Pink Floyd

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967), 8.5/10
A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968), 8/10
More (1968), 6.5/10
Ummagumma (1969), 7.5/10
Atom Heart Mother (1970), 7/10
Meddle (1971), 6.5/10
Obscured By Clouds (1972), 4/10
Dark Side Of The Moon (1973), 6.5/10
Wish You Were Here (1975), 7/10
Animals (1977), 6/10
The Wall (1979), 6.5/10
The Final Cut (1983), 5/10
A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987), 5/10
The Division Bell (1994), 4/10
David Gilmour: David Gilmour (1978), 4/10
Richard Wright: Wet Dream (1978), 5/10
Nick Mason: Fictitious Sports (1981), 7/10
David Gilmour: About Face (1984), 4/10
Richard Wright: Identity (1984), 5/10
Nick Mason: Profiles (1985), 5/10
Roger Waters: The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking (1984), 4/10
Roger Waters: Radio KAOS (1987), 6/10
Roger Waters: Amused To Death (1992), 6/10
Richard Wright: Broken China (1996), 4/10
Roger Waters: Ca Ira (2005) , 3/10
Endless River (2014), 4/10
David Gilmour: Rattle That Lock (2015), 4/10
Roger Waters: Is This the Life We Really Want? (2020), 4/10

Pink Floyd devised a compromise between the free-form tonal jam, the noisy, cacophonous freak out, and the eccentric, melodic ditty. This amalgam and balance was inspired and nourished by Syd Barrett's gentle madness on their first two albums, their psychedelic masterpieces: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967), that includes the pulsating, visionary trips of Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive (the bridge between space-rock and cosmic music); and A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968), that contains the stately crescendo and wordless anthem of A Saucerful Of Secrets and the subliminal raga of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. The ambitious Ummagumma (1969), a failed albeit intriguing attempt at establishing their credentials as avantgarde composers, and the eponymous suite from Atom Heart Mother (1970), a failed albeit intriguing attempt at merging rock band and symphonic orchestra, marked the end of the epic phase. Barrett had already departed, and the new quartet led by bassist and vocalist Roger Waters was more interested in sculpting sound for the sake of sound, with each musician (guitarist David Gilmour, keyboardist Richard Wright and percussionist Nick Mason) becoming a virtuoso at his own instrument. For better and for worse, Pink Floyd understood the limits and the implications of the genre, and kept reinventing themselves, slowly transforming psychedelic-rock (a music originally born for the hippies that had been banned by the Establishment) into a muzak for relaxation and meditation (aimed at the yuppies who are totally integrated in the Establishment). The other half of Atom Heart Mother (1970) already hinted at the band's preference for the languid, mellow, hypnotic ballad, albeit sabotaged by an orgy of sound effects. Echoes, the suite that takes up half of Meddle (1971), sterilized and anesthetized the space-rock of Interstellar Overdrive, and emphasized not the sound effects but meticulous studio production. Pink Floyd did not hesitate to alter the letter and the spirit of psychedelic music. The delirious and cacophonous sound of their beginnings slowly mutated into a smooth and lush sound. Rather than just endorsing the stereotypes of easy-listening, Pink Floyd invented a whole new kind of easy-listening with Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975). The former was a collection of high-tech songs propelled by funky rhythms and shaped by electronic effects. The latter was basically the high-brow version of the former, a concept on primal states of the mind such as fear and madness that set the devastated psyche of the narrator (Roger Waters) in the context of a tragic and oppressive Weltanschaung. The futuristic anthem Welcome To The Machine was actually a symphonic requiem for layers of electronic keyboards and romantic guitar. A tactical move soon became a strategic move. In the end, Pink Floyd reshaped psychedelic music into a universal language, a language that fit the punk as well as the manager, just like, at about the same time, jazz-rock was "selling" the anguish of the Afro-American people to the white conformists. Roger Waters' existential pessimism and historical angst became the pillars of the band's latter-day melodramas, such as The Wall (1979). These monoliths of electronic and acoustic sounds, coupled with psychoanalytical lyrics, indulge in a funereal pomp that approaches the forms of the requiem and the oratorio.
(Translation from my original Italian by Nicole Zimmerman)

Pink Floyd was the epitome of psychedelic rock emerging in 1967, in Great Britain, from the ashes of acid-rock in San Francisco. The work of Pink Floyd was, fundamentally, to confer a unitary structure upon the genre. Their early albums, in fact, fused the 3 strands of American psychedelia: the melody (eccentric songs a' la White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane), improvisation (jams a' la Velvet Underground) and the abstract (such as the "freak-out" by Red Crayola). Thus Pink Floyd, from 1967-69, coined the standards of psychedelic rock which would inspire future generations.

Through the ups and downs, Pink Floyd understood the limits and implications of the genre and continued to re-invent it, transforming it little by little into a genre for meditation and relaxation (from the genre of hippies against the "Establishment" to the genre of yuppies integrated into the "Establishment"). For the rest of the group's career, Pink Floyd did not hesitate to change the sound of psychedelia to a sound that was smooth and velvety. Thus Pink Floyd elevated the sound of psychedelia to a universal language, regardless of the desires of the public, a little like the years when jazz-rock was "selling" to the distressed African-American and skeptical Caucasian populations.

Pink Floyd was formed in London in 1966 by two groups of students, one from Cambridge and the other from London. The first group featured Syd Barrett and David Gilmour, both vocalists and guitarists, that were performing as a folk duo in 1964; while the second group was composed of Nick Mason (percussionist) and Richard Wright (keyboardist). Wright was a classically trained pianist and a fan of both Miles Davis and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Moving back and forth between the 2 groups was Roger Waters (bassist and singer) who studied as much in Cambridge as he did in London. After forming several Merseybeat-inspired bands with Mason and Wright in 1965, in 1966 Waters also drafted Barrett.

Barrett, a fan of Bo Diddley (he had already written the song Double O Bo in 1965), was a mind open to any experience: from Asian mystical painting to the chemistry of music. When he decided to put his hand to music, he sought to distort blues-rock to fit his hallucinogenic imagination. The quartet, named Pink Floyd in honor to 2 misunderstood American bluesmen, began to perform regularly at local underground gigs, from Marquee to Roundhouse, showing great interest in electronic effects and light shows (the first ever in Great Britain). The group participated in diverse manifestations, such as long jams of electronic blues-rock, becoming legendary among the London underground scene.

Barrett was the strongest personality within the group at this point, as well the youngest. He composed a great deal of the music and lyrics; he played the guitar alternating between tonal phrasing and veering to dissonance.

The 45s of the group's first 2 years (1967 and 1968) were profoundly marked by ego and bewilderment, evident in the preference for disturbed effects, in the propensity for witty adages, always within the acidic moral of their verses. Paving the way was Arnold Layne, the story of a perverse adolescent using the typical melodic progression of psychedelia (malicious vocals, spatial keyboard, sobbing guitar along with martial rhythms) and the retro, Candy And A Currant Bun, with an unusual contrast of voices: that of the narrator - slimy and bad, and a sinister scream that accompanied the voices in the background, following a course that anticipated the cosmic flights and noisy finale. The highlight of these experiments in contortion of convention was in the use of the instruments, the voices, and recording studio; the aesthetic of the genre (folk? blues? jazz? classic?) loses its meaning in the general uproar; the vocal harmonies remained vaguely folk-rock, surf, and rhythm but with a Gothic or surreal bent with sound effects that were not more than simple fillers.

See Emily Play was further research, above all, in colorful flights of fancy on the keyboard, hysterical distortions on the guitar, and harmonic composition: the melody takes a backseat, a beat submersed in "found" sounds (organ at supersonic speed, insistent dissonance and reverbs of the guitar, and vaudeville rhythms). Scarecrow, a retro track, was a Dadaist joke, a voiceless refrain. In Apple And Oranges, the group's third manifesto, they used harsh guitar, played rhythm on bells, and a chorus immersed in a sequence of cosmic falsetto on church organ.

The other 45s, which did not bear the signature style of Barrett, revealed the growing importance of the keyboard with respect to the vocals and guitar as well as the return to a melodic beat (though more refined). Julia Dream, in particular, bore the signature of Waters: the first soft watercolor, smooth and touching, from the emerging new leader of the group; it was a renaissance ballad for acoustic guitar with whistling from a mellotron keyboard, adapted to the hallucinogenic "trip", which perhaps remained their masterpiece. Other songs showed the group's indebtedness to the vaudeville of the Kinks (It Would Be So Nice) and the arrangements of Sgt. Pepper (Paint Box).

The gimmick was always the same: muddle a melody with growing hallucinogens. These fleeting visions were of the cosmic fire to come, colorful embellishments for the universal sabbath, still exploring the dark side of tonal music, without venturing into the wide open space of abstract psychedelia.

