Pink Floyd was one of the best bands of the 1970s, forming in England and gaining a cult following thanks to their psychedelic rock tunes that were highly philosophical and experimental. They were leaders of the progressive rock movement and have been called one of the greatest rock bands of all time. In this article, we’ll go over the 20 best Pink Floyd songs you can listen to today.
1. Comfortably Numb
It’s hard to put Comfortably Numb anywhere else on this list. It’s got one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, an incredible origin story, and might be Pink Floyd’s most recognizable song to come from their illustrious career.
The song got its beginning when Roger Walters was dealing with ridiculously painful stomach cramps backstage before a concert. The choice was simple, cancel the show or take a massive tranquilizer shot. He took the shot and played the entire concert while unable to feel his hands, leading to the whole theme of the song, with him feeling comfortably numb on stage.
It ended up being one of the most popular songs on the band’s 1979 The Wall album, featuring a mix of ideas from everyone in the group for the sound and two of the most celebrated guitar solos of all time from David Gilmour.
2. Wish You Were Here
Coming out as the title track for the Wish You Were Here album, this one dropped in 1975 and segues perfectly from a song we’ll see later on the list: Have A Cigar. The intro for Wish You Were Here sounds just like it would scanning through old radio stations and features a major overdub on David Gilmour’s guitar riffs to achieve a sort of lo-fi effect.
The band stated the song was one of their best thanks to the emotional weight it carries, and the signature line of “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year” is a direct nod to Syd Barrett.
The fourth track from The Dark Side of the Moon album deals with the passage of time and how quickly it can go by when you aren’t looking into the future anymore. It’s also the last song from the band that gives creative credit to all four members. The intro starts out with a long section of ticking clocks before breaking into a cacophony of alarms ringing. Of course, it features a guitar solo by David Gilmour, but it’s also one of their songs that fans look back on as great despite the initial reception being fairly “meh.”
Echoes was the song that helped Pink Floyd find their identity after the departure of Syd Barrett and came right after signing their deal with EMI that saw the band move away from Abbey Road. It’s one of Pink Floyd’s best collaborative works, credited to all four members, and showcased their creative and technical skills. The song took up the entire back side of their album Meddle, running a staggering 23 minutes in total, but every bit of the song is solid and pure Pink Floyd.
Money became Pink Floyd’s first big hit in the United States, making it to number 10 in Cash Box Magazine and number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The most notable feature of the song has to be the loop of money-related sounds that appears throughout the song, which includes coins and cash registers. Gilmour’s guitar solo on the song made it onto Guitar World’s list of The Greatest Guitar Solos by reader poll. It diverges from Pink Floyd’s normal material that focused mainly on insanity, paranoia, and the meaning of life which is perhaps why it found such success on this side of the pond.
6. Shine On You Crazy Diamond
If David Gilmour calls one of Pink Floyd’s songs the purest form of their music, you know it’s a good song. Shine On You Crazy Diamond is a nine-part composition by the band that spans nearly 26 minutes in total. It’s their full tribute to founding member Syd Barrett and was recorded as Syd was dealing with some very difficult mental health problems. Funny enough, Barrett found his way to Abbey Road the day they were mixing the very song the band was writing for him.
7. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
Another Brick In The Wall is actually a three-part music composition from Pink Floyd’s rock opera, The Wall. Part 2 is the part you’ve probably heard and still frequently finds radio play on mainstream rock stations today.
It was the only part released as a single and was mainly a protest song that spoke out against corporal punishment and abusive school systems. The children’s choir in the song adds an extra layer to the song and makes it feel more real. The song was definitely deserving of some pudding, as it was nominated for a Grammy Award, ranks in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and has sold over four million copies worldwide.
Dogs is one of the Pink Floyd songs that got buried on their Animals album due to the massive success of Wish You Were Here (which came before it) and The Wall (released right after it). It’s a social commentary that fits right into Animals’ theme of describing different groups of people in society, and Dogs is one of the most breathtaking songs on the album. It contrasts the acoustic love song that opens the album by diving right into ominous guitar and organ tunes that play background for the vocal rants against the rich and grim imagery painted out in the single.
9. Us and Them
The longest song from The Dark Side of The Moon album is also one of its best. Us and Them was the second release from the album, peaking in the US at number 72 on the Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart. Cash Box described the song as a hypnotizing ballad, and Us and Them became one of the band’s bigger commercial successes thanks to its hauntingly beautiful nature. None of the band’s messaging was lost in it, though. It’s a straightforward anti-war song that also delves into the follies of modern consumerism.
