1962 – 1967: Early years
Roger Waters and Nick Mason met while studying architecture at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street. They first played music together in a group formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe with Noble’s sister Sheilagh. Richard Wright, a fellow architecture student, joined later that year, and the group became a sextet, Sigma 6. Waters played lead guitar, Mason drums, and Wright rhythm guitar (since there was rarely an available keyboard). The band performed at private functions and rehearsed in a tearoom in the basement of the Regent Street Polytechnic. They performed songs by the Searchers and material written by their manager and songwriter, fellow student Ken Chapman.
In September 1963, Waters and Mason moved into a flat at 39 Stanhope Gardens near Crouch End in London, owned by Mike Leonard, a part-time tutor at the nearby Hornsey College of Art and the Regent Street Polytechnic. Mason moved out after the 1964 academic year, and guitarist Bob Klose moved in during September 1964, prompting Waters’ switch to bass. Sigma 6 went through several names, including the Meggadeaths, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five, before settling on the Tea Set. In 1964, as Metcalfe and Noble left to form their own band, guitarist Syd Barrett joined Klose and Waters at Stanhope Gardens. Barrett, two years younger, had moved to London in 1962 to study at the Camberwell College of Arts. Waters and Barrett were childhood friends; Waters had often visited Barrett and watched him play guitar at Barrett’s mother’s house. Mason said about Barrett: “In a period when everyone was being cool in a very adolescent, self-conscious way, Syd was unfashionably outgoing; my enduring memory of our first encounter is the fact that he bothered to come up and introduce himself to me.”
Noble and Metcalfe left the Tea Set in late 1963, and Klose introduced the band to singer Chris Dennis, a technician with the Royal Air Force (RAF). In December 1964, they secured their first recording time, at a studio in West Hampstead, through one of Wright’s friends, who let them use some down time free. Wright, who was taking a break from his studies, did not participate in the session. When the RAF assigned Dennis a post in Bahrain in early 1965, Barrett became the band’s frontman. Later that year, they became the resident band at the Countdown Club near Kensington High Street in London, where from late night until early morning they played three sets of 90 minutes each. During this period, spurred by the group’s need to extend their sets to minimise song repetition, the band realised that “songs could be extended with lengthy solos”, wrote Mason. After pressure from his parents and advice from his college tutors, Klose quit the band in mid-1965 and Barrett took over lead guitar. The group first referred to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound in late 1965. Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs. The name is derived from the given names of two blues musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
By 1966, the group’s repertoire consisted mainly of rhythm and blues songs and they had begun to receive paid bookings, including a performance at the Marquee Club in March 1966, where Peter Jenner, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, noticed them. Jenner was impressed by the sonic effects Barrett and Wright created, and with his business partner and friend Andrew King became their manager. The pair had little experience in the music industry and used King’s inheritance to set up Blackhill Enterprises, purchasing about £1,000 (equivalent to £18,300 in 2018) worth of new instruments and equipment for the band. It was around this time that Jenner suggested they drop the “Sound” part of their band name, thus becoming the Pink Floyd. Under Jenner and King’s guidance, the group became part of London’s underground music scene, playing at venues including All Saints Hall and the Marquee. While performing at the Countdown Club, the band had experimented with long instrumental excursions, and they began to expand them with rudimentary but effective light shows, projected by coloured slides and domestic lights. Jenner and King’s social connections helped gain the band prominent coverage in the Financial Times and an article in the Sunday Times which stated: “At the launching of the new magazine IT the other night a pop group called the Pink Floyd played throbbing music while a series of bizarre coloured shapes flashed on a huge screen behind them … apparently very psychedelic.”
In 1966, the band strengthened their business relationship with Blackhill Enterprises, becoming equal partners with Jenner and King and the band members each holding a one-sixth share. By late 1966, their set included fewer R&B standards and more Barrett originals, many of which would be included on their first album. While they had significantly increased the frequency of their performances, the band were still not widely accepted. Following a performance at a Catholic youth club, the owner refused to pay them, claiming that their performance was not music. When their management filed suit in a small claims court against the owner of the youth organisation, a local magistrate upheld the owner’s decision. The band was much better received at the UFO Club in London, where they began to build a fan base. Barrett’s performances were enthusiastic, “leaping around … madness … improvisation … [inspired] to get past his limitations and into areas that were … very interesting. Which none of the others could do”, wrote biographer Nicholas Schaffner.
