PINK FLOYD Singles Reviewed

Pink Floyd

Arnold Layne (1967)

Listening to one of my favourite psychedelic-era albums, I often wonder why ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ never featured some of Pink Floyd’ earliest gems. These including ‘See Emily Play’ and this, ‘Arnold Layne’, it seems counterintuitive that the band would leave off some of their catchiest and most charming early work from their official debut. In any case, Pink Floyd’s early psychedelic pop is undeniably charming and fun. When Syd Barrett was in charge of the band’s direction, they were a fairly different entity than the one they would become when David Gilmour joined the band. ‘Arnold Layne’ is a fun, three minute psychedelic relic that feels like a concise acid trip piled into a few short minutes. Although being very short, the song is very memorable, and not a second is wasted on filler. Unfortunately, the b-side for this single is not nearly as memorable.

‘Arnold Layne’ tells the story of a man with a ‘strange hobby’- as to what that hobby is, may the listener venture to find out. Syd Barrett is the leading man here, and his quirk is what drives the song; the melodies here are strong and doused with psychedelic effects, most notably some vintage keyboard work from Richard Wright. Although it is perhaps not as great a song as ‘See Emily Play’, its charm makes the short journey more than worthwhile. To the single’s misfortune, the b-side ‘Candy And A Currant Bun’ simply does not have the same level of strength to it, instead feeling like a loose attempt at a psychedelic pop song that truly lacks the melodic tact that ‘Arnold Layne’ did. That being said, this single is still a successful venture if even only for the first track.

See Emily Play (1967)

On this Single EP, we’re given a taste of one of Pink Floyd’s earliest singles, and a rather mediocre song from ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.’ Clocking in at only 5 or so minutes, it shouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s purchasing lists, but it’s a nice collector’s item to own. This deserves three stars however, because ‘See Emily Play’ is one of the best songs written by Syd Barrett, who was (in his own right) a genius of musical innovation. It’s a real shame this song (as well as the other single ‘Arnold Layne) were not included in the actual album; they would have made a great album even better. But because that never happened, we’re left with this Single, which as far as singles go, is very good, and a convincing mix of psychedelia and proto-prog. Technically, it is only for Fans and Collectors, but I’m sure alot more then simply fans could enjoy this little slice of early Floyd.

Apples and Oranges (1967)

The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long… Or in the case of Syd Barrett, only a couple of years. Although the first two singles ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’ were soaked in psychedelic charm and classic appeal, Syd Barrett’s genius was soon to be toppled with the burden of stardom, and before long, he was recoiling and taking the drug use past the point of no return. In this sense, ‘Apples And Oranges’ is a fairly representative single for the man’s mindset at this point in the game; scattered, noisy, and uninspired. Without the same passion for the band he originally had, one can really hear Barrett beginning to slip with this one. Luckily, there is a catchy b-side to listen to on this single. Otherwise, this would be an even greater fall for the early Pink Floyd.

‘Apples And Oranges’ is a bland piece of psychedelic pop that reaks Barrett’s general disinterest towards the music. Even in the performance, his voice sounds dull and strained, and the guitar playing almost sounds as if it is intentionally sloppy. In any case, it is a fairly short track that never really builds up a degree of catchiness to it, and instead, the only real quality to speak of here is in the unlikely b-side ‘Paintbox’, led by Pink Floyd’s keyboardist Richard Wright. In one of the rare cases where he sings, it is shown that he actually has a very nice voice, and it would have been nice to have heard him on more of Floyd’s material. ‘Paintbox’ is a more down to earth and folky track that stays pretty light on the ears. Although not excellent, it is indeed very good and worth a few repeated listens, much unlike the first song here.

Very disappointing single overall. Thankfully, ‘Paintbox’ is here to save the day somewhat.

It Would Be So Nice (1968)

‘It Would Be So Nice’ is a single that was essentially disowned by almost all members of Pink Floyd. Described by Nick Mason as ‘f*cking awful’, the single was not very successful, and especially with the problems facing the frontman Syd Barrett, things were fairly dark for PInk Floyd at this time. However, despite the band hating this track, this is quite a pleasant track, paired with a decent b-side. Penned by keyboardist Richard Wright, ‘It Would Be So Nice’ feels closer to being a Beatles track rather than Floyd, featuring some vaudevillian pianos and nice vocal harmonies. Moreover, the lyrics are close to the sort of whimsical approach the Beatles had at this time; making the mundane seem magical. With lyrics even just about things like reading the newspaper, it is a surprisingly charming song, sounding almost as if Syd Barrett wrote it rather than Wright. That being said, the vocal harmonies and arrangement can get a little too overwhelming and make the sound fuzzy.

