Dave Grohl discusses the most “punk rock” Pink Floyd song

Dave Grohl

Pink Floyd, undoubtedly one of the most distinctive and vital bands of all time, explored a wide range of topics during their long and erratic career. Despite diverse experimentation, the band is a major prog-rock influence, recognized for its pivotal role in the genre’s development. However, they have little parallels with the other genre forerunners.

Pink Floyd’s musical evolution is one of the most engaging and amazing creative arcs, from the scorching psychedelia of their initial Syd-Barret-led phase. It culminates in the intellectual ambient sounds of their final album, The Endless River. The group’s metamorphosis kept them relevant in the face of a changing globe and zeitgeist. Each member had their finger firmly on the pulse of the latest sound developments and was committed to always developing their art. It kept them apart from the groupings to which they are so frequently and casually attached.

Pink Floyd always had a punk feel to them, which may seem strange considering their alleged prog-rock link. The group always had a true bite, whether it was the spiky cacophony of Syd Barrett’s guitar or their subversive experiments of the late 1960s and 1970s. Most obviously, Roger Waters’ biting political observations are heard in songs such as The Wall, as well as Refinement. The mundane concerns felt utterly out of place, a stark contrast to the epic fantasies of the other prog acts.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, who understands more about punk than anyone, has even named Pink Floyd’s punkiest track. It’s easy to see why he thinks it’s ‘Have a Cigar‘ from 1974’s Wish You Were Here. Thematically and musically, it is more direct than most of the British quartet’s other songs.

The piece is about corporations and how they control musicians in a conventional punk style. The sentence “We call it riding the gravy train” is also essential to the message. It emphasizes how the powers that be successfully make their clients slaves, despite assuring them they will go far and “never die.”

Interestingly, ‘Have a Cigar‘ was such a hit with Pink Floyd fans that Queen guitarist Brian May worked with Foo Fighters to make a cover for the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack in 2000. Taylor Hawkins, the late drummer, sang on it because Dave Grohl kept forgetting the lyrics. Grohl had to switch to the rhythm section due to memory lapses. Later, Grohl stated that they chose the song because “it’s the most punk rock thing Pink Floyd ever did.” It’s difficult to argue with him on this.

Listen to both versions of ‘Have a Cigar‘ in the player below.

  1. It’s not even close to their most punk song – try Vegetable Man, Interstellar Overdrive and “Pow R. Toc H. All Syd of course but that’s the point – they were never that punk again. Johnny ( Rotten) Lydon is on record as pointing to Syd’s Pink Floyd as their inspiration, they tried to get Syd to produce their 1st Sex Pistols album and he named Sid Viscous after Syd. Barrett’s solo albums also inspired many punk bands especially its punk production and attitude.

    1. It is the most punk track because it’s got Roy Harper on vocals. He was on Harvest and recording in the studio at the same time. Roger couldnt get the vocal right and so asked Roy to provide the vocals. The rest of the band just played. Roy was punk before punk.

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