“And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”
At school you either thought about music or enjoyed it. The ‘thinkers’ used to like sitting in their bedrooms listening intently to the music to ensure that they understood the deeper meaning behind the lyrics and chord changes; they looked down on those of us that just enjoyed the music as people who would never really understand its true message. Meanwhile those us who just enjoyed our music used to play it loud, practice air guitar and perfect dance moves for that inevitable day when TOTP would call; we thought the ‘thinkers’ were weird and whenever possible thumped them.
Having said that my best friend was a ‘thinker’ and one day while sitting in class watching cells divide at the start of a science program he nudged me and said “That music’s by Pink Floyd”. He had me hooked – interesting music from a group that didn’t release singles and wouldn’t be seen dead on TOTP – was such a thing possible?
Of course I came to Pink Floyd late in the day, “Dark Side Of The Moon” was already a classic and they had just released “Wish You Were Here”, but I jumped in with both feet. I bought a cheap Canadian import of Ummagumma and then spent the next few weeks trying to convince my parents that “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict” was proper music – the follies of youth!
Pink Floyd were formed in the 60’s with the legendary Syd Barrett at the helm and in 1967 with a line-up consisting of Syd, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright released their debut album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. Already darlings of the psychedelic scene, and with a couple of hit singles and an appearance on TOTP behind them (so much for my views some 8 years later!), the album was well received by the critics and exposed them to a wider audience. Tragically the stress of touring coupled with drugs took their toll on Syd and in April 1968 he formally left the group, being replaced by Dave Gilmour.
The remainder of the 60s saw Pink Floyd experimenting with both style and technique, developing an approach that dispensed with the need for singles or any nod of approval from the pop charts. This was ably demonstrated with their first album of the 70s “Atom Heart Mother”, with the title track lasting for 23 minutes and another track (“Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”) being basically a collage of sounds, it became their first album to hit the top of the album charts.
It was at this stage that Pink Floyd seemed to ‘turn the corner’ with regard to their experiments in technique. Their work became more polished as they understood how music, vocals, sound bites, sound effects and segues could become more than the sum of the parts. This approach reached its climax in 1973 with their masterwork “The Dark Side of the Moon”. A classic that is still in the US charts after 1500 weeks, the album broke the mould in terms of sound quality, complexity and creativity. Developed from a Roger Waters’ concept it deals with the pressures that impact on all of us during our lives and is one of the greatest selling albums of all time. If this album concentrated on human interactions, frailties and inclusion its follow up “Wish You Were Here” had a primary feel of absence – absence of warmth, humanity and Syd. It was this album that included their remberance of, and farewell to, Syd in “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. While subsequently outshone by “Dark Side of the Moon” this album was their first to hit the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
With the public moving away from conceptual pieces and looking towards punk to re-energise the music scene any follow up to these classic albums was going to be difficult. “Animals” was more of a rock offering than previously seen and many critics disliked its approach. For its promotion though it produced one of the classic Pink Floyd memories – an inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station.
By this stage Roger Waters had developed into the ‘leader’ of the band with regard to their musical direction and their music moved away from the instruments and became more lyric led. This is at its most obvious in their 1979 release “The Wall” where the tracks become a theatre for the ears as we trace the history of Pink. Totally different from their earlier releases this album became a classic in its own right selling over 30million copies world wide, spawning a film and a classic Roger Waters concert at the Berlin Wall. It was at this point that the classic Pink Floyd began to fall apart with Rick Wright being fired during the recording of “The Wall”. The Roger Waters led Pink Floyd continued for one more album “The Final Cut” before they went their separate ways. Pink Floyd was resurrected by Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason in the mid-80s and has continued to tour and sell millions of albums around the world.
For more info visit Pink Floyd