The other track here ‘Julia Dream’ is a rather melancholic and sad-sounding tune, taking a much more sombre approach than most other material heard on the early Floyd singles. Relying mostly on some soft vocals with keyboard and acoustics, it is fairly simple and much less complex than the single here. As well, it is not nearly as memorable, generally taking one approach and sticking with it throughout the song. The b-side here is nothing special, but ‘It Would Be So Nice’ is a very nice track from the Pink Floyd, even if they may tend to disagree.

Point Me at the Sky (1968)

Now with Syd Barrett gone, enter David Gilmour, who would lead the band to far greater commercial and critical success. However, while Gilmour’s entry into the band opened plenty of new doors for Pink Floyd, it certainly does not show in this single. ‘Point Me At The Sky’ is a fairly obscure Floyd track, appearing only here on any non-compilation release. Although the spacey ambiance of the band is still here, the songwriting has taken a dive from the early Barrett-led singles. But without divulging into favouritism towards Barrett or Gilmour, ‘Point Me At The Sky’ is a fairly underwhelming track. Although there is some nice futuristic potential here, the track does not feel as if it goes anywhere, save for a rather lame chorus that feels wholly out of place in the scheme of the track. However, the lyrics are somewhat interesting, offering an apparently bleak vision of the near future (read: our present day). But especially in the context of being a single, ‘Point Me At The Sky’ is fairly lackluster.

The highlight of this single is the psychedelic b-side ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’, which is a classic track of the band’s early career. It doesn’t seem to fit well on a singles release, but even only being five minutes in length, it really works well as a jam, building up gradually before letting all hell loose. Listening to this track, one can really see where more modern bands like The Mars Volta got their sound from. However, while ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’ is very good, it doesn’t change the fact that the main point of this single (being the title track) is quite weak and not worthy of being a single.

The Nile Song (1969)

Taken from the ‘More’ album, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Nile Song’ is the single to that somewhat lukewarm album. One of the more harder edged Floyd tracks out there, I first heard it covered by the thrash metal band Voivod. Hearing the original finally, it is clear that the heaviness was instilled in the track; it is certainly a far cry from the psych pop cheer the dominated the Floyd’s sound even a couple of years before. Alas, the songwriting here is not nearly as poignant as I am used to hearing from Pink Floyd, and along with a b-side that sounds virtually like a weak replica of the single, it’s difficult to consider ‘The Nile Song’ a successful single from the band.

The song doesn’t really have a memorable quality about it to my ears, standing out from other Floyd songs only because the band cranks up their guitars and gets a bit more aggressive than usual with the sound. The melodies have a couple of flourishes that are nice, but even after a couple of listens, most of the ideas don’t seem to stick. This is the same to a much greater degree with the b-side ‘Ibiza Bar’, which is not so much an unpleasant track to hear as much as it is a completely unnecessary one, sounding virtually identical to ‘The Nile Song’; the melodies, hard rock riffs, and song structure even.

One of These Days (1971)

Here is a single from Pink Floyd’s album ‘Meddle’, which has become something of a fan favourite. Although ‘Meddle’ is relatively obscure when compared to the big Floyd classics like ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and ‘Animals’, it is still a very good album for space rock, and the single ‘One Of These Days’ is quite indicative of this. The two songs here each take a fairly different approach, but their quality remains generally consistent. The first track here ‘One Of These Days’ is certainly not the sort of track I would first think works as a single, but it does give the listener a good idea of what ‘Meddle’ is all about. It has a distinctly Floydian vibe to it, and works almost like a jam moreso than a song. In any case, it is a well composed piece and is fairly charming, although it may lack the emotional dynamic that my favourite songs by this band have. Secondly is the track ‘Fearless’, which is much more song-based than the first song here, and instantly reminds me of Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’. Following a space rock tune, it seems strange to pair it with what I would best describe as delta blues rock, but it works well, and Pink Floyd gives the style their own unique voice.

Money (1973)

Before even getting into the single itself, let me say that while it might not be my personally most enjoyed album, I consider it to be one of the few ‘perfect’ albums ever made. Unlike alot of albums that have effects in them that are generally hit-and-miss, everything in ‘Dark Side’ sounded like it fit in exactly the way that Waters, Gilmour and company wanted it to. Keeping that in mind, it should be no suprise I’m a fan of the hit single it spawned.

