Mojo Magazine November 2001.
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)

Pink Floyd World exclusive!
This year’s most important band: The inside story, the private photofiles, the unseen Syd.

The Long March

As the definitive Pink Floyd Greatest Hits CD heads for a record rack near you, we present a veritable Floyd-fest with previously unseen photos from the band’s own archive. Johnny Black tracks their post-Syd rebirth.

It can only have been with a certain sense of foreboding that Dave Gilmour officially joined Pink Floyd on the first day of January 1968. Although the record-buying public knew a great deal about the Floyd and nothing at all about Gilmour’s band Jokers Wild, the two had been intertwined for some time. Gilmour had known Floyd members Syd Barrett and Roger Waters as good friends in their home town, Cambridge, and the relationship continued after Barrett and Waters moved to London in 1965. Gilmour has recalled how “we played gigs together, my band in Cambridge and them. We actually went up to London and played things on their patch. I mean, we were friends, I used to see them all the time.”

But in the succeeding two years, Gilmour lost touch with the progress of his chums – so much so that the Syd Barrett he met on May 23, 1967, when the group had been recording its second single, See Emily Play, at Sound Techniques in Chelsea, was almost a stranger. “I don’t know at quite what point Syd started to go very strange, but I know I came back from France and I called Syd up while I was there and he said, ‘Why don’t you come down?’ They were recording and he told me to come to the studio. And I went down there and he didn’t even recognise me.”

Barrett, daily lacing his morning coffee with LSD, was about to become Britain’s first high-profile acid casualty. To see an old friend in the process of falling apart was disturbing for Gilmour, and he had no way of knowing that he would shortly be called upon not just to join Barrett’s band, but to oust him from it. Last of the original four to join Pink Floyd, Barrett had become not just its creative engine but its resident cosmic pixie, making him simultaneously their greatest strength and their kicking timebomb. While he was sending postcards from the outer limits back through the letterbox of his own door of perception, the other three were necking ale and pulling dolly-birds. In essence, they were a bunch of none-too-outstanding Regent Street Poly architecture students thrust into the psychedelic limelight by Barrett’s crazed genius. As drummer Nick Mason told Mojo: “I was a middle-class student until we turned professional and then the business of the day-to-day running of a band, it’s a bit like running a corner shop. It’s not a hippy exercise.”

Within months, though, it looked as if the ‘Out To Lunch’ sign would be hanging permanently on the shop door. Barrett’s acid-fuelled glimpses of the beyond became little more than kaleidoscopic jumbles of disconnected images. He could no longer piece together coherent sentences, far less songs, and it was obvious that they needed something to prevent the band’s springboard arc of success twisting into an ignominious bellyflop back to obscurity. Gilmour was that something.

“During a month, the five of us rehearsed together,” says Mason. “Our idea was to adopt The Beach Boys’ formula, in which Brian Wilson got together with the band on-stage when he wanted to. We absolutely wanted to preserve Syd in Pink Floyd one way or the other. But he let himself be influenced by some people, who kept repeating he was the only talent in the band and should pursue a solo career.”

Mason’s phrase “some people” certainly alludes to Peter Jenner and Andrew King. Along with the four band members, Jenner and King were each one sixth of Blackhill Enterprises, the company formed to manage the affairs of Pink Floyd. Neither had any significant experience in the music business. Jenner was a former LSE lecturer, and King had been programming for BEA when Pink Floyd had fallen into their laps. The band’s immediate success, they believed, was almost entirely down to Syd Barrett. It was a fair assumption, given that he wrote virtually all of their songs, fronted the group, looked cute, played guitar in ways never previously imagined and sang in an unmistakeably English style, quite unique at a time when every other major band was aping Transatlantic mannerisms. Jenner believed the only hope of rescuing the band lay in rescuing Syd, so Gilmour’s initial employment was as an additional musician.

“I remember Dave being auditioned in Abbey Road,” says Jenner. “Somebody said, ‘C’mon Dave, give us your Hendrix.’ And out came this extraordinary sound, quite breathtaking. That was the thing, though, Dave was a great mimic. He could play like Hendrix, and he could also do Syd, vocally and instrumentally. That’s why we wanted him, but we felt that the creativity in the band belonged to Syd. What we underestimated was the power of the band name, the loyalty of the fans. We thought it was all down to creativity.”

