Gimme Five: Songs where Pink Floyd, well, sucked

Everybody went through a Pink Floyd phase, right? But, the child is grown; the dream is gone. Let’s face it, some of this stuff, well, sucked. So while we still have a deep respect — and I mean that most sincerely — for, say, Dark Side of the Moon, careful adult inspection reveals that even that psych-masterpiece boasts at least one awful clunker.

WHEN GOOD BANDS DO BAD THINGS
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So, have a cigar, as we count down the stuff that didn’t quite make their hall-of-fame resume — the ones where they were tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit … well, you get the idea:

No. 5: “ON THE RUN,” (DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, 1973): Here’s the pitch … switch on the new synthesizer, then record ourselves ascending and descending the stairs. Wow, man. Originally referred to by the band as “The Travel Sequence,” it includes an airport PA announcer intoning: “Have your baggage and passport ready and then follow the green line to customs and immigration.” Instead, this track — repetitive, silly when it was supposed to be spooky — simply gave fans a great opportunity to get up at concerts to “travel” for another beer during this “instrumental.”

No. 4: “ALAN’S PSYCHEDELIC BREAKFAST,” (ATOM HEART MOTHER, 1970): Actually, a three-part conceptual piece. Sounds like a lofty premise right? Except they really meant it: Pink Floyd noodles around while roadie Alan Styles prepares — and then endlessly, endlessly discusses previously consumed — yes, breakfasts. That’s right: “Breakfast in Los Angeles,” Styles mutters, deliriously, “macrobiotic stuff.” Then that echoes around for while — macrobiotic, macrobiotic, zzzzz — as bacon sizzles and milk gets poured. Pancakes without syrup are more interesting.

No. 3: “DOGS OF WAR,” (MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON, 1987): Dogs, again? War, again? The track even switches from 12/8 to 4/4 during the sax solo — just like “Money,” the breakout track from Dark Side. To top it off, David Gilmour is the only member of, you know, Pink Floyd on it. (That’s studio aces Tony Levin on bass and Carmine Appice on drums.) In the run up to this album’s release, departed co-founder Roger Waters took the remaining Floyds to court, asserting that the band shouldn’t continue without him, as it was “a spent force.” Hard to argue when presented with this.

No. 2: “TAKE UP THY STETHOSCOPE AND WALK,” (THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, 1967): Waters shows he can be a completely feckless downer right from the start. On his only writing credit from Pink Floyd’s otherwise delightful and sweetly psychedelic Syd Barrett-dominated debut, Roger descends into a rather shockingly clinical morbidity. Well, it was shocking back then, anyway. Fast forward a few decades, and this track doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who witnessed Waters’ ascension to central creative voice for the band’s mega-hit The Wall. Just goes to show it wasn’t an assumed persona. Roger was always like that.

No. 1: “THE TRIAL,” (THE WALL, 1979): More like a demented Broadway musical number than a rock song, it’s still surprising to double check the liner notes and discover that this is only just over five minutes in length. It seems far, far, far longer than that. OK, here goes — after the album cycle’s central character Pink is charged with showing feelings, there follows a trial in which several figures from his awful past show up to denigrate and taunt him. Bad enough, right? Tack this on: All of these characters — the Abusive Schoolmaster, the Cuckold’s Wife, the Smothering Mother, so on — are performed by Waters (who’s already, to be charitable, an acquired taste as a vocalist) in an increasingly annoying series of accents. Verdict: unlistenable.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS
“What Do You Want From Me” (‘Division Bell,’ 1994): A photocopied blues featuring a photocopied idea about alienation from fans straight out of ‘The Wall’ … “A Pillow of Winds” (‘Meddle,’ 1971): This pillowy song about — wait, what? — love? From Pink Floyd? Meh. … “Sheep” (‘Animals,’ 1977): A lazy rip off of the theme from “Dr. Who.” … “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” (‘Ummagumma,’ 1969): I mean, c’mon, man. … “The Final Cut” (‘The Final Cut,’ 1983): This album started out as leftovers from ‘The Wall,’ and been-there done-that cuts like this one make that painfully obvious — right down to the orchestral motif nicked from “Comfortably Numb.”

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Fordzilla

    Good list! I would only take (slight) issue with On the Run, as it serves as a bridge between Breathe and Time. Otherwise, well done!