‘Money’ is a song that’s since become a trademark of it’s own. It also stands out to me as being the one song in ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ that seemed to break the really chilled, spacy atmosphere of the album. Compared to the rest of it, ‘Money’ is pretty bloody intense. Distorted guitars, a bluesy solo, and a saxophone section that would tear strips of paint off a wall are all here. That, added with one of the most memorable introductions in music history (the cash register chimes) and some intelligent, satirical lyrics make one of the best songs in Floyds’ career, and one of the highlights of the album.

The second sampling here ‘Any Colour You Like’ on the other hand, is one of the most spacy tracks on the record. It is essentially Rick Wright’s (keyboardist) time to shine, and he tears up the keyboard with an amazing solo.

Pretty much, an excellent sampling of an absolutely superb album. I would say get this without a doubt, but the album has so much more great music and a flow that could make an infant weep.

Time (1973)

Here’s another ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ sampler. Unlike the ‘Money’ single however, these are edits, which really seems to detract from the overall mix. However, that does mean that in a sense, it’s an original experience here that you can’t necessarily experience on the album. In any case though, here are two great, spacy songs from an absolutely fantastic album.

‘Time’ has to be one of the highlights of ‘Dark Side’ for me, maybe excluding the mind-blowing track ‘Brain Damage.’ As an edit here, you won’t get the same feeling the whole 7 minutes was able to give, but whatever. Alan Parsons did a fantastic job at complimenting the performance with his production chops here, and it’s a great song.

‘Us And Them’ is probably the most chilled song on the whole record. It’s basically ‘Dark Side’s version of a ballad, or something along those lines… It’s basically a spaced out jazzy song with alot of dramatic peaks and fantastic sax work, as always. As an edit once again however, it detracts from the overall feeling and you don’t get the near-hypnotic feeling you do when listening to the album version.

If you haven’t (and I’m sure you have,) give these tracks a listen, by all means. Preferably in their full form, but this is still great, beautiful music here.

Have a Cigar (1975)

Out of Pink Floyd’s ‘masterpieces,’ I would have to say ‘Wish You Were Here’ is the one I like the least. I still find it quite enjoyable and better than most albums you’re going to find out there, but it just seemed a bit too inconsequential for it’s own good. The two ‘epic’ length tracks where definately the highlights, and the three songs in between had mixed reactions from me. I really like the title track, ‘Welcome To The Machine’ is decent with it’s vocal harmonies, and ‘Have A Cigar’ is decent too, but not a real favourite.

Here we get ‘Have A Cigar’ in all of it’s glory and a significantly shortened version of ‘Shine On’ which essentially takes out most of the jamming, which was the highlight of the track. ‘Have A Cigar’ is a good track when you take into account the commentary it is having on the music industry itself, and ‘Shine On’ is still an enjoyable trip, but I would rather listen to these on the album itself.

Comfortably Numb (1979)

As with all singles, radio edits don’t do much for me, especially when my local classic rock station is happy to play the thing in all seven minutes of it’s glory. ‘Comfortably Numb’ is one of my favourite tracks, and has my favourite guitar solo of all time in it. Suffice to say, the fact that this single revolves around that does it good.

‘Hey You’ is also a superb acoustic track and a fair b-side to compliment the other song. Both of these songs are melancholic, and seem to represent the emotional headspace that ‘The Wall’ generally dwells in for the majority of it’s playtime.

‘The Wall’ is a great album, and here are two great songs off of it, even though an originally perfect song was cut in half. Simply put.

Another Brick in the Wall (1979)

It’s no suprise that Pink Floyd decided to put this track as a single. It’s basically their best known song and on top of that, it’s pretty catchy and memorable at that. Essentially the protest against society from a student’s point of view, it captures the sense of teenage/adolescent melancholy very well.

The second track here; ‘One Of My Turns’ was one of the tracks on the album that wasn’t given much attention overall by the media/band/anyone but it’s probably the most effective song (tied with ‘Brain Damage’) in terms of capturing feelings of insanity that Pink Floyd ever did. I like it alot, and it’s one of the more narrative tracks on the album.

‘Another Brick’ is not the best offering from the Wall, but it’s a good track nontheless, and essential listening for the pop music listener.

Run Like Hell (1980)

‘Run Like Hell’ one of the best riffs and some of the most memorable guitar work in all of Floyd’s career. The song basically revolves around the protagonist of the rock opera’s ‘fascist coup’ taking hold, and his equivalent of ‘Crystallnacht.’ In any case, there’s alot of anger in the song as you can imagine, and while the vocals and accompanying melody seem a bit strained and could have had a bit of work, it’s a powerful song that gets the job done.

‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ is basically an empty track, and never really stood out to me. To this point, I suppose it acheives what it was meant to do (the protagonist feels empty and helpless at this point) but it doesn’t do much for me musically. I definately wouldn’t buy a single just to listen to this. With ‘Run Like Hell’ however, the single becomes worth a look, as ‘Run Like Hell’ is one of the better songs off of ‘The Wall.’

When the Tigers Broke Free (1982)

Although it would later be heard on the controversial record ‘The Final Cut’, Pink Floyd’s song ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’ was originally heard on the film ‘The Wall’. One of the few tracks that was not from the album of the same name, one of the highlights from ‘The Wall’ for me was the particularly emotional and poignant scene where the boy looks through his dead father’s old war gear. The song fit perfectly into the scene, and it is just as moving on the record alone. A Waters-driven piece, ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’ is a story told through a film score- style orchestra, and although it is incredibly brief, it leaves a longer lasting impression on me than most of the band’s other work.

Without blandly summarizing the lyrics of the song, ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’ details a narrator lamenting and reminiscing over his father, who died defending against a tank advance in the Second World War, as well as the very impersonal way that the powers-that-be dealt with the casualty. Although there are plenty of anti-war songs out there, telling it from the perspective of someone losing a loved one to the war makes it somehow even more moving, as well as the deeply melancholic way Rogers has chosen to tell the story through the lyrics. Musically, the song is based around a single melodic idea that gently gets built upon, with some sombre choral arrangements humming in the background. Rogers’ voice is not nearly as technically precise as the rest of the sound, but the emotion depth is there in full, making things feel absolutely devastating once the orchestral flourishes kick in. The b-side to this single is not nearly as powerful, instead being a reprise of what has been heard on ‘The Wall’ album. However, ‘Bring The Boys Back Home’ does mesh well with ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’, due to the fact that they share the same orchestral sound and lyrical themes.

Suffice to say, this is one of the most emotional songs Pink Floyd has ever done.

Not Now John / The Hero’s Return (Part 2) (1983)

Of perhaps all of the Pink Floyd singles, this has been the least effective of them all. While Floyd’s follow-up to ‘The Wall’ was controversial and polarizing enough among the fanbase, it is hard to think that this single would have lightened the load at all. ‘Not Now John’ is a musically uninspired track that may be noteworthy only for its use of expletives again and again throughout the piece. With Waters and Gilmour sharing vocal duties, one can even hear the sense of tension between the two of them as they switch off throughout the tedious and uneventful track. Although things are fairly well-arranged as is par for Floyd’s work, it does feel as if the gospel choirs and soulful guitar solos are being used to cover up what is otherwise a fairly bland and boring piece of songwriting. ‘The Hero’s Return’ is not much better here, being a more acoustic-based Roger Waters track that is pleasant enough and surely better in the context of the album, but here, it doesn’t work well at all. One only wonders why they would have chosen this as a single to represent their album.

Learning to Fly (1987)

From the album ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Learning To Fly’ was a fairly big song on the radio around the late eighties. Although not even comparing to the sort of quality the band had achieved earlier on their career, ‘Learning To Fly’ is a fairly good song doused in eighties sampled beats and a repetitive, catchy guitar lick that goes on throughout the track. Due to the fact that Floyd had not been functioning together as a unit for quite some time by this point, ‘Learning To Fly’ feels more like a David Gilmour solo piece than a band track, but especially when compared to the lows that many other classic progressive rock giants had fallen over the course of this decade, it’s this much we can settle for.

Very true to the song title, ‘Learning To Fly’ has a sense of floating throughout, soaring over an open plain. This feeling comes across through the light synths and uplifting nature of the song; there’s nothing here that could be considered melancholic or sad in nature. Instead, the song feels like an affirmation in music. For the singles promo release on which this song came on alone, there are two versions; an LP version and radio edit, but they are fairly similar, so there is little point in comparing the two. Truly, the best thing that this song has going for it is the ongoing instrumental idea that cycles onward through most of the song, going from some tinny beats to a higher register guitar lick that is instantly memorable and enjoyable to hear. Unfortunately, the vocal melodies do not feel quite as powerful, and the way the song progresses is a bit disappointing, only sticking to one main idea throughout the entire track.

A pleasant enough song for David Gilmour, but I can’t say this compares to any of the band’s best material.