Signing with EMI
In 1967, Pink Floyd began to attract the attention of the music industry. While in negotiations with record companies, IT co-founder and UFO club manager Joe Boyd and Pink Floyd’s booking agent Bryan Morrison arranged and funded a recording session at Sound Techniques in West Hampstead. Three days later, Pink Floyd signed with EMI, receiving a £5,000 advance (equivalent to £89,100 in 2018). EMI released the band’s first single, “Arnold Layne”, with the B-side “Candy and a Currant Bun”, on 10 March 1967 on its Columbia label. Both tracks were recorded on 29 January 1967. “Arnold Layne”‘s references to cross-dressing led to a ban by several radio stations; however, creative manipulation by the retailers who supplied sales figures to the music business meant that the single peaked in the UK at number 20.
EMI-Columbia released Pink Floyd’s second single, “See Emily Play”, on 16 June 1967. It fared slightly better than “Arnold Layne”, peaking at number 6 in the UK. The band performed on the BBC’s Look of the Week, where Waters and Barrett, erudite and engaging, faced tough questioning from Hans Keller. They appeared on the BBC’s Top of the Pops, a popular programme that controversially required artists to mime their singing and playing. Though Pink Floyd returned for two more performances, by the third, Barrett had begun to unravel, and it was around this time that the band first noticed significant changes in his behaviour. By early 1967, he was regularly using LSD, and Mason described him as “completely distanced from everything going on”.
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Morrison and EMI producer Norman Smith negotiated Pink Floyd’s first recording contract, and as part of the deal, the band agreed to record their first album at EMI Studios in London. Mason recalled that the sessions were trouble-free. Smith disagreed, stating that Barrett was unresponsive to his suggestions and constructive criticism. EMI-Columbia released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in August 1967. The album peaked at number 6, spending 14 weeks on the UK charts. One month later, it was released under the Tower Records label. Pink Floyd continued to draw large crowds at the UFO Club; however, Barrett’s mental breakdown was by then causing serious concern. The group initially hoped that his erratic behaviour would be a passing phase, but some were less optimistic, including Jenner and his assistant, June Child, who commented: “I found [Barrett] in the dressing room and he was so … gone. Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, [and] we got him out to the stage … The band started to play and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck and his arms just hanging down”.
Forced to cancel Pink Floyd’s appearance at the prestigious National Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as several other shows, King informed the music press that Barrett was suffering from nervous exhaustion. Waters arranged a meeting with psychiatrist R. D. Laing, and though Waters personally drove Barrett to the appointment, Barrett refused to come out of the car. A stay in Formentera with Sam Hutt, a doctor well established in the underground music scene, led to no visible improvement. The band followed a few concert dates in Europe during September with their first tour of the US in October. As the US tour went on, Barrett’s condition grew steadily worse. During appearances on the Dick Clark and Pat Boone shows in November, Barrett confounded his hosts by not responding to questions and staring off into space. He refused to move his lips when it came time to mime “See Emily Play” on Boone’s show. After these embarrassing episodes, King ended their US visit and immediately sent them home to London. Soon after their return, they supported Jimi Hendrix during a tour of England; however, Barrett’s depression worsened as the tour continued, reaching a crisis point in December, when the band responded by adding a new member to their line-up.
1967 – 1978: Transition and international succes
Replacement of Barrett by Gilmour
In December 1967, the group added guitarist David Gilmour as the fifth member of Pink Floyd. Gilmour already knew Barrett, having studied with him at Cambridge Tech in the early 1960s. The two had performed at lunchtimes together with guitars and harmonicas, and later hitch-hiked and busked their way around the south of France. In 1965, while a member of Joker’s Wild, Gilmour had watched the Tea Set. Morrison’s assistant, Steve O’Rourke, set Gilmour up in a room at O’Rourke’s house with a salary of £30 per week (equivalent to £500 in 2018), and in January 1968, Blackhill Enterprises announced Gilmour as the band’s newest member; the second guitarist and its fifth member, the band intending to continue with Barrett as a nonperforming songwriter. Jenner commented: “The idea was that Dave would … cover for [Barrett’s] eccentricities and when that got to be not workable, Syd was just going to write. Just to try to keep him involved”. In an expression of his frustration, Barrett, who was expected to write additional hit singles to follow up “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”, instead introduced “Have You Got It Yet?” to the band, intentionally changing the structure on each performance so as to make the song impossible to follow and learn. In a January 1968 photo-shoot of the five-man Pink Floyd, the photographs show Barrett looking detached from the others, staring into the distance.
Working with Barrett eventually proved too difficult, and matters came to a conclusion in January while en route to a performance in Southampton when a band member asked if they should collect Barrett. According to Gilmour, the answer was “Nah, let’s not bother”, signalling the end of Barrett’s tenure with Pink Floyd. Waters later admitted, “He was our friend, but most of the time we now wanted to strangle him”. In early March 1968, Pink Floyd met with business partners Jenner and King to discuss the band’s future; Barrett agreed to leave.
