Pink Floyd Pilgrimage #15: The Endless River (2014)
Prior to 2019 my only familiarity with English group – Pink Floyd – could be found in the songs Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 and Money. I loved all four songs and have for many years but for some reason I never went further into Floyd’s back catalogue or even the group themselves. I had never listened to an album, never bothered to delve into their history. I had heard the name, Syd Barrett, but knew nothing else of their story.
If you search for Pink Floyd on YouTube you’ll find their songs, albums, documentaries and hundreds of reaction videos. A new generation of music lovers are discovering their music and having their minds blown by what they hear. Thanks to them I have decided to begin my own journey – a Pink Floyd pilgrimage, you could say – to find out more.
What drew me towards Pink Floyd was the countless comments I had seen from other Floyd enthusiasts, the same messages and appreciation for the group. They insisted that nothing else sounds like Pink Floyd, that listening to an album in its entirety was essential, that their music could help you drift into an alternate plain and that you must, simply MUST, have headphones on when you do listen to the Floyd. It sounded cathartic and I wanted to try for myself as a form of meditation, something I’ve never been good at. I did see plenty of comments suggesting listening to Floyd while high is the way to go, well, I won’t be doing that, dear reader, you will be relieved to hear though I am sure it’s an interesting experience.
My Pink Floyd pilgrimage began earlier this year by reading two books – Mark Blake’s Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd and Martin Popoff’s Pink Floyd: Album by Album. This gave me an insight into the group’s often turbulent history as well as their extensive discography. I have also watched a few documentaries on YouTube so gained a further insight into their work. There is, however, one thing left for me to do.
Each month I will be listening to a Pink Floyd album in full and writing a reaction on this blog. I will listen multiple times – all the way through – and with headphones on. I will NOT be pausing during a David Gilmour solo and I’ll see if I can figure out which one is Pink! I will begin with The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) and conclude with The Endless River (2014). In all, there are 15 studio albums to get through. By November 2020 I will have been through the early days of the band with Syd Barrett as the leader, the middle years where a close-knit quartet gradually fell apart as Roger Waters seized control, and the later years when a more democratic David Gilmour led the group in its twilight years.
One final thing, dear reader. As far as Pink Floyd are concerned, I am a novice, a mere apprentice and know very little so what I offer here are just my opinions of their music as I take it on board. I will attempt, and likely fail, to rank the albums in order of preference and try – big emphasis on try – to select the best song from each record even though I know they are to be treated as one long piece of music. If you have insights of your own to help me, or just want to share your own love and appreciation of these music legends then please throw a comment my way.
Time to grab the headphones and go on a journey…
Pink Floyd Pilgrimage #15: The Endless River (2014)
For the closing chapter of our Pink Floyd journey, we bring their story up to the present day when, sadly, the Floyd are no more, the group name now retired and the surviving members having now pursued other projects. The memories of the band and their influence remain strong but all good things must come to an end and thus my pilgrimage requires one final album before I lay down my headphones, my Floyd enlightenment complete, and what a journey it has been.
After a much improved album in The Division Bell, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason headed out on tour to promote the album. They toured from March 1994 until October of the same year, concluding with two weeks worth of shows at Earls Court in London. This proved to be the final Pink Floyd tour with the band committing to no further live shows and there was no word or sight of a new album either. After two difficult albums following the departure of Roger Waters in 1985, the band seemed content to let the Floyd retire in peace. They’d had a great run after all.
It wasn’t until 2005 that a miracle of sorts took place for many Pink Floyd fans. Bob Geldof planned a series of concerts across the globe for Live 8 to raise money to battle poverty across the world. Signing up a wide variety of acts, Geldof had in mind a real coup for the event by imagining a Pink Floyd reunion of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason. The four of them on stage, one brief show, and to the delight of millions, it would be momentous if Geldof could pull it off. Geldof contacted Gilmour with the suggestion and was firmly rebuked. For Gilmour the idea of sharing the stage with Waters again was too much. Geldof was undeterred and contacted Nick Mason and Roger Waters about the idea. Waters was the one that then picked up the phone and called Gilmour. The two of them agreed to put aside their differences and do the show.
