Pink Floyd is avant-garde rock with a global appeal, music for deep-thinkers that somehow ended up topping the charts. Pink Floyd’s albums are revered in all corners of the world.
Hearing the entirety of the band’s discography is the best way to appreciate their amazing and often strange journey. Pink Floyd started as a vehicle for the wide-eyed songwriting of Syd Barrett. Next, under Rogert Water’s guidance, the group’s philosophical prog-rock made them superstars. Finally, David Gilmour continued the band’s success with a more pop-friendly approach.
Today I’m mining through Pink Floyd’s extensive catalogue, concealing my Syd Barrett obsession, and looking to rank the band’s albums from worst to best.
#15. “Obscured by Clouds” (1972)
“Obscured by Clouds” is an underrated Pink Floyd album, often overlooked in favour of their more famous records made during this period.
If enjoyed through the lens of the psychedelic era, “Obscured by Clouds” is a short, fine collection. It’s the soundtrack to the film “La Vallée.” I can easily hear why Pink Floyd, like Tangerine Dream, was becoming one of the most sought-after bands for creating music to accompany feature films. Pink Floyd had already recorded soundtrack material for the films “The Committee”, “More” (1969), and “Zabriskie Point” (1970).
However, if enjoyed on the value of the songs themselves, it’s not an essential listen. This is especially considering the quality of the predecessor, “Meddle,” and the greatness of “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
“Free Four” is a highlight, but the rest of the material tends to blend together.
#14. “More” (1969)
“More” sees Pink Floyd attempt to move forward from the shadow of Syd Barrett. That’s hardly an easy task. The album splits its time between atmospheric pieces and poppy tunes. The latter batch is far more satisfying.
“Green is the Colour” and “Cymbaline” are gorgeous little British pop-rock ditties. They show Pink Floyd could survive on this kind of material just fine.
Most of the rest of the tracks have an ethereal feel to them because the songs were due to soundtrack the Frech experimental movie called “More.” While Pink Floyd’s musicians may be the ambassadors for forward-thinking, daring music, it’s when they focus on structured songs that the band is at its best.
#13. “Ummagumma” (1969)
On “Ummagumma,” Pink Floyd lived up to its reputation as the most risk-taking, “out there” group in Britain. Consequently, much of this record is sonic experimentation.
This doesn’t mean, however, that this is a boring affair. “Ummagumma” consists of two albums. The first is a live show. It includes early tracks like “Astronomy Domine” and “Careful with that Axe, Eugene.” The band’s brand of psychedelic rock s powerful and entertaining.
The second album shows that the band members were still double guessing their future route regarding unique material. Each band takes a turn producing songs. Most are musical experiments. Often they sound devoid of direction.
The title of Roger Waters’ “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” might tell you everything you need to know. And while this is one of their best songs here, it’s hardly an indicator of what Waters would be writing soon enough.
#12. “The Endless River” (2014)
It would take a lot for rock fans not to get excited about a new Pink Floyd album, but this is precisely what happened when David Gilmour opted for the release of “The Endless River.”
For the most part, the record comprises unused instrumental pieces left from “The Division Bell,” a record that felt a little uneven to begin with.
While “The Endless River” can be judged positively compared to some of the band’s instrumental-heavy experiments of the 1960s, it offers little new in the modern context.
Finally, fans of Pink Floyd would’ve hoped against hope that, in 2014, a new album by the band might include Roger Waters.
While “The Endless River” spectacularly fails to read the room, it does achieve a few things.
It is a worthy tribute to Richard Wright, the band’s heavily underrated keyboardist and occasional songwriter.
At their best, Gilmour, Wright and Mason produce a great, moody, hypnotic sound that’s been copied by numerous other groups.
And it helps bring the gang back together. Guy Pratt, Bob Ezrin, and Phil Manzanera are all involved.
However, many things weigh it down. It is one of the Pink Floyd albums ranked poorest among the band’s sizeable fanbase.
The only song with lyrics (penned by Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson) is “Louder Than Words”, and it’s not very good. The artwork is an atrocious copy of a Storm Thorgeson-like design. And few listeners are known to have been able to go through the entire record without succumbing to the temptation of falling asleep.
Why is Pink Floyd logo a rainbow?
Storm Thorgeson created the artwork of light passing through a prism and turning into a rainbow for the “Dark Side of the Moon” album. The symbol has become so famous that it is often associated with the group and used to promote its music.
#11. “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” (1987)
“A Momentary Lapse of Reason” achieved too seemingly impossible things. First, it helped create a strong album without the help of Waters or Barrett. Secondly, it was a much bigger success than any of Waters’ solo records.