Jenner and King believed Barrett to be the creative genius of the band, and decided to represent him and end their relationship with Pink Floyd. Morrison then sold his business to NEMS Enterprises, and O’Rourke became the band’s personal manager. Blackhill announced Barrett’s departure on 6 April 1968. After Barrett’s departure, the burden of lyrical composition and creative direction fell mostly on Waters. Initially, Gilmour mimed to Barrett’s voice on the group’s European TV appearances; however, while playing on the university circuit, they avoided Barrett songs in favour of Waters and Wright material such as “It Would Be So Nice” and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”.
A Saucerful Of Secrets
In 1968, Pink Floyd returned to Abbey Road Studios to record their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. The album included Barrett’s final contribution to their discography, “Jugband Blues”. Waters began to develop his own songwriting, contributing “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, “Let There Be More Light” and “Corporal Clegg”. Wright composed “See-Saw” and “Remember a Day”. Norman Smith encouraged them to self-produce their music, and they recorded demos of new material at their houses. With Smith’s instruction at Abbey Road, they learned how to use the recording studio to realise their artistic vision. However, Smith remained unconvinced by their music, and when Mason struggled to perform his drum part on “Remember a Day”, Smith stepped in as his replacement. Wright recalled Smith’s attitude about the sessions, “Norman gave up on the second album … he was forever saying things like, ‘You can’t do twenty minutes of this ridiculous noise'”. As neither Waters nor Mason could read music, to illustrate the structure of the album’s title track, they invented their own system of notation. Gilmour later described their method as looking “like an architectural diagram”.
Released in June 1968, the album featured a psychedelic cover designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. The first of several Pink Floyd album covers designed by Hipgnosis, it was the second time that EMI permitted one of their groups to contract designers for an album jacket. The release peaked at number 9, spending 11 weeks on the UK chart. Record Mirror gave the album an overall favourable review, but urged listeners to “forget it as background music to a party”. John Peel described a live performance of the title track as “like a religious experience”, while NME described the song as “long and boring … [with] little to warrant its monotonous direction”. On the day after the album’s UK release, Pink Floyd performed at the first ever free concert in Hyde Park. In July 1968, they returned to the US for a second visit. Accompanied by the Soft Machine and the Who, it marked Pink Floyd’s first significant tour. In December of that year, they released “Point Me at the Sky”; no more successful than the two singles they had released since “See Emily Play”, it would be the band’s last until their 1973 release, “Money”.
The psychedelic artwork for A Saucerful of Secrets was the first of many Pink Floyd covers designed by Hipgnosis.
Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Meddle
Ummagumma represented a departure from their previous work. Released as a double-LP on EMI’s Harvest label, the first two sides contained live performances recorded at Manchester College of Commerce and Mothers, a club in Birmingham. The second LP contained a single experimental contribution from each band member. Ummagumma received positive reviews upon its release, in November 1969. The album peaked at number 5, spending 21 weeks on the UK chart.
In October 1970, Pink Floyd released Atom Heart Mother. An early version premièred in France in January, but disagreements over the mix prompted the hiring of Ron Geesin to work out the sound problems. Geesin worked to improve the score, but with little creative input from the band, production was troublesome. Geesin eventually completed the project with the aid of John Alldis, who was the director of the choir hired to perform on the record. Smith earned an executive producer credit, and the album marked his final official contribution to the band’s discography. Gilmour said it was “A neat way of saying that he didn’t … do anything”. Waters was critical of Atom Heart Mother, claiming that he would prefer if it were “thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again”. Gilmour was equally dismissive of the album and once described it as “a load of rubbish”, stating: “I think we were scraping the barrel a bit at that period”. Pink Floyd’s first number 1 album, Atom Heart Mother was hugely successful in Britain, spending 18 weeks on the UK chart. It premièred at the Bath Festival on 27 June 1970.
Pink Floyd toured extensively across America and Europe in 1970. In 1971, Pink Floyd took second place in a reader’s poll, in Melody Maker, and for the first time were making a profit. Mason and Wright became fathers and bought homes in London while Gilmour, still single, moved to a 19th-century farm in Essex. Waters installed a home recording studio at his house in Islington in a converted toolshed at the back of his garden. In January 1971, upon their return from touring Atom Heart Mother, Pink Floyd began working on new material. Lacking a central theme, they attempted several unproductive experiments; engineer John Leckie described the sessions as often beginning in the afternoon and ending early the next morning, “during which time nothing would get [accomplished]. There was no record company contact whatsoever, except when their label manager would show up now and again with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of joints”. The band spent long periods working on basic sounds, or a guitar riff. They also spent several days at Air Studios, attempting to create music using a variety of household objects, a project which would be revisited between The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
Released in October 1971, “Meddle not only confirms lead guitarist David Gilmour’s emergence as a real shaping force with the group, it states forcefully and accurately that the group is well into the growth track again”, wrote Jean-Charles Costa of Rolling Stone. NME called Meddle “an exceptionally good album”, singling out “Echoes” as the “Zenith which the Floyd have been striving for”. However, Melody Maker’s Michael Watts found it underwhelming, calling the album “a soundtrack to a non-existent movie”, and shrugging off Pink Floyd as “so much sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Meddle is a transitional album between the Barrett-influenced group of the late 1960s and the emerging Pink Floyd. The LP peaked at number 3, spending 82 weeks on the UK chart.
