Pink Floyd was a psychedelic/progressive rock band formed in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom in 1965. Pink Floyd is one of rock's most successful and influential acts, having sold over 200 million albums worldwide and with 74.5 million certified units in the United States, making them one of the best-selling artists of all time.
The band's classic lineup was Roger Waters (vocals, bass), David Gilmour (vocals, guitar), Rick Wright (organ, keyboards, vocals) and Nick Mason (drums). Gilmour was brought into the band in 1968 to replace the band's founder, singer, guitarist and songwriter Syd Barrett, who had become increasingly erratic and departed from the band a few months after Gilmour's addition. The band became known for their advancements in the genres of psychedelic rock and progressive rock music, philosophical lyrics, avant-garde compositions, sonic experimentation, innovative cover art and elaborate live shows.
Pink Floyd enjoyed modest success in the late-1960s as a psychedelic band led by Syd Barrett. Barrett’s increasingly erratic behavior eventually caused his colleagues to replace him after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn with guitarist David Gilmour. The band went on to record several elaborate concept albums; achieving worldwide success with 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon (The second best-selling album of all time), 1975’s Wish You Were Here, 1977’s Animals, and 1979’s The Wall, among the best-selling, most critically acclaimed, and enduringly popular albums in rock music history. In 1985, singer and bassist Roger Waters declared Pink Floyd defunct. However, the remaining members continued recording and touring under the name, eventually reaching a settlement with Waters giving them rights to the name and most of the songs.
Pink Floyd evolved from an earlier band, formed in 1964, which was at various times called Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The Screaming Abdabs, and The Abdabs. When this band split up, some members — guitarists Bob Klose and Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and wind instrument player Rick Wright — formed a new band called Tea Set, and were joined shortly thereafter by guitarist Syd Barrett, who became the band’s primary vocalist as well. When Tea Set found themselves on the same bill as another band with the same name, Barrett came up with an alternative name on the spur of the moment, choosing The Pink Floyd Sound (after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). For a time after this they oscillated between ‘Tea Set’ and ‘The Pink Floyd Sound’, with the latter name eventually winning out. The word Sound was dropped fairly quickly, but the definite article was still used occasionally for several years afterward, up to about the time of the More soundtrack. In the early days, the band covered rhythm and blues staples such as “Louie, Louie”, but gained notoriety for psychedelic interpretations, with extended improvised sections and ‘spaced out’ solos.
The heavily jazz-oriented Klose left the band to become a photographer shortly before Pink Floyd started recording, leaving an otherwise stable lineup with Barrett on lead guitar, Waters on bass guitar, Mason on drums and Wright switching to keyboards. Barrett started writing his own songs, influenced by American and British psychedelic rock with his own brand of whimsical humor. Pink Floyd became a favorite in the underground movement, playing at such prominent venues as the UFO club, the Marquee Club and the Roundhouse. As their popularity increased, the band members formed Blackhill Enterprises in October 1966, a six-way business partnership with their managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King, issuing the singles "Arnold Layne" in March 1967 and “See Emily Play” in June 1967. “Arnold Layne” reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and “See Emily Play” reached number 6, granting the band its first TV appearance on Top of the Pops in July 1967.
Released in August 1967, the band’s debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is today considered to be a prime example of British psychedelic music, and was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it is now viewed as one of the better debut albums by many critics. The album’s tracks, predominantly written by Barrett, showcase poetic lyrics and an eclectic mixture of music, from the avant-garde free-form piece "Interstellar Overdrive" to whimsical songs such as "The Scarecrow", inspired by the Fenlands, a rural region north of Cambridge (Barrett, Gilmour and Waters’s home town). Lyrics were entirely surreal and often referred to folklore, such as "The Gnome". The music reflected newer technologies in electronics through its prominent use of stereo panning and electric keyboards. The album was a hit in the UK where it peaked at #6, but did not get much attention in North America, reaching #131 in the U.S. During this period, the band toured with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which helped to increase its popularity.
As the band became more and more popular, the stresses of life on the road and a significant intake of psychedelic drugs took their toll on Barrett, whose mental health had been deteriorating for several months. While Barrett’s behavior has often been attributed to his drug use, there are many who think that a pre-existing condition, possibly schizophrenia, was equally to blame. In January 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out Syd’s playing and singing duties. With Barrett’s behavior becoming less and less predictable, and his almost constant use of LSD, he became very unstable, often staring into space while the rest of the band performed. During some performances, he would simply strum one chord for the duration of a concert, or simply begin detuning his guitar. The band’s live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts. It was originally hoped that Syd would write for the band with Gilmour performing live, similar to how The Beach Boys had done with Brian Wilson. However, due to Barrett’s increasingly difficult compositions, such as "Have You got it Yet?”, which changed melodies and chord progression with every take, eventually made the rest of the band give up on this arrangement. Once Barrett’s departure was formalized in April 1968, producers Jenner and King decided to remain with him, and the six-way Blackhill partnership was dissolved. The band adopted Steve O’Rourke as manager, and he remained with Pink Floyd until his death in 2003.