These singles were compiled on Relics (Harvest, 1971), which contained the studio version of Careful with that Axe Eugene.

Rocco Stilo writes::

Historically speaking, this is perhaps the first track composed by the group after the departure of Barrett. The first evidence of this dates back to April 14, 1968 when the group performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London for a 2 concert show, The Man and The Journey - the aspiration of a work titled "The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes - More Furious Madness From Pink Floyd". On the contrary, it dates back to June 25, 1968 with the performance on a live radio show called Top Gear hosted by John Peel (in a brief version titled Murderistic Women). One might find a bootleg version on a recording titled The Complete Top Gear Sessions, Live 1967-69. In December of 1968, the group went to the recording studio and recorded the track for the first time, as a 45 for Harvest Records. The track, however, did not have the typical characteristics in terms of format and was doomed. On side B was recorded the commercially more attractive track Point Me At The Sky. A year later the group was back in the studio recording the sound track for the film titled Zabriskie Point (MGM, 1970), during which the group recorded a different version of the track, giving it the title Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up. Compared to the live version, the recorded version was more melodic and refined, more balanced with the instrumental parts, more successful. I think that Wright wanted to incorporate into the music the ancient myth of Sisyphus, condemned for eternity to roll and re-roll a massive boulder up hill. The first part described the personality of Sisyphus struggling with his immense, futile job. The second described the conquest of immorality through a violent and fierce struggle. In the third part, high tension described a personality that was reduced to powerlessness by the gods. Finally, assigned to percussion by Mason, was the simulation of yet another downward roll by the boulder.

The first long-play album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (Tower, 1967), which came out in the summer of 1967, had a huge impact on the music scene in Great Britain. In this album, Pink Floyd summarized their new musical grammar, a new mode of interpreting music towards the youth. The album was dominated by the personality of Barrett, an excellent storyteller and intrepid navigator of the stars, with an idyllic voice and demonic guitar. The intermittent radio signal that was Astronomy Domine was the greatest invention within English rock during this period: bliss in crescendo, intervals of hissing and throbbing from the guitars, and a voice deformed by astronomical distances. This was the manifestation of an extension to the ordinary meaning of psychedelia. It was both an expansion and liberation where the sky was the only limit, and Barrett would go even beyond. Wright and Mason, with their long notes, stormy and vast, invented a new style of accompaniment. Half of the album consisted of short surreal songs, free from the influence of hallucinogens such as See Emily Play, in which eccentric lyricism and space-rock instrumentals coexist. There were other miniature fantasies and harmonic syntheses, full of sound gaffes and mysterious lyrics. The guitar continued to create an atmosphere of panic, as in Lucifer Sam, a mix of a thriller sound track, a tribal dance, and an exorcism by black magic. The ballad was another form used with alienating effects in Matilda Mother, martial and fatalistic, which soared upon a heavenly chorus, and The Gnome, one of the group's most catchy refrains, was a classical fairytale. The most serious aspect of Barrett's psychedelia was documented in Chapter 24, which adapted raga-rock to cosmic arrangements (gags which took on many forms, such as suspense & dilated organ), and in Power R Toc H, the sabbath which announced the fierce instrumental vein of the group (like classical piano attacked by a bunch of drugged tribesmen, a sudden acceleration of time, celestial breaks by the organ, and haunting sounds of the woodlands).

In the end, the vaudeville style was the inspiration for Flaming (a collage of sound effects) and The Bike, a surreal sketch, a drunken prank consisting of random noise (sirens, cuckoo clocks, bells, bass drums, rusty chains, and animal sounds), revealing the insanity of Barrett, the goliard. Introduced by one of the most terrifying guitar riffs in the history of rock, Interstellar Overdrive (a long instrumental track), was a masterpiece inside a masterpiece. A synthesis of subliminal messages from gurus and acid priests, streams of consciousness a' la James Joyce & science fiction, of surrealism, and of Freudian psychoanalysis; the entire suite is a chameleon-like frenzy on which Barrett more violently abandoned the role of dissonant minstrel (psychedelic variation of a folk-singer), of metaphysical jester, of novice guru, and took on the role of cosmic musician. The framework for the group's tonal music crashed into the deafening chaos of free improvisation. Abandoning melody, the old excuse for instrumental tricks, the tricks now held their own. Every instrument lived free, possessed and deformed by the intensity of performance. The cosmic sense provided by the galactic beep on the guitar, celestial pulses on the bass, loud bangs on the drums, electrical shocks by the cymbals, and above all the spatial noise of the keyboard; the instruments changed roles, chasing each other and overlapping, but there was always one instrument which simulated spatial noises such as radio signals, whizzing spaceships, whistles and rumbles that come and go along stellar orbits, and primordial chaos which supported everything.

Syd Barrett retired in the spring of 1968 and was replaced by David Gilmour, whose style dominated the second album, on A Saucerful Of Secrets (Tower, 1968). At this point, the music did not fully reflect this change; the surreal faded slowly while the cosmic evolved. In reality, the group's cosmic sound needed to be supplied by human desire and without Barrett, the sound was salvaged only by painstaking experimentation. So it happened, however, that the group projected a coldness not there before. The title track, a long suite on side 2, was one of the greatest masterpieces of psychedelic rock: A Saucerful Of Secrets. The structure followed that of the group's debut: the delightful melodies lost their Barrett-inspired Dadaism, there was greater monotony in the execution due to a lack of imagination in the arrangements, and an excessive clean-up of guitar sounds. Waters, who took the lead, and Gilmour, who supported him, were fans of soft, refined, and relaxed music. Thus the vocals became sweeter and the keyboard became accustomed commonplace conduct. Gilmour's guitar style was slow and rare, knowing more of dreams than nightmares, slowing down and seemingly stopping time, descending into consciousness, opening the gates of paradise. It had no markings of the troubled Barrett.

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun was a celebrated hit of cosmic music but in reality was a pale remake changing Barrett's nightmares into an Eastern sounding dreams; the suggestion was still considerable, because the sweet sound sneaked it in, driven by a frantic and deafening percussion and by a monotonous litany whispered under the notes of the obsessive bass. Let There Be More Light was a raga-rock that followed the progression of a psychedelic song (cosmic tribalism, solemn melody, dissonant chaos), Corporal Clegg resembled a drunken vaudeville band (a most comical joke), and Jugband Blues (Barrett's last influence) was not in tune with the seriousness of the other tracks (but more penetrating and communicative in that voice: with commonplace wind instruments, a choir of mountaineers, and an intimate guitar which fades - a quiet, melancholy coda) and still suffered the effects of the surrealism of Barrett. See Saw, with a string section and Remember A Day, in a more soft, catchy version, announced an atmospheric music played completely on the group's trademark sounds.

The title track lasted nearly 12 minutes and was a more consistent effort to intrude on the avant-garde. This hallucinogenic "trip" was refined in total religiosity, imposing and frightening, blending Eastern and Christian liturgies into a unified cosmic yearning. The clusters of piano notes, the noises that rattle in the background, the electronic voices that filles the voids, the pangs of the organ, the apocalyptic drum, the piercing guitar, the dissonance, and the hailstorms of random harmonics, were among the most daring psychedelic sounds ever attempted. The upward movement established a strict tonal order: spontaneous disorder by the individual instruments. A church organ with full keyboard and Gregorian choir closed in a crescendo of gloomy celestial tones, creating a concert of 3 movements (the first was noise, the second was percussion, the third was the keyboard and choir) piecing together the most masterful contemporary rock. The final chorus opened up an immense abyss of seduction and terror.

After this album, the career and the sound of Pink Floyd changed drastically. The group's version of psychedelic rock was already interpreted as atmospheric music and the 3 sound tracks they composed within just a few months highlighted this aspect.

More (1968), the happiest of the 3 sound tracks, was a simple and graceful album, without all of the experimental ambitions found in Secrets and without the irreverent genius found in Piper. This was also where Waters began to dominate the group, his signature noticeable on 11 out of 13 songs, giving a definite direction to the sound of the group as in Cirrus Minor (a delicate woodland impressionism with cathedral organ and chirping in the background), The Nile Song (a werewolf hard-rock), Cymbaline (a delicate serenade on flute, guitar, piano and soft vocals), Main Theme (a brief lounge instrumental), and Quicksilver (an experimental number, dark and sparse); sophisticated songs embellished by spatial/psychedelic markings. More put into plain view the uncertainties held by Waters, who was unable to follow in the footsteps of Barrett and still had not decided between avant-garde lust and light music.

