In anticipation of the upcoming 40th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon, originally released in March 1973, we here at Rocks Off would like to remind you all that Pink Floyd existed for some years before that monumental album. While the band experienced some success, they of course never saw anything on the level of Dark Side prior.
That doesn't make those earlier recordings any less valid, though. As any hardcore Floydian can tell you, some aspects of the pre-DSOTM years were, dare I say it, more endearing before the album came along. The band was more experimental and more psychedelic, the production was rawer, the jams longer, and Floyd was far from a critical or commercial darling. They were like a punk band in the early '80s: reviled by critics, a failure in the eyes of record labels and gods to their cult following.
So here we'll take a look back at ten classic Floyd tracks that many readers and casual fans may have never heard before. This isn't the Floyd of Dark Side or The Wall, but these songs are special and eminently important in their own right. One thing's for sure: You won't find these tracks on that Echoes greatest-hits compilation.
10. "Childhood's End" One thing you have to understand is that Dark Side was not written overnight. The band had been building toward it for years -- on albums like Meddle, to be sure, but also on even lesser-known works like Obscured by Clouds. This Clouds track, which in turn was a soundtrack to an obscure film, could pass for an early version of "Time" and definitely reflects many of the same musical ideas.
9. "Julia Dream" "Julia Dream" is appropriately titled considering its fairy-tale, dreamlike quality; it's one of the best examples of Pink Floyd's distant, pastoral ballads. At first it seems like a minor track in the group's canon, but creeps up on you like the threat of death described in the lyrics.
8. "Let There Be More Light" "Let There Be More Light" opens the A Saucerful of Secrets album and immediately sets the tone for the new Pink Floyd, sans former front man Syd Barrett. It comes out of the gate with a slinky psych riff, followed by a mysterious and distant verse from keyboardist Richard Wright. Suddenly, the chorus sets in and sinks its teeth into you with heavily distorted guitar chords and shouted vocals from debuting member David Gilmour, who also plays his first guitar solo.
7. "The Nile Song" "The Nile Song," from the soundtrack album More, stands out in the Floyd catalog because it's probably the hardest rock song they ever recorded. David Gilmour employs an almost heavy-metal yell, and the guitar is heavy and distorted. You could really see a band like Mastodon covering this song nowadays.
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6. "A Saucerful of Secrets" The title track to Pink Floyd's second album is still one of their all-time greatest tracks. One of the band's longest instrumental jams, it's supposed to represent the sounds of an epic battle from beginning to end, with the choral vocal section at the end representing the aftermath. Containing both stunning beauty and brutality, it forms poetry without words.
5. "Biding My Time" This song was originally known as "Afternoon," and was part of Floyd's early experiment at doing a conceptual live show, The Man and the Journey. "Biding My Time" presents itself at first as a slight blues track, before bursting into a rousing horn section and eventually an epic rocking outro with a massive guitar solo on the part of Gilmour.
4. "Moonhead" A classic trippy Floyd instrumental, "Moonhead" is especially significant because it was played during the BBC's coverage of the first moon landing in 1969. Even though Floyd wasn't well-known then, the producers of the program made the right choice for the soundtrack.
3. "Give Birth to a Smile" Only ever released on a soundtrack called Music from "The Body" and credited to Roger Waters and Ron Geesin, this song might be the most recognizable as the later Floyd style, featuring a church choir of backing vocalists and the rich organ tones they would become much better known for on Dark Side.
2. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" So beloved in the Floyd canon that it is one of the only middle-era Floyd songs to be played even after Dark Side was released, and in fact stayed in the band's set lists all the way to the late '70s, "Careful With That Axe. Eugene" is one of the darkest tracks the band has ever recorded. (Don't listen to it on hard drugs or you're gonna have a bad trip.) Note Waters's manic screaming on this track as well, which ended up being far ahead of its time in rock history.
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1. "The Embryo" Standing out as one of the greatest early Floyd tracks, "The Embryo" was never recorded in its full version by the band. A short, softer version appeared on the Works compilation, but the ten-minute psych-rock version they played live remains the exclusive domain of bootlegs. This is a shame, because "Embryo" is a classic example of Floyd's evolution, mixing their early eerie psychedelic style with what we would hear more of on "Echoes" and Meddle just a short time later.