Original Pink Floyd line-up had Syd Barrett on
lead guitar instead of Dave Gilmour, otherwise
personnel has remained constant. Roger Keith (Syd)
Barrett was born January 1946 in university town
Cambridge, England. Together with Waters and
Gilmour he attended Cambridge High School for Boys.
Moving to London, he attended Camberwell School of
Art where, in addition to painting, he learned to
play guitar. He played in various groups, Geoff
Mott and the Mottos, The Hollering Blues, and, as a
folk-duo, with Dave Gilmour who taught him Stones
licks during their lunch-break.
George Roger Waters left Carnbridge to study
architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic in
London. Doing the same architectural course were
Nicholas Berkeley Mason and Richard William Wright
both Londoners who arrived at the poly via Frensham
Heights and Haberdashers'. Waters, Mason and Wright
formed a group and called themselves Sigma 6. They
were managed by Ken Chapman, an ex poly student but
he had no luck in selling them to a record company.
They tried for fame as The T-Set, also as The
Abdabs, even as The Screaming Abdabs.
It was as The Abdabs that they were given their
first interview, in the poly newspaper. At that
time Clive Metcalf played bass and Roger Waters was
on lead. The group had two singers: Keith Noble and
The Abdabs broke-up and Juliette Gale married
Rick Wright. Mason, Wright and Waters tried again,
this time bringing in jazz guitarist Bob Close.
Waters also brought in Syd Barren whom he knew from
Cambridge. Barrett named the group after a record
he owned by the Georgia bluesmen Pink Anderson and
Floyd Council. He called them The Pink Floyd Sound.
Musical differences between Bob Close and Barrett
caused the former to leave.
The line up established, they played at a few
dances and the like, but their first regular venue
was a regular Sunday afternoon gig at The Marquee,
called "The Spontaneous Underground" which began in
February 1966. Here they built up their first small
following and became more or less the "official"
band of the London underground. It was here that
Peter Jenner, their first manager saw them, and
where they developed their electronic feedback
techniques in-between playing Chuck Berry numbers.
In October 1966 they got a regular weekly gig at
the London Free School's Sound/Light Workshop in
All Saint's Church Hall, Notting Hill. Here, an
American couple, Joel and Toni Brown from Tim
Leary's Millbrook Institute, first projected slides
over them and began to develop the idea of a
lightshow to accompany the music.
On October 15 the "International Times",
Europe's first underground newspaper, was launched
at a huge party in the London Roundhouse. The Floyd
played to an audience of 2,000 people with moving
liquid slides projected over themselves and the
audience. On December 3 they did another Roundhouse
show, this time a benefit for Zimbabwe after Ian
Smith had seized power in Rhodesia and on the 12th
they did a benefit for Oxfam at the Royal Albert
On Oct 31, 1966 the Floyd plus Pete Jenner and
Andrew King set up Blackhill Enterprises as a
six-way partnership to manage the group. In
November they got in Joe Gannon to handle their
lights as the Brown's returned to Millbrook.
Dec 23, 1966 saw first of the UFO Club evenings,
held every Friday night in an Irish Ballroom on
Tottenham Court Road. The Floyd got the music and
lights contract and became the house band. UFO
became the "in" club of the burgeoning London
underground scene and together with The Soft
Machine, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and
Tomorrow, they were the archetypes of the new wave
of "psychedelic rock" groups.
In January 1967, Joe Boyd, musical director of
UFO, produced their first single, a Syd Barrett
composition Arnold Layne. It concerned a
pervert-transvestite who stole ladies underwear
from washing-lines, and was banned by the pirate
station Radio London for being "too smutty". It
scraped to No. 25 in the U.K. charts.
Barrett was very much leader of the group at
this point. His lead guitar sound was distinctive,
and he wrote almost all their material. They signed
to EMI for a 5,000 pound advance, quite a big deal
for its time, but one of the conditions was that
they drop Boyd and use a staff producer, Norman
Smith. This they did.
On Apr 28, 1967 they played at the famous
Fourteen Hour Technicolour Dream Free Speech
Festival for "International Times", held at
Alexander Palace, North London. This was Britain's
equivalent to the "be-in"s held in U.S. and Floyd
had the top spot: they appeared at dawn.
On May 12, they presented "Games For May" at
London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. In the days when a
"name" group only played for 30 minutes, it was an
ambitious undertaking to do a full-length solo
show. They used a rudimentary quadraphonic sound
system with EMI installing two speaker stacks in
rear of the hall. There were light projections,
millions of bubbles and free daffodils given away.
Barrett wrote new material including Games For May.
With a change of title, See Emily Play, the song
was issued as a single. By July it was at No. 5 in
U.K. charts. They appeared on "Top Of The Pops" and
were well on their way to becoming a "name" group.