There were disagreements about the setlist and the approach to the songs between the former band members but in the end Pink Floyd took to the stage and performed Speak to Me, Breathe, Breathe (Reprise), Money, Wish You Were Here and closed their set with Comfortably Numb. It was a truly magnificent spectacle. A long hoped for but never expected reunion on stage after 24 years. It was clearly an emotional event with Waters expressing how much the moment meant to him and even calling David Gilmour back at the end of the set for a group hug. It looked awkward but was still a sight to behold. Tellingly, as Waters waved to the crowd and walked off stage, Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason had their own group hug, just the three of them, a reflection of the division that still existed between the trio and Waters. Anyone that dared to hope for a reunion tour were sadly disappointed. Money offers were apparently thrown around, some say $100+ million, but nothing came of it. Waters expressed an interest in performing together again, perhaps for charity, but Gilmour was unmoved. There was clearly still a lot of bad blood felt, though Waters expressed regret at the events that led to his departure from the band all those years before. Everyone it seemed was older and wiser now but the emotional scars never truly go away. In the end, this was the final Pink Floyd performance with the quartet of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason, their first performance together in more than 20 years. Gilmour would state that the Floyd were over whenever prompted after this, preferring instead to focus on his solo work.
The cruel progress of time began to take its toll on Pink Floyd as the years followed. In 2006 founding member and the band’s early talisman, Syd Barrett, died on 7 July at the age of 60. Though his time in the band had been working on just two albums, it was a well covered story in the media, the legend and legacy of Barrett remaining undiminished. His shadow had never truly been lifted from Pink Floyd as they soldiered on without him after his departure in 1968. A tribute concert for Barrett took place in 2007 with members of Pink Floyd performing as well as Roger Waters but not the four of them together. Further sad news came in 2008 when Richard Wright died of cancer on 15 September at the age of 65. Tributes to Wright were glowing, especially from Gilmour, and there was a reassessment of his role in the Floyd, a recognition that at the band’s peak in the 1970s he was a key part of what made the band so special. A quiet man, Wright was often overlooked, but his contributions to the band are unquestionable.
Although Pink Floyd were officially over, much of their music simply could not be laid to rest. Roger Waters supported David Gilmour as they performed together at a charity event in 2010 and the following year Gilmour returned the compliment by singing Comfortably Numb at one of Waters’ London shows for his tour of The Wall, a project that was proving very successful for his solo career. Nick Mason even showed up at the end to join a rendition of Outside the Wall with his former bandmates. The passing of Syd Barrett and Richard Wright had potentially led to some soul searching for the remaining members of the band and the chance to put their differences behind them for good.
Though there was never the intention to make another Pink Floyd album, David Gilmour and Nick Mason reunited and worked their way through the many hours of music recorded during The Division Bell sessions back in 1993. All of that material had previously been condensed down to create the 11 tracks on the 1994 album but a lot was left over. Back then engineer, Andy Jackson, had taken a lot of leftover material and fashioned it into an hour long instrumental entitled The Big Spliff but this was never released. It did create a starting point though to create something new. Initially the material was worked on with the help of producers, other musicians and backing singers to record new snippets where there were gaps and to hone and fashion the segments into a coherent set list. The end result was a new Pink Floyd album by the name of The Endless River, a record made up of 18 tracks, with 17 of them being purely instrumentals while one song with lyrics would close out the project. The main intention was for the album to be a tribute to Richard Wright.
The Endless River was released on 7 November 2014, having become the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK. A new Pink Floyd album, 20 years after the last one, the expectation was massive but the question was would this last piece from the band deliver or would it be a disappointing conclusion?
Things Left Unsaid
The opening track on the album is Things Left Unsaid which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts for around 4½ minutes. It opens with a synthesiser followed quickly by recorded dialogue from Richard Wright, David Gilmour and Nick Mason in turn. All three comment on the divisions in the group and how some differences are resolved but not everything is discussed, which makes one think of the fall out with Roger Waters and what might have happened had all four men sat around and spoken honestly with one another. Approaching the first minute the synthesiser is back after the dialogue and takes on more prominence. After 1½ minutes the mood of the piece begins to change and as we hit 2 minutes David Gilmour appears on guitar, gently entering the melody and lightly twanging the strings. The guitar gradually moves into the ascendancy but keyboards/synthesisers are with the piece still. It’s only after 3½ minutes or so that drums are briefly heard before dispersing into the musical ether. The melody goes on and segues smoothly into the next track.
