Pink Floyd was an English rock band that earned recognition for their psychedelic music in the late 1960s, and as they evolved in the 1970s, for their progressive rock music. Pink Floyd's work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album cover art, and elaborate live shows. One of rock music's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful acts, the group have sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
Combining the names of two venerable bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Councilm, Pink Floyd was formed in 1965, and originally consisted of university students Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Syd Barrett. The group was a popular fixture on London's underground music scene, and under Barrett's leadership released two Top 20 singles, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play,” and a successful 1967 debut album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” Also that year the band signed to EMI.
In 1968, guitarist and singer David Gilmour joined the line-up, and the U.K. #9 “A Saucer Full of Secrets” was released. It is both the last Pink Floyd album on which Syd Barrett would appear and the only studio album in which all five band members contributed. The album’s cover art was done by Hipgnosis, a British art design group led by Strom Thorgerson who would go on to create several of the band’s well know album covers.
Later in 1968 Barrett was removed due to his increasingly erratic behavior. After Barrett's departure the band released “Ummagumma.” The album, named after a Cambridge euphemism for sex, was released as a double disc, the first disc containing songs performed live, the other containing new studio-recorded songs. “Atom Heart Mother” followed in 1970 and reached #1 in the U.K., and #55 on the U.S. charts, and went gold in the U.S.
“Meddle” was released in 1971 and although in the U.K. it reached #3, lackluster publicity on the part of Capitol Records led to weak sales in the U.S., and a chart position of #70. “Meddle” was later certified gold by the RIAA on in 1973 and then double platinum in 1994.
In 1972, “Obscured by Clouds,” an album based on their soundtrack for the Barbet Schroeder French film La “Vallée” was released. The album reached #6 on the U.K. Albums chart and #46 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums chart (where it was certified gold by the RIAA in 1994).
The concept album written by Waters, “Dark Side of the Moon,” released in 1973, was an immediate success, topping the Billboard 200 for one week. It subsequently remained on the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988, longer than any other album in history. With an estimated 45 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has twice been remastered and re-released, and has been covered by several other acts. It spawned two singles, “Money” and “Us and Them.”
“Wish You Were Here” followed in 1975 and was the second Pink Floyd album to use a conceptual theme written entirely by Waters, and echoes his feeling at the time that the camaraderie that had served the band previously, was largely absent. It featured the tribute to Barrett, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” It topped both the Billboard 200 Albums and U.K. Albums charts. The album was certified gold in the U.K., and gold in the U.S. in 1975. It was certified six times platinum in 1997, and as of 2004 has sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. “Have a Cigar” was chosen by Columbia as their first single, with “Welcome to the Machine” on the B-side in the U.S.
In 1977 another concept album, “Animals,” was released and it reached #2 in the U.K. It was also a success in the U.S., reaching #3 on the Billboard 200, and although it scored on the American chart for only six months, steady sales resulted in its certification by the RIAA at four times platinum.
As with the band's previous three studio albums, “The Wall,” released in 1979, was a concept album, and dealt largely with themes of abandonment and personal isolation. The double album was one of the best-selling of 1980 topping the Billboard 200 chart for 15 weeks, and it is estimated that to date, has sold over 23 million RIAA certified units in the U.S. The single, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2” became the first #1 hit for the band.
Another concept album, “The Final Cut” was the last of the band's releases to include founding member and longtime lyricist Roger Waters. It was originally planned as a soundtrack album for the band's 1982 film “Pink Floyd The Wall.” With the onset of the Falklands War, Waters changed it to be a critique of war, and also what he considered the betrayal of his father. With over one million units shipped in the U.S., the RIAA certified “The Final Cut” platinum in 1983 and the record achieved double Platinum certification in 1997.
In 1985, Waters declared Pink Floyd “a spent force,” but the remaining members, led by Gilmour, continued recording and touring under the name Pink Floyd. Waters sued the remaining members for the rights to the name. Following an out-of-court settlement, the band enjoyed worldwide success with “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” in 1987 and “The Division Bell” in 1994.