Dark Side Of The Moon may be one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, but Pink Floyd’s musical journey from underground clubs to sold-out stadiums wasn’t entirely smooth…
It’s difficult to overstate the influence of Pink Floyd as a defining force in rock culture. And it’s not ￼just about the number of records they’ve sold. You can reel off pages of statistics concerned with the success of Dark Side Of The Moon, but that doesn’t tell you why that album – both the music and the album sleeve itself – from 1973 became an icon for a generation. Or why Pink Floyd became a phenomenon that has affected every generation since. The answer is that they have made some of the most amazing, most singular music in rock.
The punks may have hated the band and what they often (wrongly) perceived they stood for, but Pink Floyd’s bile against the system was often as venomous as anything the punks could spit out. And through the 80s and 90s, angst-ridden teenagers, including legions who later would also make an impact with their own music – from Axl Rose to Trent Reznor to Billy Corgan to Noel Gallagher – grew up listening to The Wall. Pink Floyd had an impact on them all.
18. Soundtrack from the film More (Columbia/EMI, 1969)
It took a while to dawn on Pink Floyd that they were a great soundtrack band for their own increasingly spectacular light show. But their first foray into writing a film soundtrack is the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. It’s a disjointed series of mood pieces that may or may not have matched the scenes on screen. It’s hard to know because the film, a bunch of nonsense about hippies in Ibiza, has wisely disappeared. If you’re desperate for crumbs then check out The Nile Song, Green Is The Colour and Cymbaline, songs that cropped up in their equally disjoined stage shows at the time.
17. Ummagumma (Harvest/EMI 1969)
Released during their period of transition after David Gilmour replaced Syd Barrett, this live/studio double album did the band few favours. With no group material prepared, each member got half a side of the studio album to do their own thing. And what they proved conclusively was that Pink Floyd was considerably more than the sum of its parts. Only Roger Waters came up with a song worthy of the name, the wistful, acoustic Grantchester Meadows.
EMI were so unimpressed they hurriedly added a live album, but even onstage the band were floundering for a direction. They raked over the psychedelic ashes but the trip was audibly over apart from Careful With That Axe Eugene which created its own suspense. They get the notes right but the spirit wrong.
16. Obscured By Clouds (Harvest/EMI, 1972)
Another soundtrack to another movie about another bunch of hippies, this time looking for a lost tribe in the remote Andes (which is probably where the film, titled La Vallee, has been buried). But the difference here is that you can see glimpses of how Dark Side Of The Moon would pan out.
Floyd had already started work on their magnum opus before decamping to the Chateau d’Herouville (shortly to be renamed the Honky Chateau by Elton John) for an intense week of putting music to rushes of the movie. The results are largely lightweight but Waters brings a more thematic approach to the album and Gilmour gets to hone what would become his trademark soloing style. There are also moments of deja-vu, not least on the title track which was shamelessly ripped off by a Denim aftershave advert in the late 80s.
15. Is There Anybody Out There – The Wall Live 1980-81 (EMI, 2000)
The Wall was performed just 29 times in Los Angles, New York, London and Dortmund. It remains legendary for its extraordinary visual impact and the music had to fit the technical requirements of the show as tightly as any soundtrack the band had worked on. Not surprisingly The Wall Live sticks closely to the original album. There was, famously. a second “doppelganger” Pink Floyd that, apart from confusing the audience, filled out the sound. And there were a couple of additional numbers: What Shall We Do Now? which helped to clarify the plot a little and the instrumental The Last Few Brickswhich gave the roadies more time to finish building the wall. Neither of them add anything to the original.
There only other differences are occasional variations in Waters’ vocal phrasing or Gilmour’s solos and only Floyd fanatics looking for these changes need this album.