Sadly, after just a handful of dates as a quintet, it was obvious that Syd was now just a hindrance. On January 20, at Hastings Pier, Sussex, Barrett appeared onstage with Pink Floyd for the last time. Having accepted that he could no longer play live, Plans B and C came and went just as quickly. According to Gilmour, “The next idea was that Syd would stay home and do writing and be the Brian Wilson elusive character that didn’t actually perform with us and the third plan was that he would do nothing at all. And it quickly changed round, and it was just… it was obviously impossible to carry on that way so we basically ditched Syd.”

An improvement in the band was immediately apparent. “After Syd, Dave was the difference between light and dark,” says Mason. “He was absolutely into form and shape and he introduced that into the wilder numbers we’d created. We became far less difficult to enjoy.” Keyboard player Rick Wright was of the same opinion. “He was much more of a straight blues guitarist than Syd, of course. And very good. That changed the direction. Although he did try to reproduce Syd’s style live…” Another old Cambridge friend, Storm Thorgerson, later to become their art director, noticed it too. “Dave lent them a sense of musicianship that helped them to be very successful.”

As individuals, the members of Pink Floyd felt the loss of Barrett keenly, but they’d seen him deteriorate over a period of 18 months or so – a long time in a young life – and, as a group, they had enough faith in themselves to believe they could function without him. “Roger was determined that it wasn’t gong to fall apart because Syd wasn’t there any more,” remembered another Blackhill employee, June Bolan. Waters certainly put a brave face on it but for many years he felt cast adrift without his old friend: “I could never aspire to Syd’s crazed insights and perceptions – it’s taken me 15 years to get anywhere near there.”

“Roger has always known how to work in a way,” Nick mason told Mojo, “which is quite an unusual characteristic – or used to be unusual – in rock’n’roll. It’s not now, it’s absolutely stuffed full of rehab workaholics. When Syd went, he really did just become a songwriter – he wasn’t before, he just did it, went at it.”

Mick Rock: “Roger Waters was really an extremely ambitious young man, as quickly manifested itself once Syd had left the group. The others were, to use the language of the time, relatively straight – later they may have changed, but I think up to that point Syd was the only one who had taken LSD and they were really not part of the hip circle at the time. The other three were more traditional thinkers. The idea of being ambitious at that time was a sort of negative thing – it was a time of turn on, tune in, drop out, and they weren’t really part of that philosophy.”

Convinced that Pink Floyd without Syd was worthless, Jenner and King announced their departure. They would manage Barrett and another cosmic pixie they’d lately signed up, Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex. On March 2, Pink Floyd was removed from the Blackhill Enterprises team, and moved under the management wing of the more experienced Bryan Morrison. “I have to say,” admits Jenner, “that it was the right decision. We had no faith in them, the gigs were starting to drop off, and it just wouldn’t have worked. Almost as soon as they signed to Bryan, business started to pick up again.”

The hit singles, however, had dried up. Less than a year after Barrett’s See Emily Play had reached Number 6, It Would Be So Nice, penned by Rick Wright, didn’t even sniff the chart. “Fucking awful, that record, isn’t it?” was Mason’s concise summation. Fortunately, singles were no longer the be-all and end-all of the music business – the Floyd were destined to be one of the first groups tagged ‘an albums band’. Their second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, emerged at the end of June. Only one track, Jugband Blues, had been salvaged from the Barrett era. The rest was penned by the band and, although some critics panned it mercilessly, the spacey instrumental track held the seeds of salvation. In Gilmour’s words, “That was the first clue to our direction forwards, from there. If you take Saucerful of Secrets, the track Atom Heart Mother, then the track Echoes – all lead quite logically towards Dark Side Of The Moon.”

EMI, however, were not impressed. Producer Norman Smith insisted that 12-minute long cosmic noodlings were just not on. As Wright remembers it, “We were pretty cocky by now and told him, if you don’t wanna produce it, just go away.” Gilmour has a clear recollection of the track’s curious genesis which saw “Nick and Roger drawing out A Saucerful Of Secrets as an architectural diagram, in dynamic forms rather than in any sort of musical form, with peaks and troughs. That’s what it was about. It wasn’t music for beauty’s sake, or for emotion’s sake. It never had a storyline. Though for years afterwards we used to get letters from people saying what they thought it meant. Scripts for movies sometimes, too.”

