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    The Musical Genre that is Pink Floyd

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    Throughout their career Pink Floyd has been thrown into one genre of music or another. They have also helped to create completely new genres on their own. They have brought some genres to the forefront, and then had the good sense to allow their sound to evolve and avoid being pinned down to one sound. During the history of Pink Floyd their music has been referred to as pop, psychedelic, progressive rock, theatrical rock and stadium rock. A study in the history of Floyd is a look at many of the most important genres in rock history.

    Pink Floyd started out as an R&B cover band in 1967 playing American standards. Their first show was nearly five hours long, but the band did not have five hours worth of material. They filled out their sets by extending the guitar solo parts of songs with Syd Barrett making strange noises on his guitar and the band going off into some sonic tangent.

    Over time this habit of Syd’s began to rub off on the rest of the band, and soon the band was playing whirling and swirling versions of standard tunes unlike anyone had ever heard before. Syd Barrett started writing songs right from the beginning and one of his first efforts, “King Bee”, is a derivative of the music the band had been playing for months.

    Syd continued to write pop songs, but the band would rarely play them live. When the band played live they preferred the 15 minute spaced-out jams like “Interstellar Overdrive” or “Nick’s Boogie.” When the Floyd played a local technical college one of the students offered to show strange formations of light over the band while they performed. Psychedelic rock was born.

    When Pink Floyd released Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967, it was the perfect mix of pop songs and psychedelic ramblings. The album was enough to bring Floyd new fans and keep the psychedelic crowd happy. As the band moved forward, they released hit singles such as “See Emily Play” and “Arnold Layne”. But once again, when the band played live they refused to play their hits. Audiences outside London were furious and pelted the band with drinks and debris.

    The London audiences continued to flock to Pink Floyd shows in large numbers. Floyd became the house band at the eclectic UFO Club, and they became the premier psychedelic band in London.

    In 1968 Syd Barrett was dropped from the band, and the next few albums show a transition. Albums such as A Saucerful of Secrets and Ummagumma show a band unsure of how to write pop songs, unwilling to release more psychedelic material and unable to forge a sound. The innovators of psychedelic rock had stalled.

    There were some glimpses of things to come with such musical pieces as “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Careful with that Axe, Eugene”, but they did not translate well in the studio. The live recordings released on Ummagumma gave fans a clearer idea of what Floyd was doing, and what they were doing was creating progressive rock.

    In 1970 Pink Floyd released Atom Heart Mother. Songs such as “If” and “Fat Old Sun” could be categorized as pop songs, but when Floyd played them live they added parts to them that made the songs an adventure. The title track, “Atom Heart Mother Suite”, can be called one of the first progressive rock songs ever. It is an ambitious 23 minute piece that moves through several parts and attempts to tell a story. It laid the foundation for what Pink Floyd was to become.

    When the album Meddle was released in 1971, Pink Floyd had perfected the progressive rock format. The first side of the album is a series of songs that stands on their own, while the entire second side is the masterpiece of progressive rock known as “Echoes”. With this album, Pink Floyd established progressive rock as a musical genre and bands such as King Crimson followed suit.

    Pink Floyd had stopped writing pop singles in 1968 when their efforts to write a hit single without Syd Barrett failed. Their transition from psychedelic pioneers to the creators of progressive rock had established the band as a worldwide concert draw. Pink Floyd had learned from the Beatles, as most other bands of the era did, that an album does not need to be a series of singles.

    When Dark Side of the Moon was released in 1973, Pink Floyd had helped to further yet another genre of music; the concept album. Pink Floyd had managed to mix their epic progressive rock format in with a concept that worked throughout the entire album. The album launched Pink Floyd into a whole new level of success and they began to fill stadiums all over the world. Roger Waters saw a chance to get even more of his message across and, in the process, create yet another musical genre that would become almost the sole domain of Pink Floyd for many years.

    In the 1970’s there were stadium rock shows being played all over the world, but there were few bands that could fill a stadium on their own. With Pink Floyd now playing shows to 50,000 people or more every night with no support act, the pressure to get the entire stadium involved in the show became intense. Roger Waters filled the show with props and effect lighting the likes of which no one had ever seen before. Pink Floyd had meshed their progressive rock format with a lavish live performance that became known as stadium rock. But Roger Waters was not quite done yet.

    In 1979 Pink Floyd released The Wall with a very specific purpose in mind. Roger Waters had a story line in his head, and he recruited animator Gerald Scarfe to help bring some of his ideas to life. By the time Roger was done there was an album, a movie and a theatrical live performance that had never been attempted by any band before. Pink Floyd had taken the theatrical rock of Alice Cooper and Kiss to an entirely different level.

    You would be hard-pressed to find a band that has had as many genre names attached to them as Pink Floyd. Floyd’s music has been called pop, psychedelic, progressive rock, space rock, stadium rock, theatrical rock and self-indulgent. Whatever you call Pink Floyd’s music, there is no denying the impact they had on the entire music industry. They perfected what others had started, and they created their own place in music by doing what they felt was right.

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    Topics: Pink Floyd, Rock | 2 Comments »

    2 Responses to “The Musical Genre that is Pink Floyd”

    1. Muxx Says:
      March 17th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you for this post.

      I didn’t know about Pink Floyd’s early start as a cover band.

      My parents handed down PF vinyl to me when I was around 15 or so. I’m 22 now and I’ve amassed a really nice collection of theirs.

      I recently found a laser disc copy of Live At Pompeii, now I just need a player haha.

      Overall my favorite album of theirs has to be Animals. I was so happy when I snagged a 12′ from the local flea market – in really great condition too!

    2. Alan Says:
      March 17th, 2010 at 9:15 pm

      Pink Floyd is one of the greatest rock bands that ever existed. Glad you liked the post!