In 1969 the group released its most ambitious work, the double album titled Ummagumma (Harvest, 1969), which included a live recording of 4 elongated versions of the group's hallucinogenic/cosmic war horses, as well as a studio recording, subdivided into 4 parts, 1 for each musician. The live tracks were Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (a version that was more ceremonial, esoteric, Eastern, and cosmic), A Saucerful Of Secrets (a romantic version with a poignant hymn-like finale by Gilmour), and a thriller version of Careful With That Axe Eugene. This last track was a new classic, a thriller that pulled one subtly under an Eastern hypnotism, whispered supernaturally in an atmosphere of impending tragedy, and which was suddenly torn open by piercing screams, with blocks of music that just whiz by. Disintegrated, the track goes back to being soft and innocent, waiting for another victim. It was part embrace, part "trip", part nightmare, part delirium. The album recorded in the studio was austere and a bit pretentious; a theorization of the ideology of music of the quartet, each speaking from the angle of his own instrument. The 4 parts of the album were harmonic experiments executed in perfect freedom.

David Gilmour, in the third part titled Narrow Way, was the most uncertain, presenting the concept of lounge music, intelligent and refined, but above all, relaxing. His guitar repeated infinitely (at first folk, then heavy-metal, then Hawaiian style, then acid) in a series of minimalist variations, leaving to the electronics the job of creating a lively atmosphere with small dissonant vortexes. However, when the electronics were missing the tracks fell into a melodic soft-rock with a hallucinogenic refrain (the melody was taken from Embryonic Journey by Jefferson Airplane). Nick Mason, in the fascinating track The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, was influenced by Kontakte by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and carried out as an experiment that was as fascinating as it was self-indulgent, behaving like a child who wants to discover all the hidden sounds of his toy instruments. The multiplicity of noise and the group's treatment of electronics were of utmost importance: this exercise had as its origins the practice of forming noisy arrangements which would become the trademark of the group. Richard Wright tried his hand at synphonism, and in the impressive Sisyphus (in 4 movements) for the first time, the group's music can be compared to classical music. Wright easily created the effects desired from the keyboard, using touches of novice-like roughness as well as those of a seasoned performer. A menacing symphonic opening followed by a brief romantic piano sonata. A tempest of dissonance on piano and a chamber piece for percussion introduced the suspenseful finale, and metaphysically speaking, a frightening crescendo like a cosmic hurricane through a quiet countryside.

Roger Waters contributed 2 typical ballads: Granchester Meadows (delicate acoustic guitar in a folk style with electronic bird chirping) and Several Species Of Small Furry Animals (a possessed rhapsody for electronic voices and percussion which simulated a flurry of woodland critter sounds). Waters, more human that Wright, less banal than Gilmour, and more gifted than Mason, found the much sought after balance between experimentation and soft-rock, which for better or worse, was the fundamental invention for the future of the group. The number of experiments was impressive but within this work, it was monumental, placing Pink Floyd at the lead of avant-garde rock and helping to sow the seeds of psychedelic rock consumption.

With the end of the great season of psychedelia, Pink Floyd was under pressure from recording studios to record an album that was more "pop", in which they could justify an investment. Pink Floyd conceded and thus began the more "commercial" period of the group. It started with the album Atom Heart Mother (Harvest, 1970). Collaborating with Ron Geesin, the group set out to produce a high class album, in which would be presented, in a nutshell, all the elements that would make this album a best seller. The eponymous symphonic suite was a summary of the group's new style of compromise: in rapid sequence there was baroque church organ followed by romantic violin a' la Brahms, Gregorian chorus as in Saucerful, jazz-funk piano, cosmic dissonance, and the pompous theme of an overture that kept re-occurring, all to a rhythm that was more sleepy than martial. The pop style songs of More, on the second side, highlighted the level of maturity achieved by the soft, delicate melodies of Waters (If), and of the sweet and dreamy psychedelia by Gilmour (Fat Old Sun). At the end of the album was born the "concrete" concert which consisted of everyday sounds in Alan's Psychedelia Breakfast (with sequences of romantic kitsch, true playing, and acoustic folk). Summer 68, a humble song with folk-rock vocals, classical piano, and psychedelic trombone was written by Wright and was perhaps the true gem of the album. The album had strengths and weaknesses but remained, perhaps, the greatest achievement in the genre of classical rock, by far greater than the attempts of Nice and The Moody Blues.

The next album, Meddle (1971) had the same theme as Atom Heart Mother with the focus on a long suite and pop songs. The songs were more traditional and the suite less experimental. One of the tracks, One Of These Days, was the prototype of the painstaking but dazzling production technique that would make Pink Floyd rich and famous: in practice, recording studio musical effects. that turn a fat bass line into a massive rhythm locomotive, wrap it into disorienting distorted keyboard sounds, pin it against a charging tribal pulsation, and finally couple it with a lengthy Hendrix-ian guitar solo. The long suite titled Echoes distilled the transcendent stagnation of a medley of musical styles: a slow motion "bip-bip" by Barrett (performed on the piano by Wright), pulses in crescendo a' la Interstellar Overdrive, babbling as in Ummagumma, the funk of Atom Heart Mother, and the pathos of A Saucerful Of Secrets. Echoes unleashed the decisive blow: clean, smooth and anesthetized, the cosmic sound of times past became flat elevator "muzak". Undoubtedly this was the doing of studio production, in which infinite details were pieced together and superimposed to create an elegant flow of pleasing sounds. This piece is where Roger Waters emerged as the lead composer of the band. The sound track Obscured By Clouds (1972) was the group's low point.

The group found international success with the album Dark Side Of The Moon (Harvest, 1973), which abandoned the suite form in favor of sophisticated atmospheric songs superbly produced and arranged - which made this album one of the best selling of all time (it remained on the Billboard charts for more than 600 weeks). The producer was < A HREF=../vol13/aparsons.html>Alan Parsons who was phenomenal in transforming the experiments of Ummagumma into effects for truly refined music, and Waters, who composed all of the lyrics, picked a winning theme: alienation. This combination had its origins in classical music. The creative drumming by Mason reduced the experimentation of Ummagumma to a joke and the cosmic keyboard of Wright was limited to atmospheric accompaniment: the whole monumental symphonic unit of Ummagumma was compressed and downsized to the form of a song with narrowly formal balance.

Waters' epic personal tragedy weaves from song to song with fluent and colorful rhetoric, as a collage of melodies with the highest level of cohesion among sounds. The sensational pieces are: the instrumental On The Run (with helicopter, running steps, heavy breathing, and minimalist synthesizer loop), the morphing ballad Time (clock symphony, martial bass riff, polyphonic percussion, gentle carillon, syncopated funk narration, ethereal acid prayer-like refrain with backup of female voices, Hendrix-ian psychedelic guitar solo and a quasi-psychotic operatic vocal solo, like Morricone on steroids), and Money (cash registers, desolate litany, pneumatic funk rhythm, vibrant sax solo, hard-rocking guitar solo) the latter two being "white" disco funk classics. The form of the Waters-style ballad peaks in Breathe, dainty and dreamy, the prototype of what would become one of the group's preferred formats (languid whimpers on guitar and dreamy vocals), in Us And Them, a sort of slow-motion waltz, a whispered reverbed psychedelic lullaby that soars in a triumphal mode, as if completing what was left unfinished by A Saucerful of Secrets, lounge-jazz saxophone solo, and Brain Damage, the ideal continuation and fulfillment of that gospel-like crescendo. As refined as it was, this sound does nothing more than repeat the same refrain and the same tempo. The best track was perhaps the humble The Great Gig In The Sky, a wordless visceral vocal "flight" by vocalist Clare Torry that (again) evokes the ending of A Saucerful of Secrets over gentle piano notes.

The apex of this new path was perhaps best represented by Wish You Were Here (Harvest, 1975), an album that sold less than the others but offered, in reality, a more futuristic production, totally centered upon the synthesizers. Frequent outbursts of electronics creating an oppressive and tragic world view, focused more on the devastated psyche of the narrator (Waters) than on the metaphysics of the cosmos. The music, in fact, now explored abnormal mental states: insanity in Shine On You Crazy Diamond and the omnipotence of the "system" in Welcome To The Machine (perhaps an allegory on the music industry which engulfed the art). The former, opened by a somnolent guitar wail against a wall of droning and tinkling keyboards, morphs from agonizing blues guitar lament to anthemic horn-driven refrain. The latter, completely composed in layers on an electronic keyboard and guitar, one of the group's thriller classics, opened the doors to industrial music that, on hypnotic rhythms of mechanical equipment, constructed symphonic poems of apocalyptic pathos. Pulsing synthesizers continued to grow in popularity beginning in Germany with Kraftwerk but added diverse "voices" to the repertoire: organic warbling, simulations of neo-classical arches, and cosmic, languid glissandos. It was the first time that an album lost its languid and dreamy rhythm (but not, alas, its mournful vocals). Suggestive and atmospheric, the long suite in 9 parts dedicated to Barrett (the diamond referred to in Shine On You Crazy Diamond) shuffled funk dance rhythms, menacing symphonism, poignant riffs, gospel crescendos and funeral marches, but also a bit of verbosity and redundancy. There was 4 minutes before the famous arpeggio by Gilmour giving tone to the track and almost 10 minutes before Waters sung his lullaby. This track was, in reality, a long pause, filled with artificial sounds (the advantage to being able to spend 6 weeks in the most costly studios in the world). Shine On You Crazy Diamond spends the first nine minutes in an instrumental overture (with two solos by Gilmour) before the singing begins.

