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Band formed c. 1964 by Syd Barrett in London, England; original members included Syd Barrett (real name, Roger Barrett; born January 6, 1946, in Cambridge, England) lead guitar, vocals; acted as primary songwriter in early years (left group, 1968); Roger Waters (born September 6, 1944, in Great Bookham, England) bass, piano, vocals; became primary songwriter after Barrett left (left group c. 1985); Rick Wright (born July 28, 1945, in London) keyboards, vocals (left group, 1980; rejoined c. 1987); and Nick Mason (born January 27, 1945, in Birmingham, England) drums. Current lead guitarist and songwriter David Gilmour (born March 6, 1944, in Cambridge, England) joined group in 1968. Performed in clubs in London, 1964-67; signed with EMI Records, 1966; recording artists and concert performers, 1967--. Addresses: Office-- c/o 43 Portland Rd., London W11, England.
Rock band Pink Floyd holds one of the most impressive records in the music industry--its 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon has been on Billboard magazine's top two hundred chart longer than any other. Additional distinctions include being known as Great Britain's first psychedelic rock band and the first British band to use a light show in concert performance. Indeed, Pink Floyd is as much renowned for its elaborate stage shows, with lights, films, and inflatable balloons, as for its songs, such as "Money," "Time," and "Another Brick in the Wall." Considered serious musicians by most rock critics, Pink Floyd is "doing art for art's sake, and you don't have to be high to get it," declared disc jockey Tom Morrera in an interview with Time 's Jay Cocks. "They'll take you on a trip anyway."
Pink Floyd was founded in or around 1964 by Roger "Syd" Barrett in London, England. Barrett named the group for two of his favorite blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, and the band was initially blues-influenced. But Barrett, serving as the primary songwriter and playing lead guitar, quickly shaped Pink Floyd's uniquely mystic, psychedelic sound; he was abetted in this effort by bass player Roger Waters, keyboardist Rick Wright, and drummer Nick Mason. In the early years the band had another member, Bob Close, but he only played with them briefly. Pink Floyd began by playing clubs in the London area; their first regular job was at the Marquee in early 1966, and they soon attracted a small, loyal following. Later in the year the band had moved to the Sound/Light Workshop in London, where they included a light show in their act--a first in Great Britain. By the end of 1966, they had not only become the house band at the UFO Club, but had signed a deal with EMI Records (who released their music in the United States on the Tower label). Pink Floyd's first single, written by Barrett, was "Arnold Layne." The song, about a transvestite, was considered controversial--even underground station Radio London banned it--yet it enjoyed a fair amount of success in England. Another of Barrett's musical creations, "See Emily Play," did even better with British audiences, but their critically acclaimed first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was not as popular with American audiences.
Early in 1968 Pink Floyd recruited another guitarist, David Gilmour, to supplement Barrett. The founder's behavior had become erratic, allegedly as a result of his experimentation with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, and he left the band two months after Gilmour joined. Barrett's subsequent life has become the subject of rumor and speculation. He apparently recorded a few albums in the 1970s with Gilmour and Waters, but, according to David Fricke of Rolling Stone , Barrett "withdrew into a debilitating madness" from which "he never recovered."
After Barrett's departure from Pink Floyd, Gilmour played lead guitar for the band and Waters shouldered most of the songwriting responsibility. The group's eclectic, mystic flavor, begun by Barrett, was preserved under the leadership of Waters. Albums like Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and Ummagumma (1969) helped build Pink Floyd's reputation as a cult band, and they began to receive offers to write and perform music for films. Motion pictures that feature the sounds of Pink Floyd include More, Let's All Make Love in London, The Committee , and Zabriskie Point. They continued to garner critical acclaim into the early 1970s with the albums Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, and Obscured by Clouds, the soundtrack from the film Le Vallee. At the same time, by rarely granting interviews and keeping low personal profiles, the band members created an aura of darkness and mystery about themselves. Gilmour explained to Chet Flippo in People that he and his fellow musicians did not want Pink Floyd's strange image destroyed by the knowledge that its members were somewhat ordinary: if they had made themselves more visible, "the fans might have gotten too much information about us sitting at home watching television and drinking beer."
Pink Floyd's status as a cult band changed radically, however, with the release of Dark Side of the Moon, about the alienation and mental illness stemming from societal pressures. "Money," a single from the album, gave the group its first major American hit. As Flippo put it, " Dark Side, bleak and gothic, reached out and tapped some previously unreached citizens of our planet." Although it has stayed on Billboard 's charts longer than any other album, Gilmour told Flippo that Dark Side 's success has "always baffled me, still baffles me. I mean, when we made it, we knew it was the best we'd done. But we hadn't even gone gold before then."
Though they sold well, the follow-up albums to Dark Side, Wish You Were Here (1976) and Animals (1977), were considered inferior to their predecessor. Animals, however, became Pink Floyd's first platinum album. The effort portrayed society as divided into three different kinds of animals--dogs, pigs, and sheep--and the concert tour to promote Animals was graced by props such as a giant inflatable flying pig. But Pink Floyd's 1979 product, The Wall, brought both higher critical acclaim and greater popular success. Including the hit "Another Brick in the Wall," the album, reported Cocks, "is a lavish, four-sided dredge job on the angst of the successful rocker, his flirtations with suicide and losing bouts with self-pity, his assorted betrayals by parents, teachers and wives and his uneasy relationship with his audience, which is alternately exhorted, cajoled and mocked." The concert tour that followed The Wall 's release featured such a complicated stage show, including props like a thirty-foot-tall inflatable woman and a huge wall composed of cardboard boxes that collapsed during the performance's climax, that it only went to four cities: New York, Los Angeles, London, and Cologne, West Germany.
After the Wall tour, Rick Wright left Pink Floyd due to artistic tensions between its members. The band put out another album, The Final Cut, in 1983, but the tensions continued until Waters separated from the group in or around 1985. Amid legal battles between Waters and the other members over who had the right to use the Pink Floyd name, Gilmour and Mason, later rejoined by Wright, released an album, Momentary Lapse of Reason, and went on tour as Pink Floyd in 1987.
by Elizabeth Thomas
Pink Floyd's Career
Pink Floyd's Awards
1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon, remained on Billboard 's charts longer than any other in history.
- Selective Works
- Piper at the Gates of Dawn (includes "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play"), Tower, 1967.
- Saucerful of Secrets (includes "Let There Be More Light" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"), Tower, 1968.
- More Harvest, 1969.
- Ummagumma Harvest, 1969.
- Atom Heart Mother Harvest, 1970.
- Meddle (includes "Echoes"), Harvest, 1971.
- Relics Harvest, 1971.
- Obscured by Clouds Harvest, 1972.
- Dark Side of the Moon (includes "Money" and "Time"), Harvest, 1973.
- Wish You Were Here CBS, 1976.
- Animals CBS, 1977.
- The Wall (includes "Another Brick in the Wall"), CBS, 1979.
- The Final Cut CBS, 1983.
- Momentary Lapse of Reason CBS, 1987.
May 4, 2004: Pink Floyd's 1983 album, The Final Cut, was re-released with a bonus track. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_6/index.jsp, May 7, 2004.
June 6, 2005: Original group members announced their first on-stage reunion since 1981, for the occasion of Bob Geldof's Live 8 concert tour. Source: Hollywood Reporter, www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/brief_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000955294, June 13, 2005.
- People, March 12, 1984.
- Rolling Stone, January 15, 1987; June 4, 1987; October 22, 1987; November 19, 1987.
- Time, February 25, 1980.
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