Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was an English rock band that released twelve studio albums and two soundtracks between 1967 and 1994.

They emerged in the psychedelic era with the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a showcase for the writing, singing, and guitar talents of original frontman Syd Barrett. His replacement, David Gilmour, headed the 1968–71 albums A Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, and Meddle, which charted their evolution from pop-psych to experimental space rock.

Starting with their 1973 global breakthrough The Dark Side of the Moon, their albums took on social–psychological themes conceived by bassist–lyricist Roger Waters, the guiding force behind Floyd’s 1975–79 mega-sellers Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall. The latter, a four-sided rock opera, was the subject of an elaborate tour and a film adaptation.

After their 1983 release The Final Cut, Waters left for a solo career. Gilmour, along with keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason, resurrected Floyd for the 1987 release A Momentary Lapse of Reason. In 1994, they reconvened for The Division Bell, their final proper studio album.

Members: Nick Mason (drums, percussion, tapes, vocals), Roger Waters (bass, guitar, gong, trumpet, synthesizer, tapes, vocals, 1963-85), Richard Wright (keyboards, organ, synthesizer, piano, celeste, penny whistle, drums, Mellotron, tapes, vocals, guitar, 1963-79, 1987-2008), Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar, tapes, 1964-68), David Gilmour (guitar, bass, piano, drums, organ, Mellotron, synthesizer, keyboards, tapes, vocals, 1967-2015)


The roots of Pink Floyd trace to Sigma 6, an R&B/beat sextet co-founded in 1963 by London Polytechnic architecture students Roger Waters and Nick Mason, who were soon joined by fellow pupil Richard Wright. (Two early members, Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe, formed a songwriting partnership that yielded “A Summer Song,” a 1964 US #7 for pop duo Chad & Jeremy.) A series of lineup changes over the next year paired the band down to Waters (bass), Mason (drums), Wright (keyboards), Bob Klose (guitar), and Water’s childhood friend Syd Barrett (vocals/guitar). This lineup performed as The Screaming Abdabs before temporarily identifying as The Tea Set.

In December 1964, they demoed six songs: the Slim Harpo cover “I’m a King Bee,” Water’s “Walk with Me Sydney” (with vocals by Juliette Gale, Wright’s first wife), and the Barrett originals “Lucy Leave,” “Double O Bo,” “Remember Me,” and “Butterfly.” (These recordings were issued a half-century later on the archival Pink Floyd release 1965: Their First Recordings.) It was shortly after these sessions that Klose, under pressure from family and tutors, exited the band.

During 1965, The Tea Set became the resident act at the Countdown Club near Kensington High Street, where they played three 90-minute sets each date. To avoid song repetition, they elongated the instrumental passages on select numbers, thus developing a looser style that sometimes verged on free-form. Upon learning of another act with the Tea Set moniker, Barrett conceived the name Pink Floyd Sound as an ode to his two favorite bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

In 1966, Pink Floyd signed on with Blackhill Enterprises, run by business partners Peter Jenner and Andrew King, who purchased the band a more advanced arsenal of equipment. At Jenner’s suggestion, the nameplate was shortened to Pink Floyd.

Despite resistance to their sound in certain quarters, Pink Floyd developed a following in clubs like the Marquee on Oxford Street. That December, they played the opening nights of the UFO Club, which became the epicenter of London’s burgeoning psychedelic rock scene. Floyd co-headlined the first two Fridays with another new act, the Soft Machine.

On January 5, 1967, Pink Floyd played London’s prestigious Marquee club with Welsh soul-rockers Eyes of Blue. That month, EMI signed Floyd for a then-astronomical advance of £5,000.

1967: “Arnold Layne”, “See Emily Play”

Pink Floyd released their debut single, “Arnold Layne” (b/w “Candy and a Currant Bun”), on March 10, 1967, on EMI’s Columbia imprint. The two sides, both Barrett originals, were recorded on 1/29/67 at Sound Techniques and produced by UFO Club manager Joe Boyd. He also recorded an early, lengthy version of their psychedelic jam “Interstellar Overdrive” (16:49), fragments of which appear on the 1968 soundtrack to the docu-film Tonite Lets All Make Love in London.

“Arnold” is based on a real-life subject who stole women’s undergarments from a neighborhood washing line. In live settings, the song often ran 10-15 minutes. The studio version (2:57) reached No. 20 on the UK Singles Chart despite a ban from Radio London. Floyd accompanied the song with an early music video that shows them dressing and dismembering a mannequin on the beach of East Wittering.

“Candy and a Currant Bun” was originally performed as “Let’s Roll Another One” with the deleted line “I’m high – Don’t try to spoil my fun.”

On June 16, Pink Floyd issued their second single, “See Emily Play,” backed with “Scarecrow.” The two Barrett numbers were produced by Norman Smith, a veteran Beatles engineer recently promoted to the producer’s chair by EMI. Wright’s arsenal on this recording includes Farfisa organ, tack piano, and Baldwin electric harpsichord.

“Emily” originated as “Games for May,” written for a namesake concert that occurred on May 12, 1967, at London’s recently opened Queen Elizabeth Hall, where Floyd made early live usage of quadraphonic sound technology with the Azimuth Co-ordinator.

“Scarecrow” — inspired by Barrett’s self-comparisons to the existence of a scarecrow — features extreme right–left channel panning and a folksy cello-laden mid-section. 

“See Emily Play” reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. Stateside, both singles appeared on Tower Records, a subsidiary of Capitol. Both a-sides appear on Direct From England – Vol. 1, a 1967 Spanish Odeon comp with tracks by The Action, The Dave Clark Five, and ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones.

On July 29, Pink Floyd played the Love-In Festival at London’s Alexandra Palace with The Animals, Brian Auger and the Trinity (with Julie Driscoll), The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Blossom Toes, The Creation, and Tomorrow.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Pink Floyd released their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, on August 5, 1967, on EMI Columbia. It contains eleven songs, eight of them written and sung by Barrett, including the short pop-psych numbers “Lucifer Sam,”  “Flaming,” “The Gnome,” “Chapter 24,” “Bike” and the pre-released b-side “Scarecrow” (titled “The Scarecrow”). He shares vocals with Wright on “Matilda Mother” and the opening track, “Astronomy Dominé.”

Piper also contains two group-written instrumentals: “Pow R. Toc H.” and a shorter re-recording of “Interstellar Overdrive” (9:41). Waters sings the side-one closer “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk,” his first writing credit.

Sessions took place during Feb.–May 1967 at EMI Studios, London, with Norman Smith, who would also produce Floyd’s next two albums. He plays the drum roll on “Interstellar Overdrive.” Months later, he produced “Defecting Grey,” the psychedelic reinvention single by The Pretty Things.

The engineer on Piper, studio newcomer Peter Bown, subsequently worked with fellow UFO psychsters Tomorrow on their 1968 self-titled album. Confusingly, he also worked with the Battered Ornaments and Piblokto!, both fronted by singer–lyricist Pete Brown.

Credits on the original back cover list only basic instrumentation but later issues reveal that Waters plays slide whistle (“Flaming”) and gong (“Chapter 24”). In addition to Farfisa and piano, Wright’s arsenal includes Hammond organ (“Matilda Mother”), harmonium and Hohner Pianet (“Chapter 24”), vibraphone (“The Gnome”), and celesta and violin (“Bike”).

Piper sports a kaleidoscopic cover shot of Pink Floyd by society photographer Vic Singh, who photographed the group through a prism lens given to him by Beatles guitarist George Harrison. 

The title The Piper at the Gates of Dawn originates from Chapter 7 of The Wind in the Willows, the 1908 children’s novel by British fiction writer Kenneth Grahame. It refers to the character of Pan, the god of nature who plays pan pipes at dawn. The novel also inspired a namesake American folk-psych band fronted by future Blondie star Debbie Harry.

Piper reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 131 on the US Billboard 200. EMI lifted no singles from the album but Tower (US) paired “Flaming” and “The Gnome” on 7″.

“Apples and Oranges”, Syd’s Decline

Two days after Piper hit shelves, Pink Floyd reentered the studio to cut two new numbers: Waters’ lengthy “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and Barrett’s “Scream Thy Last Scream.” The latter was intended as their third UK a-side but EMI vetoed the idea. In early October, they cut another prospected third single, Barrett’s “Vegetable Man.” This too got vaulted. (“Scream Thy Last Scream” and “Vegetable Man” remained unreleased until the 2016 Floyd box set The Early Years 1965-1972).

