Underrated Pink Floyd: The Most Overlooked Song From Each Album
Pink Floyd has the strangest catalog of any classic rock band.
The British space rock explorers have albums that didn’t make a dent on the U.S. charts, and then they have 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon — an LP that hit No. 1, sold about 15 million copies Stateside and stayed on the Billboard album chart for 741 weeks. The band have dozens of songs only diehards know and numerous rock radio staples that have made generations of kids say, “Duuuude, how trippy is that?”
Digging through the prog masters' catalog reveals tracks overshadowed by their multi-platinum hits. Even the band’s early years, full of experimental psychedelia, produced a handful of underrated nuggets. From the Syd Barrett era to their post-Roger Waters period, we highlight the most overlooked song from each Pink Floyd album below.
From: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
Pink Floyd’s debut album didn’t hint much at the glory to come. To be fair, Barrett’s originals delivered a lot of odd if enjoyable acid-pop gems. But the songs have a completely different vibe from Roger Waters’ grand concept albums and rock operas. This LP is best known for "Astronomy Domine" and instrumental "Interstellar Overdrive," but “The Gnome” perfectly encapsulates Barrett’s aesthetic. Telling the tale of a scarlet tunic-wearing gnome named Grimble Gromble, the track feels like a fever dream one might have drifting off to sleep after reading some J. R. R. Tolkien, listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and dropping a tab of acid.
“Remember a Day”
From: A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
Richard Wright was always Floyd’s secret weapon. Both written and sung by the keyboardist, “Remember a Day” moves the band's sound toward classic mid-’70s prog while keeping some psychedelic flourishes (see: Barrett’s out-there slide guitar). Though considered a minor track, it offers glorious rewards, like Wright’s haunting piano line contrasting with thundering drums from producer Norman Smith (who filled in with unbridled fury when Nick Mason couldn’t find the right feel).
From: More (1969)
The soundtrack for the film of the same name, More is a strong candidate for most-ignored Pink Floyd album. But the band has never, ever rocked harder than on “The Nile Song,” and “Up the Khyber” hues closer to free jazz than rock ‘n’ roll. “Cymbaline,” though, sticks out because of how guitarist David Gilmour's tender vocals carry the dreamy melody. It's a Waters composition, but is their first song to really show off Gilmour's voice, which became key in providing contrast on the band’s masterworks.
“The Narrow Way, Part I”
From: Ummagumma (1969)
One half of Ummagumma is a live album — and a damn good one at that. The second half is, well...“This was absolutely not a band album. ... I think what this demonstrates is that our sum is always better than the parts,” Mason said. For the studio portion, band members worked separately on tracks of unlistenable experimentation. But Gilmour's “The Narrow Way” spotlights skills fans didn’t know he had yet. The first part finds him ripping through acoustic guitar parts that dip into Celtic folk, blues and bluegrass. Led Zeppelin III fans should give this one a spin.
From: Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Pink Floyd charged into the new decade with a 24-minute pseudo-rock symphony equal parts thrilling and pure tedium. The flip side to the album’s title track, which occupied all of Atom Heart Mother’s first side, improves with underrated compositions from Waters, Wright and Gilmour — Wright’s “Summer ’68” shows off this knack for writing weird, hooky pop, and Gilmour's climactic guitar solo on “Fat Old Sun” explodes with pure freak rock. But Waters’ “If” is the true centerpiece: a folk ballad with undercurrents of prog eccentricities, revealing the direction of the master craftsman. “If” would work well on The Dark Side of the Moon or even The Wall.
From: Meddle (1971)
Pink Floyd made their most diverse album with Meddle. Side one looks forward toward Dark Side and back to Piper; each of the five cuts presents the band in a wildly different context, running from heavy, intense prog to loose-to-the-extreme acoustic blues. Yet side two, filled by the 23-plus-minute “Echoes,” has even more range: The first few minutes exploit Floyd's talent for getting dreamy while never losing the thread of a song; the core instrumental section spotlights the band’s ability to lock into a funky groove; the misty interlude feels earned after all that jamming; and the final punch/counter-punch of psych-pop and prog rock exemplifies what later become Pink Floyd’s signature sound.
"The Gold It's in the..."