The Dark Side Of The Moon
Pink Floyd recorded The Dark Side of the Moon between May 1972 and January 1973, with EMI staff engineer Alan Parsons at Abbey Road. The title is an allusion to lunacy rather than astronomy. The band had composed and refined the material on Dark Side while touring the UK, Japan, North America and Europe. Producer Chris Thomas assisted Parsons. Hipgnosis designed the album’s packaging, which included George Hardie’s iconic refracting prism design on the cover. Thorgerson’s Dark Side album cover features a beam of white light, representing unity, passing through a prism, which represents society. The resulting refracted beam of coloured light symbolises unity diffracted, leaving an absence of unity. Waters is the sole author of the album’s lyrics.
Released in March 1973, the LP became an instant chart success in the UK and throughout Western Europe, earning an enthusiastic response from critics. Each member of Pink Floyd except Wright boycotted the press release of The Dark Side of the Moon because a quadraphonic mix had not yet been completed, and they felt presenting the album through a poor-quality stereo PA system was insufficient. Melody Maker‘s Roy Hollingworth described side one as “utterly confused … [and] difficult to follow”, but praised side two, writing: “The songs, the sounds … [and] the rhythms were solid … [the] saxophone hit the air, the band rocked and rolled”. Rolling Stone‘s Loyd Grossman described it as “a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement.”
Throughout March 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon featured as part of Pink Floyd’s US tour. The album is one of the most commercially successful rock albums of all time; a US number 1, it remained on the Billboard chart for more than fourteen years, selling more than 45 million copies worldwide. In Britain, the album peaked at number 2, spending 364 weeks on the UK chart. Dark Side is the world’s third best-selling album, and the twenty-first best-selling album of all time in the US. The success of the album brought enormous wealth to the members of Pink Floyd. Waters and Wright bought large country houses while Mason became a collector of expensive cars. Disenchanted with their US record company, Capitol Records, Pink Floyd and O’Rourke negotiated a new contract with Columbia Records, who gave them a reported advance of $1,000,000 (US$5,080,297 in 2018 dollars). In Europe, they continued to be represented by Harvest Records.
The iconic artwork for The Dark Side of the Moon was designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie.
Wish You Were Here
After a tour of the UK performing Dark Side, Pink Floyd returned to the studio in January 1975 and began work on their ninth studio album, Wish You Were Here. Parsons declined an offer to continue working with them, becoming successful in his own right with the Alan Parsons Project, and so the band turned to Brian Humphries. Initially, they found it difficult to compose new material; the success of The Dark Side of the Moon had left Pink Floyd physically and emotionally drained. Wright later described these early sessions as “falling within a difficult period” and Waters found them “tortuous”. Gilmour was more interested in improving the band’s existing material. Mason’s failing marriage left him in a general malaise and with a sense of apathy, both of which interfered with his drumming.
Despite the lack of creative direction, Waters began to visualise a new concept after several weeks. During 1974, Pink Floyd had sketched out three original compositions and had performed them at a series of concerts in Europe. These compositions became the starting point for a new album whose opening four-note guitar phrase, composed purely by chance by Gilmour, reminded Waters of Barrett. The songs provided a fitting summary of the rise and fall of their former bandmate. Waters commented: “Because I wanted to get as close as possible to what I felt … [that] indefinable, inevitable melancholy about the disappearance of Syd.”
While Pink Floyd were working on the album, Barrett made an impromptu visit to the studio, during which Thorgerson recalled that he “sat round and talked for a bit, but he wasn’t really there.” He had changed significantly in appearance, so much so that the band did not initially recognise him. Waters was reportedly deeply upset by the experience. Most of Wish You Were Here premiered on 5 July 1975, at an open-air music festival at Knebworth. Released in September, it reached number one in both the UK and the US.
