|Who is it?||Soundtrack, Composer, Music Department|
|Genres||Progressive rock art rock psychedelic rock|
|Years active||1965–1995 2005 2012–2014|
|Labels||EMI Columbia Tower Harvest Capitol Columbia Sony Music EMI Parlophone|
|Past members||Nick Mason Roger Waters Richard Wright Syd Barrett David Gilmour|
Rarely will you find Floyd dishing up catchy hooks, tunes short enough for air-play, or predictable three-chord blues progressions; and never will you find them spending much time on the usual pop album of romance, partying, or self-hype. Their sonic universe is expansive, intense, and challenging ... Where most other bands neatly fit the songs to the music, the two forming a sort of autonomous and seamless whole complete with memorable hooks, Pink Floyd tends to set lyrics within a broader soundscape that often seems to have a life of its own ... Pink Floyd employs extended, stand-alone instrumentals which are never mere vehicles for showing off virtuoso but are planned and integral parts of the performance.
Pink Floyd were founded by students Syd Barrett on guitar and lead vocals, Nick Mason on drums, Roger Waters on bass and vocals, and Richard Wright on keyboards and vocals. They gained popularity performing in London's underground music scene during the late 1960s, and under Barrett's leadership 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 the band's primary lyricist and conceptual leader, devising the concepts behind their albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983). The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall became two of the best-selling albums of all time.
Noble and Metcalfe left the Tea Set in late 1963, and Klose introduced the band to singer Chris Dennis, a technician with the Royal Air Force (RAF). In December 1964, they secured their first recording time, at a studio in West Hampstead, through one of Wright's friends, who let them use some down time free. Wright, who was taking a break from his studies, did not participate in the session. When the RAF assigned Dennis a post in Bahrain in early 1965, Barrett became the band's frontman. Later that year, they became the resident band at the Countdown Club near Kensington High Street in London, where from late night until early morning they played three sets of 90 minutes each. During this period, spurred by the group's need to extend their sets to minimise song repetition, the band realised that songs could be extended with lengthy solos', wrote Mason. After pressure from his parents and advice from his college tutors, Klose quit the band in mid-1965 and Barrett took over lead guitar. The group first referred to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound in late 1965. Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs. The name is derived from the given names of two blues Musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
In 1966, the band strengthened their Business relationship with Blackhill Enterprises, becoming equal partners with Jenner and King and the band members each holding a one-sixth share. By late 1966, their set included fewer R&B standards and more Barrett originals, many of which would be included on their first album. While they had significantly increased the frequency of their performances, the band were still not widely accepted. Following a performance at a Catholic youth club, the owner refused to pay them, claiming that their performance was not music. When their management filed suit in a small claims court against the owner of the youth organisation, a local magistrate upheld the owner's decision. The band was much better received at the UFO Club in London, where they began to build a fan base. Barrett's performances were enthusiastic, "leaping around ... madness ... improvisation ... [inspired] to get past his limitations and into areas that were ... very interesting. Which none of the others could do", wrote biographer Nicholas Schaffner.
To celebrate the launch of the London Free School's magazine International Times in 1966, they performed in front of 2,000 people at the opening of the Roundhouse, attended by celebrities including Paul McCartney and Marianne Faithfull. In mid-1966, road manager Peter Wynne-Willson joined their road crew, and updated the band's lighting rig with some innovative ideas including the use of polarisers, mirrors and stretched condoms. After their record deal with EMI, Pink Floyd purchased a Ford Transit van, then considered extravagant band transportation. On 29 April 1967, they headlined an all-night event called The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at the Alexandra Palace, London. Pink Floyd arrived at the festival at around three o'clock in the morning after a long journey by van and ferry from the Netherlands, taking the stage just as the sun was beginning to rise. In July 1969, precipitated by their space-related music and lyrics, they took part in the live BBC television coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, performing an instrumental piece which they called "Moonhead".
War, viewed as the most severe consequence of the manifestation of alienation from others, is also a core element of The Wall, and a recurring theme in the band's music. Waters' father died in combat during the Second World War, and his lyrics often alluded to the cost of war, including those from "Corporal Clegg" (1968), "Free Four" (1972), "Us and Them" (1973), "When the Tigers Broke Free" and "The Fletcher Memorial Home" from The Final Cut (1983), an album dedicated to his late father and subtitled A Requiem for the Postwar Dream. The themes and composition of The Wall express Waters' upbringing in an English society depleted of men after the Second World War, a condition that negatively affected his personal relationships with women.
