many consider their finest work, we need to address what many consider their worst.

Seamus

Echoes

I could write for ever and ever about this. Gilmour’s playing. The lyrics (“a million bright ambassadors of morning” — has sunlight been described more poetically?). The atmosphere. The meaning this track has in Floyd’s career arch. But I would do it a disservice. Just listen to it. Make your own conclusions. It all starts with…

That. One. Note.

BONUS:

If you’ve already heard the track before, I highly recommend this music video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwdKFSEe2uY

Phew, so that was the first “half” of Floyd’s career. Now comes the good stuff.

And here, we’re going to be doing some covers for some of the more popular tracks. That being said — if you haven’t heard the originals, please do that first.

Speak to Me + Breathe

One thing I love about Floyd is how ‘coverable’ they are, while also giving the cover-er room to bring their own style in rather than be a carbon-copy of the original. So let’s kick them off, shall we?

Time (cover by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

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

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

PS: Shine On You Crazy Diamond = SYD.

In your face, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds!

Welcome To The Machine (cover by Kassogtha)

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

(as you can see with the shorter text, there’s not much ‘story’ really to be told now — and reams are written about each album anyway and you should check them out)

Dogs

The entire Animals album is great. It’s often a toss-up between that and the preceding WYWH as Floyd acolytes’ favourites.

In The Flesh?

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

The Doctor

After hearing so many covers of Comfortably Numb, it’s lovely to sort of see a proto-cover by the band themselves!

Comfortably Numb

Let’s make it clear — this is a great song but it’s ALL about the second solo. And I’ve heard pretty much every version of it that exists on YouTube and this would be the one I would pick as the best version. Bumblefoot plays the original solo and then does his own take. A glorious version in a beautiful setting. Enjoy this. Oh yeah, original here. What I love about this song is how each version — including those by Gilmour — is different, almost giving you a new experience each time.

Bonus: This crazy 10-minute solo version!

Phew. Now we move on to the ‘decline’ era, I guess.

Two Suns in The Sunset

Sorrow & Marooned

The Division Bell also had High Hopes which features what many (self included) would consider Gilmour’s finest solo after Comfortably Numb. But we’ll get back to that. Let’s skip ahead to 2014 when Gilmour, in a tribute to his late bandmate Rick Wright, released a series of outtakes from the TDB sessions under what would be Pink Floyd’s final official release, The Endless River.

While it can be considered a nice tribute, I think it sullies the legacy of a band and brings the average down. Surely it could have been released as part of a box-set or as a rarities set rather than an official studio album — but alas instead we got an official release with a bunch of sounds and no real ‘song’. That being said, there are some decent tracks, and the whole album is best listened to in one sitting for continuity. These four tracks when played together are the best part of the album, in my opinion. Conveniently put in a playlist for you… Stop after the 4th song though.

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

Okay, then, it’s time to wrap things up!

But before we get there, I want you to see the track listing of their best-of album, Echoes.

You’ll notice it’s largely chronological with one very distinctive standout — Bike. The closer of this compilation is actually a Syd Barrett song which was the last song of the first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It’s probably very interesting nod to the Floyd roots, made all the more profound that High Hopes ends with a bell, while Bike starts with one.

I thought that was damn profound and wanted to work it into the session, knowing I’d be playing High Hopes — but I didn’t want to end with the loony little Bike, so I flipped the order. We start with…

Bike

Rest in peace, Syd.

High Hopes

Sometimes, I think it’s amazing this was written after Smells Like Teen Spirit, Jeremy and Metropolis Part 1.

And there you have it!

Of course I left out many favourites, including some engineering college staples — but we had limited time (er, 6 hours :P) so we needed to keep it short. This is by no means a ‘best of’ compilation, and for that we recommend the aforementioned best-of album or the many playlists that exist on a streaming platform of your choice. I personally would also recommend you check out Gilmour’s solo work (Raise My Rent being my favourite) if you like his Floyd stuff.

See you next time :)

Chuck & Berty

Content handyman. Mumbai. ❤ Rock+metal, wife+cats, cycling & cold water. The Origin of Things (Podcast), Things of Internet & The Third Slip (Newsletters).