Pink Floyd formed in 1964 from an earlier band whose names included Sigma 6, T-Set, Megadeaths, The Screaming Abdabs, The Architectural Abdabs, and The Abdabs. The band was again renamed The Pink Floyd Sound and then, around the time of their first album release, simply The Pink Floyd (after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). The definitive article was quietly dropped a couple of albums later.
Pink Floyd originally consisted of Bob Klose (lead guitar), Syd Barrett (vocals, rhythm guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals), Roger Waters (bass, vocals) and Nick Mason (drums). They covered rhythm and blues staples such as "Louie, Louie". As Barrett started writing tunes more influenced by American surf music, psychedelic rock, and British whimsy, humor and literature, the heavily jazz-oriented Klose departed and left a rather stable foursome. The band formed Blackhill Enterprises, a six-way business partnership with their managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King.
In 1968, guitarist David Gilmour joined the band to carry out the playing and singing duties of Barrett, whose mental health was deteriorating, but nevertheless was intended to remain as the band's figurehead and songwriter. With Barrett's behaviour becoming less and less predictable, the band's live shows became increasingly ramshackle until, eventually, the other band members simply stopped taking him to the concerts.
Once Barrett's departure was formalised, Jenner and King decided to remain with him, and the six-way Blackhill partnership was dissolved.
Whilst Barrett had written the bulk of the first record, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), he contributed little to the second A Saucerful of Secrets (1968).
After the film soundtrack More, the next record, the double album Ummagumma (part recorded at Mothers Rock Club, Birmingham, and in Manchester in 1969), was a mix of live recordings and unchecked studio experimentation by the band members, with each recording half a side of vinyl as a solo project (Mason's wife makes an uncredited contribution as a flautist).
1970's Atom Heart Mother, a UK number one album, is somewhat dated and has been described by Gilmour as the sound of a band "blundering about in the dark". The title piece owes much to orchestration by Ron Geesin.
The band's sound was considerably more focused on Meddle (1971), with the 23-minute epic "Echoes". This album also included the atmospheric "One of These Days" (a concert classic, with a distorted, disembodied one-line vocal, "One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces") and the pop-jazz stylings of "St. Tropez". Their taste for experimentation was expressed on "Seamus" (earlier, "Mademoiselle Nobs"), a pure-blues number featuring lead vocals by a Russian wolfhound.
A less-well-known album, Obscured By Clouds, was released in 1972, as the soundtrack for the film "La Vallee".
Despite their never having been a hit-single-driven group, their massively successful 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon, featured a US number one track ("Money"), and more importantly remained in the top 100 for over a decade, breaking many records on the way, and making it one of the top selling albums of all time. Dark Side of the Moon was a concept album dealing with themes of insanity, neurosis and fame which, due to the use of Abbey Road studio's new 16-track recording equipment and the investment of an enormous amount of time by engineer Alan Parsons, set new standards for sound fidelity. Dark Side of the Moon has also been the source of a persistent urban legend that it was conceived as a kind of synchronized soundtrack for the film The Wizard of Oz (David Gilmour has since gone on record to deny the group had anything to do with "Dark Side"'s synchronization with "Oz").
Dark Side of the Moon and the three following albums (Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall) are often held up as the peak of Pink Floyd's career, also known as the "Classic Floyd" period. The first of those, Wish You Were Here, released in 1975, is a tribute to Barrett in which the lyrics deal explicitly with the aftermath of his breakdown, including the critically-acclaimed, mainly instrumental "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the classic title track.
By 1977, and the release of Animals, the band's music came under increasing criticism from some quarters in the new punk rock sphere as being too flabby and pretentious, having lost its way from the simplicity of early rock and roll. Animals contained more lengthy songs tied to a theme, taken in part from George Orwell's Animal Farm, which used pigs, dogs and sheep as metaphors for contemporary society. Animals was a lot more guitar-driven than the previous albums.
1979's epic rock opera, The Wall, conceived mainly by Waters, gave Pink Floyd renewed acclaim and another hit single with their foray into critical pedagogy - "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II." It also bore the extraordinary track "Comfortably Numb" which, though never released as a single became a cornerstone of AOR and classic-rock radio playlists and is today one of the group's best-known songs. It is also the only song on Pink Floyd's first four concept albums not to segue at either the beginning or end. The album also became a vastly expensive and money-losing tour/stage show. During this time, Roger Waters increased his artistic influence and leadership of the band, prompting frequent conflicts with the other members and causing Wright to quit the band, though he would return, on a fixed wage, for the album's few live concerts. Ironically, he was the only one of Pink Floyd to make any money from the "Wall" shows, the rest having to cover the excessive costs. The album was co-produced by Bob Ezrin, a friend of Waters who shared songwriting credits on "The Trial".
The Wall remained on best-selling-album lists for 14 years. A film starring Boomtown Rats founder Bob Geldof was adapted from it in 1982, written by Waters and directed by Alan Parker, and featuring animation by noted British cartoonist and long- time Floyd collaborator, Gerald Scarfe.
1983 saw the release of The Final Cut. Even darker in tone than The Wall, this album re-examined many of the themes of that album while also addressing then-current events, including Waters' anger at Britain's participation in the Falklands War ("The Fletcher Memorial Home") and cynicism and fear of nuclear war ("Two Suns in the Sunset"). Though released as a Pink Floyd album, the project was clearly dominated by Waters, and became a prototype in sound and form for later Waters solo projects. Only moderately successful by Floyd standards, the album yielded only one minor radio hit, "Not Now John".
After The Final Cut, the band's members went their separate ways, each releasing solo albums, until 1987, when Gilmour began to revive the band, with Nick Mason also involved. A bitter legal dispute with Roger Waters (who left the band in 1985) ensued, but Gilmour and Mason achieved the legal right to release an album as Pink Floyd (Waters, however, gained the rights to some traditional Pink Floyd imagery, including almost all of The Wall). Richard Wright re-joined the duo during the recording sessions of A Momentary Lapse of Reason as a session musician, and was paid a weekly salary. By any account, Wright was a member of the band for the 1994 release of The Division Bell and its subsequent tour.
All of the members of Pink Floyd have released solo albums which have met with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. Waters' Amused To Death was especially praised.