In late October, Pink Floyd cut the Barrett originals “Jugband Blues,” “Apples and Oranges,” and “Paint Box.” The last two formed their third UK single, released on November 17, 1967. The French pressings came in a “flirting fruit” picture sleeve by cartoon illustrator Jean-Claude Trambouze, whose signature style also appears on the French sleeve of “Happy Together” by The Turtles.

The single’s release coincided with Pink Floyd’s first tour of US, which started with a November 3–4 engagement at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom with Big Brother & The Holding Company. As the tour advanced, Barrett grew increasingly withdrawn from the band and unpredictable on stage. During their 11/6/67 segment on NBC’s The Pat Boone Show, Barrett refused to lip sync as Floyd mimed to “The Gnome” and “Chapter 24.”

After a Nov. 9–11 string of Bay Area dates with Procol Harum, Pink Floyd returned home for a package tour with The Move, The Nice, Eire Apparent, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. On certain dates, Barrett either wandered mid-performance or failed to appear on stage. For their 11/18 show at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, Nice guitarist Davy O’List deputized Syd.

The tour wrapped at the Kensington Olympia with the All Night Christmas Dream Party, a December 22 event with the package act plus Soft Machine, the Graham Bond Organization, Paper Blitz Tissue, and Traffic, who appeared in lieu The Who, a slated co-headliner. By this point, Barrett’s abuse of hallucinogens had exacerbated his un-diagnosed mental health issues. He spent Floyd’s set with his arms hanging limp behind his guitar.

1968: David Gilmour Joins, “It Would Be So Nice”

In January, Pink Floyd hired singer-guitarist David Gilmour as a fifth member. Earlier that decade, Gilmour was a classmate and friend of Barrett’s at Cambridge Tech. Recently, Gilmour fronted Joker’s Wild, a beat-covers quartet that issued a 1965 test-press of the Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers classic “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” on Regent Sound Ltd.

For a time, Floyd and their management intended to have Gilmour compensate for Barrett’s meanderings. When this proved untenable, they tried to relegate Syd to non-performing composer status (ala Brian Wilson). His last submission to the band, “Have You Got It Yet?,” was never recorded because he kept changing its arrangement as the band rehearsed the piece. As he grew more distant, unresponsive, and catatonic, Floyd and their management agreed to drop him from the lineup.

Barrett’s last show with Floyd was on January 20, 1968, at the Hastings Pier Ballroom. His termination was kept under wraps until April 6, the day Pink Floyd parted with Blackhill, which retained Barrett as a solo artist.

Meanwhile, Floyd recorded their first post-Barrett single: Wright’s “It Would Be So Nice,” backed with Waters’ “Julia Dream.” Wright plays Mellotron and recorder on this recording. The a-side has two versions: the first mentions the London newspaper Evening Standard, a verboten reference on the BBC. It features Wright on double-tracked lead vocals. Gilmour’s voice is double-tracked on “Julia Dream,” his first lead vocal with Floyd.

In May 1968, Pink Floyd played the Primo Festival Internazionale in Europa di Musica Pop at the Palazzo Dello Sport in Rome. The shambolic four-day event featured sets by The Byrds, Captain Beefheart, Donovan, Fairport Convention, Family, Grapefruit, Samurai, and Ten Years After. Floyd played on the third day (May 6) with The Association, The Nice, The Move, and the Italian band I Giganti. Floyd’s setlist consisted of five jams: “Astronomy Dominé,” “Interstellar Overdrive,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Pow R Toc H,” and “Remember a Day.”

Around this time, Floyd recorded 15 minutes of soundtrack music for The Committee, a 1968 British indie film noir starring Paul Jones and Arthur Brown. (The music, divided onto eight parts, would only appear on bootlegs until its 2016 inclusion on The Early Years 1965–1972.)

A Saucerful of Secrets

Pink Floyd released their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, on June 29, 1968, on EMI Columbia. It features “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and three songs recorded at Abbey Road Studios during January 1968: Wright’s “See-Saw” and the spacey Waters numbers “Let There Be More Light” and “Corporal Clegg,” the latter co-sung by Gilmour, Mason, and Wright.

The oldest track, Wright’s “Remember the Day,” is an outtake from Piper with slide guitar by Barrett, whose “Jugband Blues” closes the album with brass by the Salvation Army Band. They used the August ’67 version of “Set the Controls” with guitar parts later overdubbed by Gilmour, making this their only recording with all five members.

Side two is dominated by the lengthy title track (11:57), a group-written instrumental comprised of four parts: “Something Else,” “Syncopated Pandemonium,” “Storm Signal,” and “Celestial Voices.” The suite was originally titled “The Massed Gadgets of Hercules” and conceived as the musical equivalent of architecture. It features Wright on Farfisa and Hammond organs, plus Mellotron, piano, and vibraphone. Floyd wrote “A Saucerful of Secrets” to fill album space cleared by the exclusion of “Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream,” both deemed passé in the band’s swiftly evolving paradigm.

Smith produced A Saucerful of Secrets at Abbey Road and De Lane between May 1967 and May 1968. The cover shows a melange of leaves, constellations, planets, clouds, waves, lava, and a fish-eye view of the band inside an orb. Along the top, three random letters from the nameplate (y, d, p) flank the name “pinkfloyd” (lower case, no space) in white serif font.

The back cover features close-up b&w pics of each member overlaid with reflections of far shots in the countryside. This was their first cover designed by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis, an upstart psychedelic design firm that launched in 1968 with covers for The Gods, Love Sculpture, and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.

A Saucerful of Secrets reached No. 9 on the UK Albums Chart. Tower (US) and Odeon (Japan) paired “Let There Be More Light” and “Remember a Day” as a single from the album.

“Set the Controls” appears on Heavy – This Is the British Scene, a 1968 Japanese Odeon comp with tracks by the Jeff Beck Group, the Yardbirds, and The Pretty Things (“Private Sorrow,” from their rock opera S.F. Sorrow). “Jugband Blues” appears on the ’68 Toshiba comp New Rock Special with cuts by the Groundhogs, Steppenwolf, and the Steve Miller Band.

“Point Me at the Sky” / “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”

On November 4, 1968, Pink Floyd reentered Abbey Road Studios and cut two new songs: the Gilmour–Waters number “Point Me at the Sky” and the group-written “Careful with That Axe, Eugene.” These formed the band’s fifth UK single, released on December 17. This would be their last non-album single until 1982.

“Point Me at the Sky” has an accompanying promo clip with the band in flight outfits and goggles with two vintage biplanes. The song made few compilations and remained largely unavailable until the 2016 box set. “Careful with That Axe” became an enduring concert staple, popularized by its live version on Pink Floyd’s fourth album.

1969: More

On June 13, 1969, Pink Floyd released More, a soundtrack to the namesake English-language romantic drama by Swiss director Barbet Schroeder. This was the first of two soundtracks recorded by the band and their first album with no involvement from Syd Barrett.

Side one consists mostly of cuts by Waters, including “Crying Song” and the folk ballad “Green is the Colour,” which features Lindy Mason (Nick’s wife) on tin whistle. Mason and Wright co-wrote “Up the Khyber,” a jazzy jam with echoey piano fills, ringing organ, and misty, windy drumming. The group-written rocker “Ibiza Bar” graces side two, which is bookended by the movie’s “Main Theme” and “Dramatic Theme.”

Pink Floyd assembled the largely improvised material over a two-week period. They timed each number to corresponding scenes with a stopwatch. No overdubbing was used in the process. Sessions took place at Pye Studios during January–February 1969. Floyd self-produced More with engineer Brian Humphries, who also worked on 1968/69 albums by The Kinks (Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur), Man (2 Ozs of Plastic With a Hole in the Middle), Nirvana (All of Us), and Traffic (Traffic).

More sports cover art by Hipgnosis. It shows a saturated screencap from a scene in the movie where the two main characters play at a windmill on Ibiza. The soundtrack reached No. 9 in the UK Albums Chart.