The album, above all, brought the Carthusian technique to maximum perfection in Dark Side.

The vulgarization of psychedelic music created a phenomenon parallel to the world of the underground, but in the case of Pink Floyd (converts to funk and disco) it was the betrayal of the good and beautiful. The sound of Pink Floyd careens on the tranquil melodies of the highest class: heavy guitar that tinkers on a soft and colorful fabric, stylized voices, a clean and rare aestheticism, a slow pace to avoid overloading the mind, and the fading of the music in long warbles: lounge psychedelia. The guitar solos by Gilmour, the electronics of the subconscious by Wright, the melancholy and dilated melodies by Waters, were the culmination of a long pursuit to a new genre of consumer music communicated on the second album.

Pink Floyd became an institution within consumer music, and in reality of music no longer produced: limited to placing the group's trademark, the unmistakable tonal perfection and composure.

The only mitigating factor of the concept for relaxing albums of this period, of the sound tracks at interim levels, and of the group's decadent, progressive involution, was a vague and ambiguous dedication to social ills: Dark Side indulges in the cause of alienation (time and money), Wish You Were Here sought a remedy for loneliness (in terms of insanity and technology), Animals (in large part composed of songs discarded from the previous album and already known live) was an allegory fabricated by Orwell revisited, a bestial industrial man (17 neurotic minutes in Dogs, the space-funk suite Sheep). The lyrics of Waters were dark, paranoid, pessimistic, but time came to do business with the fears of modern man. Waters and Gilmour had, above all, discovered a way to excessively elongate the theme of a song, allowing the melody to fluctuate on the thick clouds of the electronics, percussion and melodic drones on guitar - a format that would become the standard for music production during the 80's.

The group was so dominated by Waters, and his personal trauma, that Gilmour and Wright recorded their own albums, respectively David Gilmour (Columbia, 1978) and Wet Dream (Harvest, 1978), and Mason collaborated with Robert Wyatt and Gong.

If the albums of the trilogy of existential humanity only presented stereotypes, the double album The Wall condensed the meditation and commercialization of a decade into an unoriginal philosophy of "walls" which separate the two things. This album, ready to assimilate to the novelty of the music world - to disco rhythm such as the discrete music of Brian Eno, was the true reflection of Pink Floyd, always able to interpret the latest style. Wall signaled the point of max cohesion to be reached by the academic-commercial sound of the group: everyday noise in the background assayed and restored, sound segments that mixed mantras and the music of Ligeti, chromatically descriptive, the monolithic architecture of cotton candy. Symptomatic of the 3 parts of this melodrama of funk were tracks like Another Brick In The Wall (plus Comfortably Numb, which was the fourth) with choirs of school children. Comfortably Numb also contains Gilmour's best guitar solo. It was also the self-celebrating album for Waters, who since 1973 had led the group and was the author always credited on the cover. His songs, which were the softest and most dream-like, were recorded being sung in a dramatic and solemn manner that resembled the crooning a' la Broadway musicals or the metaphysical ballads by Genesis, recalling the disorder of the previous 2 albums, demonstrated by the insanity of Barrett who still tormented the souls of his companions. The alienation, the paranoia, and the nervousness which afflicted the nightmares of Barrett permeated into the private story of Waters, who was immersed in a series of devastating nightmares echoing in the emptiness. The interludes among the major tracks contain brief instrumental pieces or semi-acoustic sing-songs, often with noises inserted, which exacerbate the drama and pompousness of the work, to the point of being excessively morbid, if not apocalyptical. Redundant, smoky, full of special effects, and narcissistic, the music had no other way to display the paranoia of Waters, with a peak of desperation in the mellow ballad Hey You, and achieved its best in the expressionist psychodrama of the finale: In The Flesh, Waiting, Trial, which gradually moved towards the Brechtian style cabaret.

The Wall is also the album on which, de facto, the band disintegrated. Session musicians were brought in the studio to replace Wright and Mason who seemed increasingly less interested in playing Waters' music.

The Wall became a film and the symbol of the falling of the Berlin wall. In the first 10 years it sold 20 million copies.

Nick Mason recorded an album as well with Robert Wyatt and jazz composer Carla Bley, Fictitious Sports (EMI, 1981), published for only 2 years after being recorded, which at time the sound seemed to be a continuation of Rock Bottom from the early and legendary jazz-rock for small orchestras by Frank Zappa (Siam, Do Ya, and above all, Wervin').

The Final Cut (1983) was de facto a solo album by Roger Waters but credited to Pink Floyd. It was an oratorical requiem in which the depression from nervous exhaustion peaked. Technically speaking, it was an album overflowing with special effects and tri-dimensional sound (holophonic), which raised the otherwise banal motives of the folk tunes and militant marches. Lyrically speaking, the sound arsenal was serving an anti-war diatribe with an autobiographical background (of Waters, obviously) that mixed soft and epic tones. Substituting for the synthesizers of Wright were a harmonium and sting instruments. Waters seemed delirious, as if reincarnated in the post industrial era of Dylan in Masters Of War, against the evil of humanity.

The group became less of a group: Gilmour recorded his second solo album, About Face (Columbia, 1984), ditto for Wright with Identity (Harvest, 1984), as well as Mason with Profiles (Columbia, 1985), and Waters under his own name recorded the awful The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking (Columbia, 1984).

Waters continued to preach in his tragic yet smooth music, in his militant way despite his falsetto aesthetic which transformed the sales classification. His solo albums were Radio KAOS (1987) (another apocalyptic concept) and Amused To Death (1992) (another anti-war concept).

After Waters left, Gilmour remained the leader of the Pink Floyd and moved his guitar sound toward a more humane and aggressive style. Learning To Fly was the hit from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987), the first Pink Floyd album without Waters (Wright played some keyboards as a contributor, not as a member, so that Pink Floyd was just the duo of Gilmour and Mason). It was not by chance that this hit was also the quintessence of their languid and disoriented style.

The instrumental, Marooned, is the highlight of The Division Bell (1994), the album that marked the official return of Wright. Pink Floyd during this time were above all a great machine of live performances, as immortalized on the live album titled Delicate Sound Of Thunder (1988) and Pulse (1995).

By 2000 Pink Floyd had sold more than 180 million albums.

I Pink Floyd furono l'epitome del rock psichedelico che emerse nel 1967 in Gran Bretagna dalle ceneri dell'acid-rock di San Francisco. L'opera dei Pink Floyd fu fondamentale per conferire al genere una struttura unitaria. I loro primi album, infatti, fusero i tre filoni Americani della psichedelia: quello melodico (la canzone "eccentrica" alla White Rabbit dei Jefferson Airplane), quello improvvisato (la jam alla Velvet Underground) e quello astratto (il "freak-out" alla Red Crayola). In tal modo i Pink Floyd del 1967-69 coniarono il canone del rock psichedelico a cui si sarebbero ispirati le successive generazioni.

Nel bene e nel male i Pink Floyd capirono anche i limiti e le implicazioni del genere e continuarono a re-inventarsi, trasformando poco a poco il rock psichedelico (nato per gli hippies banditi dall'Establishment) in un genere per meditazione e relax (a beneficio degli yuppies perfettamente integrati nell'Establishment). Nel proseguio della loro carriera i Pink Floyd non esitarono a cambiare il sound psichedelico da sound aspro e cacofonico a sound levigato e vellutato. In tal modo i Pink Floyd elevarono il sound psichedelico a koine` universale, a prescindere dalle istanze e velleita` di questo o quel pubblico, un po' come negli stessi anni il jazz-rock stava "vendendo" l'angoscia del popolo Afro-americano al pubblico dei qualunquisti bianchi.

I Pink Floyd si formarono a Londra nel 1966 per opera di due gruppi di studenti, uno di liceali di Cambridge e uno di architetti di Londra. Al primo appartenevano Syd Barrett e David Gilmour, entrambi cantanti e chitarristi, che dal 1964 si esibivano a tempo perso come duo folk; mentre il secondo era composto da Nick Mason (percussionista) e da Richard Wright (tastierista). Wright aveva preso lezioni di piano classico ed era un fan sia di Miles Davis sia di Karlheinz Stockhausen. Da tramite fra i due gruppi fece Roger Waters (basso e canto) che aveva studiato tanto a Cambridge quanto a Londra. Dopo aver formato nel 1965 diversi complessi beat con Mason e Wright, nel 1966 Waters chiamo` a se` anche Barrett.

