Who is Pink Floyd?
One of Britain’s first psychedelic bands, Pink Floyd is one of the greatest progressive rock bands in history. At the time of their founding in 1965, Pink Floyd had five members, and continued to mostly be a five-man-band with a few personal changes.
They became famous in the 1960s and 1970s for their groovy, diverse, and experimental music that would influence and define future genres of rock. With their albums Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, Pink Floyd created two incredibly ambitious and best selling albums of all time. Some of their best known songs include “Money”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Hey You”, and “Another Brick in the Wall: Part 2”.
Despite feuds and the departures of keyboardist Richard Wright in 1979 and Roger Waters in 1985, Pink Floyd continued performing and writing music until a final full-length performance in 1994, and their final album release in 2014.
What is the Origin of Pink Floyd?
Roger Waters and Nick Mason met while studying architecture at London Polytechnic at Regent Street and playing together in bands with other students, including Richard Wright. They would later include roommate Bob Klose and Water’s childhood friend, Syd Barrett.
Starting as Sigma 6, the group went through several names including Meggadeaths, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five. They finally settled on Tea Set and secured their first studio time in West Hampstead.
In early 1965, Tea Time became a resident band at the Countdown Club in London, and in late 1965, the band became the Pink Floyd Sound. The change occurred when they realized a band with the same name as theirs at the time, Tea Set, were to perform at the same gig. Barrett derived the band name from the names of two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
At a performance at the Marquee Club in late 1966, Peter Jenner was impressed by the sonic effects of their music, and he and his business partner and friend, Andrew King, became the band’s managers. Jenner suggested the band drop the word “Sound” from their name, and they officially became Pink Floyd.
Band Members of Pink Floyd
- Lead and rhythm guitar, lead vocals (1965-1968)
- Founding member
- Died July 7, 2006 at the age of 60
- Net worth: $5 million
- Drums (1965-1995, 2005, 2012-2014)
- Founding member, only member to appear on all studio releases
- Age: 77
- Net worth: $150 million
- Bass guitar, vocals (1965-1985, 2005)
- Founding member
- Primary lyricist, devised concept albums
- Age: 77
- Net worth: $310 million
- Keyboards, vocals (1965-1979, 1990-1995, 2005)
- Founding member
- Died September 15, 2008 at the age of 65
- Net worth: $70 million
- Guitars (1965)
- Founding member
- Age: 76
- Net worth: $172.5 million
- Guitar, vocals (1967-1995, 2005, 2012-2014)
- Contributed songwriting
- Led the band after the departure of Waters in 1985
- Age: 75
- Net worth: $180 million
Styles and Themes in the Music of Pink Floyd
While a large portion of their music falls under the progressive rock umbrella, Pink Floyd were incredibly diverse in their use of multiple genres of music. Their music includes art rock, experimental rock, psychedelic pop/rock, space rock, and blues.
The sound of Pink Floyd is centered around heavy grooves, sonic experimentation, odd sounds, and voice recordings. The band’s earlier works featured long instrumentals, and a lot of their music is full of beautiful instrumental arrangements.
Themes of alienation, insanity, exploitation, oppression, disillusionment, and non-being are all present in the lyrics of their music. Anti-war songs and the mocking of social hierarchies are also very present in their content. As their music progressied, Pink Flpoyd became known for their development of concept albums that would present philosophical messages and stories.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (August 4, 1967)
Pink Floyd started to gain the attention of the music industry and signed with EMI in 1967. Their first single “Arnold Layne”, with B-side “Candy and a Currant Bun”, was released in March of that year on EMI’s Columbia label and peaked at number 20 in the UK. The second single, “See Emily Play” peaked at number 6 in the UK.
The band’s first album was recorded at EMI studios in London and titled The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The title is taken from chapter seven of the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Hailed as a pivotal psychedelic rock album, it peaked at number 6 on the UK charts.
