Top 7: Pink Floyd Songs

Top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.


I’ve covered my favorite band, Duran Duran, already. (And I just bought their new album All You Need Is Now over at Amazon so I don’t have to give any money to the devil iTunes.) So now we move on to my second favorite band, Pink Floyd.

That’s right, Pink Floyd. Because I was raised on a hearty musical diet of ’70s wuss-rock, adult alternative, and psychedelic concept albums. I’ve seen them (and various versions of them) in concert several times, and own most of the stuff after Syd Barrett left. Not a big Barrett fan, I. And just like when fans of the Beatles have to declare a Lennon/McCartney preference (McCartney, FYI), so must Floyd fans declare Barrett/Waters/Gilmour. Personally: Gilmour.

Onward to my top 7!

7. “Us and Them”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

So Dark Side is the earliest album that will appear on this list. And it’s an amazing album in its entirety — if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the episode of Classic Albums to see some of the amazing, ahead-of-their-time the guys did. Oh, and it’s also available on Netflix streaming. Seriously, it’s worth it alone for the live footage in the studio. As for “Us and Them,” it’s a gorgeous song with a great sax solo. And the original instrumental done for the film Zabriskie Point (again, see the Classic Albums episode) is gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

6. “Coming Back to Life”The Divison Bell, 1994

This song has it all. It’s a ballad, which you know I love. It’s all Gilmour-ish, with guitar solos galore. The lyrics are deep and dark and meaningful, and yet the song itself is in the upbeat key of C-major without sounding like peppy pop.

5. “Learning to Fly”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I don’t recall my parents buying The Final Cut in 1983, so this was the first fresh Floyd in the house since the late ’70s. And in 1987, I was in the midst of my teenage years. So the album must have been good, to suck me into listening into parent music. This song struck me with the literal interpretation (I wanted to learn to fly [still do, and one day I’ll finish flight school, dagnabbit]) and with the metaphorical meaning — reaching out and trying something new and different and exciting. Plus, of course, Gilmour all over.

4. “The Great Gig in the Sky”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

This is one of my all-time favorites for singing along in the privacy of my car. I’d also choose this as my entry if I ever got involved in a professional whistling contest. It’s even more amazing when you know that Clare Torry’s vocals are completely improvised. And like any good improviser, after she was done she apologized to everyone for being so terrible.

3. “Terminal Frost”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I love it when bands put an instrumental track on their album. This one is all about Gilmour and Mason (Wright wasn’t there, so the track uses a drum machine), as well as two saxophones (one of them clearly the sax player for Supertramp). For some reason, a bunch of the saxophone parts make me think of Trevor Jones’s instrumental tracks on the sountrack for the movie Labyrinth. This is one of those songs that’s best when you put on a pair of big can headphones and block out the rest of the world.

2. “Comfortably Numb”The Wall, 1979

Of course, the entirety of The Wall is incredible. A one-of-a-kind concept album, the likes of which we may never see again. And there are a ton of good songs on that album. But this one has always stood out for me musically. In looking up information online right now, I see that it’s one of the few songs on The Wall that wasn’t completely written by Waters, so that may be part of it. Another part is that it’s one of the first songs I learned on the ukulele. Which sounds like a joke, but really, the chords are dead simple on a uke. (“Mother” is even easier.) Next I’m working on the guitar solos. I’ve actually sat with the uke and the chords and played through most of The Wall while listening to it — Waters wasn’t exactly all about the hard chords.

1. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (parts I-VI)”Wish You Were Here, 1975

If anyone out there wants to get technical and say that this is five songs, I say to you: suck it. This rips from the CD as one 17-minute track, so I’m calling it one song. The thing is, for all seventeen minutes, it just rocks. Weirdly enough, it totally kicks the ass of parts VII-IX. It’s like they frontloaded the best stuff into the whole “Shine on” suite. Although on my CD, it appears that part VI is both at the end of the first set and at the beginning of the second set, bookending the rest of the album content. I use the 4-note theme (technically at the beginning of part II) as a ringtone on my phone. And when we lived at our old apartment, I’d occasionally use this song as a timer for my drive home, which usually took between 15 and 18 minutes, depending on how generous the traffic signals were. It just hits all of my Floyd sweet spots: sax solos, guitar solos, lots of Gilmour, instrumental chunks, slow tempo. Oh, and it’s my second choice for a whistling contest. So come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and SHINE!