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| Pink Floyd in 1968 with (L–R): Nick Mason, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright
Pink Floyd in 1968 with (L–R): Nick Mason, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright
|Genres||Art rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, space rock, hard rock|
(on indefinite hiatus since 1996) (One-off reunion: 2005)
|Labels||Harvest, EMI, Capitol, Tower, Columbia|
|Associated acts||Sigma 6, Joker's Wild, Zee, Deep End|
| David Gilmour
| Roger Waters
Pink Floyd are an English rock band who initially earned recognition for their psychedelic or space rock music, and, as they evolved, for their progressive rock music. They are known for philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album cover art, and elaborate live shows. One of rock music's most successful acts, the group have sold over 200 million albums worldwide including 74.5 million albums in the United States alone.
Pink Floyd had moderate mainstream success and were one of the most popular bands in the London underground music scene in the late 1960s as a psychedelic band led by Syd Barrett; however, Barrett's erratic behaviour eventually forced his colleagues to replace him with guitarist and singer David Gilmour. After Barrett's departure, singer and bass player Roger Waters gradually became the dominant and driving force in the group by the late-1970s, until his eventual departure from the group in 1985. The band recorded several albums, achieving worldwide success with The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), and The Wall (1979). In 1985, Waters declared Pink Floyd "a spent force", but the remaining members, led by Gilmour, continued recording and touring under the name Pink Floyd. Although they were unsuccessfully sued by Waters for rights to the name, they again enjoyed worldwide success with A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994). Eventually they reached a settlement out of court with Waters allowing them use of the name. Waters performed with the band for the first time in 24 years on 2 July 2005 at the London Live 8 concert.
Syd Barrett-led era: 1964–1968
Pink Floyd evolved from an earlier rock band, formed in 1964, which was at various times called Sigma 6, the Meggadeaths, The Tea Set (or The T-Set), The Architectural Abdabs, The Abdabs and The Screaming Abdabs. When the band split up, some members — guitarists Rado "Bob" Klose and Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist and wind instrument player Richard Wright — formed a new band called "Tea Set". After a brief stint with a lead vocalist named Chris Dennis, blues and folk guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett joined the band, with Waters moving to bass and Wright to full time keyboards.
When The Tea Set found themselves on the same bill as another band with the same name, Barrett came up with the alternative name The Pink Floyd Sound, after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council (two names he'd seen on the notes of a Blind Boy Fuller album). For a time after this they oscillated between The Tea Set and The Pink Floyd Sound, with the latter name eventually winning out. The Sound was dropped fairly quickly, but the definite article was still used regularly until 1970. The group's UK releases during the Syd Barrett era credited them as The Pink Floyd as did their first two U.S. singles. 1969's More and Ummagumma albums credit the band as Pink Floyd, produced by The Pink Floyd, while 1970's Atom Heart Mother credits the band as The Pink Floyd, produced by Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is known to have referred to the group as The Pink Floyd as late as 1984.
The heavily jazz-oriented Klose left after recording only a demo, leaving an otherwise stable lineup with Barrett on guitar and lead vocals, Waters on bass guitar and backing vocals, Mason on drums and percussion, and Wright switching to keyboards and backing vocals. Barrett soon started writing his own songs, influenced by American and British psychedelic rock with his own brand of whimsical humour. Pink Floyd became a favourite in the underground movement, playing at such prominent venues as the UFO club, the Marquee Club and the Roundhouse.
At the end of 1966 the band were invited to contribute music for Peter Whitehead's film Tonite Let's All Make Love In London; they were filmed recording two tracks (" Interstellar Overdrive" and "Nick's Boogie") in January 1967. Although hardly any of this music made it onto the film, the session was eventually released as "London '66/'67" in 2005.
As their popularity increased, the band members formed Blackhill Enterprises in October 1966, a six-way business partnership with their managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King, issuing the singles " Arnold Layne" in March 1967 and " See Emily Play" in June 1967. "Arnold Layne" reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and "See Emily Play" reached number 6, granting the band its first national TV appearance on Top of the Pops in July 1967. (They had earlier appeared, performing "Interstellar Overdrive" at the UFO Club, in a short documentary, "It's So Far Out It's Straight Down". This was broadcast in March 1967 but seen only in the UK's Granada TV region.).
Released in August 1967, the band's debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is today considered to be a prime example of British psychedelic music, and was generally well-received by critics at the time. It is now viewed as one of the best debut albums by many critics. The album's tracks, predominantly written by Barrett, showcase poetic lyrics and an eclectic mixture of music, from the avant-garde free-form piece " Interstellar Overdrive" to whimsical songs such as " The Scarecrow", inspired by the Fenlands folk music, a rural region north of Cambridge (Barrett, Gilmour and Waters's home town). Lyrics were entirely surreal and often referred to folklore, such as " The Gnome". The music reflected newer technologies in electronics through its prominent use of stereo panning, tape editing, echo effects (specifically, a Binson Echorec machine) and electric keyboards. The album was a hit in the UK where it peaked at #6, but did not do well in North America, reaching #131 in the U.S., and that only after it was reissued in the wake of the band's state side commercial breakthrough in the 1970s. During this period, the band toured with Jimi Hendrix, which helped to increase its popularity.
As the band became more popular, the stresses of life on the road, pressure by the record company to produce hit singles, and a significant intake of psychedelic drugs took their toll on Barrett, whose mental health had been deteriorating for several months. In January 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out Barrett's playing and singing duties, though Gilmour believes that Jeff Beck was considered as well.