On the Turning Away (1987)

‘On The Turning Away’ is a single from Pink Floyd’s album ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’. With the band now dominated by the mellow voice and guitar tones of David Gilmour, it is arguable that the band had now become an extension of Floyd’s guitarist’s solo career. With that in mind- like most of Floyd’s other material from this album- this song feels very much like a David Gilmour solo tune. It makes ample use of gospel choirs, is driven by Gilmour’s distinctive and soaring voice, and leaves enough room for him to strut his bluesy guitar solos. Alas, as a result of David being the only one with real creative control at this point, the song feels somewhat one sided and lacks the dynamic that defined Floyd’s best work. All the same, it is an uplifting tune that almost feels like a gospel affirmation, with no little credit going to the choir for that association. Although not necessarily catchy or even entirely intelligent a song, it is uplifting, and the emotional effect is more or less intact. All the same, it’s not one of the band’s better tracks.

Capping off the ‘On The Turning Away’ single is a live rendition of the famous song ‘Run Like Hell’, which is defined by its very distinctive guitar tone. Like usual, Pink Floyd does a very good job with the live performance, but especially due to the fact that there are so many other live recordings of this song available in the band’s discography, it would be hard to recommend checking out this single for the b-side alone. Overall, a fairly decent single, but nothing special from a band that has seen much better days.

One Slip (1988)

As with much of the other material on ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’, the ‘One Slip’ single emphasizes David Gilmour’s fascination with blues and soul music., Although retaining some sounds in progressive and space rock, the sound goes down a much more predictable direction than the more complex earlier material. Be that as it may, the song here is still quite good, and while not as melodic as the other single ‘On The Turning Away’, it is more intelligent in its composition, with more choral vocals and a rhythm that sounds very indicative of world fusion. All of this makes for a decent song, but at the same time, the bouncy 80′s nature of the track is lost on me when it comes to emotional impact. As with the rest of the album, ‘One Slip’ may be enjoyable enough for what it is, but it doesn’t come close to comparing with the material of Pink Floyd when they were still a band with Roger Waters. Coming on the b-side here is a live performance of ‘The Dogs Of War’, which is a fairly sombre piece, and while it isn’t exactly memorable, there’s an intriguing atmosphere here, as well as some nice opportunities for Gilmour to work his soloing magic. Overall, not a great single, but it will certainly spark the interest of David Gilmour fans.

High Hopes / Keep Talking (1994)

After a several year hiatus, Pink Floyd returned with ‘The Division Bell’, and these two songs on the ‘High Hopes’ single are a sign that there is still fuel left in the band. ‘High Hopes’ is one of the best songs I have heard from the band’s later career and paired with ‘Keep Talking’, this has been one of the first successful singles the band had released since ‘The Wall’ came out a decade and a half before. ‘High Hopes’ is a slower paced track that keeps a steady beat to it, with bells ringing in the background for some added effect. The pianos in this song are more profound than they usually are, which compliment Gilmour’s particularly good vocal performance here. Suffice to say, ‘High Hopes’ is one of the best Floyd tracks I have heard in quite a while.

‘Keep Talking’ is a spacey track that is reminiscent of some of their earlier stuff, with the soothing vocals of David Gilmour soaring overtop. There is a philosophical, brooding and introspective feeling to the song that really works well for it. Moreover, the gospel vocals that Gilmour became so endeared to on this and the past album ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’ come into heavy play, providing a nice hook in the song. Not nearly as good as ‘High Hopes’, but still a very memorable track. This single may have been the best that Pink Floyd released, but the fact that the songs here were released as radio edits doesn’t lend well to the enjoyment. Instead, the true impact lies in listening to ‘The Division Bell’.

Take It Back (1994)

Here is another single from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Division Bell’, an album that is close to the hearts of quite a few fans of the group. The first single from the album was ‘High Hopes’, which has since become one of my favourite songs from the band, and while this song is still good, it unfortunately does not amount to the same grandeur that the first did. ‘Take It Back’ is a song that is dominated by David Gilmour, featuring his distinctive vocal style and guitar tones that feel as if they were snatched from ‘The Wall’. There are some strong melodies here however, and as always, warm arrangements, coming in the form of nice vocal harmonies and guitar flourishes that flutter in the background. ‘Take It Back’ is featured here twice, once in the full album form, and a second time in the radio edition. Of course, soemone looking for a more fulfilled listen will probably not pay the radio edit a second visit, but there is also a nice live version of the old track ‘Astronomy Domine’ here, which is nice to hear Gilmour singing a track originally done by Syd Barrett. A nice single!

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