Pink Floyd is a British progressive band famous for its songwriting, harmonic classical rock compositions, bombastic style and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd is one of rock's most successful acts, ranking seventh in number of albums sold worldwide.
Pink Floyd formed in 1964 from earlier bands whose names included Sigma 6, T-Set, Megadeaths, The Screaming Abdabs, The Architectural Abdabs, and The Abdabs. The band was again renamed The Pink Floyd Sound and then simply The Pink Floyd (after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). The definite article was dropped by the time their debut album was released.
Pink Floyd originally consisted of Bob Klose (lead guitar), Syd Barrett (vocals, rhythm guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals), Roger Waters (bass, vocals) and Nick Mason (drums). They covered rhythm and blues staples such as 'Louie, Louie'. As Barrett started writing tunes more influenced by American surf music, psychedelic rock, and British whimsy, humour and literature, the heavily jazz-oriented Klose departed and left a rather stable foursome. The band formed Blackhill Enterprises, a six-way business partnership with their managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King.
Released in 1967, the band's debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is considered to be a prime example of English psychedelic music. The album's tracks showcase an eclectic mixture of music, from the avant garde free form piece 'Interstellar Overdrive' to whimsical songs, such as 'Scarecrow', a melancholic song inspired by the Fenlands, the rural region surrounding Barrett's home town of Cambridge.
In 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out the playing and singing duties of Barrett, whose mental health was deteriorating, but nevertheless was intended to remain as the band's figurehead and songwriter. With Barrett's behaviour becoming less and less predictable, and use of LSD almost constant, he became very unstable, often staring into space while the rest of the band performed. The band's live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts.
Once Barrett's departure was formalised, Jenner and King decided to remain with him, and the six-way Blackhill partnership was dissolved.
Whilst Barrett had written the bulk of the first record, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), he contributed just one song 'Jugband Blues' to the second A Saucerful of Secrets (1968).
After the film soundtrack More, the next record, the double album Ummagumma (part recorded at Mothers Rock Club, Birmingham, and in Manchester in 1969), was a mix of live recordings and unchecked studio experimentation by the band members, with each recording half a side of vinyl as a solo project (Mason's wife makes an uncredited contribution as a flautist).
1970's Atom Heart Mother, a UK number one album, is somewhat dated and has been described by Gilmour as the sound of a band 'blundering about in the dark'. The title piece owes much to orchestration by Ron Geesin.
The band's sound was considerably more focused on Meddle (1971), with the 23-minute epic 'Echoes' (in this track the band used the Zinovieff's VCS3 synth for the first time) . This album also included the atmospheric 'One of These Days' (a concert classic, with a distorted, disembodied one-line vocal, 'One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces'-courtesy of drummer Nick Mason, his only vocal performance) and the pop-jazz stylings of 'San Tropez'. Their taste for experimentation was expressed on 'Seamus' (earlier, 'Mademoiselle Nobs'), a pure-blues number featuring lead vocals by a Russian wolfhound.
A less-well-known album, Obscured By Clouds, was released in 1972, as the soundtrack for the film 'La Vallee' and was the band's first US Top 50 album.
Despite their never having been a hit-single-driven group, their massively successful 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon, featured a US number Top 20 track ('Money'), and more importantly remained in the top 100 for over a decade, breaking many records on the way, and making it one of the top selling albums of all time. Dark Side of the Moon was a concept album dealing with themes of insanity, neurosis and fame. Thanks to the use of new 16-track recording equipment at Abbey Road Studios and the investment of an enormous amount of time by engineer Alan Parsons, the album set new standards for sound fidelity.
Dark Side of the Moon and the three following albums (Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall) are held up by some fans as the peak of Pink Floyd's career. The first of those, Wish You Were Here, released in 1975, is a theme album about absence. In addition to the classic title track, 'Wish You Were Here' includes the critically acclaimed, mostly instrumental nine-part 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', a tribute to Barrett in which the lyrics deal explicitly with the aftermath of his breakdown. The album also includes the epics 'Welcome to the Machine' and 'Have a Cigar.'