In 1975, Pink Floyd bought a three-storey group of church halls at 35 Britannia Row in Islington and began converting the building into a recording studio and storage space. In 1976, they recorded their tenth album, Animals, in their newly finished 24-track studio. The concept of Animals originated with Waters, loosely based on George Orwell’s political fable, Animal Farm. The album’s lyrics described different classes of society as dogs, pigs, and sheep. Hipgnosis received credit for the packaging of Animals; however, Waters designed the final concept, choosing an image of the ageing Battersea Power Station, over which they superimposed an image of a pig.
The division of royalties was a source of conflict between band members, who earned royalties on a per-song basis. Although Gilmour was largely responsible for “Dogs”, which took up almost the entire first side of the album, he received less than Waters, who contributed the much shorter two-part “Pigs on the Wing”. Wright commented: “It was partly my fault because I didn’t push my material … but Dave did have something to offer, and only managed to get a couple of things on there.” Mason recalled: “Roger was in full flow with the ideas, but he was really keeping Dave down, and frustrating him deliberately.” Gilmour, distracted by the birth of his first child, contributed little else toward the album. Similarly, neither Mason nor Wright contributed much toward Animals; Wright had marital problems, and his relationship with Waters was also suffering. Animals is the first Pink Floyd album that does not include a writing credit for Wright, who commented: “Animals … wasn’t a fun record to make … this was when Roger really started to believe that he was the sole writer for the band … that it was only because of him that [we] were still going … when he started to develop his ego trips, the person he would have his conflicts with would be me.”
Released in January 1977, the album peaked on the UK chart at number two, and the US chart at number three. NME described the album as “one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music”, and Melody Maker‘s Karl Dallas called it “[an] uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific”.
Pink Floyd performed much of the album’s material during their “In the Flesh” tour. It was the band’s first experience playing large stadiums, whose size caused unease in the band. Waters began arriving at each venue alone, departing immediately after the performance. On one occasion, Wright flew back to England, threatening to leave the band. At the Montreal Olympic Stadium, a group of noisy and enthusiastic fans in the front row of the audience irritated Waters so much that he spat at one of them. The end of the tour marked a low point for Gilmour, who felt that the band achieved the success they had sought, with nothing left for them to accomplish.
1978 – 1985: Waters led-era
In July 1978, amid a financial crisis caused by negligent investments, Waters presented the group with two original ideas for their next album. The first was a 90-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, and the other would later become Waters’ first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Although both Mason and Gilmour were initially cautious, they chose the former to be their next album. Bob Ezrin co-produced, and he wrote a forty-page script for the new album. Ezrin based the story on the central figure of Pink—a gestalt character inspired by Waters’ childhood experiences, the most notable of which was the death of his father in World War II. This first metaphorical brick led to more problems; Pink would become drug-addled and depressed by the music industry, eventually transforming into a megalomaniac, a development inspired partly by the decline of Syd Barrett. At the end of the album, the increasingly fascist audience would watch as Pink tore down the wall, once again becoming a regular and caring person.
During the recording of The Wall, Waters, Gilmour and Mason became increasingly dissatisfied with Wright’s lack of contribution to the album. Gilmour said that Wright “hadn’t contributed anything of any value whatsoever to the album—he did very, very little” and this was why he “got the boot”. According to Mason, “Rick’s contribution was to turn up and sit in on the sessions without doing anything, just ‘being a producer’.” Waters commented: “[Wright] was not prepared to cooperate in making the record … [and] it was agreed by everybody … either [he] can have a long battle or [he] can agree to … finish making the album, keep [his] full share … but at the end of it [he would] leave quietly. Rick agreed.”
The album was supported by “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”, Pink Floyd’s first single since “Money”, which topped the charts in the US and the UK. After its official release on 30 November 1979, The Wall topped the Billboard chart in the US for fifteen weeks, reaching number three in the UK. The Wall ranks number three on the RIAA’s list of the all-time Top 100 albums, with 23 million certified units sold in the US. The cover is one of their most minimalist designs, with a stark white brick wall, and no trademark or band name. It was also their first album cover since The Piper at the Gates of Dawn not designed by Hipgnosis.
Gerald Scarfe produced a series of animations for the subsequent live shows, The Wall Tour. He also commissioned the construction of large inflatable puppets representing characters from the storyline including the “Mother”, the “Ex-wife” and the “Schoolmaster”. Pink Floyd used the puppets during their performances of the album. Relationships within the band were at an all-time low; their four Winnebagos parked in a circle, the doors facing away from the centre. Waters used his own vehicle to arrive at the venue and stayed in different hotels from the rest of the band. Wright returned as a paid musician and was the only one of the four to profit from the venture, which lost about $600,000 (US$1,653,514 in 2018 dollars).
