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Pink Floyd: The Pioneers of Progressive Rock

# Pink Floyd: The Pioneers of Progressive Rock

Pink Floyd is one of the most influential and successful rock bands of all time. They have sold over 250 million records worldwide, and have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are known for their innovative and experimental music, their concept albums, and their spectacular live shows. But how did they become such a legendary band? What are their musical influences and achievements? And what is their legacy and impact on popular culture? In this blog post, we will explore the history and influence of Pink Floyd, and why they are still relevant today.

## The Early Years: From Psychedelia to Space Rock

Pink Floyd was formed in 1965 in London, England, by four students: Syd Barrett (guitar, vocals), Roger Waters (bass, vocals), Nick Mason (drums), and Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals). They initially played covers of American R&B and blues songs, but soon developed their own style of psychedelic rock, influenced by artists such as The Beatles, The Byrds, and Bob Dylan. They also experimented with sound effects, feedback, distortion, and improvisation, creating a unique and trippy sound that appealed to the emerging counterculture.

The band's name was derived from the first names of two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. They signed with EMI in 1967, and released their first single, "Arnold Layne", a song about a cross-dressing thief. The song was banned by the BBC for its controversial lyrics, but still reached number 20 on the UK charts. Their second single, "See Emily Play", was a more whimsical and pop-oriented song that reached number 6 on the UK charts.

Their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was released in August 1967. It was mostly written by Barrett, who was the main creative force and leader of the band at the time. The album was a masterpiece of psychedelic rock, featuring songs such as "Astronomy Domine", "Lucifer Sam", "Interstellar Overdrive", and "Bike". The album showcased Barrett's imaginative and surreal lyrics, as well as the band's musical experimentation and innovation. The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching number 6 on the UK charts and number 131 on the US charts.

However, Barrett's mental health began to deteriorate due to his excessive use of LSD and other drugs. He became increasingly erratic, unpredictable, and unreliable, often forgetting lyrics or chords during performances or interviews. He also started to exhibit signs of schizophrenia, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. The band decided to hire another guitarist, David Gilmour, who was an old friend of Barrett's from Cambridge. Gilmour joined the band in January 1968, initially as a backup for Barrett, but soon became his replacement.

Barrett left the band in April 1968, after contributing to only three songs on their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. The album was released in June 1968, and marked a transition from psychedelic rock to space rock. The album featured longer and more complex compositions, such as the title track and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". The album also reflected the band's sadness and frustration over Barrett's departure, especially on songs such as "Remember a Day" and "Jugband Blues". The album reached number 9 on the UK charts and number 107 on the US charts.

## The Middle Years: From Space Rock to Progressive Rock

After Barrett's departure, Waters became the main songwriter and conceptual leader of the band. He also became more involved in the production and direction of the band's music. He started to write more political and social lyrics, inspired by his own experiences and views. He also started to develop concept albums that had a unified theme or story throughout.

The band's third album, More, was released in July 1969. It was the soundtrack for a French film of the same name directed by Barbet Schroeder. The album featured a variety of styles and moods, from acoustic folk to hard rock to ambient music. The album included songs such as "Cirrus Minor", "The Nile Song", "Green Is the Colour", "Cymbaline", and "Ibiza Bar". The album reached number 9 on the UK charts and number 153 on the US charts.

The band's fourth album, Ummagumma, was released in October 1969. It was a double album that consisted of one disc of live recordings from previous concerts and one disc of studio recordings by each member individually. The live disc featured songs such as "Astronomy Domine", "Careful with That Axe,Eugene", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "A Saucerful of Secrets". The studio disc featured experimental and avant-garde pieces such as "Sysyphus", "Grantchester Meadows", "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict", and "The Narrow Way". The album reached number 5 on the UK charts and number 74 on the US charts.

The band's fifth album, Atom Heart Mother, was released in October 1970. It was their first album to feature an orchestra and a choir, arranged by Ron Geesin. The album consisted of six tracks, including the 23-minute title track that occupied the entire first side of the vinyl. The album also included songs such as "If", "Summer '68", "Fat Old Sun", and "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast". The album reached number 1 on the UK charts and number 55 on the US charts.

