About Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd are notable not only for what they popularized (immaculate hi-fi production, elaborate concept albums, planetarium laser shows) but for what they negated: With their carefully cultivated sense of mystique, they proved you needn’t play the role of camera-mugging pop stars to become one of the world’s most famous rock bands. Which is ironic, given that they were initially led by the irrepressibly charismatic Syd Barrett, whose madcap genius spawned the brain-scrambling psychedelia of 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
But after Barrett’s erratic behavior prompted his dismissal from the group a year later, Floyd transitioned into a more enigmatic cosmic-rock collective powered by Roger Waters’ propulsive basslines, Richard Wright’s ethereal keyboard drones, drummer Nick Mason’s tense time-keeping, and the deeply emotive guitar squeals of Barrett’s replacement, David Gilmour. Albums like Ummagumma and Meddle ushered in the progressive-rock era with their sprawling, side-long compositions (and, decades later, proved foundational to indie movements like post-rock and doom metal).
But with 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd were no longer strictly the domain of underground-music heads. Harnessing their exploratory aesthetic into a taut, seamless song cycle, the album would spend 14 consecutive years on the Billboard charts, and it remains the benchmark for studio-crafted art-rock excellence that bands like Tame Impala continue to chase, while its pioneering use of electronics inspired adventurous dance acts like Daft Punk. Dark Side was also the record where Waters’ lyrical voice came to the fore, through critiques of British society that were as cutting as anything coming from the punks who purported to hate the band. Waters’ vision became evermore paramount on a string of classic LPs that explored personal loss (1975’s Barrett-inspired elegy Wish You Were Here) and political power structures (1977’s Orwellian parable Animals), culminating in 1979’s colossal arena-rock opera The Wall (though the fact that the latter release yielded Pink Floyd’s only No. 1 single, ”Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” affirmed the band’s knack for providing accessible gateways into dense, demanding works).
Waters continued to exert outsized creative control over the band until his 1985 departure, after which the remaining members carried on under the Floyd name into the ‘90s. Following a one-night-only reunion with Waters in 2005 for Live 8, and Wright’s death from cancer in 2008, Gilmour and Mason released the final Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, in 2014, bringing one of the most transformative and tumultuous bands in rock history to a peaceful rest.