The Wall concept also spawned a film, the original idea for which was to be a combination of live concert footage and animated scenes. However, the concert footage proved impractical to film. Alan Parker agreed to direct and took a different approach. The animated sequences would remain, but scenes would be acted by professional actors with no dialogue. Waters was screen-tested, but quickly discarded and they asked Bob Geldof to accept the role of Pink. Geldof was initially dismissive, condemning The Wall‘s storyline as “bollocks”. Eventually won over by the prospect of participation in a significant film and receiving a large payment for his work, Geldof agreed. Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1982, Pink Floyd – The Wall premièred in the UK in July 1982.
The Final Cut
In 1982, Waters suggested a new musical project with the working title Spare Bricks, originally conceived as the soundtrack album for Pink Floyd – The Wall. With the onset of the Falklands War, Waters changed direction and began writing new material. He saw Margaret Thatcher’s response to the invasion of the Falklands as jingoistic and unnecessary, and dedicated the album to his late father. Immediately arguments arose between Waters and Gilmour, who felt that the album should include all new material, rather than recycle songs passed over for The Wall. Waters felt that Gilmour had contributed little to the band’s lyrical repertoire. Michael Kamen, a contributor to the orchestral arrangements of The Wall, mediated between the two, also performing the role traditionally occupied by the then-absent Wright. The tension within the band grew. Waters and Gilmour worked independently; however, Gilmour began to feel the strain, sometimes barely maintaining his composure. After a final confrontation, Gilmour’s name disappeared from the credit list, reflecting what Waters felt was his lack of songwriting contributions.
Though Mason’s musical contributions were minimal, he stayed busy recording sound effects for an experimental Holophonic system to be used on the album. With marital problems of his own, he remained a distant figure. Pink Floyd did not use Thorgerson for the cover design, Waters choosing to design the cover himself. Released in March 1983, The Final Cut went straight to number one in the UK and number six in the US. Waters wrote all the lyrics, as well as all the music on the album. Gilmour did not have any material ready for the album and asked Waters to delay the recording until he could write some songs, but Waters refused. Gilmour later commented: “I’m certainly guilty at times of being lazy … but he wasn’t right about wanting to put some duff tracks on The Final Cut.” Rolling Stone magazine gave the album five stars, with Kurt Loder calling it “a superlative achievement … art rock’s crowning masterpiece”. Loder viewed The Final Cut as “essentially a Roger Waters solo album”.
“A spent force”, Waters’ departure and legal battles
Gilmour recorded his second solo album, About Face, in 1984, and used it to express his feelings about a variety of topics, from the murder of John Lennon to his relationship with Waters. He later stated that he used the album to distance himself from Pink Floyd. Soon afterwards, Waters began touring his first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Wright formed Zee with Dave Harris and recorded Identity, which went almost unnoticed upon its release. Mason released his second solo album, Profiles, in August 1985.
Following the release of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Waters publicly insisted that Pink Floyd would not reunite. He contacted O’Rourke to discuss settling future royalty payments. O’Rourke felt obliged to inform Mason and Gilmour, which angered Waters, who wanted to dismiss him as the band’s manager. He terminated his management contract with O’Rourke and employed Peter Rudge to manage his affairs. Waters wrote to EMI and Columbia announcing he had left the band, and asked them to release him from his contractual obligations. Gilmour believed that Waters left to hasten the demise of Pink Floyd. Waters later stated that, by not making new albums, Pink Floyd would be in breach of contract—which would suggest that royalty payments would be suspended—and that the other band members had forced him from the group by threatening to sue him. He then went to the High Court in an effort to dissolve the band and prevent the use of the Pink Floyd name, declaring Pink Floyd “a spent force creatively.” When his lawyers discovered that the partnership had never been formally confirmed, Waters returned to the High Court in an attempt to obtain a veto over further use of the band’s name. Gilmour responded by issuing a carefully worded press release affirming that Pink Floyd would continue to exist. He later told The Sunday Times: “Roger is a dog in the manger and I’m going to fight him.” In 2013, Waters said he had failed to appreciate that the Pink Floyd name had commercial value independent of the band members, and was wrong to have attempted to stop the others using it.