With Barrett's behaviour becoming less and less predictable, and his almost constant use of LSD, he became very unstable, occasionally staring into space while the rest of the band performed. During some performances, he would just strum one chord for the duration of a concert, or randomly begin detuning his guitar. He was also equally erratic in rehearsals; on one occasion he was, according to band members, perfectly on the ball and ready to record while preparing, yet as soon as the recording began he would stare into space. When recording was cut, he became, as Waters describes him, 'the usual jack-the-lad, hopping around on the balls of his feet.' The absent expression in his eyes inspired Waters' lyrics in 1975's " Shine On You Crazy Diamond", "Now there's that look in your eyes/ Like black holes in the sky.' The band's live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts. The last concert featuring Barrett was on 20 January 1968 on Hastings Pier. It was originally hoped that Barrett would write for the band with Gilmour performing live, but Barrett's increasingly difficult compositions, such as " Have You Got It, Yet?", which changed melodies and chord progression with every take, eventually made the rest of the band give up on this arrangement. Once Barrett's departure was formalised in April 1968, producers Jenner and King decided to remain with him, and the six-way Blackhill partnership was dissolved. The band adopted Steve O'Rourke as manager, and he remained with Pink Floyd until his death in 2003.
After recording two solo albums ( The Madcap Laughs and Barrett) in 1970 (co-produced by and sometimes featuring Gilmour, Waters and Wright) to moderate success, Barrett went into seclusion. Again going by his given name, Roger, he eventually moved back to his native Cambridge and lived a quiet life there until his death on 7 July 2006.
Finding their feet: 1968–1970
This period was one of musical experimentation for the band. Gilmour, Waters and Wright each contributed material that had its own voice and sound, giving this material less consistency than the Barrett-dominated early years or the more polished, collaborative sound of later years. As Barrett had been the lead singer during his era, Gilmour, Waters and Wright now split both songwriting and lead vocal duties. Waters mostly wrote low-key, jazzy melodies with dominant bass lines and complex, symbolic lyrics, Gilmour focused on guitar-driven blues jams, and Wright preferred melodic psychedelic keyboard-heavy numbers. Unlike Waters, Gilmour and Wright preferred tracks that had simple lyrics or that were purely instrumental. Some of the band's most experimental music is from this period, such as " A Saucerful of Secrets", consisting largely of noises, feedback, percussions, oscillators and tape loops, and " Careful with That Axe, Eugene" (which went by a number of other names as well), a very Waters-driven song with a bass and keyboard-heavy jam culminating in crashing drums and Waters' primal screams.
Whilst Barrett had written the bulk of the first album, only one composition by him, " Jugband Blues", appeared on the second Floyd album. Barrett also played on the songs "Remember A Day" (recorded during the sessions for Piper) and "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun". A Saucerful of Secrets was released in June 1968, reaching #9 in the UK and becoming the only Pink Floyd album not to chart in the U.S. Somewhat uneven due to Barrett's departure, the album still contained much of his psychedelic sound combined with the more experimental music that would be fully showcased on Ummagumma. Its centrepiece, the 12-minute title track, hinted at the epic, lengthy songs to come, but the album was poorly received by critics at the time, although critics today tend to be kinder to the album in the context of their body of work. Future Pink Floyd albums would expand upon the idea of long, sprawling compositions, offering more focused songwriting with each subsequent release.
Pink Floyd were then recruited by director Barbet Schroeder to produce a soundtrack for his film, More, which was premièred in May 1969. The music was released as a Floyd album in its own right, Soundtrack from the Film More, in July 1969; the album achieved another #9 finish in the UK, and peaked at #153 in the U.S. Critics tended to find the collection of the film's music patchy and uneven. The band would use this and future soundtrack recording sessions to produce work that may not have fit into the idea of what would appear on a proper Pink Floyd LP; many of the tracks on More (as fans usually call it) were acoustic folk songs. Two of these songs, " Green Is the Colour" and " Cymbaline", became fixtures in the band's live sets for a time and were a part of their live The Man/The Journey suite, as can be heard in the many available bootleg recordings from this period. "Cymbaline" was also the first Pink Floyd song to deal with Roger Waters' cynical attitude toward the music industry explicitly. The rest of the album consisted of avant-garde incidental pieces from the score (some of which were also part of The Man And The Journey) with a few heavier rock songs thrown in, such as " The Nile Song".
The next record, the double album Ummagumma, was a mix of live recordings and unchecked studio experimentation by the band members, with each member recording half a side of a vinyl record as a solo project (Mason's first wife makes an uncredited contribution as a flautist). Though the album was realised as solo outings and a live set, it was originally intended as a purely avant-garde mixture of sounds from "found" instruments. The subsequent difficulties in recording and lack of group organization led to the shelving of the project. The band was wildly experimental on the studio disc, which featured Waters' pure folk " Grantchester Meadows", an atonal and jarring piano piece (" Sysyphus"), meandering progressive rock textures (" The Narrow Way") and large percussion solos (" The Grand Vizier's Garden Party"). "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" is a five-minute song composed entirely of Roger Water's voice played at varied speeds, resulting in a noise resembling rodents and birds. Large portions of the studio disc were previously played in their live The Man/The Journey concept piece. The live disc featured acclaimed performances of some of their most popular psychedelic-era compositions and caused critics to receive the album more positively than the previous two albums. The album was Pink Floyd's most popular release yet, hitting UK #5 and making the U.S. charts at #74.
