In 1965 a band from England entered the music scene. Following the tradition of the psychedelic rock era of the mid 1960’s came Rick Wright, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and Roger Waters, four young musicians known as Pink Floyd.
Pink Floyd The Early Years
Bob Harris of the BBC outlines the early history of the band and how Pink Floyd’s blues, jazz and progressive rock combination was enjoyed by many in England’s underground bars. In 1967 they released their first album: “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. The psychedelic sound, along with incredible light shows, gave the band instant success. Later that year, their singer/songwriter, Syd Barrett began to have mental health problems, enhanced by LSD abuse. He was replaced by David Gilmore and Pink Floyd released “A Saucer Full of Secrets” in 1968.
Pink Floyd the Legend is Born
The band became more popular in 1969 and 1970, touring and releasing three more albums. In 1971, Pink Floyd released two more albums, “Relics” and “Meddle.” They toured the US and Japan, and their albums topped 200,000 in sales. It was in 1973 when the legend of Pink Floyd was started. That year they released “The Dark Side Of the Moon” and it went to number 1 on the billboard charts. The album remained in the top 100 for ten years and in the top 250 for 15 years. Officially it has sold over 30,000,000 copies, to be the third largest selling album of all time. No one knows how many unofficial copies have been circulated, but it still remains popular today.
In 1975, Pink Floyd released “Wish You Were Here”, their second concept album and tribute to Sid Barrett, their original songwriter. This album sold millions worldwide, as did “Animals” released in 1977. “The Wall,” released in 1979 also sold millions and was accompanied by a full length movie. The Another Brick in The Wall single went to number 1 on the singles charts in the UK and US.
Pink Floyd continued to make albums through the 1980’s and into the mid 1990’s, when they released the “Division Bell.” In 1996 Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 29 years the band released 22 albums as a group and 9 solo albums. In total by 1995, the band had sold over 140,000,000 albums worldwide. Their album “The Wall” became the theme album for the destruction of the Berlin Wall in Germany.
Pink Floyd and Drug Induced Fans
Pink Floyd also experienced many ups and downs during their career. Syd Barrett, the original singer became mentally incompetent and had to be replaced. The band had a few bad concert outings and gained a reputation for attracting drug induced fans. In 1975, their concert in Hamilton Ontario, Canada caused thousands of dollars in property damage, as motorcycle gangs arrived in force, and although there were only 50,000 people in Ivor Wynn Stadium, more than an extra 100,000 people collected in the surrounding neighborhood.
Later the same year, Roger Waters walked off the stage in the middle of a concert, stating that the fans were too rowdy and if they weren’t interested in the music, he didn’t want to sing. In 1989, Pink Floyd played on a floating stage in Venice in front of over 200,000 people. Buildings were damaged and bridges were left in ruins.
After Roger Waters
When Pink Floyd began to tour after Roger Waters left, he sued the band claiming that they had no right to be called Pink Floyd without him. He lost the lawsuit and the Division Bell tour in 1995, became the largest rock and roll tour ever. Pink Floyd played for a total of over 55,000,000 people. David Gilmore took over the lead vocals and proved a good replacement for Waters.
Rolling Stone Magazine voted The Dark Side of the Moon as one of the best albums of the 1970’s and to many fans it is recognized as the best album ever. The amazing thing about Pink Floyd is that they only had one single top the charts, but even without the radio air play now, they still became hugely popular. The music wasn’t commercial, but was of good quality and became popular by word of mouth. Today Pink Floyd are remembered as rock giants and will always be mentioned in any conversation about the great bands of all time.
Pink Floyd’s First Album from 1967
It’s 1967. It’s London. It’s the Summer of Love. In Studio 3 of EMI’s Abbey Road Studio on the heart of London’s St John’s Wood, four musicians are recording what, alongside The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, many regard as the quintessential album of the British Summer of Love. Pink Floyd are producing ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, a title taken from one of the chapter headings of Kenneth Grahame’s children’s book, ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
At the time of recording ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, Pink Floyd comprised Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright and the creative powerhouse behind the band, Syd Barrett. Barrett, who died recently, had joined the band two years earlier and changed them from one amongst many R&B bands (known as ‘The Tea Set’) on the go at that time to psychedelic pioneers.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Barrett’s songs (and ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ contains eight of them (the first four and the last four) illustrate the eclectic nature of British psychedelia, bringing together the musical experimentation, made possible by developments in amplification and instrumentation, with the childlike simplicity and dream-world of the hippies. This is exemplified by the choice of title for this first Pink Floyd album.
The very titles of the tracks suggest something different from what had gone before. This was an album that continued the developing break from albums containing songs each of which was about romantic love. Not one of the tracks on ‘The Piper of the Gates of Dawn’ is about romantic relationships. It’s hard to imagine this album being conceived a year or two earlier.
Listening to the track now is to re-enter a world where things were simpler, where pleasures were sought through those simplicities and where music (and the music on Pink Floyd’s ‘Bike’ is both exceptionally innovative and also listenable) could transport the listener to another world, far away from where they actually were.
‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is worthy of being listened to even 40 years later, despite Roger Water’s protestations that he hasn’t done so for over a quarter of a century. The simplicity of a modern fairy tale like ‘Bike’, set against the nascent space-rock of Interstellar Overdrive (interestingly one of the pieces that Pink Floyd continued to play in concerts for many years after Syd Barrett had left the band, as they moved almost completely into the rock field), will continue to reward the listener who has the luxury of 45 unbroken minutes in which to close their eyes and drift away on this dream. This is psychedelia at its best!