Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Distinguished by their use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, extended compositions and elaborate live shows, they are one of the most commercially successful and musically influential groups in the history of popular music.
Pink Floyd were founded in 1965 by students Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. They gained popularity performing in London's underground music scene during the late 1960s, and under Barrett's leadership released two charting singles and a successful debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). David Gilmour joined as a fifth member in December 1967; Barrett left the band in April 1968 due to deteriorating mental health. Waters became the band's primary lyricist and, by the mid-1970s, their dominant songwriter, devising the concepts behind their critically and commercially successful albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983). The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall became two of the best-selling albums of all time.
Wright left Pink Floyd in 1979, followed by Waters in 1985. Gilmour and Mason continued as Pink Floyd; Wright rejoined them as a session musician and, later, a band member. The three produced two more albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), and toured until 1994. After nearly two decades of acrimony, Pink Floyd reunited with Waters in 2005 for a performance at the global awareness event Live 8, but Gilmour and Waters have since stated they have no plans to reunite as a band again. Barrett died in 2006 and Wright in 2008. The final Pink Floyd studio album, The Endless River, recorded without Waters and based on material recorded in 1993–1994, was released in November 2014.
Pink Floyd were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. By 2013, the band had sold more than 250 million records worldwide, including 75 million certified units in the United States.
- 1 1963–67: early years
- 1.1 Formation
- 1.2 Signing with EMI
- 1.3 The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
- 2 1968–77: transition and international success
- 2.1 Gilmour replaces Barrett
- 2.2 A Saucerful of Secrets
- 2.3 Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, and Meddle
- 2.4 The Dark Side of the Moon
- 2.5 Wish You Were Here
- 2.6 Animals
- 3 1978–85: Waters-led era
- 3.1 The Wall
- 3.2 The Final Cut
- 3.3 "A spent force" and Waters' departure
- 4 1986–95: Gilmour-led era
- 4.1 A Momentary Lapse of Reason
- 4.2 The Division Bell
- 5 2005–present: reunion, deaths and final album
- 5.1 Live 8 reunion
- 5.2 Deaths of Barrett and Wright
- 5.3 Further performances and re-releases
- 5.4 The Endless River
- 6 Musicianship
- 6.1 Genres
- 6.2 Gilmour's guitar work
- 6.3 Sonic experimentation
- 6.4 Film scores
- 6.5 Live performances
- 7 Lyrical themes
- 7.1 Disillusionment, absence, and non-being
- 7.2 Exploitation and oppression
- 7.3 Alienation, war, and insanity
- 8 Recognition and influence
- 9 Members
- 10 Discography
- 11 Tours
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Sources
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
1963–67: early years Edit
Roger Waters met drummer Nick Mason while they were both studying architecture at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street. They first played music together in a group formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe with Noble's sister Sheilagh. Keyboardist Richard Wright, a fellow architecture student, joined later that year, and the group became a sextet named Sigma 6, the first band to include Waters, who was at this time playing lead guitar; Wright, who at first played rhythm guitar since there was rarely an available keyboard; and Mason on drums.[nb 1] The band started performing during private functions, while rehearsing in a tearoom in the basement of the Regent Street Polytechnic. They performed songs by The Searchers and material written by their manager and songwriter, fellow student Ken Chapman.
In September 1963, Waters and Mason moved into a flat at 39 Stanhope Gardens, near Crouch End London, owned by Mike Leonard, a part-time tutor at the nearby Hornsey College of Art and the Regent Street Polytechnic.[nb 2] Mason moved out after the 1964 academic year, and guitarist Bob Klose moved in during September 1964, prompting Waters' switch to bass.[nb 3] Sigma 6 went through a number of other transitory names, including the Meggadeaths, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdabs, Leonard's Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five before settling on the Tea Set.[nb 4] In 1964, as Metcalfe and Noble left to form their own band, guitarist Syd Barrett joined Klose and Waters at Stanhope Gardens. Barrett, two years younger, had moved to London in 1962 to study at the Camberwell College of Arts. Waters and Barrett were childhood friends; Waters had often visited Barrett and watched him play guitar at Barrett's mother's house. Mason said about Barrett: "In a period when everyone was being cool in a very adolescent, self-conscious 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."
Noble and Metcalfe left the Tea Set in late 1963, and Klose introduced the band to singer Chris Dennis, a technician with the Royal Air Force (RAF). In December 1964, they managed to secure their first recording time, at a studio in West Hampstead, through one of Wright's friends, who let them use some down time for free. Wright, who was taking a break from his studies, did not participate in the session.[nb 5] When the RAF assigned Dennis a post in Bahrain in early 1965, Barrett became the band's frontman.[nb 6] Later that year, they became the resident band at the Countdown Club, near Kensington High Street in London, where from late night until early morning they played three sets of ninety minutes each. During this period, spurred by the group's need to extend their sets in order to minimise song repetition, came the band's "realisation that songs could be extended with lengthy solos", wrote Mason. After pressure from his parents and advice from his college tutors, Klose quit the band in mid-1965 and Barrett took over on lead guitar. The group first referred to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound in late 1965. Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs. The name is derived from the given names of two blues musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
By 1966, the group's repertoire consisted mainly of rhythm and blues songs and they had begun to receive paid bookings, including one for a performance at the Marquee Club in March 1966, where Peter Jenner noticed them. A lecturer at the London School of Economics, Jenner was impressed by the sonic effects Barrett and Wright created, and with his business partner and friend Andrew King, he became their manager. The pair had little experience in the music industry and used King's inherited money to set up Blackhill Enterprises, purchasing about £1,000 worth of new instruments and equipment for the band. It was around this time that Jenner suggested they drop the "Sound" part of their band name, thus becoming the Pink Floyd.[nb 7] Under Jenner and King's guidance, the group became part of London's underground music scene, playing at venues including All Saints Hall and the Marquee. While performing at the Countdown Club, the band had experimented with long instrumental excursions, and they began to expand upon these with rudimentary but visually effective light shows, projected by coloured slides and domestic lights. Jenner and King's social connections helped gain the band prominent coverage in the Financial Times and an article in The Sunday Times which stated: "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 ... apparently very psychedelic".
In 1966, they strengthened their business relationship with Blackhill Enterprises, becoming equal partners with Jenner and King and the band members each holding a one-sixth share. By late 1966, their set included fewer R&B standards and more Barrett originals, many of which would be included on their first album. While they had significantly increased the frequency of their performances, the band were not widely accepted at the time. Following a performance at a Catholic youth club, the owner refused to pay them, claiming that their performance wasn't music. When their management filed suit in a small claims court against the owner of the youth organisation, a local magistrate upheld the owner's decision. However, they were much better received at the UFO Club in London, where a small fan base began to build up around the band. Barrett's performances were enthusiastic, "leaping around ... madness ... improvisation ... [inspired] to get past his limitations and into areas that were ... very interesting. Which none of the others could do", wrote biographer Nicholas Schaffner.