Pink Floyd were formed in 1965 in Cambridge, UK. The original line-up was
Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason. The band were named after two
bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
Their first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was released in 1967.
Barrett wrote most of the album as well as their first three singles. The first two singles especially, Arnold Layne and
See Emily Play did well in the UK charts and the album was commercially and critically successful. Moreover, it
was Barrett's distinctive and innovative guitar-playing with its sonic explorations that made the sound of the band unique.
The loose label of 'psychedelic' was tagged onto Pink Floyd though I would say their sound of this time defies any kind of tag.
Experience it on CD, I say, and think of Pink Floyd alone without the constaints of psychedilia.
By 1968, Barrett's
now legendary erratic behaviour and deteriorating "mental health"
was becoming unworkable for the other band members. I put the term in inverted commas as
from all accounts I have read of Barrett, I'm still not convinced that anyone
who has actually commented on this period in his life actually knows what he or she is talking about.
I mean, do band members of Pink Floyd know
enough about "mental health" to put whatever
was going on in Barrett's head at the time as a problem with "mental health"?
Apart from Barrett himself, his closest family and his doctor,
I would say that no-one is qualified to make such a sweeping diagnosis, and it does get on my bloody nerves when I
read yet another lazy biography stating he was mentally
ill or on LSD or couldn't cope with the pressures of fame or blah blah blah, and these were the causes of his problems; not stopping for a moment to come to the obvious
conclusion that they were manifestations of whatever the
problems were. What these problems were or whether they were indeed Barrett's problems,
remain unanswered in the public domain to this day.
Whatever the cause, Barrett left the band in 1968.
Many saw this as the end of the band. How could they possibly survive the departure of the
guy who so firmly shaped the formation of Pink Floyd? To put this into perspective, Barrett
leaving the band was like Lennon & McCartney leaving The Beatles
after the first album! But the band did have a George Harrison type-of-figure:
Roger Waters. He went about shaping the band in
his name, pulling the artistic strings so to speak.
Guitarist David Gilmour became part of the band,
co-writing with Waters, but it was Waters
who became the engine of the band.
As the main lyrical contributor he led Pink Floyd
through the 1970s to mighty success; Dark Side of the Moon,
Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall were his concept albums, make no mistake. Such was the band's success
that today their record sales worldwide stand at a staggering 200 million and rising.
Harmony though has never been a word one could associate with
Pink Floyd band members. By 1983, Water's
relationship with Wright was untenable and Wright
was unceremoniously sacked. Final Cut was released in 1985
but it was a Roger Waters' solo album in all but name.
Meanwhile, tensions between Waters
and Gilmour were stretched to breaking point. Something had to give.
So it came as no surprise when Waters
announced in 1985 that the band were no more. Gilmour
disputed this, stating that he had the
right to use the Pink Floyd name. A bitter
legal battle ensured. I think Waters was right on this one when he
stated that the Pink Floyd name shouldn't be used
as three of the original band members were no
longer part of the band and that after the departure of Barrett it had
been he who had written most of the lyrics. Bizarrely, Gilmour
won the right to use not only the name but most of the songs as well.
Waters didn't go home empty-handed
though. He won The Wall and the pigs!
Thereafter, Pink Floyd could really be called The David Gilmour Band. Nothing wrong
with that but the two studio albums that followed, A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The
Division Bell (1994), were, to these ears, tired and formulaic.
2005 saw the Live 8 reunion, with their biggest audience ever. Undoubtedly, their
four-song, 23-minute set was the highlight of what was a rather disappointing show otherwise. Noises of a full-scale reunion
were in the offing but these were shot down by Gilmour especially.
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