The Man and The Journey tour

Pink Floyd gigged steadily during the first quarter of 1969, playing shows with the Third Ear Band (2/24/9: Dome, Brighton) and Van Der Graaf Generator (3/8/69: Reading University). That spring, they launched The Man and The Journey, a UK tour with stops in Birmingham (4/27/69: Mother’s) and Manchester (5/2/69: College of Commerce). The centerpiece of these shows was “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” typically performed at extended lengths with Wright on echo-enhanced Farfisa. The Commerce show was a multi-act event with sets by Roy Harper, Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre, and the Edgar Broughton Band.

Notable May events included the Camden Fringe Festival (5/9: with the Pretty Things, Harper, Battered Ornaments, and Jody Grind) and the Nottingham Pop & Blues Festival (5/10: with Fleetwood Mac, Marmalade, Love Sculpture, The Move, Keef Hartley Band, Status Quo, and VDGG). On May 25, Floyd played a benefit concert at London’s Roundhouse on behalf of Fairport Convention, who lost their drummer in a roadside accident.

On August 8, Floyd co-headlined (with Soft Machine) the opening day of the 9th National Jazz & Blues Festival at the Plumpton Racecourse in Sussex. The three-day event featured sets by Blodwyn Pig, Chicken Shack, Circus, East of Eden, Eclection, Fat Mattress, Hard Meat, Idle Race, Keith Tippett, King Crimson, Magna Carta, Pentangle, Steamhammer, Wallace Collection, and Yes.

On October 11, Floyd played the penultimate set at the Internationales Essener Pop and Blues Festival at Gruga Halle in Essen, Germany. This three-day event featured several acts from the Sussex event, plus sets by Deep Purple, Ekseption, Free, Hardin & York, Spencer Davis Group, Spooky Tooth, Taste, Warm Dust, and the German bands Amon Duul II, Fashion Pink, Tangerine Dream, and Xhol Caravan.

EMI moved Floyd to Harvest, the label’s underground imprint launched in early 1969 with the debut single by the namesake post-psych act Barclay James Harvest.


Pink Floyd released the double-album Ummagumma on November 7, 1969, on Harvest. The first record consists of live material from the April–May Birmingham and Manchester shows. It features extended versions of four concert staples: “Astronomy Domine” (8:32), “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” (8:49), “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (9:27),  and “A Saucerful of Secrets” (12:48).

The second record is their fourth studio album (third if discounting the More soundtrack). For this, each member composed and self-performed a solo composition that consumes half a side.

Wright’s “Sysyphus – (Parts 1–4)” (13:28) is an instrumental suite with an icy Mellotron theme (part 1); an echoey piano etude (part 2); a percussive sound collage with wails and piano strings (part 3); and a slower, extended recap of the opening theme (part 4).

Waters submitted “Grantchester Meadows,” a quiet ballad of acoustic guitar and bird sounds; and “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict,” an experiment in vocal overdubs.

Gilmour’s “The Narrow Way – (Parts 1–3)” (12:17) has a folksy, mid-tempo passage with crisp, double-tracked acoustic guitar and tingling slide (part 1); a spacey, smoldering sequence of electric riffing, percussion, and electronic sounds (part 2); and a slow, lengthy vocal section with dreamy vocals and “spine tingling” sounds over a rhythmless verse and accented chorus.

Mason’s “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party” (8:46) is a three-part instrumental suite with a woodwind theme (Entrance); a spacious, echoey, percussive sound collage (Entertainment); and a reprise of the opening theme (Exit). Lindy plays flute on this piece.

Smith produced the studio half of Ummagumma with engineer Peter Mew, a tech hand on albums by assorted Floyd concert mates (Pretty Things, Third Ear Band, Edgar Broughton), plus the first two solo albums by Kevin Ayers and the two 1970 albums by Toe Fat. Floyd self-produced the live sides with engineer Humphries.

Hipgnosis designed the Ummagumma gatefold cover, which shows a Droste effect image of Pink Floyd hanging loose near the entrance of a farmhouse. Gilmour sits in the doorway near a copy of the soundtrack to Gigi, a 1958 romantic comedy starring Leslie Caron. On the back cover, their instruments are aligned in perfect symmetry, overseen by two roadies along a taxiway at the London Biggin Hill Airport. The inner-gates show b&w panels of Gilmour (left, before an elfin wood formation); Waters and his first wife Judith Trim (center); and a now-bearded Wright (right). Mason is seen along the bottom in two rows of film stock, six frames each. The album’s title is a Cambridge slang term for sex.

Ummagumma reached No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 74 on the US Billboard 200.

1970: Live Dates, Zabriskie Point

Pink Floyd played their first show of 1970 on January 10 at the University of Nottingham Ballroom, Beeston. Notable winter shows include a Jan. 23–24 engagement at the Theater Comedie des Champs Elysees, Paris, for a French radio broadcast; and a Feb. 5 show at Sophia Gardens in Wales as part of a benefit show for the Cardiff Art Center.

On March 7, Floyd played the University of Bristol Arts Festival at Colston Hall, UoB. On the 30th, they appeared at the Hall des Expositions in Bourget, France as part of the Music Evolution 70 Festival, which also featured sets by Hawkwind, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Moving Gelatine Plates, Renaissance, and Skin Alley.

That month, Pink Floyd appeared on the soundtrack to the American drama Zabriskie Point with two new group-written numbers — the instrumental “Heart Beat, Pig Meat” and the country ditty “Crumbling Land” — and a re-recording of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” titled “Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up” (5:01). Three additional Floyd tracks (“Unknown Song,” “Love Scene (Version 6),” and “Love Scene (Version 4)”) were used in the film but not included on the soundtrack until its 1997 CD reissue. They recorded two further songs for the project (“Fingal’s Cave,” “Oenone”) that went unused. (Another recording from around this time, “The Violent Sequence,” would form the basis of “Us and Them.”)

“Embryo,” an unreleased Waters composition from Floyd’s November 1968 sessions, appears on the 1970 Harvest comp Picnic – A Breath of Fresh Air, a two-album set with cuts by Bakerloo, BJH, Deep Purple (“Into the Fire”), Forest, The Greatest Show On Earth (“Again and Again”), Michael Chapman, Quatermass, Tea and Symphony, and Pete Brown & Piblokto! (“Golden Country Kingdom”).

Picnic also includes “Terrapin” by Syd Barrett from his first of two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs, a January 1970 Harvest release co-produced by Waters and Gilmour, who plays bass and 12-string acoustic guitar on the album (plus drums on the track “Octopus”). Syd’s second solo album, Barrett, was recorded during the first half of 1970 and released that November with instrumental backing by Gilmour and Wright, who co-produced the set.

On April 9, 1970, Pink Floyd launched a US tour at the Fillmore East in NYC. The tour included stops in Boston (4/12: Boston Tea Party), Detroit (4/24–25: Eastown Theater), and San Francisco (4/29–30: Fillmore West, taped by KQED TV for “The 10 O’clock Mix”), but was cut short after their equipment was stolen during a May 15–16 stop at the Warehouse in New Orleans.

That summer, Pink Floyd played the June 27–29 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music at the Royal Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, England. The weekend event featured sets by Colosseum, The Flock, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Genesis, It’s a Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Peter Green, Pink Fairies, Santana, Steppenwolf, and Yes (with new guitarist Steve Howe). Floyd’s set commenced at 3:00am with a brass band and 12 strong choir. They performed a new extended piece, “The Amazing Pudding,” the root of their “Atom Heart Mother” suite.

Meanwhile, EMI Columbia issued The Best of Pink Floyd, which features the a- and b-sides of the band’s first four singles plus two Piper tracks: “Matilda Mother” and “Chapter 24.” The compilation originally appeared in the UK, Denmark, and Netherlands with a cover shot taken immediately post-Barrett. In 1973/74, the comp appeared in other markets (Germany, France, Italy) as Masters of Rock with a wood-etched cover image. For decades, this was the only complete resource for pre-Saucerful non-album material.

Atom Heart Mother

Pink Floyd released their fifth studio album, Atom Heart Mother, on October 2, 1970, on Harvest. Side one consists of the title suite (23:44), a six-part instrumental co-written between the band and Scottish avant-garde musician and composer Ron Geesin. It features brass, cello, and a 16-piece choir arranged by conductor John Alldis.

Side two contains three solo compositions: Waters’ “If,” a quiet acoustic ballad with light accompaniment and remote electric leads; Wright’s “Summer ’68,” a piano ballad with a swelling, brassy chorus; and Gilmour’s “Fat Old Sun,” a simple, acoustic folk ballad with a lyrical guitar coda. The album closes with another suite, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” (13:00), a three-part instrumental credited to the group but primarily conceived by Waters.

