In The Flesh: 10 Semi-Obscure Facts About Pink Floyd
(Cue heartbeat sound effect)
This week we turn our fact-finding spotlight on of the most successful cosmic rock bands of all time, Pink Floyd. The band is going through another period of rediscovery by fans young and old with a new set of remastered reissues, along with last year's extremely popular Roger Waters concert tour, wherein he performed the band's 1979 album The Wall in its entirety, complete with a wall being built onstage.
This week's Rolling Stone cover story is on the band's monolithic 1973 LP, The Dark Side of the Moon, which was among the batch of Floyd reissues out this past month. Brian Hiatt's piece delves into the theory that the album in a sense splintered the working structure of the group for the rest of their days together. After Dark Side, they would only release four more strife-baked albums before Waters left for a solo career.
We all know the stories about original lead singer Syd Barrett, that drugged, handsome madman who was initially the beating heart of the group, but was done in by the ravages of hallucinogenics on his capabilities to function in a band that was quickly gaining steam. David Gilmour was brought on board as Barrett began slipping away mentally, and ended up outlasting even Waters.
Barrett's two solo albums The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, are cult favorites, in league with that other great, damaged '60s artist, Roky Erickson, though Erickson obviously overcame the odds and thrived in later years. Barrett passed away in 2006, but was always a looming, if absent figure, in the Floyd universe.
The band's one constant member on each album was drummer Nick Mason. Keyboardist Richard Wright passed away in 2008. Wright, Mason, and Gilmour continued to tour as Pink Floyd after Waters' exit, to chagrin of the bassist, and released two albums, 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994's The Division Bell, and were a major concert drawl into the '90s before parting.
There exists a few different, distinct periods in the Floyd narrative. There's the early bluesy, garage work up until Barrett's exit. The middle period before Dark Side was characterized by albums like the pastoral Meddle and Atom Heart Mother, and the sprawling Ummagumma. The last track on 1971's Meddle, "Echoes" is the perfect prequel to the vast and enthralling expanse of what would be 1973's Dark Side.
After touring Dark Side, the band went into the studio to record 1975's Wish You Were Here, and this when Hiatt's article points to the exact moment when the band's daily routine became very much a case of Waters versus the rest of the group. Many fans also echo that sentiment, articulating that Waters began a tyrannical hold on the proceedings.
Animals and The Wall were very much Waters' babies, creating the concepts and structures of both. 1983's The Final Cut, the final Floyd disc with Waters in the fold, gets dismissed by fans as a Waters solo album that happens to have Floyd playing behind him. Gilmour only sings lead on "Not Now John," with Waters handling the rest.
As for this guy here, our favorite album has to be a toss up between Dark Side and Wish You Were Here. Our first taste of Floyd would have been seeing those freaky videos from The Wall on television, and of course the hourly classic-rock radio doses. It would take us a few years to delve into that early middle era involving Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma to full recognize the band's freaky power.
We've seen Waters twice in our career here at Rocks Off; first time back in 2008 on his tour performing Dark Side at the Woodlands where we ate two corn dogs - no comment - and almost a year ago when he hit the Toyota Center while performing The Wall. Never seen Gilmour and the rest in the flesh, and they aren't the touring kind.
We compiled our usual set of ten obscure - hopefully - facts for you this week in the confidence that a few of you Floyd fanatics will come out of the woodwork with even more.
Careful with that comment button, Eugene.
At the end of Dark Side's "Eclipse," as the final voice states that "there is no dark side of the moon really, as a matter of fact it's all dark," with your headphones on and the volume up full blast, you will hear an instrumental, Muzak-y version of The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride" in the background. It was probably coming from the main offices of Abbey Road, where Floyd was recording. We haven't heard it ourselves, though.
The title of Atom Heart Mother came from a headline found on London's Evening Standard daily about a mother was a nuclear-powered pacemaker. Also, the name of the cow on the album cover was Lulubelle III, and she was delicious.
"Time" starts with layers of clock noises that were put together by Pink Floyd's engineer, Alan Parsons. Each clock was recorded separately at an antiques store, and Parsons wanted to use the clocks to demonstrate a new quadraphonic sound system, but ended up using them for the song. You could say that Dark Side was very much an Alan Parsons project....
The opening radio hiss and blurbs on "Wish You Were Here" were recorded off David Gilmour's car radio. Gilmour ran a lead out of Abbey Road to his car and fiddled with the radio to get the ghostly intro.
Dark Side was on the Billboard 200 chart for 741 consecutive weeks from 1973 to 1988. The album has sold an estimated 45 million copies, and most of them probably have weed dander flaked on them. It is estimated that 1 in every 12 people in the world has a copy.
The inflatable pig on the cover of the Animals escaped its handlers during the shoot for the album cover and flew into flight lanes of Heathrow Airport, causing havoc for planes and eventually landed in a farmer's field in Kent. The inflatable pigs have made appearances at most Floyd or Waters shows for the past 35 years.
Professor Stephen Hawking made a guest appearance on The Division Bell,adding the robotic vocals on the track "Keep Talking."
The chorus on The Wall's "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" came from a kids chorus at a school in Islington, England, very near the studio. Made up of 23 kids between the ages of 13 to 15, the vocals were overdubbed twelve times, making it sound like there were many more kids.
Syd Barrett wrote "Arnold Layne" about a cross-dresser in his town by the same name who used to steal bras and panties from clotheslines in Cambridge. The mothers of Barrett and Waters both lost underwear to Layne. For the band's tours in the '80s, they played the experimental video for the song as the stage intro.
On The Wall's "Goodbye Blue Sky," that's Waters' son Harry uttering the line, "Look mummy, there's an airplane up in the sky". He was only two years old at the time.
Pink Floyd's Houston Appearances
September 9, 1972, Sam Houston Coliseum
April 30, 1977, Jeppesen Stadium, University of Houston
November 18, 1987, Astrodome
April 4-5, 1994, Rice Stadium (With set list)
Were any of you at these? All of them? Care to break our hearts with the awesome details?
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.