Atom Heart Mother (1970), the band's first recording with an orchestra, was a collaboration with avant-garde composer Ron Geesin. The name was a last minute decision by the band when they were inspired by a newspaper article about a woman who had given birth with a pacemaker. The cover was equally as unplanned, with the photographer claiming to have "gone out into the countryside and taking a picture of the first thing he saw." One side of the album consisted of the title piece, a 23-minute long " rock-orchestral" suite. The second side featured one song from each of the band's then-current vocalists/songwriters (Roger Waters' folk-rock " If", David Gilmour's bluesy " Fat Old Sun" and Richard Wright's nostalgic " Summer '68"). Another lengthy piece, " Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", was a sound collage of a man cooking and eating breakfast and his thoughts on the matter, linked with instrumentals. The man was Alan Stiles, one of Pink Floyd's roadies at the time. The use of noises, incidental sound effects and voice samples would thereafter be an important part of the band's sound. While Atom Heart Mother was considered a huge step back for the band at the time and is still considered one of its most inaccessible albums, it had the best chart performance for the band up to that time, reaching #1 in the UK and #55 in the U.S. It has since been described by Gilmour as "a load of rubbish" and Waters has said he wouldn't mind if it were "thrown in the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again." The album was another transitional piece for the group, hinting at future musical territory such as "Echoes" in its ambitious title track. The popularity of the album allowed Pink Floyd to embark on their first full U.S. tour.
Before releasing their next original album, the band released a compilation album, Relics, which contained several early singles and B-sides, along with one original song (Waters' jazzy " Biding My Time", part of The Man/The Journey recorded during the Ummagumma sessions). They also contributed to the soundtrack of Zabriskie Point, though many of their contributions were eventually discarded by director Michelangelo Antonioni.
Breakthrough era: 1971–1975
During this time, Pink Floyd shed their association with the "psychedelic" scene and became a distinctive band who were difficult to classify. The divergent styles of their primary songwriters, Gilmour, Waters and Wright, merged into a unique sound, which quickly became known among fans as "The Pink Floyd Sound". This era contains what many consider to be two of the band's masterpiece albums, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
The sound became polished and collaborative, with the philosophic lyrics and distinctive bass lines of Waters combining with the unique blues guitar style of Gilmour and Wright's haunting keyboard melodies, and harmonic textures. Gilmour was the dominant vocalist throughout this period, and female choirs and Dick Parry's saxophone contributions became a notable part of the band's style. The sometimes atonal and harsh sound exhibited in the band's earlier years gave way to a very smooth, mellow and soothing sound, and the band's epic, lengthy compositions reached their zenith with "Echoes". This period was not only the beginning but the end of the truly collaborative era of the band; after 1973 Waters' influence became more dominant musically as well as lyrically. Wright's last credited composition until 1992's La Carrera Panamericana and last lead vocal on a studio album until 1994's The Division Bell were in this period ( "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and " Time" respectively), while Gilmour's writing credits sharply declined in frequency until Waters left the band in 1985, though he continued to perform lead vocals and write songs throughout the whole time. The last ties with Barrett were severed in musical fashion with Wish You Were Here, whose epic track "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was written both as a tribute and eulogy to Barrett. The epic, 26-minute piece was described by Gilmour as "Roger's paean to Syd".
The band's sound was considerably more focused on Meddle (1971), with the 23-minute epic " Echoes" taking up the second side of the LP. "Echoes" is a smooth progressive rock song with extended guitar and keyboard solos and a long segue in the middle consisting largely of synthesised music produced on guitars, organs, and synths, along with backward wah pedal guitar sounding like samples of sea gulls or albatross and an entire whale song playing over the top, described by Waters as a "sonic poem". The song took a while to construct, and went through many named stages, including "Nothings","Son Of Nothings" and "Return Of The Son Of Nothings". The latter was performed at their free Hyde Park concert and was well received by the crowd. Meddle was considered by Nick Mason to be "the first real Pink Floyd album. It introduced the idea of a theme that can be returned to." The album had the sound and style of the succeeding breakthrough-era Pink Floyd albums but stripped away the orchestra that was prominent in Atom Heart Mother. Meddle also included the atmospheric " One of These Days", a concert favourite featuring Nick Mason's menacing one-line vocal ("One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces"), distorted and bluesy lap steel guitar, and a melody that at one point fades into a throbbing synthetic pulse quoting the theme tune of the cult classic science fiction television show Doctor Who. The mellow feeling of the next three albums is very present on " Fearless", and this track displays a folk influence, as does the prominent lap steel guitar on " A Pillow of Winds". The latter track is one of the Floyd's very few acoustic love songs. Waters' role as lead songwriter began to take form, with his jazzy " San Tropez" brought to the band practically completed and ready to record. Meddle was greeted both by critics and fans enthusiastically, and Pink Floyd were rewarded with a #3 album chart peak in the UK; it only reached #70 in U.S. charts. According to Nick Mason, this was partly because Capitol Records had not provided the album with enough publicity support in the U.S. Today, Meddle remains one of their most well-regarded albums.
Obscured by Clouds was released in 1972 as the soundtrack to the film La Vallee, another art house film by Barbet Schroeder. This was the band's first U.S. Top 50 album (where it hit #46), hitting at #6 in the UK. While Mason described the album years later as "sensational," it is less well-regarded by critics. The lyrics of " Free Four", the first Pink Floyd song to achieve significant airplay in the U.S., introduced Waters' ruminations on his father's death in World War II which would figure in subsequent albums. Two other songs on the album, " Wot's... Uh the Deal" and " Childhood's End", also hint at themes used in later albums, the former focusing on loneliness and desperation which would come to full fruit in the Roger Waters-led era, and the latter hinting much at the next album, fixated on life, death and the passage of time. "Childhood's End", inspired by the Arthur C. Clarke book of the same name, was also Gilmour's last lyrical contribution for 15 years. The album was, to an extent, stylistically different from the preceding Meddle, with the songs generally being shorter, often taking a somewhat pastoral approach compared to the atmospheric use of sound effects and keyboard on sections of Meddle, and sometimes even running into folk-rock, blues-rock and piano-driven soft rock (" Burning Bridges", " The Gold It's in the..." and " Stay" being the best examples for each).
