Back in May, Alfie referenced Pink Floyd as the ideal end to a perfect fantasy day (click here for the article). Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve not listened to much Pink Floyd before so I thought I’d give them a go. After all, I’d never listened to Led Zeppelin before Alfie either and that turned out ok! So, if you want to know more about Pink Floyd, read on. Even if you don’t want to know more about them, I’d still like you to read on!
A version of this first appeared on Flo Bannigan’s Angry Baby blog – thanks Flo!
The first age is their early years of whimsical pop. The creative force behind Pink Floyd in these early years was Syd Barrett who, with Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason released albums The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and More (1969). The singles See Emily Play, Bike and Arnold Layne are probably the best-remembered songs from this time and the compilation album Relics (1970) provides a good run through Pink Floyd’s early work. Sadly, Syd Barrett suffered from mental illness, which has been linked to recreational drug use so the band recruited David Gilmour to fill in for Syd who, eventually left Pink Floyd. His genius and his influence on their music was later celebrated in the (1975) track Shine on you Crazy Diamond:
Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Now there’s that look in your eye, like black holes in the sky
Shine on you crazy diamond
Pink Floyd then entered their second age and some of the material they produced at this time is of almost symphonic proportions. It’s hard to digest – or hard to find the digestible bits – and people tend to either love it or hate it.
The double album Ummagumma (1969) came out of this period and consists of one side per member of the band (Rogers, Gilmour, Mason and Wright) so each one is different. Atom Heart Mother (1970) Meddle (1971) and Obscured by Clouds (1972) are other products of this age. Of these, Atom Heart Mother is the one that I’d recommend for a Pink Floyd record collection, along with the track Echoes from Meddle.
The third age of Pink Floyd is the time when they produced the work they are most known for and which was, and remains, commercially successful. This age contains the music that I and I guess most people, know them for. The classic Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon (1973) was in the charts for a mind-blowing 741 weeks so I guess no Pink Floyd record collection is complete without it. Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979) were released and toured extensively.
The Wall is probably best known for the track Another Brick in the Wall and Gerald Scarfe’s animations. It actually expressed Roger Waters’ increasing sense of isolation from their audience as the band played bigger and bigger venues, and it was being toured by Roger Waters as recently as 2013.
Pink Floyd’s fourth age is described by Flo as ‘Deconstruction’. The band was falling out with each other and the music they continued to produce together wasn’t critically acclaimed although the Roger Waters inspired Final Cut (1983) is still worth a listen. The break-up is often described as a feud between Waters and other band members. Waters went his own way in the mid-1980s and, although the remaining band members continued to work together, recording the albums A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), it’s clear that they had lost their spark. The end of Pink Floyd was inevitable, although their earlier work is frequently revived in live albums, re-releases and Greatest Hits collections.
The final age of Pink Floyd is their solo work. The band members had worked on solo projects, on and off, throughout their careers, but the end of Pink Floyd brought about a few solo projects. These include Richard Wright’s album Broken China (1996) David Gilmour’s About Face (1984) and On an Island (2006) and Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (1981). Roger Waters has recorded several solo albums – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (1984) and his opera Ca Ira (2005) are the ones we’d recommend for a listen.
And it’s worth mentioning that, despite his illness, Syd Barrett also produced some solo work. His album The MadCap Laughs (1970) is surprisingly good and, together with his other solo album Barrett (1970) is a suggestion of where Pink Floyd may have gone if he had continued to be a part of their music.
Pink Floyd re-formed for the 2005 Live Aid concert in Hyde Park, performing a handful of tracks from their classic albums. Syd Barrett passed away in 2006; Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed in a tribute concert for Barrett in 2007. Although both Gilmour and Waters continue to perform live, the death of Richard Wright at the age of 65 in 2008 put an end to speculation of any further reunions.
Hope you enjoyed this look through the music of Pink Floyd!