Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour all grew up in Cambridge, (Roger Waters having moved there from Surrey at the age of 2), and got into music as part of the folk and beat boom of the time. Young Roger Barrett was actively encouraged in his music and art by his parents, and was successful at both while in school.
He knew Roger Waters from school and met David Gilmour as a teenager, so their friendships were established long before the formation of Pink Floyd. Roger Barrett acquired the nickname 'Syd' around the ageof 14, in a reference to local bass player Sid Barrett, hence the ‘Syd’ spelling for differentiation.
The Barrett family home had hosted musical collaborations from 1962 onwards, the first fruits of which became Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, including Syd on rhythm guitar. In September 1962, Roger Waters left Cambridge for London to study architecture. Syd meanwhile had won a 2-year scholarship to Cambridge School of Art, where he re-established contact with David Gilmour, swapping guitar chords at lunchtime sessions.
London’s Regent Street Polytechnic had by now welcomed not only Roger Waters but Richard Wright, a Londoner, and Nick Mason, who was born in Birmingham but relocated to Hampstead at age 2. Roger and Nick responded to a college advert recruiting band members, and duly formed Sigma 6, playing guitar and drums respectively. Richard Wright also joined, playing guitar, various brass instruments and keyboards, depending on whether a piano was available.
As well as Polytechnic studies, Richard was taking private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music, and in fact left architectural studies (and the band, now called The Abdabs) at the end of his first year, to go travelling.
In Autumn 1964 Syd Barrett moved to London to attend Camberwell Art College, hooking up with Roger Waters and the Abdabs. Two of the band had just left, which left space for two guitarists: Syd, and fellow Cambridge friend Rado (‘Bob’) Klose, Roger Waters having switched to bass guitar. Originally Leonard’s Lodgers, The Spectrum Five, and latterly The Tea Set, the band finally became Pink Floyd when Richard Wright rejoined, having returned to the UK to enroll in the Royal College of Music. The new name was suggested by Syd, and was derived from two US bluesmen: Pink (born Pinkney) Anderson and Floyd Council.
The 5-piece played intermittently in early 1965 as both The Tea Set and The Pink Floyd (or The Pink Floyd Sound), with the departure of Rado ‘Bob’ Klose creating the first 4-man (Barrett / Mason / Waters / Wright) lineup at live shows from May onwards, although the band continued to alternate the use of the Tea Set / Pink Floyd designation right up until March 1966.
They were still a part-time band, allowing Syd to take off to France in August with David Gilmour, the pair being briefly detained by the St. Tropez police for busking (performing in the street).
Pink Floyd / Tea Set’s original style was based on American blues and r’n’b, but the birth of a UK psychedelic music scene allowed them to develop Syd’s performance-based ideas into something unique. Throughout 1966 they honed their live performance skills, often developing songs into long jamming sequences, and by the end of the year Pink Floyd had become the pre-eminent ‘underground’ band. They picked up management too, and their first recordings were songs by Syd, who had established himself as the band’s creative innovator.
Pink Floyd signed to EMI Records in 1967, releasing the singles Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, both written by Syd, and the album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, again mostly composed by Syd and considered to be one of the greatest British psychedelic albums.
Arnold Layne reached No. 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and See Emily Play reached No. 6, while The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn also entered the album charts at No. 6, the first of a long line of Pink Floyd album chart successes.
However, as the band began to attract a large fanbase, it became clear that Syd's fluid approach to writing, performing and recording - spontaneous, one take only, nothing repeated - was increasingly at odds with the expectations of a musical scene that was still very conservative, especially outside London. Possibly exacerbated by Syd’s frequent experimentation with psychedelic drugs, his behaviour became more erratic, to the point that the band decided to add a second guitarist for live performances. They hoped to call on Syd’s compositional abilities for studio work, similar to Brian Wilson’s role in the Beach Boys, while David Gilmour would bolster the band in live shows.
David Gilmour had gigged regularly around Cambridge with various outfits, including The Ramblers, Chris Ian & The Newcomers and Jokers Wild, his first professional outfit. David moved to London in Summer 1966, and the band, now a trio, played extensively around Europe. Renamed Bullitt, they then re-invented themselves as Flowers in 1967. Already known as the best guitarist on the Cambridge scene, David had been very impressed with seeing Jimi Hendrix in a small club, and had been inspired to work even harder on his technique.
The new 5-man Floyd experiment didn’t really work, and in January 1968, after a handful of shows, the band elected not to pick Syd up on the way to a Southampton University gig.