The release of Pink Floyd's massively successful 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was a watershed moment in the band's popularity. Pink Floyd had stopped issuing singles after 1968's " Point Me at the Sky" and was never a hit-single-driven group, but The Dark Side of the Moon featured a U.S. Top 20 single (" Money"). The album became the band's first #1 on U.S. charts and, as of December 2006, is one of the biggest-selling albums in U.S. history, with more than 15 million units sold, and one of the best-selling albums worldwide, with more than 40 million copies sold. The critically-acclaimed album stayed on the Billboard Top 200 for an unprecedented 741 weeks (including 591 consecutive weeks from 1976 to 1988), establishing a world record. It also remained 301 weeks on UK charts, despite never rising higher than #2 there, and is highly praised by critics.
Saxophone forms an important part of the album's sound, exposing the band's jazz influences (especially that of Richard Wright), and female backing vocals play a key role in helping to diversify the album's texture. For example, songs such as "Money" and "Time" are placed on either side of mellow lap steel guitar sounds (reminiscent of Meddle) in " Breathe (Reprise)" and female vocal-laden song " The Great Gig in the Sky" (with Clare Torry on lead vocal), while minimalist instrumental " On the Run" is performed almost entirely on a single synthesiser. Incidental sound effects and snippets of interviews feature alongside the music, many of them taped in the studio. Waters' interviews started out with questions like "What is your favourite colour?" in an attempt to get the person comfortable. He would then ask, "When was the last time you were violent? Were you in the right?" The latter answer was played on the album. Other interviews would ask, "Are you afraid of dying?" The album's lyrics and sound attempt to describe the different pressures that everyday life places upon human beings. This concept (conceived by Waters in a band meeting around Mason's kitchen table) proved a powerful catalyst for the band and together they drew up a list of themes, several of which would be revisited by Waters on later albums, such as " Us and Them"'s musings on violence and the futility of war, and the themes of insanity and neurosis discussed in " Brain Damage". The album's complicated and precise sound engineering by Alan Parsons set new standards for sound fidelity; this trait became a recognisable aspect of the band's sound and played a part in the lasting chart success of the album, as audiophiles constantly replaced their worn-out copies.
Seeking to capitalise on the band's new-found fame, their record company also released a compilation album, A Nice Pair, which was a gatefold repackaging of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets. It was also during this period that director Adrian Maben released the first Pink Floyd concert film, Live at Pompeii. The original theatrical cut featured footage of the band performing in 1971 at an amphitheatre in Pompeii with no audience present except the film crew and stage staff. Maben also recorded interviews and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the band during recording sessions for The Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios; although the timeline of events indicate the recording sessions may have been staged after the recording, they provide a glimpse into the processes involved in producing the album. This footage was incorporated in later video releases of Live at Pompeii.
After the success of Dark Side, the band were unsure of their future direction and worried about how they would be able to top that record's huge popularity. In a return to their experimental beginnings, they began work on a project entitled "Household Objects", which would consist of songs played literally on household appliances. Instruments consisted of old hand mixers, rubber bands stretched between two tables, wine glasses, etc. However, the planned album was soon shelved after the band decided that it was just easier and better to play the songs on actual musical instruments. No finished recordings of these sessions exist, however some of the recorded effects were put to use on their next album.
Wish You Were Here, released in 1975, carries an abstract theme of absence: absence of any humanity within the music industry and, most poignantly, the absence of Syd Barrett. Well-known for its popular title track, the album includes the largely instrumental, nine-part song suite "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", a tribute to Barrett in which the lyrics deal explicitly with the aftermath of his breakdown. Many of the musical influences in the band's past were brought together — atmospheric keyboards, blues guitar pieces, extended saxophone solos (by Dick Parry), jazz-fusion workouts and aggressive slide guitar — in the suite's different linked parts, culminating in a funeral dirge played with synthesised horn and ending with a musical quote from their early single "See Emily Play" as a final nod to Barrett's early leadership of the band. The remaining tracks on the album, " Welcome to the Machine" and " Have a Cigar", harshly criticise the music industry; the latter is sung by British folk singer Roy Harper. It was the first Pink Floyd album to reach #1 on both the UK and the U.S. charts, and critics praised it just as enthusiastically as The Dark Side of the Moon.
In a famous anecdote, a heavyset man, his head and eyebrows completely shaved, wandered into the studio while the band was mixing "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". The band could not recognise him for some time, when suddenly one of them realised it was Syd Barrett. On being asked how he had put on so much weight, he retorted "I've got a big fridge in the kitchen and I've been eating a lot of pork chops".
In an interview for the 2001 BBC Omnibus documentary Syd Barrett: Crazy Diamond (later released on DVD as The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story ), the story is told in full. Richard Wright spoke about the session, saying: "One thing that really stands out in my mind, that I'll never forget; I was going in to the "Shine On" sessions. I went in the studio and I saw this guy sitting at the back of the studio, he was only as far away as you are from me. And I didn't recognise him. I said, 'Who's that guy behind you?' 'That's Syd.' And I just cracked up, I couldn't believe it... he had shaven all his hair off... I mean, his eyebrows, everything... he was jumping up and down brushing his teeth, it was awful. And, uh, I was in, I mean Roger was in tears, I think I was; we were both in tears. It was very shocking... seven years of no contact and then to walk in while we're actually doing that particular track. I don't know – coincidence, karma, fate, who knows? But it was very, very, very powerful". In the same documentary, Nick Mason stated: "When I think about it, I can still see his eyes, but... it was everything else that was different". In that same interview, Roger Waters has said: "I had no idea who he was for a very long time". David Gilmour stated: "None of us recognised him. Shaved...shaved bald head and very plump". In the 2006 'definitive edition' DVD release of The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story in the UK/Europe, the director John Edginton's interviews with Barrett's former Floyd colleagues are included unedited, with far more detail of their feelings and actions during Syd Barrett's tragic breakdown and withdrawal from the band.
