Pink Floyd were an English rock band who in the 1960s earned recognition for their psychedelic and space rock music, and in the 1970s, as they evolved, for their progressive rock music. Pink Floyd's work is marked by philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album cover art, and elaborate live shows. One of rock music's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful acts, the group has sold over 200 million albums worldwide including 74.5 million certified units in the United States. Pink Floyd influenced progressive rock artists of the 1970s including Genesis and Yes, as well as contemporary artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Dream Theater.
Pink Floyd were formed in 1965, soon after Syd Barrett joined The Tea Set, a group consisting of architecture students Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Bob Klose. Klose left shortly after, but the group had moderate mainstream success and were a popular fixture on London's underground music scene. The erratic behaviour of Barrett prompted his colleagues to add guitarist and singer David Gilmour to their lineup. Following Barrett's departure, bass player and singer Roger Waters became the lyricist and dominant figure in the band, which thereafter achieved worldwide critical and commercial success with the concept albums The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and rock opera The Wall.
In 1985, Waters declared Pink Floyd "a spent force" and left the band, but the remaining members—led by Gilmour—continued recording and touring under the name Pink Floyd. Waters used legal means to try to keep them from using the name, but the parties reached an out-of-court settlement allowing Gilmour, Mason and Wright to continue as Pink Floyd. The band again enjoyed worldwide success with A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), and Waters continued as a solo musician, releasing three studio albums. Although for some years relations between Waters and the remaining three members were sour, the band reformed for a one-off performance at Live 8.
Nick Mason (b. 27 January 1944) and Roger Waters (b. 6 September 1943) met at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where both were studying architecture. They spoke for the first time with each other in 1963 when Waters asked to borrow Mason's car. Mason played drums in a band called The Hotrods in his teenage years, and Waters played guitar. Both were avid fans of Radio Luxembourg and their shared tastes led to a friendship based on a mutual appreciation of music.
The pair first played together in a band formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe, along with Noble's sister Sheilagh, an occasional singer in the band. They were joined later by fellow student Richard Wright (b. 28 July 1943). With the addition of Wright the band became a sextet, and took the name Sigma 6. Wright's girlfriend Juliette Gale was often a guest artist, and Waters initially played rhythm guitar, later moving to bass. Early gigs were for private functions, and the band rehearsed in a tearoom in the basement of Regent Street Polytechnic. Sigma 6 played songs by The Searchers as well as material written by fellow student Ken Chapman, who became their manager and songwriter. Wright taught himself to play guitar aged 12, and also played trumpet and piano, but uncertain about his future he had enrolled at Regent Street Polytechnic in 1962. His first meeting with Waters had been when the latter asked to borrow a cigarette (a request Wright declined). He took private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music, and although Mason and Waters were competent students, Wright found architecture of little interest and he left the polytechnic after a year of study, moving to the London College of Music.
In September 1963 Mason and Waters moved into the lower flat of Stanhope Gardens, a house owned by a part-time tutor at the Regent Street Polytechnic, Mike Leonard. Leonard was a designer of light machines (perforated discs spun by electric motors to cast patterns of lights on the walls; these would be demonstrated in an early edition of Tomorrow's World), and for a time performed alongside the band, as a keyboardist. They used the front room of the flat for rehearsals, where all the equipment was permanently set up. Mason later moved out of the flat, and accomplished guitar player Bob Klose moved in. Their name changed several times, from the Megadeaths, to the Architectural Abdabs, and the Tea Set. Metcalfe and Noble left the band shortly thereafter.
Syd Barrett, then aged 17, arrived in London in the autumn of 1963, to study at Camberwell College of Art. Encouraged by his father, who died when Barrett was 14 years old, he learned to played the piano, the banjo, and the guitar. Keen to help her son get over the loss of his father, Barrett's mother encouraged his band, The Mottoes, to perform in their front room. Waters and Barrett were childhood friends, and Waters often visited such gigs. He joined the Tea Set in 1964, and moved into Stanhope Gardens alongside Klose and Waters. Mason found him "delightful", and recalled their first meeting:
In a period when everyone was being cool in a very adolescent, self-concious way, Syd was unfashionably outgoing; my enduring memory of our first encounter is the fact that he bothered to come up and introduce himself to me.—Nick Mason,
The Pink Floyd Sound
With the Tea Set lacking the vocals of Noble and Metcalfe, Klose introduced them to Chris Dennis, a technician with the Royal Air Force. During Dennis' tenure, the Tea Set acquired an alternative name—the Pink Floyd Sound. The name was derived from the given names of two blues musicians that Barrett had in his record collection—Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. On the spur of the moment, Barrett created it upon the discovery that another band, the eponymously-named Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs.
