Pink Floyd are one of the most successful and influential rock groups in history. In the 1960s, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright met and started playing music while studying at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic. They became a foursome with the addition of Syd Barrett, a friend of Roger Waters’ from Cambridge, who suggested the name Pink Floyd, derived from US bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
Throughout 1966 Pink Floyd became the pre-eminent ‘underground’ band, signing to EMI Records in 1967. Their first two singles Arnold Layne and See Emily Play hit the charts and their debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is considered to be one of the greatest British psychedelic albums. It entered the UK Top Ten, as did every subsequent Pink Floyd studio album.
Syd Barrett had composed the bulk of the band’s recorded material, but his behavior became more erratic to the point that the band decided to add a second guitarist and singer for live performances: David Gilmour, another Cambridge friend. The 5-man Floyd experiment didn’t really work and Syd and Floyd parted company in 1968, although Syd recorded two highly influential solo albums, assisted by Floyd members, before his retirement from the music world.
Pink Floyd developed a new musical style, based around the members’ compositional and improvisational talents, building a large audience via many live tours, and releasing a succession of hit albums: A Saucerful Of Secrets, the film soundtrack More, Ummagumma, their first UK No. 1 album Atom Heart Mother, and Meddle, containing the epic ‘Echoes’.
In tandem, the band expanded on their early pioneering light shows to become the first rock act with theatrical stage presentations, culminating in their ground-breaking visual concepts on later world tours.
Massively successful, The Dark Side Of The Moon was a watershed moment, the band’s first US No. 1 and one of the biggest-selling albums ever. Equally popular was Wish You Were Here including the largely instrumental song suite Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a tribute to Syd Barrett.
Roger Waters had become the band’s lyricist and, in the process of defining the conceptual links binding the songs on The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here, developed his vision of the thematic album. Thus Animals, The Wall and, following Richard Wright’s departure, The Final Cut were all driven by a central Waters theme. The Wall, another huge worldwide seller, contained the UK & US No. 1 single Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, and the anthemic Comfortably Numb.
In December 1985 Roger Waters left Pink Floyd, leaving David Gilmour to lead the band, with Nick Mason and a returned Richard Wright, to continuing success with the studio albums A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and The Division Bell, accompanied by world tours. Pink Floyd received their first and only Grammy Award for The Division Bell’s Marooned (Best Rock Instrumental Performance).
Since leaving the band, Roger Waters has released 3 successful solo albums, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, Radio Kaos and Amused To Death and a critically acclaimed opera entitled Ça Ira based on the French Revolution. He has just completed a World tour of 120 dates playing The Dark Side Of The Moon live to over 2 million people.
On July 2nd 2005, Roger Waters rejoined David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright for the first time in 24 years in a one-off performance at the London Live 8 concert, for a short set which became one of the day’s most famous images.
Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett died of pancreatic cancer in 2006, but the band which he co-founded remains as popular as ever, their combined legacy continuing to move and inspire new generations of admirers.