They were the pioneers of their own brand of progressive rock, the architects of the experimental, a group with a shifting line-up and an ever-evolving sound. They were Pink Floyd, one of the greatest classic rock bands of the 20th century, up there in the rankings with legends such as Led Zeppelin, Bowie and the Beatles. Even after their second breakup in 2014, Pink Floyd’s musical legacy is cherished today by adult and teenage fans alike. The band also serves as a reminder to all that a “Wall” doesn’t have to be solely associated with xenophobia and ignorance, but also with a wonderfully crafted prog-rock masterpiece (AKA Pink Floyd’s 11th album, “The Wall”). Yet, how did this group of musicians propel themselves to fame? What are the secrets behind their years of stardom? And what are the jewels in the crown of Pink Floyd’s vast discography?
The Secrets behind the Sound (a timeline of Pink Floyd)
- 1965 – Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Syd Barrett, Richard Wright are performing together, first as “Tea Set,” then as the “Pink Floyd Sound.” This name derives from records that Barrett owns (records of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council).
- 1967 – Pink Floyd sign with EMI. Their first single, “Arnold Layne” is released in January and later that year they release their first full-length album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. David Gilmour joins the band as its fifth member.
- 1968 – Frontman Syd Barrett’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and distant. His mental breakdown started the previous year, worrying his bandmates, who had initially hoped that it was a passing phase. Barrett becomes increasingly difficult to work with, and even in photoshoots seems distant from the other members. In March he formally agrees to leave the band. Their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, is released without Barrett.
- 1973 – Pink Floyd has now released seven studio albums in the space of six years. “Money,” their
first major hit since “See Emily Play” (1967) is released.
This is followed up by their eighth and one of their most critically acclaimed studio albums, the Dark Side of the Moon.
- 1975 – The band releases Wish You Were Here, their ninth album, which is a partial tribute to early member Syd Barrett. Whilst recording the album, Barrett visits the studio. Members Waters and Mason cannot even initially recognise him. He then attends the wedding reception of Gilmour, but leaves without saying goodbye. He is afterwards not seen by any of the band members until his death in 2006.
- 1979 – The Wall is released, Pink Floyd’s concept album about a musician who descends into isolation, symbolised by a “wall.” In the same year, Roger Waters leaves the group.
- 1995 – Following the 1994 release of the Division Bell, their fourteenth studio album, the band split up.
- 2012-2015 – Gilmour and Mason reunite briefly to create a new album, 2014’s The Endless River. Following this release, they split again. There are no current plans to reunite.
Below: The band as a five-piece in January 1968
Top 3 Albums
The NewSouthendian has made the difficult choice of selecting a top 3 from the 14 albums Pink Floyd released;
- Dark Side of the Moon
An admittedly obvious choice for the top spot, as Dark Side of the Moon encompasses the peak of Pink Floyd. A multi-layered, experimental album packed with synthesizers, soaring guitar solos (courtesy of David Gilmour) and even a saxophone on “Money,” Dark Side of the Moon ticks all the boxes of perfection. The lyrics deal with dark and existentialist themes, namely the depravity of existence and madness.
Standout tracks include; Money, Us and Them and Any Colour You Like.
- The Wall
The idea for Roger Waters’ four-sided rock opera sprung from his increasing disillusionment with the lack of a connection between artists and their audience. The Wall is a concept album which tells the story of Pink Floyd, a musician whose rise to fame leads to loneliness. It combines piano ballads, creative riffs and melancholic lyrics which describe the protagonist’s troubles, descent into ignorance and the eventual “tearing down” of the metaphorical wall he has built.
Standout tracks include; Another Brick in the Wall, Goodbye Blue Sky and Comfortably Numb.
- Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd’s ninth album, is regarded by some as the band’s magnum opus. It is a progressive art rock effort accompanied by softer guitars than those included on previous albums. Regarding the lyrics, the album criticises the greed and corruption of the music business and also serves as a tribute to troubled former band member Syd Barrett, who by this point had left the music industry.
Standout tracks include: Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here