The Story and Meaning Behind “Fearless,” an Underrated Gem from a Pink Floyd Breakthrough Album

Pink Floyd took time to find itself in the wake of losing original frontman Syd Barrett and recalibrating the band’s approach. On the 1971 song “Fearless,” the quartet put together an excellent combination of evocative music, introspective lyrics, and clever production, delivering one of their first post-Barrett standouts in the process.

Videos by American Songwriter

What is “Fearless” about? How did the album that contained it represent a huge leap for Pink Floyd? And what’s going on at the end of the song with the soccer crowd singing? Let’s find out all there is to know about this rare Floyd gem that still flies a bit under the radar.

Testing Their Meddle

Syd Barrett led Pink Floyd to a triumph with the 1967 album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and then was out of the band less than a year later. The other members chose to replace Barrett after his behavior became way too unreliable. His mental condition had deteriorated to such an extent that the decision was made with relatively little deliberation.

That meant the band really hadn’t given much thought to how they were going to proceed without the guy who had, to that point, been their key artistic force. It’s no surprise then they floundered a bit for a while, at least in the studio. They tried, among other things, composing soundtracks and working with orchestral musicians, all while trying to pin down what this particular quartet did best.

By the time they started working on their 1971 album Meddle, the band started to realize where they thrived as a unit. David Gilmour, the guy who had essentially replaced Barrett, could transport people with the music he composed and played on lead guitar. Meanwhile, the band was slowly coming to the realization bassist Roger Waters was their best lyricist.

Meddle surged with newfound confidence as the band started identifying their strengths. “Echoes,” which occupied an entire side of the album, is a wondrous epic, while the instrumental “One of These Days” showed how captivating they could be even without a word being uttered.

Because those two songs garnered a lot of the attention when the album was released (and ever since), “Fearless” found itself lost in the shuffle. But it’s no less notable than the other two. Gilmour (who wrote most of the music) found a rising guitar lick that provides a wonderful foundation for the song. He also does the honors with a piercing lead vocal.

As a finishing touch to the song, the band used a tape of the Liverpool soccer crowd (known as the Kop Choir) singing a refrain of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which is the traditional song of that group of fans. Considering lyrics in the song hint at isolation, the sound of that crowd joining together to sing such a reassuring song is quite moving.

What is the Meaning of “Fearless”?

Roger Waters wrote the words to “Fearless,” and this was at a time when his lyrics were much less literal than they would eventually become on albums like The Wall and The Final Cut. The song seems to be suggesting that walking one’s path in life might require a bout of loneliness. But that path is the only one that’s worthwhile.

There are echoes of Barrett’s saga in the lyrics, but it could refer to anyone who dares to show off some individualism in a staid world. The narrator is chided for wanting to climb the hill and separate himself from the pack. In the second verse, he suffers name-calling, yet he goes for the brass ring anyway: Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd, smiling.

Waters suggests triumph awaits above all the dissent and naysaying from those who might judge you for your differences: And as you rise above the fear lines in his brow / You look down, hear the sound of the faces in the crowd. Pink Floyd could probably identify with the sentiments here, as the four men in the band, with songs like “Fearless,” were separating from the shadow of their former frontman and forging what would become an extremely successful path of their own.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

One of the Only Songs Paul McCartney and George Harrison Wrote Together

The Story Behind “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” by Bruce Springsteen and How It Became an Unlikely Hit