Personalities | Pink Floyd | Seventies | Rock

One of the defining albums of the 1970s, Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) established Pink Floyd as the biggest progressive rock band of the decade. They have remained massively popular and their influence continues to be felt in rock and ambient music.

The band were formed in London in 1965 by singer/guitarist Syd Barrett (born Roger Keith Barrett, 6 January 1946, died 7 July 2006), bassist Roger Waters (born George Roger Waters, 6 September 1944), keyboard player Richard Wright (born 28 July 1945) and drummer Nick Mason (born 27 January 1945).

Sowing The Seeds

Barrett and Waters had grown up together in Cambridge before moving to London as students, playing in various bands. Playing a mixture of R&B (their name came from an amalgam of blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council) and primitive electronic music, enhanced by a psychedelic light show, they became a big attraction on the London underground scene in 1966.

Signing to EMI in 1967, the band released two quirky singles written by Barrett – ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’ – that made the Top 20 and Top 10 respectively. Barrett also wrote the songs on their debut album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967), which made No. 6 in the UK charts, combining a nursery rhyme musical sensibility with LSD-inspired imagery. By the end of 1967, however, Barrett’s increasingly unstable behaviour was becoming a liability and at the beginning of 1968 the band drafted in another Cambridge friend, David Gilmour (born 6 March 1944), as an additional guitarist. The idea was to ease the pressure on Barrett but this proved impractical and he left in March of that year. He went into seclusion, emerging in 1970 to record two idiosyncratic solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett (featuring Waters and Gilmour) before retiring from music.

Pink Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968), contained a couple of Barrett songs but was dominated by longer, more ambitious numbers like ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’. The album was not as successful, although the growing atmospheric element to their music led them to write the soundtrack for the film More (1969). Ummagumma (1969) was a double album that featured idiosyncratic individual pieces and live tracks. It reached No. 5 but there was a palpable lack of direction from the band as a new generation of groups swept past them and achieved success in America. Atom Heart Mother (1970) restored their credibility. The side-long title track was a classical-rock fusion with an orchestra and choir and laid the seeds for the band’s future direction. It gave them their first UK No. 1 album.

Epic Masterpieces

On Meddle (1971) Pink Floyd expanded their sound and dynamics on the 23-minute ‘Echoes’ that linked a series of riffs into an epic masterpiece and the menacing ‘One Of These Days’. The album peaked at No. 3 and stayed in the charts for over a year and a half.

Pink Floyd made another soundtrack album,...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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