Syd and Floyd officially parted company in March 1968, with the band’s management Blackhill Enterprises deciding to stick with Syd as a solo artist. The band appointed Steve O'Rourke as manager, and he remained with Pink Floyd until his death in 2003.
Whilst Syd Barrett had written the bulk of the first album, only one composition by him, Jugband Blues, appeared on the second Floyd album. A Saucerful Of Secrets was released in June 1968, reaching Number 9 in the UK.
Point Me At The Sky, a Waters/Gilmour composition released in December 1968, was to be the band’s last single release until Money from The Dark Side Of The Moon.
The soundtrack to the film More, another UK Top 10 album in July 1969, was the band’s first collaboration with film director Barbet Schroeder. The next record, the double album Ummagumma in November 1969, was a mix of live recordings and studio experimentation by the band members, with each member recording half a side of a vinyl record as a solo project.
Meanwhile, over the course of a year, Syd Barrett had recorded The Madcap Laughs, released in January 1970, with some production help from David and Roger. Atom Heart Mother, in October 1970, was Pink Floyd's first recording with an orchestra, the title track suite taking up a full vinyl LP side. Their first UK No. 1 album, staying on the charts for 18 weeks, the title was taken from a London Evening Standard headline.
Roger Waters’ first work outside the band appeared in November 1970. A collaboration with Ron Geesin, (with whom Floyd had worked on Atom Heart Mother), The Body formed the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Pink Floyd appear anonymously on the track Give Birth To A Smile.
November 1970 also saw the release of Barrett, the second and last album of all-original Syd Barrett songs. It was produced by David Gilmour and included Richard Wright on keyboards.
Before the next album of original material, a Pink Floyd compilation album, Relics, was released in May 1971, containing several early singles and B-sides, plus one previously unreleased song Biding My Time. The band also contributed three tracks to the soundtrack of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, Zabriskie Point.
In October 1971 the band allowed director Adrian Maben to film them performing live in the amphitheatre at Pompeii. After more filming, including interviews and more performances in a Paris studio, the Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii film was finally premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in September 1972.
Meddle was Pink Floyd’s longest UK chart performer to date, maintaining 82 weeks on the chart from its No. 3 debut in November 1971. It contained the LP side-long Echoes, to many the perfect encapsulation of all Floyd’s disparate elements. Nick Mason considered it "the first real Pink Floyd album. It introduced the idea of a theme that can be returned to".
Developing the idea of thematic pieces, the band began to work on what would become The Dark Side of The Moon, presenting the songs from the album in concert throughout 1972. However, even though they were yet to enter the studio to record Dark Side as an album, the band took a detour to make another soundtrack album in just two weeks for Barbet Schroeder – Obscured By Clouds, to accompany the film La Vallee.
The release of Pink Floyd's massively successful 1973 album, The Dark Side Of The Moon, was a watershed moment in the band's popularity. Pink Floyd had stopped issuing singles after 1968's Point Me At The Sky and was never a hit single-driven group, but Money was released as a single from The Dark Side Of The Moon, going Top 20 in the U.S. The album became the band's first No. 1 on the U.S. Charts and is one of the biggest-selling ever, worldwide.
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and A Saucerful Of Secrets were re-presented to the public in December 1973 as a 2-LP set, A Nice Pair, repackaged in a gatefold sleeve.
1975’s Wish You Were Here is well-known for its popular title track, but also the largely instrumental song suite Shine On You Crazy Diamond, an overt tribute to Syd Barrett. It bookends the album, the recording of which was made poignant for the band by Syd’s surprise appearance in the studio. He turned up unannounced at Abbey Road studios while the group were working on Shine On, leaving his former bandmates bemused.
For most of the band, it was their last meeting with Syd; Roger Waters subsequently viewed him in Harrods department store, but the two didn’t speak.
The years between 1976 and 1985 saw Roger Waters asserting more control over Pink Floyd's output, concentrating on thematic albums like Animals, released in January 1977. One of the many iconic Pink Floyd images is that of an inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station; the pig, 'Algie', escaped during the cover shoot, subsequently coming to earth in the Kent countryside.
As a side project, David released his first solo album, David Gilmour, in May 1978. Featuring Rick Wills on bass and Willie Wilson on drums and percussion, the album charted in the UK at No. 17 and the U.S. at No. 29.
Using material that was extraneous to the Animals album, Richard released his first solo project, Wet Dream, in September 1978.
The next Floyd release was the hugely successful The Wall. Preceded by the surprise UK & US No. 1 hit Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, the double album chronicling a rock star’s increasing alienation from the world of stardom was an instant hit.