Musically, this period was one of experimentation for the band. Gilmour, Waters and Wright each contributed material that had its own voice and sound, giving this material less consistency than the Barrett-dominated early years or the more polished, collaborative sound of later years. Waters mostly wrote low-key, jazzy melodies with dominant bass lines and complex, symbolic lyrics, Gilmour focused on guitar-driven blues jams, and Wright preferred melodic psychedelic keyboard-heavy numbers. Unlike Waters, Gilmour and Wright preferred tracks that had simple lyrics or that were purely instrumental. Some of the band’s most experimental music is from this period, such as "A Saucerful of Secrets", consisting largely of feedback and atonal screeches and loops, “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict”, which is a series of sped-up voice samples resembling rodents chattering that reaches its climax in an incomprehensible Scottish dialect monologue, and “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” (performed under different names during this period), a very Waters-driven song with a bass and keyboard-heavy jam culminating in crashing drums and Waters’s primal screams.
Whilst Barrett had written the bulk of the first album, only one Barrett composition, the Piper outtake “Jugband Blues”, appeared on the second Floyd album. A Saucerful of Secrets was released in June 1968, reaching #9 in the UK and becoming the only Pink Floyd album not to chart in the U.S. Somewhat uneven due to Barrett’s departure, the album still contained much of his psychedelic sound combined with the more experimental music that would be fully showcased on Ummagumma. Hints of the epic, lengthy songs to come are in its centerpiece, the 12-minute title track, but the album was poorly received by critics at the time, although critics today tend to be kinder to the album in the context of their body of work. Future Floyd albums would expand upon the idea of long, sprawling compositions, offering more focused songwriting with each subsequent release.
Pink Floyd were then recruited by director Barbet Schroeder to produce a soundtrack for his film, More, which premiered in May 1969. The music was released as a Floyd album in its own right, Music from the Film More, in July 1969; the album achieved another #9 finish in the UK, and peaked at #153 in the U.S. The band would use this and future soundtrack recording sessions to produce work that may not have fit into the idea of what would appear on a proper Pink Floyd LP; many of the tracks on More (as fans usually call it) were acoustic folk songs, although critics tend to find the collection of the film’s music patchy and uneven. Two of these songs, “Green Is the Colour” and “Cymbaline”, became fixtures in the band’s live sets for a time, as can be heard in the many available bootleg recordings from this period. The latter was also the first Pink Floyd song to deal with Roger Waters’s cynical attitude toward the music industry explicitly. The rest of the album consisted of incidental music with a few heavier rock songs thrown in, such as “The Nile Song”.
The next record, the double album Ummagumma, was a mix of live recordings and unchecked studio experimentation by the band members, with each member recording half a side of a vinyl record as a solo project (Mason’s first wife makes an uncredited contribution as a flautist). Though the album was realized as solo outings and a live set, it was originally intended as a purely avant-garde mixture of sounds from “found” instruments. The subsequent difficulties in recording and lack of group organization led to the shelving of the project. The title is slang for sexual procreation, and reflects the attitude of the band at the time, as frustrations in the studio followed them throughout these sessions. Wildly experimental on the studio disc (except for Waters’s pure folk “Grantchester Meadows”), with atonal and jarring piano pieces (“Sysyphus”), meandering folk guitar (“The Narrow Way”) and large percussion solos, the live disc featured excellent performances of some of their most popular psychedelic-era compositions and caused critics to receive the album more positively than the previous two albums. With fans, the album was Pink Floyd’s most popular release yet, hitting UK #5 and making the U.S. charts at #74.
1970’s Atom Heart Mother, the band’s first recording with an orchestra, was a collaboration with avant-garde composer Ron Geesin. One side of the album consisted of the title piece, a 23-minute long rock-orchestral suite. The second side featured one song from each of the band’s then-current vocalists (Roger Waters’s folk-rock “If”, David Gilmour’s bluesy “Fat Old Sun” and Rick Wright’s psychedelic “Summer ‘68”). Another lengthy piece, “Alan’s psychedelic breakfast”, was a sound collage of a man cooking and eating breakfast and his thoughts on the matter, linked with instrumentals. The use of incidental sound effects and voice samples would thereafter be an important part of the band’s sound. While Atom Heart Mother was considered a huge step back for the band at the time and is still considered one of its most inaccessible albums, it had the best chart performance for the band so far, reaching #1 in the UK and #55 in the U.S., although it has since been described by Gilmour as "a load of rubbish" and Waters as suitable for "throwing in the dustbin and never [being] listened to by anyone ever again." The album was another transitional piece for the group, hinting at future musical territory such as “Echoes” in its ambitious title track. The popularity of the album allowed Pink Floyd to embark on its first full U.S. tour. Before releasing its next original album, the band released a compilation album, Relics, which contained several early singles and B-sides, along with one original song (Waters’s jazzy “Biding My Time”).