One could put this down to the value of the Pink Floyd brand. But I don’t think that’s the whole story.
“A Momentary Lapse of Reason” takes a streamlined approach to the classic Floyd sound. Outside lyricists are brought in to make up for the absence of Roger Waters. The fact that Pink Floyd was essentially a faceless band, best known visually for their album artwork, proved to be a lucky break.
Three of the songs are instrumentals. “Signs of Life” is the best of these. And most of the others on the album focus heavily on David Gilmour’s appreciated, atmospheric guitar leads.
And finally, the album had two very memorable songs. The first was “Learning to Fly,” a pop-rock single that ended up on heavy rotation on MTV.
The second was a long-form musical meditation titled “Sorrow” that pleased the large contingent of the band’s prog-rock fans.
“A Momentary Lapse of Reason” allowed Pink Floyd to tour arenas again. It had been more successful than either David Gilmour or Roger Waters’ solo albums, and this wasn’t only down to the name on the record.
#10. “The Final Cut” (1983)
While it is essentially a collection of leftovers from “The Wall,” “The Final Cut” still provides a few great moments.
Most of these highlights, however, have more to do with Roger Water’s vision than Pink Floyd’s grand sound as a quartet.
The songwriter focuses, once more, on the tragedies of war throughout the record. His lyrics and a low-key, intimate sound accompany songs like “Paranoid Eyes,” “The Hero’s Return”, or “Your Possible Pasts.” Songs are narrated more than they are sung.
There’s humour and vitriol on “The Fletcher Memorial Home”, on song in which the world’s military leaders are all forced together in a retirement home.
But the album’s greatest song, by a country mile, is “Not Now John.” It’s the only traditional rock song, the only one with a distinguishable hook and the only single on the album.
Vocals are shared between Gilmour and Waters, which gives the track more of a cohesive group feel. It proves that while Waters helmed great albums, Pink Floyd was at its best as a unit.
But the writing was on the wall. By this stage, Richard Wright was out of the band, and Nick Mason wasn’t playing on all of the tracks. Roger Waters would finally depart the band officially in 1985. And to his astonishment, the group would persevere without him and continue achieving success.
Why did Pink Floyd break up?
A lot of factors contributed to Pink Floyd breaking up, but the most important was Roger Waters’ desire to pursue more personal-driven songwriting. This, plus long-standing tensions between Water and Gilmour, contributed to the initial dissolution of Punk Floyd.
#9. “The Division Bell” (1994)
“The Division Bell” is an album that looks back at Pink Floyd’s past with bittersweet affection. Through it all, the Gilmour-led incarnation of the group manages to synthesize the band’s most famous components.
“A Momentary Lapse of Reason” offered Pink Floyd a surprising way forward. Like Yes or Genesis, the band had traded some of its prog-rock roots for modern pop.
“The Division Bell” is meant to remind fans of those roots again. And it succeeds to a greater degree because of this.
For one thing, Richard Wright is finally restored as a full-time member. “The Division Bell” sounds slightly more like a band effort even though Gilmour’s guitar leads are almost always the focus.
Secondly, it includes one truly great song. Like many great Pink Floyd songs, “High Hopes” is about Pink Floyd. The Storm Thorgerson-directed music video echoes the myth of the band.
Other highlights include the instrumental “Marooned,” the environmentalist anthem “Take It Back”, and the talk-box-driven “Keep Talking.”
“The Division Bell” wouldn’t be the final chapter in the Pink Floyd story. But, for many, including myself, it’s the nice closure that previous albums hadn’t offered.
#8. “Atom Heart Mother” (1970)
“Atom Heart Mother” is a real success in structuring and packaging Pink Floyd’s brainy, prog rock.
The title track, mainly, is highly memorable, and it’s one of the best examples of the musical copy-paste that many of Floyd’s contemporaries were testing.
The 23-minute suite is such a powerful piece of music, in fact, that director Stanley Kubrick asked to include it in the legendary adaption of “A Clockwork Orange.” The band would rue their decision to reject the filmmaker’s offer.
The rest of the tracks are interesting, sure, but not songs per-se. Like Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Pink Floyd had acquired a reputation as radical experimentalists. They were looking to live up to that reputation with recordings like “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast.”
The most pleasant surprise, however, is delivered once again by one of Waters’ songs. “If” hints at some of the themes he would later discuss in songs, such as loneliness and mental anguish. It’s no real wonder that he’d soon become the undisputed primary songwriter of Pink Floyd.
#7. “A Saucerful of Secrets” (1968)
While “A Saucerful of Secrets” contains moments of great beauty, it also finds a band facing uncertainty and the prospect of an early retirement.