Pink Floyd self-produced Atom Heart Mother with engineers Bown and Alan Parsons, an assistant tech on the final two Beatles albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be. Smith, in his final credit on a Floyd album, is listed as “executive producer” despite having no hands-on involvement. He’s also credited on 1970 Harvest releases by BJH, the Pretty Things (Parachute), and Tamla (Motown) live albums by Stevie Wonder and The Temptations, both recorded at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub.

Atom Heart Mother sports a Hipgnosis cover image of a Holstein-Friesian cow named Lulubelle III, photographed by Thorgerson at a dairy farm in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The back cover features a closeup of three other cows lined side-by-side. The inner-gates show a b&w broad shot of the pasture. This marked the start of a ’70s-era Floyd trend where the band name, album title, and credits are absent from the cover. The title itself came from an Evening Standard article about a woman being fitted with a nuclear-powered pacemaker. Its headline read “ATOM HEART MOTHER NAMED.”

Atom Heart Mother reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 55 on the US Billboard 200. It reached the top 10 in most European markets and the lower top 40 in Australia and Canada.

Waters collaborated further with Geesin on the 1970 Harvest release Music From the Body, a soundtrack to the British scientific documentary film The Body, narrated by Frank Finlay and Vanessa Redgrave. Waters, who narrates one scene in the film, wrote/co-wrote eight of the 22 numbers, including one (“Give Birth to a Smile”) recorded with the rest of Floyd.

1971: Live Events, Relics

Pink Floyd played their first show of 1971 with a January 17 event dubbed “The Implosion” at the Roundhouse. On May 15, they played the Garden Party at London’s Crystal Palace Bowl, supported by Faces, Mountain, and Quiver.

As a stop-gap to their next album, EMI–Starline released Relics, a compilation that includes Floyd’s first two non-album a-sides, their first three b-sides, plus two tracks apiece from Piper (“Interstellar Overdrive,” “Bike”), More (“Cirrus Minor,” “The Nile Song”), and one from Saucerful (“Remember a Day”). It also includes a previously unreleased 1969 Waters piece, “Biding My Time,” that originated in their live suite The Man and The Journey, also the source of material used on More and Ummagumma.

Original copies of Relics feature a sketch drawing by Mason of a hybrid pan pipe that was later constructed by a modelmaker and photographed for a 1996 CD reissue of the comp.

Outside the band, Mason produced The Asmoto Running Band, the second album by Principal Edwards Magic Theatre. It was engineered by Robin Sylvester (Ora, Byzantium) and released on John Peel’s Dandelion Records label.

On July 1, 1971, Pink Floyd played the Internationale Musikforum Ossiachersee in Carinthia, Austria, where they performed “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” the “Atom Heart Mother” suite (28:56) and the near-equal length “Return of the Son of Nothing” (26:00), a piece they developed over recent months in the studio.

That August, Floyd played their first Japanese concerts in Kanagawa (8/6–7/71 Seikei Gakuen Jofudai) and Osaka (8/9/71: Festival Hall). Sessions wrapped that month on their upcoming album at AIR, Abbey Road, and Morgan Studios. On October 4–7, they appeared at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy, for an exclusive round of sets before the crew of director Adrian Maben.


Pink Floyd released their sixth studio album, Meddle, on October 30, 1971, on Harvest. It opens with “One of These Days,” a psychedelic space-rock instrumental co-composed by all four members. It features double-tracked bass guitars filtered through a Binson Echorec unit amid a Hammond and Leslied piano.

Gilmour sings the next two numbers: “A Pillow of Winds,” an airy country ballad with finger-picked acoustic guitar and slide; and “Fearless,” a laid-back rustic rocker with an ascending third (B-C-D-E-F#-G) over G major. Waters, who co-wrote both numbers, contributed “San Tropez,” a jazzy music hall number with a swaying key alteration (Gmaj7-G7 minor), light boogie-woogie piano and a Hawaiian guitar break.

The group-credited side closer, “Seamus,” is a sparse country ditty with bottleneck slide and a namesake barking dog (identified as a Border Collie belonging to Humble Pie frontman Steve Marriott, who Gilmour was dog-sitting for at the time of recording).

Side two consists of “Echoes” (23:31), the extended piece first performed as “Return of the Son of Nothing.” It beings with a sequence of echoey piano “pings,” followed by a slow song-proper with languid vocals, cloudy organ, and light, bendy guitar lines. Seven minutes in, the song enters a closed-cadence jam in D minor with sheer, echoey leads, anchored by a Hammond-overlaid bass ostinato. After four minutes, the jam fades to a foggy, rhythmless sonic haze with distant echoes and animal cries. By the 15-minute mark, everything succumbs to quiet organ sustain (in B), subtly flanked with “pings.” A rhythmic track slowly re-enters, heralding a recap of the song proper.

“Echoes” is a group-credited piece primarily composed by Wright with lyrics by Waters, whose words explore themes of urban communication. The piece emerged from a set of musical experiments under the working title “The Son of Nothing,” then premiered live in embryonic form in April 1971 with the “Return of” prefix.

Pink Floyd self-produced Meddle with engineers Bown and John Leckie (AIR and EMI) and Rob Black (Morgan). Leckie started as an Abbey tape op the prior year with credits on albums by the Plastic Ono Band and Roy Harper (Stormcock). Black engineered 1970/71 albums by Edwards Hand, Egg (The Polite Force), Gerry Rafferty (Can I Have My Money Back?), Jethro Tull (Benefit), Red Dirt, Stone the Crows, Supertramp (self titled), and T2 (It’ll All Work Out in Boomland).

Thorgerson photographed the Meddle cover: an ear obscured underwater with rippling waves that represent the sonic echoes of the music. UK pressings have a luminous turquoise tint. US pressings show the color-scheme reversed and faded (sky blue) with the band name and title in thin white font. The inner-fold shows a side-by-side b&w medium shot of the group.

Harvest paired “One of These Days” and “Fearless” onto 7″. “Echoes” is used during the final 23-minutes of Crystal Voyage, a 1973 surf film by Australian director David Elfick and starring California surfer George Greenough. (Kiwi songwriter G. Wayne Thomas did the official soundtrack.)

Meddle reached No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 70 on the US Billboard 200. Pink Floyd promoted the album with an October–November North American tour, which started in San Francisco (10/15/71: Winterland) and wrapped in Cincinnati (11/20/71: Taft Auditorium).

1972: Obscured by Clouds

As Pink Floyd geared for the UK and Japanese wings of the Meddle tour, they brainstormed ideas for a followup album built on the themes of life, death, and assorted stress-factors therein. They developed a new batch of numbers with lyrics by Waters, including “Breathe,” derived from a simpler piece on Music From the Body; and “Us and Them,” a mature version of their unreleased 1970 piece “The Violent Sequence.”

Floyd included material for this proposed album on the opening date of their UK tour in Brighton (1/20/72: The Dome). Eleven shows later, they held a four-night engagement (Feb. 17–20) before assembled press at the Roundhouse: an event dubbed Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.

Before sessions commenced on the new album, Pink Floyd was summoned by More director Barbet Schroeder for another project, La Vallée (The Valley), a French self-discovery drama starring singer Valérie Lagrange and keyboardist Miquette Giraudy, the life-partner of Steve Hillage and a future member of Gong. Floyd recorded the music during two jam-packed sessions (Feb. 12 and April 6, 1972) at the Château d’Hérouville in Hérouville, France.

After sessions wrapped, Pink Floyd had a falling out with Imperia Films, the company behind La Vallée. Harvest released the soundtrack music in June 1972 as a Pink Floyd album titled Obscured by Clouds. It features four instrumentals: two group-credited (“When You’re In,” “Absolutely Curtains”) and the Wright–Gilmour piece “Mudmen.”

Gilmour contributed “Childhood’s End” and also sings on two songs (“The Gold It’s in the…,” “Wot’s… Uh the Deal?”) co-written with Waters, who wrote and performed “Free Four” and co-wrote “Stay” and “Burning Bridges” with Wright, who sings the last of those with Gilmour, who also co-wrote the instrumental title track with Waters.

In response to the album, the film was retitled La Vallée (Obscured by Clouds) and released to theatres in July 1972. For the album cover, Thorgerson took a picture of a man sitting in a tree and rendered the image unrecognizable with light distortion.