This is the period in which the Floyd shed their association with the “psychedelic” scene (and its association with Barrett) and became a distinctive band that are difficult to classify. The divergent styles of Gilmour, Waters and Wright (Mason’s writing contributions to the group were minimal) were merged into a unique sound. This era contains what many consider to be two of the band’s masterpiece albums, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. The sound became polished and collaborative, with the philosophic lyrics and distinctive bass lines of Waters combining with the unique blues guitar style of Gilmour and Wright’s light keyboard melodies. Gilmour was the dominant vocalist throughout this period, and female choirs and Dick Parry’s saxophone contributions in the studio became a notable part of the band’s style. The sometimes atonal and harsh sound exhibited in the band’s earlier years gave way to a very smooth, mellow and soothing sound, and the band’s epic, lengthy compositions reached their zenith with “Echoes” from Meddle (although “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” exceeded it in total length, it was split in two pieces as the opening and closing of Wish You Were Here). This period was not only the beginning but the end of the truly collaborative era of the band; after 1975 Waters’s influence became more dominant musically as well as lyrically. Wright’s last credited composition and last lead vocal on a studio album until 1994’s The Division Bell were in this period, and Gilmour’s writing credits sharply declined in frequency until Waters left the band in 1985. The last ties with Barrett were severed in musical, as well as literal, fashion with Wish You Were Here, whose epic tracks “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)”/"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" were written both as a tribute and elegy to their friend.
The band’s sound was considerably more focused on Meddle (1971), with the 23-minute epic “Echoes” taking up the second side of the LP. “Echoes” is a smooth progressive rock song with extended guitar and keyboard solos and a long segue in the middle consisting largely of synthesized whale song produced on guitar, along with samples of seagull cries, described by Waters as a “sonic poem”. Meddle was considered by Nick Mason to be “the first real Pink Floyd album. It introduced the idea of a theme that can be returned to.” The album had the sound and style of the succeeding breakthrough-era Pink Floyd albums but stripped away the orchestra that was prominent in Atom Heart Mother. Meddle also included the atmospheric “One of These Days”, a concert favorite featuring Nick Mason’s menacing one-line vocal (“One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces”), distorted and bluesy slide guitar, and a melody that at one point segues into a throbbing synthetic pulse quoting the theme tune of the cult classic science fiction television show Doctor Who. The mellow feeling of the next three albums is very present on “Fearless”, and this track displays a country influence, as does the prominent pedal steel guitar on “A Pillow of Winds”. The latter track is one of the Floyd’s very few acoustic love songs. Waters’s role as lead songwriter began to take form, with his jazzy “San Tropez” brought to the band practically completed. Meddle was greeted both by critics and fans enthusiastically, and Pink Floyd were rewarded with a #3 album chart peak in the UK; it only reached #70 in U.S. charts, partly because Capitol Records had not provided it with enough publicity support. Today, Meddle remains one of their most well-regarded efforts.
Obscured by Clouds was released in 1972 as the soundtrack to the film La Vallee, another art house film by Barbet Schroeder. This was the band’s first U.S. Top 50 album (where it hit #46), hitting at #6 in the UK. While Mason described the album years later as “sensational”, it is less well-regarded by critics. The lyrics of “Free Four”, the first Pink Floyd song to achieve significant airplay in the U.S., introduced Waters’s ruminations on his father’s death in World War II which would figure in subsequent albums. Two other songs on the album, “Wots…uh, the Deal” and “Childhood’s End”, also hint at themes used in later albums, the former focusing on loneliness and desperation which would come to full fruit in the Roger Waters-led era, and the latter hinting much at the next album, fixated on life, death and the passage of time. “Childhood’s End”, inspired by the Arthur C. Clarke book of the same name, was also Gilmour’s last lyrical contribution for 15 years. The album was, to an extent, stylistically different from the preceding Meddle, with the songs generally being shorter, often taking a somewhat pastoral approach compared to the atmospheric use of sound effects and keyboard on sections of Meddle, and sometimes even running into folk rock, blues rock and piano-driven soft rock (“Burning Bridges”, “The Gold It’s in the…” and “Stay” being the best respective examples for each).