Barrett, un fan di Bo Diddley (nel 1965 aveva gia` scritto Double O Bo), era una mente avvezza ad ogni esperienza: era passato dalla pittura al misticismo orientale, e dalla chimica alla musica. Quando decise di metter mano alle note, lo fece per distorcere il blues-rock dei soci sulle illuminazioni della sua fantasia lisergica. Il quartetto, soprannominato Pink Floyd in onore a due misconosciuti bluesman americani, prese ad esibirsi regolarmente nei locali underground, dal Marquee alla Roundhouse, manifestando grande interesse per gli effetti elettronici e i "light show" (furono i primi a usarli in Britain). Parteciparono a diverse manifestazioni alternative, segnalandosi per le lunghe jam di blues-rock elettronico, finche' divennero l'attrazione fissa del neonato UFO, e di conseguenza uno dei punti di riferimento leggendari dell'underground londinese.

Barrett a quei tempi era forse la personalita` piu` forte del gruppo, benche' fosse anche il piu` giovane. Componeva gran parte delle musiche e tutti i testi; suonava la chitarra alternando fraseggi tonali a sbandate dissonanti.

I 45 giri dei primi due anni (1967 e 1968) sono profondamente segnati dal suo ego caustico e stralunato, riconoscibile nel gusto per gli effetti di disturbo, nella propensione per l'aforisma arguto, nella morale sempre acida dei suoi versi. Aprirono la strada Arnold Layne, la storia di un adolescente perverso che si avvale delle tipiche progressioni melodiche della psichedelia (canto malizioso, tastiere spaziali, chitarra singhiozzante; cadenza marziale, impennata epica e sballo dilatato) e il suo retro, Candy And A Currant Bun, con un anomalo contrasto di voci, quella narrante, viscida e cattiva, e l'urlo sinistro che l'accompagna in sottofondo, con una corsa collettiva che anticipa le fughe cosmiche e con finale rumoristico. Il dato saliente di queste prime ingenue prove consiste nello stravolgimento di convenzioni radicate sull'impiego di strumenti, voci e studio di registrazione: l'estetica dei generi (folk? blues? jazz? classico?) perde di senso nel bailamme generale; le armonie vocali rimandano vagamente al folk-rock, al surf e al beat, ma sono piegate a fini surreali o gotici; gli effetti sonori non sono piu` semplici riempitivi.

See Emily Play approfondi` la ricerca soprattutto per quel che concerne i tuffi e i voli variopinti delle tastiere, le distorsioni isteriche della chitarra, e l'amalgama armonico: la melodia passa in second'ordine, retaggio beat sommerso da un arrangiamento traboccante di trovate (l'organetto di strada lanciato a velocita` supersonica, le dissonanze e i riverberi insistiti delle chitarre, i ritmi vaudeville). Scarecrow, il retro, e` uno scherzo dadaista, un ritornello afono. In Apple And Oranges, il terzo manifesto, una chitarra stridente, un ritmo di sonagli e un coro del Dopolavoro immettono in una sequenza di falsetto cosmico su organi da chiesa.

Gli altri 45 giri, che non portano piu` la firma di Barrett, rivelano la crescente importanza delle tastiere rispetto al canto e alla chitarra e manifestano un ritorno, sia pur piu` raffinato, alla melodica beat. Julia Dream, in particolare, e` firmata da Waters, il primo acquarello tenero, vellutato e commosso, del nuovo leader emergente: una ballata rinascimentale per chitarra acustica e fischio di mellotron, adattata al trip lisergico, che rimarra` forse il suo capolavoro. Altre canzoni provano i debiti verso il vaudeville dei Kinks (It Would Be So Nice) e verso gli arrangiamenti di Sgt.Pepper (Paint Box).

Il trucco e` sempre lo stesso: perturbare una melodia innocua in crescendo con sostanze allucinogene. Questi embrioni evanescenti degli incendi cosmici a venire, arabeschi cromatici per l'affresco del sabba universale, esplorano ancora il lato oscuro della musica tonale, senza osare avventurarsi nei grandi spazi aperti della psichedelia astratta.

I singoli verranno raccolti su Relics (Harvest, 1971), che contiene anche la versione in studio di Careful with that Axe Eugene.

Rocco Stilo scrive:

Storicamente, si tratta forse del primo brano composto dal gruppo dopo la dipartita di Barrett. La prima testimonianza risale al 14 aprile 1968, quando il gruppo presenta al Royal Festival Hall di Londra due concept-show, The Man e The Journey, nell'ambito di un lavoro intitolato The Massed Gadgets Of Auximenes - More Furious Madness From Pink Floyd. Risale invece al 25 giugno 1968 la presentazione dal vivo del brano al radio-show Top Gear di John Peel, in una versione piu` breve e il cui titolo iniziale era Murderistic Women. Si trova sul bootleg The Complete Top Gear Sessions, Live 1967-69. Nel dicembre del 1968 il gruppo entra in sala d'incisione e registra finalmente per la prima volta il brano in studio, diffondendolo poi sotto forma di 45 giri per la Harvest. Quel brano pero` non aveva le caratteristiche del prodotto di consumo cui un simile formato era condannato, e ando` quindi a costituire il lato B della commercialmente piu` appetibile Point Me At The Sky. Anno dopo i PF rientrano in sala d'incisione e, per la colonna sonora del film Zabriskie Point (MGM, 1970), registrano un'altra differente versione del brano, dandole il titolo di Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up. Rispetto alla versione live, quella in studio e` assai piu` corale e rifinita, e vi e` un equilibrio strumentale pi riuscito.

Il primo long-playing, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (Tower, 1967), uscito nell'estate del 1967, ebbe un impatto colossale sulla scena musicale britannica. In questo album era riassunta una nuova grammatica musicale, un nuovo modo di intendere la musica per i giovani.
L'album e` ancora dominato dalla personalita` genialoide di Barrett, favolista sopraffino e intrepido navigatore delle stelle, voce paradisiaca e chitarra demoniaca. Il segnale radio intermittente di Astronomy Domine e` la piu` grande invenzione del rock inglese di quegli anni: l'estasi in crescendo, l'intermezzo di sibili e quel pulsare agghiacciante di chitarre, quella voce deformata dalle distanze astronomiche, sono il manifesto di una palese estensione dell'accezione corrente di psichedelia: l'espansione e la liberazione hanno come limite il cielo, e oltre quel limite corre Barrett. Wright, con le sue note lunghissime, e soprattutto Mason, tempestoso e titanico, inventano un nuovo stile di accompagnamento.
Meta` del disco e` occupata da brevi canzoni surreali, emancipate dal piglio lisergico di See Emily Play, nelle quali convivono lirismo eccentrico e space-rock strumentale. Sono altre miniature di fantasia e di sintesi armonica, zeppe di gaffe sonore e di testi arcani. Sono sempre le chitarre a creare atmosfere di panico, come in Lucifer Sam, un incrocio fra la colonna sonora di un thriller, una danza pellerossa e un esorcismo di magia nera.
La ballata e` un'altra delle forme usate con effetti stranianti: Matilda Mother, marziale e fatalistica, si libra in un ritornello celestiale e The Gnome, uno dei suoi ritornelli piu` orecchiabili, e` una fiaba classicheggiante.
L'aspetto piu` serio della psichedelia "Barrettiana" e` documentato invece da Chapter 24, che adatta il raga-rock agli arrangiamenti "cosmici" (gag multiformi, suspence, organi dilatati), e da Power R Toc H, il sabbah che annuncia la calda vena strumentale del complesso (la tradizione classica del pianoforte stuprata dalle urla di guerra di un branco di lisergici pellerossa, le improvvise accelerazioni di tempo, le aperture celestiali d'organo, il sottobosco stregato di rumori).
Infine il vaudeville e` l'ispirazione di Flaming (un collage di effetti sonori) e The Bike, lo sketch piu` surreale, uno scherzo ubriaco di rumoristica casuale (sirene, orologi a cucu, campanelli, grancasse, catene arrugginite, versi di animali), a svelare la folle goliardia di Barrett.
Introdotta da uno dei riff chitarristici piu` terrificant della storia del rock, Interstellar Overdrive (il lungo brano strumentale) e` il capolavoro all'interno del capolavoro. Sintesi subliminale di santoni indiani e di sacerdoti dell' acido, di flusso di coscienza "Joyce-iano" e di fantascienza, di surrealismo e di psicanalisi freudiana, la suite e` un camaleontico delirio in cui il Barrett piu` violento abbandona la figura del menestrello dissonante (variazione psichedelica del folk-singer), del giullare metafisico, del guru bambino, e indossa i paramenti del musicista cosmico. L'impalcatura della musica tonale si schianta allora nel caos frastornante dell'improvvisazione libera. Abbandonata la melodia, vecchio pretesto per trucchi e acrobazie strumentali, trucchi e acrobazie vivono per conto proprio rinnovandosi di continuo a ritmo vertiginoso. Ogni strumento vibra libero e organico, assatanato e deformato dall'intensita` della rappresentazione. Il senso cosmico e` dato dal "bee-beep" galattico della chitarra, dal pulsare sidereo del basso, dagli scoppi luminosi della batteria, dalle scosse magnetiche dei piatti, e soprattutto dalla rumoristica astronautica delle tastiere; gli strumenti si scambiano i ruoli, si rincorrono, si accavallano, ma ce n'e` sempre almeno uno che pulsa mentre gli altri simulano rumori spaziali: segnali radio, astronavi che sfrecciano, sibili e rombi che vanno e vengono lungo orbite stellari, il caos primordiale che alimenta tutto.