Fears that the band was going to disband were due to Syd Barrett’s dismissal. Barrett had written the majority of Pink Floyd songs until that point. He was the focus of the band. Like The 13th Floor Elevators or The Velvet Underground, it looked like Floyd’s time as a psych-rock innovator would be short.
But, they are giving it their all in a bid to match their predecessor, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.”
All of the band members are contributing song ideas. Roger Waters picks up most of the slack and delivers songs like “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”
Barrett’s replacement, childhood friend David Gilmour, contributes vocals to “Let There Be More Light” and “Corporal Clegg.”
But Wright most closely mimics Barrett’s writing style with the songs “See-Saw” and “Remember a Day.”
There’s even a hint at future Floyd compositions with the multi-suite track “A Saucerful of Secrets.” This is an instrumental credit to all current band members.
However, the most striking moment on the album arrives from the recently ousted Syd Barrett. “Jugband Blues” is a ghostly goodbye letter.
#6. “Animals” (1977)
Pink Floyd had turned into of the cultural phenomenons of the decade. With this in mind, “Aminals” was greeted as a step backwards. In retrospect, I believe it’s merely a consolidation of the band’s strength.
Pink Floyd was always a band ripe for internal conflict. One of the main topics for internal discussion circled around the balance between the music and the lyrics.
On “Animals,” Roger Waters uses his biting words to paint a picture of Great Britain through a modern retelling of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
Despite this, it’s the instrumental parts that take centre stage. This is not an unwise move, in my view. Concert recordings from the era prove that Pink Floyd had become one of the best live groups.
The three core compositions (“Dogs,” “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” and “Sheep”) each has a running time of over 10 minutes. And each could be extended far longer in a live context.
There aren’t any songs that are as immediate as anything from “Wish You Were Here” and “The Dark Side of the Moon.” And, musically, this isn’t treading new ground.
However, those that can get into the mood of the songs or want to witness Pink Floyd working at their best as a unit (arguably for the last time) will find a lot to enjoy on “Animals.”
#5. “Meddle” (1971)
“Meddle” is by far the best of the underrated and underpraised pre-1973 Pink Floyd. It casually touches on many musical and lyrical ideas they would explore for the rest of their career.
“Meddle” is also exceptionally easy to enjoy. “Fearless,” “A Pillow of Winds,” and, especially, “San Tropez” are quirky, low-key pop-rock numbers. Waters’ confidence as a lyricist and Gilmour’s ability as a singer had grown.
“One of These Days” proves that Pink Floyd was ready to play arenas long before the dream became a reality.
“Seamus” is a blues duet with a dog, which might convince readers that the number of album-ready songs wasn’t yet very high.
And “Echoes” is an incredible piece of work and a seamless prelude to “Dark Side of the Moon.” The 23-minute piece includes most of the elements that made 1970s prog-rock enjoyable and none of the many more that could easily make it silly. Both its lyrics and melodic motifs are supremely quotable.
#4. “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973)
By distilling its sound to its essence, Pink Floyd managed an artistic and commercial breakthrough with “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
Of course, the embers of this tremendous record lie in “Echoes,” the centre-piece of Meddle, a song where the band’s passion for soundscapes and Waters’ interest in philosophy coalesced perfectly.
With “The Dark Side of the Moon,” they do the same. But Waters’ ever more confident songwriting comes in the form of shorter, more memorable songs.
The lyrics focus on modern man’s search for meaning. But they also touch on more intimate matters such as ambition (“Money”), mental fatigue (“Breathe”), and even Syd Barrett’s decline (“Brain Damage”).
Guitarist David Gilmour would later praise “The Dark Side of the Moon” for being the album on which Pink Floyd achieved the greatest balance between the weight of the lyrics and the music. I suppose that he is right.
Gilmour’s guitar work on songs like “Us and Them” or “Time” remains some of the finest of the 1970s.
Meanwhile, Clare Torry’s singing on the Richard Wright-penned “The Great Gig in the Sky” hits an incredible emotional peak.
And, this time, even the band’s avant-garde experiments, such as “On the Run,” work perfectly within the context of the record.
I was very impressed with “The Dark Side of the Moon” when I heard it as a child. It’s hard not to maintain the same opinion now, as its status as one of the all-time most successful rock albums has become even more well-established.
What is Pink Floyd’s biggest-selling album?
“The Dark Side of the Moon” remains Pink Floyd’s best-selling album, having sold 50 million units worldwide. Meanwhile, “The Wall” has sold over 33 million copies at the time of writing.