The release of Pink Floyd’s massively successful 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was a watershed moment in the band’s popularity. Pink Floyd had stopped issuing singles after 1968’s “Point Me at the Sky” and was never a hit-single-driven group, but The Dark Side of the Moon featured a U.S. Top 20 single (“Money”). The album became the band’s first #1 on U.S. charts, a huge improvement over its previous recordings. The critically-acclaimed album stayed on the Billboard Top 200 for an unprecedented 741 weeks (including 591 consecutive weeks from 1976 to 1988), establishing a world record and making it one of the top-selling albums of all time. It also remained 301 weeks on UK charts, despite never rising higher than #2 there, and is highly praised by critics. Saxophone forms an important part of the album’s sound, exposing the band’s jazz influences, and female backing vocals play a key role in helping to diversify the album’s texture. For example, straight rock songs such as “Money” and “Time” are placed on either side of mellow pedal steel guitar sounds (reminiscent of Meddle) in “Breathe” and female vocal-laden song “The Great Gig in the Sky” (with Clare Torry on lead vocal), while minimalist instrumental “On the Run” is performed almost entirely on a single synthesizer. Incidental sound effects and snippets of interviews feature alongside the music, many of them taped in the studio. The album’s lyrics and sound attempt to describe the different pressures that everyday life places upon human beings. This concept (conceived by Waters in a band meeting around Mason’s kitchen table) proved a powerful catalyst for the band and together they drew up a list of themes, several of which would be revisited by Waters on later albums, such as “Us and Them“‘s musings on violence and the futility of war, and the themes of insanity and neurosis discussed in “Brain Damage”. The album’s complicated and precise sound engineering by Alan Parsons set new standards for sound fidelity; this trait became a recognizable aspect of the band’s sound and played a part in the lasting chart success of the album, as audiophiles constantly replaced their worn-out copies.
Seeking to capitalize on its newfound fame, the band also released a compilation album, A Nice Pair, which was a gatefold repackaging of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets. It was also during this period that director Adrian Maben released the first Pink Floyd concert film, Live at Pompeii. The original theatrical cut featured footage of the band performing in 1971 at an amphitheater in Pompeii with no audience present (only the film crew and stage staff). Fortuitously, Maben also happened to capture some interviews and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the band during recording sessions for Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios, some of which were incorporated alongside other new footage between songs in later versions of Live at Pompeii.
Wish You Were Here, released in 1975, carries an abstract theme of absence: absence of any humanity within the music industry and, most poignantly, the absence of Syd Barrett. Well-known for its popular title track, the album includes the largely instrumental, nine-part song suite “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to Barrett in which the lyrics deal explicitly with the aftermath of his breakdown. Many of the musical influences in the band’s past were brought together — atmospheric keyboards, blues guitar pieces, extended saxophone solos (by Dick Parry), jazz fusion workouts and aggressive slide guitar — in the suite’s different linked parts, culminating in a funeral dirge played with synthesized horn. The remaining tracks on the album, “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar”, harshly criticize the music industry; the latter is sung by British folk singer Roy Harper. It was the first Pink Floyd album to reach #1 on both the UK and the U.S. charts, and critics praise it just as enthusiastically as Dark Side of the Moon. In a famous anecdote, a heavyset man with a completely shaved head and eyebrows wandered into the studio while the band was recording “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The band could not recognize him for some time, when suddenly one of them realized it was Syd Barrett. He was greeted enthusiastically by the band but subsequently slipped away during the impromptu party for David Gilmour’s wedding (which was, coincidentally, also on that day). It was the last time any of the other band members saw him. Gilmour recently confirmed this story, although he could not recall which song they were working on when Syd showed up. Barrett’s eyebrow-shaving tendencies would later be revisited in the movie Pink Floyd: The Wall.
During this era, Waters asserted more and more control over Pink Floyd’s output. Wright’s influence became largely inconsequential, and he was fired from the band during the recording of The Wall. Much of the music from this period is considered secondary to the lyrics, which explore Waters’s feelings about his father’s death in World War II and his increasingly cynical attitude towards political figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse. Although still finely nuanced, the music grew more guitar-based at the expense of keyboards and saxophone, both of which became (at best) part of the music’s background texture along with the obligatory sound effects. A full orchestra (even larger than the brass ensemble from Atom Heart Mother) plays a significant role on The Wall and especially The Final Cut.
By January 1977, and the release of Animals (UK #2, U.S. #3), the band’s music came under increasing criticism from some quarters in the new punk rock sphere as being too flabby and pretentious, having lost its way from the simplicity of early rock and roll. Animals was, however, considerably more basic-sounding than the previous albums, due to either the influence of the burgeoning punk-rock movement or the fact that the album was recorded at Pink Floyd’s new (and somewhat incomplete) Britannia Row Studios. The album was also the first to not have a single songwriting credit for Rick Wright. Animals again contained lengthy songs tied to a theme, this time taken in part from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which used “Pigs”, “Dogs” and “Sheep” as metaphors for members of contemporary society. Despite the prominence of guitar, keyboards and synthesizers still play an important role on Animals, but the saxophone and female vocal work that defined much of the previous two albums’ sound is absent. The result is a more hard-rock effort overall, bookended by two parts of a quiet acoustic piece. Many critics did not respond well to the album, finding it “tedious” and “bleak”, although some celebrated it for almost those very reasons. For the cover artwork, a giant inflatable pig was commissioned to float between the chimney towers of London’s Battersea Power Station. However, the wind made the pig balloon difficult to control, and in the end it was necessary to matte a photo of the pig balloon onto the album cover. The pig nevertheless became one of the enduring symbols of Pink Floyd, and inflatable pigs were a staple of the band’s live shows from then on.