Dennis was posted to Bahrain, thrusting Barrett into the spotlight as frontman. Minus Wright—who had taken a break from studying—they acquired studio time between 1964–1965. They recorded a cover version of "I'm A King Bee", and songs written by Barrett, using the recordings as promotional material. Meanwhile, Wright had recorded and published a song called "You're The Reason Why", for which he was paid an advance fee of £75. They later became the resident band at the Countdown Club near Kensington High Street in London, playing three sets of 90 minutes from late at night, until early the following morning. According to Mason, this period "… was the beginning of a realisation that songs could be extended with lengthy solos." They auditioned for the ITV programme Ready Steady Go! (whose producers expressed enough interest to invite them back into the studio audience the following week), another club, and two rock contests. Bob Klose left in 1965, at the behest of his father and college tutors, and Barrett took over on lead guitar.
They began to receive paid bookings including at the Marquee Club in March 1966 where they were watched by Peter Jenner. The band played mostly rhythm and blues songs, but Jenner was impressed with the strange acoustic effects that Barrett and Wright created during their performance. Jenner traced Waters and Mason to their flat, and with his business partner and friend Andrew King was subsequently invited to become their manager. Although the pair had little experience of the music industry, they shared an appreciation of music, as well as a childhood history. Using inherited money they set up Blackhill Enterprises and purchased new instruments for the band, as well as equipment which included a Selmer PA system. Under their guidance, they began performing on London's underground music scene, notably at a venue booked by the London Free School in Notting Hill. At the All Saints Hall they were confronted by an audience whose members were often under the influence of drugs, and who arrived with few or no expectations. Question and answer sessions would often be held following each performance. The Pink Floyd Sound felt encouraged to work on the instrumental excursions they had experimented with at the Countdown Club, and rudimentary light shows projected by coloured slides and domestic lights were used to powerful effect. To celebrate the launch of the Free School's magazine International Times, they performed at the opening of The Roundhouse, attended by 2000-strong crowd which included such celebrities as Alexander Trocchi, Paul McCartney, and Marianne Faithfull. Jenner and King's diverse array of social connections were meritorious, gaining the band important coverage in The Financial Times and The Sunday Times.
At the launching of the new magazine IT the other night a pop group called the Pink Floyd played throbbing music while a series of bizarre coloured shapes flashed on a huge screen behind them. Someone had made a mountain of jelly which people ate at midnight and another person had parked his motorbike in the middle of the room. All apparently very psychedelic.
By October 1966 the band was playing more of Barrett's songs, which would later feature on Pink Floyd's first album. Their relationship with Blackhill Enterprises was strengthened when they became full partners, each owning an unprecedented one-sixth share. More gigs followed, including at the Commonwealth Institute, and one at a Catholic youth club whose owner refused to pay. At a magistrates' court a judge agreed with the owner, who claimed that the band's performance "wasn't music". This was not the only occasion on which they encountered such entrenched opinions, but they were better received at the UFO Club in London. They enjoyed playing there, and used the in-house lighting to good effect. Barrett's performances were exuberant, "… leaping around and the madness, and the kind of improvisation he was doing … he was inspired. He would constantly manage to get past his limitations and into areas that were very, very interesting. Which none of the others could do." The audience was receptive to the music they played, but unlike some of their spectators they remained drug-free —"We were out of it, not on acid, but out of the loop, stuck in the dressing room at UFO."