#3. “The Wall” (1979)
“The Wall” is another of rock’s great albums. What had started as a personal meditation on the disconnection between people became a universal symbol of separation.
Unlike “The Dark Side of the Moon,” the writing was not on the wall when it concerned the success of “The Wall.” Roger Waters had assumed near full control of the group.
He had been working on two collections of demos. One would form the basis for “The Wall.” The others would be used for Waters’ first solo endeavour, “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.”
He’d given David Gilmour the option to pick from either. The guitarist made a wise choice.
Songs like “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” “Goodbye Blue Sky”, or “Mother” became global rock anthems. However, they were deeply intimate portrayals of Waters’ worst fears. They were also opportunities to square up against his old or current rivals.
While Gilmour isn’t as present as on other Pink Floyd records, his contributions are some of the most memorable. “Young Lust,” “Run Like Hell”, and, especially “, Comfortably Numb” are there of the songs that survive best even without the context of the record. The latter, particularly, include one of Gilmour’s most excellent guitar solos.
Otherwise, the 26-song collection does a marvellous job of telling the story of Pink, an emotionally distraught rockstar that ends up abusing his fame.
The Bob Ezrin-produced album would earn comparisons to other famous concept albums such as The Who’s “Tommy” or David Bowie‘s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” In truth, I believe that “The Wall” does a much better job of telling a cohesive, engrossing story.
It’s hard to imagine more tremendous success than the one enjoyed by “The Wall.” The album was turned into a movie starring Geoff Geldof. Waters played it to commemorate the fall of The Berlin Wall. And Waters continues to tour the album extensively after this and will even release a re-recorded version of it.
Furthermore, despite the complex plot line, the record had a genuine hit single in “Another Brick in the Wall.” The illustrations created by Gerald Scarfe became iconic. The record was a number-one hit in the U.S. and has sold over 23 million records. It’s a classic rock/prog-rock staple.
Despite these achievements, “The Wall” would split Pink Floyd up. First, keyboardist Richard Wright was dismissed following arguments with Roger Waters. Gilmour and Mason received a reduced role, and Pink Floyd became all but a Roger Waters solo vehicle until his departure in 1985.
What is Pink Floyd’s biggest hit?
Surprisingly, “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” became Pink Floyd’s biggest charting hit. The song was #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
#2. “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967)
Had Pink Floyd’s career ended after recording their debut, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” they’d be known as the inventive group of the original psychedelic-rock era.
The fact that they managed to plough on after Syd Barrett’s departure from the group is almost a miracle. Here, Syd Barrett‘s leadership is uncontested as he adds provides the vast majority of songs.
What does the name Pink Floyd mean?
“Pink Floyd” is a made-up name created by pasting together the names Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The moniker was chosen out of necessity – the band needed name for their first show.
His writing is part Victorian fairytale and part psychedelic experience. Except for, perhaps, Ray Davies’ songs with The Kinks, nobody else quite captures the rock n’ roll experience from a British angle as well.
“Lucifer Sam,” “The Scarecrow,” and “Bike” are Lewis Carroll-like pop-rock fantasies. The U.S. version of the album also features “See Emily Play,” the band’s first global and the song that made record labels consider Syd Barrett a would-be British version of Brian Wilson.
However, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason contribute amazingly to the space-rock excursions of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine.” Rather than aimless jams, these avant-rock compositions earned Pink Floyd the reputation as the most daring band in London back in 1967.
#1. “Wish You Were Here” (1975)
“Wish You Were Here” is another triumphant Pink Floyd release. However, even though monumental success had just now befallen them, the record finds the group members looking back at the past with nostalgia and at the future with unease.
The myth of Syd Barrett is more present than ever. The suite “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” is split into nine parts. It both stars and bookends the record. The memorable, jazzy soundscapes of the song are punctuated with Waters’ anguished lyrics about Barrett.
The band’s former singer had given up on making music. A chance encounter in the studio while recording “Wish You Were Here” would serve as the final meeting between Barrett and his former bandmates.
“Welcome to the Machine” and the excellent Roy Harper-sung “Have a Cigar” reveal Roger Waters’ distrust of the rockstar status suddenly offered to him, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason.
Finally, the title, “Wish You Were Here”, is a beautiful acoustic-based featuring memorable lyrics and Gimour’s soloing and vocal scatting. Like the other lyrics on the record, it deals with absence.
“Wish You Were Here” was another artistic and commercial success. It confirmed Pink Floyd’s status, along with Led Zeppelin, Queen or The Rolling Stones, as one of the premier arena-rock bands of the 1970s. The release of new Pink Floyd albums had well and truly become a global event.