In tribute to a man whose sounds and musical ideas so inspired me, here are 12 Great Rick Wright Moments…
1. “Interstellar Overdrive” from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
The psychedelic freakout “Interstellar Overdrive” is an exception to the rule on the Floyd’s full-length debut The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967), an album otherwise distinguished by Syd Barrett’s extraordinary fairytale pop songs. It’s also about the only track on that captures the essence of the band’s live sound during the Barrett era. A catchy, driving guitar riff opens and closes the 10-minute trip, but in between it’s a kaleidoscope of spaced out, free-form improvisations led by Wright and Barrett. Live on stage it could go on for days and in 1967 there was nothing in rock remotely like it.
Although instrumental, “Intersteller Overdrive” is a very busy track – the Floyd had yet to fully develop that that sense of space and panoramic ambience they would soon become known for.
2. “Paintbox” – the B-side to the single Apples & Oranges (1967)
While he always made his mark on the Floyd’s extended compositions, in the early days Wright also had a criminally under-appreciated gift for writing sophisticated, pretty, psychedelic pop songs with sweet vocals to boot.
“Paintbox” is fantastic. It has an angst-laden lyric about a messy night out but musically it sounds as bouncy and happy as your 5-year old self on a trampoline. Nick Mason adds some fast, complex flourishes – he was a creative drummer once, you know – and the song jerks back and forth between single and double-time until it reaches the euphoric, dreamy coda with its fairytale piano figures and lovely group vocal harmonies.
Whether or not Wright’s early songwriting was trying to emulate Barrett doesn’t really matter – this is as tuneful as pop music gets.