Synopsis of Pop Music
"The band is just fantastic, that's really what I think,
Oh, by the way, which one's Pink?"
Pop music success is usually built on having hits with short, accessible songs. Pink Floyd rewrote this rule with their unconventional success story in the 1970’s and 1980’s. During this time, they had a string of hit albums with conceptual, cosmic-sounding records like Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. Although they have only had two real hit singles during their entire career, they have managed to fill concert halls around the world year after year with their elaborately-staged, theatrical live shows. In the process, they became one of the most successful rock groups in the world.
Pink Floyd began in 1964 when a group of English school chums decided to form a band. They took their name from two bluesmen (Pink Anderson and Floyd Council) and began to develop a psychedelic style when Syd Barrett joined the group. Barrett wrote whimsical, spacey songs like “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” that gave the band their first hits in England. They soon released their first album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Meanwhile, they played concerts on a regular basis and developed an atmospheric style of jamming that made them the premier psychedelic band.
Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968, but they continued on with a new album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, which alternated between straightforward songs and lengthy mood-pieces that created atmospheric soundscapes. The latter epics made the band popular on FM radio in the early 1970’s as they continued to refined their sound on albums like More, Atom Heart Mother and Meddle. With each album, they began to develop a style that blended song-type elements into their swirling cosmic soundscapes. Roger Waters also began to take a major role as the group’s lyricist and conceptual thinker.
Pink Floyd’s careful evolution paid off in 1973 with Dark Side Of The Moon. This classic album infused their grandiose soundscapes with memorable melodies and a thoughtful, incisive set of lyrics that dealt with how the pressures of life can push people to the brink of sanity. Songs like “Time” became radio staples (and continue to be to this day), while “Money” gave the group its first-ever hit single. Dark Side Of The Moon was revered by critics and fans alike as one of the best rock albums of the 1970’s, spending an astounding 566 weeks on the Billboard magazine Top-200 albums (still a record today). It continues to be popular today and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.
As Dark Side Of The Moon became a #1 hit, Pink Floyd toured to support it with an elaborate stage show that featured projected films and complex lighting. They also utilized state-of-the-art sound equipment to present their music. As a result, they set new standards for the concert experience during the 1970’s. Meanwhile, they returned to the studio to produce Wish You Were Here. This conceptual opus paid heartfelt tribute to their departed leaded Syd Barrett through “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and satirized the music business on songs like “Welcome To The Machine” and “Have A Cigar.”
Pink Floyd continued to tour for the next few years, filling arenas around the world with their elaborate and technically flawless shows. In 1977, they released Animals, an album influenced by George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. It balanced dark, satiric lyrics about the human condition with surprisingly hard-rocking music on epic-length tracks like “Dogs” and “Pigs.” The album gave Pink Floyd another hit and led to another successful marathon tour, after which the group took a well-deserved break.
The next year, Pink Floyd reunited to record their most successful album, The Wall. This double-LP rock opera told the story of a famous rock star who built a ‘wall’ to shield himself from all the disappointments of the world, but wass ultimately forced to tear down this ‘wall’ to save himself. This complex story was told through an array of songs that covered every genre—from hard-rock (“In The Flesh?”) to orchestral ballads (“Comfortably Numb”)—and earned the band a hit single with “Another Brick In The Wall.” This critique of the school system made effective use of a children’s chorus and went to #1 on the charts.
The Wall led to a hugely-successful tour that crossed the world for almost two years straight. It also spawned a successful film version of the album that continues to be a favorite ‘midnight movie’ today. In 1983, Pink Floyd returned with The Final Cut, an album built around an anti-war theme. The group did not tour to promote this album and everyone took a break while they pursued outside interests. In 1985, Waters decided to leave the band for a solo career, leading many to predict the end of Pink Floyd.
However, David Gilmour reunited with the remaining members of Pink Floyd and they returned in 1987 with A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, an album that continued the Pink Floyd sound while exploring a more optimistic lyrical style. It quickly became a Top-5 hit and returned Pink Floyd to prominence. They embarked on a massive world-tour that found sell-out success at every stop. Performances from this tour were also captured on a successful live album, The Delicate Sound of Thunder.
In 1990, Roger Waters commemorated the destruction of the Berlin Wall by organizing an all-star performance of The Wall. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd soldiered on and produced The Division Bell in 1994. It debuted at #1 on the charts and also won Pink Floyd a Best Instrumental Grammy Award with the track “Marooned.” The album was followed by a worldwide tour that was captured on another live album, Pulse. This album had a flashing red light built into its packaging and contained a performance of Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety.
Most recently, Pink Floyd has commemorated the 20th anniversary of The Wall by releasing Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live, a concert album culled from the group’s 1980-81 performances. The group has not been active recently, but remain as popular as ever today: Their classic albums sell in the hundreds of thousands every year and their songs have become staples of classic-rock radio. They also earned some new notoriety when it was learned that Dark Side Of The Moon could be synched up as an alternate soundtrack for part of The Wizard Of Oz.
All in all, Pink Floyd has earned a place in pop history with their worldwide success and pioneering cosmic-rock sound. They have also conclusively proven you don’t have to have hit singles to become an international success.
"All in all,
We're all just bricks in the wall..."
Artist Release History1967 - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
1968 - A Saucerful of Secrets
1968 - Tonite Lets All Make Love in London...
1969 - More
1969 - Ummagumma
1970 - Atom Heart Mother
1971 - Meddle
1971 - Relics (compilation)
1972 - Obscured by Clouds
1973 - Dark Side of the Moon
1975 - Wish You Were Here
1977 - Animals
1979 - The Wall
1983 - The Final Cut
1987 - A Momentary Lapse of Reason
1988 - Delicate Sound of Thunder (live)
1994 - The Division Bell
1995 - Pulse (live)
1995 - Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd
2000 - Wish You Were Here: 25th Anniversary
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsDark Side Of The Moon (Capitol)
The Wall (Columbia)
Band MembersSyd Barrett (1964-1968) guitar, vocals
David Gilmour(1968- ) guitar, vocals
Roger Waters(1964-1985) bass, vocals
Richard Wright keyboards
Nick Mason drums