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Why "One Slip" is Pink Floyd's Best Song
It's the synth line!
Pink Floyd's best song isn't "Lucifer Sam," "Run Like Hell," or "Money," and it isn't anything written by Roger Waters or Syd Barrett. As controversial as this sounds, the best Pink Floyd song ever written is “One Slip,” off of A Monetary Lapse of Reason.
“From an album AFTER The Wall??”
“You can’t be serious!!”
…So why did I choose this song? Well, it was released as a single, and it didn't get the same air time as “Learning To Fly.” So it’s not even in the same public popularity as “Comfortably Numb.” And it's from an album without Waters on it! Am I crazy? No, I am not.
Think about how many times The Dark Side of The Moon and The Wall was forced upon everyone, and aligned with the neoliberal values of globohomo. No one likes that. Roger Waters is completely at odds with the entire American empire, and it’s David Gilmour who is the Ukrainian flag-waving normie. But One Slip is written by Gilmour, and it’s Gilmour's impact that has a deep and intricate musical expression that birthed Pink Floyd’s experimental sound. Waters can write so many spoken word jams that it feels like it has ultimately drifted away from what was happening on Atom Heart Mother or Meedle.
So why is One Slip powerful?
Think. Once you give an experimental band some synthesizers and drum machines, that’s when they truly shine. It’s why “On The Run” and “Any Colour You Like” are signature songs.
The Boomer generation tends to forget that The Final Cut was ever an album, (let alone, done by Waters) all while they stubbornly say it's "the final album." Not true. The Final Cut should have been called "Requiem for a Post-war Dream" just to tell the public this wasn’t the end. And because singles like “Not Now John” are often deliberately shunned, I believe that there is a conspiracy that Pink Floyd is being shaped by liberal audiences just so they can regurgitate the same liberal points of view over and over again while ignoring creative and original works. The Final Cut was a proto-neo-folk album, and this kicked the band back into artistic expression.
With Waters leaving out of spite, A Momentary Lapse of Reason comes out, and everyone is divided. Addressing the record straight, it’s a fantastic album. It’s an album that gets better every time you flip the record back to side A. The electronic instruments and sounds give us an alternative against the Boomers who fear changes. Gen-X is here, and they want something poppy and aggressive.
This album was next to work of Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and New Order, and somehow, it never got the same attention as these acts did. One Slip is not another generic rock song for the radio. Like “Blue Monday” by New Order, it's a hybrid disco song that combines the edginess of rock n’ roll, and the grace of emotional triumph. The main synth line and collage sounds give the entire track a worldly personality, unlike anything other track Pink Floyd has ever recorded. I blame Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music for providing the electronic edge on this track.
To this day, I still don't exactly know what is the origin sound of the synth line in One Slip. Not the buzzing computer part or the chimes coming in, but specifically, the main synth rift for the first 10 seconds and throughout the rest of the song as the catchy dance rift. Some say it's a synthesized Mbira, or an African thumb piano, or samples of it. No way is it authentic. It has the awesome digital synthesis sound you hear in classic Art of Noise records. Possibly, it’s speculated that it’s a Korg M1. But no preset is out there to determine that. The sound is unique, it does follow the tone engine found in the M1, or in similar subtractive sample playback like in the Roland D-50.
I’m surprised that the One Slip synth line is not as iconic as the On The Run line. Sure, On The Run is cool the first time you listen to it. But it's One Slip that takes you into a different era, or a different zeitgeist, that isn't so much a post-hippy 1970s, but instead, a vaporwave and nostalgic cyberpunk 1980s. One Slip takes you into Neo-Tokyo, the same universe found in the anime Akira, and reminds us of the motorcycle city chase. One Slip is a cyber-gamelan pop song. The synth rift should be recognized the same way “Jump” is with Van Halen.
The second best part of the song is Chapman Stick or bass guitar breakdown starting at 2:47. Alone, the vibe reminds me of Yellow Music Orchestra, or something Yukihiro Takahashi would put out as a solo. The bass slapping feels very Japanese and circumvents the City Pop sound. I love the snare drum, the delayed guitars, and the crystal pads over the synth rift, everything follows the recipe of a “four on the floor” synthpop anthem.
And the philosophical, deeply engaging lyrics of the chorus always get me,
"One slip, and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for a life.
The one regret you will never forget
There'll be no sleep in here tonight."
Yes, the album title is in the song lyrics!
One Slip is about falling in love, and how one event can change an entire life. Or, “one slip,” one moment, like a one-night stand, can change your life.
A story is being told about this jaded memory. The synth line turns into an epic arena rock song, with the following lyrics,
“A restless eye across a weary room
A glazed look and I was on the road to ruin
The music played and played as we whirled without end
No hint, no word, her honor to defend
"I will, I will", she sighed at my request
Then she tossed her mane while my resolve was put to the test
Then drowned in desire, our souls on fire
I led the way to the funeral pyre
And without a thought of the consequence
I gave in to my decadence.”
Does the one-night stand turn into something greater? Yes. What Alain Badiou once wrote about before, and to paraphrase, “There is no such thing as a one night stand.” There is only romance. The multiple beds on the album cover A Momentary Lapse of Reason implies all the failed relationships that men have with women, and try to score the perfect soulmate, desire, and romance for him.
And later, Gilmour sings,
“Was it love or was it the idea of being in love?
Or was it the hand of fate that seemed to fit just like a glove?
The moment slipped by, soon the seeds were sown
The year grew late, neither one wanted to remain alone.”
The song ends with how life can change direction after a tragic event. Two complete strangers who had sex either become one with a child, or they break up and take on responsibility for their past actions.
Some have also said that One Slip could also be about drug addiction, as Gilmour was addicted to cocaine and suffered the dependent ecstasy on it. It is also insisted that drug user never regrets their actions, and the celebration of hedonism comes with it. However, this can only be translated if the lover is cocaine as a woman, and that celebrating drug dependency is irrational. It makes complete sense that “a momentary lapse of reason” is about giving into desire, and what follows is love and the consequence it has on life. With the series of beds on the album’s cover, this doubts that One Slip is about drugs.
Finally, the song ends with the same bass breakdown and a fade-out. This is pure perfection. I can listen to this song over and over again without an abrupt stop. It’s like the song never did end, and I am still jamming out to the cyberpunk bassline.
One Slip is Pink Floyd’s best song. No rebuttals here. Those who deny its perfection are in love with something else and are opposed to the nature of electronic music and certain anti-liberal ideologies. It’s amazing the song still excites fans at encore. I just wish David Gilmour and Nick Mason did one more tour for 2023 and played One Slip again. And then finally I could see on stage exactly what synthesizer they were using.