For beginners I recommend short biography of band & discography at allmusic.com. Additional reading material can be found at amazon.com or other online bookstores. For something interesting, try Dark Side of the Rainbow at http://www.synchronicityarkive.com/dsotr.php Don't expect too much, I've never been able to get actors & music to synchronize, exactly.
first off roger waters was a founding member of the band (named for bluesmen pink anderson and floyd counsil) but the guiding force and chief song writer was syd barrett before he went off the deep end so to speak; his escapes are legendary and well worth reading about. Their first album "piper at the gates of the dawn" is well worth a listen. Syd was eventually replaced by david gilmour.
the next four albums or so were collabortive efforts within the band members and while further success was elusive to the band they did well touring but made no money due to their elaborate stage shows for the time.
Other recordings that may be worth listening to from this period would be "obscured by clouds" and "meddle".
After this point in time came roger's dominance in the band and he became chief songwriter and developed their concept albums starting with "DSOTM".
The band always states that when they were recording "Shine on you crazy diamond", about syd barrett, for the "WYWH" that this fat balding man was in the studio that nobody recognized at first and then became apparent to the band that it was syd.
after "final cut" the band broke up due to all the infighting and when david and nick got together to record "momentary lapse..." (richard was just a session player on the album) roger sued them for using the pink floyd name and even though rogers album have been far superior to the reformed pink floyd's efforts people ( the masses who could not name a band member) purchase the name pink floyd based on reputation and not roger waters albums even though the songs and albums these people know are rogers creations.
If you want to read up on the band go to your local borders or barnes and noble and sit in chair and check out their coffee table book that is described on the cover as a visual documentary by miles. It covers the band in great detail from its before they were pink floyd.
I would recommend a reading of "Saucerful of Secrets" by Nicholas Schaffner published by Delta in 1991. Much is spent on the band's genesis including their early years while Syd was still active with the band. My personal favorites are: Pre Dark Side: "Umma Gumma" and post: "Wish You Were Here". "Meddle" really is the turning point LP in which the idea of album as concept began to gel for them.
Roger Waters works (with the exception of the bloated "Wall" stuff, IMHO), are still more representative of The Floyd's work, than the last iteration of the group. Despite the negative press, "Final Cut" has some very good things about it. "Amused To Death" is excellent. I saw the "In the Flesh" tour a couple of years ago and was more impressed with that than the several post-Waters PF shows I've witnessed.
Before DSOTM, Pink Floyd offered listening heads a kind of music that required no foot tapping. Piper at the Gates and Saucerful of Secrets feature some awesome cuts. They do however lack that consistent, cut from the same cloth, feel. Atom Heart Mother and Umma Gumma are terrific concept albums. Parts of Umma Gumma are so heavy your neighbors today will wonder what the heck is going on over there. More and Obscured by Clouds are good listens but lack coherence. For me, Meddle was the last genuine PF album. One side is a conglomeration of cuts but the Echoes side is concept thru and thru. The whole album makes a nice ending to their experimental career.
DSOTM marks PF's sellout into commercialism and the abandonment of humor. The grooving in a cave, psychedelic breakfast, and ridiculous howling dog give way to a polished smugness and the sarcasm trap. It's still head music all the way and much more accessible to the average black clad goth, closet nihilist or workaday joe wannabe. Something for everyone! Enjoy your discoveries.
Thanks for the excellent info so far!
Rockvirgo -- Sounds like I will have to spend some time with Meddle.....while Slipknots point of the Wall as "bloated" is not hard to see, you must be a real traditionalist to suggest DSOTM was the sell out?!?
Further to my questions on greed and capitalism, does anyone have a view on Pink Floyd (Roger Water's?) politics?
Just get all the early albums, starting with the first one, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and going all the way to DSOTM. You won't be sorry. That is their best material. They've all been mentioned above. Some is classic, some is bizarre. It's all Pink Floyd at their peak.
I guess I'm not a PF purist, but I like RW's "Amused To Death" as one of the best LPs of all time. As for the rest of the PF catalogue, in order, I like:
RW's "Radio KAOS"
PF's "The Division Bell"
"Wish You Were Here"
"The Final Cut"
"Momentary Lapse Of Reason"
I like Roger's bitter, insightful lyrics & storytelling, and I like David Gilmour's guitar playing & lighter, less serious look at things. I don't know about anyone else, but DSOTM has ben so overplayed that I'm actually tired of hearing it. I own a (gasp!) CD changer for Saturday morning background listening, and it's not uncommon to load up 7 PF & RW CDs to keep me occupied for most of the day. :-)
I agree, the wall was hugely popular and I like it, but their best music, the real creative stuff is on the early albums. Start from the begining and go from there, its worth it. Piper and Saucerful establishe the strange Floyd signature, creative writing mixed with aural mind candy. Half of Umma Gumma is live and half studio. Cool insight into their earlier live show. The studio sides have some great classic Floyd jams and some is strange sound-effect stuff thats fun also. I would buy Atom Heart Mother for cows on the album cover, but the title song, with orchestra is powerful. More and Obscured by Clouds are soundtrack albums with some great songs. Meddle marks the next step in thier sound and Dark Side is considered their crowning glory. Wish You Were Here was a comment on the commercial side of the buiseness after the 'monster' Dark Side was. A lot of fans listen to later Floyd, but for me Dark Side and earlier is the place to go when you need a Floyd fix. There is not one album I would skip, love them all.
