May 302018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

pink floyd covers

Coming in at 40 tracks, our third ‘Best Ever’ countdown is our longest yet. This feels appropriate; Pink Floyd’s songs tend to be a whole lot longer than Talking Heads’ or Fleetwood Mac’s. A band whose default length was set at “epic” deserves a list just as winding.

Luckily, the covers community has obliged, allowing us a list as discursive as Pink Floyd itself. A band that, for better or worse, can get pigeonholed into a specific sound and era, gets transformed into a whole host of other genres and moods. Psychedelic rock is represented here, of course, but so is bluegrass, soul, and disco. One cover even includes a “featuring Tupac Shakur” credit, which is probably not what Gilmour or Waters envisioned. Though the latter would certainly appreciate the walls being torn down.

Twenty-minute tracks that might seem intimidating to some don’t phase these artists. Some turn them into tight four-minute pop songs. Others, if you can believe it, extend the songs further. So strap in, and set the controls for the heart of the cover…

Update 5/31: Hear editor-in-chief Ray Padgett discuss this list and play an exclusive “Wish You Were Here” covers medley on SiriusXM Volume:
https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmentertainment/ray-padgett-of-covermesongscom-favorite-covers-in-may-covers-of-pink-floyd

Honorable Mention: Roger Waters, Van Morrison, and The Band – Comfortably Numb


In the summer of 1990, Roger Waters assembled an all-star lineup to perform The Wall at a massive outdoor concert in Berlin. The show was Waters’ way of making good on a promise to only play the album live again if the Berlin Wall came down. The performers included the Scorpions, Joni Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper, Sinéad O’Connor, Thomas Dolby, Bryan Adams, The Band and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. It was eventually released as a live album and video. While these songs are not covers — Waters played them with and alongside his fellow artists — one of the tracks deserves an honorable mention. Waters’ duet of “Comfortably Numb” with Van Morrison has lived on in popular culture, even as memories of the Cold War have faded. Waters sings his original lead part, while Morrison takes the David Gilmour duties, coming in with “There is no pain, you are …” Morrison transforms the spacey original into a gut-wrenching, gospel-flavored lament about the loss of innocence. This version was included in the Oscar-winning film The Departed and heard on The Sopranos as Christopher Moltisanti took his fateful last ride. Morrison has performed the song on his own, but nothing quite matches the power of the Live in Berlin performance. – Curtis Zimmermann

40. Teenage Fanclub – Interstellar Overdrive


A curiosity really, the Fannies more normally associating with Byrds-ian jangle than this maelstrom of wrangled shredding. Contractual obligation you say, and maybe so, but sounds as if it was fun. – Seuras Og

39. The City Music Project – The Thin Ice


For reasons I can’t quite explain, I seem to have a bottomless appetite for dancey Pink Floyd covers. See also: the two separate disco tracks on this list. The City Music Project’s “Thin Ice” is more recent than those, a 2011 Blade Runner-esq take on an unlikely song by Philadelphia singer Frank Cervantes and producer goldenSpiral. The City Music Project seems to have quietly disbanded a few years back (or, hopefully, switched to a more memorable name). – Ray Padgett

38. Rachel Webb – The Gunner’s Dream


Reviews of Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut are confusingly critical, especially compared to the inconsistence of the Syd Barrett era (what I call “Put Down That Acid, Eugene”). Some songs off of PF’s swan song album could easily fit into The Wall, since they continue to be influenced by Waters’ loose biographical narratives. Rachel Webb’s YouTube performance is raw and real, pushing back against the heavily produced sound of the original. – Sean Balkwill

37. Wooden Wand – Echoes


When Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth created a Kickstarter to fund his album a few years back, one of the higher-end rewards was an offer to record a cover song of the buyer’s choice. One buyer apparently wanted his money’s worth, since he selected Pink Floyd’s 23-minute “Echoes.” Toth trimmed it down to a comparatively sprightly nine minutes. That still leaves plenty of time to get spacey. – Ray Padgett

36. The Mavericks – Us & Them


The Mavericks are known for their mastery of rootsy rock, country, folk, and various types of Latin music. That they can also do convincing prog, though, might surprise some. Their cover of “Us & Them” doesn’t try to drag the song onto more familiar turf for the band like, say, an uptempo Tex-Mex rocker. Instead, they embrace the song’s spacey, stately majesty, and Raul Malo’s distinctive voice. The drums, guitars, keyboards, accordion and horns – especially Max Abrams’ sax – create an astonishingly faithful cover, which usually delights the audience, and gives them a break from the nonstop roots-rock boogieing. – Jordan Becker

35. Metric – Nobody Home


Artists that cover songs have to find a space in between rote duplication and complete reinvention. Tackling a lesser-known song such as “Nobody Home” would often take the form of the latter, simply because the bloody cry of heresy would rise up from the faithful if someone tried to get too close. But Metric choose only to strip away the cinematic accouterments of Waters’ original, and the result is stellar, from the crisp production values to James Shaw’s reverential falsetto at the end. – Sean Balkwill

