To your list of musical anniversaries this year — that include the original release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the Monterrey Pop Festival — add the 40th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd’s first album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.”
Pink Floyd burst on the scene in the late 1960s as a psychedelic band led by Syd Barrett, playing a mix of rock and R&B but soon branching out into experimental music incorporating feedback, electronic noise and unusual, eerie sounds that became the benchmark for electronic-themed outer space music. The band consisted of Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason and Barrett, a gifted genius who wrote and sang most of their early material.
The group knocked around London for a while, getting their first regular venue on Sunday afternoons at The Marquee club, called “The Spontaneous Underground,” which began in February 1966, becoming more or less the “official” band of the London underground. Later that year they anchored UFO Club evenings, held every Friday night in an Irish Ballroom on Tottenham Court Road. Joe Boyd, musical director of UFO, produced Pink Floyd’s first single in early 1967, a Syd Barrett composition called “Arnold Layne,” about a young man who stole ladies underwear from clothes lines. The record was banned for being “too smutty.” Their follow-up single, “See Emily Play,” made the top 10. Later that year they released “Piper,” an unusual psychedelic album with such weird song titles as “Astronomy Domine,” “Lucifer Sam,” “Matilda Mother,” “Pow R. Toc H.,” “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” and the first outer space piece, “Interstellar Overdrive.” In October of 1967 they made their first tour of the U.S., playing at Fillmore East and West. From there it was only a short time before they achieved worldwide success as one of the leading rock bands of the era.
But Barrett — who was fond of psyhedelic drugs — began to exhibit erratic behavior, becoming unpredictable both onstage and off and withdrawing from reality. By 1968 he left the group and was replaced by guitarist and singer David Gilmour. After Barrett’s departure, singer and bass player Roger Waters gradually became the band’s leader and main songwriter. The Influence of Barret still lingered, though, particularly in the group’s next two albums, “A Saucerful of Secrets” (1968) and “Ummagumma” (1969); 1975’s “Wish You Were Here” was dedicated to him. (In 1970, Barrett released two solo albums: “Barrett” and “The Madcap Laughs,” both still available and both fascinating listens). Barrett died at age 60 on July 7, 2007.
Under Waters’ leadership Pink Floyd became known for their avant-garde progressive rock music, achieving gigantic worldwide success with “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973), ‘Wish You Were Here” (1975), “Animals” (1977) and “The Wall” (1979). In 1985, Waters declared Pink Floyd defunct, but the remaining members, led by Gilmour, continued recording and touring under the name, enjoying commercial success and eventually reaching a settlement with Waters over the use of the name. Waters performed with the band for the first time in 24 years on July 2, 2005 at the London Live 8 concert, playing to Pink Floyd’s biggest audience ever.
Pink Floyd has sold more than 250 million albums worldwide and an estimated 73.5 million albums in the United States.
I saw Pink Floyd many, many times during the 1970s: my first being their appearances at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1970 (May and Oct) and 1971 and my last being the incredible “Animals” tour at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California. Their live renditions of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” were mind-boggling.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the original release of “Piper,” EMI Records has planned a special edition release of the album on Tuesday, August 28. The packaging resembles a cloth-covered book, and holds three CD discs, along with a 12-page reproduction Syd Barrett notebook. Discs 1 and 2 will contain the full ‘Piper’ album, represented in both stereo and mono versions. Both have been newly remastered. Disc 3 includes bonus tracks, including all the Pink Floyd singles from 1967 (“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play” and “Apples and Oranges”), plus the B sides “Candy and a Current Bun” and ”‘Paintbox.” Other tracks include a version of “Interstellar Overdrive” (Take 2 of the original recording sessions, previously only available on an EP in France) and the 1967 stereo version of “Apples and Oranges.”
Music Video Distributors Visual will celebrate the anniversary with the September 18 release of a new edition of ”The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story,” a two-disc DVD set that’s a candid profile of the band and the once effervescent musician and now cult figure Barrett. Though Barrett was only with the band for a vibrant three years, one-fifth of the songs on Pink Floyd’s 2001 greatest hits album “Echoes” were written by him. “The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story Deluxe Edition” retells the fascinating story of the start of one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock and the drug induced breakdown of their original song writer and lead man. Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright retell how Barrett’s slip from reality haunted the band for many years. This new definitive edition includes lengthy unedited interviews from all members of the Pink Floyd. MVD Visual will release a limited edition run of 5,000 in an Oyster Box packaging with 10 items of reproduction memorabilia in a special printed envelope. After the limited edition has sold out, the double disc version will be then packaged in a standard plastic double DVD box for $29.95.
The following sources were used for reference:
Pink Floyd. com
The Pink Floyd Fandom
Pink Floyd & Co.
Pink Floyd Online
Pink Floyd Archives
The Most Complete Pink Floyd Page
The Pink Floyd Fan Club
The Pink Floyd RoIO Database (of bootlegs) (Record of Illegitimate/Indeterminate Origin)
Crazy D’s Pink Floyd Bootley Site
And check out the “Pink Floyd Encyclopedia,” a close study of each Pink Floyd album accompanied by an exhaustive listing of their songs, cover art, production credits, recording and sales information, and U.S. and U.K. release dates. The promotional art of each concert and tour is also provided, along with details on independent solo concerts and albums produced by individual band members, six appendices providing the dates of every performance arranged in chronological order, and an equipment appendix describing the make and model of every Pink Floyd amplifier, guitar, and cymbal since the band’s creation. This new edition features thousands of new band-related facts and a bonus CD featuring a rare version of “Interstellar Overdrive” and tracks from the British sci-fi band Hawkwind.