Roger Waters – led era: 1976–1985
During this era, Waters asserted more and more control over Pink Floyd's output. During the recording, Waters fired Richard Wright after The Wall was finished, arguing that Wright was not contributing much, in part due to a cocaine addiction. Waters claimed that David Gilmour and Nick Mason supported Waters' decision to fire Wright, but in 2000, Gilmour stated that he and Mason were against Wright's dismissal. Author Nick Mason claims that Wright was fired because Columbia Records had offered Waters a substantial bonus to finish the album in time for a 1979 release. Since Wright refused to return early from his summer holiday, Waters wanted to dismiss Wright. Wright was fired from the band but stayed on to finish the album and perform the live concerts as a paid musician.
Much of the music from this period is considered secondary to the lyrics, which explore Waters' feelings about his father's death in World War II and his increasingly cynical attitude towards political figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse. Although still finely nuanced, the music grew more guitar-based at the expense of keyboards and saxophone, both of which became (at best) part of the music's background texture along with the usual sound effects. A full orchestra (even larger than the brass ensemble from Atom Heart Mother) plays a significant role on The Wall and especially The Final Cut.
By January 1977, and the release of Animals (UK #2, U.S. #3), the band's music came under increasing criticism from some quarters in the new punk rock sphere as being too flabby and pretentious, having lost its way from the simplicity of early rock and roll. Animals was, however, considerably more guitar-driven than the previous albums, due to either the influence of the burgeoning punk-rock movement or the fact that the album was recorded at Pink Floyd's new (and somewhat incomplete) Britannia Row Studios. The album was also the first to not have a single songwriting credit for Richard Wright. Animals again contained lengthy songs tied to a theme, this time taken in part from George Orwell's Animal Farm, which used " Pigs", " Dogs" and " Sheep" as metaphors for members of contemporary society. Despite the prominence of guitar, keyboards and synthesizers still play an important role on Animals, but the saxophone and female vocal work that defined much of the previous two albums' sound is absent. The result is a more hard-rock effort overall, bookended by two parts of a quiet acoustic piece. Many critics did not respond well to the album, finding it "tedious" and "bleak," although some celebrated it for almost those very reasons. For the cover artwork, a giant inflatable pig was commissioned to float between the chimney towers of London's Battersea Power Station. However, the wind made the pig balloon difficult to control, and in the end it was necessary to matte a photo of the pig balloon onto the album cover. The pig was created by Dutch industrial designer and artist Theo Botschuijver. The pig nevertheless became one of the enduring symbols of Pink Floyd, and inflatable pigs were a staple of Pink Floyd live performances from then on.
In 1978 the band were told that due to legal matters involving tax, they had to leave the United Kingdom for one year, with absolutely no visits in between. It was during this time that the band started to pursue their own interests and focus less on music, and so when they re-met (although contact was not infrequent) in the UK, they were short of ideas. It was then that it came to light that Waters had been working on two projects, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and The Wall.
1979's epic rock opera The Wall, conceived by Waters, dealt with the themes of loneliness and failed communication, which were expressed by the metaphor of a wall built between a rock artist and his audience. The deciding moment in which to conceive The Wall was during a concert in Montreal, Canada in which Roger Waters spat at an audience member who had been shouting unhelpful comments and requesting songs throughout the show. It was this point where Waters felt the alienation between audience and band. This album gave Pink Floyd renewed acclaim and their only chart-topping single with " Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)". The Wall also included the future concert staples " Comfortably Numb" and " Run Like Hell", with the former in particular becoming a cornerstone of album-oriented rock and classic-rock radio playlists as well as one of the group's best-known songs.
The album was co-produced by Bob Ezrin, a friend of Waters who shared songwriting credits on " The Trial" and from whom Waters later distanced himself after Ezrin "shot his mouth off to the press." Even more than during the Animals sessions, Waters was asserting his artistic influence and leadership over the band, using the band's perilous financial situation to his advantage, which prompted increased conflicts with the other members. The music had become distinctly more hard-rock, although the large orchestrations on some tracks recalled an earlier period, and there are a few quieter songs interspersed throughout (such as " Goodbye Blue Sky", " Nobody Home", and " Vera"). Wright's influence was minimised, and he was fired from the band during recording, only returning on a fixed wage for the live shows in support of the album. Ironically, this fixed salary made Wright the only "member" of Pink Floyd to make any money from the Wall concerts, with the three remaining members stuck covering the extensive cost overruns of their most spectacular concerts yet. The Wall was performed live in only a few cities, contributing to the "tour"'s lack of profitability. (It would be performed one more time, after the Berlin Wall came down in Germany, by Roger Waters and others).
Despite never hitting #1 in the UK (it reached #3), The Wall spent 15 weeks atop the U.S. charts in 1980. Critics praised it, and it has been certified 23x platinum by the RIAA, for sales of 11.5 million copies of the double album in the U.S. alone. The huge commercial success of The Wall made Pink Floyd the only artists since the Beatles to have the best-selling albums of two years (1973 and 1980) in less than a decade.
