Pink Floyd – Ten of the Worst
You generally find Pink Floyd listed among the “All-Time Great Bands”, but even ardent fans would have to admit that not all of the band’s output was stellar. I’d go so far as to say that some of it was downright awful. The band’s experimental nature, coupled with personnel changes, resulted in a back catalogue which is maddeningly inconsistent in terms of quality. In fact, they are about the only band that could have a Worst of compilation that would be as long as their Best of.
Seeing as the band’s albums are now available on Spotify, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of Pink Floyd’s lowest points. I made a chronological Spotify playlist of ten of their worst tracks which can be found here. My explanations/justifications for my choices are below.
N.B. I decided to limit myself to only one track per album (which was sometimes difficult!)
The Gnome (From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967)
Syd Barrett, the original bandleader, specialised in psychedelic songs which were peppered with childhood imagery. Unfortunately, he went too far into whimsy and/or drugs with this ditty about a scarlet tunic-wearing gnome called Grimble Gromble. Incidentally, this song was recorded at roughly the same time as David Bowie’s infamous “The Laughing Gnome”. I wonder if both songs were about the same little fella.
Corporal Clegg (From A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968)
The band’s second album is a transitional record. Barrett was still in the band, in body if not in spirit, so new guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour was brought in. However, it was down to Roger Waters (bass/vocals) and Rick Wright (keyboards/vocals) to take on most of the song-writing duties. But unfortunately they seemed to merely ape Barrett’s musical style. This is the worst of the resulting tracks. It’s a silly song about a serious topic: a soldier who lost a leg in the war. It even features a kazoo, to add insult to Cpl. Clegg’s injury.
A Spanish Piece (From the Soundtrack to the Film More, 1969)
This song is David Gilmour’s first solo writing credit for the band, and what a terrible debut. It’s a minute of cod-Spanish plucking with Gilmour doing an impression of a stereotypical Hispanic person. It might have worked in the context of the film but it’s certainly no good as a song in its own right. I guess it was only included on the album because Gilmour wanted to earn some more royalty payments.
The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party [Entertainment] (From Ummagumma, 1969)
The Ummagumma studio album was a new approach for the band. Each of the four band members was given half a side of an LP for their own solo music. This is a nice idea, until you realise that one of the band members is Nick Mason. He was a less than stellar drummer, but his compositional skills were almost nil. Consequently, his contribution was just the banging of drums while his wife played the flute. Even Waters’ bonkers offering had more going for it than this.
Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (From Atom Heart Mother, 1970)
The final song on Atom Heart Mother consists of a few bits of musical noodling interspersed with the sounds of the eponymous Alan mumbling about breakfast foods. It’s supposed to represent the daydreams you have when you’re half-awake. I think. About halfway through the song, we hear Alan slurping his coffee and chomping Rice Krispies open-mouthed. It’s just as disgusting as it sounds.
Seamus (From Meddle, 1971)
Seamus is often listed as the band’s worst song, and it’s not difficult to hear why. It’s two minutes of cod blues mixed with sound of a dog howling. The fact that this song comes right before the side-long opus “Echoes” makes it seem like even more of a throwaway. They were clearly just trying to pad out the track list.
I’m going to (possibly generously) give the next four albums clean passes as that was the band’s creative peak. And so we move on to…
Empty Spaces (From The Wall, 1979)
There’s about an LP and a bit’s worth of good songs on The Wall, with the rest comprising of tuneless dirges that supposedly advance the “story”. These mostly feature Roger Waters screaming “Ooh babe, don’t leave me!!!” ad nauseam. This particular piece of filler is only interesting because it has a backwards message. When played the right way, it says, “Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message…” Whoopdy doo.
Two Suns in the Sunset (From The Final Cut, 1983)
The Final Cut was a Roger Waters solo album in all but name. Rick Wright had been pushed out of the band, while Mason and Gilmour had been pushed aside. This gave Waters free reign to do what he wanted, which was basically to complain that WWII happened. However, with this final song on the album, Waters looks ahead to World War Three. He sardonically points out that people were at risk of dying in a nuclear war. Tom Lehrer covered this topic with much more wit almost 25 years previously, and he didn’t have to stoop to using saxophone solos.
Dogs of War (From A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987)
From a Roger Waters solo album to one from David Gilmour…
In 1985, Waters left the band, convinced that the remaining members wouldn’t carry on without him. But Gilmour had had other ideas. He brought back Nick Mason (what an asset!) and even hired Rick Wright as a session player, to make it seem like he was on solid legal ground to use the Pink Floyd brand, sorry “band”, name. The resulting album is wretched, but this track is among the weakest. It sounds like something that should be heard over the title sequence of some gawd-awful 80s action movie.
Lost for Words (From The Division Bell, 1994)
The Division Bell is less offensive than the previous studio album, because Rick Wright was fully back on board contributing to the music composition. However, the lyrics are the limiting factor. Gilmour (along with hired-hand hacks) penned lyrics that not-too-subtly reference the band’s squabbling. On this track, he sings about opening the door to his enemies, who subsequently tell him to go fuck himself. Oh, I wonder who he could be talking about…