A Saucerful of Secrets (June 29, 1968)
During the recording of their second album, the band reached a crisis point with Syd Barrett, who had been mentally deteriorating and refusing to see doctors. This eventually resulted in him being replaced with guitarist David Gilmour. Managers Jenner and King also ended their time with Pink Floyd.
While the debut album had been primarily written by Barrett, every member contributed to the songwriting and vocals in A Saucerful of Secrets. “Jugband Blues” was the only Barrett original on the album. The music from the album continued in the space rock style established on the previous album. A Saucerful of Secrets peaked at number 9 in the UK.
More (June 13, 1969)
Soundtrack album released by EMI Columbia and Tower Records in the U.S. for the film of the same name. Roger Waters wrote a majority of the song’s lyrics, and David Gilmour covered all lead vocals for his album.
Featuring a mixture of styles, including acoustic folk ballads, hard rock, experimental rock, and avant-garde influences. “Green is the Colour” features the penny whistle. More reached number 9 in the UK and received mixed reviews, being described as both interesting and weird by critics.
Ummagumma (November 7, 1969)
Well received with favorable reviews, the album reached number 5 on the UK albums charts and number 74 in the U.S. The band later became critical and dismissive of the album as a “failed experiment” in their eyes.
Atom Heart Mother (October 2, 1970)
Similar in concept to the previous album, Pink Floyd’s fifth studio album features full band music on the first half with individual members highlighted in the second half.
The band desired to explore all types of music without being limited to a particular style or image, so they requested a plain cover. The original album cover was simply an image of a cow in a pasture, without any writing or title. It was designed by Hipgnosis, who designed most of the band’s album covers.
This was Pink Floyd’s first album to reach number 1 in the UK. It reached number 55 in the US and later went gold there. In recent times, the band expressed negative thoughts about this album as well.
Meddle (November 5, 1971)
Pink Floyd’s next album lacked a central theme, so the group attempted to spur creativity with several experimental methods. These early experimental recordings were largely unproductive and named Nothings. The signature track, “Echoes”, was a product of novel experiments and is 23 minutes total.
Meddle was a group effort and is considered a transitional album for the band, from the Syd Barrett influenced sound to the emerging Pink Floyd. It reached number 3 in the UK, but wasn’t well publicized in the US, charting at number 70.
Obscured by Clouds (June 2, 1972)
Based on the soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, this album features songs centered around love. Sessions for Obscured by Clouds were hurried, because the band was also recording material for their next album release.
The songs are short, with strong country influence on several tracks and heavy use of the acoustic guitar. One single was released, titled “Free Four”. Despite being rushed, the album was successful, reaching number 6 in the UK and number 46 in the US
The Dark Side of the Moon (March 1, 1973)
As a concept album that explored themes of conflict, greed, death, time, and mental illness. The extended instrumentals that characterized their earlier works were omitted, and recording techniques such as multitrack recording, tape loops, and analogue synthesizers were employed.
The album cover features the infamous prism spectrum. Two singles were released to promote the album, “Money” and “Us and Them”. “Money” became the band’s first hit in the US and is noted for its unusual time signature and tape loop of a ringing cash register and the jingling of coins.
One of the most critically acclaimed records of all time, this album propelled Pink Floyd into international fame. It was certified platinum 14 times, topped the US Billboard Top LPs and Tapes chart, and is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful record. In 2013, the album was selected for preservation in the US National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Wish You Were Here (September 12, 1975)
Another release with Harvest, Wish You Were Here was also released with Columbia Records, a first for Pink Floyd. The conceptual theme of this album was written by Waters, with themes of alienation, criticism of the music business, and a tribute to Syd Barrett.
This album is full of longform compositions and utilizes studio effects and synthesizers. A double-A single, “Have a Cigar”/”Welcome to the Machine”, was released to promote the album. Upon release, it received mixed reviews, but is now regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. Wish You Were Here reached number one in the US and the UK.
Animals (January 21, 1977)
Pink Floyd’s next release is progressive rock and a concept album, inspired by the social-political conditions of Britain at the time. It critiques capitalism, and is loosely based on George Orwell’s political fable, Animal Farm.
