Pink Floyd had moderate mainstream success and were one of the most popular bands in the London underground music scene in the late 1960s as a psychedelic band led by Syd Barrett; however, Barrett's erratic behaviour eventually forced his colleagues to replace him with guitarist and singer David Gilmour. After Barrett's departure, singer and bass player Roger Waters gradually became the dominant and driving force in the mid-1970s, until his eventual departure from the group in 1985. The band recorded several albums, achieving worldwide success with The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), and The Wall (1979). In 1985, Waters declared Pink Floyd defunct, but the remaining members, led by Gilmour, were sued by Waters for rights to the name; they continued recording and touring as Pink Floyd and enjoyed commercial success with A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), eventually reaching a settlement with Waters over the use of the name.
Waters performed with the band for the first time in 24 years on July 2, 2005 at the London Live 8 concert, playing to Pink Floyd's biggest audience ever.
Pink Floyd have influenced rock music artists of the 1970s such as David Bowie, Genesis and Yes; and various modern artists such as Dream Theater, Tool, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, The Orb and Nine Inch Nails.
Syd Barrett–led era: 1964–1968
Pink Floyd evolved from an earlier rock band, formed in 1964, which was at various times called Sigma 6, the Meggadeaths, Tea Set and The Abdabs. When the band split up, some members — guitarists Rado "Bob" Klose and Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and wind instrument player Rick Wright — formed a new band called "Tea Set". After a brief stint with a lead vocalist named Chris Dennis, guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett joined the band, with Waters moving to bass.
When Tea Set found themselves on the same bill as another band with the same name, Barrett came up with the alternative name The Pink Floyd Sound, after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. For a time after this they oscillated between Tea Set and The Pink Floyd Sound, with the latter name eventually winning out. The Sound was dropped fairly quickly, but the definite article was still used regularly until 1968. The group's UK releases during the Syd Barrett era credited them as The Pink Floyd as did their first two U.S. singles. David Gilmour is known to have referred to the group as The Pink Floyd as late as 1984.
The heavily jazz-oriented Klose left after recording only a demo, leaving an otherwise stable lineup with Barrett on guitar and lead vocals, Waters on bass guitar and backing vocals, Mason on drums and percussion, and Wright switching to keyboards and backing vocals. Barrett soon started writing his own songs, influenced by American and British psychedelic rock with his own brand of whimsical humour. Pink Floyd became a favourite in the underground movement, playing at such prominent venues as the UFO club, the Marquee Club and the Roundhouse.
At the end of 1966 the band were invited to contribute music for Peter Whitehead's film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London; they were filmed recording two tracks ("Interstellar Overdrive" and "Nick's Boogie") in January 1967. Although hardly any of this music made it onto the film, the session was eventually released as London 1966/1967 in 2005.
As their popularity increased, the band members formed Blackhill Enterprises in October 1966, a six-way business partnership with their managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King,issuing the singles "Arnold Layne" in March 1967 and "See Emily Play" in June 1967. "Arnold Layne" reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and "See Emily Play" reached number 6, granting the band its first national TV appearance on Top of the Pops in July 1967. (They had earlier appeared, performing "Interstellar Overdrive" at the UFO Club, in a short documentary, "It's So Far Out It's Straight Down". This was broadcast in March 1967 but seen only in the UK's Granada TV region.)
Released in August 1967, the band's debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is today considered to be a prime example of British psychedelic music, and was generally well-received by critics at the time. It is now viewed as one of the best debut albums by many critics. The album's tracks, predominantly written by Barrett, showcase poetic lyrics and an eclectic mixture of music, from the avant-garde free-form piece "Interstellar Overdrive" to whimsical songs such as "The Scarecrow", inspired by the Fenlands, a rural region north of Cambridge (Barrett, Gilmour and Waters's home town). Lyrics were entirely surreal and often referred to folklore, such as "The Gnome". The music reflected newer technologies in electronics through its prominent use of stereo panning, tape editing, echo effects and electric keyboards. The album was a hit in the UK where it peaked at #6, but did not do well in North America, reaching #131 in the U.S., and that only after it was reissued in the wake of the band's state side commercial breakthrough in the 1970s. During this period, the band toured with Jimi Hendrix, which helped to increase its popularity.
As the band became more popular, the stresses of life on the road and a significant intake of psychedelic drugs took their toll on Barrett, whose mental health had been deteriorating for several months. Barrett's strange behaviour has often been attributed to his drug use. In January 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out Barrett's playing and singing duties, though evidently Jeff Beck was considered.
With Barrett's behaviour becoming less and less predictable, and his almost constant use of LSD, he became very unstable, occasionally staring into space while the rest of the band performed. During some performances, he would just strum one chord for the duration of a concert, or randomly begin detuning his guitar. The band's live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts. The last concert featuring Barrett was on January 20, 1968 on Hastings Pier. It was originally hoped that Barrett would write for the band with Gilmour performing live, but Barrett's increasingly difficult compositions, such as "Have You Got It, Yet?", which changed melodies and chord progression with every take, eventually made the rest of the band give up on this arrangement. Once Barrett's departure was formalised in April 1968, producers Jenner and King decided to remain with him, and the six-way Blackhill partnership was dissolved. The band adopted Steve O'Rourke as manager, and he remained with Pink Floyd until his death in 2003.
After recording two solo albums (The Madcap Laughs and Barrett) in 1970 (co-produced by and sometimes featuring Gilmour, Waters and Wright) to moderate success, Barrett went into seclusion. Again going by his given name, Roger, he lived a quiet life in his native Cambridge until his death on July 7, 2006.