From: Obscured by Clouds (1972)
The guys do American stoner rock? Yup. "The Gold It's in the..." comes from what many critics and fans consider Pink Floyd’s least notable album, which provided the soundtrack for the French film La Vallée. Much of the album features unremarkable instrumentals, but this track bops and boogies like something that belongs on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack between "School's Out" and "Jim Dandy.”
"Any Colour You Like"
From: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
The concept of an underrated Dark Side track seems silly. It might be the best album ever made, and it might be the most popular album ever made. Maybe both. While the whole thing is irreproachable, radio staples "Money,” "Us and Them" and "Time" have gobbled up most of the attention. Turn your ears, then, to instrumental curiosity "Any Colour You Like." A bridge between "Us and Them" and "Brain Damage," it sets the stage for the album’s climax with high tech (tape loops of VCS 3 synth and overlaid guitar harmonies) and dropped into the kind of visceral, earthy jam that distinguished them from would-be peers.
“Welcome to the Machine”
From: Wish You Were Here (1975)
Every track on Wish You Were Here is a classic. But “Welcome to the Machine” sometimes gets overlooked, which can happen when compared to the title track, “Have a Cigar” and both editions of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” If one had to pick a single track to epitomize Pink Floyd, this would be a smart nomination: loads of tape effects, time shifts, synth pulses, double-tracked vocals, Gilmour’s haunting acoustic guitar, Waters lyrics about being alienated by society (and, naturally, the suits who ran the music industry).
“Pigs (Three Different Ones)”
From: Animals (1977)
Wish You Were Here has five tracks everybody knows. Animals has five tracks few know well enough. A sort of riff on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the record tears into capitalism and conformity. The lyrics, particularly Waters sneering delivery of them, play nicely as a sympathetic reaction to the punk revolution that swept Britain in the mid-’70s. The music and production call back to parts of "Echoes," with the band members working as one. Instead of relying on effects and edits, "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" leans on haunting keys, driving drums, an endlessly cool fretless bass part (played by Gilmour) and completely unhinged guitar solo (once again, Gilmour’s).
From: The Wall (1979)
The Wall depends on one song feeding into the next. By this time, Waters had almost complete control of the songwriting and used Pink Floyd (supplemented by session musicians) to fulfill his vision of a rock opera about war, fascism, isolation, drug abuse, mental illness, the music industry and everything else crammed into The Wall. But "rock opera" is a bit of a misnomer. The Wall is really a Broadway musical-style record that leans into rock. As such, “Nobody Home” shows off how the form of musical theater can be tender, intense and wild. The song's underpinnings aren't far from Stephen Sondheim, but Water’s desperate, cracked vocals bridge theater and rock.
"The Gunner's Dream"
From: The Final Cut (1983)
Pink Floyd’s conversion from band to Roger Waters solo project finishes with The Final Cut. This means fans of Waters’ high-minded, theatrical and political concept albums will find a lot to like here. The singer-songwriter-bassist channels a dying airman’s wish that his death will lead to an age of peace in “The Gunner's Dream.” The requiem has a wonderfully earnest, tender quality that builds to a towering sax solo from Raphael Ravenscroft (the man behind the saxophone line in Gerry Rafferty's song "Baker Street") and a righteous crescendo. If you need more of Waters railing against fascism, start here.
From: A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
A Momentary Lapse of Reason has a similar legacy as the Grateful Dead’s In the Dark, released the same year. It represents the point when many old fans gave up on the band and a new generation fell in love with them. As much a solo effort as The Final Cut, this LP gave Gilmour a chance to take control. With no Waters to edit him, he lets loose on an epic guitar solo that takes up almost the whole second half of this nearly nine-minute track. Closing an album that some argue feels too safe, “Sorrow” screams and spits with overdriven guitar might.
From: The Division Bell (1994)
Part of a somewhat frustrating album, “Poles Apart” reminds us that Pink Floyd could do so many things well. And what might have been just a neat little ditty gets a few boosts. Gilmour delivers some surprisingly introspective lyrics that address his relationships with Barrett and Waters. He gives Wright plenty of time to build an organ solo that leads into an unsettling carnival music section. And lastly, because it’s Gilmour, he closes the track with a gem of a guitar solo full of melodic turns.