A film entitled Pink Floyd: The Wall was released in 1982, incorporating almost all of the music from the album. The film, written by Waters and directed by Alan Parker, starred Boomtown Rats founder Bob Geldof, who re-recorded many of the vocals, and featured animation by noted British artist and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. Film critic Leonard Maltin referred to the movie as "the world's longest rock video, and certainly the most depressing", but it grossed over US$14 million at the North American box office. A song which first appeared in the movie, " When the Tigers Broke Free", was released as a single on a limited basis. This song was finally made widely available on the compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd and the re-release of The Final Cut. Also in the film is the song " What Shall We Do Now?", which was cut out of the original album due to the time constraints of vinyl records. The only songs from the album not used were " Hey You" and " The Show Must Go On."
Their 1983 studio album, The Final Cut, was dedicated by Waters to his father, Eric Fletcher Waters. Even darker in tone than The Wall, this album re-examined many previous themes, while also addressing then-current events, including Waters' anger at Britain's participation in the Falklands War, the blame for which he laid squarely at the feet of political leaders (" The Fletcher Memorial Home"). It concludes with a cynical and frightening glimpse at the possibility of nuclear war (" Two Suns in the Sunset"). Michael Kamen and Andy Bown contributed keyboard work in lieu of Richard Wright, whose departure had not been formally announced before the album's release.
Though technically a Pink Floyd album, the LP's front cover displayed no words, only the back cover reading: "The Final Cut — A requiem for the post-war dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd: Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason". Roger Waters received the sole songwriting credit for the entire record, which became a prototype in sound and form for later Waters solo projects. Waters has since said that he offered to release the record as a solo album, but the rest of the band rejected this idea. However, in his book Inside Out, drummer Nick Mason says that no such discussions ever took place. Gilmour reportedly asked Waters to hold back the release of the album so that he could write enough material to contribute, but this request was refused. The music's tone is largely similar to The Wall's but somewhat quieter and softer, resembling songs like "Nobody Home" more than "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)." It is also more repetitive, with certain leitmotifs cropping up continually. Only moderately successful with fans by Floyd's standards (UK #1, U.S. #6), but reasonably well-received by critics, the album yielded one minor radio hit (albeit in censored form), " Not Now John", the only hard-rock song on the album (and the only one partially sung by Gilmour). The arguments between Waters and Gilmour at this stage were rumoured to be so bad that they were supposedly never seen in the recording studio simultaneously. Gilmour has said he wanted to continue making good quality rock music, and felt Waters was constructing music sequences together merely as a vehicle for his socially critical lyrics. Waters claims that his bandmates never fully understood the importance of the social commentary he was making. By the end of recording, Gilmour's co-producer credit was dropped from the album sleeve (though he received attendant royalties). There was no tour for the album, although parts of it have since been performed live by Waters on his subsequent solo tours.
After The Final Cut Capitol Records released the compilation Works, which made the 1970 Waters track "Embryo" available for the first time on a Pink Floyd album, although the track had been released on the 1970 VA compilation Picnic - A Breath of Fresh Air on the Harvest Records label. The band members then went their separate ways and spent time working on individual projects. Gilmour was the first to release his solo album About Face in March 1984. Wright joined forces with Dave Harris of Fashion to form a new band, Zee, which released the experimental album Identity a month after Gilmour's project. In May 1984, Waters released The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, a concept album once proposed as a Pink Floyd project. Waters had written this at the same time as The Wall and during proposal of both, the band selected The Wall. A year after his bandmates' projects, Mason released the album Profiles, a collaboration with Rick Fenn of 10cc which featured guest appearances by Gilmour and UFO keyboardist Danny Peyronel.
David Gilmour – led era: 1987–1995
Waters announced in December 1985 that he was departing Pink Floyd, describing the band as "a spent force", but in 1986 Gilmour and Mason began recording a new Pink Floyd album. At the same time, Roger Waters was working on his second solo album, entitled Radio K.A.O.S. (1987). A bitter legal dispute ensued with Waters claiming that the name "Pink Floyd" should have been put to rest, but Gilmour and Mason upheld their conviction that they had the legal right to continue as "Pink Floyd." The suit was eventually settled out of court.
After considering and rejecting many other titles, the new album was released as A Momentary Lapse of Reason (UK #3, U.S. #3). Without Waters, who had been the band's dominant songwriter for a decade, the band sought the help of outside writers. As Pink Floyd had never done this before (except for the orchestral contributions of Geesin and Ezrin), this move received much criticism. Ezrin, who had renewed his friendship with Gilmour in 1983 (as Ezrin co-produced Gilmour's About Face album), served as co-producer as well as being one of these writers along with Jon Carin who wrote the music for "Learning To Fly" and played much of the Keyboards on the album. Wright also returned, at first as a salaried employee during the final recording sessions, and then officially rejoining the band after the subsequent tour.
Gilmour later admitted that Mason and Wright had hardly played on the album. Because of Mason and Wright's limited contributions, some critics say that A Momentary Lapse of Reason should really be regarded as a Gilmour solo effort, in much the same way that The Final Cut might be regarded as a Waters album.
A year later, the band released a double live album and a concert video taken from its 1988 Long Island shows, entitled Delicate Sound of Thunder, and later recorded some instrumentals for a classic-car racing film La Carrera Panamericana, set in Mexico and featuring Gilmour and Mason as participating drivers. During the race Gilmour and manager Steve O'Rourke (acting as his map-reader) crashed. O'Rourke suffered a broken leg, but Gilmour walked away with just some bruises.
The instrumentals are notable for including the first Floyd material co-written by Wright since 1975, as well as the only Floyd material co-written by Mason since Dark Side of the Moon.
1992 saw the box set release of Shine On. The 9-disc set included re-releases of the studio albums A Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. A bonus disc entitled The Early Singles was also included. The set's packaging featured a case allowing the albums to stand vertically together, with the side-by-side spines displaying an image of the Dark Side of the Moon cover. The year also saw the release of Roger Waters' solo album Amused to Death.