34. Sara Ardizzoni & Giorgio Canali – Pigs (Three Different One)


Sara Ardizzoni takes on the lesser known, but Floyd-devotee favorite of “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” Ardizzoni nicely replicates the original 11+ minute track about disdain for manipulators at the top of social ladder (although shortened to seven minutes), but with a nosier guitar sound and less percussion. The vocals eerily reminds us of Waters’ singing. However what makes this cover special is the guitar work from her Italian compatriot Giorgio Canali. – John Lenhardt

33. Wyclef Jean – Wish You Were Here


Wyclef Jean packs a lot into his cover of “Wish You Were Here,” which was the closing track on his 2000 album The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book. The song opens with a spoken-word skit where his tour bus is searched by a Southern-accented police officer who says he will let them off if they play some Pink Floyd. As if to spurn the officers’ request, the ensuing cover provides an intriguing blend of classic rock and hip-hop. Jean keeps the acoustic guitar portions of the tune largely intact but adds a syncopated beat. He also contributes some lyrics of his own. They include a meta message, telling critics “Don’t mistake this for just any cover tune / I’m a take y’all to the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.” He finishes with a bit of his own personal history: “A young teen listenin’ to hip-hop / My brother tuned me into rock / Put me up on Pink Floyd / A band from the British blocks.” The end result is a track that retains the essence of the original, but is still unmistakably Jean’s. – Curtis Zimmermann

32. Neville Skelly – Brain Damage


Neville Skelly hails from Liverpool, though you wouldn’t know it from “Brain Damage.” He claims influences of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, not the Beatles. You wouldn’t guess those two from “Brain Damage” either. It sounds like John Martyn doing Pink Floyd, folkie not like 1960s Greenwich Village, but in the rural old-tyme Britain sense of the word. – Ray Padgett

31. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – The Great Gig In The Sky


In order to cover this Pink Floyd recording, you simply have to deliver on two pieces: the instrument and the voice. The Dark Side of the Moon track is a beauty in its original form, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra bring the full sound it deserves with a full-blown orchestra with strings and woodwinds, bringing an appropriately grandiose air to the proceedings. Some may say this big beautiful orchestra sound even eases your soul to a better understanding of dying. As for the second part of the equation, the vocals on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s version lives up (as much as possible) to Clare Torry’s ridiculously fantastic offering of the original. My suggestion is to get in your car alone, load up this cover, turn it to 11 and reflect how death can be beautiful. – John Lenhardt

30. Andrej Kurti & Viktor Uzur – Run Like Hell


At first, Andrej Kurti & Viktor Uzur’s songs sound like they might fall into that viral-YouTube category of unexpected string covers. Listen closer. These two are the real deal, an acclaimed violist (Kurti) and cellist (Uzur) in their native Serbia and beyond. The seriousness shows on “Run Like Hell.” They arrange like a real classical duet from the 18th century. If you didn’t know the original, you’d probably assume it was. – Ray Padgett

29. Nik Turner – Careful With That Axe Eugene


Given that Hawkwind, the motorik band Turner once fronted, arguably took their modus operandi from the thrash of early Floyd guitar frenzies like “Eugene,” this starts more like a later period Floyd. But, a minute or few in, it becomes more Hawkwindian fare, all sequencers and bleep and booster whooshes with Turner’s flute meandering around in the background. One feels drugs may have been involved. – Seuras Og

28. Foo Fighters – Have a Cigar


Quick: Who sang vocals on the original “Have a Cigar,” Waters or Gilmore? Trick question. Roy Harper did the vocals for this great song from 1975’s Wish You Were Here. This alternative singer concept ties in with the Foo Fighters’ cover. Dave Grohl did not sing on this. Instead, his drummer-sidekick Taylor Hawkins that sang the lyrics about musicians not being thrilled with their group’s management. Of course the Floyd version is greatness, but Foo Fighters’ updates give a more current rock sound with loud screaming guitars and a faster pace. Also, Hawkins’ surprisingly good vocals fits nicely for describing the song’s concept of hypocrisy of music labels. Pretty sure Pink and co. would be fans of this aggressive rocker attitude. – John Lenhardt

27. Bettye LaVette – Wish You Were Here


Bettye LaVette’s 2010 album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook was the third album in her remarkable late-career comeback, which continues unabated with her recent collection of Dylan covers. Interpretations, though, has the soul singer running through a series of covers by British artists, and interpreting them through her own experiences and in her own style. The original, often considered to be about the loss of Syd Barrett, is almost folkie, by Pink Floyd standards. LaVette’s version is, not surprisingly, more bluesy, and seems more about lost love than lost friends. – Jordan Becker

