Set the controls for the heart of every Pink Floyd fan: We’re celebrating Roger Waters’ highly anticipated return with a week of Floydian features that will make you wish you were here forever. Today, Justin Gerber handpicks the best Pink Floyd deep cuts.
It’s difficult to determine what a “deep cut” is when it comes to Pink Floyd. While casual fans are familiar with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, there is little outside of those two albums that they can pull from upon questioning (and I demand answers). Die-hard fans are familiar with everything the band have ever released. To find a good median, here’s how we began to break it down:
01. Eliminated any singles the band released over their 50-plus-year run.
02. Eliminated any tracks from Dark Side, The Wall, or any release between.
That left us with a healthy number of albums and B-sides to pull from. We wanted to bridge the gap between the deep cuts that are often left out in casual conversation and those left out on random Floyd message boards. A rigorous effort was made to collect tracks from across the decades (I nearly broke my back!). We wanted to explain why the selected tracks were not only worthy of inclusion, but how in some cases they best captured the band in a specific moment of their history.
If you don’t know Pink Floyd, here are some good deep cuts to investigate. If you know them quite well, enjoy the reminiscing. Shine on…
Found On: A Saucerful of Secrets (Track 8)
Before sessions for Saucerful began, the original Floyd frontman’s mental health deteriorated to such an extent that his bandmates called in reinforcements. They came in the form of guitarist/singer David Gilmour, which briefly made the band a quintet. It wouldn’t last. Barrett’s last contribution is a song symbolic of what he was to the Floyd: playful and off-center with a darkness beneath. “Jugband” begins with mockery towards the group (“It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here/ And I’m much obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here) before briefly transforming into a ‘60s pastiche of a pop song, but most importantly it concludes with two questions that come off eerily sincere: “And what exactly is a dream?/ And what exactly is a joke?” After Saucerful, Barrett was no longer a member of Pink Floyd, but he continued to haunt/inspire its members in the decades that followed.
MORE THAN “SPACE ROCK”
“Green Is the Colour”
Found On: More OST (Track 5)
Floyd often gets tossed into the purely psychedelic forum of classic rock and roll, and while their wardrobe and early years back up this reasoning, there was always a gentleness to the band. Look no further than an early showcase for the team of Gilmour/Waters, with the former’s high tenor conveying the latter’s lyrics. There is no science fiction to be found in “Green”. It’s a love letter to Ibiza (the “she” of the piece), the island setting of the Barbet Schroeder film for which it was composed. The imagery is gorgeous (“Heavy hung the canopy of blue/ Shade my eyes and I can see you”) and has just enough pessimism to remind you where this is all coming from (“Envy is the bond between the hopeful and the damned”). Floyd’s acoustic tracks are just as memorable as their raucous guitar solos and extended jams.
THE WRIGHT STUFF
Found On: Atom Heart Mother (Track 3)
In the post-Barrett aftermath of Floyd, the band was still searching for an identity. Before Waters took the reins circa-Meddle, the songwriting was much more spread out. While keyboardist-singer Richard Wright had a greater presence on Saucerful with “Remember a Day” and “See-Saw”, his finest moment as a singer-songwriter is a track that mainstream audiences have likely never heard. “Summer ‘68” bounces along on piano and occasional “Penny Lane”-esque brass as Wright recounts the experience of waking up next to a groupie. With the droll lines “We say goodbye before we’ve said hello,” “We met just six hours ago/ The music was too loud,” and “Have you time before you leave to greet another man,” it’s too bad we didn’t get more Wright lyricism in the years that followed than we did. “Summer ‘68” is a rare gem.
THE FOOL WHO WEARS THE CROWN
Found On: Meddle (Track 3)
Although it’s finally gained some recognition thanks to Everybody Wants Some!!! and recent Waters live performances, I feel safe labeling “Fearless” as a deep cut. The track propels towards the top of the little-known nuggets thanks to its ascending guitar line, soccer-chant climax, and, of course, those pointed lyrics via Mr. Waters. While future albums are ripe with overt references to the specifically shamed, “Fearless” is an example of fill-in-the-blank ridicule and call for action that is timeless. A condemnation (“And who’s the fool who wears the crown?”) is followed by a push to “Go down in your own way/ And every day is the right day/ And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow/ You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd.” A crowd of thousands recites the lyrics to “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and we’re saved for a few minutes. Truly words to live by.
THE LIGHT SIDE OF THE MOON
“Wot’s…Uh the Deal?”