Ummagumma represented a departure from their previous work. Released as a double-LP on EMI's Harvest label, the first two sides contained live performances recorded at Manchester College of Commerce and Mothers, a club in Birmingham. The second LP contained a single experimental contribution from each band member. Ummagumma received positive reviews upon its release, in November 1969. The album peaked at number 5, spending 21 weeks on the UK chart.
Critic Alan di Perna praised Gilmour's guitar work as an integral element of Pink Floyd's sound. Rolling Stone ranked Gilmour number 14 in their "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list and di Perna described him as the most important Guitarist of the 1970s, calling him "the missing link between Hendrix and Van Halen." In 2006, Gilmour commented on his playing technique: "[My] fingers make a distinctive sound ... [they] aren't very fast, but I think I am instantly recognisable ... The way I play melodies is connected to things like Hank Marvin and the Shadows". Gilmour's ability to use fewer notes than most to express himself without sacrificing strength or beauty drew a favourable comparison to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
Released in October 1971, "Meddle not only confirms lead Guitarist David Gilmour's emergence as a real shaping force with the group, it states forcefully and accurately that the group is well into the growth track again", wrote Jean-Charles Costa of Rolling Stone. NME called Meddle "an exceptionally good album", singling out "Echoes" as the "Zenith which the Floyd have been striving for". However, Melody Maker's Michael Watts found it underwhelming, calling the album "a Soundtrack to a non-existent movie", and shrugging off Pink Floyd as "so much sound and fury, signifying nothing". Meddle is a transitional album between the Barrett-influenced group of the late 1960s and the emerging Pink Floyd. The LP peaked at number 3, spending 82 weeks on the UK chart.
Pink Floyd recorded The Dark Side of the Moon between May 1972 and January 1973, with EMI staff Engineer Alan Parsons at Abbey Road. The title is an allusion to lunacy rather than astronomy. The band had composed and refined the material on Dark Side while touring the UK, Japan, North America and Europe. Producer Chris Thomas assisted Parsons. Hipgnosis designed the album's packaging, which included George Hardie's iconic refracting prism design on the cover. Thorgerson's Dark Side album cover features a beam of white light, representing unity, passing through a prism, which represents society. The resulting refracted beam of coloured light symbolises unity diffracted, leaving an absence of unity. Waters is the sole author of the album's lyrics.
Throughout March 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon featured as part of Pink Floyd's US tour. The album is one of the most commercially successful rock albums of all time; a US number 1, it remained on the Billboard chart for more than fourteen years, selling more than 45 million copies worldwide. In Britain, the album peaked at number 2, spending 364 weeks on the UK chart. Dark Side is the world's third best-selling album, and the twenty-first best-selling album of all time in the US. The success of the album brought enormous wealth to the members of Pink Floyd. Waters and Wright bought large country houses while Mason became a collector of expensive cars. Disenchanted with their US record company, Capitol Records, Pink Floyd and O'Rourke negotiated a new contract with Columbia Records, who gave them a reported advance of $1,000,000 (US$4,962,213 in 2017 dollars). In Europe, they continued to be represented by Harvest Records.
In November 1974, they employed for the first time the large circular screen that would become a staple of their live shows. In 1977, they employed the use of a large inflatable floating pig named "Algie". Filled with helium and propane, Algie, while floating above the audience, would explode with a loud noise during the In the Flesh Tour. The behaviour of the audience during the tour, as well as the large size of the venues, proved a strong influence on their concept album The Wall. The subsequent The Wall Tour featured a 40 feet (12 m) high wall, built from cardboard bricks, constructed between the band and the audience. They projected animations onto the wall, while gaps allowed the audience to view various scenes from the story. They commissioned the creation of several giant inflatables to represent characters from the story. One striking feature of the tour was the performance of "Comfortably Numb". While Waters sang his opening verse, in darkness, Gilmour waited for his cue on top of the wall. When it came, bright blue and white Lights would suddenly reveal him. Gilmour stood on a flightcase on castors, an insecure setup supported from behind by a technician. A large hydraulic platform supported both Gilmour and the tech.
