Pink Floyd's 15 greatest songs ever, ranked
27 December 2023, 09:00
Pink Floyd were one of the biggest selling artists in the history of music, clocking up over 250 million record sales worldwide.
Formed all the way back in 1965, within ten years Pink Floyd had become one of the biggest bands in the world.
- 'Another Brick in the Wall' by Pink Floyd: The making of the protest song and unlikely hit single
- Pink Floyd: A timeline of all their feuds and fallouts over the years
- Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon: 10 amazing facts about the classic album
After an unwell Barrett left the group, they moved in a more prog direction under the leadership of Waters and David Gilmour.
Not sure where to begin? We've rounded up 15 of their very best songs from across their career to get you started.
Pink Floyd - Money (Official Music Video)
Few rock bands made as much money as Pink Floyd, so it was inevitable they'd have a few opinions on it ("Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash").
With its odd time signature and those cash register FX, it sticks out as a bolshy hard rocker on the otherwise dazey 1974 classic The Dark Side of the Moon.
A rare single, it was the band's first major US hit, reaching 13 in the Hot 100.
Learning To Fly
Pink Floyd - Learning To Fly (Official Music Video HD)
Pink Floyd survived the departure of their bandleader Syd Barrett after less than two albums, so maybe it was no surprise that they carried on after Roger Waters left the group in 1985.
The first post-Waters album A Momentary Lapse of Reason still splits fans, but this single co-written with Anthony Moore, Bob Ezrin, and Jon Carin was its definite highlight.
Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne (Official Music Video)
Written by Syd Barrett, 'Arnold Layne' was Pink Floyd's first single and a perfect example of the more childlike nursery-rhyme side of psychedelia
It tells the tale of a cross-dresser with a habit of borrowing women's clothes from washing lines, and apparently went on for 10-15 minutes live before being slashed down to under three minutes for the single.
Pink Floyd - Interstellar Overdrive ('Pop 68')
The literal and metaphorical flip of 'Arnold Layne' was 'Interstellar Overdrive', which alongside 'Astronomy Domine' saw Pink Floyd stretch their fingers and limbs for a lengthy psychedelic wig-out.
The whole band shared writing credits for the song, which apparently grew out of a jam that started when early manager Peter Jenner was trying to hum classic garage psyche track Love's 'My Little Red Book'.
Roger Waters' closing track of The Dark Side of the Moon brings together all that came before in a crescendo before fading out with the same heartbeats that opened the album on 'Speak To Me'.
It plays with light and dark, yin and yang, and warns that while "everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon".
See Emily Play
Pink Floyd - See Emily Play
Like 'Arnold Layne', the band's second single was another slice of childlike psyche written and sung by Syd Barrett.
It's apparently about a real person (said to be "the psychedelic schoolgirl" Emily Young), who a drugged up Barrett spotted in the woods.
It went as high as number 6 in the UK singles chart, but failed to chart in the US.
Pink Floyd - High Hopes (Official Music Video HD)
The shining moment of Pink Floyd's second post-Waters album The Division Bell and the one song you can point to if anyone dismisses the band after Roger left.
Written by David Gilmour and Polly Sampson, its sound is propelled by an insistent church bell while its lyrics talk of life and loss.
Pink Floyd - Lucifer Sam (Official Audio)
Maybe the catchiest song on the band's first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, there's plenty of speculation as to who 'Lucifer Sam' is about.
The truth is probably that it was actually Barrett's Siamese cat (the song was originally called 'Percy the Rat Catcher'), who we're sure would have loved the clattering racket of echo and electric guitar.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
An epic in two parts (or nine parts, depending on how you measure it), 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' opened and closed Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here album in 1975.
A tribute to original band leader Syd Barrett ("Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun") things took a turn for the weird when they were mixing the track.
An overweight guy with completely shaved head and eyebrows paid a visit, and it was a while before anyone recognised him... it was a very different-looking Syd to the one who had left the band seven years earlier.
"He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn't really there," said the band's associate Storm Thorgerson.
Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two
Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall, Part Two (Official Music Video)
Maybe the key moment on The Wall (and also in The Wall film), 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two' is the ultimate rebel schoolboy anthem ("We don't need no education/ We don't need no thought control").
After their move into album-focused rock towards the end of the '60s the band hadn't released a single in the UK since the standalone 'Point Me at the Sky'.
They made an exception for 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two', with its fusion of prog and disco earning over four million sales and a number one spot in the UK, US and elsewhere.
Roger wasn't too keen on letting Instagram use it on an advert, though.
The Great Gig in the Sky
The Great Gig In The Sky
Guest vocalist Clare Torry inmprovised and performed the virtuoso word-free lyrics on 'The Great Gig in the Sky', which grew out of a Richard Wright instrumental that the band had been playing live with various spoken word bits over the top, including NASA astronauts, bible quotes, and Malcolm Muggeridge.
Suggested for the job by engineer Alan Parsons, Clare powered through two and a half takes and was paid just £30 for her troubles, under the impression it probably wouldn't make the cut anyway.
Clare eventually got some overdue credit for writing the vocals in a 2005 settlement, and we can all agree that she more than deserves it.
Music by David Gilmour, words by Roger Waters, 'Comfortably Numb' was an indisputable highlight of the band's 1979 concept album The Wall.
Waters based the lyrics on being dosed up on painkillers for stomach cramps before a 1977 show. The two bickered on the arrangement, with Waters getting his way on the verses and Gilmour having free rein over the second, closing solo.
Breathe (In The Air)
David Gilmour and Richard Wright wrote the music and Roger Waters wrote the words for the slow-paced, layered bluesy, woozy, expansive 'Breathe'.
Segueing out of heartbeat opener 'Speak To Me', it beautifully sets the tone for The Dark Side of the Moon's exploration of innerspace.
The closer of 1971's Meddle, 'Echoes' is a 23-minute plus EPIC written by Roger Waters, Richard Wright, David Gilmour and Nick Mason (all of the post-Syd band).
A heady mix of instrumental improvisation, sound effects and experimentation, it grew out of a chord progression by Wright and lyrics from Waters, and maybe is the single best summary of all that Pink Floyd were.
Apparently it nearly had the much less elegant and evocative title 'We Won The Double', in celebration of Arsenal's 1st Division/FA Cup win of 1971.
Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here
Given how many of Pink Floyd's greatest moments are soaked in wonderfully overblown excess, it's striking how understated their very best song actually is, driven by 12-string acoustic guitar.
The title track of 1975's Wish You Were Here saw Roger Waters and David Gilmour collaborate on the writing and Dave take lead vocals for a beautiful, tender positively heartbreaking song.
Waters apparently wrote the lyrics about himself, but Gilmour admitted that he always thought of Syd when singing it.