Things Left Unsaid gives us a shape of things to come. We are back to the ambient Pink Floyd of the early 1970s. The dialogue from David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason adds a level of poignancy to the piece as we recall Wright is no longer with us, while Roger Waters is absent, though his voice is just as important as the others in the group. One feels the need to kick back and take this all in.
It’s What We Do
The second track on the album is It’s What We Do which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts nearly 6½ minutes. The music segues from the previous track and we have Richard Wright opening the piece on the synthesiser. David Gilmour comes in intermittently on guitar and bass while keyboards are also prevalent. The music builds slowly with the synthesiser and keyboards dominating until Nick Mason comes in on drums as we approach 1½ minutes. Gilmour is also more audible now on guitar and bass. As we reach 2½ minutes Gilmour’s guitar is unleashed and becomes louder though not taking over the melody. The guitar gains more prominence just before 3½ minutes and the interchange with guitar, bass, drums, synthesiser and keyboards plays out the rest of the track. The synthesiser takes control towards the end of the track before Mason rounds things off with a drum clatter which signals the transition into the next track.
There is a lot going on in It’s What We Do, frequent changes in the music and the instruments used. It was strongly reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond from Wish You Were Here back in 1975. So many echoes of that splendid piece could be found dotted throughout this track. If anything, this one was more mellow than the opening track and one you could picture yourself relaxing to.
Ebb and Flow
The third track on the album is Ebb and Flow which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts under 2 minutes. The song sounds like it is comprised of Wright on piano and Gilmour on guitar. It opens with a gentle piano melody before Gilmour comes in on guitar, also with a calm and soothing tone from the strings. The rest of the track is an easy interchange between the two players coming to an abrupt halt with around 30 seconds to go and leaving us with a barely audible whistling wind to see out the remainder of the piece.
The title of “Ebb and Flow” is quite apt here, with the music here being but a brief drop in the ocean before silence consumes all things towards the end. It’s another example of what David Gilmour and Richard Wright helped to bring to Pink Floyd in their earliest years as they worked towards The Dark Side of the Moon. Roger Waters was certainly the lyricist extraordinaire and creative mind but his bandmates contributed significantly to the mood and melody of the songs.
The fourth track on the album is Sum which was written by David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason and lasts just under 5 minutes. This next piece is less ambient than the opening three tracks, beginning with sci-fi sounds perhaps from a keyboard or synthesiser. Breezy effects then come in before Wright comes in on the organ. This continues beyond the first minute before Gilmour arrives with a strained sounding guitar accompaniment. Mason follows up soon after on the drums and we have a feel of Interstellar Overdrive or Astronomy Domine from Pink Floyd’s 1967 album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, before Gilmour joined the group. The track intensifies as we pass 2 minutes and Gilmour’s guitar is now more pronounced, guiding the rest of the band forward. The music continues this way beyond 4 minutes when Wright’s organ takes over though the track starts to fade somewhat soon after. The organ plays out the remaining seconds as we shift into the next song.
Sum feels like a nostalgia trip to the earliest days of Pink Floyd where they were considered to be purveyors, at times, of space rock. There isn’t the same relaxation on offer here from what the earlier tracks offered. This is harking back to the days of UFO Club when Syd Barrett was leading the Floyd as they looked for their big break into the music industry. I’m intrigued to see what other styles the album explores in subsequent tracks.
The fifth track on the album is Skins which was written by David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason and lasts just over 2½ minutes. The song transitions from the previous track with Mason immediately coming in on the drums while Gilmour joins him with a whiny guitar sound. The drums soon intensify and push the guitar into the background. There is a somewhat eerie feel to the piece as the drums and guitar continue in unison. After we pass 1½ minutes the drumming soon stops and the music eases. There is a sci-fi feel prevalent once more, the sounds mellow before confusion in the form of beeping, birdsong and what comes across as malfunctioning machinery or computers, complete disarray. We end with confusion as we move into the next track.
The title Skins is presumably in reference to the skin on a drum. Nick Mason’s contribution is certainly the most dominant here with the drums leading the way for the bulk of the track. The concluding moments bring us back full circle and link with Sum and the sci-fi feel that is prevalent with that piece.
