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The Pink Floyd Portal
Written and compiled by Paul Rance
Pink Floyd are/were (Roger Waters fans will prefer "were") unique among the great rock bands, because of their two different styles. The Syd Barrett era consisted of quirky, experimental, psychedelic songs and instrumentals, and the post-Barrett era saw a more sophisticated sound, though more interesting than much of the progressive rock acts The Floyd were lumped together with. The lyrical content was also rich in social commentary, notably on 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' and 'The Wall'.
Coming of out the famous English university city of Cambridge, Pink Floyd were the epitome of the flamboyant, creative 1960s.
The embryo of Pink Floyd really began in 1964 with a combo of ever changing and consistently curious names - Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The Tea Set/The T-Set, The Architectural Abdabs, The Abdabs, and The Screaming Abdabs. The core of the would-be Floyd came together in Tea Set, with drummer Nick Mason, then wind instrument player (!) Rick Wright, and Roger Waters on guitar. Bob Klose was the other guitarist, and Chris Dennis was the lead singer before blues/folk guitarist and singer Syd Barrett replaced him, and Waters on guitar, with Roger becoming the bassist.
By a strange twist, Tea Set appeared on the bill with another group which had the same name, so Barrett came up with a new name, The Pink Floyd Sound - named after two bluesmen (virtually every British rock group of the period was inspired by the blues) Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The rather pretentious 'Sound' was dropped, though Pink Floyd were known as The Pink Floyd until the early '70s, and they are often still referred to by that name, as well as Pink Floyd, or simply The Floyd.
Klose, really a jazzman, left after an early demo recording. Wright moved to keyboards, Mason was on drums and percussion, bassist Waters and Wright were also used as backing vocalists to the coruscating Barrett, who became the driving force of the group - being the songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist.
After being underground darlings, Syd's quirky songwriting propelled Pink Floyd into the mainstream, with hit singles 'See Emily Play' and 'Arnold Layne' (apparently written about a Cambridge knicker thief the band vaguely knew).
Pink Floyd's first album 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' saw a fully rounded group, and was acknowledged, and still is, as one of the finest ever debut albums, with ex-manager Peter Jenner saying (The Beatles were recording 'Sgt. Pepper' in the same Abbey Road building): "I'm sure The Beatles were copying what we were doing, just as we were copying what we were hearing down the corridor!"
But Syd Barrett was a sensitive soul, and the pressure to produce more great work was telling during the making of Pink Floyd's second album, 'A Saucerful Of Secrets'. Syd Barrett's mental decline is documented here. Friend David Gilmour stepped into the breach as an increasingly erratic Barrett led to the rest of Pink Floyd realising that Gilmour would have to be his permanent replacement. Syd Barrett's 'Jugband Blues' on 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' was a poignant epitaph to his tenure with a group he had really been the core of. So, with their lead singer and songwriter gone, and no like for like replacement brought in, what now for Pink Floyd?
Rick Wright's sombre keyboard work had been as important a component of the Pink Floyd sound as Barrett's miasmic guitar, and it was a new sound, with David Gilmour's spatial guitar sound particularly well utilised, which was eventually to put them at the top table of rock bands. Early albums, 'A Saucerful Of Secrets (Syd did contribute on this album, but not to any great extent)', 'Atom Heart Mother', and 'Meddle' were slowly but surely building Pink Floyd's reputation post-Barrett. 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' was the group's real big breakthrough, and was their first masterpiece. It was a very human album, which maybe explained its connection with so many people - as well as the beauty of the music. It was in the Billboard Top 200 for an unprecedented 591 consecutive weeks from 1976 to 1988. Pink Floyd's next album 'Wish You Were Here' also gained great critical and public acclaim, and the epic track 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' was an obvious tribute to Syd Barrett, and the recording of this album is steeped in the legend of the almost supernatural coincidence of Syd turning up unrecognised at the recording of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'. Rick Wright recalls: "I went in the studio and I saw this guy sitting at the back of the studio, he was only as far away as you are from me. And I didn't recognise him. I said, "Who's that guy behind you?" "That's Syd." And I just cracked up, I couldn't believe it... He had shaven all his hair off... I mean, his eyebrows, everything... He was jumping up and down brushing his teeth, it was awful. And, uh, I was in, I mean Roger was in tears, I think I was; we were both in tears. It was very shocking... Seven years of no contact and then to walk in while we're actually doing that particular track. I don't know - coincidence, karma, fate, who knows? But it was very, very, very powerful".
In 1979, Pink Floyd's last great album, the double album 'The Wall' was released, and was made into a film with Bob Geldof in the lead role of Pink. The album 'The Wall' was really a Roger Waters project, examining alienation from childhood to adulthood, and the Fascistic nature of a society that constantly tells us what to do. The ending of the album is very emotional and uplifting, however. Within Pink Floyd things were not good, and Rick Wright was himself alienated, and then Waters himself would end up out of the group.
Over the years hopes had been high among Pink Floyd fans that the quartet of David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Rick Wright would get together again, and this happened for a blinding set at Live 8 in 2005. Whether they'll get together again is, predictably, uncertain!...
Very sadly and very strangely the day this page went 'live' (September 15th, 2008), Rick Wright passed away at the age of 65 through cancer. So, the answer to the reunion question is obviously now in the negative. Rick's delicate keyboard playing was probably the most important factor in the success of 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' album.
Pink Floyd Factoids
Roger Waters on Keith Moon trashing hotel rooms: "He's a very sophisticated smasher."
Former Floyd producer Norman Smith (better known as '70s singer Hurricane Smith) allegedly played Nick Mason's drum part on 'Remember A Day', from the 1968 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' album.
Roger Waters had several bricks in his wall...
Roger's father was killed at Anzio in 1944, when Roger was just a few months old.
Roger rescued a dying animal as a child, only to be told to toss it in the rubbish by a sadistic teacher. Possibly the same bullying teacher featured on 'The Wall'...
Syd Barrett's mental health problems haunted Roger and all The Floyd members throughout their careers.
Pink Floyd Books
Pink Floyd Fan Sites
Richard/Rick Wright Tributes & Comments
"No one can replace Richard Wright. He was my musical partner and my friend...I loved him and will miss him enormously." - David Gilmour's tribute to Richard on his website.
David Gilmour appeared on British music show 'Later Live - With Jools Holland' on Tuesday, September 23rd and sang Richard Wright's composition, 'Remember A Day'. He said Richard had texted him three weeks earlier saying he wouldn't be able to appear on the show.
Roger Waters made a simple comment on Richard, with an old Pink Floyd image of burning candles on his website. Roger later said: "As for the man and his work, it is hard to overstate the importance of his musical voice in the Pink Floyd of the '60s and '70s. Rick's ear for harmonic progression was our bedrock."
Drummer Nick Mason was interviewed by 'Entertainment Weekly' a day after Richard's death. Here's some quotes:
Early Floyd producer, Joe Boyd, said Richard's contribution to The Floyd was "an integral part of the Pink Floyd sound." Boyd added: "He was a nice and easy going person."
"Have just heard about Rick Wright - very sad news. Pink Floyd were way beyond being merely legendary."
"Pity that Rick had to go so suddenly."
Pink Floyd Concert DVDs
Buy Pink Floyd DVDs here: http://concertdvds.biz/pink-floyd-dvd.html
Pink Floyd Albums Discography
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
Live Pink Floyd CD
Various Pink Floyd CDs
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