Although in 1967 Mason admitted that the psychedelic movement had "taken place around us—not within us", the Pink Floyd Sound were present at the head of a wave of interest in this new style of music. There was substantial interest from record companies, and steered by Joe Boyd in January 1967 they recorded several songs at Sound Techniques in West Hampstead, including "Arnold Layne", and a version of "Interstellar Overdrive". They also travelled to Sussex and recorded a short music film for "Arnold Layne". Despite early interest from Polydor, the band signed with EMI with a £5,000 advance, and Boyd was unfortunately left out of the deal.
The demands of live performances, academic study, and regular paid work, were incompatible, prompting Waters to leave his job as an architect; Wright had long-since devoted his time purely to music; Barrett stopped attending the Camberwell College of Art; and Mason took a sabbatical from college. The concerns of EMI over their psychedelic connections saw the band give several interviews to the press, to distance themselves from such associations. "Arnold Layne" was their first single, released on 11 March 1967. It was banned by several radio stations for its vague references to sexual perversions, but due to some creative manipulation at the shops which supplied sales figures to the music industry, it peaked at #20 in the UK charts.
Pink Floyd (the definite article was dropped at some point in 1967) replaced their ageing Bedford van with a Ford Transit, and used it to travel to over two hundred gigs in 1967 (a ten-fold increase on the previous year). They were joined by road manager Peter Wynne Willson, with whom Barrett had previously shared a flat. Willson updated the band's lighting rig, with innovative ideas including the use of polarisers, mirrors, and stretched condoms. On one occasion the group's van was stopped by police, who were surprised to see one of the roadies cutting a pile of condoms with scissors. Some venues were hostile to rock bands, insisting on raised auditorium lighting—a problem the band often solved with the use of an air-rifle. The rigours of touring were not without their own rewards; finances were tight, so much so that on one ferry crossing one of the roadies bet Waters £20 that he would crawl from one end of the boat to the other, barking like a dog—a bet he subsequently won.
"See Emily Play" was Pink Floyd's second release, recorded at Sound Techniques in London. It was initially called "Games for May", and premièred at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London over a month before its release on 16 June 1967. They premièred a device built for them by an Abbey Road engineer, known as an Azimuth co-ordinator (an early quadraphonic system). Their use of a bubble machine and the scattering of flowers resulted in a ban from the hall. They performed on the BBC's Look of the Week, in which they faced rigorous questioning from Hans Keller. Along with Waters, Barrett appeared erudite and engaging. The single fared slightly better than "Arnold Layne", and after two weeks was at #17 in the charts. The band mimed the single on the BBC's Top Of The Pops, returning again as the single climbed to #5. A scheduled third appearance was cancelled when Barrett refused to perform. At about this time the other band members began to notice changes in Barrett's behaviour. By early 1967 he was regularly using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a psychedelic drug, and although initially it seemed to lead to further inspiration and creativity, at an earlier show in Holland, Barrett was observed by Mason to be "completely distanced from everything going on, whether simply tripping or suffering from a more organic neural disturbance I still have no idea."
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Contractual obligations meant that the band's first album was recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London. Bryan Morrison, their agent, had been instrumental in arranging the band's contract with EMI, through producer Norman Smith. Although in his 2005 autobiography Mason recalled the sessions as relatively trouble-free, Smith disagreed, claiming Barrett was unresponsive to his suggestions, and often ignored constructive criticism to sing new takes in exactly the same way as previous versions. They experimented with musique concrète, and were at one point invited to watch The Beatles record "Lovely Rita". Jeff Jarrett was a tape operator at the time, and enthused about their live performances. Both Jarrett and Waters have since surmised that the band's psychedelic take on music may not have been entirely compatible with the more conventional arrangements preferred by Smith.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967. Pink Floyd continued to perform at the UFO Club, drawing huge crowds, but Barrett's erratic behaviour was causing them serious concern. The band initially hoped that his deterioration was a phase that he would soon pass through, but other people, including Jenner, and June Child, were more realistic:
… I found him in the dressing room and he was so … gone. Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, we got him out to the stage … and of course the audience went spare because they loved him. The band started to play and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck and his arms just hanging down.