The sixth track on the album is Unsung which was written by Richard Wright and lasts for just over 1 minute. Carrying over from Skins, the track opens with a synthesiser or organ from Wright with Gilmour coming in soon after on guitar. The two players complement one another as the music shifts back and forth between them. Coming in intermittently is a piano accompaniment as we reach the halfway point of the piece. Gradually the organ takes over, pushing the guitar into the distance but before we have time to get really absorbed the piece fades into the next track.
Unsung is another interesting variation on the music we have had thus far. A vehicle for Richard Wright to showcase his musical stuff, the song is heavily driven by the organ but David Gilmour’s contribution is also substantial here. The only downside is the piece is painfully short. A longer melody would have been preferable.
The seventh track on the album is Anisina which was written by David Gilmour and lasts just over three minutes. It starts with a drum intro from Nick Mason before being swept away by a delightful piano melody. This remains dominant with a synthesiser accompaniment in the background. After more than 30 seconds Gilmour arrives on guitar and complements, rather than takes over the piano. We are past the first minute when the melody grows with the piano and guitar still central but we also have a clarinet entering the fray. Things get even better on 1½ minutes when a saxophone comes into the piece, not played by Dick Parry sadly, but still a welcome inclusion all the same. The piano and saxophone are side by side before Mason’s drums reemerge as we head for the 2 minutes mark. Gilmour’s guitar is there as well and all flows smoothly together. As we near 2½ minutes the anticipation is too much for Gilmour who launches into a guitar solo. It’s a brief one though as the guitar soon dissipates, leaving us alone with the piano and synthesiser to fade out. We can also hear the sound of the wind as the track descends into silence.
Anisina is arguably the strongest piece on The Endless River thus far. The rich array of instrumentation slots in carefully and complements the melody superbly. The use of the saxophone immediately makes one nostalgic for Us and Them and Shine On You Crazy Diamond. You wouldn’t think a saxophone would work so well with a group like Pink Floyd but it never sounds out of place whenever it appears in a song. It really enhances the experience here.
The Lost Art of Conversation
The eighth track on the album is The Lost Art of Conversation which was written by Richard Wright and lasts under 2 minutes. The track opens with a synthesiser and emits a calm and reassuring mood. An organ is then audible, followed soon after by David Gilmour’s gentle guitar accompaniment. At one point we can hear birdsong before a piano melody from Richard Wright consumes all that came before it. This continues for the remainder of the piece, a brief moment of percussion coming in as we approach 1½ minutes, but this is all about that piano which continues the piece into the next song.
There is a tranquil and scenic feel about The Lost Art of Conversation, a feeling of being outdoors in nature and lost in the moment. Written by Richard Wright, this is all about the piano and the melody is simply gorgeous. I would have happily listened to a track double this length but I’ll gladly take this as a welcome consolation.
On Noodle Street
The ninth track on the album is On Noodle Street which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts just under 2 minutes. Wright’s piano continues from the previous track but the tempo soon changes. The bass guitar, played by Guy Pratt, is key here while Nick Mason drums gently and David Gilmour’s guitar is also audible. We can also make out a synthesiser lurking in the background. The piece itself gives one the feel of a beat accompanying an individual making their way down a street, perhaps surreptitiously, but that is open to debate of course. The melody continues in this manner and segues into the next piece.
We’re changing things up again with On Noodle Street. While The Lost Art of Conversation was a serene piece, there is a lot more urgency to this track. The album is certainly showcasing the versatility of Pink Floyd across their long career.
The tenth track on the album is Night Light which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts just under 2 minutes. This one opens with a synthesiser and Gilmour offers a strained sounding guitar inclusion. The build up is gentle with the synthesiser offering a ponderous melody for a time while the guitar creeps in intermittently. The melody continues in this fashion before we shift into the next track.
Night Light is another soothing piece but it’s steady pacing makes one expect a longer melody so it is disappointing when it changes into the next track. So much of the music here is delightful but you want the experience to last longer.
The eleventh track on the album is Allons-y (1) which was written by David Gilmour and lasts just under 2 minutes. We open with the synthesiser carried over from the last track before Gilmour’s guitar and Nick Mason’s drums come on. We have a more urgent and intense piece than earlier songs, more progressive rock from the Floyd rather than the ambient music that has dominated a lot of The Endless River. Around 30 seconds in, the guitar takes over the piece though it sounds like multiple guitars are being played here before Gilmour launches into a solo. It remains a harder rock piece, changing tempo a couple of times before suddenly easing down after 1½ minutes and shifting to the next track.
