The Pink Floyd song Richard Wright called their “finest track”

When talking about the peak period of Pink Floyd, it usually comes down to The Dark Side of the Moon. In the wake of Syd Barrett leaving the group, the band created a sprawling epic that felt like going into the mindset of what makes people crazy, featuring the wildest music they had ever put to tape. Although Richard Wright may have been there throughout all of Pink Floyd’s classic period, one song set everything in motion for them.

Before becoming one of the biggest names in prog rock, ‘The Floyd’ was initially making a name for themselves in the psychedelic rock movement. Compared to the usual sounds of bands like The Doors and The Rolling Stones, the songs from Barrett were about embracing the world of space rock, with lyrics that often ventured from strange tone poems to tales of souls looking to explore new lands.

After crafting their first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the band was dealt a body blow when Barrett had to leave the group over struggles with mental health. The years lost to LSD had done a number on Barrett, and his reliance on substances made him incoherent when working on songs.

Although David Gilmour fit in like a glove on A Saucerful of Secrets, the band spent the next few years experimenting with what a version of the group post-Barrett might look like. Across albums like Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, the band had begun inching towards progressive territory, the latter of which features an epic that took up the entire first side of the record.

Despite having the chops to pull off an epic track of that length, it wasn’t until the next album that everything clicked together. For the majority of the track listing, Meddle features the most refined sounds that Floyd had created up until that point, with ‘One Of These Days’ sounding like a progressive rock take on bluesy rock and roll.

Though most of the tracks featured various influences, ‘Echoes’ marked the turning point for the group. Spanning 23 minutes, the song is a journey through the depths of the Earth and a comment on one’s struggles to relate to their fellow man. Although every band member would expand far beyond what ‘Echoes’ could be, Wright still counts the song among the band’s most outstanding achievements.

In the book Pink Floyd: All the Songs, Wright said that ‘Echoes’ was “the finest track that The Floyd ever did”. Among the rest of the band, the track’s success directed where to go next. On the following albums, Pink Floyd would make a point to push themselves to the brink in the studio, whether that was processing the grief of losing Barrett on Wish You Were Here or telling the story of Roger Waters’s youth and subsequent disillusionment as a rock star on The Wall.

Regardless of the burdens that Pink Floyd had to shoulder at the beginning of their career, ‘Echoes’ was the moment they crossed the threshold and became one of the biggest acts in the world. From the moment the track finished, it’s easy to tell that the band has only begun to impress their audience.

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