The band's next recording was the 1994 release, The Division Bell, which was much more of a group effort than Momentary Lapse had been, with Wright now reinstated as a full band member. The album was received more favourably by critics and fans alike than Lapse had been, but was still heavily criticised as tired and formulaic. It was the second Pink Floyd album to reach #1 on both the UK and U.S. charts.
The Division Bell was another concept album, in some ways representing Gilmour's take on the same themes Waters had tackled with The Wall. The title was suggested to Gilmour by his friend Douglas Adams. Many of the lyrics were co-written by Polly Samson, Gilmour's girlfriend at the time, whom he married shortly after the album's release. Besides Samson, the album featured most of the musicians who had joined the A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, as well as saxophonist Dick Parry, a contributor to the mid-70s Floyd albums. Anthony Moore, who had co-written the lyrics for several songs on the previous album, wrote lyrics for Wright's tune "Wearing the Inside Out", also Wright's first lead vocal on a Pink Floyd record since Dark Side of the Moon. This writing collaboration continued on Wright's 1996 solo album, Broken China.
The band released a live album entitled P*U*L*S*E in 1995. It hit #1 in U.S. and featured songs recorded during the "Division Bell" tour, primarily from concerts in London's Earls Court. The Division Bell concerts featured a mix of classic and modern Pink Floyd. The Pulse album has an entire performance of The Dark Side of the Moon. VHS and Laserdisc versions of the concert at London's Earls Court 20 October 1994, were also released. A DVD edition was released on 10 July 2006 and quickly topped the charts. The 1994 CD case had an LED, timer IC, and battery which caused a red flash to blink once per second, like a heartbeat, as it sat in the owner's CD collection.
Furthermore, in 1995, the band received their first and only Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for " Marooned". Despite worldwide high expectations, band leader Gilmour ceased planning new tours for Pink Floyd after their "Division Bell" tour.
Solo work and more: 1995–present
On 17 January 1996, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. Roger Waters did not attend, still being antagonistic towards his former bandmates. At their acceptance speech, Gilmour said, "I'll have to grab a couple more of these for our two band members that started playing different tunes; Roger and Syd...". Although Mason was present to accept the award, he did not join Gilmour and Wright (and Billy Corgan) for their acoustic performance of 'Wish You Were Here'.
A live recording of The Wall was released in 2000, compiled from the 1980–1981 London concerts, entitled Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81. It reached #19 on the American album chart. In 2001, a remastered two-disc set of the band's best-known tracks entitled Echoes was released. Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright all collaborated on the editing, sequencing, and song selection of the included tracks. Minor controversy was caused due to the songs seguing into one another non-chronologically, presenting the material out of the context of the original albums. Some of the tracks, such as "Echoes", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", "Marooned", and " High Hopes" have had substantial sections removed from them. The album reached #2 on the UK and U.S. charts.
In 2003, an SACD reissue of The Dark Side of the Moon was released with new artwork on the front cover. The album was also re-released as an 180 gram, virgin vinyl pressing in 2003, which included all the original album art from the original release of the album, albeit with a new poster. The reissue of Wish You Were Here is in the works, with no release date announced. Nick Mason's book, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd was published in 2004 in Europe and 2005 in the U.S. Mason made public promotional appearances in a few European and American cities, giving interviews and meeting fans at book signings. Some fans claimed that he said he wished he were on a tour with the band rather than on a book tour.
Long-time Pink Floyd manager Steve O'Rourke died on 30 October 2003. Gilmour, Mason and Wright reunited at his funeral and performed "Fat Old Sun" and "The Great Gig in the Sky" in Chichester Cathedral in tribute.
Two years later, on 2 July 2005, the band reunited once again for a one-off performance at the London Live 8 concert. This time, however, they were joined by Waters - the first time all four band members were on stage together in 24 years. The band performed a four-song set consisting of " Speak to Me/ Breathe/Breathe (Reprise)", " Money", " Wish You Were Here", and " Comfortably Numb", with both Gilmour and Waters sharing lead vocals. At the end of their performance Gilmour said "thank you very much, good night" and started to walk off the stage. Waters called him back, however, and the band shared a group hug that became one of the most famous images of Live 8.
In the week after Live 8, there was a revival of interest in Pink Floyd. According to record store chain HMV, sales of Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd went up, in the following week, by 1343%, while Amazon.com reported increases in sales of The Wall at 3600%, Wish You Were Here at 2000%, The Dark Side of the Moon at 1400% and Animals at 1000%. David Gilmour subsequently declared that he would donate his share of profits from this sales boom to charity, and urged all the other artists and record companies profiting from Live 8 to do the same. On 16 November 2005 Pink Floyd were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pete Townshend. Gilmour and Mason attended in person, explaining that Wright was in hospital following eye surgery, and Waters appeared on a video screen, from Rome.
David Gilmour released his third solo record, On an Island, on 6 March 2006, and began a tour of small concert venues in Europe, Canada and the U.S. with a band including Richard Wright and was joined several times for the encore by Nick Mason. During the tour, he performed Pink Floyd's first single, "Arnold Layne". Waters was also invited to join them in London, but final rehearsals for his 2006 Europe/U.S. tour required him to decline. Waters was joined on stage by Mason on 29 June 2006 for the second half of a show in Cork, Ireland where he performed the whole of The Dark Side of the Moon.
Waters and Wright are both reported to be working on solo albums, and there has been talk of Waters doing a Broadway musical version of The Wall, with extra music to be written by Waters. Waters also embarked on his worldwide The Dark Side of the Moon Live Tour; the setlist consisted of The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety along with a selection of other Pink Floyd favourites and a small number of songs from Waters' solo career. Waters also contributed the song "Hello (I Love You)," cowritten by Howard Shore, to the 2007 film The Last Mimzy.