Meanwhile, Pink Floyd learned that the title Dark Side of the Moon had just been used by blues-rockers Medicine Head as the title of their third album, released in 1972 on Dandelion Records. This prompted Floyd to re-title their upcoming album Eclipse.

Concert Dates, Live at Pompeii

Pink Floyd toured during spring 1972 with March shows in Japan and Australia, followed by an April–May tour of the US. In late May, they headed to Europe for a round of shows in Germany, including the 2nd British Rock Meeting Open Air Festival at the Insel Grun in Germersheim. The three-day event (5/20–22) featured sets by Atomic Rooster, Beggars Opera, Billy Joel, Brinsley Schwarz, Buddy Miles Express, Curved Air, The Doors (post Morrison), Frumpy, Home, The Incredible String Band, Jerusalem, Karthago, Linda Lewis, Lindisfarne, Nazareth, Osibisa, Rory Gallagher, Sam Apple Pie, Savoy Brown, Uriah Heep, and Wishbone Ash.

In September 1972, the Maben footage was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival as Live at Pompeii, a concert movie with three numbers — “Echoes,” “A Saucerful of Secrets,” and “One of These Days” — from the October 1971 Roman amphitheatre performances. Three additional numbers — “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and “Mademoiselle Nobs” (aka “Seamus”) — were filmed in Studio Europasonor, Paris, in December 1971. “Echoes” is split into parts one and two, which bookend the film. Wright, whose vintage Farfisa Compact Duo features prominently on several numbers, was beardless by the time of the Paris footage.

As recordings continued on their upcoming album, Pink Floyd did a September 1972 tour of North America. On October 20 and 22, they held a benefit at the Empire Pool, Wembley, for the anti-poverty charity War on Want. A continental tour followed in Nov.–Dec. with multiple dates in France and Germany. After the Medicine Head album came and went with little notice, Floyd reclaimed the original working title for their album-in-progress.

1973: The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd released their eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, on March 1, 1973, on Harvest (UK) and Capitol (US). It opens with registers and effects (“Speak to Me”) that lead into “Breathe,” a trance-like Wright–Gilmour ballad with languid vocals and pointed metaphors about life and death. “On the Run,” an electro-rock instrumental set to a racing pulse, bridges to side one’s other lyrical piece, “Time,” an ominous number about futility. “The Great Gig in the Sky” closes the side with slow, swaying minor keys amid the wailing, wordless vocals of guest singer Clare Torry.

“Money,” the group’s breakthrough US hit, opens side two with cash registers that trigger an angular 7/8 theme, offset by a recurring wah-wah lick. Its lyrics concern the mixed impact of currency on humanity. The ballad “Us and Them” explores the extremes of societal relations (alienation, empathy, indifference) over a soft backdrop with guest saxophonist Dick Parry. It drops into “Any Colour You Like,” a trance-instrumental with washes of Wright’s EMS VCS 3 and Synthi AKS synthesizers.

The album ends with two conjoined songs written and sung by Waters: “Brain Damage,” an eerie number with muted, Leslied guitar lines and veiled references to Syd Barrett (“the lunatic”); and “Eclipse,” a summation of life’s essence with swelling open cadences and grand backing by singers Barry St. John, Doris Troy, Liza Strike, and Lesley Duncan.

Pink Floyd self-produced The Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios between May 1972 and January 1973. The two instrumentals and the two Waters numbers were the last songs to be completed for the album, which Parsons engineered with assistant Peter James and mixing supervisor Chris Thomas. This was the first tech credit for James, who subsequently worked with Parsons on albums by Al Stewart and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.

Thorgerson designed the album cover based on a photo of a light ray that passes through a triangular prism and refracts rainbow colors. Graphic artist George Hardie did the Dark Side gatefold illustration, having also done cover visuals for Led Zeppelin and Audience. He earned further visual credits on 1973–75 albums by Stewart (Past, Present and Future), Genesis (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), 10cc (Sheet Music), and Be-Bop Deluxe (Futurama).

Harvest issued singles of “Money” (b/w “Any Colour You Like”) and “Us and Them” (b/w “Time”). The former reached No. 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 10 on the Cash Box Top 100.

The Dark Side of the Moon reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart and Top 3’s throughout Europe and the Commonwealth. In the US, the album reached No. 1 for one week on the Billboard 200 but stayed in the charts for 736 nonconsecutive weeks from March 1973 to July 1988. As of 2022, it’s sold an estimated 45 million copies worldwide.

Dark Side Tour, Productions

Pink Floyd kicked off promotions for The Dark Side of the Moon with a 17-date US tour that launched in Madison, Wisc. (3/4/73: Dane County Memorial Coliseum) and wrapped in Atlanta (3/24/73: Municipal Auditorium).

On May 18–19, Floyd played a benefit concert for SHELTER: National Campaign for the Homeless at Earls Court Exhibition Hall, London. They embarked on a second US leg in late June with 12 shows, starting in Saratoga, NY (6/17/73: Performing Arts Center) and ending in Tampa (6/29/73: Tampa Stadium).

In October, Floyd played back-to-back shows in Munich and Vienna, followed by a November 4 benefit concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre for ex-Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, who was recently paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from a fourth-floor window.

In 1974, a re-cut Live at Pompeii was released to theaters. This version intersperses the 1971 performances with studio footage from the recording sessions of three Dark Side cuts: “On the Run,” “Us and Them,” and “Brain Damage.”

Meanwhile, Gilmour earned his first non-Floyd production credit since Barrett on the Charisma release Blue Pine Trees, the 1974 second album by English rustic rockers Unicorn.

Elsewhere, Mason produced Wyatt’s cover of the Neil Diamond-penned Monkees classic “I’m a Believer” (b/w “Memories”), a non-album warmup to the wheelchair-bound singer’s Mason-produced second solo album Rock Bottom, released in July 1974 on Virgin with backing by musical friends Mike Oldfield, Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Richard Sinclair (Caravan), trumpeter Mongezi Feza (Brotherhood of Breath, Assagai), and Wyatt’s erstwhile Softs bandmate Hugh Hopper.

On June 18, 1974, Pink Floyd embarked on a seven-date tour of France, where they debuted two numbers: the Waters composition “Raving and Drooling” and the Gilmour–Waters–Wright epic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” In November, they commenced a 20-date UK tour, which started and ended with two-night stands in Edinburgh (11/6/74: Usher Hall) and Bristol (12/14/74: The Hippodrome). On this leg, they added the new Gilmour–Waters co-write “You’ve Got to Be Crazy.” They started each show with the three new pieces, followed by The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety.

1975: Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd entered Abbey Road Studios in January 1975 to record their ninth album, another conceptual work based on a theme conceived by Waters, who wrote all the lyrics. The centerpiece, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” grew into a 26-minute epic comprised of nine parts. Its lyrics concern the genius and madness of former frontman Syd Barrett.

As the concept evolved, Waters introduced two new numbers, “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar,” both thinly-veiled broadsides on the music industry: the very industry that groomed and ravaged Floyd’s onetime singer. With these numbers in place, “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” were set aside for the next album.

When Parsons declined to work with the band again, Floyd called back More engineer Brian Humphries. Due to his inexperience with Abbey’s recording arsenal, he accidentally ruined the original rhythm track for “Shine On,” which led to delays in the album’s completion.

In April, Pink Floyd broke from recording for a 13-date North American tour, which commenced in Vancouver (4/8/75: Pacific National Exhibition Park) and climaxed with five straight nights in Los Angeles (4/23–27/75: Sports Arena). By now, they had “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” divided into Parts I–V and Parts VI–IX, bisected with “Have a Cigar.” In the studio, Waters was so exhausted from recording “Shine On” that he couldn’t muster the vocal power for “Cigar.” Floyd called in Roy Harper — who was recording his upcoming album HQ in an adjacent room at Abbey — to sing lead on the track.

Late in the sessions, on the day when Gilmour held his wedding reception (June 5), an overweight man with a shaved head and eyebrows dropped in on Pink Floyd at Abbey. Members made various guesses about his identity until Wright realized the man was Barrett. Reactions from the band and crew ranged from sad to horrified. Barrett expressed mild interest in taking part in the recording but showed little understanding of the material at hand. After joining the reception, he disappeared, never to be seen alive again by anyone in the band.