I guess w/ Floyd, there are alot of different flavors. See Emily Play and Arnold Layne as pop songs had an eerie quality that really stuck out in 67-68 and Interstellar Overdrive had a killer narcotic space rock riff that pretty much gave birth to Hawkwind. The post Meddle stuff has moments that are highly polished and sonically impressive, and I know alot of people really love those recordings, but IMHO they fell prey to a slick formulaic approach that wiped out alot of the mystery and the sense of discovery that made Ummagumma and Meddle work. Fortunately, there are alot of other great bands that can give you a similar high. Anyone know if there is a good digital version of Meddle to be had. The one I have sounds pretty lousy.
CWL, early PF had an avant garde cachet. They were far-out compared to their blues based rock contemporaries; holy cow Martha, a synthesizer! Innocent beginnings sometimes spun into shrieking cacophony and resolved into something simple and pretty. This was a novelty to me. Endure the beast to appreciate the beauty; the lesson came in handy later wrestling with Sun Ra.
By comparison, DSOTM was one HUGE piece of candy. What was it, 187 straight weeks on the Billboard top 300? Heck, it might still be on there. So it felt like goodbye hip snob cognoscenti and welcome to the machine. The cat was out of the bag forever. Like a complete tool I sprung for WYWH and Animals but wound up disappointed: more candy.
As far as their message in the post-Meddle lyrics goes I'd say it boils down to join the meaninglessness of existence club for only $14.99 and up.
If you could have only one album get Umma Gumma, an original special price double album deal.
Rockvirgo's opinion is very like that of one of my work colleagues from London who saw Floyd many times in their early years.
He considered DSOM the start of their decline.
Personally I think sometimes it's hard to relate just as closely to music if you weren't there (not always I admit)at the time,in context,seeing gigs etc.
I don't think the humour ever went away but it was less musical humour and perhaps a tad too cynical for some tastes.
I do agree the music prior to DSOM is more out there and avant garde and even before that Syd Barret's Pink Floyd is indeed a different band completely.
Since my first Floyd album was DSOM heard in '78 then much as I like the earlier material my personal favourites are DSOM through to The Wall.
CW as well as the good recommendations made already I would add the DVD of The Wall movie to it -not only does Waters do an absolutely hilarious commentary-he explains in the documentry a lot of his thinking behind the album.
It's a complex piece based on both Waters childhood and his problems relating to his new much bigger audience (he infamously spat at a fan on The Animals tour)and well it deals also with lots of related issues(relationshps/isolation).
To me Waters success in global terms was his ability to take quite personal subjects and articulate them in a way that way that the masses could relate to.
For me The Wall is the start of the decline and clearly the start of Waters splitting from the band-there's much great work on it but it is bloated and overdone in places.
As for their world view,Animals is pretty much a reflection of the industrial and social decline of the UK in the 70's-it's a dark album for what became a pretty dark time-it also pretty much predicted the Conservative grip which Britain came under from '78 onwards-Waters hated Thatcher with a passion.
As for the contradiction between singing about greed and being massively successful-I think Waters is well aware of these aspects he covered them many times-he also got a bit of stick from within the band who were all very much middle-class including Roger himself.
I think they were valid points well made.
For many the real jewel in Floyd's crown is WYWH.
In my opinion the best marriage of ambient/atmospherics with mainstream Rock music ever recorded-it's a very tight album which has never really dated in a way and I think quite a strange album since you can't really see it coming from what went before.
The Final Cut is Waters prediction of Animals come true-with Britain very much under Thatcher's grip-as much as I relate strongly to what he was saying, the album lacks cohesion and depth both lyrically and musically-he veered into the ranting which he's never really got out of imho.
After the Wall I really do struggle with any of the music related to either Floyd or Waters.
I must be close to being alone in Audio Land in neither caring for Amused To Death nor thinking on CD it sounds THAT great.
Also to me Floyd without Waters is a no-goer.
They needed the different dynamics and talents to keep the balance correct.
Waters world view (now)needs the balance of other opinions or else it seems like ranting and this is added to by the decline in his vocals and the lack of musical weight (in the songwriting)on his solo stuff.
Likewise Floyd without Waters lyrics and idea's is indeed pretty much like the "clever forgery" Waters described their music as.
To me Floyd from 1974-1979 produced some of the best concept work in the rock music canon-whilst it's a musical form usually derided I think the universal themes,musical greatness and above all humanity of their work is why the music has lasted.
The early Floyd were definitely avant garde - a saucer full of secrets and piper at the gates of dawn show them at their experimental best. There is no way anyone could listen to them, compare them with their peer groups at the time, and not see that they were on the fringes of rock experimentation. Truly revolutionary - questionable in the I want to put it on again and again and listen to it a few times category. In terms of great music, I think Meddle is their best work period, followed by Wish you were here, Dark side, and the vastly underrated Animals. Umma Gumma, Atom heart mother, More, Obsured by clouds, all have some intersting tunes, but in general are relatively weak in terms of songwriting and performance - they seem to have lots of fluff. I condider the Wall and the Final cut to be the band's weakest albums, almost water's solo albums with the band as backup (with a few exceptions on the Wall where gilmour gets to rock). Water's is way overrated as a lyricist and his "social commentary" is transparent and pedestrian at best. With the exception of Gimour's contributions, the songs lack melody and interest. Waters is not a great singer either -mainly talking through many of the songs as opposed to actually attempting to sing. If you want to go beyond Floyd, check out Gilmour's two solo albums - they are consistently good. In general I don't think that Floyd ever sold out - just because you are commercially successful does not mean you are a sellout - listen to have a cigar - talk about biting the hand that feeds!
Cheers - Scott
I am really surprised no one has mentioned the film "Pink Floyd at Pompeii". If you want to get real insight into post Barrett Floyd, this is a must see. The sound is marginal but not bad for 1972 film.