A 17-Hour Chronological Playlist of Pink Floyd Albums: The Evolution of the Band Revealed in 209 Tracks (1967–2014)

At the inter­sec­tion of pro­gres­sive rock, con­cep­tu­al psy­che­delia, bluesy, anthemic clas­sic rock, and exper­i­men­tal sound you’ll find Pink Floyd, a band every­one thinks they know but who always man­age to sur­prise even ardent fans with the strange twists and turns of their discog­ra­phy. One might even say, as Bill Wyman writes at Vul­ture, that “there are at least four, or arguably five, Pink Floyds.”

“The first was a goofy and absur­dist pop-rock band, led by one Syd Bar­rett,” writes Wyman. This orig­i­nal Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn then fell apart after its lead singer/writer/guitarist’s men­tal health declined pre­cip­i­tous­ly. The sec­ond Pink Floyd first took shape “before Bar­rett joined, and then reached full pre­ten­tious flower after his depar­ture” and replace­ment by David Gilmour. This was the “psy­che­del­ic, space-rock­‑y, qua­si-impro­vi­sa­tion­al ensem­ble” of A Saucer­ful of Secrets, Ummagum­ma, and Atom Heart Moth­er.

The third Floyd, Wyman argues, “is the one we know and love; the organ­ic unit that cre­at­ed Med­dle, The Dark Side of the Moon, and Wish You Were Here”—arguably the band’s cre­ative zenith. From here, we move to the fourth ver­sion, “which saw a dom­i­neer­ing [Roger] Waters tak­ing con­trol,” pro­duc­ing records that increas­ing­ly became Roger Waters solo albums—Ani­mals, The Wall, and The Final Cut. The band’s sta­di­um shows became bom­bas­tic affairs of Spinal Tap pro­por­tions.

Final­ly, the fifth and final iter­a­tion, crit­i­cal­ly snubbed but com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful, left the dis­af­fect­ed Waters to his solo work and went on with Gilmour at the helm to record A Momen­tary Lapse of Rea­son, The Divi­sion Bell, and twen­ty years lat­er, the final Pink Floyd album, the most­ly instru­men­tal End­less Riv­er, made in 2014 after key­boardist Richard Wright’s death and draw­ing on record­ings from The Divi­sion Bell ses­sions.

It’s easy to find fault with this schemat­ic out­line of Pink Floyd’s career—which leaves out their detours into film sound­tracks with More, Obscured by Clouds, and an abort­ed score for Michelan­ge­lo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point. It leaves out a mis­be­got­ten, but notable excur­sion into bal­let (!), and exper­i­ments with found sound record­ings in the late-60s. This quick sur­vey also under­es­ti­mates the impor­tance of Syd Bar­rett.

Pink Floyd’s first front­man may have tak­en his odd­ball sen­si­bil­i­ty with him when he left the band—and brought it to his cap­ti­vat­ing­ly weird solo work—but his pres­ence remained with them for years after­ward and haunts one of their finest achieve­ments, 1975’s Wish You Were Here. There are all sorts of lines that run through the var­i­ous ver­sions of Pink Floyd, con­nect­ing their strange, youth­ful, unpre­dictable ear­ly work to the high­ly-pol­ished, and much less inter­est­ing, mature late record­ings.

And yet, Wyman’s sum­ma­ry is a use­ful cat­e­go­riza­tion nonethe­less, a suc­cinct expla­na­tion for how Pink Floyd “may be the only rock band that can cred­i­bly be com­pared to both the Bea­t­les and Spinal Tap.” His mas­sive under­tak­ing—rank­ing every Pink Floyd song from worst to best—deserves a thor­ough read. Long­time lovers of the band and new­com­ers alike will find the com­men­tary enlight­en­ing and infor­ma­tive (and he does include those film scores and gives Bar­rett his due).

While you read about each of the band’s offi­cial­ly-released, 165 songs, you can lis­ten to them as well in the Spo­ti­fy playlist above, which not only includes every stu­dio release, but every live album as well. 17 hours total of Pink Floyd’s quirky pop, space‑y, prog­gy exper­i­men­tal­ism, mas­ter­ful psych-rock sound­scapes, cli­mac­tic, polit­i­cal­ly-charged con­cept albums, and the denoue­ment of their final three albums. No mat­ter how long you’ve fol­lowed the band over their 40-plus year career, you’re like­ly to find some sur­pris­es here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Lost” Pink Floyd Sound­track for Michelan­ge­lo Antonioni’s Only Amer­i­can Film, Zabriskie Point (1970)

When Pink Floyd Tried to Make an Album with House­hold Objects: Hear Two Sur­viv­ing Tracks Made with Wine Glass­es & Rub­ber Bands

Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” Pro­vides a Sound­track for the Final Scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Petee says:


  • The Person Who Agrees With You says:

    You could not be more cor­rect xD

  • bradley persico says:

    Gods gift to music for­ev­er a once in a life­time veture the best ever

  • Jim L. says:

    my all time favorite songs are from this … I can’t even come up with the words to describe how I feel about them. I close my eyes & feel like I’m on an emo­tion­al roller coast­er that changes course thru cer­tain tracks, E tick­et rides thru the psy­che. I can give an exam­ple, but its mine, you prob­a­bly won’t feel the same vibes as me.
    have a cig­ar — I sit back and pre­pare for some­thing amaz­ing. fame, suc­cess, for­tune. launch­ing through the sky, fly­ing high­er, excelling thru space, immor­tal­i­ty as I shoot light speed thru stars in the galaxy, watch­ing the kalei­do­scope of trac­ers until my body can no longer keep up with my own spir­it.
    no oth­er band makes me feel the way Pink Floyd does, only 1 oth­er band comes close (Led Zep­pelin).

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