One more song was added to the sequence, the Gilmour–Waters ballad “Wish You Were Here,” often interpreted as a paean to their lost bandmate. It served as the title track to their upcoming album, completed in July 1975.

The resulting Wish You Were Here appeared on September 12, 1975, on Harvest (UK) and Columbia (US). Side one (21:00) contains Parts I–V of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (13:32), which fades into “Welcome to the Machine” (7:28). Side two (23:11) starts with “Have a Cigar” (5:08), which blends into “Wish You Were Here” (5:35), which gives way to Parts VI–IX of “Shine On” (12:28).

Wish You Were Here features Gilmour, Waters, and Wright on EMS analog synthesizer models. Wright plays the VCS 3 in addition to Hammond organ, ARP String Ensemble, Minimoog, Steinway piano, Hohner Clavinet D6, Wurlitzer EP-200 electric piano, Rhodes piano, and glass harmonica.

Musical guests include returning saxophonist Parry and backing singers Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams, both of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli performed on the title track but his contribution was deemed unsuitable and muted in the mix.

Hipgnosis photographer Aubrey “Po” Powell captured the Wish You Were Here cover image, which shows two men engaged in a business handshake as one goes aflame, indicating a one-sided deal. The back cover has a Hardie illustration of René Magritte’s bowler-hatted man, used here to represent a record company figure. He’s seen holding a clear-vinyl LP with one foot perched on a suitcase along a steep incline. As indicators of his soullessness, the man bears invisible limbs and a featureless face.

The inner-sleeve shows a warped, windblown image of a red chiffon handkerchief and a photo of Mono Lake, California. At Thorgerson’s suggestion, original pressings of the album were housed in black shrinkwrap that bore a logo sticker depicting a mechanical handshake over a “four seasons” circle.

Columbia paired edits of “Have a Cigar” and “Welcome to the Machine” on 7″. The full album-length versions of both songs are evergreens of US FM rock radio. Wish You Were Here reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Charts and the US Billboard 200. As of 2020, the album has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

Concerts, Outside Productions

Just before sessions wrapped on Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd did a 15-date North American tour that started in Atlanta (6/7/75: Atlanta Stadium) and wrapped in Hamilton, Ontario (6/28/75: Ivor Wynne Stadium).

Meanwhile, Gilmour played guitar (alongside Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones) on “The Game,” the five-part suite (13:42) that opens Harper’s June 1975 Harvest release HQ. He’s credited as D.J. Gilmour on “Ain’t Too Proud,” a folk-rock harmony ballad on Reach for the Sky, the 1975 CBS release by Sutherland Brothers & Quiver. Gilmour also plays on “When Your Life Is Your Own,” a Floydian ballad on David Courtney’s First Day, the only ’70s album by early Leo Sayer collaborator David Courtney. First Day features orchestration by conductor Andrew Powell, a frequent arranger on Parsons-produced projects.

Elsewhere, Mason produced Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, Wyatt’s May 1975 third solo album with musical backing by Brian Eno, Feza, two-fifths of Henry Cow (Frith and bassist John Greaves), and Bill MacCormick (Matching Mole, Quiet Sun, 801).

On July 5, 1975, Floyd played Knebworth on top of a multi-act bill that featured Harper, Linda Lewis, Steve Miller Band, and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. Harper, upon discovering his stage costume had been stolen, flew into a rage and smashed a window in one of Floyd’s tour vans. This would be Floyd’s only show on UK soil between December 1974 and March 1977.

Pink Floyd’s contract stipulation with EMI, which grated them unlimited studio time in exchange for reduced royalties, expired in 1975. The band purchased a three-story church row at 35 Britannia Row in Islington to use as studio space. Its setup took a year to complete.

Meanwhile, Gilmour received a demo tape by 16-year-old musical prodigy Kate Bush, a pianist, singer, and dancer from an affluent, artistic family in Bexleyheath, Kent. Gilmour funded her first professional recording, comprised of three originals: “Passing Through Air,” “The Saxophone Song,” and “The Man with the Child in His Eyes.” Powell co-produced the songs, which landed her a deal with EMI. Due to her young age, they placed her on a two-year retainer. (Her debut album, The Kick Inside, would finally appear in February 1978 with the June 1975 Gilmour recordings of “The Saxophone Song” and “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” included on side one. “Passing Through Air” appeared as the b-side to her 1980 single “Army Dreamers.”)

1976: New Studio, Concept

In April 1976, sessions for the next Pink Floyd album commenced at Britannia Row. The project included the two unused numbers from their 1974–75 live shows: “Raving and Drooling,” now a ten-minute epic titled “Sheep”; and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy,” since converted to the 17-minute opus “Dogs.”

Waters proposed a theme of class hierarchy in which animal species represent different levels in the pecking order: the autocratic dogs, the spoiled pigs, and the exploited, servile sheep. To complete the triad, he wrote another epic, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” (11:28). He bookended the album with Part’s One and Two of “Pigs on the Wing,” a folksy prelude/postlude inspired by his romance with aristocrat Carolyne Anne Christie, the recent wife of Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully.

Sessions for the new album lasted eight months, wrapping in December 1976. Aside from Gilmour’s contributions to “Dogs,” the album was entirely written by Waters, who became Floyd’s de facto leader at this stage.

Meanwhile, Gilmour produced Unicorn’s 1976 third album Too Many Crooks, which features his pedal steel work on the title track. He also mixed one track (“Kerb Crawler”) on Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music, the sixth studio album by Hawkwind and their first with Robert Calvert as vocalist.

Elsewhere, Mason produced Gong’s 1976 Virgin release Shamal, their first as a jazz-rock group under the leadership of percussionist Pierre Moerlen. At Britannia, he mixed albums by trumpeter Michael Mantler (The Hapless Child) and the multi-artist Caroline release Guitar Solos 2 with cuts by Frith, Hans Reichel, Derek Bailey, and G.F. Fitzgerald.

For the new album’s cover, Floyd commissioned German Zeppelin makers Ballon Fabrik to construct a 40 ft. pig named Algie. The desired image: Algie floats above Battersea Power Station under dark clouds. With a precautionary marksman on hand, they scheduled the photo shoot for December 2, which turned out unsuitable due to downpour.

They rescheduled for the 3rd without informing the marksman, who wasn’t present to shoot the pig in case it escaped its moorings. It did, causing Heathrow to cancel flights that day. Algie was recovered from its crash site (a cow farm in Kent) and repaired for another launch, which happened on a clear day. Dissatisfied with the blue sky look, they combined two photos to get the desired image.

1977: Animals

Pink Floyd released their tenth studio album, Animals, on January 23, 1977, on Harvest (UK) and Columbia (US). The two sides clock in at 18:28 and 23:12 for a total running time of 41:40. Waters sings everything apart from shared lead on the Gilmour co-write “Dogs.”

Due to its personal content, Waters performed “Pigs on the Wing” entirely by himself with just voice and acoustic guitar. However, 8-track copies feature a guitar solo by Snowy White, who Humphries (the engineer) worked with earlier on an album by Jonathan Kelly’s Outside. (Gilmour played the original solo but it was accidentally erased by Waters and Mason.)

Waters relegates bass duties on “Dogs” and “Sheep” to Gilmour, who uses a talk box on the former. Wright plays Hammond organ and ARP string synthesizer on the three epics as well as Farfisa on “Dogs,” which also has him on Fender Rhodes and Minimoog, as does “Sheep,” which also features the EMS VCS 3. He plays piano and clavinet on “Pigs (Three Different Ones).”

Animals is housed in a gatefold three-fourths consumed by the Battersea photograph by Howard Bartrop, who also took cover pics for titles by 10cc (How Dare You!) and Golden Earring (To the Hilt). The inner-gates feature an eleven-photo spread of bleak monochrome shots taken at random spots in and around the power station by Hipgnosis photographer Peter Christopherson. On the LP labels, the sides are differentiated with fish-eye photos of a dog (side one) and a pig and a sheep (side two). (By now, Christopherson doubled as a musician in the experimental noise band Throbbing Gristle.)

Animals reached No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart, No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 and Australian Albums Chart, and No. 1 in Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and New Zealand.

In the Flesh tour

On January 23–24, 1977, Pink Floyd kicked off their 1977 tour with two shows at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, West Germany. The tour — billed as the In the Flesh tour but alternately known as the Animals tour — covered five legs with a total of fifty-five shows. White accompanied the group on bass so Waters could concentrate on guitar and vocals. Dark Side saxist Dick Perry was also present.