Syd Barrett si ritira nella primavera del 1968 e il suo posto viene preso da David Gilmour, che e` pertanto prevalente sul secondo album, A Saucerful Of Secrets (Tower, 1968). Sul momento la musica risente poco del cambiamento; scompaiono soltanto le trovate piu` surreali, ma l'evoluzione "cosmica" procede. In realta` la musica cosmica ha bisogno di essere alimentata da fuoco umano, e senza Barrett si salva soltanto con un'assidua sperimentazione. Cosi` facendo, pero`, acquista una freddezza che prima non aveva.
Il disco e` intitolato alla lunga suite della seconda facciata, uno dei massimi capolavori del rock psichedelico: A Saucerful Of Secrets. La struttura ricalca quella dell'opera d'esordio: le delizie melodiche hanno pero` perso il tipico dadaismo barrettiano, si avverte una maggiore monotonia nell'esecuzione, dovuta a mancanza di fantasia negli arrangiamenti e a un'eccessiva pulizia chitarristica. Waters, che ha preso il comando, e Gilmour, che lo asseconda, sono amanti della musica soffice, raffinata e distensiva. Cosi` le parti vocali sono diventate piu` dolci e le tastiere si assuefanno a un decoro piu` borghese. Lo stile alla chitarra di Gilmour e` lento e rarefatto, sa di sogno piu` che di incubo, sembra voler rallentare e fermare il tempo, scendere nella coscienza, aprire vortici paradisiaci. Non ha nulla del travagliato titanismo di Barrett.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, celebrato hit della musica cosmica, e` in realta` un pallido rifacimento in chiave orientale-onirica degli incubi astronautici di Barrett; la suggestione e` comunque notevole, perche' il suono si insinua dolcissimo, sospinto da una percussione frenetica e assordante, da una litania monotona bisbigliata sotto le note ossessive del basso.
Se Let There Be More Light e` un raga-rock che ricalca le progessioni della canzone psichedelica (tribalismo cosmico, melodia solenne, caos dissonante), se il vaudeville ubriaco e bandistico di Corporal Clegg (la gag piu` comica), e il Jugband Blues, l'ultima boccaccia di Barrett, poco in sintonia con la seriosita` degli altri brani (ma quanto piu` penetrante e comunicativa quella voce, quanto piu` calibrati i fiati paesani, i cori montanari, le intermittenze chitarristiche, le dissolvenze, la malinconica coda in sordina!) risentono ancora del buffo surrealismo barrettiano, See Saw, con sezione d'archi, e Remember A Day, in versioni piu` soffici e orecchiabili, annunciano una musica d'atmosfera tutta giocata sui timbri e sui colori.
La title-track dura quasi dodici minuti ed e` un tentativo piu` consistente di sconfinare nell'avanguardia. Il trip allucinogeno si sublima in una religiosita` totale, imponente e spaventosa, che fonde liturgie cristiane e orientali in un unico anelito cosmico. I grappoli pianistici di note, i rumori che sferragliano in sottofondo, le voci elettroniche che riempiono gli spazi vuoti, le fitte organistiche, la batteria apocalittica e il timbro lancinante della chitarra, i giochi dissonanti, le grandinate armoniche casuali; sono quanto di piu` ardito la psichedelia abbia mai tentato. Il movimento ascensionale stabilisce un ordine rigoroso, e tonale, del disordine spontaneo ostentato dai singoli strumenti. L'organo da cattedrale a piena tastiera e il coro gregoriano che chiudono in crescendo su toni lugubri e celestiali questo concerto in tre movimenti (il primo rumoristico, il secondo percussivo, il terzo tastieristico-corale) sigillano l'intervento piu` magistrale del rock in area di contemporanea. Il coro finale si spalanca su abissi immani, seducenti e terribili.

Dopo questo disco la carriera e il sound dei i Pink Floyd cambiarono drasticamente. Il loro genere di rock psichedelico era gia` stato interpretato come musica d'atmosfera, e le tre colonne sonore che realizzarono nel giro di pochi mesi accentuarono quell'aspetto.

More (1968), la piu` felice di queste colonne sonore, e` un disco semplice e grazioso, senza le ambizioni sperimentali di Secrets e senza la genialita` irriverente di Piper.
Qui ebbe inizio la dominazione di Waters, che firma undici brani su tredici e imprime una direzione ben precisa al sound del gruppo con Cirrus Minor (delicato impressionismo silvestre con organo da cattedrale e cinguettio di sottofondo), The Nile Song (un hard-rock licantropo), Cymbaline (fragile serenata per flauto, chitarra, pianoforte e canto in sordina), Main Theme (un breve strumentale da salotto), Quicksilver (il pezzo sperimentale, cupo e rarefatto), canzoni sofisticate impreziosite dal timbro spaziale-psichedelico. More mette a nudo le incertezze di Waters, incapace di seguire le orme di Barrett e ancora indeciso fra le libidini avanguardistiche e la musica leggera.

Nel 1969 vide comunque la luce la loro opera piu` ambiziosa, il doppio Ummagumma (Harvest, 1969), consistente in un disco dal vivo, che raccoglie quattro versioni allungate di altrettanti cavalli di battaglia cosmico-lisergici, e in un disco di studio, suddiviso in quattro parti, una per musicista.
I brani dal vivo sono Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (in una versione assai piu` cerimoniale ed esoterica, orientale e cosmica), A Saucerful Of Secrets (in versione romantica, con struggente inno finale di Gilmour soltanto gridato, sugli accordi religiosi dell'organo), e una versione thriller di Careful With That Axe Eugene. Quest'ultimo e` un nuovo classico, un brano thriller che si trascina sottovoce per orientalismi ipnotici e bisbigli soprannaturali in un'atmosfera di tragedia incombente, e che all'improvviso viene squarciato da un urlo lancinante, con blocchi di musica che schizzano da tutte le parti; disintegrato, si riavvolge su se stesso e riprende soffice e innocente, in agguato per un'altra vittima, meta` amplesso meta` trip, meta' incubo meta` delirio.
Il disco di studio e` una austera e un po' pretenziosa teorizzazione dell'ideologia musicale dei quattro, ciascuno "intervistato" dall'angolatura del suo strumento. Le quattro parti dell'opera sono altrettanti esperimenti armonici eseguiti in perfetta liberta'.
David Gilmour, nelle tre parti di Narrow Way, e` il piu` incerto, vicino com' e` a un concetto di musica da salotto, intelligente e raffinata, ma soprattutto distensiva. La sua chitarra si ripete all'infinito (ora folk ora heavy, ora hawaiana ora acida), come in una serie di variazioni minimaliste, lasciando all'elettronica il compito di vivacizzare l'atmosfera con piccoli vortici dissonanti, ma quando l'elettronica viene a mancare il brano scade in un melodico soft-rock per famiglia cullato da un lento ritornello lisergico (la melodia era ripresa da Embryonic Journey dei Jefferson Airplane).
Nick Mason, nel pur affascinante The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, influenzato da Kontakte di Karlheinz Stockhausen, compie un esperimento tanto affascinante quanto auto-indulgente, comportandosi come un bambino che voglia scoprire tutti i reconditi segreti sonori dei suoi strumenti giocattoli. La molteplicita` dei rumori e il loro trattamento elettronico sono comunque di capitale importanza: da questo esercizio avra` infatti origine la prassi di arrangiamento "rumoristico" che diventera` un marchio di fabbrica del complesso.
Richard Wright tenta la carta del sinfonismo, e nell'imponente Sysyphus (in quattro movimenti) per la prima volta il complesso si misura con la musica classica. Wright estrae con disinvoltura dalle tastiere gli effetti voluti, distribuisce tocchi da rozzo dilettante e da concertista smaliziato. A una minacciosa apertura sinfonica fa seguito una breve sonata di piano romantico. Una tempesta di dissonanze pianistiche e un pezzo da camera per sole percussioni introducono il finale sospeso e metafisico, un crescendo spaventoso dalla quiete campestre all'uragano cosmico.
Roger Waters contribuisce con due sue tipiche ballate: Granchester Meadows, delicata confessione acustica per chitarra folk e uccelli elettronici; e Several Species Of Small Furry Animals, rapsodia indemoniata per voci elettroniche e percussioni che simulano un tripudio di bestioline di bosco. Waters, piu` umano di Wright, meno banale di Gilmour, e piu` dotato di Mason, trova il tanto cercato equilibrio fra sperimentazione e soft-rock, che sara`, nel bene e nel male, l'invenzione fondamentale per il futuro del gruppo.
La quantita` di esperimenti e` imponente, ma, proprio con quest'opera monumentale, che dovrebbe consacrarli alla testa del rock d'avanguardia, i Pink Floyd gettano i semi di una musica psichedelica di consumo.

