Pink Floyd's Top 10 Guitar Riffs
If you're a dedicated Pink Floyd fan then you'll probably already be aware of the announcement made back in July, revealing the upcoming release of The Early Years: 1965 - 1972. Arriving on November 11th, the release consists of a huge box set containing a whopping 27 discs featuring an extensive variety of material from the band's formative years.
Amongst the wealth of goodies on offer are more than 20 unreleased songs, including some early Syd Barrett compositions like 'Vegetable Man' and 'In the Beechwoods', over six hours of archive footage of the band and six of the band's early non-album singles, including 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play', all on 7” vinyl housed in faithfully reproduced sleeves to match their original releases.
On top of that there's a 5.1 surround sound mix of Live at Pompeii and recordings from BBC sessions and demos, as well as three feature films and a huge collection of footage from interviews and live shows captured in the band's first seven years. (You can find the full list of items included in the package here in our online store). If you're a huge fan of the Floyd but you're on a budget, don't worry - there's also a slimmed down version featuring a collection of highlights from the expansive box set version.
Pink Floyd's music has always been an eclectic blend of styles, taking in everything from psychedelia and jazz to straight-up classic rock, and while they have many distinctive facets one of the most recognisable elements of their sound is the distinctive guitar work of the band's guitarists; first Syd Barrett, the band's creative force in the early years, then David Gilmour, whose riffs and licks defined their sound in the later years.
To celebrate the release of The Early Years 1965 – 1972, we went digging through the band's extensive back catalogue and picked 10 of their best ever guitar riffs. You can also find a couple of videos below detailing what you can expect from this massive Pink Floyd box set...
10. 'The Narrow Way (Part 2)'
This little gem is tucked away in the recesses of Ummagumma's second side, divided into four compositions from each member of the band. It probably doesn't need pointing out that 'The Narrow Way' was Gilmour's contribution, especially not when you listen to this track's angular opening riff, which slithers through the track and gradually disintegrates two thirds of the way through. It's a deep cut, but one that's worth searching for.
9. 'Goodbye Blue Sky'
You might not think of 'Goodbye Blue Sky' as a particularly riff-laden song, especially since the version on their seminal double album The Wall sits the acoustic guitar part fairly low in the mix, but almost every other melody and instrument in the song follows what Gilmour is doing. The video below was recorded on their 1980-81 tour of the album, so the visuals are a little scratchy, but the guitar is much clearer in the mix here and you can hear the way the vocals and moody synths track Gilmour's fretwork.
8. 'Young Lust'
Pink Floyd's music isn't usually what you would describe as 'funky', but the combination of Roger Waters' chugging bassline and David Gilmour's spacey guitar riff makes for a track that's dripping in sleaze. 'Young Lust' perhaps isn't one of the better known tracks on the album, but along with 'Comfortably Numb' it's another song from The Wall that also features some great solo work from Gilmour.
*Warning - the video below is taken from the film The Wall and does contain some nudity, so might be NSFW*
7. 'Let There Be More Light'
Taken from the band's second album A Saucerful of Secrets, this track was recorded at a time when Syd Barrett's mental health was already deteriorating and David Gilmour had become the band's fifth member. The writing duties in Pink Floyd had begun to be shared around a little more and the opening riff here is actually a Roger Waters creation, but as an opening salvo to the album it's incredibly simple, yet brilliantly effective.
6. 'Wish You Were Here'
One of the more mellow riffs on our list, the repeating phrase played by David Gilmour on twelve-string guitar in 'Wish You Were Here' is one of their most distinctive. The title track from their 1975 album of the same name, the song is another of their most enduring tunes, thanks in no small part to Gilmour's guitar work. The version below is from the band's 1994 Pulse tour and features Gilmour playing the lead over the top, but his work there is great too so here it is...
5. 'Run Like Hell'
There's a lot of variation on Pink Floyd's The Wall, but 'Run Like Hell' is one track where the band really begin to rock out. The muted guitar picking that runs throughout the track is one element, but it's the chiming, chorus-drenched guitar chords that ring out over the top that really give this song its wings. The band often closed their live shows with this track and it's easy to see why. It's a belter.
4. 'Lucifer Sam'
David Gilmour is often – and quite rightly – described as one of the best rock guitarists the UK has ever produced and the vast majority of Pink Floyd's most memorable riffs are Gilmour's work, but Syd Barrett was no slouch either and he certainly had an ear for a riff. This cut from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn features an opening riff that's up there with the best of the Floyd's fretwork.
3. 'Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)'
When producer Bob Ezrin heard the first version of what would become perhaps Pink Floyd's best-known song, it was one minute and 20 seconds long. In fact, Ezrin deserves a lot of the credit for the way the track turned out, insisting that the song was a hit and that they needed another verse and another chorus, but as he told Guitar World in 2009, the response from the band was: “We don't do singles, so f*ck you.” Ezrin's persistence led not only to the children's choir, which he had recorded without even telling the band, but also the song's distinctive disco vibe. Gilmour was initially horrified when the producer suggested that his guitar riff sounded like disco, but he was eventually persuaded and rewarded with one of their best ever songs.
2. 'Interstellar Overdrive'
Taken from the band's debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, this track is early Floyd in full-on psychedelic wig-out mode. Clocking in at just over nine and a half minutes, this is a great example of Pink Floyd's improvisational jams from the early days, but its opening (and closing) riff is one of Syd Barrett's best moments and it bookends nine minutes of halluginogenic weirdness.
If you had to pick just one memorable riff from Pink Floyd's entire catalogue, it would probably have to be this. Taken from the work of genius that is Dark Side Of The Moon, 'Money' has a distinctive 7/4 time signature before dropping into a more regular 4/4 arrangement for Dave Gilmour's searing guitar solo. Ironically, it was actually written by Roger Waters on bass guitar, although the band decided to shift keys from the original demo for a beefier sound.