Legs 1 and 2 covered Europe with twenty shows, including two-night stands in Frankfurt, West Berlin, and Zurich; three nights each in Munich and Rotterdam; and four straight nights in Paris (2/22–25/77: Pavillon de Paris).

The setlist comprised two distinct sets. The first covered Animals in its entirety, ending with “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” where Algie emerged from smoke and floated across the stadium and back. The second half covered Wish You Were Here in its entirety. Parts 1–V of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” accompanied a short film by illustrator Gerald Scarfe, who also made an animated video for performances of “Welcome to the Machine.” Parts V1–IX of “Shine On” accompanied another animated Scarfe short. Most nights featured two encore numbers: “Money” and “Us and Them.”

Leg 3 covered England with five nights in London (3/15–19/77: Empire Pool) and four in Stafford (3/28–31/77: New Bingley Hall). Here, “Dogs” was enacted with inflatables of a nuclear family: a rotund businessman, his zaftig couch-set wife, and their 2.5 children (literally, with the .5 represented as a half-body). After each performance of “Dogs,” the wife and kids were reined to the backstage while the businessman was lowered and deflated onto the concert stage, reflecting the line “Who was ground down in the end?”

Leg 4 kicked off in Miami on April 22 at Miami Baseball Stadium and covered the south before heading west for two-night stands in Anaheim (5/6–7/77: Anaheim Stadium) and Oakland (5/8–9/77: Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum) and wrapping on May 12 at Portland’s Memorial Colosseum. On these dates, the nuclear family was joined by three inflatable accessories: a TV, a Cadillac, and a worm-filled refrigerator.

On early US dates, “Pigs” concluded with Algie’s detonation, an effect achieved with propane and helium. They dropped the effect after a June 15 mishap on the opening night of Leg 5 in Milwaukee, where the pig exploded (loudly) and damaged cars in the parking lot of Milwaukee County Stadium.

Tensions among band members came to a head as the tour made its way eastward. On June 28, Waters suffered muscle cramps that rendered him motionless before a two-night stand at Philadelphia’s Spectrum. A doctor injected him with numbing medication that rendered him comfortable enough to perform.

Their four-night engagement at New York’s Madison Square Garden coincided with Independence Day weekend, prompting overzealous fans to shoot fireworks at the stage. On July 3, Waters stopped the show and addressed the audience with an exclamatory warning: “Don’t try anymore fucking fireworks!”

The tour wrapped on June 6 in Montreal at the recently-opened 73k-capacity Olympic Stadium. A firework went off during “Pigs,” upsetting Waters, who engaged in a spat with an audience member.

Most of the US shows were held at 30k–60k-capacity arenas. At Chicago’s Soldier Field, they drew an audience originally estimated at 67k but — following an aerial examination of the crowd size — was determined to be a record-breaking 95k. This was the only tour on which Pink Floyd performed the entirety of both Wish You Were Here and Animals, an album ignored on subsequent tours.

For Waters, the events that transpired on this tour left him with mixed feelings about the audience–performer divide. As he bemoaned how stardom had alienated him from fans, the dangerous antics of certain attendees made him fearful of crowds. He conceived a new work marked by a wall between the band and audience.

Productions, Solo Projects

In August 1977, Mason produced Music for Pleasure, the second album by punk rockers The Damned. Though his methodical approach clashed with their speedy expectations, he widened their scope by inviting avant-garde jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill, who plays on the album’s fractious closing jam “You Know.” The completed album, released that November on Stiff Records, hears the band explore heavy metal (“Alone”), freakbeat (“Your Eyes”), and epic rock (“Idiot Box”).

Gilmour and Mason both appear on one cut (“Il Survivra”) on the 1977 EMI release Rachid Bahri, the second album by the namesake Algerian singer. Also present on select tracks are Steve Winwood and Gilmour’s erstwhile rhythm section from Jokers Wild: bassist Rick Wills and drummer Willie Wilson.

That winter, Mason co-produced Green, the 1978 fourth solo studio album by Steve Hillage. Mason plays drums on the track “Leylines to Glassdom.”

On January 10, 1978, Wright entered Super Bear Studios in Alpes-Maritimes, France, to record his first solo album, Wet Dream. It features nine originals, including six instrumentals, plus a co-write (“Against the Odds”) with his then-wife Juliette Gale. Wright plays piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, and Oberheim synthesizer on the album with backing by White, saxophonist Mel Collins, and drummer Reg Isadore (ex-Robin Trower). The self-produced effort appeared that September on Harvest.

Just after Wright finished recording, Gilmour entered Super Bear to cut his self-titled debut album, backed by Wills and Wilson. In the decade since Jokers Wild, the pair played in rustic-rockers Cochise before splitting off into Peter Frampton’s Camel (Wills) and Quiver (Wilson).

David Gilmour features six originals, including three instrumentals, plus co-writes with Harper (“Short and Sweet”) and 10cc’s Eric Stewart (“Cry from the Street”). The one cover, “There’s No Way Out of Here,” was written by Ken Baker of Unicorn and recorded by his band on their Gilmour-produced album Too Many Crooks. Gilmour’s album was released in May 1978 on Harvest.

Months later, Gilmour partook in Rockestra, a studio big band organized by Paul McCartney with numerous rock luminaries, including Peter Townshend and members of Faces, Led Zeppelin, and Procol Harum. They recorded the songs “Rockestra Theme” and “So Glad to See You Here” for Back to the Egg, the 1979 seventh studio album by Wings. (McCartney would assemble another Rockestra with Townshend and much of the same cast, minus Gilmour, for the December 1979 relief effort Concert for Kampuchea.)

1979: The Wall

In July 1978, Pink Floyd regrouped at Britannia, where Waters presented two concepts he had in development. One weighed the pros and cons of domesticity versus promiscuity through the dreams of a married man who — in the throes of a midlife crisis — takes an imaginary joyride to California and has sex with a hitchhiker. The other concept, inspired by events and sentiments on the In the Flesh tour, concerned a jaded rock star whose alienation is symbolized by an imaginary wall. The latter — pitched with a 90-minute demo under the working title Bricks in the Wall — was selected by the band as their next project.

Waters brought in producer Bob Ezrin, a recent confidant who helped in the initial brainstorm for the concept. Ezrin, the longtime producer of Alice Cooper, had also worked with Lou Reed, Kiss, and The Babys. Most recently, he produced the 1977 debut solo album by Peter Gabriel. His initial role in the new Floyd project was to flesh out the concept plot.

At Ezrin’s suggestion, The Wall evolved from a dramatization of Waters’ personal demons to a plot centered on a character named Pink, a troubled rock star who loses his sanity and isolates himself behind an imaginary wall, where he has grandiose mentations of tyrannical rule. Sessions for the new album commenced at Britannia in December 1978.

In January 1979, Pink Floyd moved the production of their eleventh studio album to Super Bear. They were joined by James Guthrie, a young sound engineer on albums by Heatwave (Too Hot to Handle), John Miles (Stranger In the City), Moon, and Strawbs. His producer credits included recent titles by The Movies (Bullets Through the Barrier) and Judas Priest (Stained Class). He co-produced Floyd’s new album with Ezrin, Waters, and Gilmour.

By April 6, the members of Pink Floyd fled the UK as tax exiles. The Super Bear sessions continued through July while Waters recorded his vocals at Studio Miraval in the Château de Miraval in Correns, Provence, France. Further work took place during late summer and early fall at three Los Angeles studios (Cherokee Studios, Producers Workshop, Village Recorder). Arranger Michael Kamen conducted orchestrations at CBS Studios in New York.

As the project neared completion, mounting tension between Roger and Richard led to Wright’s dismissal from the band. This was withheld from the media and disacknowledged in the credits. (Essentially, he remained a member for the album and ensuing tour.)

The resulting album, The Wall, appeared on November 20, 1979, on Harvest (UK) and Columbia (US). It’s comprised of twenty-six tracks across four sides for a total of eight-one minutes of music.