1985 – 1994: Gilmour-led era
A Momentary Lapse Of Reason
In 1986, Gilmour began recruiting musicians for what would become Pink Floyd’s first album without Waters, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. There were legal obstacles to Wright’s re-admittance to the band, but after a meeting in Hampstead, Pink Floyd invited Wright to participate in the coming sessions. Gilmour later stated that Wright’s presence “would make us stronger legally and musically”, and Pink Floyd employed him as a musician with weekly earnings of $11,000. Recording sessions began on Gilmour’s houseboat, the Astoria, moored along the River Thames. Gilmour worked with several songwriters, including Eric Stewart and Roger McGough, eventually choosing Anthony Moore to write the album’s lyrics. Gilmour would later admit that the project was difficult without Waters’ creative direction. Mason, concerned that he was too out-of-practice to perform on the album, made use of session musicians to complete many of the drum parts. He instead busied himself with the album’s sound effects.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released in September 1987. Storm Thorgerson, whose creative input was absent from The Wall and The Final Cut, designed the album cover. To drive home that Waters had left the band, they included a group photograph on the inside cover, the first since Meddle. The album went straight to number three in the UK and the US. Waters commented: “I think it’s facile, but a quite clever forgery … The songs are poor in general … [and] Gilmour’s lyrics are third-rate.” Although Gilmour initially viewed the album as a return to the band’s top form, Wright disagreed, stating: “Roger’s criticisms are fair. It’s not a band album at all.” Q Magazine described the album as essentially a Gilmour solo album.
Waters attempted to subvert the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour by contacting promoters in the US and threatening to sue them if they used the Pink Floyd name. Gilmour and Mason funded the start-up costs with Mason using his Ferrari 250 GTO as collateral. Early rehearsals for the upcoming tour were chaotic, with Mason and Wright entirely out of practice. Realising he had taken on too much work, Gilmour asked Ezrin to assist them. As Pink Floyd toured North America, Waters’ Radio K.A.O.S. tour was on occasion, close by, though in much smaller venues than those hosting his former band’s performances. Waters issued a writ for copyright fees for the band’s use of the flying pig. Pink Floyd responded by attaching a large set of male genitalia to its underside to distinguish it from Waters’ design. The parties reached a legal agreement on 23 December; Mason and Gilmour retained the right to use the Pink Floyd name in perpetuity and Waters received exclusive rights to, among other things, The Wall.
The Division Bell
For several years Pink Floyd had busied themselves with personal pursuits, such as filming and competing in the La Carrera Panamericana and recording a soundtrack for a film based on the event. In January 1993, they began working on a new album, returning to Britannia Row Studios, where for several days, Gilmour, Mason and Wright worked collaboratively, improvising material. After about two weeks, the band had enough ideas to begin creating songs. Ezrin returned to co-produce the album and production moved to the Astoria, where from February to May 1993, they worked on about 25 ideas.
Contractually, Wright was not a member of the band, and said “It came close to a point where I wasn’t going to do the album.” However, he earned five co-writing credits on the album, his first on a Pink Floyd album since 1975’s Wish You Were Here. Another songwriter credited on the album was Gilmour’s future wife, Polly Samson. She helped him write several tracks, including, “High Hopes”, a collaborative arrangement which, though initially tense, “pulled the whole album together,” according to Ezrin. They hired Michael Kamen to arrange the album’s orchestral parts; Dick Parry and Chris Thomas also returned. Writer Douglas Adams provided the album title and Thorgerson the cover artwork. Thorgerson drew inspiration for the album cover from the Moai monoliths of Easter Island; two opposing faces forming an implied third face about which he commented: “the absent face—the ghost of Pink Floyd’s past, Syd and Roger”. Eager to avoid competing against other album releases, as had happened with A Momentary Lapse, Pink Floyd set a deadline of April 1994, at which point they would resume touring. The album reached number 1 in both the UK and the US. It spent 51 weeks on the UK chart.
Pink Floyd spent more than two weeks rehearsing in a hangar at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California, before opening on 29 March 1994, in Miami, with an almost identical road crew to that used for their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour. They played a variety of Pink Floyd favourites, and later changed their setlist to include The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. The tour, Pink Floyd’s last, ended on 29 October 1994.
The album artwork for The Division Bell, designed by Storm Thorgerson, was intended to represent the absence of Barrett and Waters from the band.
2005 – 2016: Reunion, deaths, and The Endless River
Live 8 reunion
On 2 July 2005, Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed together as Pink Floyd for the first time in more than 24 years, at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London. The reunion was arranged by Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof; after Gilmour declined the offer, Geldof asked Mason, who contacted Waters. About two weeks later, Waters called Gilmour, their first conversation in two years, and the next day Gilmour agreed. In a statement to the press, the band stressed the unimportance of their problems in the context of the Live 8 event.
They planned their setlist at the Connaught Hotel in London, followed by three days of rehearsals at Black Island Studios. The sessions were problematic, with disagreements over the style and pace of the songs they were practising; the running order was decided on the eve of the event. At the beginning of their performance of “Wish You Were Here”, Waters told the audience: “[It is] quite emotional, standing up here with these three guys after all these years, standing to be counted with the rest of you … we’re doing this for everyone who’s not here, and particularly of course for Syd.” At the end, Gilmour thanked the audience and started to walk off the stage. Waters called him back, and the band shared a group hug. Images of the hug were a favourite among Sunday newspapers after Live 8. Waters said of their almost 20 years of animosity: “I don’t think any of us came out of the years from 1985 with any credit … It was a bad, negative time, and I regret my part in that negativity.”