To the band's consternation, they cancelled a performance at the Windsor Jazz Festival, informing the music press that Barrett was suffering from 'nervous exhaustion'. Jenner and Waters arranged for Barrett to see a psychiatrist, but he did not attend. He was sent to Formentera, along with Sam Hutt—a doctor well-established in the underground music scene—but later showed no signs of improvement. A few dates in September were followed by their first tour of the United States, and in his capacity as tour manager Andrew King travelled to New York to begin preparations. The tour suffered serious problems. Visas had not arrived, prompting a series of "hasty" phone calls and the cancellation of the first six dates. Elektra Records had turned Pink Floyd down, and so the band were by default handled by EMI's sister company, Capitol, which assigned them to their subsidiary, Tower Records. Tower released a truncated version of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (allowing them to release the missing tracks separately) on the same date as the band's American première at The Fillmore in California, on 26 October 1967. Communication between company and band was almost non-existent, and Pink Floyd's relationship with Tower and Capitol was therefore poor. Barrett's mental condition mirrored the problems that King encountered; when the band performed at the Winterland Ballroom, he detuned his guitar during "Interstellar Overdrive" until the strings fell off. His odd behaviour grew worse during further performances, and during a recording for a television programme in the United States he confounded the director by miming the song perfectly during the rehearsal, and then standing motionless during the take. King quickly curtailed their visit to the US, sending them home on the next flight. At one point, Waters found Barrett asleep in his motel room, a cigarette burning through his fingers (a scene that would later inspire a shot in their 1982 film The Wall). Shortly after their return from the US, beginning 14 November the band supported Jimi Hendrix on a tour of England, but on one occasion when Barrett failed to turn up they were forced to replace him with David O'List. Barrett's depression worsened the longer the tour continued. Wynne Willson left his role as lighting manager at the end of the Hendrix tour, allying himself with Barrett, whose position as frontman was now becoming insecure. He was replaced by John Marsh. Pink Floyd released "Apples and Oranges", but for the rest of the band Barrett's condition had reached a crisis point, and they responded by adding a new member to their lineup.
And then there were four
David Gilmour (b. 6 March 1946) was already acquainted with Barrett, having studied modern language in the early 1960s at Cambridge Tech while Barrett studied art. Gilmour had started playing guitar aged thirteen, and the two played together at lunchtimes, with guitars and harmonicas. They later hitch-hiked and busked their way around the south of France. Gilmour had also seen the Tea Set perform while playing in Jokers Wild, at a party in Cambridge in October 1965. At an event near the end of 1967 the band asked Gilmour to become the fifth member of Pink Floyd. By coincidence Barrett had already suggested adding four new members, in the words of Roger Waters, "… two freaks he'd met somewhere. One of them played the banjo, the other the saxophone … [and] a couple of chick singers". Steve O'Rourke, one of Bryan Morrison's assistants, gave Gilmour a room at his house, and he was promised a salary of £30 per week. One of Gilmour's first steps as a member of Pink Floyd was to purchase a custom-made yellow Fender Stratocaster from an oft-frequented music shop in Cambridge; the instrument became one of Gilmour's favourite guitars throughout his career with Pink Floyd. Blackhill officially announced Gilmour as the fifth member of Pink Floyd in January 1968. To the general public he was now the second guitarist, but privately the rest of the band saw him as Barrett's replacement, as the latter's performances continued to ebb. One of Gilmour's first duties was to pretend to play a guitar on an "Apples and Oranges" promotional film.
The idea was that Dave would be Syd's dep. and cover for his eccentricities. And when that got to be not workable, Syd was just going to write. Just to try to keep him involved, but in a way where the others could work and function.—Peter Jenner,
In a demonstration of his frustration at being effectively sidelined, Barrett tried to teach the band a new song "Have You Got It Yet?", but changed the structure on each performance—making it impossible for them to learn. Matters came to a head on the day they were due to perform in Southampton. When somebody in the van asked if they should collect Barrett, the response was "No, fuck it, let's not bother".