10. Hey You
Hey You was part of Pink Floyd: The Wall animated film drama from the band about an alienated young rock star. After isolating himself from society, the star in question, Pink, realizes he’s made a mistake and tries to reconnect but finds that “the wall” is too much of an obstacle. As he realizes he can’t escape, he grows more desperate, a theme that progresses through the song and reflects the real-life pain that Roger Waters was dealing with at the time he wrote it.
11. Brain Damage
Another tribute song based on the life of Syd Barrett, Brain Damage beguiles, with its thoughtful discourse on mental health deterioration. Originally titled “Lunatic” at live shows, the song shifts from mono to stereo sound as it progresses, imitating the descent into madness and turning it into a craze-inducing style of surround sound. It’s one of the band’s most philosophical songs, featuring a range of musical experimentation, and has produced several different versions that appear on separate albums.
12. Astronomy Domine
A title which could also be read as “Astral Chant,” Astronomy Domine was one of Floyd’s earliest works and appeared on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967. Alongside Interstellar Overdrive, it became Pink Floyd’s first time experimenting with space rock and features an entirely chromatic chorus that descends one semitone every three seconds. It was one of the band’s most popular songs for early live shows and a sign of Pink Floyd’s progressive style for their era of music.
13. Have A Cigar
Pink Floyd brought in English folk-rock singer Roy Harper to provide the vocals for Have A Cigar. It first appeared on their 1975 album Wish You Were Here and was a massive critique of the rock music scene at the time. Floyd saw most groups as being full of greed and cynicism, and so the song was born. It’s much more of a straightforward rock song than the rest of the album and was mostly reflective of the music industry’s pressure to find similar success to their album The Dark Side of the Moon.
14. The Great Gig In The Sky
One of the last songs completed for The Dark Side of the Moon, The Great Gig In The Sky describes the futile fight against one’s own mortality and the inevitability of death. The only lyrics in the song are a portion of the Lord’s Prayer and quotes from Gerry O’Driscoll and Patricia Watts. It’s one of three Pink Floyd songs to feature vocals from someone who wasn’t a band member, with Clare Torry providing the nonsensical howls that saw her sing as if she was an instrument rather than performing any words.
15. Learning To Fly
Coming from Pink Floyd’s thirteenth studio album A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987, Learning To Fly was one of the few Pink Floyd songs to do better in the US than in the UK. While it failed to achieve Top 40 status there. It reached number one on Spain’s Los 40 Principales chart, number 25 on Billboard Top Rock Album chart, and number 70 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Gilmour was the primary writer of the song, with the lyrics and themes coming from the fact that at the time he was learning to fly airplanes.
16. Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Animals was an album that raged against everyone and everything, and Pigs was absolutely no different. The three pigs described in the song were the three people Roger Waters thought to be the people at the top of the social ladder. Three verses each describe different “pigs,” with the first being a general businessman, the second referring to Margaret Thatcher, and the third directed at Mary Whitehouse. On the album, the song ran for under 12 minutes, though at live shows it could go for over 20. It’s a driving, high-energy, and aggressive song that’s more than worth a listen.
17. Welcome To The Machine
Roger Waters wrote Welcome to the Machine as a direct mention of his (and the band’s) unfortunate feelings toward the music industry. It’s a veritable collage of sound, describing the corporate beasts of the music industry as a machine that always wants more and more from those involved with it. Financial success always trumps creativity for the machine, a trait Floyd was none too fond of.
18. Run Like Hell
Run Like Hell was first released as part of The Wall but was then released as a single in 1980. It’s the final song that both David Gilmour and Roger Waters wrote together and the last song recorded by the four members of Pink Floyd that stormed the 1970s. Run Like Hell is another song telling the story of Pink, describing a hallucination in which the rock star becomes a fascist dictator and has to run away from an angry mob of concert-goers.
19. High Hopes
The final track of Pink Floyd’s 1994 album The Division Bell, High Hopes was one of Pink Floyd’s last original recordings before their hiatus that ended in 2022. It mainly deals with the way past events can impact the future and the understanding of those things that comes with age, but it speaks to the reflective nature of Pink Floyd as a group at the time and takes them back to the roots of the band’s pre-1970s music.
Mother is a return to the ails of Pink and tells the story of his alienation that came from being raised by an overprotective single mother. The lyrics narrate a conversation between Pink and his Mother (Waters and Gilmour) as she helps Pink build his wall. It also features another incredible Gilmour guitar solo and uses varied time signatures that follow the emotions of the song.
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