Simultaneously with the album’s release, the Floyd played at the first free Hyde Park frock concert, organised by their old managers at Blackhill and featuring Roy Harper, Jethro Tull and Tyrannosaurus Rex. “They performed well and the crowd received them well,” says Jenner. “Despite my doubts, they seemed to be pulling themselves together already.” Two of the UK’s premier underground DJs, John Peel and Jeff Dexter, were also in attendance, but Dexter stresses, “We did some announcements, but we weren’t working. We were all in the park just as friends. There was a sense of relief in the band that they no longer had to look after Syd, and although Dave was obviously intimidated by having to fill those shoes, they played an amazing set that day.” (Peel, even more blown away, has described the performance as “a religious experience”.)

An immediate side-effect of the cinematic feel of Saucerful was that the band found itself being considered as movie soundtrack writers. At the start of 1969, they were approached by film-maker Barbet Schroeder to supply music for his hippy drub-parable More (later they would work on Zabriskie Point). Roger Waters has stated that the soundtrack was done “as a sort of personal favour for Barbet. He showed us the movie – which he’d already completed and edited – and explained what he wanted, and we just went into the studio and did it.”

Gilmour, on the other hand, has characterised More as a simple cash transaction. With £600 of Schroeder’s cash in each of their back pockets, they hunkered down in Abbey Road for eight days during March 1969 and knocked out a pleasing combination of suitably drifting, celestial pop songs and ambient instrumentals, mostly composed by Waters. Gilmour might have replaced Barrett in the guitar and vocals department, but Waters was emerging fast, and not just as the new songwriter. “He was much more interested in the grand plan,” is Wright’s perception of Waters at the time. “He did have vision and, right from the beginning when we just had strobes and oil lights, all of us were pushing for that. From the earliest days, when we used oil slides projected onto the band which hid us, we were always faceless musicians, and that idea developed and developed. But yes, mainly because of Roger, each tour we did, the show got bigger.”

This was made abundantly clear at London’s Festival Hall on April 14 in a Floyd happening entitled More Furious Madness From The Massed Gadgets Of Auximines, which unveiled their Azimuth Co-ordinator, a new surround-sound system enabling them to project sounds around the theatre. Combined with theatrical elements including the arrival, through the audience, of a lumbering sea monster, this was a major step towards the elaborate stage shows which subsequently characterised their live outings.

During the tour which immediately followed the Festival Hall event, the Floyd were already thinking ahead, recording several gigs for a lavish double-album package, half of which would be live and half recorded in the studio. As if this innovation wasn’t enough, each band member was indulged with half a side of the studio album to do with as he would. Engineer Peter Mew recalls the sessions as “quite intense” and elaborates: “EMI were prepared to let people do their thing and spend, it seemed to us sometimes, unlimited amounts of money to get some of these things. It went on for weeks which, at the time, was a long time to spend on sessions. Floyd were ground-breakers in the ‘going past 10 o’clock syndrome’. That set the precedent for everybody else. Nobody else apart from The Beatles had done it. I think the main criterion was that it was weird and different. I remember them really pondering about how they could get it to sound new and different.”

Ummagumma, their first album on EMI’s new prog-rock subsidiary label Harvest, was released on October 25, 1969, and however innovative it may have been, only Waters was yet sufficiently accomplished to deliver the goods, with his sound-effect enhanced evocation of lazy Cambridge days in Grantchester Meadows. Wright had cobbled together a cod-classical keyboard extravaganza, Mason whacked out an electronically treated drum solo and Gilmour mumbled half-heartedly through his first ever composition. “I rang up Roger at one point to ask him to write me some lyrics. He just said, No.”

Astonishingly, some critics saw it as Floyd’s crowning achievement but, in retrospect, it was the lowest ebb of a band thrashing around, desperately seeking a new direction and suffering the first real stabs of creative disagreement and internal power struggles. Mason holds little affection for Ummagumma: “This was absolutely not a band album. The live stuff sounds incredibly antiquated.” For Gilmour it was “just an experiment. It was badly recorded – the studio side could have been done better.”

Within a couple of months, however, during a January 1970 show at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, the band introduced a new work-in-progress, ‘The Amazing Pudding’. With a new name, and after much work in Abbey Road studios, it would give them their first UK Number 1 album. With The Beatles having now largely vacated Abbey Road, it became obvious to staff that The Pink Floyd was the new house band, hogging the studios as they pieced together their next concept. And, given that Ummagumma had achieved their highest chart position yet, Number 5, opposition to their strange ways was dissolving. “The early pressures came from Norman Smith and EMI, says Gilmour, “who wanted us to make nice pop songs. Maybe they thought they had another Beatles with us. People thought that we should cut out all the funny, weird nonsense and get on with it. There was definitely pressure there at the beginning with EMI but, after having some success doing it our way, when they said ‘Do this’ or ‘Do that’, we’d say ‘No, we want to do it this way.’ And there was nothing they could do about it.”

