5 Pink Floyd Songs That Describe The Band’s Struggle With Fame

As an experimental psych-rock group that went from the fringes of the mainstream to bonafide rock royalty, Pink Floyd’s career was pockmarked by struggles with fame that was immense, overwhelming, and life-altering (for better or worse). Indeed, this complex relationship with fame became a musical mainstay in the band’s discography, offering a more sinister take on the glitzy sparkle of the Cantabrigians’ newfound celebrity.

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Pink Floyd’s 40+ EPs, LPs, and live albums take listeners on a melancholic journey through life’s various inevitabilities: birth, death, relationships, religion, mental health, and war. These topics were and continue to be universal today, adding to the group’s mass appeal and longevity. Their perspective on fame, of course, was far more unique.

And while some albums, like ‘The Wall’ and ‘Wish You Were Here,’ had an overarching narrative on fame, there were specific songs that cut through vague metaphor and read more like journal entries of ambitious classmates-turned-embittered bandmates.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

‘Wish You Were Here’ and its nine-part magnum opus “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” were a touching tribute to Pink Floyd’s original frontman, Syd Barrett. Drug addiction, unstable mental health, and fame’s effects on both of these challenges proved to be too difficult for Barrett, and he was kicked out of the band in the late ‘60s.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun, the lyrics begin, referencing Barrett’s initial creative genius. Then, the song acknowledges how his ongoing health struggles and the pressures of fame dampened that artistic spark. You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze.

Welcome to the Machine

“Welcome to the Machine” is the second track on ‘Wish You Were Here.’ The song’s mechanical whirring and ominous melody seem to personify the cogs that snuffed out Barrett’s artistic light. You bought a guitar to punish your Ma, the omniscient narrator sings. You didn’t like school, and you know you’re nobody’s fool.

The foreboding track uses “the machine” as a metaphor for a capitalist landscape in which its rulers prioritize profit above all else. You dreamed of a big star, the narrator taunts, almost suggesting the loss of humanity was an appropriate price in exchange for pursuing one’s creative passions. So, welcome, my son, to the machine.

Have A Cigar

Pink Floyd’s lyrical expression of their struggles with fame has often been ominous and dark. But others, like the ‘Wish You Were Here’ track “Have a Cigar,” are far more tongue-in-cheek. One can picture the aloof, greedy record exec ushering the still-green band into his office. Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar. You’re gonna go far.

Snarkily poking fun at execs who pretend to “get” art, the band sings, By the way, which one’s Pink? Then, a proposition: You gotta get an album out; you owe it to the people. Finally, the reality of one’s art turning into an international commercial enterprise: It could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team.

Wot’s… Uh The Deal

Featured on the 1972 album ‘Obscured By Clouds,’ “Wot’s… Uh the Deal” seems to be another testament to Pink Floyd’s struggles with fame. The singer describes the isolation of looking at something they want from the outside. By the song’s end, the narrator realizes that those feelings never went away despite getting what they wanted.

At the beginning of the song, the narrator is the man on the outside looking in. By its end, they are the man on the inside looking out. In both cases, he’s unhappy, pleading for the listener to let me in from the cold. Turn my lead into gold cause there’s a chill wind blowing in my soul, and I think I’m growing old.


In 1971, Pink Floyd released ‘Meddle,’ which features “Fearless” as its third track. The song has obvious references to the at-times illogical hopefulness one might possess at the beginning of their career. Though, it’s difficult to tell whether the narrator is speaking about music, football (cued by the Liverpool chant that closes the song), or maybe both.

You say the hill’s too steep to climb, chiding, the song begins, you say you’d like to see me try climbing. You pick the place, and I’ll choose the time. The confidence of the first verse is tamped down by the second verse: Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd, smiling. The singer refers to the celebrity performer: Who’s the fool who wears the crown?

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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