Roger Waters’ album concept extended to the stage presentation and the short run of live shows in the US and UK in 1980 (repeated in 1981 in the UK and Germany) remains in many peoples’ minds as the quintessential melding of music and theatrics in the rock idiom.
Roger had written almost all of the songs, although one of them, destined to be a future Floyd classic, was a Waters / Gilmour collaboration: Comfortably Numb. The music was based on an outtake from David’s first solo album, which he tailored to fit Roger’s lyrics.
Richard Wright’s relationship with Roger Waters had become increasingly rocky, and he left Pink Floyd during the Wall sessions. However, he was keen to complete the album’s live shows, so was retained as a salaried session musician during the subsequent live concerts in 1980 and 1981.
The Wall became a feature film, directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof. Some of the material was re-recorded or remixed, and the movie was premiered in May 1982 at Cannes, becoming a steady seller on VHS and subsequently DVD. Pink Floyd The Wall won two BAFTA Awards in 1983 – Best Sound and Best Original Song (Another Brick In The Wall).
Nick Mason’s first album under his own name was Fictitious Sports, released in 1981. A mixture of jazz and rock, the compositions were by Carla Bley, who also played keyboards. Other contributors included Robert Wyatt, Mike Mantler and Chris Spedding.
In March 1983, Pink Floyd released the only album on which Richard does not appear - The Final Cut, once more a Roger Waters conceptual piece, and the band’s third UK No. 1.
David's second solo album, About Face, was released in March 1984, hitting No. 21 in the UK and No. 32 in the US, going Gold.
In April 1984, Richard formed a new musical duo with Dave Harris (from the band Fashion) called Zee. They signed a record deal with Atlantic Records and released one album, Identity.
Roger went on to work on a further concept album, this time as a solo artist: The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking. Released in May 1984, the album was followed by a 9-date solo tour of the UK and Continental Europe.
One year after his bandmates' projects, Nick Mason released the album Profiles, a collaboration with Rick Fenn of 10CC. David Gilmour contributes vocals to one track.
In December 1985 Roger Waters wrote to EMI and CBS (now Sony) Records, resigning from Pink Floyd. Nevertheless, when in 1986 David Gilmour and Nick Mason began recording a new Pink Floyd album, a legal dispute ensued, eventually settled out of court.
After considering and rejecting many other titles, the new Pink Floyd album was released as A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in September 1987. Richard Wright contributed to the album, rejoining the band after the subsequent tour.
A year later, the band released a double live album and a concert video taken from its 1988 Long Island shows, entitled Delicate Sound Of Thunder, and later recorded some instrumentals for a classic-car racing film, La Carrera Panamericana, set in Mexico and featuring David andNick as participating drivers. During the race, David and manager Steve O'Rourke (acting as his map-reader) crashed. Steve suffered a broken leg; David walked away with a few bruises.
1992 saw the box set release of Shine On. The 9-disc set included re-releases of the studio albums A Saucerful Of Secrets, Meddle, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. A bonus disc entitled The Early Singles was also included.
The band's 1994 next album, The Division Bell, the title suggested by David's friend Douglas Adams, returned Pink Floyd to the No. 1 position in the UK & US, remaining on the charts in each country for 51 weeks. The album contained Marooned, composed by David and Richard, for which the band received their first and only Grammy Award in 1995 (Best Rock Instrumental Performance).
The lengthy Division Bell tour, playing to more than 5 million people, engendered the live album P*U*L*S*E in 1995, featuring songs from concerts in London, Rome, Hanover, and Modena.
On January 17, 1996, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. Roger Waters did not attend.
Richard Wright released his second solo album, Broken China, in September 1996. Richard sings throughout, with Momentary Lapse collaborator Anthony Moore providing some lyrics, and Sinead O’Connor guesting on vocals for two tracks.
A live recording of The Wall appeared in 2000, compiled from the 1980-1981 London concerts, entitled Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81. In 2001, a remastered two-disc set of the band's best-known tracks entitled Echoes was released.
In 2003, The Dark Side Of The Moon was issued as an SACD, featuring new cover artwork. The album was also re-released as a 180-gram, virgin vinyl pressing, including all the original album art from the original release of the album, plus a new poster.
Nick Mason's book, Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd was published in 2004 in Europe and 2005 in the U.S. Nick made public promotional appearances in a few European and American cities, giving interviews and meeting fans at book signings.
Longtime Pink Floyd manager Steve O'Rourke died on October 30, 2003. David, Nick, and Richard joined together at his funeral service in Chichester Cathedral to perform Fat Old Sun and The Great Gig In The Sky.