But the new album’s slow gestation meant that the band, now seemingly on a never-ending tour, had to depart for a US trip in May, leaving the retitled work in the hands of a more than capable collaborator, electronic and experimental composer Ron Geesin. “They were coming up with this ‘epic’, in inverted commas. That’s what was written on my original score. ‘Epic’. They’d got what was effectively a backing track and had performed it live at a few shows, roughly as it was on record but with a couple of extended solos, Dave’s slide guitar and suchlike. They’d recorded bits of it at different time in Abbey Road and had stuck the bits together.” Nick Mason has confirmed that “the backing track was put down by Roger and me, beginning to end, in one pass. Consequently the tempo goes up and down. It was a 20-minute piece and we just staggered through it.”

Geesin’s brief was to orchestrate ‘Epic’, but he feels he contributed much more. “The opening melody after the introduction, that’s entirely mine. Dave played me a set of arpeggios and I wrote my melody based on those chords. In the choir section the funky bit was entirely mine, the first few bars of the melodic bit at the beginning of the choir was worked out with Rick, the rest they left me to get on with. We couldn’t have worked together because they couldn’t read and write music. And they were knackered. They had to go to America for a tour. Practical circumstances meant that I had to get on with it and they had to go away.” Geesin also found the recording sessions traumatic. “I couldn’t handle these heavy EMI session musicians. I’d written for chamber ensembles and used the best of the Philharmonia players. They’d give me all of their passion but these were EMI session musicians. They didn’t have any passion. They just had the meter running.”

Another newcomer to the fold, Abbey Road staffer Alan Parsons, was asked to mix the album. He remembers, “The amount of special effects and machines we had running – I just couldn’t believe. It was like every machine in the whole building had been latched up, so that we could use every conceivable sound effect.” Nick Mason has since admitted not only that the piece was “very rushed” but also that “it’s an averagely recorded album but a very interesting idea”. He’s happy, however, to acknowledge that Geesin was a source of many new ideas for the band. “The thing that Ron taught us most about was recording techniques, and tricks done on the cheap. We learned how to get around the men-in-white-coats and do things at home, like editing. Ron taught us how to use two tape recorders to create an endless build-up of echo. It was all very relevant to things we did later.”

Still under the working title of ‘Epic’, the piece was premiered at the Bath Festival at Shepton Mallet in Somerset on June 27. Stewart Cruikshank, now a BBC music producer, was then a teenage fan who had travelled from Glasgow. “Everything ran late at Shepton Mallet, and the word started to be that the Floyd wouldn’t play at all. We were huddled under a blanket, shivering in the middle of the field, when the band finally came on stage at 4am. They had a lot of brass players with them, so it was more like an orchestra than a conventional rock band, and in typical Floyd fashion they didn’t even announce the piece by name, but it had a lovely structured feeling, an elegiac flow that seemed adventurous rather than pretentious. Lots of people were asleep, so they completely missed it, but most of them woke up when the fireworks went off at the end. Fireworks! In 1970 that was amazing! I was so shattered I fell asleep during Canned Heat.”

The piece, and the album, finally got its name on July 16 when Geesin directed the band’s attention to a headline on the front page of the Times – “Nuclear Drive For Woman’s Heart”. “There was a woman who had had heart surgery,” recalls Gilmour, “and had an atomic pacemaker fitted on her heart, and she was a mother…” Bingo! Atom Heart Mother. When the album, with its famed Friesian-cow’s-bum cover, was released on October 10, there was a significant change on the credits. Norman Smith was now listed as executive producer, indicating that the band was now in charge of its own recordings. “Norman was the producer on all of our albums until he became listed as Executive Producer,” explained Gilmour, “which was a neat way of saying that he didn’t actually do anything… it just came to a point where we had learned enough from him, where he became redundant, I suppose. He made suggestions that we disagreed with and life got a little more difficult.”

