Pink Floyd is widely regarded as one of the greatest and bands in music history. They have 250 million records sold worldwide. But how did they achieve such a remarkable feat?
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The Origins of Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd was formed in London in 1965 by four students: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. They initially played psychedelic rock, influenced by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. They also experimented with sound effects, tape loops and unconventional instruments, creating a distinctive style that set them apart from other bands.
The band’s debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was released in August 1967. It was a critical and commercial success, reaching number six on the UK charts and number 131 on the US charts. It showcased Barrett’s whimsical and imaginative songwriting, as well as the band’s innovative use of studio techniques. The album is widely regarded as one of the best psychedelic albums of all time, and a landmark in progressive rock.
The Dark Side of the Moon
However, Barrett’s mental health deteriorated rapidly due to his excessive use of LSD and other drugs. He became increasingly erratic and unreliable, often forgetting the lyrics or playing out of tune. He was eventually replaced by David Gilmour, a friend and former bandmate of Waters. Gilmour took over as the lead guitarist and co-vocalist, while Waters assumed the role of the main songwriter and conceptual leader.
The band underwent a significant change in their musical direction, moving away from psychedelic rock to a more progressive and experimental sound. They also started to explore more complex and ambitious themes in their albums, such as war, madness, alienation and death.
Their breakthrough album was The Dark Side of the Moon, released in March 1973. The Dark Side of the Moon was an instant hit, topping the charts in several countries and staying on the US Billboard 200 for 741 weeks (the longest run in history). It has sold over 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. It is also widely regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made, and a masterpiece of progressive rock.
The band continued to produce successful albums throughout the 1970s, such as Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979). The latter was another concept album that told the story of a rock star named Pink, who isolates himself from society behind a metaphorical wall. It was partly based on Waters’ own experiences and frustrations with fame, as well as his personal issues with his father’s death in World War II and his divorce from his wife.
The Wall was another huge success for Pink Floyd, reaching number one on both sides of the Atlantic and selling over 30 million copies worldwide. It is also considered one of the most influential albums in rock history, inspiring countless artists across genres and generations.
The Final Cut
However, The Wall also marked the beginning of the end for Pink Floyd as a cohesive unit. The band members had grown apart over the years due to creative differences, personal conflicts and legal disputes. Waters had become increasingly dominant and controlling over the band’s direction, alienating his colleagues and collaborators.
The final straw came with the release of The Final Cut in 1983, which was essentially a solo album by Waters, with minimal input from the other members. It was a bleak and bitter album that criticized the British government, the Falklands War and the state of the world in general. It also featured a song called “Not Now John”, which was the only one to feature Gilmour’s vocals.
The Final Cut was poorly received by critics and fans alike, and failed to match the success of the previous albums. It was also the last album to feature Waters as a member of Pink Floyd, as he left the band in 1985, claiming that it was “a spent force”.
The Division Bell
The remaining members of Pink Floyd, Gilmour, Wright and Mason, decided to continue without Waters, despite his attempts to prevent them from using the band’s name and assets. They recruited additional musicians and collaborators, such as keyboardist Jon Carin, guitarist Tim Renwick and saxophonist Dick Parry.
They released two more albums as Pink Floyd: A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994). The former was a commercial success, but received mixed reviews from critics and fans, who felt that it lacked the depth and originality of the Waters-era albums. The latter was a more cohesive and mature work, that explored themes such as communication, regret and reconciliation.
The Division Bell was well received by critics and fans, and topped the charts in several countries. It was also the last studio album by Pink Floyd, as they went on a hiatus after its release.
The Endless River
In 2014, Pink Floyd surprised their fans by announcing a new album, titled The Endless River. It was based on unreleased material recorded during the sessions for The Division Bell, with some additional overdubs and edits. It was also dedicated to Wright, who had died in 2008.
The Endless River was released in November 2014, and became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK. It received positive reviews from critics and fans, who praised its atmospheric and nostalgic sound. It also reached number one on the charts in several countries, making it one of the best-selling albums of 2014.
Pink Floyd is more than just a band. They are a cultural phenomenon that transcends time and space. They are a symbol of creativity, innovation and excellence. They are one of the best-selling bands of all time.