If you had the idea that Pink Floyd was a rock band built on the foundations of deeply methodical musical notions and iron-clad foundations, then you’d be pretty on the money. While Roger Waters would become the band’s oratorical narrator and David Gilmour would be the textured painter, adding flourishes where needed, keyboardist Rick Wright ensured that Pink Floyd had solid ground to build their atmospheres from.
It is Wright’s education and knowledge that the group leapt from and, below, we’re paying homage to the great man by revisiting ten of his best songs for Pink Floyd. While not all of the tracks mentioned were written by the late, great keyboardist, his expert ear and orchestral composition, ensured that he was integral to many of Floyd’s songs.
Pink Floyd have often been labelled as a bit of a nerdy rock band. Perhaps adding weight to that notion is their conception. The band’s prog-rock style was founded on supreme musicianship and a determination to create and evolve, much of that intellectual drive came out of the creatively bursting Regent Street Polytechnic. It was there that drummer Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright all met and founded the band which became Pink Floyd.
“It is hard to overstate the importance of his musical voice in the Pink Floyd of the Sixties and Seventies,” Waters said of Wright in a statement following his sad death. “He was my musical partner and my friend,” Gilmour said at a similar time. “In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick’s enormous input was frequently forgotten.”
Below, we’re making sure that doesn’t happen today as we remember Rick Wright with his 10 best songs for Pink Floyd.
Rick Wright’s best Pink Floyd songs:
10. ‘Paint Box’
One thing that Wright was able to do better than most of his counterparts in the band was expertly producing work bathed in the art of subtlety. The track was originally released as a B-side to Syd Barrett’s, the band’s founding frontman, single ‘Apples and Oranges’.
The track would late appear as part of the Floyd’s compilation album Relics and is an archetypal piece of Wright’s incandescent ability to craft sombre psychedelia, this time recalling a drunken night spent feeling isolated but still singing.
9. ‘Great Gig in the Sky’
Perhaps one of Wright’s most famous compositions is also one of Pink Floyd’s best songs. Built out of the perfect piano, ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ is a delicate and tender piece of songmanship. While the track is decisively one of Wright’s best, the song largely hangs on the vocal performance of Clare Torry.
Originally known as ‘The Religion Song’, the track is rightly considered a piece of Pink Floyd history and it simply wouldn’t have got anywhere without Rick Wright. One of the shining moments of the band’s best record, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wright’s keyboard makes this track what it is.
8. ‘Pow R. Toc H.’
When Pink Floyd were recording their inspirational debut album Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, the band were signed up to EMI and given an extra special treat—they got to watch the biggest band in the world, The Beatles, recording their song ‘Lovely Rita’. The track’s creativity would inspire Floyd to do their own experimental work.
The first of the album’s two instrumental songs, ‘Pow R. Toc H.’, sees that experimentation come to the fore. As well as featuring early example of beatboxing (yes, really) the track’s main melody comes from Wright’s improvised piano-playing before moving towards a good old fashioned organ jam session. It’s the jazz man feeling his roots.
7. ‘Interstellar Overdrive’
It may seem obvious to always connect Pink Floyd with acid rock and psychedelia, after all, for the most part, the band were at the forefront of the scene. However, one of their most deliberate dives into the technicolour world of psyche that came on ‘Interstellar Overdrive.’
Featuring on their debut record, the song boasts songwriting credits of all the members of the band as they break into a ten-minute-long free form jazz rock expression. It’s the kind of style that they would transform into prog rock and is underpinned by Wright’s talent and ability to explore his instrument better than anyone else. The song would feature heavily in their live sets and often ended up taking half of their sets.
6. ‘Wearing The Inside Out’
When Pink Floyd finally came back to the fore with The Division Bell, an album David Gilmour calls one of his favourites, Wright was in fine form. Sure, time had passed and Pink Floyd certainly wasn’t the same entity they were during their experimental heyday, but on ‘Wearing The Inside Out’ Wright delivers in spades.
Wright himself had been out of action for even longer. His contributions to Roger Waters’ masterpiece The Wall from 1979 were minimal, he was absent from The Final Cut and barely breathed a note on Momentary Lapse of Reason, meaning this return was both warmly welcomed and unexpected.
5. ‘See Saw’
One of Wright’s original tracks on Pink Floyd’s second record A Saucerful of Secrets offers up his heavyweight talent for all to see. It allowed Wright to take the helm and provided not only the melody with his piano work but also become the song’s composer and vocalist. That wasn’t the end of it, either.
As well as taking on vocals, something Wright was incredibly gifted at, he also became the band’s working multi-instrumentalist as he used his piano, an organ, xylophone and a mellotron. All of which come together to create a lighter than air sound that let his vocal shine through.
4. ‘Us and Them’
While David Gilmour may have taken the vocal duties on ‘Us and Them’, and with it the praise of the public, it was actually Wright who started this song. He began writing it while working on the 1969 film Zabriskie Point and brought it back to the band so that they could work as a unit on the new track.
Naturally, the band were well equipped to promote the project’s theme of isolation with Roger Waters’ lyricism feeling particularly attuned to this notion. It meant that the song slotted in perfectly on The Dark Side of the Moon and became an integral part of why the album performed so well. With the foundations that Wright laid down, the song was always going to be a success.
3. ‘Summer ’68’
One of the more curious songs from Wright’s arsenal sees him at his most ambitious. ‘Summer ’68’ took on a large chunk of Side Two of Atom Heart Mother as each member of the band championed one of their songs to help balance out the album. While Waters and Gilmour had their natural wheelhouse, Wright chooses to push things even further.
He brought in a huge ensemble for the track including big brass sections, piano embellishments all over the song and with Wright’s wistful lyrics believing the melody’s upbeat tone. It sees Wright reflecting on his life thus far, particularly focusing on the road: “My friends are lying in the sun/I wish that I was there/Tomorrow brings another town/Another girl like you.”
There isn’t much about ‘Echoes’ that hasn’t already been said. Pink Floyd’s Meddle is the lucky album to include the 23-minute track and while it is chock full of instrumental joys, Wright takes the lead with a simply breathtaking organ solo. It’s a solo allegedly inspired by The Beach Boys track ‘Good Vibration’.
Melodically, Wright is as brilliant as ever on this song but the real reason it is included on our list, and so high up no less, is because of the relationship it showcases in its vocals. With Wright joining David Gilmour, the duo effortlessly mix their tones to create a hybrid worthy of your time. “The blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy,” Gilmour said of Wright in his eulogy to his friend, “reached their first major flowering in 1971 on ‘Echoes.'”
1. ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
You won’t find many people who contest ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ as anything but one of Pink Floyd’s best songs. The nine-part composition is largely considered done of the band’s best and welcomes the group doing what they do best, blending, melding and generally experimenting together.
Written in tribute to Syd Barrett, the song’s co-writer Wright does a fine job of dominating proceedings as he gets liberal with his Moog synthesiser and begins to carve out his niche within the band. He doesn’t just use his Moog, there’s also room for his piano and a Hohner Clavinet. It’s one of Pink Floyd’s truly collaborative projects and one in which we get to see the real Rick Wright.