The album credits also distressed Geesin, who ruefully recalls that, “Somehow between their calculated vagueness and the henchman at the front they couldn’t acknowledge my full endeavour on the front cover.” By this time, however, the Floyd’s increasingly extravagant stage shows – dubbed “our scorched earth policy” by Mason – had made them probably the most important band in the country and, despite its many shortcomings, Atom Heart Mother took them to the Number 1 slot for the first time. They never looked back. But once again, with the benefit of hindsight, Gilmour can say, “At the time we felt like Atom Heart Mother, like Ummagumma, was a step towards something or other. Now I think they were both just blundering about in the dark.”

Similarly, Wright has subsequently become dismissive of their output from that era. “Like a lot of bands, we got interested in the concept album. At the time I thought we were making the most incredible music in the world, but looking back it wasn’t so good.”

If the two albums that solidified their status – Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother – are acknowledged as sub-standard, what was it that rescued Pink Floyd from the doldrums they slipped into after Syd Barrett’s departure? Their spectacular and abundant live performances, to be sure, plus the parallel contributions of Gilmour and Waters, replacing the prime Barrett attributes. But Ron Geesin has a more practical perspective, from the inside. “My impression, from fairly early days and particularly through that period, is that the desire for fame was strong. It was a conscious decision to get famous. It wasn’t four blokes looning around in a cornfield. It wasn’t four blokes disappearing in a blue haze of pot. It was four middle-class, intelligent, manipulative individuals making a route for themselves. I’ll never forget Roger getting all this fan mail and I asked him what he did with it. He said, ‘I bin it.’ I said, ‘That’s a bit cruel, isn’t it? People write because they want to know things’. He said, ‘Oh no. The moment you do that, you let the buggers in and they’ll be bothering you all the time.’”

It took one more album, Meddle, to slot in the final piece of the jigsaw that led to global domination. John Leckie, later to produce Radiohead, among others, was the engineer when the sessions started. “Pink Floyd sessions had a reputation of being boring,” he recalls. “You might start at two in the afternoon, and not finish ‘til four or five in the morning, during which time nothing would get done. There was no record company contact whatsoever except that the Harvest label manager would show up now and again with a couple of bottles of wine and roll a couple of joints, and that was it. They had a little cocktail bar in the studio, with a fridge, and a fair bit of Tequila and Southern Comfort was drunk, but there wasn’t a lot of chemical abuse going on. The atmosphere was not unfriendly, but there would be long silences, periods of boredom. There were frustrations and there were moodies.”

Leckie points out that Meddle started, quite literally, from nothing. “They put lots of little ideas on tape. They were called Nothing. Nothing 1, Nothing 2 and so on, right up to, I think, number 36. Some were little riffs, or silly noises, bits of piano through the Leslie. So the first couple of weeks was just putting down all those little bits, a lot of which went into Echoes, but Abbey Road was still only 8-track, so we went to AIR studios where they had 16-track machines, copied across the 8-tracks, which were full, and started filling up the remaining eight.”

“Actually, the idea of Pink Floyd as technological innovators is a bit of a fallacy,” Waters told Mojo. “There was never very much technology involved in any of those records. What maybe made the records sound technological was the use of sound-effects.”

The key track on their new album was another lengthy instrumental piece, Echoes, which had begun, according to Mason, when Wright played a single keyboard note. “I was playing around on the piano in the studio,” says Wright, “but it was actually Roger who said, ‘Would it be possible to put that note through a microphone and then through the Leslie?’ That’s what started it.” As the piece evolved, it became one of the first compositions they’d worked on for years as a single unit. According to Wright, “Echoes was where we discovered the best music we created was when all three of us got together and collaborated rather than individually coming to the studio with a song.”

It didn’t give them another Number1, but on its release in November 1971, Meddle solidified their status as rock giants and, says Gilmour, “was a clear forerunner for Dark Side Of The Moon, the point when we first got our focus.”

Three months later, at The Dome in Brighton, Pink Floyd gave thief first live performance of a haunting, emotionally driven piece entitled Eclipse, later to be known as Dark Side Of The Moon. The world was about to become their oyster.

Additional interviews by Rob Chapman, Sylvie Simmons, Mat Snow, Phil Sutcliffe, Robert Sandall, Brian Southall. Think Pink interviews by Jon Bennett. Thanks to Peter Vince and Alan Rouse for their invaluable book Abbey Road; Ken Garner for his book In Session Tonight; Nicholas Schaffner for his book Saucerful Of Secrets.