1979’s epic rock opera The Wall, conceived by Waters, dealt with the themes of loneliness and failed communication, which were expressed by the metaphor of a wall built between a rock artist and his audience. This album gave Pink Floyd renewed acclaim and another chart-topping single with “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”. The Wall also included the future concert staples “Comfortably Numb” and “Run Like Hell”, with the former in particular becoming a cornerstone of album-oriented rock and classic-rock radio playlists as well as one of the group’s best-known songs. The album was co-produced by Bob Ezrin, a friend of Waters who shared songwriting credits on “The Trial” and from whom the band later temporarily distanced themselves after quarreling with him over several contentious issues. Even more than during the Animals sessions, Waters was asserting his artistic influence and leadership over the band, which prompted increased conflicts with the other members. The music had become distinctly more hard-rock, although the large orchestrations on some tracks recalled an earlier period, and there are a few quieter songs interspersed throughout (such as “Goodbye Blue Sky” and “Nobody Home”). Wright’s influence was completely minimized, and he was fired from the band during recording, only returning on a fixed wage for the live shows in support of the album. Ironically, Wright was the only member of Pink Floyd to make any money from The Wall concerts, the rest covering the extensive cost overruns of their most spectacular concerts yet.
Despite never hitting #1 in the UK (it reached #3), The Wall spent 15 weeks atop the U.S. charts during 1980. Critics praised it, and it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. It is the third-best selling album of all time in the U.S and the best selling album by a single artist to be released during the 1970s. It has been certified 23x platinum by the RIAA, for sales of 11.5 million copies in U.S. alone. The huge commercial success of The Wall made Pink Floyd the only artists since the The Beatles to have the best selling albums of two years (1973 and 1980) in less than a decade.
A film entitled Pink Floyd: The Wall was released in 1982, incorporating essentially all of the music from the album. The film, written by Waters and directed by Alan Parker, starred The Boomtown Rats founder Bob Geldof and featured striking animation by noted British artist and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. It grossed over $14 million at the North American box office. A song which first appeared in the movie, “When the Tigers Broke Free”, was released as a single on a limited basis. This song was finally made widely available on the compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd and the re-release of The Final Cut. Also in the film is the song “What Shall We Do Now?”, which was cut out of the original album due to the time constraints of vinyl records. The only song from the album not used was “Hey You”, but a sequence was filmed using the song and it only exists as raw footage with poor visual quality but very good audio quality. It was released for the first time as a bonus with the extras section of the 1999 DVD release as a deleted scene.
1983 saw the release of The Final Cut, dedicated to Roger Waters’s father, Eric Fletcher Waters. Even darker in tone than The Wall, this album re-examined many previous themes, while also addressing then-current events, including Waters’s anger at Britain’s participation in the Falklands War, the blame for which he laid squarely at the feet of political leaders (“The Fletcher Memorial Home”). It concludes with a cynical and frightening glimpse at the possibility of nuclear war (“Two Suns in the Sunset”). Michael Kamen and Andy Bown contributed keyboard work in lieu of Richard Wright’s departure, which had not been formally announced before the album’s release. Though technically a Pink Floyd album, the LP’s front cover displayed no words, only the back cover reading: “The Final Cut - A requiem for the post war dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd: Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason”. Roger Waters received the sole songwriting credit for the entire record, which became a prototype in sound and form for later Waters solo projects. Waters has since said that he offered to release the record as a solo album, but the rest of the band rejected this idea. However, in his book Inside Out, drummer Nick Mason says that no such discussions ever took place. Gilmour reportedly asked Waters to hold back the release of the album so that he could write enough material to contribute, but this request was refused. The music’s tone is largely similar to The Wall’s but somewhat quieter and softer, resembling songs like “Nobody Home” more than “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”. It is also more repetitive, with certain leitmotifs cropping up continually. Only moderately successful with fans by Floyd’s standards (UK #1, U.S. #6), but reasonably well-received by critics, the album yielded one minor radio hit, “Not Now John”, the only hard rock song on the album (and the only one partially sung by Gilmour). The arguments between Waters and Gilmour at this stage are rumored to be so bad that they were supposedly never seen in the recording studio simultaneously, and Gilmour’s co-producer credit was dropped from the album sleeve (though he received attendant royalties). There was no tour for the album, although parts of it were performed live by Waters on his subsequent solo jaunts.
