“You’d have to be daft as a brush to say you didn’t like Pink Floyd.”—John Lydon.
It’s safe to say that Pink Floyd is one of the most successful bands that has ever existed. And it isn’t just about financial success; their albums, particularly The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, have continually been hailed as some of the greatest albums ever made. Over the years, the band went through members, they changed up their sound, and they continue to endure. They have been become known for their incredible live shows and their wildly imaginative albums. So what went into making those classic albums? What happened to the individual members of Pink Floyd? We broke through the wall and found out all we could about this great band, and we present our list to you now.
Pink Floyd Facts
43. To “The” or Not to “The”
The original full name of the band was “The Pink Floyd Sound.” The band was actually still referred to in some circles as “The Pink Floyd” until the end of the 1960s.
42. Tribute Band
The name Pink Floyd came from their original frontman, Syd Barrett. Barrett was a big fan of blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, so he took one name from each of them and combined them into one name for the band.
41. How it Began
The original members of Pink Floyd were Roger Waters, Richard “Rick” Wright, Nick Mason, and Syd Barrett. Waters, Wright, and Mason had all been architecture students at London Polytechnic, while Barrett, an art student two years younger than them, joined up later and became their front man.
40. Music Innovators
One of the ways that Pink Floyd developed their musical style was with the help of an Azimuth Co-Ordinator quadrophonic sound system. This made Pink Floyd “the first rock band to pioneer live surround sound.”
39. Lucky Number Seven
To date, Pink Floyd have sold more than 118 million records across the globe. This would mean they are allegedly the seventh best-selling recording artists/bands of all time.
38. Quick to Climb the Ladder
In 1967, Pink Floyd recorded their first single, the song “Arnold Layne,” which details an eccentric who steals women’s clothing from other people’s washing-lines This semi-fictional figure was apparently based on a real person that Roger Waters had known. Just a month after recording this song, they were signed on by EMI Records.
37. Heck of a Line
While the band members of Pink Floyd frequently multitasked on their albums, drummer Nick Mason only ever provided vocals to one song in their entire oeuvre. That song was “One of These Days”, and the line Mason provided was “One of these days, I’m gonna cut you into little pieces.”
36. Creative Kaleidoscope
Early on in their career, before they had the budget to back up their ambitions, Pink Floyd would create visual effects for their live shows in a number of cheap yet effective ways. One of these ways was to cover their lights with colored condoms!
35. Legendary Music Being Crafted
In 1967, Pink Floyd was stationed at Abbey Road to record their first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. While they were doing this, the Beatles were in the building adjacent to them, recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Safe to say that was a great year for music.
34. What’s Your Offer, Stanley?
At some point around the release of their 1970 album Atom Heart Mother, legendary director Stanley Kubrick approached Pink Floyd and asked for their permission to use part of the album’s 23-minute-long title track in the soundtrack of his film A Clockwork Orange. However, he was unclear on which parts would be used and what would be done with them, so Pink Floyd denied permission. Reflecting on the film and Kubrick’s request, Roger Waters later stated, “maybe it’s just as well [our song] wasn’t used after all.”
33. But Did a Tree Fall Over?
Pink Floyd has been known for releasing albums of live music. But in the case of one 1972 live album, they recorded it in an amphitheater in the ancient town of Pompei. They performed without an audience present to hear them.
32. We Were Busy
From 1967 to 1973, Pink Floyd produced eight albums in total. Two of those albums (More and Ummagumma) were released in the same year, 1969.
31. Just a Brick in the Yellow Brick Road
For decades, a persistent theory among fans of The Dark Side of the Moon is that it was intentionally made to synchronize up with the 1939 fantasy musical The Wizard of Oz. However, despite how accurately the album might indeed match to the movie, Pink Floyd has continually denied the connection as being intentional. Dream on, conspiracy theorists.
30. Change of Leadership
After writing most of the songs for Pink Floyd’s first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and contributing one song to their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, Barrett became increasingly unreliable. Due to the combined effects of mental health issues and heavy use of LSD, Barrett withdrew further from the band. In response, the other members of Pink Floyd kept Barrett at arm’s length, bringing in David Gilmour as a guitarist to replace Barrett. Roger Waters, meanwhile, took over as frontman, and Barrett officially left the band in 1968.
29. Shine On
As well as being labeled as a progressive rock group, Pink Floyd is also credited as being one of the first psychedelic music groups to emerge from the UK. They certainly weren’t the last either!