Celebrity fans of the Floyd choose a favourite album.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Columbia, 1967

“My favourite period was when they had Syd Barrett. That was cracking, I loved that. That Pink Floyd I loved. After that it always sounded to me like the managers took over the band, like the sidemen took control. I think they probably have a lot more connection with a lot of the bands in the current music scene than, say, bands like the Rolling Stones. I’ll give them that. They’ve also given spawn to a lot of pretence. I’m not against pretence if you can support it and I think they did a couple of great records. But… I’m not sure that the ideas were really all their own, you know. But I’m not an expert on them – I liked the Syd Barrett era. That was when they were really cooking for me.”

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Columbia, 1967

“When I was younger most of my friends were boys – not because I wanted to go out with them, just because they were more interesting, not just wanting to look good all the time. I was surrounded by later Pink Floyd records so I got into Dark Side Of The Moon and the others a bit. But when I moved to Newcastle to start college I met this mad guitarist and he started telling me that I had to get into Syd. I didn’t know anything about him, I just knew about the arty-cover albums period. He played me loads of Syd stuff and I loved it. It’s mad without trying to be mad. When I got my first 4-track I remember hearing, (sings) ‘I want to tell you a story’ [The Gnome] in my head and putting it through the desk and speeding it up and playing with it and singing over it. You have to be in the mood for it but it’s wicked. Syd’s the one for me.”

Harvest, 1971

“I got into Pink Floyd at 13 or 14. Syd Barrett Floyd is really cool and mad. They were definitely an influence. Late In The Day – complete rip off! The middle-eight, the synth sound where it goes ‘woo’ – that was definitely influenced by Floyd. It’s a total Syd. They’ve always been smart, I’ve always liked them. Dark Side Of The Moon is a great chill-out album. I had a weird tape of it that my brother gave me and it always used to stop just at the climax of Great Gig In The Sky just as she’s really going (sings), ‘Wha, wha, wha.’ I always thought how mad it was of them just to cut the song dead like that. There was something wrong with the cassette but I had that for four years. So when I heard the CD I sat bolt upright! I love Meddle. Because it’s quite a raw one. I love watching Live At Pompeii because it’s got all the stuff on from that. It’s a great album. Fearless is a fantastic, underrated Floyd song, the way the guitars come in at the start is just brilliant. Production-wise Animals is a great album. I’m obviously quite into the 70s and I think Animals is a great sounding record, it’s got stuff like Sheep, which is a classic track. I still play them now, definitely. I get given CDs but I love buying old records and I’ve got most of the originals on vinyl now.”

Dark Side Of The Moon
Harvest, 1973

“They’ve definitely been an influence. The first time I heard them was as a kid. I remember my dad explained to me his whole history with them, and how his girlfriend had once held on of Pink Floyd’s babies at a party – which was the big claim to fame. When I was 15 I was into film and I used to constantly steal their stuff and use it in videos I was making. I kind of ‘found’ Floyd again after we finished recording The Optimist. People kept telling us The Door sounded like something from Dark Side so we went back and listened to Breathe and realised our song fitted it like a jigsaw. They’re one of our main influences with structure and sound and what they do with their grooves and mantra-style vocals – especially on Dark Side. I’ve noticed the way they use harmonies; they’ve got tightly packed lyrics and you often can’t hear the subtle harmonies above the main vocal, but it’s like a small army delivering the vocals. They sound so confident. I find it totally and utterly inspiring how English they are; they sing about English things, references we all know, and that’s great because often that’s seen as uncool and most bands don’t get away with that. They have a way of doing it and still sound totally cool. I’m not so keen on more recent stuff, but I’m still doing my homework on them, going back and discovering new stuff.”

Wish You Were Here
Harvest, 1975

“I love them. We [Queen] grew up to a certain extent parallel with them, I suppose. We were both fellow acts on EMI. I first saw them when I was a student at Imperial College, and they played the college next door, The Imperial College of Art. I’m guessing but that would be ’69, I suppose. Their light show was all slides and I just loved it, and I’ve loved them ever since. They were superb live then and there’s no doubting the greatness of Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. They are fantastic records and they were always a great group to see live. The stage show was phenomenal and imaginative but the music at the centre of it was beautifully played. I liked the fact that they spun this mysterious web around them and there’s no getting inside it really. You can analyse it until the cows come home, but it is what it is. I know them a little now. Dave Gilmour’s a great bloke and I have a great admiration for them.”