By 1977, and the release of Animals, 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 contained more lengthy songs tied to a theme, taken in part from George Orwell's Animal Farm, using pigs, dogs and sheep as metaphors for members of contemporary society. Animals was a lot more guitar-driven than the previous albums and marked the start of tensions between Waters and Wright.
1979's epic rock opera, The Wall, conceived mainly by Waters, gave Pink Floyd renewed acclaim and another hit single with their foray into critical pedagogy - 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.' It also included 'Comfortably Numb,' which, though never released as a single, became a cornerstone of AOR and classic-rock radio playlists and is today one of the group's best-known songs. It is also one of a very small number of songs on Pink Floyd's first four concept albums not to segue at either the beginning or end. The album also became a vastly expensive and money-losing tour/stage show, although the album's sales got the band out of the financial hole they were in. During this time, Waters increased his artistic influence and leadership over the band, prompting frequent conflicts with the other members and even leading to the firing of Wright from the band. Wright returned, on a fixed wage, for the album's few live concerts. Ironically, he was the only member of Pink Floyd to make any money from the 'Wall' shows, the rest having to cover the excessive costs. The album was co-produced by Bob Ezrin, a friend of Waters who shared songwriting credits on 'The Trial' and whom Waters then kicked out of the Floyd camp after Ezrin inadvertently talked about the album to a journalist relative.
The Wall remained on best-selling-album lists for 14 years. A film starring Boomtown Rats founder Bob Geldof was adapted from it in 1982, written by Waters and directed by Alan Parker, and featuring striking animation by noted British cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. The creation of the film saw a further deterioration of the Waters/Gilmour relationship, as Waters came to completely dominate the band.
1983 saw the release of The Final Cut. Even darker in tone than The Wall, this album re-examined many of the themes of that album while also addressing then-current events, including Waters' anger at Britain's participation in the Falklands War ('The Fletcher Memorial Home') and his cynicism toward, and fear of, nuclear war ('Two Suns in the Sunset'). Wright's absence meant this album lacked the keyboard effects seen in previous Floyd works, although guests Michael Kamen and Andy Bown both contributed keyboard work. Though released as a Pink Floyd album, the project was clearly dominated by Waters and became a prototype in sound and form for later Waters solo projects. Only moderately successful by Floyd standards, the album yielded only one rock radio hit, 'Not Now John'. The arguing between Waters and Gilmour by this stage was rumoured to be so bad that they were never seen in the recording studio simultaneously. There was no tour, and the band unofficially disbanded in 1983.
After The Final Cut, the band members went their separate ways, each releasing solo albums, until 1987, when Gilmour and Mason began to revive the band. A bitter legal dispute with Roger Waters (who left the band in 1985) ensued, but Gilmour and Mason were upheld in their contention that they had the legal right to continue as Pink Floyd (Waters, however, gained the rights to some traditional Pink Floyd imagery, including almost all of the Wall props and characters and all of the rights to 'The Final Cut'). The band under Gilmour returned to the studio with producer Bob Ezrin. Richard Wright re-joined during the recording sessions of A Momentary Lapse of Reason first as a session musician, paid a weekly salary, and later reinstated as a full-fledged member of the band for the 1994 release of The Division Bell and its subsequent tour, which was promoted by legendary Canadian concert impressario Michael Cohl and became the highest-grossing tour in rock history to that date.
All of the members of Pink Floyd have released solo albums which have met with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. Waters' Amused To Death was the most praised of these albums, though it was met with mixed reviews.
Pink Floyd are renowned for their lavish stage shows, combining over-the-top visual experiences with their music to create a show in which the artists themselves are almost secondary. In their early days, Pink Floyd were among the first bands to use a dedicated traveling light show in conjunction with their performances, projecting slides, film clips, and psychedelic patterns onto a large circular screen. Later, additional special effects were added to the show, including lasers, pyrotechnics, oversized balloons, Mr. Screen and notably a giant pig balloon which floated over the audience during performances of 'Pigs' from the Animals album.