Allons-y (1) is an example of the harder Pink Floyd sound, more in line with something like The Wall than the ambient Floyd from years before. A nice combination between the group members is on offer but I do prefer the more serene music on this particular venture.
The twelfth track on the album is Autumn ‘68 which was written by Richard Wright and lasts just over 1½ minutes. The piece begins with Wright playing an organ and the sound emitted is similar to what you would expect in church, giving a somewhat sombre atmosphere. There is distant percussion but this is all about that organ. Approaching 30 seconds it sounds like a synthesiser comes in as back-up to Wright while percussion continues to pop in. The synthesiser and organ continue together as we pass 1 minute but moments later we hear David Gilmour’s guitar making an entrance to guide us into the next piece.
Autumn ‘68 evoked a couple of memories from earlier Floyd albums. I did note that the title, Autumn ‘68, potentially links to Richard Wright’s song, Summer ‘68, which appeared on Atom Heart Mother in 1970. The organ music here made me think of the instrumental, A Saucerful of Secrets from 1968 and, in particular, the piece entitled, Celestial Voices. There is a feeling of respectful reverence about this one.
The thirteenth track on the album is Allons-y (2) which was written by David Gilmour and lasts around 1½ minutes. Richard Wright’s organ from the previous track opens here but quickly fades, leaving a synthesiser to take charge. Moments later Gilmour and Nick Mason come in on guitar and drums respectively, leading us back into a rock number. The guitar becomes increasingly heavier as we move towards the first minute and it sounds, once more, like multiple guitars are evident. All too soon, the music begins to fade and as the guitar ceases, the synthesiser sees out the remaining seconds of the piece.
As with its partner, Allons-y (1), Allons-y (2) demonstrates the heavier rock side of Pink Floyd. Everyone is working well together in unison but, as before, this one isn’t as appealing as the ambient inclusions we have on the album.
The fourteenth track on the album is Talkin’ Hawkin’ which was written by David Gilmour and Richard Wright and lasts around 3½ minutes. Nick Mason’s drums and Wright’s piano form the opening to this piece. Dialogue is soon audible in the background before Gilmour comes in on guitar. The piano remains the most dominant of the instruments, though the guitar becomes more noticeable as we edge towards the first minute. There are also backing harmonies provided by Gilmour and Durga McBroom, a significant contrast to many of the other tracks on the album. We’re more than 1 minute in and the guitar and piano are back and forth, coupled with the harmonies, before we hear dialogue from Stephen Hawking 1½ minutes in. This similar to what was used in Keep Talking on The Division Bell, the BT advert that so inspired Gilmour back then. The guitar and piano remain as we hear the great Professor Hawking’s words. He continues to dip into the track even as the piece gathers intensity. When we reach 2 minutes Gilmour launches into a brief solo, the backing harmonies coming in to halt him somewhat, before both guitar and piano take over along with further inclusions from Hawking. We’re not even 3 minutes in before the track begins to fade and we’re left with a synthesiser/organ drone that is distant and somewhat unnerving.
Talkin’ Hawkin’ links strongly to The Division Bell and can be seen as a variant of Keep Talking or perhaps was intended for possible inclusion as part of that piece, it’s hard to say. This feels more in line with the late 1980s/early 1990s Pink Floyd, the David Gilmour led era, instead of linking back to the group’s earlier years with Syd Barrett and Roger Waters.
The fifteenth track on the album is Calling which was written by David Gilmour and Anthony Moore and lasts just over 3½ minutes. The piece opens with an array of sound effects, having a feeling of working machinery. The synthesiser soon comes in and we have an overwhelming feeling of eerie sci-fi about things. We’re more than 1 minute in when the tempo begins to change and Gilmour now comes in on guitar. There are also brief snippets of percussion entering intermittently. As we pass 2 minutes keyboards now come into the piece, while Gilmour’s guitar is distant but powerful in the background. The piece continues to build, with the keyboards becoming stronger as we advance towards 3 minutes. Around 3½ minutes in, the track begins to ease as we segue into the next piece.
This piece feels like the more recent and experimental Floyd led by Gilmour, a contrast to the ambient or rockier turns that the group took in the 1970s. It’s an interesting segment but not as strong as many of the tracks we have had before.