After The Final Cut was released, the band members went their separate ways and spent time working on individual projects. Gilmour was the first to complete his solo album, releasing About Face in March 1984. Wright joined forces with Dave Harris of Fashion to form Zee, which released the experimental album Identity a month after Gilmour’s project. In May 1984, Waters released The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, a concept album once proposed as a Pink Floyd project. A year after his band mates’ projects, Mason released the album Profiles, a collaboration with Rick Fenn of 10cc which featured guest appearances by Gilmour and UFO keyboardist Danny Peyronel.
Waters announced in December of 1985 that he was departing Pink Floyd, describing the band as “a spent force creatively”, but in 1986 Gilmour and Mason began recording a new Pink Floyd album. At the same time, Roger Waters was working on his second solo album, entitled Radio K.A.O.S.. A bitter legal dispute ensued with Waters claiming that the name “Pink Floyd” should have been put to rest, but Gilmour and Mason upheld their conviction that they had the legal right to continue as “Pink Floyd.” The suit was eventually settled out of court.
After considering and rejecting many other titles, the new album was released as A Momentary Lapse of Reason (UK #3, U.S. #3). Without Waters, who had been the band’s dominant songwriter for over a decade and a half, the band sought the help of outside writers. As Pink Floyd had never done this before (except for the orchestral contributions of Geesin and Ezrin), this move received much criticism. Ezrin, who had by now renewed his friendship with Gilmour, served as co-producer as well as being one of these writers. Rick Wright also returned, at first as a salaried employee during the final recording sessions, and then officially rejoining the band after the subsequent tour.
Gilmour later admitted that Mason had hardly played on the album. Because of Mason and Wright’s limited contributions, some critics say that A Momentary Lapse of Reason should really be regarded as a Gilmour solo effort, in much the same way that The Final Cut might be regarded as a Waters album.
A year later, the band released a double live album and a concert video taken from its 1988 Long Island shows, entitled Delicate Sound of Thunder, and later recorded some instrumentals for a classic-car racing film La Carrera Panamericana, set in Mexico and featuring Gilmour and Mason as participating drivers. During the race Gilmour and manager Steve O’Rourke (acting as his map-reader) crashed. O’Rourke suffered a broken leg, but Gilmour walked away with just some bruises. The instrumentals are notable for including the first Floyd material co-written by Wright since 1975, as well as the only Floyd material co-written by Mason since Dark Side of the Moon.
1992 saw the box set release of Shine On. The 9 disc set included re-releases of the studio albums A Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. A bonus disc entitled The Pink Floyd Early Singles was also included. The set’s packaging featured a case allowing the albums to stand vertically together, with the side-by-side spines displaying an image of the Dark Side of the Moon cover. The circular text of each CD includes the almost illegible words “The Big Bong Theory”.
The band’s next recording was the 1994 release The Division Bell, which was much more of a group effort than Momentary Lapse had been, with Wright now reinstated as a full and contributing band member and figuring prominently in the writing credits. The album was received more favorably by critics and fans alike than Lapse had been, but was still heavily criticized as tired and formulaic. It was the second Pink Floyd album to reach #1 on both the UK and U.S. charts. The Division Bell was another concept album, in some ways representing Gilmour’s take on the same themes Waters had tackled with The Wall. The title was suggested to Gilmour by his friend Douglas Adams. Many of the lyrics were co-written by Polly Samson, Gilmour’s girlfriend at the time, whom he married shortly after the album’s release. Besides Samson, the album featured most of the musicians who had joined the A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, as well as saxophonist Dick Parry, a contributor to the mid-70s Floyd albums. Anthony Moore, who had co-written the lyrics for several songs on the previous album, penned the lyrics for a tune by Wright, “Wearing the Inside Out”, Wright’s first lead vocal on a Pink Floyd record since Dark Side of The Moon. Wright and Moore’s writing collaboration continued on nearly every song on Wright’s subsequent solo album, Broken China.
At the end of the tour in support of The Division Bell in1994, Gilmour stopped planning new music and tours for Pink Floyd, and the band went inactive.
The band released a live album entitled P*U*L*S*E in 1995. It hit #1 in U.S. and featured songs recorded during The Division Bell tour, primarily from concerts in London's Earls Court. The Division Bell concerts featured a mix of classic and modern Pink Floyd. The Pulse album has an entire performance of Dark Side of the Moon. VHS and Laserdisc versions of the concert at London's Earls Court 20 October 1994, were also released. A DVD edition was released on 10 July 2006 and quickly topped the charts. The original edition's CD case had an LED, timer IC, and battery which caused a red flash to blink once per second, like a heartbeat.
In 1995, the band received their first and only Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Marooned".
