They've held fans spellbound for over 30 years with their mesmerizing music and spectacular stage shows. Pink Floyd though, has spent most of its time anonymous behind the blinding light of rock 'n roll, until now, as the band members have turned the spotlight to finally expose the dark side of the of the superband. Liz West sat down with keyboardist and founding member Rick Wright, to find out how the Floyd has withstood the test of time.
Pink Floyd's 1973 release of "Dark Side of the Moon" currently holds the record for the longest running album on the billboard charts, spanning an incredible 15 years in a row. The album's dark, brooding lyrics about alienation, madness, and the stresses of everyday life seem to strike a chord deep within young audiences - and old audiences too, apparently! - To this day, the album continues to sell one million copies, year after year, in North America alone.
Shirley McQueen, DJ: What I, personally, found so compelling about "Dark Side of the Moon" was it incorporated...it was the first record, commercial record, and, and, uh...and, and pop record if you will, pop rock record, that incorporated the sounds of my life, actual mechanical and industrial sounds.
Andy Frost, DJ: After listening to the first four cuts on side one, you've gone through every, every, uh...every part of the emotional spectrum and your heart is pounding, and it's a little frightening. And then along comes a tune like 'Great Gig in the Sky', which is just a beautiful piece of music and, uh, as the whole album does, still stands up well today against anything else.
Despite their superstar status, the band members themselves have managed to remain remarkably anonymous.
SMcQ: They're almost the ultimate in anti-marketing. They, uh... it's not the individual members and you don't see their faces on the album covers. It's always concepts and themes and their shows are always video montages and lights and big floating pigs, and, you know, everything to take the focus specifically off these four guys and, and, make it a spectacle.
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LW: I found it really interesting that, you really, as members, were downplayed on the stage.
RW: We never had a desire to be famous, to be rock 'n roll stars. We didn't have that desire to be out in the limelight, we just actually liked playing music, so very early on we were interested in lights, and it was a whole movement in those days, not just with music but with art and all sorts of things. So we had people putting on, as you know, these weird light shows, and we were actually hidden, no one could actually see us, and it was actually quite comfortable.
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Amidst the psychedelic explosion of the 60's, The Pink Floyd first made their indelible musical mark with their extended, free form instrumentals and surreal pop songs. The original members were Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, and the creative soul of the band, Syd Barrett, who was forced to leave in 1968 when his excessive use of LSD plunged him into permanent madness. Barrett was replaced by his long time friend Dave Gilmour, whose lyrical blues-based guitar work continues to provide Pink Floyd with an unmistakable sonic signature.
With the band's musical and spiritual leader gone, Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour teamed up to fill the Floyd's void, and in doing so, launched the band into a wider, international arena. Despite the great theatrics of Pink Floyd shows, or, perhaps because of them, Roger Waters, the band's self-appointed lyricist and director, felt there was no connection between him and the audiences. From this sense of frustration and alienation, Waters became inspired to pen one of the greatest rock spectacles ever, "The Wall", which was then made into a feature film directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof.
However, Waters' complete tyranny over the band during the creation of the album created a kind of alienation within Pink Floyd itself, to the point where Roger Waters threatened to withhold the "Wall's" release if Rick Wright didn't leave the band. Pink Floyd's internal conflicts have rarely been talked about in public.
LW : Are there hard feelings between you and Roger, right now?
RW: I don't have hard feelings anymore...um, I did at the time, obviously. I just think he was wrong, very wrong, to do what he did.
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Even without Rick Wright, creative tensions continued to mount with the rest of the band. As a result, Waters quit the Floyd and went solo. Confident that the band could persevere, Dave Gilmour took over the reins, and he and Nick Mason re-joined with Rick Wright to create another album under the name of Pink Floyd, an endeavor Waters tried unsuccessively to stop with a lawsuit.
RW: Roger assumed, because he was leaving the band, that the band with Dave and Nick would not try to carry on, he assumed... because he wrongly assumed, he was, The Pink Floyd. All of us played quite a large role in the band. We didn't have him as a writer, but that's the only thing we didn't have.
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With the 1992 [sic] release of "The Division Bell", The Floyd seem to have weathered the storm of battling egos, and have returned with a more relaxed and collaborative approach to their music...saving personal visions for their solo work allows band members to be true to the spirit of being in Pink Floyd.
RW: Looking on solo records, it was really...it's my way of expressing things that I know can't be expressed in, within the band, if you like. I can go in musical directions that I know maybe Dave is not too interested in doing. Same for him, and his solo records.... which is fine.