Eyes to Pearls
The sixteenth track on the album is Eyes to Pearls which was written by David Gilmour and lasts just under two minutes. This piece opens with an acoustic guitar from Gilmour with Richard Wright’s synthesiser/organ appearing faintly in the background. We have moments of percussion from Nick Mason every now and again as well. After more than 30 seconds the drums come into play and remain but the guitar is dominant here. After 1 minute the synthesiser comes in stronger but cannot challenge Gilmour’s guitar. The intensity of the piece seemingly increases before a fade out quickly comes in as we move to the next track.
Eyes to Pearls contrasts once more with the previous track. The acoustic guitar is the central element here and Gilmour’s playing made me think of music that would not have been out of place in some Western film. Take note, Clint Eastwood, I may have found the soundtrack to your next film.
The seventeenth track on the album is Surfacing which was written by David Gilmour and lasts just under 3 minutes. We open once more with Gilmour on an acoustic guitar but he soon faces competition from Richard Wright on the synthesiser. Nick Mason is soon there as well on the drums but it is the guitar that increases in volume around 30 seconds in. The synthesiser continues to compete with the guitar while Mason’s drumming develops a regular beat as we pass the first minutes. We also have further backing harmonies from David Gilmour and Durga McBroom. All of these ingredients flow together before Gilmour’s guitar inches ahead of everyone else. The backing harmonies return as we pass 2 minutes and soon after the music begins to fade as we reach 2½ minutes. As the music ceases we hear church bells ringing.
Surfacing seems to be a nod to different periods of Pink Floyd’s history. The sound is more akin to their Gilmour-led era but the use of the church bells at the end links back to Fat Old Sun on Atom Heart Mother in 1970 and to High Hopes from The Division Bell in 1994. Both High Hopes and Fat Old Sun are arguably Gilmour’s finest writing credits and both include the church bells heard here in Surfacing. Coincidence? I think not.
Louder than Words
The eighteenth track and final track on the album is Louder than Words which was written by David Gilmour and Polly Samson. The lyrics came from Samson and were based on her observations of Pink Floyd when they reunited with Roger Waters for their Live 8 performance in 2005. Observing rehearsals and seeing the group backstage, Samson noticed there was little communication between the members, especially with Waters, but once on stage the four men resonated with one another and delivered a memorable performance to the delight of millions of people across the globe. The song captures the many divisions that damaged Pink Floyd beyond repair yet, amidst the many conflicts, the music continued to be churned out and so often it was magnificent, even at the darkest of times, take The Wall for instance. Personalities broke down between the Floyd but together they still formed a unique connection with their music, one that words simply cannot capture.
The track opens with church bells that ended Surfacing before the sounds are quickly overtaken by David Gilmour on guitar. Soon after, and particularly poignant, we have Richard Wright giving us one last sumptuous piano melody. Thanks Rick. As we reach 1 minute Nick Mason can wait no longer and joins in on the drums. Gilmour soon begins singing the opening verse, supported by his bandmates. When Gilmour sings the chorus just after 2 minutes we have backing harmonies from Durga McBroom, Louise Marshal and Sarah Brown to complement Gilmour’s voice. There is a brief musical interlude before Gilmour launches into the second verse as we close on 3 minutes. Approaching 3½ minutes we have Gilmour singing the chorus once more with the backing harmonies. A couple of repetitions and we then have a musical interlude with one final Gilmour guitar solo as we head for 4½ minutes. The backing harmonies continue to support the melody and the music continues for another minute or so before beginning to ease as we reach the 5½ minutes mark. During the outro some dialogue is audible after around 6 minutes before the piece recedes completely and with it the end of my Pink Floyd pilgrimage has sadly arrived.
Louder than Words is a surprise having listened to 17 instrumentals from Pink Floyd but it’s an apt way to end this album and, indeed, a fitting send off for the group. Polly Samson deserves a lot of credit for her contributions to the band on The Division Bell and on this song as well. Gilmour clearly found his muse in Samson. The song is a moving conclusion to the band’s history, a final acknowledgement that beneath all the animosity that existed between the members and still does to some extent with the trio that remain, together the five men that made up Pink Floyd at some stage, from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967 all the way through to The Endless River in 2014, all of them combined to create something truly magical.