On side one, as Pink reels in fame and disillusionment, he flashes back to his childhood when his father was killed in World War II (“In the Flesh?”). Raised alone by his single mother (“The Thin Ice”), he builds an imaginary wall around himself to cope with grief (“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1”). In school, he endures abusive teachers (“The Happiest Days of Our Lives”) and expands the wall with further bricks as a coping mechanism (“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”). Now a grown man, he shrugs at memories of his overbearing, possessive mom (“Mother”).

On side two, Pink recalls taking cover during German air raids over London (“Goodbye Blue Sky”). He weds but suffers further demons, which serve as more bricks in the wall (“Empty Spaces”). During a stateside tour, he brings a groupie to his hotel room (“Young Lust”), where he flies into a rage and scares her off (“One of My Turns”). Despondent and lonely, he thinks of his wife (“Don’t Leave Me Now”). He sees the lifetime sum of his trauma as a completed wall (“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3”), which seals him off from humanity (“Goodbye Cruel World”).

On side three, a now-secluded Pink questions his predicament (“Hey You”) but stays locked inside his hotel (“Is There Anybody Out There?”). Delirious, he clings to material items (“Nobody Home”) while yearning to start anew (“Vera”). During another WWII flashback, he envisions people calling for an end to the war (“Bring the Boys Back Home”). As Pink hallucinates, his manager and crew bust into his hotel and find him inert. A paramedic injects him with stimulants to wake and mobilize him for the upcoming show (“Comfortably Numb”).

On side four, the now-intoxicated Pink has hallucinations of his concert (“The Show Must Go On”) where he envisions himself as a fascist despot with saluting, sycophantic attendees. He unleashes his Gestapo-like minions on undesirables in the audience (“In the Flesh”). He comes down on migrant groups (“Run Like Hell”) and rallies his base in Greater London (“Waiting for the Worms”). At the brink of insanity, he snaps out of his delirium (“Stop”). Humbled and guilt-ridden, his inner-judge orders him to “Tear down the wall!” (“The Trial”). This opens Pink to humanity and the world at large (“Outside the Wall”).

Waters composed all the material apart from one Ezrin co-write (“The Trial”) and three songs with input from Gilmour: “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell,” and “Young Lust.” Through not released as singles, all three songs are evergreens of FM rock radio. The lucid “Comfortably Numb” was inspired by Waters’ experience with numbing medication during the Philly stop of the In the Flesh tour. “Run Like Hell” is distinguished by its “Uhh… uhh… ohh…” refrains and Gilmour’s sratching, echoing guitar tone, which anticipated the sound of U2 guitarist The Edge. “Young Lust,” the album’s hormone-charged rocker, is marked by the chorus line “I need a dirty woman.”

At Ezrin’s suggestion, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” was tracked with a disco-ish beat for single release. To distinguish the identical verses, he gathered a group of children from Islington Green School to sing the second verse in unison, including the emphatic refrain “HEY! TEACHER! LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!,” which he then multi-tracked to choir proportions. As a single (b/w “One of My Turns”) it reached No. 1 in fifteen nations, including the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100.

Pink Floyd broke ties with Hipgnosis and hired cartoonist Gerald Scarfe — the artist behind the animated clips shown on the In the Flesh tour — to design the packaging. The Wall is housed in a simple gatefold depicting a white brick wall. On the left inner-gate, a crack in the wall reveals an anus-headed giant who stands over marching hammers (soldiers) outside a structure resembling Montreal’s Olympic Stadium: the album’s thematic birthplace. Cracks on the right inner-gate reveal further characters — a lip-armed zaftig (mother); a goggle-eyed grey hair (teacher) — in Scarfe’s trademark discombobulated style. Further characters appear on the LP labels. The inner-sleeves feature song lyrics hand-written in cursive.

The Wall reached No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 1 throughout Europe, the Commonwealth, and the US Billboard 200. Its global sales have since exceeded 30 million copies.

The Wall Tour

Pink Floyd staged a limited 1980 tour of The Wall covering eighteen dates in three locations:

  • Feb. 7–13: Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles. Seven shows. 126,000 attendees.
  • Feb. 24–28: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY. Five shows. 72,500 attendees.
  • Aug. 4–9: Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London. Six shows. 120,000 attendees.

The setlist comprised The Wall in its entirety, including the song “What Shall We Do Now?,” a number intended for the album but omitted due to time constraints (despite its acknowledgement in the tracklist and lyric sleeve). Visual props included costumes and inflatable balloons based on Scarfe’s animated characters.

At each show, a giant wall was constructed brick-by-brick between the band and audience. The final number would coincide with the wall’s completion. Auxiliary musicians on these dates included Snowy White, Willie Wilson, and bassist Andy Bown (The Herd, Status Quo).

In 1981, as work proceeded on a film adaptation of The Wall, Pink Floyd staged thirteen more performances in two cities with the intention of filming the shows for use in the movie. The shows occurred as follows:

  • Feb. 13–20: Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, West Germany. Eight shows. 132,000 attendees.
  • June 13–17: Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London. Five shows. 100,000 attendees.

The band and crew were dissatisfied with the lighting and quality of the footage from these shows and decided not to integrate any clips into the upcoming movie. The supplemental guitarist on the 1981 dates was sessionist Andy Roberts, a one-time singer–songwriter and journeyman folkie (Plainsong, Scaffold, Liverpool Scene). On the June 13–14 shows, Wilson was deputized by drummer Clive Brooks (Arzachel, Egg).

Outside Projects

In October 1979, while Waters and Gilmour were busy doing finishing touches on The Wall, Mason entered Grog Kill Studios in Willow, NY, to cut an album with Mantler and his partner, pianist Carla Bley. Mantler engineered the project, which was co-produced by Mason and Bley.

The finished product, comprised of eight Bley compositions, was released in May 1981 on Harvest as Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports. Though attributed to Mason as his first solo album, he serves as drummer in a large ensemble that includes Mantler, Bley, guitarist Chris Spedding, bassist Steve Swallow, clarinetist Gary Windo, trumpeter Gary Valente, and singer Karen Kraft. Wyatt sings on the opener “Can’t Get My Motor to Start.”

Gilmour reteamed with Harper on The Unknown Soldier, the singer’s 1980 Harvest release with five Gilmour co-writes: “Playing Games,” “Old Faces,” “True Story,” “You (The Game Part II) the Two Halves In Flight,” and Harper’s own version of the David Gilmour cut “Short and Sweet.”

As production wrapped on the movie, Gilmour played guitar on Grand Passion, the 1982 fourth album by Doll By Doll.

Pink Floyd – The Wall

The idea for an accompanying film to The Wall was floated before the album’s completion. They initially planned to use the upcoming concert events for the movie. However, the project morphed into a dramatic adaptation of the album’s concept. Waters worked on the screenplay for the proposed movie with filmmaker Alan Parker (Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express).

Initially, Waters himself was tapped for the starring role but this was nixed after a screen test. His on-camera absence rendered Floyd’s low-grade concert footage superfluous. The role of Pink went to Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof, whose initial antipathy toward the project jibed with the character’s erratic state of mind.

Pink FloydThe Wall premiered at Cannes on May 23, 1982. The 95-minute psychological drama follows the album’s plot in which Pink (Geldof) is a jaded rock star who descends into madness amid childhood flashbacks, emotional baggage, and alienation from the outside world. Dramatic scenes are interspersed with animated renditions of Scarfe’s original artwork, including the marching hammers.

The theme of child abuse in the public school system is taken to greater extremes than the lyrics imply. In one disturbing dream sequence, masked school children are moved single-file into a meat grinder.

Songs from The Wall were remixed, re-dubbed, and edited for the movie. Geldof re-recorded the vocals on “In the Flesh?” and “Stop.” Despite the movie’s end credits listing a soundtrack album on Columbia, no such release exists.

The film was accompanied with one musical release: the single “When the Tigers Broke Free,” a Waters composition intended for The Wall but rejected for its personal subject matter. Waters recorded the song in late 1981 as a solo vocal piece with conductor Kamen and the Pontarddulais Male Voice Choir. The b-side is a re-recorded “Bring the Boys Back Home.”

Pink FloydThe Wall opened to general US release on September 10, 1982, where it ranked No. 3 at the box office, below E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and An Officer and a Gentleman. It went on to gross $22.2 million on a budget of $12 million,

Discography (1967–87):


1 thought on “Pink Floyd

  1. From the initial 2017 intro: “Emerging amidst rock’s turn toward album-oriented artistry, the band swiftly progressed from whimsical beginnings to a headier, skyward sonic approach.”

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