The Wall
Harvest, 1979

“Pink Floyd is a band that is so sacred that I would never cover their songs and I don’t think anybody else should. They’re one of the band that I listen to the most. Now and as a kid. The Wall is usually the obvious one to pick [Manson has used Another Brick In The Wall Part II as his intro tape and recent concerts], but I quite like Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here as well. It’s hard to pick one but that is the one that I always come back to The Wall the most.”


Zabriskie Point, the Floyd’s avant-garde film soundtrack, was a creative debacle. But the sole bonne femme was good. By Miles.

According to David Gilmour, by 1969 Pink Floyd were anxious to get into big-time film scores – the reason they wrote the music for More – so they were delighted when Michelangelo Antonioni approached them for the soundtrack of Zabriskie Point, a sprawling but beautifully filmed collage of images of the American hippy and anti-war movement.

Antonioni first saw Pink Floyd at the Roundhouse at the launch party for International Times, but it was hearing Careful With That Axe, Eugene that made him send them tickets to Rome. Recording the soundtrack took two weeks, spread over November and early December 1969, with at least two trips back to Britain to fulfil already contracted gigs. “We went to Rome and stayed in this posh hotel,” remembers Roger Waters. “Every day we would get up at about 4:30 in the afternoon, we’d pop into the bar, and sit there until about seven. Then we’d stagger into the restaurant, where we’d eat for about two hours, and drink. By about halfway through the two weeks, the guy there was beginning to suss out what we wanted; we kept asking for these ridiculous wines, so by the end he was coming up with these really insane wines. Anyway, we’d finished eating – the crepes suzettes would finally slide down by about a quarter to nine.”

Nick Mason: “The peach Melba was good too. I used to start with sole Bonne Femme, followed by the roast leg of lamb cooked with rosemary, and then a peach Melba or a crepes suzettes… Or perhaps both.”

Roger Waters: “We’d start work at about nine. The studio was a few minutes walk down the road, so we’d stagger down. We could have finished the whole thing in about five days because there wasn’t much to do. Antonioni was there and we did some great stuff, but he’d listen and go – and I remember he had this terrible twitch – “Eet’s very beauteeful, but eet’s too sad” or “Eets too strroong”. It was always wrong consistently. There was always something that stopped it from being perfect. You’d change whatever was wrong and he’d still be unhappy. It was hell, sheer hell.”

They worked until eight in the morning, returned to the hotel for breakfast, then slept. Rick Wright: “It’s all improvised, but nonetheless it was really hard work. We had each piece of music and we did, say, six takes of each, and he’d choose the best. Antonioni’s not hard to work with – but he’s a perfectionist… every night for two weeks to get 20 minutes of music. It was hard, but it was worth it.”

In the end Antonioni felt he needed a more American-sounding score and only used three of the tracks: Heart Beat, Pig Meat, Crumbling Land and Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up, an improvised remake on Careful With That Axe, which was utilised very effectively over the slow-motion explosion of a luxury desert home. The other groups featured included The Grateful Dead, the Stones and Kaleidoscope.


Next month, Pink Floyd release Echoes – The Best of…, a career retrospective. John Bungey guides us through each of the 26 tracks in chronological order.

Single, Columbia, 1967
Recorded at Sound Techniques, Chelsea, the Floyd’s debut 45 was banned from Radio London thanks to its true-life lyrics about a male cross-dresser stealing underwear from Syd and Roger’s mums’ washing lines in Cambridge. A landmark of English psych-pop, it reached number 20.

Single, Columbia, 1967
“I was sleeping in the woods one night after a gig somewhere when I saw this girl appear before me. That girl was Emily.” Thus spoke Syd Barrett about their sprightly, ultra-compressed follow-up 45. Drug-addled vision or real-life person? Who knows, but it reached Number 6.

From The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 1967
The doomy, out-there opening track on their first LP, the title of which was taken from a chapter in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows. The lyrics were purportedly inspired by a star map that Barrett carried around with him.

From The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 1967
Nursery-rhyme lunacy from Syd, written for his then girlfriend Jenny Spires. With collage editing techniques and a symphony of clocks in the middle, it’s one of Barrett’s finest moments: “I’ve got a cloak, it’s a bit of a joke…”, etc.

From A Saucerful Of Secrets, 1968
Their second album saw the band taking over writing duties from Syd, whose psychological state was deteriorating. “It’s about an unknown person who, while piloting a flying saucer, is overcome with suicidal tendencies,” said its writer, Roger Waters, who still plays this on solo tours.

