Pink Floyd were pioneers of weird, infiltrating the mainstream with radical experiments — from the psychedelic madness of the Syd Barrett era to the widescreen filmic soundscapes of The Dark Side of the Moon. Decades later, most of these moves (the lavish studio effects, melding rock and electronics) have been endlessly copied and re-contextualized. But these guys were typically ahead of the curve.
Some selections on this list feel weird within the Floyd catalog, like the psych-jazz doodling of “Up the Khyber.” Others are weird for anyone, like the rubber-band-anchored “The Hard Way,” an attempt to record music without conventional instruments.
The quality may vary from track to track — they can’t all be classics — but in keeping with the Floyd’s spirit of adventure, everything here is interesting.
10. “On the Run” (from 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon)
Though it’s (rightfully) considered a high watermark of studio technology, The Dark Side of the Moon began its life onstage, refined and finessed throughout 1972. (At the time, it featured the working subtitle “A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.”) While every song made the final LP, one was drastically revamped: “On the Run,” which explored the anxiety of modern travel, evolved from a funky, “Any Colour You Like”-styled instrumental into an electronic collage partly created with their new EMS Synthi AKS synthesizer. With its sequenced rumbling patterns, white-noise hi-hats and helicopter-like wobbles, it became one of rock’s ultimate headphone tracks.
9. “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” (from 1970’s Atom Heart Mother)
It sounds pretty dumb on paper: Rock roadie Alan Styles prepares his morning meal and calmly lists his favorite breakfast foods, set to the soundtrack of fingerpicked folk and baroque-y keyboards. But somehow the combination feels charming — like the more playful, less heavy version of the “not frightened of dying” bit from Dark Side. “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” doesn’t need the sound of sizzling bacon, but this is Pink Floyd after all.
8. “Absolutely Curtains” (from 1972’s Obscured by Clouds)
For its first three-and-a-half minutes, “Absolutely Curtains” is conventional early ’70s Floyd, with Richard Wright building moderate suspense from sheets of organ and piano. Then there’s a very unexpected shift: Obscured by Clouds, the soundtrack to Barbet Schroeder’s film La Vallée, ends with over two minutes of mysterious vocalizations. (According to Echoes: The Complete History of Pink Floyd, it’s a religious chanting of the Mapuga tribe, as documented in the movie.)
7. “The Hard Way” (from 2011 The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion box set)
Pink Floyd had already been experimenting with found sounds for years, but they went deeper down the rabbit hole with the “Household Objects” project — a proposed Dark Side follow-up that involved creating music from ordinary items. “We’d put up the rubber bands and get a bass line going, and that was a whole day’s work – and then drums have to be added to that,” engineer Alan Parsons told UCR in 2019. “We were just going nuts: ‘This is gonna take years of painstaking recording time.'” So they eventually shelved the idea altogether, wisely moving on to the more conventional soundscapes of Wish You Were Here – though they did salvage some wine-glass atmosphere for “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Pink Floyd later released two of these experiments on reissue box sets, including “The Hard Way,” built on a funky rubber-band bass groove.
6. “A Saucerful of Secrets” (from 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets)
Having dismissed one-time mastermind Barrett early in the sessions for their second LP, Pink Floyd struggled to find their footing. One solution: getting even weirder. Roger Waters mapped out this 12-minute track through visuals, drawing diagrams on pieces of paper to represent the build from horror-film ambience (“Something Else”) to soothing keyboard vistas (“Celestial Voices”) that previewed their ’70s grandeur. “‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ was a very important track; it gave us our direction forward,” Gilmour told Guitar World in 1993. “If you take ‘A Saucerful of Secrets,’ ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and ‘Echoes’ — all lead logically to Dark Side of the Moon.”
5. “Interstellar Overdrive” (from 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)
You could argue that everything on Pink Floyd’s debut LP, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, should make this list — the band came out of the gate at peak psychedelia, led by Barrett’s other-planet genius. But the album’s weirdest moment is this nearly 10-minute instrumental freak-out, built on an unnerving chromatic riff and descending into a hellish carnival of echoing guitar noise and Farfisa organ.
4. “Up the Khyber” (from 1969’s More)
Working in the film medium allowed Pink Floyd to stretch, seemingly out of desperation. More, the soundtrack to Schroeder’s film of the same name, often sounds like a band running thin of ideas, muttering to each other, “Er, why don’t we try one like this?” Take, for example, “Up the Kyber”: The only Floyd song credited to Wright and Nick Mason alone, it adopts an unlikely psych-jazz vibe, the duo banging away haphazardly on organ, piano and tom-toms.
3. “A Spanish Piece” (from 1969’s More)
Given the unimaginative title, it’s no surprise this More instrumental interlude feels like an afterthought. At barely one minute long, it’s essentially just David Gilmour improvising fluid Spanish guitar licks over a muted kick drum — a very un-Floyd-like atmosphere. The weirdest part is the whispered vocal, with its cringe-y fake accent and lines like, “Listen, gringo: Laugh at my lisp, and I kill you.”
2. “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party” (from 1969’s Ummagumma)
As a bare-bones drummer who couldn’t sing or play tuned instruments, Mason wasn’t well-equipped to record any kind of solo track, let alone a nine-minute album closer. Still, Pink Floyd were at their wonkiest on the double-LP Ummagumma, having earmarked one solo studio track for each member — and out of that concept came “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party.” With its random jumps from studious flute (via the drummer’s then-wife, Lindy) to stuttering percussion overdubs, it sounds like a more somber take on Frank Zappa’s chopped-up musique concrete via Lumpy Gravy. “I attempted to do a variation on the obligatory drum solo,” Mason wrote in Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. “I have never been a fan of gymnastic workouts at the kit, by myself or anyone else.”
1. “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” (from 1969’s Ummagumma)
Years before Pink Floyd’s dead-end “Household Objects” experiment, Waters attempted a similar idea on “Several Species,” one of several tedious solo pieces on Ummagumma‘s studio side. Even for the Floyd, who got awfully avant-garde in their early days, this one tests the patience: It’s basically just looped, manipulated noises that, as the clunky title suggests, approximate the atmosphere of cartoon chipmunks scurrying around a cave. “It’s not actually anything; it’s a bit of concrete poetry,” Waters rightly noted in 1970. “Those were sounds that I made, the voice and the hand slapping were all human generated – no musical instruments.”
David Gilmour and Roger Waters Solo Albums Ranked
They both laid claim to the Pink Floyd legacy, while only rarely stepping out with solo works.
You Think You Know Pink Floyd?