Waters later admitted "He was our friend, but most of the time we now wanted to strangle him." For a while Barrett still turned up to the occasional gig, apparently confused as to what was happening in the band. As a result of his de facto removal, Pink Floyd's partnership with Peter Jenner and Andrew King was dissolved in March 1968. Barrett's departure was officially announced on 6 April 1968. Jenner and King, believing that the creative spirit of Pink Floyd derived almost entirely from Barrett, decided to represent him, and ended their relationship with Pink Floyd. Bryan Morrison then agreed that Steve O'Rourke should become Pink Floyd's manager. Waters was determined not to let Barrett's removal destroy the band, but although the changeover between Barrett and Gilmour was something of a relief, it was also a difficult time for Gilmour, who was forced to mime to Barrett's voice on the group's European television appearances. Although Barrett had been their main songwriter, Waters and Wright created new material, such as "It Would Be So Nice", and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". "It Would Be So Nice" was a commercial failure despite some controversy over the inclusion of the words The Evening Standard in the lyrics. The BBC refused to broadcast the song, and the band had to spend extra money in the studio to change the word 'evening' to 'daily'. They developed their new material while playing on the University circuit, and were joined by road manager Peter Watts before touring across Europe in 1968.
A Saucerful of Secrets
In 1968 the band returned to Abbey Road Studios with Smith, to record their second studio album. They already had several songs recorded with Barrett, including "Jugband Blues" (his final contribution to their discography). Waters wrote three songs, "Let There Be More Light", "Corporal Clegg" (which alludes to Rogers' obsession with war and the military), and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". Wright contributed "See-Saw" and "Remember a Day". The band continued the experimentation seen on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, recording some material at their homes, a process that Smith encouraged. He remained unconvinced by their music, but played drums on "Remember a Day" when Mason struggled with the song.
Norman gave up on the second album … he was forever saying things like, "You can't do twenty minutes of this ridiculous noise."—Richard Wright,
Neither Waters or Mason could read music, and both created the album's title track "A Saucerful of Secrets" by inventing their own system of notation, something which Gilmour later would comment looked "… like an architectural diagram". A Saucerful of Secrets was released in June 1968, receiving mixed reviews. Record Mirror wrote positively, urging listeners to "forget it as background music to a party", and John Peel claimed that the album was "… like a religious experience …", however NME was critical of the title track, claiming it to be "… long and boring, and has little to warrant its monotonous direction". The album cover was the band's first to be designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. On the same day, the band performed at the first free Hyde Park concert (organised by Blackhill Enterprises), with Roy Harper and Jethro Tull. Bryan Morrison sold his business to NEMS Enterprises, and Steve O'Rourke became Pink Floyd's personal manager. O'Rourke was considered by the band as a "great deal-maker", whose business acumen overshadowed his lack of interest in aesthetic matters. Thus the band were able to take complete control of their artistic outlook. The band returned to the US for their first major tour, accompanied by Soft Machine and The Who.
In 1968 the group worked on the score for The Committee, and just before Christmas that year released "Point Me At The Sky". It was no more successful than the two records they had released since "See Emily Play", and it was to become the band's only release for several more years ("Apples and Oranges" was not released in the US). In 1969 the band to compose the soundtrack for More, directed by Barbet Schroeder. The work proved important; not only did it pay well, but along with A Saucerful of Secrets the material they created would become part of their live shows for some time thereafter. A tour of the UK followed through the spring 1969, ending at the Royal Festival Hall in July 1969. It was memorable for the band, but more so for Gilmour who was thrown across the stage by an electric shock caused by poor earthing. The performances, built around two long pieces called The Man and The Journey, were enhanced with performance art created by artist Peter Dockley, and some of the sound effects were later used on 1970's "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast".
While composing the soundtrack for Zabriskie Point (directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni) the band spent almost a month in a luxury hotel in Rome. Waters has since claimed that the work could have been completed in less than a week, but for Antonioni's continuous changes to the music. Eventually he used recordings by the Grateful Dead, The Youngbloods, Patti Page, and the Rolling Stones, but three of Pink Floyd's contributions remained. One of the pieces turned down by Antonioni would eventually become "Us and Them" on Pink Floyd's 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon. The band also did some work on the soundtrack for a proposed cartoon series called Rollo, but a lack of funds meant that the series was never produced, and away from Pink Floyd, Waters scored the soundtrack to the 1970 film The Body (directed by Ron Geesin).
