Where To Start With... Pink Floyd
Next Monday, on November 10th, Pink Floyd will release their first 'new' album since 1994's The Division Bell, marking an incredible two decades since they released a full-length studio LP. We say 'new' in inverted commas because although all the material on The Endless River is previously unreleased, the music it contains stretches back over the last twenty years, consisting largely of jam sessions with late keyboardist Richard Wright and unused material culled from the Division Bell sessions.
The two remaining members of the band, drummer Nick Mason and guitarist / frontman David Gilmour (Roger Waters has not been involved with the album's production), have painstakingly assembled and arranged the recordings into an album of new, unheard music that features Wright's keyboard playing, with Mason describing the album as a “swan song” for the late musician, who passed away at his home in September 2008.
It's also likely to be a swan song for the band as a whole, with Mason suggesting that this will be the last time new Pink Floyd material will be released and downplaying any talk of taking it out live.
So what's it like? Well, it's a largely ambient record, almost completely instrumental apart from the track 'Louder than Words', which features a lyric penned by Gilmour's wife, Polly Samson, while the only other words to be found on the album come courtesy of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, whose unique speech synthesizer is sampled on the track 'Talkin' Hawkin''.
The album's ambient mood is likely to please die-hard fans hungry for new material, especially Wright's distinctive keyboard work which much of The Endless River is built around. Gilmour's instantly recognisable guitar playing is also as good here as it has ever been, but what will new initiates think to Pink Floyd's latest offering?
For those unfamiliar with the Pink Floyd's extensive back catalogue – not to mention the saga of the band members' fractious relationships with one another – we've put together a list of five tracks to crash-course you through the long career of one of the UK's most iconic rock bands.
'See Emily Play'
taken from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn [40th Anniversary Edition]
Emerging during the late 1960s against a backdrop of widespread experimentation with psychoactive drugs, Pink Floyd's early output was very different to the type of thing you'll hear on Endless River. The band's second single, 'See Emily Play' was released in 1967 at a time when the band was led by Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's main creative force in the beginning before his battle with mental illness forced him firstly onto the sidelines, then out of the band entirely.
Barrett's songs were altogether more weird and playful than the band's later output and 'See Emily Play' is one of the best examples of this. Its driving rhythms occasionally punctuated by frantic music box interludes, it is surely one of the oddest Top 10 singles of its era, reaching no.6 in the UK charts. Although not originally included on their debut LP, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, it was subsequently included on the 40th anniversary edition.
taken from Meddle
After Barrett had left, Pink Floyd went through something of a transition period. With his replacement David Gilmour now firmly attached, the band released three albums – A Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother – which saw their sound change dramatically and begin to grow into something new and much, much bigger.
By the time they released Meddle in 1971, Gilmour had become much more of a creative force in the band alongside Waters and Wright, and this is particularly evident on the album's closing track, 'Echoes'. Weighing in at an impressive 22 minutes in length, 'Echoes' is a milestone in the band's career that shows they had reached a new level. The track is a distillation of everything the band had done previously, as well as being an indicator of what they would do next.
taken from The Dark Side Of The Moon
The Dark Side of the Moon is regarded by many as Pink Floyd's finest achievement and even 40 years after its original release in 1973 it remains one of the biggest-selling albums of all time (it stayed on the Billboard Top 100 for an incredible 14 years). It also yielded the band's first single since the Syd Barrett days, 'Money'. Its distinctive guitar riff and unusual time signature are instantly recognisable, while Waters' lyrics are bitingly sarcastic, aimed squarely at a society they saw as obsessed with greed and consumerism. Even on an album that is really designed as one long piece of music, 'Money' is a standout moment and a great track in its own right.
'Wish You Were Here'
taken from Wish You Were Here
How do you follow an album like The Dark Side of the Moon? With some difficulty, it turns out. Exhausted from extensive touring, the band were, by their own admission, not in a great place, despite the success of their last LP. Mason's failing marriage proved to be a distraction, while Waters has since described the sessions for Wish You Were Here as “torturous” and it was several weeks before a creative vision for the album began to emerge.
Based around the rise and fall of their ex-bandmate, Syd Barrett, the album includes 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', written in tribute to their former frontman, but the original track was split into two parts to bookend the album. While 'Shine On...' is one of the best known tracks on the LP, its title track is our favourite and includes some of Waters' best lyrics which, as with much of the album, are aimed at the insincerity of the music industry.
While the album never quite reaches the dizzy heights of Dark Side..., 'Wish You Were Here' does indicate the band aren't done yet.
'Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)'
taken from The Wall
If The Dark Side of the Moon was the first 'concept album' to become a mainstream hit, The Wall took the idea of the concept album and stretched it as far as it could go. Visualised as a double-LP, stage show and accompanying film, The Wall is surely one of the most ambitious records ever created. From its complex live concerts to its 99-minute running time, everything about The Wall was epic in scale.
As if this in itself wasn't enough of a challenge, there were other issues to contend with; punk had happened, disco had happened, and being in a progressive rock band was about as unfashionable as it was possible to be. Somehow though, the band pulled it off. Both the album and its tour were a huge success, and while some of the tracks on it are a little weak, it does contain two of Pink Floyd's best ever moments in 'Comfortably Numb' and its title track, split into 3 parts across the record. It's all about 'Part 2', really, with it's disco-inspired rhythm and iconic chorus sung by London schoolchildren, but we highly recommend you start with 'Part 1' and listen all the way through. It's magnificent. It was also a Christmas Number One, weirdly enough…