On May 21, 2008, it was announced that Pink Floyd had been selected as the 2008 Polar Music Prize laureates.
Many fans expressed hope that the band's Live 8 appearance would lead to a reunion tour, and a record-breaking US$250 million deal for a world tour was offered, but the band made it clear that they have no such plans. In the weeks after the show, however, the rifts between the members seem to have mostly healed. Gilmour confirmed that he and Waters are on "pretty amicable terms", but Waters has offered conflicting comments on the issue, with statements as varied as "I [can] roll over for one show, but I couldn't roll over for a whole tour" and "I hope we do it again," although most recently, his statements indicate his desire to play together again, not for a whole tour, but for an event similar to Live 8.
On 31 January 2006, David Gilmour issued a joint statement on behalf of the group stating that they have no plans to reunite, refuting rumours from several media outlets. Gilmour later stated in an interview with La Repubblica that he is finished with Pink Floyd and wishes to focus on solo projects and his family. He mentions that he agreed to play Live 8 with Waters to support the cause, to make peace with Waters, and knowing he would regret not taking part. However, he states that Pink Floyd would be willing to perform for a concert "that would support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts". Then speaking with Billboard, Gilmour changed his "finished with Pink Floyd" sentiment to "who knows". A surprise performance by the post-Waters Pink Floyd line-up of David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason occurred on the last performance of David Gilmour's three night run at The Royal Albert Hall on May 31, 2006 as the three played "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb".
2007 saw the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's signing to EMI and the 40th anniversary of the release of their first three singles "Arnold Layne", "See Emily Play" and "Apples and Oranges" and their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This was marked by the release of a limited edition set containing mono and stereo mixes of the albums, plus tracks from the singles and other rare recordings.
On 10 May 2007, Roger Waters performed at the Syd Barrett tribute concert at the Barbican Centre in London. This was then followed by a surprise performance by the post-Waters Pink Floyd line-up of David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason of "Arnold Layne" to a rapturous applause and standing ovation. However, hopes of a second reunion concert with the band's classic lineup were dashed when Waters did not perform with the group. Roger Waters took to the stage to screams of "Pink Floyd!" to which he responded, "Later." Gilmour, Mason, and Wright took to the stage to screams of "Roger Waters!" to which Gilmour politely responded, "Yeah, he was here too, now the rest of us."
In a January 2007 interview, Waters suggested he has become more open to a Pink Floyd reunion: “I would have no problem if the rest of them wanted to get together. It wouldn’t even have to be to save the world. It could be just because it would be fun. And people would love it.”
On 25 September 2007, Gilmour stated that a future reunion of Pink Floyd in any form, be it with or without Roger Waters, looked grim, stating that "I can’t see why I would want to be going back to that old thing. It’s very retrogressive. I want to look forward, and looking back isn’t my joy."
On December 10 (UK) & 11th (US) 2007, Pink Floyd released a new CD box set, Oh, By the Way, containing all fourteen studio albums with their newest respective CD remasters, original vinyl artwork plus new artwork from Storm Thorgerson.
Mason and Waters have said that they would be happy to do a Pink Floyd tour, but during the BBC1 Special, "Which One's Pink?," when asked about whether the band would reform, Gilmour ambiguously stated either "Ain't gonna happen" or "Anything could happen". Which of these two phrases were said is debatable. During the same documentary, Wright stated that he "wouldn't mind playing the Pink Floyd 'music' again," but said nothing solid about reuniting with the actual members.
Pink Floyd are renowned for their lavish stage shows, combining over-the-top visual experiences with music to create a show in which the performers themselves are almost secondary. They have always resisted the temptation of a large screen portraying band members because they "don't really do very much", preferring instead to show music videos to run alongside the songs.
Pink Floyd have influenced progressive rock artists of the 1970s such as Genesis and Yes; and contemporary artists such as Nine Inch Nails. Their music plays a featured role in the Tom Stoppard play Rock 'n' Roll.
- Pow R. Toc H. (From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn) 1967
- Interstellar Overdrive (From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn) 1967
- A Saucerful of Secrets (song) (From A Saucerful of Secrets) 1968
- Careful with that Axe, Eugene (From Single B-side) 1968
- Party Sequence (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- Main Theme (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- Ibiza Bar (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- More Blues (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- Quicksilver (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- Dramatic Theme (From Soundtrack from the Film More) 1969
- Atom Heart Mother Suite (From Atom Heart Mother) 1970
- Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (From Atom Heart Mother) 1970
- One of These Days (From Meddle) 1971
- Seamus (From Meddle) 1971
- Echoes (From Meddle) 1971
- When You're In (From Obscured By Clouds) 1972
- Absolutely Curtains (From Obscured By Clouds) 1972
- Time (From Dark Side of the Moon) 1973
- The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
- A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
- Soundtrack from the Film More (1969)
- Ummagumma (1969)
- Atom Heart Mother (1970)
- Meddle (1971)
- Obscured by Clouds (1972)
- The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
- Wish You Were Here (1975)
- Animals (1977)
- The Wall (1979)
- The Final Cut (1983)
- A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
- The Division Bell (1994)
DVD and video
- Live at Pompeii (1972)
- The Wall (1982)
- The Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988)
- La Carrera Panamericana (1992)
- Pulse (1995)
- Richard Wright – keyboards, vocals (1964–1981, 1987–present)
- Nick Mason – drums, percussion (1964–present)
- David Gilmour – lead guitar, lead vocals (1968–present)
- Syd Barrett – rhythm guitar, lead vocals (1964–1968)
- Bob Klose – lead guitar (1964-1965)
- Roger Waters – bass, lead vocals (1964–1985)