The band's sixth album, Meddle, was released in October 1971. It was considered by many critics and fans as the band's first masterpiece and a precursor to their later albums. The album featured six tracks, including the 23-minute epic "Echoes" that occupied the entire second side of the vinyl. The album also included songs such as "One of These Days", "A Pillow of Winds", "Fearless", and "San Tropez". The album reached number 3 on the UK charts and number 70 on the US charts.

The band's seventh album, Obscured by Clouds, was released in June 1972. It was another soundtrack for a French film directed by Barbet Schroeder, this time called La Vallée. The album featured shorter and more accessible songs than their previous albums, such as "Free Four", "Wot's... Uh the Deal", "Childhood's End", and "Stay". The album reached number 6 on the UK charts and number 46 on the US charts.

## The Golden Years: From Progressive Rock to Rock Opera

The band's eighth album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was released in March 1973. It was their most successful and influential album, and one of the best-selling albums of all time. It was a concept album that explored themes such as greed, conflict, madness, death, and time. It featured songs such as "Speak to Me/Breathe", "Time", "Money", "Us and Them", "Brain Damage/Eclipse", and the instrumental "The Great Gig in the Sky". It also featured innovative production techniques, such as multitrack recording, tape loops, synthesizers, sound effects, spoken word samples, and quadraphonic sound. The album reached number 1 on the US charts and number 2 on the UK charts. It stayed on the Billboard chart for over 900 weeks, making it the longest-charting album in history.

The band's ninth album, Wish You Were Here, was released in September 1975. It was a tribute to their former leader Syd Barrett, who had become a recluse after leaving the band. It featured five tracks, including two parts of the 26-minute suite "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" that bookended the album. The album also included songs such as "Welcome to the Machine", "Have a Cigar", and the title track. The album reached number 1 on both the UK and US charts.

The band's tenth album, Animals, was released in January 1977. It was a concept album that used animals as metaphors for different types of people in society: dogs for ruthless businessmen, pigs for corrupt politicians, and sheep for mindless followers. It featured five tracks, including three long compositions: "Dogs", "Pigs (Three Different Ones)", and "Sheep". The album also included two short acoustic pieces: "Pigs on the Wing (Part One)" and "Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)". The album reached number 2 on both the UK and US charts.

The band's eleventh album, The Wall, was released in November 1979. It was their most ambitious and complex work, a rock opera that told the story of a troubled rock star named Pink who isolates himself from society behind a metaphorical wall. It featured 26 tracks, including songs such as "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)", which became their only number-one single in both the UK and US; "Comfortably Numb", which featured one of Gilmour's most famous guitar solos; "Hey You"; "Mother"; "Run Like Hell"; and "The Trial". The album also spawned a feature film adaptation directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof as Pink. The album reached number 1 on both the UK and US charts.

The band's twelfth album, The Final Cut, was released in March 1983. It was a continuation of The Wall's story, but also a commentary on war, especially the Falklands War that occurred in 1982 between the UK and Argentina. The album was subtitled "A Requiem for the Post War Dream by Roger Waters", and it was the only Pink Floyd album to have all songs written solely by Waters. It was also the last album to feature Waters as a member of the band, as he left in 1985 after a legal dispute with the other members.

The album was divided into three parts: "The Post-War Dream", "The Hero's Return", and "The Final Cut". The first part dealt with the aftermath of the Second World War and the disillusionment of the survivors. The second part focused on the personal and psychological problems of the protagonist, Pink, who was based on Waters' own father. The third part expressed Waters' anger and frustration at the political and military leaders who waged war for their own interests.

The album featured songs such as "The Post War Dream", which depicted Pink's nostalgia for his father and his idealistic vision of peace; "The Gunner's Dream", which described the last thoughts of a dying soldier who wished for a better world; "The Fletcher Memorial Home", which criticized the warmongering politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Leonid Brezhnev; "Not Now John", which mocked the capitalist system and its obsession with money and power; and "Two Suns in the Sunset", which imagined a nuclear holocaust that would end humanity.

The album received mixed reviews from critics and fans, who felt that it was more of a Roger Waters solo album than a Pink Floyd album. Some praised it for its lyrical depth and emotional intensity, while others criticized it for its lack of musical diversity and innovation. The album reached number one on the UK charts and number six on the US charts, but it was the lowest-selling Pink Floyd studio album worldwide since Meddle (1971).