Pink Floyd's next album was something of a departure from their previous work. Ummagumma, a double-LP released on EMI's Harvest label, contained barely any new compositions. The first two sides of the album were live acts, recorded at Manchester College of Commerce and at Mother's Club in Birmingham. For the second LP, each member was given one half of each side on which to experiment. The album was released to positive reviews in October 1969.
Atom Heart Mother
Ummagumma was quickly followed by 1970's Atom Heart Mother. The album apes the work being produced at the time by groups such as Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The band's previous LPs had been recorded onto four tracks, however Atom Heart Mother was their first to use eight tracks of audio. An early version was premièred in France in January 1970, but disagreements over the direction that the album should taken prompted the arrival of Ron Geesin, who worked for about a month to improve the score. Production was troublesome, with little creative input from the band, but with the aid of John Aldiss the album was eventually completed. Gilmour has since dismissed Atom Heart Mother as "a load of rubbish", and Waters is similarly dismissive, claiming that he wouldn't mind if it were "thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again." Norman Smith was given only an executive producer credit, his final contribution to the band's discography. With Thorgerson's distinctive image of an ordinary cow on the front cover, Atom Heart Mother was nevertheless massively successful in the UK, and was premièred at the Bath Festival on 27 June 1970.
In 1971 they took second place in a poll of readers by Melody Maker (behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer), and for the first time in their history were making a profit. However the theft in New Orleans of equipment worth about $40,000 almost crippled the band's finances. The local police were unhelpful, but within hours of notifying the FBI the equipment was returned. Both Mason and Wright were now fathers, and both bought homes in London. Gilmour, still unmarried, moved to a 19th-century farm in Essex. At his house in Islington, Waters installed a home recording studio in a converted tool-shed at the bottom of his garden, shared with his wife, a potter.
Meddle and Relics
Meddle was to be the first definitive work by Pink Floyd. Their early albums had been largely influenced by Barrett. More and Zabriski Point were soundtracks, and Atom Heart Mother was influenced as much by the band as it was by Ron Geesin and the session artists.
Returning from touring Atom Heart Mother, at the start of 1971 the band started work on new material at Abbey Road, however Abbey Road was equipped only with 8-track multitrack recording facilities, which Pink Floyd found insufficient for the increasing technical demands of their project. They transferred their best efforts, including the opening of "Echoes", to 16-track tape at smaller studios in London. Lacking a central theme for the project, the band carried out several experiments in a divergent attempt to spur the creative process. One exercise involved each member playing on a separate track, with no reference to what the other members were doing. the tempo was entirely random while the band played around an agreed chord structure, and moods such as 'first two minutes romantic, next two up tempo'. Each recorded section was named, but the process was largely unproductive; after several weeks no complete songs had been created.
Engineer John Leckie described Pink Floyd's sessions as often beginning in the afternoon, and ending early the next morning, "during which time nothing would get done. There was no record company contact whatsoever, except when their label manager would show up now and again with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of joints." The band would apparently spend long periods of time working on simple sounds, or a particular guitar riff. They also spent several days at Air Studios, attempting to create music using a variety of household objects, a project which would be revisited between The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
One of the early works involved the use of Richard Wright's piano. Wright had fed a single note through a Leslie speaker, producing a submarine-like ping. The band tried repeatedly to recreate this sound in the studio but were unsuccessful, and so the demo version was used on what would later become "Echoes". Unlike Atom Heart Mother the new multi-track capabilities of the studio enabled them to create the track in stages, rather than performing it in a single take. The final twenty-three minute piece would eventually take up the entire second side of the album. "One of These Days" was developed around an ostinato bassline created by Roger Waters, by feeding the output through a Binson Echorec. Nick Mason's abstruse "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces" line was recorded at double speed using a falsetto voice, and replayed at normal speed.