La grande stagione psichedelica e` finita. I Pink Floyd sono sotto pressione da parte della casa discografica perche' consegnino un album piu` "pop", le cui vendite giustifichino l'investimento. I Pink Floyd obbedirono e diedero inizio al periodo "commerciale" della loro carriera con Atom Heart Mother (Harvest, 1970). Avvalendosi della collaborazione di Ron Geesin, il gruppo riusci` comunque a confezionare un'opera d'alta classe, in cui sono presenti, in nuce, tutti gli elementi che porteranno ai loro best-seller.
L'eponima suite sinfonica e` un summa del nuovo stile di compromesso: in rapida sequenza si susseguono organo barocco da chiesa, violino romantico alla Brahms, coralita` gregoriana alla Saucerful, pianismi funk-jazz, dissonanze cosmiche, e il tema pomposo dell'ouverture che ritorna di continuo, il tutto a un ritmo che e` piu` sonnolento che marziale. Le canzoni pop alla More della seconda facciata esaltano la raggiunta maturita` del tenero delicato melodismo di Waters (If), e della psichedelia sdolcinata e onirica di Gilmour (Fat Old Sun). In fondo al disco e` nascosto il concerto "concreto" per suoni quotidiani di Alan's Psychedelica Breakfast, con sequenze di kitsch romantico, di suono-verita` e di folk acustico. Summer 68, l'umile canzone con vocalizzi folk-rock, pianismo classico e trombe psichedeliche scritta da Wright e` forse la vera gemma del disco. L'album ha pregi e difetti, ma rimane forse il massimo risultato nel campo del rock classicheggiante, battendo di gran lunga i tentativi di Nice e Moody Blues.

Lo stesso schema di Atom Heart Mother venne seguito per l'album successivo, Meddle (1971), anch'esso imperniato attorno a una lunga suite e a una serie di canzoni pop. Le canzoni sono ancor piu` tradizionali e la suite e` ancor meno sperimentale. Una delle canzoni, One Of These Days, era il prototipo della certosina e scintillante tecnica di produzione che li avrebbe resi ricchi e famosi: in pratica, musica per effetti di studio, che trasformano un grasso riff di basso in una massiccia locomotiva ritmica, l'avvolgono in suoni distorti di tastiere, lo contrappongono a una pulsazione tribale, e poi gli accoppiano un lungo assolo di chitarra Hendrix-iano.
La lunga suite Echoes distilla stasi trascendente da un medley di stili del passato: un ralenti del "bip-bip" di Barrett (reso pero` dal pianoforte di Wright), la pulsazione in crescendo di Interstellar Overdrive, la babele di Ummagumma, il movimento funk di Atom Heart Mother, il pathos di A Saucerful Of Secrets. Echoes sferra cosi` il colpo decisivo: ripulito e disinfettato, levigato e anestetizzato, il sound "cosmico" di un tempo si adagia adesso in una piatta muzak da supermarket. Indubbiamente si tratta pero` di un prodigio di produzione in studio, in cui un'infinita` di minuscoli dettagli sono stati incollati e sovrapposti per ottenere un flusso elegante di suoni gradevoli. E` il pezzo in cui Roger Waters emerge come il principale compositore del gruppo.

La colonna sonora di Obscured By Clouds (1972) fu il punto piu` basso toccato dai Pink Floyd.

Il gruppo trovo` il successo internazionale con l'album Dark Side Of The Moon (Harvest, 1973), che abbandono` del tutto la forma-suite a favore della canzone sofisticata d'atmosfera, superbamente prodotta e arrangiata, e risultera` fra i piu` venduti di tutti i tempi (rimarra` piu` di 600 settimane nelle charts di "Billboard"). Il produttore Alan Parsons e` fenomenale nel trasformare gli esperimenti di Ummagumma in trovate d'effetto per musica leggera raffinata, e Waters, autore di tutti i testi, azzecca il tema vincente: l'alienazione. Dal connubio ha origine il sound dell'era classica. Il fantasioso batterismo di Mason si riduce alle gag d'effetto sperimentate in Ummagumma, e le tastiere cosmiche di Wright si limitano ad accompagnamenti atmosferici: l'intero monumentale apparato sinfonico di Ummagumma viene compresso e ridimensionato nella forma-canzone e nei meschini equilibri formali.

L'epos tragico di Waters si snoda di brano in brano con fluente e colorata retorica, in un collage di melodie ad altissima coesione sonora. I brani d'effetto sono lo strumentale On The Run (per elicottero, passo di corsa, respiro affannato e vortice di synth), e i ritornelli di Time (clock symphony, martial bass riff, polyphonic percussion, gentle carillon, syncopated funk narration, ethereal acid prayer-like refrain with backup of female voices, Hendrix-ian psychedelic guitar solo and a quasi-psychotic operatic vocal solo, like Morricone on steroids), e Money (cash registers, desolate litany, pneumatic funk rhythm, vibrant sax solo, hard-rocking guitar solo), due classici del funk bianco da discoteca.
La ballad "Waters-iana" si sublima in Breathe, leziosa e sognante, il prototipo per quella che diventera` uno dei loro formati preferiti (languidi vagiti di chitarra e canto sognante), Us And Them, a sort of slow-motion waltz, a whispered reverbed psychedelic lullaby that soars in a triumphal mode, as if completing what was left unfinished by A Saucerful of Secrets, lounge-jazz saxophone solo, e Brain Damage, ideale prosecuzione e compimento di quel tema gospel. Per quanto curatissimo, questo sound non fa che ripetere sempre lo stesso ritornello e lo stesso tempo. Il brano migliore e` forse il piu` umile, The Great Gig In The Sky, un "volo" viscerale senza parole della corista Clare Torry che, di nuovo, evoca il finale di A Saucerful of Secrets su dolci note di piano.

Il vertice di questo nuovo corso e` forse rappresentato da Wish You Were Here (Harvest, 1975), album che vendette di meno ma che in realta` offre una produzione ancor piu` avveniristica, totalmente imperniata sui sintetizzatori. Spesse folate di elettronica creano un Weltanschaung tragico ed opprimente, focalizzato piu` sulla devastata psiche del narratore (Waters stesso) che sulla metafisica del cosmo. La musica, infatti, esplora ora gli stati mentali anormali: la pazzia in Shine On You Crazy Diamond e l'onnipotenza del Sistema in Welcome To The Machine (forse un'allegoria sull'industria della musica che fagocita l'arte). La prima, aperta da un vagito sonnolento di chitarra contro un muro di tastiere dronanti e tintinnanti, muta da agonizzante lamento blues di chitarra ad epic ritornello di fiati. La seconda, interamente costruita su strati di tastiere elettroniche e chitarra, uno dei loro classici della paura, apre le porte alla musica "industriale" che, sui ritmi ipnotici delle apparecchiature meccaniche, costruisce poemi sinfonici di pathos apocalittico. I suoi sintetizzatori pulsanti continuano l'epopea iniziata in Germania dai Kraftwerk, ma aggiungono diverse "voci" al repertorio: gorgoglii organici, simulazioni di archi neoclassici, languidi glissando cosmici. E` anche l'unico momento in cui l'album perde il suo ritmo languido e sonnolento (ma non, ahime`, il canto lamentevole).
Suggestiva e atmosferica, la lunga suite in nove parti dedicata a Barrett (il "diamante" a cui si riferisce il titolo Shine On You Crazy Diamond) rimescola ritmi funk da ballo, sinfonismo minaccioso, riff struggenti, crescendo gospel e stasi funeree, anche se pecca di verbosita` e ridondanza. Ci vogliono quattro minuti prima che il celebre arpeggio di Gilmour dia il tono al brano e quasi dieci minuti prima che Waters intoni la sua nenia. Questo brano e` di fatto una lunga "pausa", riempita di suoni artificiali (il vantaggio di poter trascorrere sei settimane negli studios piu` cari del mondo). Shine On You Crazy Diamond ha un'overture strumentale di nove minuti (con due assoli di Gilmour) prima che il canto inizi.
Il disco, soprattutto, porta alla massima perfezione la tecnica certosina di Dark Side.