On 17 January 1996, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by The Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan. Roger Waters did not attend, still being antagonistic towards his former bandmates. At their acceptance speech, Gilmour - referring to the final verse of Dark Side of the Moon - said, "I'll have to grab a couple more of these for our two band members that started playing different tunes; Roger and Syd...". Although Mason was present to accept the award, he did not join Gilmour and Wright (and Billy Corgan) for their acoustic performance of 'Wish You Were Here'.
1996 saw the release of Richard Wright's second solo album, Broken China, where he collaborated again with lyricist Anthony Moore.
A live recording of The Wall was released in 2000, compiled from the 1980–1981 London concerts, entitled Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81. It reached #19 on the American album chart. In 2001, a remastered two-disc set of the band's best-known tracks entitled Echoes was released. Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright all collaborated on the editing, sequencing, and song selection of the included tracks. Minor controversy was caused due to the songs seguing into one another non-chronologically, presenting the material out of the context of the original albums. Some of the tracks, such as "Echoes", "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", "Marooned", and "High Hopes" have had substantial sections removed from them. The album reached #2 on the UK and U.S. charts.
In 2003, an SACD reissue of Dark Side of the Moon was released with new artwork on the front cover. The album was also re-released as an 180 gram, virgin vinyl pressing in 2003, which included all the original album art from the original release of the album, albeit with a new poster. Nick Mason's book, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd was published in 2004 in Europe and 2005 in the U.S. Long-time Pink Floyd manager Steve O'Rourke died on 30 October 2003. Gilmour, Mason and Wright reunited at his funeral and performed "Fat Old Sun" and "The Great Gig in the Sky" in Chichester Cathedral in tribute.
Two years later, on 2 July 2005, the band reunited for a one-off performance at the London Live 8 concert. This time, however, they were joined by Waters — the first time all four band members were on stage together in 24 years. The band performed a four-song set consisting of "Speak To Me/Breathe (Breathe In The Air)", "Money", "Wish You Were Here", and "Comfortably Numb", with both Gilmour and Waters sharing lead vocals. At the end of their performance Gilmour said "thank you very much, good night" and started to walk off the stage. Waters called him back, however, and the band shared a group hug that became one of the most famous images of Live 8.
In the week after Live 8, there was a revival of interest in Pink Floyd. According to record store chain HMV, sales of Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd went up, in the following week, by 1343%, while Amazon.com reported increases in sales of The Wall at 3600%, Wish You Were Here at 2000%, The Dark Side of the Moon at 1400% and Animals at 1000%. David Gilmour subsequently declared that he would donate his share of profits from this sales boom to charity, and urged all the other artists and record companies profiting from Live 8 to do the same. On 16 November 2005 Pink Floyd were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pete Townshend. Gilmour and Mason attended in person, explaining that Wright was in hospital following eye surgery, and Waters appeared on a video screen, from Rome.
David Gilmour released his third solo record, On An Island, on 6 March 2006, and began a tour of small concert venues in Europe, Canada and the U.S. with a band including Richard Wright and other musicians from the post-Waters Pink Floyd tours. Roger Waters was also invited to join the band (along with Nick Mason) in London, but final rehearsals for his 2006 Europe/U.S. tour required him to decline. Nonetheless, Gilmour, Wright, and Mason's encore performances of "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb" marked the first performance by Pink Floyd since Live 8. Waters was joined on stage by Mason for a few performances of Dark Side of the Moon during his 2006 tour. Wright was also invited to join Waters for the first performance, but Wright refused on the grounds that he had to work on his solo album (which remains unreleased). Waters' worldwide The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour consisted of Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety along with a selection of other Pink Floyd material and a small number of songs from Waters' solo career, although no songs from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking or Radio K.A.O.S. were included. Waters is reported to be working on a solo album, and there has been talk of him doing a Broadway musical version of The Wall, with other Pink Floyd music to be inserted.
Many fans expressed hope that the band's Live 8 appearance would lead to a reunion tour, and a record-breaking US$250 million deal for a world tour was offered, but the band made it clear that they had no such plans. In the weeks after the show, however, the rifts between the members seemed to have mostly healed. Gilmour confirmed that he and Waters are on "pretty amicable terms". Waters indicated that he would like to play together again not for a whole tour but for a single event, similar to Live 8.
On 31 January 2006, David Gilmour issued a joint statement on behalf of the group stating that they had no plans to reunite, refuting rumours from several media outlets. Gilmour later stated in an interview with La Repubblica that he is finished with Pink Floyd and wishes to focus on solo projects and his family. He mentions that he agreed to play Live 8 with Waters to support the cause, to make peace with Waters, and knowing he would regret not taking part. However, he states that Pink Floyd would be willing to perform for a concert "that would support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts". Then speaking with Billboard, Gilmour changed his "finished with Pink Floyd" sentiment to "who knows".
