The cream of Pink Floyd
Courtesy of Carsten Petersen – An Orwellian character obsessed with depressing sounds
Pink Floyd haven’t played a particularly important part in my mind before the beautiful summer of 2008. As a matter of fact, I was always a bit, well, not anti-Floyd, but I was pretty skeptical about them. A friend gave me a burned CD of Pink Floyd way back, when I was like 16 and took me until 2007 (!) until I listened to the first stuff of it. It sure took a long time. It is just that the pure hype surrounding these guys was a big put off for me. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You were Here and The Wall are just so damn often mentioned as the best albums ever done by mankind, that it is hard, pretty hard not to roll your eyes after hearing the names of those albums. There I was being a big Genesis fan, asking myself “Come on, these snippets I heard from The Wall, how the hell is THAT any better than the good Genesis stuff?” As a matter of fact, I always thought of it as way worse. My impression was that of music being mostly sound effects with the actual music being as thin as that stupid Egyptian paper. I was impressed by ‘Welcome to the Machine’, but not so that I desperately wanted to listen to it again. I heard ‘Echoes’, now one of my all-time favourite tracks, in 2007. I thought it was really good but I guess I was way to preoccupied with Genesis and with Jethro Tull to really get into it.
Then came the summer of 2008. The Euro Cup was in full action. The victory streak of Spain started back then. I got the message, that I was accepted for an internship in Shanghai. Man, let me tell you, I could not have been in a better mood these days. Plus that beautiful, beautiful weather with that deep blue sky every day. And then, my love for Pink Floyd started. It was then, in that gorgeous weather, that I listened to ‘Money’ from The Dark Side and I could not stop listening to it. Then, there was this song called ‘Sheep’ from Animals. I was blown away. Such a good feeling, such a brilliant atmosphere. Not overblown, just frigging genius! From that moment on, I discovered more Floyd and although still not liking The Wall, I love the Floyd now. Ever since that experience of listening to the first songs in the late afternoon, walking on the beach, taking it all in, happily awaiting the months ahead of me, Pink Floyd, for me, has always had that special vibe around them. For me, Pink Floyd is blue sky. The deep blue sky from the summer of 2008. Sounds fruity, I know, but that is the connection their music has for me.
The thing is, I got to know Pink Floyd over individual songs, not albums. That is weird, since there are a lot of album bands out there, but with hardly any group it is as essential to listen to an album all the way through as it is with the Floyd. Albums like Meddle or Dark Side can only be grasped as a whole. Still, I would like to give an overview of my favourite Floyd songs, as well as giving exact background information on the album that the song originated from. It is gonna go in chronological order, so that this selection will follow the Floyd from their beginning all the way throughout the wild 70’s.
Astronomy Domine: At the beginning, there was Pink Floyd. And at the beginning, there was Syd Barret. Barret was a founding member, the guitarist and the main songwriter of the band. He basically wrote the whole first Floyd album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, by himself. That is how important the guy was. The music is pure psychedelia, astral sounds, strange effects, drug induced guitar lines, and strange lyrics sounding like a nightmarish version of nursery rhymes with titles like ‘Lucifer Cat’, ‘Mathilda Mother’ or ‘The Gnome’. Unfortunately, this crazy music pointed to a central upcoming trauma of the young band. Syd got hooked on LSD. This eventually caused him to completely lose his mind and slowly drifting off until not being able to even play the guitar on stage anymore. The band had to let their most important member go. Along came David Gilmour. Along came a change, that slowly led to the Floyd as we knew them. Goodbye Syd.
Cirrus Minor: From the soundtrack album, More. Wright has an organ solo at the end of the track. One of the most otherworldly, touching moments in the entire Floyd catalogue. A German newspaper wrote shortly after the death of Wright on September 15th 2008, that the soul of the ‘Monster Pink Floyd’ had died. Listen to the last three minutes of this track and you will know the truth of this sentence.
Careful with that Axe, Eugene: From the live side of their album Ummagumma. Pink Floyd tries to move on after the painful loss of Syd and all that zaniness and fantasy that left with him. This track points to the future of Floyd. More sounds than melodies, a slow build up, a creepy atmosphere that lets you know that something bad is about to happen. And then…Well, just listen to the damn track. Floyd slowly find their way.
