Pink Floyd is an English rock band that achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Distinguished by their use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, and elaborate live shows, they are one of the most commercially successful and musically influential groups in the history of popular music.
Founded in 1965, the band originally consisted of students Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. They first gained popularity performing in London's underground music scene during the late 1960s, and under Barrett's creative leadership they released two charting singles and a successful debut album. David Gilmour joined as a fifth member in December 1967, and Barrett left the band in April 1968 due to his deteriorating mental health. After Barrett's departure, Waters became their primary songwriter and lyricist. Pink Floyd achieved critical and commercial success with the concept albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut(1983).
Wright left Pink Floyd in 1979, followed by Waters in 1985. Gilmour and Mason continued as Pink Floyd and Wright subsequently joined them as a paid musician. They continued to record and tour through 1994; two more albums followed, A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994). Inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, as of 2013 they have sold more than 250 million records worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States.
After nearly two decades of acrimony, the band reunited in 2005 for a performance at the global awareness event Live 8. Barrett died in 2006 and Wright in 2008. In 2011, surviving members Gilmour and Mason joined Waters at one of his The Wall Tour shows at The O2 Arena in London.
Considered one of the UK's first psychedelic music groups, Pink Floyd began their career at the vanguard of London's underground music scene. Some categorise their work from that era as a space rock.According to Rolling Stone: "By 1967, they had developed an unmistakably psychedelic sound, performing long, loud suitelike compositions that touched on hard rock, blues, country, folk, and electronic music." Released in 1968, the song "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" helped galvanise their reputation as an art rock group.Critics also describe them as an acid rock band. By the late 1960s, the press had begun to label their music progressive rock. O'Neill Surber comments on the music of Pink Floyd:
Rarely will you find Floyd dishing up catchy hooks, tunes short enough for air-play, or predictable three-chord blues progessions; and never will you find them spending much time on the usual pop pablum 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."
In 1968, Wright commented on Pink Floyd's sonic reputation: "It's hard to see why we were cast as the first British psychedelic group. We never saw ourselves that way ... we realised that we were, after all, only playing for fun ... tied to no particular form of music, we could do whatever we wanted ... the emphasis ... [is] firmly on spontaneity and improvisation." Waters gave a less enthusiastic assessment of the band's early sound: "There wasn't anything 'grand' about it. We were laughable. We were useless. We couldn't play at all so we had to do something stupid and 'experimental'... Syd was a genius, but I wouldn't want to go back to playing "Interstellar Overdrive" for hours and hours."Unconstrained by conventional pop formats, Pink Floyd were innovators of progressive rock during the 1970s and ambient music during the 1980s.
Gilmour's guitar workEdit
"While Waters was Floyd's lyricist and conceptualist, Gilmour was the band's voice and its main instrumental focus."
—Alan di Perna, inGuitar World, May 2006
Music critic Alan di Perna has praised Gilmour's guitar-work as being an integral element of Pink Floyd's sound.Rolling Stone ranked him 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 less is more approach to guitar solos; his ability to use fewer notes than most to express himself without sacrificing strength or beauty, drew a favourable comparison to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
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."
Throughout their career, Pink Floyd have experimented with their sound. Their second single, "See Emily Play" premiered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, on 12 May 1967. During the performance, the group first used an earlyquadraphonic device called an Azimuth Co-ordinator. The device enabled the controller, usually Wright, to manipulate the band's amplified sound, combined with recorded tapes, projecting the sounds 270 degrees around a venue, achieving a sonic swirling effect. In 1972, they purchased a custom-built PA which featured an upgraded four-channel, 360-degree system.
Waters experimented with the EMS Synthi A and VCS 3 synthesisers on Pink Floyd pieces such as "On the Run", "Welcome to the Machine", and "In the Flesh?". He used a Binson Echorec 2 echo effect on his bass-guitar track for "One of These Days".
Pink Floyd used innovative sound effects and state of the art audio recording technology during the recording of The Final Cut. Mason's contributions to the album were almost entirely limited to work with the experimental Holophonic system, an audio processing technique used to simulate a three-dimensional effect. The system used a conventional stereo tape to produce an effect that seemed to move the sound around the listener's head when they were wearing headphones. The process enabled an engineer to simulate moving the sound to behind, above or beside the listener's ears.
Pink Floyd also composed several film scores, starting in 1968, with The Committee. In 1969, they recorded the score for Barbet Schroeder's film More. The soundtrack proved beneficial; not only did it pay well but, along with A Saucerful of Secrets, the material they created became part of their live shows for some time thereafter. While composing the soundtrack for director Michelangelo Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point, the band stayed at a luxury hotel in Rome for almost a month. Waters claimed that, without Antonioni's constant changes to the music, they would have completed the work in less than a week. Eventually he used only three of their recordings. One of the pieces turned down by Antonioni, called "The Violent Sequence", later became "Us and Them", included on 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon. In 1971, the band again worked with Schroeder on the film La Vallée, for which they released a soundtrack album called Obscured by Clouds. They composed the material in about a week at the Château d'Hérouville near Paris, and upon its release, it became Pink Floyd's first album to break into the top 50 on the US Billboard chart.
Live performancesEditA live performance of The Dark Side of the Moon at Earls Court, shortly after its release in 1973: (l-r) Gilmour, Mason, Wright, Waters
Regarded as pioneers of live music performance and renowned for their lavish stage shows, Pink Floyd also set high standards in sound quality, making use of innovative sound effects and quadraphonic speaker systems. From their earliest days, they employed visual effects to accompany their psychedelic rock music while performing at venues such as the UFO Club in London. Their slide-and-light show was one of the first in British rock, and it helped them became popular among London's underground.
To celebrate the launch of the London Free School's magazine International Times, they performed in front of 2,000 people at the opening of the Roundhouse, attended by celebrities includingPaul 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".
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.
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. As of 2013 the puzzle remains unsolved.
Recognition and influenceEditClockwise (from top left): Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason
Pink Floyd were one of the most commercially successful and influential rock bands of all time. They have sold more than 250 million records worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States, and 37.2 million albums sold in the US since 1991. The Sunday Times Rich List, Music Millionaires 2012 (UK), ranked Waters at number 22 with an estimated fortune of £120 million, Gilmour at number 32 with £85 million and Mason at number 46 with £50 million.
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".Qnamed 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.
Pink Floyd have won several awards, including a "Best Engineered Non-Classical Album" Grammy in 1980 for The Wall, and a BAFTA award for "Best Original Song" in 1982 for "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" from The Wall film. In 1995, they won a 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.
The music of Pink Floyd influenced numerous artists: David Bowie called Barrett a significant inspiration, and the Edge from U2 bought his first delay pedal after hearing the opening guitar chords to "Dogs" from Animals. Other bands who cite Pink Floyd as an influence include: Queen, Tool, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Queensrÿche, Nine Inch Nails, the Orb and the Smashing Pumpkins.