2007 saw the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's signing to EMI and the 40th anniversary of the release of their first three singles "Arnold Layne", "See Emily Play" and "Apples and Oranges" and their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This was marked by the release of a limited edition set containing mono and stereo mixes of the albums, plus tracks from the singles and other rare recordings.
On 10 May 2007, Roger Waters performed at the Syd Barrett tribute concert at the Barbican Centre in London. This was then followed by a surprise performance by the post-Waters Pink Floyd line-up of David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason of "Arnold Layne" to a rapturous applause and standing ovation. As it turned out, it would be the final time this configuration of Pink Floyd would ever perform together.
Hopes of a second reunion concert with the band's classic lineup were dashed when Waters did not perform with the group. Roger Waters took to the stage to screams of "Pink Floyd!" to which he responded, "Later." Gilmour, Mason, and Wright took to the stage for what would be the final time to screams of "Roger Waters!" to which Gilmour politely responded, "Yeah, he was here too, now the rest of us."
In a January 2007 interview, Waters suggested he had become more open to a Pink Floyd reunion: “I would have no problem if the rest of them wanted to get together. It wouldn’t even have to be to save the world. It could be just because it would be fun. And people would love it.”
On 25 September 2007, Gilmour stated that a future reunion of Pink Floyd in any form, be it with or without Roger Waters, looked grim, stating that "I can’t see why I would want to be going back to that old thing. It’s very retrogressive. I want to look forward, and looking back isn’t my joy."
In December 2007, Pink Floyd released a new CD box set, Oh, By the Way, containing all fourteen studio albums with their newest respective CD remasters, original vinyl artwork plus new artwork from Storm Thorgerson. Mason and Waters had said that they would be happy to do a Pink Floyd tour, but during the BBC1 Special, "Which One's Pink?," when asked about whether the band would reform, Gilmour ambiguously stated either "Ain't gonna happen" or "Anything could happen". Which of these two phrases were said is debatable. During the same documentary, Wright stated that he "wouldn't mind playing the Pink Floyd 'music' again," but said nothing solid about reuniting with the actual members.
In a May 2008 interview for BBC 6Music, David Gilmour hinted that he would be in favour of another one-off show, but ruled out a full tour: "Who knows? Who knows the future? I haven't absolutely said 'no' to the possibility but I think that in reality any sort of long-term thing together is not going to happen. We did the one-off thing and that was probably enough for me but we shall see. At my incredibly advantaged age –having achieved this– I've earned the right to sit on my ass for a little while and consider what to do next." In 2008, Pink Floyd were awarded the Polar Music Prize for their contribution to contemporary music. Roger Waters and Nick Mason were present at the ceremony, where they received the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
Speaking to Associated Press to promote the release of his new live album, David Gilmour revealed that a reunion "categorically" won't happen. Gilmour said: "The [Live 8] rehearsals were less enjoyable. The rehearsals convinced me it wasn't something I wanted to be doing a lot of. There have been all sorts of farewell moments in people's lives and careers which they have then rescinded, but I think I can fairly categorically say that there won't be a tour or an album again that I take part in. It isn't to do with animosity or anything like that. It's just that I've done that. I've been there, I've done it."
On 15 September 2008, Richard Wright died at age 65. He was lauded by his surviving bandmates, Gilmour in particular, for his influence on the overall sound of Pink Floyd.
In April 2009, it was revealed that the band had initiated legal action against EMI, their label for over four decades, for allegedly failing to pay royalties. The dispute is reportedly connected to an ongoing disagreement with Terra Firma Capital Partners, the private equity firm who took ownership of EMI in 2007.
On 10 July 2010, Roger Waters and David Gilmour performed together at a charity event for the Hoping Foundation. The event took place at Kidlington in Oxfordshire, England. The pair played to an audience of approximately 200. The event raised money for Palestinian children in order to give them a better life. Gilmour played this event in 2009, when he performed alongside Kate Moss. In return for Waters' appearance at the event, Gilmour has agreed to perform "Comfortably Numb" at one of Waters' upcoming performances of The Wall.
On 12 October 2010, Gilmour released Metallic Spheres, a collaboration with techno group The Orb
In 2011, Roger Waters embarked on a tour of "The Wall". He confirmed that David Gilmour would perform guitar and vocals on "Comfortably Numb" at one of the performances. Gilmour appeared at the 12 May 2011 concert at the O2 Arena in London. Gilmour and Nick Mason joined Waters at the end of the show for a performance of "Outside the Wall"
On 26 September 2011, Pink Floyd and EMI launched an exhaustive re-release campaign under the title Why Pink Floyd...?, reissuing the band's back catalogue in newly remastered versions, including special "Immersion" multi-disc multi-format editions. All the albums have been remastered by James Guthrie, the co-producer of The Wall.
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