28. Buzz Off
In 2015, a new species of damselfly was discovered in Africa. The scientists who discovered it ended up naming the new species “Umma gumma” after Pink Floyd’s 1969 experimental album Ummagumma.
27. That was Me! I Invented That!
Of course, you might be wondering where Ummagumma’s title comes from in the first place, and it does have an explanation. Rather than just being the result of Pink Floyd slamming their hands down on a computer keyboard, the name derives from a slang word they heard from their friend, Iain “Elmo” Moore. According to Moore himself, the word was a euphemism for sex, and he made it up himself.
26. Thanks, George!
Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals was based in part on George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm. Both the novel and the album compare the different social classes to different animals, such as sheep or dogs. However, while Animal Farm criticized Stalinism, Animals focused on capitalism.
25. We Don’t Need No Singles Success
Despite the incredible successes of such albums as The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, Pink Floyd has only topped the Hot 100 Singles Billboard Chart once in their entire careers. The song which broke through? “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” from their album The Wall.
24. Hey! Pink Floyd!
Anyone who knows Pink Floyd’s The Wall will know that album’s most famous single “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).” The song famously features a choir of children singing the verse and chorus alongside the band. It turns out that they didn’t get paid any money for that contribution! In 2004, the grown-up school children filed a lawsuit against Pink Floyd for the money they should have earned. Their lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, however.
23. G’Day Mate!
There’s a surprisingly lucrative industry of cover bands playing the music of Pink Floyd. For example, the Australian Pink Floyd have sold upwards of 3 million tickets and they’ve toured across 35 different countries!
22. Fear the Taxman
Despite the amazing success of their previous albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd was going through great financial difficulties. Their financial planners invested millions of the band’s monies into a high-risk venture capital, and the investment failed. Not only that, Pink Floyd was facing taxes as high as 83%! This accelerated the band’s creation of The Wall, which has gone down as one of the most successful albums of all time.
21. Life After Pink Floyd
After leaving Pink Floyd, Roger Waters continued to play an updated version of The Wall to his fans. He was even joined by his former bandmates for part of the 2011 tour. In 1990, Waters also organized one of the biggest rock concerts in history with “The Wall – Live in Berlin.” Held just eight months after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the concert was attended by 450,000 people!
20. Bring the Boys Back on Stage
In 2005, Roger Waters reunited with David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick Wright to perform together as part of Live8. It was the first time that all four former members of Pink Floyd had performed together since 1981, and it was also the last time they would do so.
19. Let’s Go to the Movies
In 1982, a movie adaptation of The Wall was released under the title Pink Floyd – The Wall. The band had been fully involved, with Roger Waters frequently clashing with the film’s director and animation director. Ultimately, the final project was considered a disappointment by everyone involved—a lot of bad blood had been built up during the production as well—but the film became a financial success and is considered by many to be a cult classic.
18. That Explains the Knights Who Say “Ni”
Like many people, Pink Floyd were fans of the British comedy troupe, Monty Python. Unlike most fans, however, Pink Floyd ended up contributing money to help Monty Python continue their act! Specifically, they helped finance Monty Python’s 1975 feature film Monty Python and the Holy Grail!
17. I’m Gone… and I’m Back
While Pink Floyd was working on The Wall, keyboardist Rick Wright was going through several personal problems which made him hard to get a hold of when the album was being recorded. His distance frustrated his bandmates, especially Roger Waters. Waters ultimately took charge and fired Wright from the band before the album was released. Wright ultimately returned to the band in the mid-1980s, after Waters had left (more on that later).
16. One Last Hurrah
Pink Floyd’s final album was released in 2014. The Endless River was produced six years after keyboardist Rick Wright’s death in 2008 but still features him as a contributor to the music, since a lot of the instrumentals on the album were produced back when The Division Bell was being produced. Naturally, being the first Pink Floyd album since 1994, The Endless River became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK at the time of its release.
15. Is There Anybody Out There?
In 1989, Russian cosmonauts took an album by Pink Floyd with them to the MIR space station. It was the first rock album to ever be played in space. Sadly, it wasn’t The Dark Side of the Moon. It was their 1988 live album Delicate Sound of Thunder, which was the only one of their albums which was officially released in Russia.
14. Popularity Contest?
Amazingly, Pink Floyd never got much love from the Grammy Awards. The Wall only won a single Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording. But at least it was nominated for other awards that year. Meanwhile, The Dark Side of the Moon was only nominated for one award for the album’s producer, Alan Parsons. And he didn’t even win it!