##The Later Years: From Rock Opera to Rock Drama

After Waters left the band in 1985, Gilmour assumed the leadership and continued to record and perform as Pink Floyd with Mason and Wright, who rejoined the band as a full member. However, Waters claimed that Pink Floyd was "a spent force creatively" and sued them for using the name and the material. The legal battle lasted for several years, until a settlement was reached in 1987 that allowed Gilmour, Mason, and Wright to continue as Pink Floyd, while Waters retained the rights to The Wall and other projects.

The band's thirteenth album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, was released in September 1987. It was the first Pink Floyd album without Waters, and it marked a departure from their previous style of progressive rock to a more contemporary sound of arena rock and pop rock. The album featured songs such as "Learning to Fly", "On the Turning Away", "One Slip", and "Sorrow". The album reached number 3 on both the UK and US charts, and sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

The band's fourteenth album, The Division Bell, was released in March 1994. It was the last Pink Floyd studio album to feature Wright, who died in 2008. The album was more collaborative than the previous one, with Gilmour, Wright, and Mason sharing songwriting credits. The album explored themes such as communication, division, and reconciliation. The album featured songs such as "What Do You Want from Me", "Poles Apart", "High Hopes", and "Keep Talking". The album reached number 1 on both the UK and US charts, and sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

The band's fifteenth and final album, The Endless River, was released in November 2014. It was based on unreleased material from The Division Bell sessions, and it was mostly instrumental. The album was a tribute to Wright, whose posthumous recordings were used extensively. The album also featured contributions from session musicians and guests, such as Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and electronic music composer Jon Carin. The only song with vocals on the album was "Louder than Words", which was written by Gilmour's wife Polly Samson. The album reached number 1 on both the UK and US charts, and sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

## Legacy and Influence

Pink Floyd is widely regarded as one of the most influential and successful rock bands of all time. They have sold over 250 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists in history. They have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. They have also received numerous awards and honors, such as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and the Polar Music Prize in 2008.

Pink Floyd's music has influenced countless artists across various genres, such as Radiohead, U2, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Muse, Coldplay, Marillion, Opeth, Steven Wilson, David Bowie, Queen, Genesis, Yes, Rush, King Crimson, Hawkwind, Tame Impala, MGMT, Flaming Lips, Gorillaz, and many more. Their albums have also been praised by critics and fans alike as some of the greatest albums of all time.

Pink Floyd's legacy also extends beyond music to other forms of art and culture. Their albums have inspired films (such as The Wall), books (such as Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), video games (such as Dark Side of the Moon), musicals (such as We Will Rock You), stage shows (such as Roger Waters' The Wall Live), documentaries (such as Pink Floyd: Behind the Wall), tribute bands (such as Australian Pink Floyd Show), cover albums (such as Dub Side of the Moon), art exhibitions (such as Their Mortal Remains), and even scientific discoveries (such as a shrimp named after them).

Pink Floyd's music has also been used for various social causes and movements, such as Live Aid (1985), Live 8 (2005), Amnesty International (2010), Why Pink Floyd? (2011), and The Endless River for Teenage Cancer Trust (2014). In addition to their humanitarian work as individuals or groups,

Pink Floyd's music has also been a source of comfort and inspiration for many people around the world who face challenges or hardships in their lives.

(1) Pink Floyd - Wikipedia.

(2) Pink Floyd | Members, Albums, Songs, & Facts | Britannica.

(3) Pink Floyd discography - Wikipedia.

(4) Pink Floyd Albums and Discography | AllMusic.

(5) Pink Floyd discography - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

(7) List of Pink Floyd band members - Wikipedia.

(8) Band Members | Pink Floyd | Fandom.

(9) See the Last Living Members of Pink Floyd Now, at 76 and 78.

(10) Pink Floyd | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

(11) The History And Influence Of Pink Floyd – BoySetsFire.

(12) The Influence Of Pink Floyd | Ben Vaughn.

(13) Five Popular Rock and Pop Bands Influenced By Pink Floyd - LNGFRM.


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