The History of the band Pink Floyd is lined with incredible success as being recognized and celebrated as one of the most influential bands in classic rock history. The group could never be defined in any one musical genre as their unique sound and compositions clearly demonstrated that their part in musical history should be viewed as standing alone in their own distinct category as Pink Floyd.
The origins of Pink Floyd go back to a college campus in London where Roger Waters and Nick Mason first met. The two soon-to-be musical legends began playing in a group together with musicians Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe. Richard Wright would also eventually join the group named Sigma 6 which played cover music. After numerous name changes and musicians moving in and out of the band, the group settled on the name Tea Set. One of the personal changes included the addition of Syd Barret to the group. The band learned their craft of long improvisations and stretching out tunes playing multiple long sets a night in London clubs.
The Legendary Name
The history of the group’s name came out of the time the band was playing the clubs and because of a conflict at a show with another band also called The Tea Set. The band’s guitarist Syd Barrett came up with a new name based on the names of the two blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. However, they first named themselves the Pink Floyd Sound until finally settling on just Pink Floyd.
In the old days before youtube and the internet, if an artist was not related to someone in the business, one of the very few ways they had at being signed was by creating a buzz in the club scene. This is exactly how it happened with Pink Floyd. The band signed with EMI records and released their first single entitled “Arnold Layne” on March 10, 1967. The band’s second single entitled “See Emily Run,” would be released a few months later on June 16, 1967. The song would become a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom. Two months later Pink Floyd would release their first full-length album called The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn on August 5, 1967.
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
The band’s first full-length album featured a lineup consisting of Roger Waters, Syd Barret, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The album peaked at number six on the UK Albums charts but did not get past the 131st spot on the US Billboard Album charts. Most of the material on the album was composed by Syd Barrett with the exception of a couple of tracks that were credited also to Waters, Wright and Mason. The band had a hard time promoting the album because of the many concerts that were canceled because of the mental breakdowns that Syd Barrett was having. In order to continue performing, the band hired guitarist David Gilmour in 1967 to cover many of Syd Barrett’s guitar parts. He was originally not hired to replace Syd Barrett but rather taken on as the band’s fifth member and to cover for Syd Barrett.
Pink Floyd released their second album entitled, A Saucerful of Secrets, in 1968. While featuring the same lineup as their first album with the inclusion of David Gilmour on some tracks, Syd Barrett’s influence on the album was severely restricted dues to his personal issues. In fact, he would not even make it through to the completion of the album as he left the band before the recording sessions were done. It was on the band’s second album where fans are greeted with many of the record’s songs being written by Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Syd Barrett only received songwriting credit for the album’s closing track “Jugband Blues.” The band released their third album in 1969 entitled More. It was a soundtrack album to the motion picture also titled More. It would be the first Pink Floyd album to not feature Syd Barrett. From that point on, until the end of the 1970s, the classic lineup of Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and David Gilmour would release a set of albums that would become some of the most iconic and important music ever released in classic rock history.
Pink Floyd’s final album of the 1960s was a two-record set entitled Ummagumma released in 1969. It’s a unique album in Pink Floyd’s history. The album’s first two sides were live recordings. The second lp contained new studio recordings. It was a top-10 album in the United Kingdom. The album became the first Pink Floyd album to break into Billboard’s top 100 album charts. Just a few years later, they would begin to own a piece of those US Billboard album charts for a very long time.
Into The 70s
Atom Heart Mother was released in 1970. It was Pink Floyd’s first album to hit number one on the United Kingdom Album charts. At number 55 in the US, it also became their highest charting album so far at the time. The band followed up Atom Heart Mother with the release of Meddle in 1971. For many Pink Floyd fans and critics, Meddle stands as a masterpiece and probably the most underrated Pink Floyd album of all time. Songs like “One Of These Days” and “Echoes” would become legendary Pink Floyd recordings. In 1972, Pink Floyd released their second soundtrack album entitled Obscured By Clouds. The album served as the soundtrack to the French film La Vallée.
While Pink Floyd enjoyed great popularity in the United Kingdom and parts around the world in 1972, we wonder if they ever expected the monster success they would have with the release of their next album entitled Dark Side Of The Moon in 1973.
The year 1973 remains one of the all-time greatest years in classic rock history. The years saw the releases of albums like Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, The Who’s Quadrophenia, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brock Road, Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run and of course Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. The band’s sixth studio album would cement their legacy in classic rock history forever. Dark Side Of The Moon would break onto the Billboard Album charts in 1973 and stay there for almost a thousand weeks. The album would sell over forty-five million copies. It would become not only Pink Floyd’s most successful album of their career but also one of the biggest and most popular rock albums of all time.