13. Last Gasps
After Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968, he was persuaded to make two solo albums in EMI studios. Individual members of Pink Floyd even came back to help him make the albums. By then, however, Barrett had become so difficult to work with that he walked away from a consistent music career. Playing here and there with different music acts, Barrett was approached throughout the ‘70s to stay in the music industry, but he ultimately quit the industry for good in 1978.
12. Life After the Fame
After he quit the music industry, Syd Barrett ultimately moved back into his mother’s house in Cambridge, where he would live for the rest of his life. Despite paparazzi occasionally harassing him, Barrett tried to live a solitary life, gardening, and painting while continuing to collect royalties for his work with Pink Floyd. When he died in 2006, he left an estate worth £1.7 million to his siblings.
11. Family Connection
Those who know The Dark Side of the Moon will know that the songs “Speak to Me” and “Brain Damage” feature maniacal laughter within them. The man who provided said laughter was Pink Floyd’s road manager, Peter Watts. You might be more familiar with his daughter; actress Naomi Watts, star of Mulholland Drive, The Ring, and King Kong.
10. Based on a True Story
While The Wall was partly inspired by Pink Floyd’s former member Syd Barrett, the album’s chief songwriter, Roger Waters, put a lot of autobiographical facts into the album’s fictional protagonist of Pink Floyd, named after the band. Both Floyd and Waters lost their fathers in the Second World War and were unhappily married in their lives. Not only that, “Comfortably Numb” was inspired by Waters’ experience getting a muscle relaxant while combatting hepatitis in Philadelphia.
9. Shoot for the Stars
The success of The Dark Side of the Moon is impossible to doubt. From its release in 1973, it spent an unmatched 14 years on the Billboard charts!
8. The Show Must Go On!
When it comes to their live performances, Pink Floyd always tried to push the envelope, but they one-upped themselves when it came to their tours promoting The Wall. As they played the album onstage, they would have a large wall built out of cardboard bricks. Gaps in the wall would allow audience members to see animated sequences projected onto the other side of the wall.
7. In Hindsight…
After spending over a decade as the main driving force behind Pink Floyd, Roger Waters left the band and attempted to dissolve it since he was leaving. The other members, David Gilmour and Nick Mason, were furious and refused to let Waters choose to end the band just because he was done with it. A legal case began over the rights to Pink Floyd and the music. Waters, later on, regretted his actions, declaring that he’d been “wrong” to try to go over his bandmates’ heads to dissolve Pink Floyd.
6. The Gilmour Era
After Roger Waters left, David Gilmour took charge of the band. Between 1985 and 1995, the band produced two albums: A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell. As proof that they could go on without Waters, both albums went at least double platinum in the US. In the case of Momentary, it went quadruple platinum.
5. Kubrick Again?
A lesser-known Pink Floyd conspiracy theory is the idea that their album Meddle syncs up perfectly with the final scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some people have too much time on their hands—about 46 minutes, to be exact.
4. That was Real??!
The cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here famously portrays two businessmen shaking hands while one of them is on fire—which makes us wonder what the other guy must be thinking. Incredibly, the image of the businessman on fire wasn’t faked! A stuntman, wearing a fire-retardant suit under his business suit, actually got lit on fire for the photo shoot.
3. One of My Turns Coming On
In 1977, Pink Floyd was on tour when an especially rowdy crowd in Montreal at the Olympic Stadium infuriated Roger Waters so much that he spat at a fan in the crowd in disgust. From there, he began to conceive of an idea which focused around a jaded rock star isolating himself from his fans and even his family. This idea eventually became The Wall.
2. Syd the Troll
According to Roger Waters, Barrett’s last practice session with Pink Floyd involved him trying to introduce them to a new composition that he’d done. He called it “Have You Got It Yet?” and seemed simple enough for the band when he first played it. However, they spent the practice session being unable to play along with Barrett. Finally, they realized that Barrett was changing the song every time they began playing it again, all while singing “Have you got it yet?” To Rogers’ credit, he acknowledged Barrett’s prank as “a real act of mad genius.”
1. Profound Coincidence
One day during the recording of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a tribute to their former member Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd were visited by an overweight, bald man with shaved eyebrows. He behaved strangely, even brushing his teeth during the session. After a while, the band realized that it was none other than Barrett himself. Roger Waters was reportedly so overcome by Barrett’s physical transformation and sudden appearance that he began to cry. For his part, Rick Wright found it “disturbing” that Barrett had picked that day of all days to come visit his old band. Barrett, meanwhile, seems to have thought little of it; he quietly left later that day when the band was preoccupied with a celebration for David Gilmour’s wedding. It was one of the last times they ever saw him before his death in 2006.