The Endless River is a difficult album for the end of Pink Floyd. Perhaps awkward might be a better word. By having 1 song and 17 instrumentals, the album creates an immediate problem which David Gilmour acknowledged upon its release. If you are one that savours the ambient Floyd of the early 1970s then you’ll have no problem kicking back and taking in some truly breathtaking music. However, if your preference is for the Floyd doing something like The Wall then this album will inevitably be a hard sell for you.
Personally, I do enjoy the ambient Pink Floyd and have favoured their many guises as the years have passed. The albums that followed The Wall were simply not as strong as when Roger Waters was in the band, or things were more democratic, but those records still prove how crucial the musical element was to what made the band work so well. The Endless River has some truly great moments but some of the pieces are too short and when you do get to Louder Than Words you find yourself wishing a few more of the tracks had had some vocals as well. I still feel this is a fitting end to the Floyd journey and having managed to produce great music nearly 50 years after their first album, that is some achievement.
The Endless River has 18 tracks and trying to narrow them down to a handful of favourites is not easy to begin with. The strongest instrumentals for me are Anisina, The Lost Art of Conversation and Autumn ‘68, the latter in particular being a beautiful memento of Richard Wright in his element with the organ work. RIP good sir. The absence of any vocals on the majority of the album hits hard so when we do get to Louder Than Words at the end it proves to be the icing on the cake for the album and the best song by far. A wonderful way to sign off on the Floyd odyssey.
Due to the high number of pre-orders, The Endless River topped the charts in many countries but the critical reception was mixed. Many did appreciate the quality of the music but more still found the absence of vocals to be a limiting factor. It wasn’t necessarily the band going out with a bang as many might have hoped. Instead, they closed out the final days quietly and…ambiently. The hope that more might come has been dismissed by David Gilmour who is more than happy for Pink Floyd to now be laid to rest. His solo career still throws in Floyd numbers though much to the delight of fans.
The truth is that Pink Floyd will never truly die. Roger Waters continues to draw huge crowds with his tours of The Wall so there is very much a taste for the Floyd and their music even now. At the start of this journey I made reference to music lovers on YouTube finding and reacting to the band for the first time. The group transcend generational boundaries and are finding new audiences all the time. Many are even reassessing the music they have listened to, considering it inferior to Pink Floyd. I have shared similar sentiments. David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason are all that now remain of this wonderful band and each one is to be cherished while they are still with us. One day, the last of the Floyd will sail down that endless river, the differences between them never fully healed, but the music will be left behind for many millions of us to savour throughout the rest of our lives.
When I began this journey I knew only a handful of Pink Floyd songs but now I have gone through all 15 studio albums and immersed myself in each track as my own path has continued. I began by standing with the piper before the gates of dawn and ended by sailing down the endless river. Along the way I have been party to a saucerful of secrets, become acquainted with an atom heart mother, been to the dark side of the moon, seen a pig floating over Battersea power station, been stuck behind the wall with Pink and spent some time ringing the division bell. A lot has happened over this journey of 15 months.
I feel a different person for the experience. It’s almost as if there is music and there is Pink Floyd. Nothing truly comes close to sounding like they did and for that reason I am grateful to have headed down the rabbit hole and discovered their world for myself. On a personal level many of the group’s songs have spoken to me, made me reassess my own life and the world around me, sometimes with painful results but the clarity I have now is worth the anger and hurt that has come with it. The Floyd often offer a bleak outlook but can show the beauty in existence as well with all of its complexities.
I feel like I could write thousands of pages about Pink Floyd but my journey is over now and what it truly means to me I will not fully share. It’s my experience, my thoughts and feelings, and I will take time to assess and fully understand it all. For those that are unfamiliar with the Floyd or know only a handful of songs, I would say grab some headphones and begin your own discovery of this truly amazing band. It’s not fair to compare Pink Floyd to other groups for they inhabit their own space and time in music history, no one can share the same plain as they do. While not every album and song was perfect, the experience of going through their history is a path I am grateful to have taken.
It seems only fitting to close with lyrics from Time, my favourite song by Pink Floyd: “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.”
Final Pink Floyd Roll of Honour
1) Wish You Were Here (1975)
2) The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
3) The Wall (1979)
4) Animals (1977)
5) Meddle (1971)
6) The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
7) A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
8) Atom Heart Mother (1970)
9) The Division Bell (1994)
10) The Final Cut (1983)
11) Obscured by Clouds (1972)
12) More (1969)
13) The Endless River (2014)
14) A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
15) Ummagumma (1969)