La volgarizzazione della musica psichedelica costituisce un fenomeno parallelo all'involuzione dell'underground, ma nel caso dei Pink Floyd (convertitisi al funk e alla discoteca) sanno di tradimento bello e buono. Il suono dei Pink Floyd sbanda verso un tranquillo melodismo d'alta classe: una chitarra pesante che cincischia su un tessuto morbido e colorato, le voci stilizzate, la pulizia asettica, la rarefazione estetizzante, il lento sinuoso incedere per non sforzare la mente, la dissolvenza della musica in lunghi gorghi. Psichedelia da salotto. Gli assoli chitarristici di Gilmour, l'elettronica del subconscio di Wright, le melodie malinconiche, rallentate e dilatate, di Waters, sono il coronamento di un lungo inseguimento a un nuovo genere di musica di consumo cominciato sul secondo album.

I Pink Floyd diventano cosi` un'istituzione della musica di consumo, anche se in realta` di musica non ne producono piu`: si limitano ad apporre il marchio di fabbrica, l'inconfondibile perfezione e compostezza timbrica.

Unica attenuante degli album-concept per relax di questo periodo, delle colonne sonore ad interim stratificate, e della loro progressiva decadente involuzione, e` una vaga e ambigua dedica ai mali sociali: se Dark Side indaga sulle cause dell'alienazione (il denaro, il tempo ), Wish You Were Here cerca rimedi contro la solitudine (la pazzia, la tecnologia), Animals (in gran parte composto di brani scartati dai precedenti e gia` noti dal vivo) e` l'allegorica fattoria di Orwell rivisitata, un bestiario dell'uomo industriale (i 17 nevrotici minuti di Dogs, la suite space-funk Sheep). Nel complesso le liriche di Waters sono cupe, paranoiche, pessimiste; ma i tempi sono maturi per far commercio anche delle paure dell'uomo moderno. Waters e Gilmour hanno soprattutto scoperto un modo per allungare a dismisura il tema di una canzone, lasciando fluttuare la melodia su fitte nuvole di elettronica, percussioni e droni melodici di chitarra, un formato che diventera` uno standard di riferimento per i produttori degli anni '80.

Il complesso era talmente dominato da Waters, e dai suoi traumi personali, che Gilmour e Wright registrarono album solisti, rispettivamente David Gilmour (Columbia, 1978) e Wet Dream (Harvest, 1978), e Mason collaboro` con Robert Wyatt e i Gong.

Se gli album della trilogia dell'umanesimo esistenziale scodellano soltanto stereotipi, il doppio The Wall (1979) condensa le meditazioni e le commercializzazioni di un decennio in una poco originale filosofia del "muro" che separa due qualsiasi cose.
Quest'album, cosi` pronto ad assimilare le novita` del mondo musicale, dal ritmo disco alla musica discreta-ambientale di Brian Eno e` lo specchio fedele dei Pink Floyd, sempre abili interpreti delle mode. Wall segna anche il punto di massima coesione raggiunto dal sound accademico-commerciale del complesso: rumori quotidiani di sottofondo dosati e restaurati, fasce sonore che incrociano i mantra e Ligeti, descrittivismo cromatico, architetture monolitiche di zucchero filato. Sintomatiche le tre parti del melodramma funky Another Brick In The Wall (piu` Comfortably Numb, che ne e` la quarta), con cori di scolaresche. Comfortably Numb contiene anche il miglior solo di Gilmour.
E` anche il disco auto-celebrativo di Waters, dal 1973 tanto padrone della musica del gruppo da esserne l'unico autore sempre accreditato nelle note di copertina. Le canzoni, per lo piu` soffici e oniriche, cantate in un registro drammatico e solenne che innesta il crooning da musical di Broadway sulle ballate metafisiche dei Genesis, rivangano le turbe psicanalitiche dei due precedenti, dimostrando tra l'altro che la pazzia di Barrett tormenta ancora l'animo dei compagni. L'alienazione, la paranoia, la nevrosi, che afflissero gli incubi solisti del "diamante" permeano anche l'enfatica storia privata di Waters, immersa in una serie di incubi devastanti che risuonano nel vuoto. Gli intermezzi fra i brani maggiori sono brevi pezzi strumentali o cantilene semi-acustiche, spesso con inserti rumoristici, che acuiscono la drammaticita` e la pomposita` dell'opera, a tratti eccessivamente funerea, se non apocalittica.
Ridondante, fumosa, effettistica, narcisista, la musica non ha altro senso che esibire la paranoia di Waters, con un apice di disperazione nella soffice ballad Hey You, e riesce meglio proprio negli psicodrammi espressionisti del finale: In The Flesh, Waiting, Trial, via via piu` vicini al cabaret "Brechtiano".

The Wall e` anche l'album in cui, di fatto, il gruppo si sfalda. Session musicians vengono portati in studio per rimpiazzare Wright e Mason che sembrano sempre meno interessati a suonare le musiche di Waters.

The Wall diventera` anche un film e diventera` la sigla della caduta del muro di Berlino. Nei primi dieci anni se ne venderanno venti milioni di copie.

Nick Mason incise anche un disco con Robert Wyatt e soprattutto la compositrice jazz Carla Bley, Fictitious Sports (EMI, 1981), pubblicato soltanto due anni dopo la registrazione, che suona talvolta come una continuazione del Rock Bottom del primo e talaltra come un omaggio al jazz-rock per piccola orchestra di Frank Zappa (Siam, Do Ya, e soprattutto Wervin').

The Final Cut (1983), di fatto un album solista di Roger Waters anche se ancora accreditato ai Pink Floyd, e` il requiem-oratorio in cui culmina la depressione da esaurimento nervoso di Waters. Tecnicamente, e` un disco straripante di effetti speciali e presenza sonora tri-dimensionale (olofonia), che esaltano gli altrimenti banali motivi di folk-tunes e di marce militari. Liricamente, l'arsenale sonoro e` al servizio di una dialettica anti-bellica a sfondo auto-biografico (di Waters ovviamente) che fonde tono soffice e tono epico. Sostituiti i synths di Wright con harmonium e veri strumenti ad arco, Waters delira, reincarnazione nell'era post-industriale del Dylan di Masters Of War, contro i potenti malvagi e l'infida indole umana.

Il gruppo era sempre meno gruppo: Gilmour pubblico` il secondo solo, About Face (Columbia, 1984), idem per Wright con Identity (Harvest, 1984) e Mason con Profiles (Columbia, 1985), e Waters stesso pubblico` a proprio nome il pessimo The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking (Columbia, 1984).

Waters continuo` a predicare in proprio la sua musica al tempo stesso tragica e vellutata, a suo modo militante nonostante il suo falsetto asettico l'avesse trasformata in un'abitudine delle classifiche di vendita. I suoi album solisti sono: Radio KAOS (1987), un altro concept apocalittico, e Amused To Death (1992), un altro concept anti-bellico.

Dopo lo scisma, Gilmour rimase di fatto padrone del complesso e lo spinse verso un guitar-sound piu` umano e aggressivo. Learning To Fly e` il successo tratto da A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987), il primo album dei Pink Floyd senza Waters (Wright contribuisce alcune parti ma non come membro del gruppo, per cui il gruppo e` semplicemente il duo Gilmour-Mason). Non a caso l'hit e` anche la quintessenza del loro stile languido e disorientato.

Lo strumentale Marooned e` il pezzo forte di The Division Bell (1994), l'album che segna il ritorno di Wright. I Pink Floyd di questo periodo erano soprattutto una grande macchina di spettacoli dal vivo, come immortalati dai live album Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) e Pulse (1995).

Nel 2000 avevano varcato i 180 milioni di dischi venduti.

Pink Floyd reunited for the first time since 1981 for a charity concert for Africa in the summer of 2005.

David Gilmour returned with the soporific On An Island (2006), his first solo album in over 20 years, featuring Robert Wyatt and David Crosby. Rattle That Lock (2015) was Gilmour's worst album of his career.

Richard Wright still recorded the concept album Broken China (1996). He died in 2008 at the age of 65.

Endless River (2014), Pink Floyd's first album since 1994 was ambient new-age music, mostly instrumental, a sound collage constructed from outtakes of decades-old recording sessions.

In his old age Roger Waters became more famous for his anti-Western political opinions than for his shows or compositions. The only albums since 1992 were the opera Ca Ira (2005) about the French revolution, with a libretto written by French songwriters Etienne and Nadine Roda-Gil, and the collection Is This the Life We Really Want? (2020), whose songs sound like clones of old Pink Floyd hits sung by an old man.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Antonio Saluzzi)

I Pink Floyd si sono riuniti per la prima volta dal 1981 per un concerto di beneficenza per l'Africa nell'estate del 2005.

David Gilmour tornato con il soporifero On An Island (2006), il suo primo album da solista in oltre 20 anni, con la collaborazione di Robert Wyatt e David Crosby.

Richard Wright morto nel 2008 a 65 anni

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