Atom Heart Mother Suite: Weirdest…track…ever! What is this? You tell me! An over 20 minute, purely classical suite? With horns, big choirs, Russian influenced singing, dissonant guitar? One of the strangest musical experiences ever. And there is still a track called ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast’ on the same album? Go figure! Or just stay here.
Echoes: Masterpiece. From their 1971 Album, Meddle. This song has all the elements of the big Pink Floyd of the “Dark Side” era. Multipart, soft vocals, heavenly, slow guitar of Gilmour, strange sound effects, a blues part, a heavenly finale. This song paints the picture of being in a deep dark blue underwater world and shows what Pink Floyd could achieve with only a few ingredients. The best long track ever! Yes, I said it!
Money: The big breakthrough. Floyd is the biggest band in the world. The big money reaches the band. Funny enough, that this single would start the whole hype, complaining over the greed for that green paper everybody wants to have. Great baseline, great vocal part, great sax solo, great guitar. Funky song. My introduction to Pink Floyd in that summer of 2008. Roger Waters slowly starts to take over the band, being responsible for the whole concept of the album. Roger was a socialist, so his anti-capitalist rant here does not come as a surprise. Still, he became a fucking rich dude, he got all the money in the world because of “Money.”
Eclipse: The final track of The Dark Side…One of the greatest finales to any album ever. As unperfect as the album itself is, this moment is just stunning.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part I-IV: Man oh man. That opening keyboard line. The most depressing, sorrowful and plain sad sound ever to grace a record. This track on the Dark Side follower, Wish You Were Here was the band´s tribute and goodbye to their former member Syd Barret, the one who by then has completely disappeared in a cloud of insanity. During the recording of the song, one of the band members found one lost dude on the floor of the studio, no hair, eyes just staring into nowhere. It was Syd. A painful moment and it showed everyone, what a deep scar Syd has left in the band. No kidding, to this day, the remaining band members seem to have a really hard time to deal with it.
Welcome to the Machine: DEPRESSING. A friggin´ monster. This song sure does its job. It sounds like the friggin’ machine itself. Cold, violent, soul crushing. This song just really makes me miss these wonderful crazy but oh so playful days of the Barret era. How do you go from ‘The Gnome’ or ‘See Emily Play’ to such a horrifying, depressing, nightmarish overblown monster? Just the thought of listening to it makes me wanna consult a psychiatrist. Cool track, though.
Dogs: From the album, Animals of 1977. The band members are tired of their success, are tired of Pink Floyd, are tired of each other. Waters takes over the band. This album rips society apart and divides it into the capitalist, backstabbing dogs, the hypocritical, power-hungry pigs as well as the cowardly sheep which are accepting to be treated like dirt. ‘Dogs’ features beautiful guitar solos, an outright scary mid section of dogs howling and synths painting the image of a deeply Orwellian landscape, as well as a frigging great finale. Having a pretty bad flow, untypical for Floyd, the melodies and atmosphere still make this another classic.
Sheep: The song that made me a Pink Floyd Fan. I mentioned the Orwellian landscape of ‘Dogs’. ‘Sheep’ just seems like the ultimate soundtrack to the Orwell inspired cartoon, Animal Farm. That keyboard intro by Wright! Just paints this picture of the sheep out there in the dark wilderness perfectly. Great guitar riffs. A dark mid- section with wonderful sound effects and unbelievable keyboard sounds, the landscape is getting darker and darker. Waters screams are perfectly meshing with a crashing keyboard line. Waters speaks a spoof of a prayer through a vocoder and the result is well worth hearing. And then…THE solo! The song is concluded by the most perfect guitar lines that Gilmour or any other guitarist would ever come up with! What an atmospheric, imaginative, sick, beautiful track!
Another Brick in the Wall Part II: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you knew you could not escape that one! Simply a great, catchy track. How could I leave that one out?
Pink Floyd has more to offer, sure. But these songs will give you all you need to know about this unbelievable band. Don’t believe the prejudice. Don’t believe the Barret fans. Don’t believe the Waters fans. Don’t believe the casual so called “Pink Floyd Fan”. Don’t believe the critics. Believe me.