The album was influenced in part as a response to the punk rock movement and was a change in style for the band. Animals was commercially successful, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 3 in the US.
The Wall (November 30, 1979)
The Wall is a rock opera that tells the story of a jaded rock star, named Pink, who creates a self-imposed wall that creates their isolation from society. Conceived by Roger Waters during Pink Floyd’s In The Flesh tour, it is one of the best known concept albums.
There were three singles released for this album: “Run Like Hell”, “Comfortably Numb”, and “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”, which is Pink Floyd’s only UK and US number one single. A commercial success, The Wall topped the US charts for 15 weeks and reached number 3 in the UK.
The Final Cut (March 21, 1983)
Composed of both unused material from The Wall and new material recorded through 1982, The Final Cut is the last album to feature Roger Waters and was plagued with conflict. Waters planned it as a soundtrack for the film adaptation of The Wall, but rewrote it as an anti-war concept album about what he felt was the betrayal of his father, who died serving in WWII.
The album received mixed reviews but was a commercial success, reaching number one in the UK and three in the US.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason (September 7, 1987)
At this point, multiple members of Pink Floyd began doing solo work. With the departure of Waters, Gilmour became the leader, and Richard Wright returned. A change from the last few releases, A Momentary Lapse of Reason is not a concept album and includes contributions from songwriters outside of the band.
The record was promoted with a successful world tour and three singles: “Learning to Fly”/”Terminal Frost”, “On the Turning Away”, and “One Slip”. It reached number 3 in the US and UK.
The Division Bell (March 28, 1994)
Written mostly by Gilmour and Wright, this album features themes of communication, talking through disputes to resolve issues, and making choices. The title refers to the Division Bell rang in the British parliament to announce a vote. The Division Bell went straight to number in the US and UK upon release.
The Endless River (November 10, 2014)
Distributed by Parlophone, The Endless River is Pink Floyd’s fifteenth and final studio album, as Gilmour claimed it to be at the time. The album comprises instrumental and ambient music, and only one track has lead vocals. Promoted with the single “Louder than Words”, it debuted at number one in several countries.
Legacy and Influence of Pink Floyd
One of the most influential and commercially successful bands of all time, Pink Floyd has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. They are revered as a cornerstone of progressive and psychedelic rock, and influenced artists such as David Bowie, The Edge of U2, Queen, Radiohead, Steven Wilson, Marillion, Nine Inch Nails, the Orb, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Pink Floyd ushered the neo-progressive rock subgenre of the 1980s.
The elaborate live shows were also a point of admiration for the band. The theatrics highlighted the themes and stories of their albums, and Pink Floyd’s live shows are a legacy,
The music of Pink Floyd has been heard in various television shows and movies. There’s a reference to the album cover of Animals in the film Children of Men, when the image of the pig from the album cover is seen in the background of a scene.
The Pink Floyd hit “Hey You” is featured in a scene of the comedy Due Date with Zach Galifinakis.
The song “Money” is masterfully used in the ending scene of the movie The Italian Job.
Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. They are also the second band ever, after the Beatles, to be featured on postage stamps in the UK.
Awards and Notable Nominations
- 1981 – Juno Award for International Album of the Year with The Wall
- 1988 – Video Music Award for Best Concept Video with Pink Floyd: Learning to Fly
- 1994 – Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance with “Marooned”
- 1994 – Q Award for Best Live Act
- 2007 – Echo Award for Best Music DVD with Pink Floyd: Pulse
- Led Zeppelin
- An English rock band formed in 1968 in London that produced diverse music.
- The Doors
- Formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, The Doors are cited as a pioneer of psychedelic rock.
- King Crimson
- A rock band formed in London in 1968, their music is described as progressive rock and art rock and grounded in the 1960s psychedelic and acid rock movements.
- Another progressive rock band, Genesis formed in 1967 and were known for their theatrical live shows.
- Formed in London in 1968, Yes has explored many musical styles and are regarded as pioneers of progressive rock.