Pink Floyd mounted their most elaborate stage show in conjunction with the tour of The Wall, in which a band of session musicians played the first song, wearing rubber face masks (proving successfully that the members of the band were not known for their individual personalities). Later in the show, a huge wall was built between the audience and the band, being demolished, explosively, as the finale. This show was re-created (by Waters) and a number of guest artists (including Bryan Adams, The Scorpions, and Van Morrison) assembled around Roger Waters in 1990 amid the ruins of the Berlin Wall.
The lavish stage shows were also the basis for Douglas Adams' fictional rock group 'Disaster Area' (creators of the loudest noise in the universe, and making use of solar-flares in their stage show) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Douglas Adams was a personal friend of David Gilmour and made a one-off guest appearance, on guitar, on The Division Bell tour (October 28, 1994).
Pink Floyd have not released any new studio material since 1994's The Division Bell, and while they have not officially broken up, neither is there any sign of a new album. The only band activity since The Division Bell have been the 1995 live album P-U-L-S-E; a live version of The Wall, compiled from their 1980 and 1981 concerts, titled Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 2000; a two-disc set of their greatest hits called Echoes, in 2001; the 30th Anniversary Hybrid SACD reissue of 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (2003); and a re-release of The Final Cut with the single 'When the Tigers Broke Free' added (2004). Although rumours are spreading that the threesome Floyd have returned to the studio to make new material, there is no official news to back up any claims to date. Because the band members have gone on to work on various projects (drummer Nick Mason has written a book on his days with the band named 'Inside Out' A Personal History of Pink Floyd), and because of the death of longtime manager Steve O' Rourke on October 30, 2003, the future of the band is uncertain.
The album Echoes caused some controversy because, on the album, songs segue into each other continuously in a different order than on their original albums and have sometimes had substantial parts removed from them; parts of the songs 'Echoes', 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and 'Marooned' have been removed.
David Gilmour released a solo concert DVD, called David Gilmour in Concert, released in November 2002 and compiled from shows from June 22, 2001, and January 17, 2002, at The Royal Festival Hall in London. Rick Wright and Bob Geldof (Pink in The Wall film) make guest appearances.
In 2002 Q magazine named Pink Floyd as one of the '50 Bands To See Before You Die'.
In 2004, it was announced that contracts had been signed for a Broadway musical version of The Wall, with extra music to be written by Waters. The broadway version will feature all of the music written by Waters. It is, however, unknown what will be done with the songs co-written by Gilmour (Young Lust, Comfortably Numb, and Run Like Hell). The show is estimated to be complete by mid 2005.
The images of Pink Floyd
Integral to the music is the artwork which comes with it. The album covers and sleeve artwork add the emotional impact of the music with vivid and meaningful imagery. Throughout the band's career, this aspect was mainly provided by the talents of photographer and graphic artist Storm Thorgerson. Many of these images have acquired fame in their own right; notably the famous picture of a man shaking the hand of his burning alter-ego for Wish You Were Here and the refracting prism for Dark Side of the Moon. In fact, Thorgerson was involved in all the artwork for every album except for The Wall, for which the band employed Gerald Scarfe, and The Final Cut, the cover of which was designed by Waters himself, using photography made by his then brother-in-law, Willie Christie.
In the mid-Nineties, several people (supposedly including Trent Reznor and Jim Cauty of the KLF) released bootleg trance remixes of More, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Obscured By Clouds, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here (which was later reissued), Animals, The Wall, A Collection of Great Dance Songs, The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and The Division Bell.
A multitude of tribute bands for Pink Floyd appeared in the 1990s. They include:
In addition, Easy Star All-Stars have recorded a reggae/trip hop 'tribute' to Dark Side of the Moon entitled Dub Side of the Moon 1 (http://www.easystar.com/dubsidemain.html)
Also Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade recorded a complete live performance of the Pink Floyd classic album, Animals on a CD titled Live Frogs Set 2 2 (http://www.clubbastardo.com/music.html)
Other bands like KoRn, Dream Theater, Velvet Revolver, Probot, Kittie, Mushroomhead, Type O Negative, System of a Down, Stone Temple Pilots, David Bowie, Unified Theory, Class of 99 and Wyclef Jean have recorded covers of Pink Floyd
External links This biography is published under the GNU Licence