With the massive success of Dark Side Of The Moon both on the charts and in popular culture, rock fans eagerly awaited the follow-up album. The brilliant musicianship and creativity of the band did not disappoint their fans as the group released what would soon become another legendary Pink Floyd album with the release of Wish You Were Here in September of 1975. The recording of the album was supposably a challenge for the band as they had been burnt out from touring and had just released a masterpiece in Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s not easy to continue to write and record such captivating music. The album’s epic piece “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond” was written as a tribute to their former bandmate Syd Barrett. Side two’s opening track “Have A Cigar” features the lead vocals of Roy Harper. As soon as the album was released it went straight to number one on both the UK and US Album charts. Wish You Were Here was the second of what many fans believe was one of the greatest four album releases in a row by any band in classic rock history.
In 1977, Pink Floyd released another compelling album entitled Animals. It was during the recording of the album that tensions really began to flourish between Roger Waters and the rest of the band. Roger Waters received writing credit for all the songs on the album with the exception of “Dogs” which was credited to David Gilmour. Nonetheless, the album was brilliant and became a huge fan favorite. The tour featured inflatable animals floating around the arena’s the band played (I saw this tour at MSG in 1977…..amazing!)
At the end of the decade of the 1970s, Pink Floyd would release a double album that would become the second biggest-selling album of their career. The Wall was released on November 30, 1979. The album was fueled by the writing of Roger Waters who composed around 90 percent of the album’s music. The recording sessions were fueled by constant fighting between band members especially Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Most of the tracks were recorded separately by the musicians in the band. The group had relocated temporarily from their homes in the UK because of tax reasons which caused more problems among the members. As successful as the album was on the charts and in sales, The Wall signified the end of Pink Floyd as we knew them during their amazing 1970s run. Richard Wright who was a founding member of the band would leave the band during the recording. He would no longer be a member of Pink Floyd.
Into the 80s and beyond
The final Pink Floyd album to feature Roger Waters was released in 1983 entitled The Final Cut. This prophetically titled album, prompted by the Falklands conflict of 1982 and released the next year, explores themes of remembrance and the undelivered post-war dream — for which Waters’ father had given his life. Completely credited to Waters, it was attributed to ‘Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd’ and featured Gilmour’s vocals on one track. By the time The Final Cut was released in 1983, Pink Floyd’s future at this point was up in arms. Wright was already out and Waters was looking to opt-out.
This was an album that criticized the 1982 conflict that erupted in the Falkland Islands. Already incredibly outspoken as an activist, Roger Waters seized control of an album that was credited to him in a manner that suggested this album behaved more like a solo recording while the rest of the Pink Floyd roster somewhat took a backstage. It was clear at this point something had to give. For the next three years, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Roger Waters each pursued solo projects. In the process, Waters officially announced he was done with Pink Floyd and that the group would be disbanded. However, David Gilmour and Nick Mason had other ideas. Until the matter was settled, Pink Floyd became a custody battle between Waters and his former bandmates before the judge ruled in favor of Gilmour and Mason. From this point forward, Roger Waters was on his own.
The departure of Roger Waters resulted in an opening for Richard Wright to return to Pink Floyd’s fold. He, along with David Gilmour and Nick Mason, carried on without Waters to record and release A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987. After this, it was 1994’s The Division Bell. Both of these albums were commercial successes. Even after the temporary split and the legal issues involved, Pink Floyd did more than survive without Roger Waters. A Momentary Lapse of Reason collectively sold over ten million copies worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America alone certified the album platinum four times over.
In the summer of 2005, there was a Live 8 benefit concert that took place in response to the upcoming G8 summit that was scheduled to take place in Scotland. Pink Floyd’s participation in this event witnessed a reunion of Roger Waters and his former Pink Floyd bandmates. After this, they parted ways again. Three years after this, Richard Wright passed away on September 15, 2008. In 2014, Pink Floyd released The Endless River, a recording that was made featuring music David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright did together before Wright’s bout with lung cancer claimed his life. It was announced it would be Pink Floyd’s final studio album. However, 2022’s “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!” demonstrated Gilmour and Mason still had enough in them to bring forth another brand new recording. The two members of Pink Floyd were inspired to bring forth a one-off single as a token of their support of Ukraine after the Russians invaded the nation. Much like Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason haven’t been the least bit shy when it comes to sharing their political and social views. This was also the case for Richard Wright.
In 1996, Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2005, they were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Aside from the fifteen studio albums to Pink Floyd’s credit, there are also four live albums, twelve compilation albums, three EPs, and five box sets. In total, Pink Floyd released twenty-seven singles. Yet their place in rock history will always be defined by the series of albums they released in the 1970s and their classic 70s and early 1980 concerts that defined them as one of the greatest bands of all time.
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Ultimate Pink Floyd Page: Complete History, Songs, Albums & More article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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