Pink Floyd were also admirers of the Monty Python comedy group. They helped to Finance their 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Released in January 1977, the album peaked on the UK chart at number two, and the US chart at number three. NME described the album as "one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music", and Melody Maker's Karl Dallas called it "[an] uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific".
In July 1978, amid a financial crisis caused by negligent Investments, Waters presented the group with two original ideas for their next album. The first was a 90-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, and the other would later become Waters' first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Although both Mason and Gilmour were initially cautious, they chose the former to be their next album. Bob Ezrin co-produced, and he wrote a forty-page script for the new album. Ezrin based the story on the central figure of Pink—a gestalt character inspired by Waters' childhood experiences, the most notable of which was the death of his father in World War II. This first metaphorical brick led to more problems; Pink would become drug-addled and depressed by the music industry, eventually transforming into a megalomaniac, a development inspired partly by the decline of Syd Barrett. At the end of the album, the increasingly fascist audience would watch as Pink tore down the wall, once again becoming a regular and caring person.
The album was supported by "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)", Pink Floyd's first single since "Money", which topped the charts in the US and the UK. Released on 30 November 1979, The Wall topped the Billboard chart in the US for fifteen weeks, reaching number three in the UK. The Wall ranks number three on the RIAA's list of the all-time Top 100 albums, with 23 million certified units sold in the US. The cover is one of their most minimalist designs, with a stark white brick wall, and no trademark or band name. It was also their first album cover since The Piper at the Gates of Dawn not designed by Hipgnosis.
The music of Pink Floyd influenced numerous artists; David Bowie called Barrett a significant inspiration, and The Edge of U2 bought his first delay pedal after hearing the opening guitar chords to "Dogs" from Animals. Other bands and artists who cite them as an influence include Queen, Tool, Radiohead, Steven Wilson, Kraftwerk, Marillion, Queensrÿche, Nine Inch Nails, the Orb and the Smashing Pumpkins. Pink Floyd were an influence on the neo-progressive rock subgenre which emerged in the 1980s.
Pink Floyd have won several awards. In 1981 audio Engineer James Guthrie won the Grammy Award for "Best Engineered Non-Classical Album" for The Wall, and Roger Waters won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for "Best Original Song Written for a Film" in 1983 for "Another Brick in the Wall" from The Wall film. In 1995, Pink Floyd won the Grammy for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" for "Marooned". In 2008, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented Pink Floyd with the Polar Music Prize for their contribution to modern music; Waters and Mason attended the ceremony and accepted the award. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2010.
In 1982, Waters suggested a new musical project with the working title Spare Bricks, originally conceived as the Soundtrack album for Pink Floyd – The Wall. With the onset of the Falklands War, Waters changed direction and began writing new material. He saw Margaret Thatcher's response to the invasion of the Falklands as jingoistic and unnecessary, and dedicated the album to his late father. Immediately arguments arose between Waters and Gilmour, who felt that the album should include all new material, rather than recycle songs passed over for The Wall. Waters felt that Gilmour had contributed little to the band's lyrical repertoire. Michael Kamen, a contributor to the orchestral arrangements of The Wall, mediated between the two, also performing the role traditionally occupied by the then-absent Wright. The tension within the band grew. Waters and Gilmour worked independently; however, Gilmour began to feel the strain, sometimes barely maintaining his composure. After a final confrontation, Gilmour's name disappeared from the credit list, reflecting what Waters felt was his lack of songwriting contributions.
Though Mason's musical contributions were minimal, he stayed busy recording sound effects for an experimental Holophonic system to be used on the album. With marital problems of his own, he remained a distant figure. Pink Floyd did not use Thorgerson for the cover design, Waters choosing to design the cover himself. Released in March 1983, The Final Cut went straight to number one in the UK and number six in the US. Waters wrote all the lyrics, as well as all the music on the album. Gilmour did not have any material ready for the album and asked Waters to delay the recording until he could write some songs, but Waters refused. Gilmour later commented: "I'm certainly guilty at times of being lazy ... but he wasn't right about wanting to put some duff tracks on The Final Cut." Rolling Stone magazine gave the album five stars, with Kurt Loder calling it "a superlative achievement ... art rock's crowning masterpiece". Loder viewed The Final Cut as "essentially a Roger Waters solo album".