  • http://suckmybeatles.com/ das

    Great picks, I never considered Take up Thy Stethoscope, but after listening to it objectively I wholeheartedly agree. Next to Ringo Nick Mason was possibly the world’s most overrated drummer, he plays the way John Entwistle looks.

    He must’ve had a metronome inserted in his ass to keep from falling asleep, it’s the only way to explain it. I guess it takes a certain kind of genius to make a song like ‘Obscured by Clouds’ more boring.

    I love Syd, but for PF to base the rest of their career mooning over him shows an incredible lack of imagination. The Wall would have been a great EP. Seriously, without songs like Another Brick II, Comfortably Numb a few choice others that album would have been as unlistenable as the movie is unwatchable.

    Speaking of Pink Floyd, check out this awesome cover!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj7pDNDuoJ0

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      That video is, somehow, more excruciating than anything on my list, Das. And, if you’ve tried to listen to, say, the breakfast-related disaster referenced above, you know this is no easy task. Wow.

  • http://suckmybeatles.com das

    All the psychedelics in the world won’t prevent the acid reflux that song gives you.

  • mojos

    You forgot arguably the worst PF track ever, San Tropez! As much as I love the Floyd, good Lord I hate that shmaltzy piece of $%$. Seamus deserves a (dis)honourable mention as well.

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      What a throwaway piece of island-inflected piffle “San Tropez” is, right? “Seamus” could have easily made the list, too, if only for the yawling accompaniment — courtesy of an in-studio appearance by a Russian wolfhound named Nobs, which reportedly belonged to the daughter of circus director Joseph Bouglione. Like, wow, man!

  • JBBrockman

    The other minor significance of “On The Run?” It was used for many years as background to introduce the visiting team at the United Center before Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius” played behind the Chicago Bulls.

  • Cray

    I don’t understand this list..on the run serves as a nice bridge between the two songs and without it, Dark Side of the Moon is a little less it’s former self.

    The Trial? Genius, it’s what ties the whole purpose of the Wall together, if you don’t get it, it’s a concept album. For The Trial, if you can’t conceptualize where in your own personal life you’ve faced the same “Trials” where you can’t be yourself or when you are no one understands, so you build this wall, but the wall starts to keep people out you didn’t mean to alienate, and if you tear it down it’s almost too human, too much… Obviously you miss the point, so I don’t agree with two strongly….

    Dogs of War is not as awful as your surmise…it’s not as genuine as the real Pink Floyd lyrically, but the sax solo, the guitar solo and well, musically it’s okay.

    I know nothing of the other two tracks, but I think Sheep could have gone on from Animals, and at least Shine on you Crazy Diamond XII..

    • Jimmy Nelson

      I don’t think anybody has a problem understanding the reason “The Trial” is part of ‘The Wall.’ It’s listening to it that’s the hard part.

  • mejasourus

    Man, I always loved the trial though. It’s my favorite song of theirs because I think it was the perfect ending for the wall, but maybe that’s just me.

    • Perplexio

      I’m with you on “The Trial”, there’s a quirkiness to the song which makes it a delight to listen to.

      Waters odd accents are no more self-indulgent than some of the voices Peter Gabriel would sometimes use when he was in Genesis.

  • realm27

    Sheep…really! it shows this list is a joke. Too bad you don’t understand The Final Cut because even though the album is an obvious extension of The Wall, it’s a potent song. As for some other songs listed, they were also not meant to stand by themselves but as part of a whole.

  • wh

    was with you (sorta) til I saw Sheep. Can’t even agree to disagree there.

    • Ian

      I agree. Sheep is a great track! Also, Dogs of War might not be Floyds best, but it’s not in their 5 worst.

  • Floydian

    uh…fail.
    stethescope and trial are both classics.. i guess you are a critic and it is your job to nit-pick etc. but these picks just show that you are not a Waters fan since all of these are his conceptions (save dogs of war- he wasnt in the band). You are right about Dogs of War (it blows) but that was when the non-Waters bandmembers needed blow money so they recycled old stylings.

    PS
    I bet you dont like Grandchester Meadows or the album More either.

  • Rick Marino

    The Final Cut? How dare you, that song moves me to tears. It’s that good. And Several Species is genius. The way those animal noises were arranged. Try conceiving of a track like that sometime. Best of luck to you.