From A Saucerful Of Secrets, 1968
Syd’s last stand and his only song-writing contribution to the album. For the middle section, six Salvation Army bandsmen were invited in off the street and told to play what they liked. Plans to release it as a single were eventually shelved.

From Meddle, Harvest, 1971
Laid down during sessions at AIR Studio in January ’71, this full-tilt space boogie had echoed bass (Roger played through a Binson echo unit), backwards cymbals and “growling” by Nick Mason. So titled because everything was going wrong that day.

From Meddle, Harvest, 1971
This trance-jam epic, pieced together from numerous sound fragments and taking up a whole side of the album, was blamed for killing all the fish in the stage-front pond when the band played it at the Crystal Palace Bowl in 1971. A turning point.

From Dark Side Of The Moon, Harvest, 1973
“No-one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” Waters realises life ain’t no rehearsal on this track from their meisterwork, cut at Abbey Road. It was the only track from the sessions credited to all four members.

From Dark Side Of The Moon, Harvest, 1973
It may be about death but it was voted the top song to make love to in a recent Australian radio poll. The song, with its free-form wailing crescendo, was rejigged by Rick Wright for a Nurofen ad.

From Dark Side Of The Moon, Harvest, 1973
Famous satire in 7/4 time on the evils of rock wealth which would, oh dear, help them to earn lots more. The cash register tape loop also includes the sounds of tearing paper and bags of cash being dropped on the studio floor.

From Dark Side Of The Moon, Harvest, 1973
Following Money on Side 2, this was built on an instrumental recorded in Rome for Antonioni’s 1970 movie Zabriskie Point, though it never made the final cut.

From Wish You Were Here, Harvest, 1975
Title track from the most anticipated album of the ‘70s, recorded at Abbey Road in the first half of ’75. A plan to end the song with a violin cadenza from Stephane Grappelli came to nothing.

From Wish You Were Here, Harvest, 1975
Another opus, made up like Echoes from several ‘movements’, which was re-recorded several times. Syd, the “crazy diamond” in question, turned up (“fat, bald and mad”, according to Waters) unexpectedly during recording and announced he was “ready to do his bit”.

From Animals, Harvest, 1977
The Floyd took a darker turn with the Orwellian Animals, taped at Britannia Row Studios, this track includes a parody of the 23rd Psalm. Some felt the cover’s giant inflatable pig was the key creative statement.

From The Wall, Harvest, 1979
Producer Bob Ezrin suggested the disco beat and added the Islington schoolchildren to help flesh out Waters’ verse and chorus. It made an unlikely Christmas hit single.

From The Wall, Harvest, 1979
Tale of wretched school experience of Wall hero ‘Pink’ – not unrelated to writer Waters’ own memories. The Wall cost a reported $700,000 to record, but within two months had shipped over a million copies.

From The Wall, Harvest, 1979
More Wall angst on this yearning ballad, with an isolated Pink addressing the world as he is bricked up.

From The Wall, Harvest, 1979
Another Waters composition, its poignant greatness represented, said Gilmour, “the last embers” of his creative partnership with Waters.

Single, Harvest, 1982
From The Wall film, though not used on the album, the single reached Number 39, a huge failure beside the mega-selling Another Brick. Released to promote the movie.

From The Final Cut, Harvest, 1983
Waters takes pot shots at war and political leaders of the day (he had the Falklands conflict in mind) on a track from a generally grim album. Rick Wright had left the band by now.

From A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, EMI, 1987
Radio-friendly rock, released after Waters had left and lost his court battle to end the group. Gilmour is now established as the group’s prime creative force.

From A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, EMI 1987
Gilmour shows he can turn out a decent lyric, but with minimal involvement from Nick Mason and a hired-in Wright the album itself was inarguably below-par. Roger called it a “pretty fair forgery”.

From The Division Bell, EMI, 1994
On a moody instrumental, penned by Gilmour and Wright, Floyd are back on form, with Wright back as a full member.

From The Division Bell, EMI, 1994
A highlight of the final Floyd album. Here were plans for guest vocalist Professor Stephen Hawking to join the band for the London shows of the Division Bell tour. But they performed Dark Side Of The Moon instead.

From The Division Bell, EMI, 1994
“A moment when something happens quickly and wonderfully,” Gilmour says. The song’s lyrics were co-written by his girlfriend Polly Samson during a sojourn to France.

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