Gilmour had recorded his second solo album, About Face, in 1984, and he used it to express his feelings about a variety of topics, from the murder of John Lennon to his relationship with Waters. He later stated that he used the album to distance himself from Pink Floyd. Soon afterwards, Waters began touring his first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Wright formed Zee with Dave Harris and recorded Identity, which went almost unnoticed upon its release. Mason released his second solo album, Profiles, in August 1985.
They planned their setlist at the Connaught Hotel in London, followed by three days of rehearsals at Black Island Studios. The sessions were problematic, with disagreements over the style and pace of the songs they were practising; the running order was decided on the eve of the event. At the beginning of their performance of "Wish You Were Here", Waters told the audience: "[It is] quite emotional, standing up here with these three guys after all these years, standing to be counted with the rest of you ... we're doing this for everyone who's not here, and particularly of course for Syd." At the end, Gilmour thanked the audience and started to walk off the stage. Waters called him back, and the band shared a group hug. Images of the hug were a favourite among Sunday newspapers after Live 8. Waters said of their almost twenty years of animosity: "I don't think any of us came out of the years from 1985 with any credit ... It was a bad, negative time, and I regret my part in that negativity."
In 1986, Gilmour began recruiting Musicians for what would become Pink Floyd's first album without Waters, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. There were legal obstacles to Wright's re-admittance to the band, but after a meeting in Hampstead, Pink Floyd invited Wright to participate in the coming sessions. Gilmour later stated that Wright's presence "would make us stronger legally and musically", and Pink Floyd employed him as a musician with weekly earnings of $11,000. Recording sessions for the album began on Gilmour's houseboat, the Astoria, moored along the River Thames. Gilmour worked with several songwriters, including Eric Stewart and Roger McGough, eventually choosing Anthony Moore to write the album's lyrics. Gilmour would later admit that the project was difficult without Waters' creative direction. Mason, concerned that he was too out-of-practice to perform on the album, made use of session Musicians to complete many of the drum parts. He instead busied himself with the album's sound effects.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released in September 1987. Storm Thorgerson, whose creative input was absent from The Wall and The Final Cut, designed the album cover. To drive home the point that Waters had left the band, they included a group photograph on the inside cover, the first since Meddle. The album went straight to number three in the UK and the US. Waters commented: "I think it's facile, but a quite clever forgery ... The songs are poor in general ... [and] Gilmour's lyrics are third-rate." Although Gilmour initially viewed the album as a return to the band's top form, Wright disagreed, stating: "Roger's criticisms are fair. It's not a band album at all." Q Magazine described the album as essentially a Gilmour solo effort.
Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially successful and influential rock bands of all time. They have sold more than 250 million records worldwide, including 75 million certified units in the United States, and 37.9 million albums sold in the US since 1993. The Sunday Times Rich List, Music Millionaires 2013 (UK), ranked Waters at number 12 with an estimated fortune of £150 million, Gilmour at number 27 with £85 million and Mason at number 37 with £50 million.
During the Division Bell Tour, an unknown person using the name Publius posted a message on an internet newsgroup inviting fans to solve a riddle supposedly concealed in the new album. White Lights in front of the stage at the Pink Floyd concert in East Rutherford spelled out the words Enigma Publius. During a televised concert at Earls Court on 20 October 1994, someone projected the word "enigma" in large letters on to the backdrop of the stage. Mason later acknowledged that their record company had instigated the Publius Enigma mystery, rather than the band.
Pink Floyd were inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. By 2013, the band had sold more than 250 million records worldwide.
In 2004, MSNBC ranked Pink Floyd number 8 on their list of "The 10 Best Rock Bands Ever". Rolling Stone ranked them number 51 on their list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Q named Pink Floyd as the biggest band of all time. VH1 ranked them number 18 in the list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Colin Larkin ranked Pink Floyd number 3 in his list of the 'Top 50 Artists of All Time', a ranking based on the cumulative votes for each artist's albums included in his All Time Top 1000 Albums.
On 2 July 2005, Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed together as Pink Floyd for the first time in more than 24 years, at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London. The reunion was arranged by Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof; after Gilmour declined the offer, Geldof asked Mason, who contacted Waters. About two weeks later, Waters called Gilmour, their first conversation in two years, and the next day Gilmour agreed. In a statement to the press, the band stressed the unimportance of their problems in the context of the Live 8 event.