Meddle was recorded between the band's various concert commitments, and therefore its production was spread over a considerable period of time. The band recorded in the first half of April, but in the latter half played at Doncaster and Norwich before returning to record at the end of the month. In May they split their time between sessions at Abbey Road, and rehearsals and concerts in London, Lancaster, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Nottingham. June and July were spent mainly performing at venues across Europe. August was spent in the far east and Australia, September in Europe, and October to November in the US. In the same period the band also produced Relics, a compilation album of some of Pink Floyd's earlier works. A quadraphonic mix of the album was prepared at Command Studios on 21 and 26 September, but remains unreleased.
The band again worked with Barbet Schroeder on La Valee, although the soundtrack album was called Obscured by Clouds. The material was composed in about a week, at the Château d'Hérouville near Paris. The album was their first to break into the top 50 on the US Billboard chart.
The Dark Side of the Moon
Following the release of Meddle, in December 1971 the band assembled for an upcoming tour of Britain, Japan, and the United States. Rehearsing in London, there was the looming prospect of a new album, and Waters proposed that it should deal with things that "make people mad", and that it could also form part of the tour. All four participated in the writing and production of the new material. Parts of the new album were taken from previously unused material on The Body, and Zabriskie Point. The material was given the provisional title of The Dark Side of the Moon (an allusion to lunacy, rather than astronomy), but on discovering that that title had already been used by another band, it was temporarily changed to Eclipse. Medicine Head's album was a commercial failure, and so the title changed back to the band's original preference.
The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in two sessions, between May 1972 and January 1973. The band were assigned staff engineer Alan Parsons. The recording sessions made use of the most advanced studio techniques of the time. The studio was capable of sixteen track mixes which offered a greater degree of flexibility, although the band would often use so many tracks that to make more space available second generation copies were made.
The band spent much of 1972 touring the new material, and returned in January 1973 to complete recording. Female vocalists were assembled to sing on various tracks, and saxophonist Dick Parry was also booked. The band also filmed studio footage for Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. Once the recording sessions were complete, the band began a tour of Europe.
The album is notable for the use of short sections of interviews that Waters recorded with some of the studio's occupants. Roadie Chris Adamson recorded the explicit diatribe that opens the album—"I've been mad for fucking years—absolutely years". The closing words "there is no dark side of the Moon really … as a matter of fact it's all dark" came from the studios' Irish doorman, Gerry O'Driscoll. Producer Chris Thomas was also hired, to provide 'a fresh pair of ears'. Thomas was responsible for significant changes to the album, including the perfect timing of the echo used on "Us and Them". He was also present for the recording of "The Great Gig in the Sky".
The album packaging was designed by Hipgnosis, and bore George Hardie's iconic refracting prism on the cover. Since Barratt's departure the burden of lyrical composition had fallen mostly on Waters' shoulders. He is therefore credited as the author of the album's lyrics. The band were so confident of the quality of the writing that, for the first time, they felt able to print them on the album's sleeve.
Generally, the press were enthusiastic; Melody Maker's Roy Hollingworth described side one as: "… so utterly confused with itself it was difficult to follow", but went on to praise side two, writing "The songs, the sounds, the rhythms were solid and sound, Saxophone hit the air, the band rocked and rolled, and then gushed and tripped away into the night." In his 1973 album review for Rolling Stone magazine, Lloyd Grossman wrote: "a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement".
The Dark Side of the Moon was released in March 1973. It became an instant chart success in Britain and throughout Western Europe. The album became the band's first #1 on US charts and is one of the biggest-selling albums both in US history. Throughout March 1973 it featured as part of their US tour, including a midnight performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on 17 March.
The success of the album brought previously unknown wealth to all four members of the band; Richard Wright and Roger Waters bought large country houses, and Nick Mason became a collector of upmarket cars. Much of the album's early stateside success has been attributed to the efforts of Pink Floyd's US record company, Capitol Records. Newly appointed chairman Bhaskar Menon set about trying to reverse the relatively poor sales of the band's previous studio album, Meddle. Meanwhile, disenchanted with Capitol the band and manager O'Rourke had been quietly negotiating a new contract with Columbia Records, with CBS president Clive Davis. The Dark Side of the Moon was the last album that Pink Floyd were obliged to release before formally signing a new contract. Menon's efforts to secure a contract renewal with Pink Floyd were in vain however; at the beginning of 1974, the band signed for Columbia with a reported advance fee of $1M (in Britain and Europe they continued to be represented by Harvest Records).
