Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd

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Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London in 1965. Gaining a following as a psychedelic band, they were distinguished for their extended compositions, sonic experimentation, philosophical lyrics and elaborate live shows, and became a leading band of the progressive rock genre. They are one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in popular music history.



Pink Floyd were founded by students Syd Barrett (guitar and lead vocals), Nick Mason (drums), Roger Waters (bass and vocals), and Richard Wright (keyboards and vocals). Under Barrett's leadership, they released two charting singles and a successful debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). Guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour joined in December 1967; Barrett left in April 1968 due to deteriorating mental health. Waters became their primary lyricist and thematic leader, devising the concepts behind the albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983). The band also composed several film scores.



Following personal tensions, Wright left Pink Floyd in 1979, followed by Waters in 1985. Gilmour and Mason continued as Pink Floyd, rejoined later by Wright. The three produced two more albums—A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994)—and continued to tour before quietly disbanding in 1995. In 2005, all but Barrett reunited for a one-off performance at the global awareness event Live 8. Barrett died in 2006, and Wright in 2008. The last Pink Floyd studio album, The Endless River (2014), was based on unreleased material from the Division Bell recording sessions.



Pink Floyd were one of the first British psychedelia groups, and are credited with influencing genres such as progressive rock and ambient music. Four albums topped US or UK record charts; the songs "See Emily Play" (1967) and "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" (1979) were their only top 10 singles in either territory. The band were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. By 2013, they had sold more than 250 million records worldwide, with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall two of the best-selling albums of all time.



Pink Floyd evolved from an earlier band, formed in 1964, which was at various times called Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The Screaming Abdabs, and The Abdabs. When this band split up, some members — guitarists Bob Klose and Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and wind instrument player Rick Wright — formed a new band called Tea Set, and were joined shortly thereafter by guitarist Syd Barrett, who became the band’s primary vocalist as well. When Tea Set found themselves on the same bill as another band with the same name, Barrett came up with an alternative name on the spur of the moment, choosing The Pink Floyd Sound (after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). For a time after this they oscillated between ‘Tea Set’ and ‘The Pink Floyd Sound’, with the latter name eventually winning out. The word Sound was dropped fairly quickly, but the definite article was still used occasionally for several years afterward, up to about the time of the More soundtrack. In the early days, the band covered rhythm and blues staples such as “Louie, Louie”, but gained notoriety for psychedelic interpretations, with extended improvised sections and ‘spaced out’ solos.



The heavily jazz-oriented Klose left the band to become a photographer shortly before Pink Floyd started recording, leaving an otherwise stable lineup with Barrett on lead guitar, Waters on bass guitar, Mason on drums and Wright switching to keyboards. Barrett started writing his own songs, influenced by American and British psychedelic rock with his own brand of whimsical humor. Pink Floyd became a favorite in the underground movement, playing at such prominent venues as the UFO club, the Marquee Club and the Roundhouse. 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 TV appearance on Top of the Pops in July 1967.



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, and it is now viewed as one of the better 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, 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 and electric keyboards. The album was a hit in the UK where it peaked at #6, but did not get much attention in North America, reaching #131 in the U.S. During this period, the band toured with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which helped to increase its popularity.



As the band became more and more popular, the stresses of life on the road and a significant intake of psychedelic drugs took their toll on Barrett, whose mental health had been deteriorating for several months. While Barrett’s behavior has often been attributed to his drug use, there are many who think that a pre-existing condition, possibly schizophrenia, was equally to blame. In January 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out Syd’s playing and singing duties. With Barrett’s behavior becoming less and less predictable, and his almost constant use of LSD, he became very unstable, often staring into space while the rest of the band performed. During some performances, he would simply strum one chord for the duration of a concert, or simply begin detuning his guitar. The band’s live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts. It was originally hoped that Syd would write for the band with Gilmour performing live, similar to how the Beach Boys had done with Brian Wilson. However, due to 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 formalized 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.



Musically, this period was one of 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. 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 feedback and atonal screeches and loops, “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”, which is a series of sped-up voice samples resembling rodents chattering that reaches its climax in an incomprehensible Scottish dialect monologue, and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” (performed under different names during this period), a very Waters-driven song with a bass and keyboard-heavy jam culminating in crashing drums and Waters’s primal screams.



Whilst Barrett had written the bulk of the first album, only one Barrett composition, the Piper outtake “Jugband Blues”, appeared on the second Floyd album. 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. Hints of the epic, lengthy songs to come are in its centerpiece, the 12-minute title track, 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 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 premiered in May 1969. The music was released as a Floyd album in its own right, Music From the Film More, in July 1969; the album achieved another #9 finish in the UK, and peaked at #153 in the U.S. 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, although critics tend to find the collection of the film’s music patchy and uneven. Two of these songs, “Green Is the Colour” and “Cymbaline”, became fixtures in the band’s live sets for a time, as can be heard in the many available bootleg recordings from this period. The latter was also the first Pink Floyd song to deal with Roger Waters’s cynical attitude toward the music industry explicitly. The rest of the album consisted of incidental music 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 realized 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 title is slang for sexual procreation, and reflects the attitude of the band at the time, as frustrations in the studio followed them throughout these sessions. Wildly experimental on the studio disc (except for Waters’s pure folk “Grantchester Meadows”), with atonal and jarring piano pieces (“Sysyphus”), meandering folk guitar (“The Narrow Way”) and large percussion solos, the live disc featured excellent performances of some of their most popular psychedelic-era compositions and caused critics to receive the album more positively than the previous two albums. With fans, the album was Pink Floyd’s most popular release yet, hitting UK #5 and making the U.S. charts at #74.



1970’s Atom Heart Mother, the band’s first recording with an orchestra, was a collaboration with avant-garde composer Ron Geesin. 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 (Roger Waters’s folk-rock “If”, David Gilmour’s bluesy “Fat Old Sun” and Rick Wright’s psychedelic “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 use of 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 so far, reaching #1 in the UK and #55 in the U.S., although it has since been described by Gilmour as "a load of rubbish" and Waters as suitable for "throwing in the dustbin and never [being] listened to by anyone ever again Read more

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