10 Druggiest Pink Floyd Songs
Pink Floyd have ruled the mind-bending psychedelic drug-rock movement since the ’60s, though some fans might argue the band got way less druggy when one-time leader Syd Barrett, the Acid King himself, took his leave in 1968. True, Barrett gifted fans with some of the most monumentally whacked-out and weird songs of all time, but in his absence, guitar god and co-frontman David Gilmour, stepped up, plugged in and did a decent fill-in job. After Barrett went the way of the zonked -- he famously became a recluse and died in 2006 -- the Floyd soldiered on, adapting to the drug cultures of the ’70s (largely white powder) and ’80s (mountains of white powder). Certainly not as trippy as the early stuff, the band's latter-day druggy tunes were pharmaceutical-grade anthems, and some make our list of the 10 druggiest Pink Floyd songs.
From the fantastically psychedelic ‘Animals’ album (1977), there are, in fact, two pig parts -- Part One and Part Two. It’s a strummed acoustic guitar tune in the vein of ‘Mother’ from ‘The Wall’ (still two years away), and it'ss a hard nut to crack -- though it’s been noted that the song is about singer/songwriter Roger Waters’ love for a woman. But what man would write a love song about a woman and have the word "pig" in the title? We’d like to think it’s about an airplane trip -- one in which Bill Shatner looks out and sees a giant, pink, smelly pig on the wing and it drives him insane.
Say what you want about what the actual song is about -- the act of being "comfortably numb" sounds to us like the last time we smoked a little too much of that silly white cigarette and just sat on a couch staring into space for an hour. There was this visible haze in front of our eyes, and our brain just seemed to shut off. From the 1979 dystopian dreamscape ‘The Wall,’ ‘Numb’ creates the same feeling, and you don't even need rolling papers or a lighter. Roger Waters’ echoed verses, David Gilmour’s commanding choruses and that next-to-perfect guitar solo take the idea of being "high" on music to the Nth degree.
A Syd Barrett-era masterpiece from the Floyd’s debut album, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,' 'Lucifer Sam’ tells the story of this "cat" that does a bunch of weird things Mr. Barrett finds wonky. ("That cat’s something I can’t explain.") We've always taken cat to mean the same thing as "dude," but you might also imagine the song being about an actual feline staring at you from across the room, wigging you out with its kaleidoscopic eyes.
Just the song title alone should tell you what you’re dealing with on this track from 1973’s mega-selling ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Apparently about Barrett -- at least to some degree -- 'Brain Damage' isn't just one of the trippiest tunes in the psych-rock canon -- it's also one of its spookiest, thanks to that insane chuckling/laughing that happens at the 1:52 mark and then again at 3:26. It’s as if the mouth of your car stereo’s tape deck is doing the same thing that the elevators do in ‘The Shining.’ Scared now?
What makes the early Pink Floyd stuff so great is how crazy the instrumentation is -- there are no gigantic choruses, no massive guitar solos, no synthesizer huffs and puffs. You get a hefty helping of treble-y guitars played through reverb-heavy, slap-back delay effects; noodle-y organs/keyboards (that remind us of spiders); and off-time backbeats. Not to mention Syd Barrett’s hollow, almost scolding voice. Here, he delivers childish lyrics about the titular girl as if he’s a puppet master looming above her, moving the wooden sticks to make her move. She’s apparently tried something and failed -- our best guess is it’s drugs.
At some point, somebody, who we can only assume was high on something, decided that if you cue up Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ with the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ you'll find some sort of synchronicity between the two. So of course, in our college years, we decided to figure this out -- amidst a cloud of sticky smoke. As we got further into the process and more frustrated, we almost gave up -- until this amazing thing happened: There’s a moment in ‘Oz’ when Dorothy looks into the black-and-white air and follows something. We took that to be whatever's making the helicopter-like sounds in ‘On the Run’ that begin at the 0:53 mark. Then, right before Dorothy steps into Technicolor, the subsequent ‘Time’ starts. Is it coincidence? The product of college kids getting way too high? Both? (Cue to 4:09 in the clip -- unless you want to hear 'Speak to Me' and 'Breathe,' too.)
Have you ever seen the video for this one? If not, you may want to click on that link. The first single released by the Floyd's original lineup, 'Arnold Layne' features vocals from Syd Barrett, whose strengths included sounding way cooler than the other two guys ever would and writing some of the oddest lyrics the rock world would ever know. This song’s title character has a “strange hobby” of “collecting clothes” from unsuspecting people’s clotheslines at night. What’s trippier than a British guy running around at night wearing a white sheet and bumping into walls? (Answer: Margaret Thatcher running around at night with a white sheet on and bumping into walls.)
A B-side to the 1968 single ‘It Would Be So Nice,’ ‘Julia Dream’ is sort of a Technicolor musical version of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ -- with the part of director Wes Craven being played by songwriter Roger Waters and Freddy Krueger by lead vocalist David Gilmour (by then a full member of the band). The song was later released on the 1971 compilation ‘Relics.’ Turn it on only if you want a good freakout. Or if you’ve already taken the blue pill.
From 1970’s ‘Atom Heart Mother,’ this 13-minute opus is about as trippy and weird as it gets, Pink Floyd-wise. The "song" features the sounds of a man -- we’re going to assume his name is Alan -- talking about what he likes to have for breakfast and striking a match, all to the beat dropping water (or is it coffee?). The drip is later overtaken by an actual drum beat, a classical piano, organ and electric guitar part. And then there's more talking and sounds of Alan drinking. Only one of the world’s greatest psych-rock bands could make the act of having breakfast into something drug-a-licious.
This ‘Piper' cut, our pick for the druggiest Pink Floyd song of all time, includes some of the weirdest sounds a band has ever put to tape. We can only describe it to the uninitiated as a soundscape involving clicks, grunts, moans, screams and cries -- all from the tongues of the spacey British youth that made up the band at the time. We were once told that if you put gorillas into a room with a bunch of instruments, at some point, they’ll be able to re-record this song in full.