Wish You Were Here
They returned to the studio in the first week of 1975. Alan Parsons had declined the band's offer to continue working with them (instead becoming successful in his own right with The Alan Parsons Project). The group had worked with Brian Humphries on More—recorded at Pye Studios—and again in 1974. He was therefore the natural choice to work on the band's new material. The group initially found it difficult to devise any new material, especially as the success of Dark Side of the Moon had left all four physically and emotionally drained. Rick Wright has since described these early sessions as "falling within a difficult period", and Waters found them "torturous". Mason found the process of multi-track recording drawn out and tedious, and Gilmour was more interested in improving the band's existing material. Mason's marriage was failing, bringing on in him a general malaise and sense of apathy, which interfered with his drumming.
It was a very difficult period I have to say. All your childhood dreams had been sort of realized and we had the biggest selling records in the world and all the things you got into it for. The girls and the money and the fame and all that stuff it was all ... everything had sort of come our way and you had to reassess what you were in it for thereafter, and it was a pretty confusing and sort of empty time for a while ...—David Gilmour,
After several weeks however Waters began to visualise another concept. During 1974 they had sketched out three new compositions; "Raving and Drooling", "Gotta Be Crazy", and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", and had performed them at a series of concerts in France and England. These new compositions were at least a starting point for a new album, and Shine On You Crazy Diamond seemed a reasonable choice as a centrepiece for the new work. The opening four note guitar phrase, composed entirely by accident by Gilmour, reminded Waters of the lingering ghost of former band-member Syd Barrett. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" would be split into two, and two new songs would be sandwiched between its two halves. "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" were barely-veiled attacks on the music business, their lyrics working neatly with "Shine On" to provide an apt summary of the rise and fall of Barrett; "Because I wanted to get as close as possible to what I felt ... that sort of indefinable, inevitable melancholy about the disappearance of Syd." "Raving and Drooling" and "Gotta Be Crazy" had no place in the new concept, and were set aside.
On 5 June 1975, Gilmour married his first wife, Ginger, and it was also the eve of Pink Floyd's second tour of the US that year. The band were in the process of completing a final mix of "Shine On", when an overweight man entered the room. Initially, none of the band recognised the visitor, but it soon became apparent that it was Barrett. In Inside Out (2005) Mason recalled Barrett's conversation as 'desultory and not entirely sensible'. Storm Thorgerson later reflected on Barrett's presence: "Two or three people cried. He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn't really there." Waters was reportedly deeply upset by the sight of his former band-mate, who was asked by fellow visitor Andrew King how he had managed to gain so much weight. Barrett said he had a large refrigerator in his kitchen, and that he had been eating lots of pork chops. He also mentioned that he was ready to avail the band of his services, but on listening to the mix of "Shine On" showed no sign of understanding its relevance to his plight. He joined the guests at Gilmour's wedding reception in the EMI canteen, but later left without saying goodbye. None of the band members saw him from that day to his death in 2006.
Storm Thorgerson thought that the songs were, in general, concerned with "unfulfilled presence", rather than Barrett's illness. He had noted that Roxy Music's Country Life was sold in an opaque green cellophane sleeve—censoring the cover image—and he copied the idea, concealing the artwork for Wish You Were Here in a dark-coloured shrink-wrap (making the album art "absent"). The album's cover image was inspired by the idea that people tend to conceal their true feelings, for fear of "getting burned", and thus two businessmen were pictured shaking hands, one man on fire. The decision to shroud the cover in black plastic was not popular with the band's US record company, Columbia Records, who insisted that it be changed (they were over-ruled).
Much of Wish You Were Here was premièred on 5 July 1975 at an open-air music festival at Knebworth, but the performance was savaged by critics. The album was released in September 1975 In Britain it went straight to #1, and it reached #1 on the Billboard chart in its second week.
Shine on You Crazy Diamond is initially credible because it purports to confront the subject of Syd Barrett, the long and probably forever lost guiding light of the original Floyd. B
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