  • JC Mosquito

    Pink Floyd often moves me to tears. Or a nap.

  • avlisk

    As someone who dates back to Ummagumma with Floyd, “Several Species. . .With A Pict” will always be one of my Floyd favourites. As a Beatles/Stones/Monkees/Herman’s Hermits fan, it was sure eye-opening, mind-expanding, and just plain fun. Still is.

  • http://www.thehardponys.com Lance Eason

    I think a good case can be made for “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and “Several Species of Small, Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict” as two of Floyd’s best songs.

    • Nick DeRiso

      You have the floor, sir. Would love to hear another take. Personally, they drive me to eye-clawing distraction.

  • http://raindog469.livejournal.com raindog469

    Regarding “On the Run”, “Dark Side of the Moon” only has two tracks as far as I’m concerned, side 1 and side 2. To me, saying “On the Run” is skippable is like saying “I Get Up, I Get Down” is skippable on “Close to the Edge”. Step away from the iPod and put on some vinyl, or even any one of the 2,497 different CD pressings of that album. On shuffle, it sucks. In context, it’s a great bridge and one of the last moments where Pink Floyd sounded genuinely experimental… and a perfect example of why music fans who only listen to separated tracks are doing themselves a disservice.

    “The Trial” was actually the song that made me buy The Wall… at age 10. Now, yeah, it seems like a bit of Roger Waters self-love, but he was going for a concept album, and he sure did go all-in. What should he and Ezrin have put there, if not an over-the-top piece of faux-operatic musical theater? “In the Flesh” part 3? “Another Brick part 4″? Nothing whatsoever, just have the album end with a whimper as “Stop” segues straight into “Outside the Wall”?

    Well, I suppose none of that would matter if you’re the sort of person who listens to broken-up pieces of multi-part opuses on shuffle.

    After all these years, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” is actually the most memorable track on Atom Heart Mother for me. I know it wasn’t the first case of close-miked recordings of everyday activities, maybe not even the first by a major-label rock artist, but I have a feeling that the same technique wouldn’t have shown up in Mike Oldfield and Spock’s Beard songs if that track had never been released.

    I dislike Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, so I can’t really comment on those tracks.

    “Dogs of War” is derivative and disposable. It actually reminded me more of “One Of These Days” than “Money”, especially without Money’s 7/8 hook to maintain my interest.

    Moving into the dishonorable mentions and “The Final Cut”, every now and then I remember how great some of the songs were from that album, and then I put it on and am stunned by the thin, soulless production job Waters gave himself. I think the album (and its title track) might benefit from some serious remastering… or more likely, a band that actually cared. I think “Your Possible Pasts” ranks with Waters’ best songwriting, but in the context of the album it just sounds kind of dead, even on headphones, “holophonics” be damned.

    Oh yeah, and with regard to a few of the comments above, “Seamus” is actually my girl’s favorite track on Meddle, followed closely by “San Tropez”. (Mine is “Fearless”, not “Echoes” as seems to be the case with most prog-rock fans.) We both like the wry sense of humor Pink Floyd once had, which got relegated to a droll lyric here or there starting with Dark Side of the Moon.

  • Noble Blues

    I disagree with all of these, except for all of “Final Cut” which is the only CD I don’t have. (didn’t upgrade it from tape). SSOSFAGTIACAGWAP…blew my mind in high school and I still love it, well, once a year maybe…

  • JC Mosquito

    I’m not going to “nit-pick” here at all – here’s a list of 5 songs where Pink Floyd sucked that aren’t even songs – heck, they aren’t even five:

    The Division Bell
    Atom Heart Mother
    Momentary Lapse of Reason
    Pulse
    The Wall
    The Wall (movie)
    The Pros and Cons of Hitchiking

    Hey – with Hitchhiking, they aren’t even all Pink Floyd material. Add Hemispheres by Rush and there’s a complete waste of one day in your life.

    Go ahead ….. musicianship, personal taste, what do critics know? I’d still rather listen to The Stooges 99 times out of 100.

  • Perplexio

    I agree with all of your selections except “The Trial.” As a fan of musicals I dig what Waters not only was trying to do, but actually accomplished with that song.

    It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the Waters ego masturbatory project more commonly referred to as “The Wall.” Perhaps only second toPeter Gabriels ego mastubatory epic, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” in its pretentiousness.