26. Luther Wright and the Wrongs – Hey You


Canadian country band Luther Wright and the Wrongs recorded an entire album of Pink Floyd covers in 2001. As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, what album did they pick? Roger Waters’ 26-track magnum opus The Wall! I don’t know what it is about Pink Floyd tunes that work so well as bluegrass pickin’ hoedowns (see also: Yonder Mountain String Band), but the whole thing is fantastic. Honestly, I could have picked a number of their covers for this list, but “Hey You” offers as good an example as any of just how they make the dramatic genre transition. – Ray Padgett

25. Scissor Sisters – Comfortably Numb


If you’re ever in need of a cover song to fool your friends, queue this up. The crisp guitar intro sounds like a song off a Rocky soundtrack, but when Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears starts singing, it’s hard to identify the Pink Floyd lyrics dressed up like the Bee Gees. Even the chorus, with its repetition of the title, is reimagined to the point that it’s very easy to hear this song without recognizing it as a cover. Endlessly danceable, flawlessly sung, and insanely reimagined without being a parody. – Mike Misch

24. Yonder Mountain String Band – Dogs


A bluegrass revival band covering any Pink Floyd song would be plenty impressive. Double that for covering them a full Floyd album. Now double it again when they pick perhaps the least acoustic-accessible album in the bunch: 1977’s Animals. A song topping four minutes would be practically marathon-length in bluegrass; this album has three songs that stretch past ten. And for a special 2016 concert, Yonder Mountain covered them all. Hell, they even stretched them out further than Floyd – “Dogs” lasts over 26 minutes, with mandolin and fiddle solos aplenty. They did this at a festival called the Northwest String Summit, and boy I wonder how that crowd took it. – Ray Padgett

23. Rasputina – Wish You Were Here


Pretty much every cover goth-cello collective Rasputina does deserves a Best-Of list somewhere. They made our Best “American Girl” covers list, and our Best of 1996 too. If we ever do Best Creedence Covers or Best Pat Benatar, they’re shoe-ins there too. But for now, we’ll honor a typically amazing performance, their churning “Wish You Were Here.” There’s a dark air of the macabre around everything they do, but this is as pretty as they’ll allow themselves to get. – Ray Padgett

22. Easy Star All-Stars feat. Kirsty Rock – The Great Gig in the Sky


This is the standout track on a momentously great record, translating the whole of Dark Side into reggae, utilizing all the disparate strands and styles of the genre, and working it so much better than the All-Stars’ subsequent takes on The Beatles and Radiohead. The sparse echoed scrub of the strummed guitar, the echo, the clavinet, the echo, the vocal – did I mention the echo? It is so perfect I forget the original. – Seuras Og

21. Mario Martinazzi – Southampton Dock


Another cover from The Final Cut, Martinazzi starts out with the gentle beginning of the original, but when he raises his voice, it elevates into pure Roger Waters. – Sean Balkwill

Click on to page 2 for the Top 20…

  21 Responses to “The Best Pink Floyd Covers Ever”

Comments (20) Pingbacks (1)
  1. I’ve always liked Ambulance LTD and Low’s version of Fearless

  2. Everyone of them are absolutely terrible. Pink Floyd music should be left alone.

  3. By the way folks, the song fearless is from the LP Obscured by Clouds! How did they miss that?!

  4. Avenged Sevenfold did an amazing cover of Wish You Were Here last year and play it on tour. I’ve heard them play it live twice and my father, who is the biggest Floyd fan I know, said it’s the best cover he’s ever heard. Give it a listen

    • Agreed. I’m a huge A7x fan so I’m a lil biased but it’s the only cover I’ve heard that’s really good. They didn’t try to over do anything. They stuck with what made the song so good.

  5. Hipster garbage. We all know Pearl Jam’s covers of Comfortably Numb and Mother are the best covers. Not this indie crap.

  6. Anybody have these in a YouTube playlist they could share?

  7. Voivod’s versions of Astronomy Domine and Nile Song!!!! Epic!

  8. Cody Jinks Wish You Were Here!
    https://youtu.be/77OIeoCWzo8

  9. “Fearless” is off side 1 of Meddle. Not Atom Heart Mother

  10. Has any one ever heard of Les Claypool, he has covered Have a cigar, shine on you crazy diamond, and animals in it entirety, all great covers because he does not mess with the integrity of the music

  11. Saucerful of Secrets from Finnish band Waltari! I listen to it regularly (on a playlist with the various performances of Saucerful of Secrets from the Floyd themselves)

  12. How could they not include david bowies see emily play cover from pinups?!? Or his cover of arnold lane w gilmour on guitar??? And the writer said fearless is from ahm?? Definitely doesnt know fliyd. Pearl jam covered fliyd well too among others missed here

  13. imo missing :

    Lulu Hughes – Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryAEFRGo-WY
    The Busters – Wish You Were Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8znXWgOWA4
    Tufts Beelzebubs – Goodbye Cruel World

    and a dubstep remix for those who read comments > play loud !! & start your day
    Pink Floyd – Have A Cigar (Wick-it Remix) https://soundcloud.com/wick-it/pink-floyd-have-a-cigar-wick

    cheers everyone :)

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