Their first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
(title taken by Barrett from one of the chapters of
"Wind In The Willows") was released on Aug 5, 1967
and of the 11 songs on the album, 10 were by
Barrett. He also did the drawing on the back
In October, they did their first tour of U.S.
playing at Fillmore East and West. While rest of
the band had always been more into booze than
drugs, Barrett was deeply involved in the
psychedelic side of the Underground taking large
amounts of LSD and drawing the inspiration for much
of his playing and writing from it.
He may have overdone it with the acid, or maybe
it just assisted some more deep-seated problems in
coming to the fore, but he had been behaving
erratically prior to the tour and his condition
worsened hy the day. He became even more
unpredictable, and on some gigs would only stand
and stare at the audience while strumming the same
chord all evening. There are many stories about his
breakdown but they all added up to the same thing:
Syd was becoming an acid casualty.
November 18 and another single, Apples And
Oranges was released, the product of much recording
at De Lane Lea, Sound Techniques and EMI Abbey
Road. It flopped. Meanwhile, things were getting
totally out of hand with Barrett - and eventually
it was decided to get in his old school chum Dave
Gilmour to play guitar. He joined the Floyd on Feb
18, 1968 and for about seven weeks he and Barrett
played together, but it was only a matter of time
before Syd left.
On April 6 he did Syd Barrett. David Gilmour was
born in Cambridge and went to same school as
Barrett and Waters. Before joining Floyd he went to
Paris and formed his own group, with whom he toured
Europe. Fluent in French, among his many jobs over
there was working as a male model. Gilmour is the
one member of Floyd who keeps in touch with music
"scene"; the only one ever seen in clubs.
During this time the Blackhill partnership had
been dissolved, though Syd Barrett stayed on with
them. The Floyd were now playing to bigger venues
and appearing regularly at Middle Earth Club, a
more commercial successor to UFO. They played there
seven times beginning Dec 16, 1967.
Shortly before Barrett left, they released It
Would Be So Nice, which flopped. They didn't seem
able to make singles any more.
Blackhill organised the first of their famed
free concerts in London's Hyde Park and on June 29
the Floyd, together with Roy Harper and Jethro
Tull, played to an enthusiastic audience. This,
together with the critical acclaim which greeted
their second album, Saucerful Of Secrets, released
on the same day, gave them the confidence they
needed to withstand loss of group's principal
player and composer. Roger Waters emerged as new
central figure, composing numbers such as Let There
Be Light and Set The Control For The Heart Of The
Sun. The title track, in particular, pointed the
way towards electronic embellishments .
They did American and European tours from July
to September of 1968, perfecting their act until it
became a full-scale concert production with special
effects and light-show. At London Festival Hall on
April 14, the Floyd presented "More Furious Madness
From The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes" where they
premiered their fabled Azimuth Coordinator. They
toured with an act called "The Journey" featuring
360 degree sound and their Azimuth, a sort of
joy-stick device for projecting sound around a
In July came release of soundtrack they had
written for "More", a movie directed by Barbet
Schroeder. Waters took lion's share of composing
credits and his work shows an impressive
development. Other movie offers followed, and they
also composed soundtrack to Peter Whitehead's
"Tonite Let's All Make Love In London" and a
remarkable score for Paul Jones' film "The
Committee". Then came Ummagumma, a double-album on
EMl's new Under ground label Harvest. It was
released in October and featured two live sides,
recorded at Mothers Club, Birmingham, and
Manchester College of Commerce June 1969. The live
versions of old favourites didn't add much to the
originals but the other album was of interest each
member of the band had half a side to experiment
with as they wished. Wright, Gilmour and Mason all
writing single varying self-indulgent pieces,
divided into numbered parts, and only Waters
providing several individual tracks.
December 1969 saw them in Rome, writing and
recording their score for Michaelangelo Antonioni's
"Zabriskie Point". In the end not much wag used
though Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up was a
very effective backing to the scene of the desert
mansion exploding, even though it was just Eugene
with a new title. In March 1970, MGM released a
soundtrack album of film including Floyd's three
contribuhons. "It was hell, sheer hell", said Roger
Waters of working with Antonioni.
In May 1970 David Gilmour joined Syd Barrett on
stage at a show in Olympia. But the Floyd did
nothing new until Bath Festival, where on 3 a.m.
billing, they premlered their new Atom Heart Mother
album complete with male and female chorus, a horn
section and fireworks. The album was released in
October and attracted vast public attention,
reaching No. I in U.K. charts and projecting Floyd
to superstardom. Looking back, however, it is
certainly not one of their best albums. A week
before Atom Heart Mother was released, Syd
Barrett's second solo album came out. It had been
produced by Dave Gilmour and Rick Wright. That
summer Floyd did a European tour and on July 18,
another free concert in Hyde Park, this time
attracting 100,000 people. Subsequently, toured
U.S., having 40,000 dollars-worth of gear stolen in
Atom Heart Mother had been jointly written by
Floyd and electronics experimenter Ron Geesin and,
in December, the soundtrack from "The Body", a film
produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Roy
Battersby, was released. Ron Geesin and Roger
Waters jointly performed and produced score; Geesin
writing majority of music.
