35 Years Ago: Pink Floyd’s ‘A Collection of Great Dance Songs’ Sums Up the ’70s
Pink Floyd’s record labels in the U.K. and U.S. had gotten used to a schedule. Since 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the progressive rockers had released a new studio album every two years. Albums such as Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall became big hits, scaling the charts and selling millions of copies.
But in 1981 – two years after The Wall – there was no sign of a new Floyd album. The band’s time had been dominated by ancillary Wall projects, including a spate of ambitious live performances in 1980-81 and a film version of the double LP, in which Roger Waters was heavily involved. In addition, the relationships between Pink Floyd’s members were fracturing. Keyboardist and founding member Rick Wright had been booted from the band, while Waters’s work on The Wall movie was putting distance between him and guitarist and singer David Gilmour.
With nothing new from the band on the horizon, its U.S. label decided to forge a stop-gap release. Columbia Records sought to assemble a “best-of” compilation to come out for the holiday shopping season in 1981. As prog rock wasn’t known for hit singles (you could count the number of Floyd’s U.S. hits on one hand), a different approach was warranted, and so the label persuaded Gilmour to curate the collection.
With Columbia demanding a single LP, space was at a premium for the expansive sounds of Pink Floyd. Still, Gilmour hastily managed a six-track compilation that included four album cuts alongside the band’s only ’70s hits – “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” and “Money.” But it wouldn’t be that simple.
Some of the songs would need to be edited to fit on one slab of vinyl. The nine parts of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” had taken up the majority of Wish You Were Here, so the tune was cut down to less than 11 minutes this time (forcing the recording to resemble the original 1974 live version). “Brick” was given the single edition’s intro, but the closing of the album cut, while “Wish You Were Here” received some light trimming. “Sheep” might have been picked simply because it was the shortest of the three major songs on Animals. Opener “One of These Days” was left alone.
Listen to 'Money' From Pink Floyd's 'A Collection of Great Dance Songs'
It wasn’t perfect, but the album worked well enough. Still, Gilmour couldn’t walk away quite yet. Columbia received notice that Capitol Records (the previous U.S. home of Pink Floyd), refused to license the version of “Money” that had appeared on Dark Side ... or at least not for a free that Columbia was willing to spend. Missing one of the band’s best-known songs wasn’t an option, and it fell to Gilmour to record a new version of “Money.”
With producer James Guthrie behind the boards, the Pink Floyd guitarist recut almost all of the instruments himself, trying to mimic the 1973 tune. As on the original, Gilmour sang and played guitar, but this time he also drummed and played keyboards and bass. Dick Parry obliged to come into New Roydonia Studios and rerecord his saxophone part. Only the cash register sound loops remained from the Dark Side recording. Even though Gilmour did his best to keep all sounds as similar as possible, the differences are evident in the guitar and sax solos, as well as the running time (the newer version runs 15 seconds longer).
The now-complete compilation was given the ironic title of A Collection of Great Dance Songs, a sly reference to the disco rhythms of “Another Brick in the Wall” and/or drummer Nick Mason’s joke that Floyd’s U.S. label probably thought they were a dance band. The album’s art (created by Hipgnosis, under a pseudonym) reflected the gag, depicting a pair of dancers held in place. A quote from Gilmour about the album cover gives you an indication of what he thought about the entire project: “It was so awful, I thought I’d get it cheap.”
A Collection of Great Dance Songs was released on Nov. 23, 1981, in the U.S. (it was also issued in the U.K. by Harvest). While the compilation became Pink Floyd’s worst-charting LP in the States since 1972 – and its worst-to-date overseas – the album has gone multi-platinum over the years. The release has largely been supplanted by Pink Floyd collections released in the digital era.
In an ironic twist, the album that was designed as a basic introduction to Pink Floyd has become a must-have for hardcore Floyd completists. A Collection of Great Dance Songs remains the only release that contains the unique edit of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” as well as Gilmour’s solo studio version of “Money.”
Pink Floyd Albums Ranked Worst to Best