Two years later, on July 2, 2005, the Gilmour / Mason / Waters / Wright lineup took to the stage for the first time in 24 years in a one-off performance at the London Live 8 concert. Their four-song set included Breathe (plus reprise), Money, Wish You Were Here, and Comfortably Numb, with David and Roger sharing lead vocals. At the end of the band’s performance, their group hug became one of the most famous images of Live 8.
Subsequent to the post-Live 8 sales boom for the participating artists, David Gilmour declared that he would donate his share of profits to charity, urging other artists and record companies to do the same.
On November 16, 2005, Pink Floyd were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pete Townshend. David and Nick attended in person; Richard was in hospital following eye surgery and Roger appeared on a video screen, from Rome.
On March 6, 2006, David Gilmour released his third solo album, On An Island, which entered the charts at No. 1 in the UK and No. 6 in the US.
A 3-month sold-out tour of concert venues in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. followed, performed with a band that included Richard Wright, plus Floyd regulars Dick Parry, Jon Carin, and Guy Pratt. Nick Mason joined the band for encores of Arnold Layne and Comfortably Numb at one of the Royal Albert Hall shows, which were filmed for the subsequent DVD / Blu-ray release Remember That Night.
Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett died of pancreatic cancer on July 7, 2006 at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, having suffered from diabetes for some time. His funeral was a private family affair, but his enduring influence was marked by the many heartfelt tributes recorded by fans and stars, touched by his idiosyncratic genius.
On July 10, 2006, the P*U*L*S*E DVD was released, launched with a media showing and Q&A session with David, Nick and Richard.
A tribute concert for Syd was held at the Barbican Centre in London on May 10, 2007. Madcap’s Last Laugh featured entertaining performances from Barrett fans such as Chrissie Hynde, Mike Heron and Nick Laird-Clowes, while an unbilled Roger Waters played an acoustic Flickering Flame. Roger had to leave before the end of the show, so was unavailable for a further surprise performance - David, Richard and Nick performing Arnold Layne to rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
September 2007 saw the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's signing to EMI, marked by the release of a 2-CD set containing mono and stereo mixes of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and a 3-CD version including the related singles, B sides and other rare recordings.
On December 10 (UK) and 11 (U.S.), 2007, Pink Floyd released a new CD box set, OH BY THE WAY, containing all fourteen studio albums with original vinyl artwork plus new artwork from Storm Thorgerson.
Two albums (The Dark Side Of The Moon and A Momentary Lapse Of Reason) boast remastered versions.
In 2008, Sweden’s Polar Music Prize was awarded to Pink Floyd for “their monumental contribution over the decades to the fusion of art and music in the development of popular culture. Through extensive sonic experimentation, they captured the mood and spirit of a whole generation in their reflections and attitudes. When rock'n'roll developed, Pink Floyd was foremost in shaping the sounds that would influence artists for ever."
Richard Wright died on September 15th had been in September 2007 with David Gilmour, at the premiere of David’s concert DVD, Remember That Night.
In January 2010 the artwork for The Division Bell was used in a series of Royal Mail stamps. In March Royal Mail created a unique page of Division Bell-only stamps on their own dedicated gummed sheet, including artwork from the album.
On 10th July, 2010, David Gilmour and Roger Waters played some songs together in aid of the Hoping Foundation charity, at a private concert in Kiddington, Oxfordshire, UK. Backed by a band that included Guy Pratt, Harry Waters and Andy Newmark, David and Roger performed To Know Him Is To Love Him, Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb, and Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2.
In September 2010, Roger Waters started an 11-month long live world tour of The Wall, with a high-tech stage production that received rapturous reviews.
In 2011, under the banner Why Pink Floyd?, the Pink Floyd catalogue was re-released, packaged in gatefold digipaks including new Storm Thorgerson artwork and completely remastered by James Guthrie. Three expanded versions were released, with The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall receiving bonus tracks including previously unissued live recordings or demo tracks. Three multi-disc box sets were also released, again with one each dedicated to The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, all containing bonus material, surround sound mixes, new booklets and art pieces produced by Storm Thorgerson’s StormStudios. A new single-CD compilation album A Foot In The Door - The Best Of Pink Floyd –was also released.
Storm Thorgerson, Pink Floyd’s longtime visual collaborator and co-founder of the Hipgnosis art studio (with Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell) died on 18th April, 2013. His visual legacy lives on in the continuing popularity of many iconic Pink Floyd images.
In 2013, Roger Waters continued to present The Wall live around the world, having expanded the production to include stadiums. It played to sold-out audiences and universal acclaim.