On May I5 they did a two-and-a-half-hour
star-billing set at a Crystal Palace Garden Party
complete with fireworks and a 5O-foot inflatable
octopus which rose from the lake while they pbyed
Return To The Sun of Nothing (later called Echoes).
In teeming rain, they encored with Astronome
Domine. Unfortunately the volume of the speakers
killed the fish in the lake. They toured the far
East, Japan, Australia and in October and November
did another U.S. tour.
Meddle was released on November 13 to a lukewarm
reception from critics. Like many other bands in
both Britain and the U.S., the Floyd underwent a
very bland period in early '70s.
The year 1972 saw very little of the group. They
released one album Obscured By Clouds, another
movie soundtrack - from "La Vallee" again a Barbet
Schroeder film. This was recorded at Chateau
d'Heronville in France where the equipment was, by
their standards, primitive. Oddly enough, this was
the album which broke them in the States getting
the F.M. airplay that had always eluded them.
Also in 1972 came the film of the Floyd at
Pompeii, made by Adrian Maben for European TV, and
first shown at the Edinburgh Festival in September.
But most of the year was taken up with recording
Dark Slde Of The Moon, which altogether took nine
months of meticulous work. It was premiered with a
special presentation at the London Planetarium,
March 1973. This was their magnum opus-indeed, the
album which to many latter-day aficionados "is" the
Floyd. The group dealt with stress, lunacy and
death in contemporary society; the whole conveyed
via one of the classiest production jobs (by the
Floyd themselves) on record. Cynics have suggested
that the album's success was in large part due to
the briliance of its production - a stereo wet
dream for hi-fi snobs everywhere - but it would be
unfair to take credit away from the band for what
was a considerable achievement.
Dark Side Of The Moon was a gigantic seller. It
provided the Floyd with their first U.S. No. I and
took-up permanent residency on the British charts
for more than two years. Roger Waters: "Not a bad
album, though I do say so myself". They toured the
U.S. employing a girl backing-group, The Black
berries, who were more used to soul shows. On their
return they played London's Earls Court before
18,000 people, hauling out a whole artillery of
spectacular visuals: crashing aircraft, dry ice,
lights, an inflatable man with blazing green eyes
and a gong which burst into flames. They then
retired for half a year, only emerging in December
to play a benefit for Robert Wyatt, the ex Soft
Machine drummer who had broken his back. They
raised 10,000 pounds.
In summer 1974, Dave Gilmour produced Blue Pine
Trees by Unicorn on Transatlantic Records and he
even did a few gigs with Sutherland Brothers &
Quiver as a stand-in when their guitarist was ill.
At the September Blackhill Free Concert in Hyde
Park, he played guitar for Roy Harper. Also in
1974, Nick Mason produced Round One for the now
defunct Principal Edwards (lus second for the
group). He also worked on Robert Wyatt's Rock
Bottom set, producing a very clean sound which he
later repeated on Shamal for Gong.
It was around this time that stories started
filtering through the rock press (the Floyd have
never readily made themselves available for
interviews) that the band were experiencing real
problems producing material to match calibre of
omnipresent Dark Side Of The Moon.
In November, they toured the U.K., experiencing
an unprecedented demand for tickets but turning in
somewhat desultory performances. A bootleg recorded
at their concert at Trentham Gardens, Stoke, on
November 19 was mistaken by many people as their
next official album; and there were reports of its
selling l50,000 copies in a matter of weeks.
In 1975 they completed another U.S. tour,
spending June and July there and returning, without
proper preparation, to Britain for the Knebworth
Festival. They suffered from jetlag and were tired;
the equipment developed technical problems and the
group went to pieces, playing a disastrow set which
resulted in them announcing that they would not
play in the U.K. again. They had spent the
beginning of the year in the studios and finally,
after six months labour, and two-and-a-half years
after Dark Side Of The Moon, they produced their
follow-up. This was Wish You Were Here, released in
September 1975 to marked critical disappointment
that was virtually inevitable considering the
standard of its predecessor.
The track Shine On You Crazy Diamond (dedicated
to Barrett) possibly even the title itself -
suggests that after all these years the Floyd still
mourn the loss of Syd Barrett. It could just be
that they need some of Syd's crazed energy to stop
them lapsing into artistic slumber. And if that
isn't enough, the shadow of Dark Side Of The Moon
looks like hovering over them for some time to
come. First two albums below subsequently
re-issued as double-set A Nice Pair on Harrest.