In 2006, Guitar World Writer Jimmy Brown described Gilmour's guitar style as "characterised by simple, huge-sounding riffs; gutsy, well-paced solos; and rich, ambient chordal textures." According to Brown, Gilmour's solos on "Money", "Time" and "Comfortably Numb" "cut through the mix like a laser beam through fog." Brown described the "Time" solo as "a masterpiece of phrasing and motivic development ... Gilmour paces himself throughout and builds upon his initial idea by leaping into the upper register with gut-wrenching one-and-one-half-step 'over bends', soulful triplet arpeggios and a typically impeccable bar vibrato." Brown described Gilmour's sense of phrasing as intuitive, singling it out as perhaps his best asset as a lead Guitarist. Gilmour explained how he achieved his signature tone: "I usually use a fuzz box, a delay and a bright EQ setting ... [to get] singing sustain ... you need to play loud — at or near the feedback threshold. It's just so much more fun to play ... when bent notes slice right through you like a razor blade."
Wright died of an undisclosed form of cancer on 15 September 2008, aged 65. His former bandmates paid tributes to his life and work; Gilmour said "In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten. He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound." A week after Wright's death, Gilmour performed "Remember a Day" from A Saucerful of Secrets, written and originally sung by Wright, in tribute to him. Keyboardist Keith Emerson released a statement praising Wright as the "backbone" of Pink Floyd.
On 10 July 2010, Waters and Gilmour performed together at a charity event for the Hoping Foundation. The event, which raised money for Palestinian children, took place at Kiddington Hall in Oxfordshire, England, with an audience of approximately 200. In return for Waters' appearance at the event, Gilmour performed "Comfortably Numb" at Waters' performance of The Wall at the London O2 Arena on 12 May 2011, singing the choruses and playing the two guitar solos. Mason also joined, playing tambourine for "Outside the Wall" with Gilmour on mandolin.
On 26 September 2011, Pink Floyd and EMI launched an exhaustive re-release campaign under the title Why Pink Floyd...?, reissuing the band's back catalogue in newly remastered versions, including "Experience" and "Immersion" multi-disc multi-format editions. The albums were remastered by James Guthrie, co-producer of The Wall. In November 2015, Pink Floyd released a limited edition EP, 1965: Their First Recordings, comprising six songs recorded prior to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
In 2012, Gilmour and Mason decided to revisit recordings made with Wright, mainly during the Division Bell sessions, to create a new Pink Floyd album. They recruited session Musicians to help record new parts and "generally harness studio technology". Waters was not involved. Mason described the album as a tribute to Wright: "I think this record is a good way of recognising a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was."
Samson announced The Endless River in July 2014 on Twitter. Details were announced on Pink Floyd's website on 7 July, describing it as comprising "mainly ambient" and instrumental music. It was released 7 November 2014, the second Pink Floyd album distributed by Parlophone following the release of the 20th anniversary editions of The Division Bell earlier in 2014. Though The Endless River received mixed reviews, it became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK, and debuted at number one in several countries. The vinyl edition was the fastest-selling UK vinyl release of 2014 and the fastest-selling since 1997.
Gilmour stated that The Endless River is Pink Floyd's last album, saying: "I think we have successfully commandeered the best of what there is ... It's a shame, but this is the end." There was no tour to support the album, as Gilmour felt it was "kind of impossible" without Wright. In August 2015, Gilmour reiterated that Pink Floyd were "done" and that to reunite without Wright "would just be wrong".
In 2016, a major retrospective of the band's work was announced to take place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London the following year to mark the 50th anniversary of their first single. The audio-visual exhibition, titled Their Mortal Remains, featuring analysis of the album cover art, conceptual props from the stage shows and photographs from Nick Mason's personal archive, opened in May 2017; due to its popularity, it was extended for two weeks beyond its original closing date of 1 October.
Gerald Scarfe produced a series of animations for the subsequent live shows, The Wall Tour. He also commissioned the construction of large inflatable puppets representing characters from the storyline including the "Mother", the "Ex-wife" and the "Schoolmaster". Pink Floyd used the puppets during their performances of the album. Relationships within the band were at an all-time low; their four Winnebagos parked in a circle, the doors facing away from the centre. Waters used his own vehicle to arrive at the venue and stayed in different hotels from the rest of the band. Wright returned as a paid musician and was the only one of the four to profit from the venture, which lost about $600,000 (US$1,615,081 in 2017 dollars).