Found On: Obscured by Clouds OST (Track 5)
The temptation to cheat and include the entirety of Floyd’s soundtrack to a second Schroeder film was mighty, dear friends. Picking one track off of this underrated record was tough, but here we are with a precursor to a Jerry Seinfeld bit. “Wot’s…Uh the Deal?” was written and recorded (along with the other Obscured tracks) during the Dark Side sessions, and the mood of that record creeps in here and there. “Wot’s…” is what the band sounds like as a truly unified group of people. Mason provides the simple beat, Wright’s lovely piano gets showcased in between verses, and then there are delicate Gilmour vocals and lazy electric in the outro and those inescapable Waters lyrics. There are some biblical allusions, but it mostly deals with the unbeatable race against time, a major theme on the masterpiece to come. How quickly we go from “Cause there’s a chill wind blowing in my soul/ And I think I’m growing old” to “Cause there’s no wind left in my soul/ And I’ve grown old.”
Chin up, gang!
GREATNESS FINDS A WAY
“When the Tigers Broke Free”
Found On: The Final Cut 2004 re-release (Track 4)
Several songs were demoed during The Wall sessions that were flat-out rejected by Waters’ bandmates, and one such track was “Tigers”. However, that track did make its way into Alan Parker’s Wall film adaptation. It’s the most personal track Waters has ever recorded, and it’s the first song you hear in the movie (LOL). There isn’t another member of Floyd to be heard, with Waters accompanied by a male voice choir and the late genius Michael Kamen conducting the pit. Waters sings of the Anzio Campaign from World War II, and with escalating venom he spits out the final verse: “It was dark all around, there was frost in the ground/ When the Tigers broke free/ And no one survived/ From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z/ They were all left behind/ Most of them dead, the rest of them dying/ And that’s how the High Command/ Took my daddy from me.” Music abruptly cuts off. Goosebumps. Decades later, the track was added for a re-issue of The Final Cut. Fits like a brown, leather military glove.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS
“What Shall We Do Now?”
Found On: Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81 (Disc 1, Track 10)
While “Tigers” was deemed too personal for inclusion on The Wall, “What Shall We Do Now?” was all set and ready to go before technical limitations caused its last-second dismissal. You can blame vinyl for that, but you can thank the band for introducing it during their live Wall shows as well as the ’82 film adaptation. It’s one of the most aggressive songs from the era, and that’s saying something. Idle hands are the devil’s playground, as Waters captures perfectly in his lyrics: “Shall we work straight through the night?/ Shall we get into fights?/ Leave the lights on?/ Drop bombs?/ Do tours of the East?/ Contract diseases?” This builds towards a harmonious climax before delivering us upon the sinful “Young Lust” live. I’ll start the rumor that the “Worthless” segment in 1987’s The Brave Little Toaster took inspiration from the “What Shall We Do Now?” animated sequence in The Wall film. Go crazy on IMDb!
TAKE HEED OF THE FINAL CUT
“The Gunner’s Dream”
Found On: The Final Cut (Track Five, Track Six 2004 re-release)
For many, The Final Cut is the final Floyd record they recognize. There are no less than four other examples, but that’s for another time. Waters’ “requiem for the post-war dream” is best represented within the hallowed halls and fading skies of “The Gunner’s Dream”. The track begins with a plane explosion, and suddenly we are thrust into the consciousness of a parachuting trooper. He foresees his death, his funeral, and the family in attendance. He has hopes for a peaceful future. The song ends with Waters reclaiming his voice and singing, “In the corner of some foreign field/ The gunner sleeps tonight/ What’s done is done/ We cannot just write off his final scene/ Take heed of his dream/ Take heed…” The Final Cut may be a solo album all but in name, but it is an underrated masterpiece. “The Gunner’s Dream” remains one of the finest moments under the label “Pink Floyd.”
LOVE AND HATE
Found On: The Division Bell (Track 3)
The Gilmour-era has its peaks and valleys (be kind), but at least he was wise enough to reach for outside help in regards to lyrics. His wife, photographer Polly Samson, is credited on 7 of Division Bell’s 11 tracks. She also laid down the bombshell that the first verse in “Poles Apart” is for Syd Barrett (“You were always the golden boy then/ And that you’d never lose that light in your eyes) while the second is for Waters (“Hey you/ Did you ever realize what you’d become? And did you see/ That it wasn’t only me you were running from?”). Sometimes it takes a special someone to find the words for you. It’s as though Gilmour was at a (puts on sunglasses) loss for words (scream “yeah”). Oh, and the song ends with his 394th great guitar solo. Of course.
Found On: The Endless River (Track 12)
The Endless River is more tribute record than proper studio album. More a collection of old demos than a tracklist of new songs. Regardless, there are some good finds hidden among the fairly disposable one-offs and extended jams. One such find is “Autumn ‘68”, which features a recording of the late Richard Wright from the late ‘60s. We get to hear Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall’s pipe organ one night before a gig. Atop the spontaneous organ playing is a modern-day recording of Gilmour playing his Fender, calling out in a mournful solo. The combination of old and new reminds us of both how long Pink Floyd were together and how long they’ve been apart.
Pink Floyd is dead.
Long live Pink Floyd.