Though Pink Floyd turned down a contract worth £136 million for a final tour, Waters did not rule out more performances, suggesting it ought to be for a charity event only. However, Gilmour told the Associated Press that a reunion would not happen: “The [Live 8] rehearsals convinced me [that] it wasn’t something I wanted to be doing a lot of … There have been all sorts of farewell moments in people’s lives and careers which they have then rescinded, but I think I can fairly categorically say that there won’t be a tour or an album again that I take part in. It isn’t to do with animosity or anything like that. It’s just … I’ve been there, I’ve done it.” In February 2006, Gilmour was interviewed by Gino Castaldo from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which declared: “Patience for fans in mourning. The news is official. Pink Floyd the brand is dissolved, finished, definitely deceased.” Asked about the future of Pink Floyd, Gilmour responded: “It’s over … I’ve had enough. I’m 60 years old … it is much more comfortable to work on my own.” Gilmour and Waters repeatedly said that they had no plans to reunite with the former members.
Deaths of Barrett and Wright
Barrett died on 7 July 2006, at his home in Cambridge, aged 60. His family interred him at Cambridge Crematorium on 18 July 2006; no Pink Floyd members attended. Wright commented: “The band are very naturally upset and sad to hear of Syd Barrett’s death. Syd was the guiding light of the early band line-up and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire.” Although Barrett had faded into obscurity over the previous 35 years, the national press praised him for his contributions to music. On 10 May 2007, Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason performed at the Barrett tribute concert “Madcap’s Last Laugh” at the Barbican Centre in London. Gilmour, Wright and Mason performed the Barrett compositions, “Bike” and “Arnold Layne”, and Waters performed a solo version of his song “Flickering Flame”.
Wright died of an undisclosed form of cancer on 15 September 2008, aged 65. His former bandmates paid tributes to his life and work; Gilmour said: “In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick’s enormous input was frequently forgotten. He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound.” A week after Wright’s death, Gilmour performed “Remember a Day” from A Saucerful of Secrets, written and originally sung by Wright, in tribute to him. Keyboardist Keith Emerson released a statement praising Wright as the “backbone” of Pink Floyd.
Further performances and re-releases
On 10 July 2010, Waters and Gilmour performed together at a charity event for the Hoping Foundation. The event, which raised money for Palestinian children, took place at Kiddington Hall in Oxfordshire, England, with an audience of approximately 200. In return for Waters’ appearance at the event, Gilmour performed “Comfortably Numb” at Waters’ performance of The Wall at the London O2 Arena on 12 May 2011, singing the choruses and playing the two guitar solos. Mason also joined, playing tambourine for “Outside the Wall” with Gilmour on mandolin.
On 26 September 2011, Pink Floyd and EMI launched an exhaustive re-release campaign under the title Why Pink Floyd … ?, reissuing the band’s back catalogue in newly remastered versions, including “Experience” and “Immersion” multi-disc multi-format editions. The albums were remastered by James Guthrie, co-producer of The Wall. In November 2015, Pink Floyd released a limited edition EP, 1965: Their First Recordings, comprising six songs recorded prior to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
The Endless River
In 2012, Gilmour and Mason decided to revisit recordings made with Wright, mainly during the Division Bell sessions, to create a new Pink Floyd album. They recruited session musicians to help record new parts and “generally harness studio technology”. Waters was not involved. Mason described the album as a tribute to Wright: “I think this record is a good way of recognising a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was.”
The Endless River was released on 7 November 2014, the second Pink Floyd album distributed by Parlophone following the release of the 20th anniversary editions of The Division Bell earlier in 2014. Though it received mixed reviews, it became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK, and debuted at number one in several countries. The vinyl edition was the fastest-selling UK vinyl release of 2014 and the fastest-selling since 1997.
Gilmour stated that The Endless River is Pink Floyd’s last album, saying: “I think we have successfully commandeered the best of what there is … It’s a shame, but this is the end.” There was no tour to support the album, as Gilmour felt it was “kind of impossible” without Wright. In August 2015, Gilmour reiterated that Pink Floyd were “done” and that to reunite without Wright “would just be wrong”.
In November 2016, Pink Floyd released a boxset, The Early Years 1965–1972, comprising outtakes, live recordings, remixes, and films from their early career. In 2018, Mason formed a new band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, to perform Pink Floyd’s early material. The band includes Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet and longtime Pink Floyd collaborator Guy Pratt. They toured Europe in September 2018.