Pink Floyd quietly broke up nearly two decades ago, but they never really went away. The band is still so massive that Roger Waters just finished up a three-year stadium tour where he recreated their 1980-'81 Wall tour. Other musicians took the place of David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, but it was as close to Pink Floyd as we're likely to get these days, and there seemed to be no limit to how many tickets he could sell. We asked our readers to vote on their favorite Pink Floyd albums. Click through to see the results.
The Pink Floyd that released The Division Bell in 1994 would have been unrecognizable to fans who last saw the group at the UFO Club in 1966. Only drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright remained from that crew. Frontman Syd Barrett was a distant memory, and even Roger Waters had been out for nearly a decade. This was now David Gilmour's band, and his wife, Polly Samson, wrote the lyrics. Even though they were competing against new bands like Weezer and Green Day, the album was a modest hit. (Beavis and Butt-head, however, were highly critical of the video for "High Hopes.") Most fans were far more psyched for the tour that followed The Division Bell. Nobody knew it would be the band's last waltz.
Prog rock was all the rage in England circa 1970. Groups such as Yes and Genesis released long, complex works and suddenly saw masses of young men flocking to their concerts. Pink Floyd were the perfect band for this time. Atom Heart Mother, their fifth album in a mere three years, opens with a six-part instrumental unlike anything else they had recorded up to that point. It ends with "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," a supremely weird 13-minute instrumental largely written by Nick Mason. The band has spoken ill of this album over the years, finding it extremely dated, but it was their first Number One in England. It was the start of a very good decade.
Pink Floyd were barely a band when they recorded The Final Cut in late 1982. Roger Waters' slow takeover of the band was now complete. He'd pushed Richard Wright out of the group during the making of The Wall (though he was rehired to play on the tour), and brought in session musicians to play along with his bandmates on the album. David Gilmour and Nick Mason were barely on speaking terms with Waters, but somehow they slogged their way through the next album. The disc is a strong anti-war statement and it earned some good reviews when it came out, but many fans feel it's aged rather poorly. Others consider it the start of Roger Waters' solo career. The group didn't tour behind the album. Waters saw it as their last recording, but the others had a rather different plan.
Despite the best efforts of EMI, Pink Floyd were still a cult band in 1969. For their fourth album, Ummagumma, they decided to hold nothing back. It's a two-LP set, containing both a live album and a new studio album. It was the complete Pink Floyd experience, for better or worse. It begins with a live rendition of Syd Barrett's "Astronomy Domine," and then moves forward through their brief career with works like "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets." Casual fans who love "Wish You Were Here" and "Money" may not find much to love here, but to the truly devoted Ummagumma is Pink Floyd at the peak of their ambitious weirdness.
Many psychedelic rock albums from 1967 sound very dated today, but The Piper at the Gates of Dawn sounds remarkably fresh 46 years after it arrived on record store shelves. The group had been gigging for two years at this point and had a minor hit on the charts with "Arnold Layne." EMI Records saw huge potential in the group and their charismatic frontman Syd Barrett, and they let them record in Abbey Road with Beatles engineer Norman Smith. They even watched the Beatles record "Lovely Rita" midway through the sessions. The result of the sessions was nothing nearly as commercial as Sgt. Pepper, but a work that appealed to hip teenagers all over England. The group was poised for bigger and better things, but not long after it came out Barrett began suffering severe mental problems. The group briefly worried they wouldn't be able to carry on without him.
Roger Waters didn't love being a rock star. Hit singles, screaming fans and stadium concerts weren't his goal, and compromising with his bandmates was becoming an increasingly difficult task. The fans at Floyd shows also drove him crazy, yelling out for hits and barely paying attention to complex songs like "Dogs." Waters lost his temper during a show in Montreal and actually spit on some fans near the front. He felt a need to construct a real wall between himself and the audience. That was the spark that inspired The Wall, an ambitious double LP about a Waters-like rock star dealing the aftermath of his father's death in World War Two. Unlike Animals, he was willing to write some short singles like "Young Lust," "Mother," "Hey You" and "Another Brick in the Wall Part Two." The latter song had a disco beat and became a massive smash.
Pink Floyd, touring heavily in 1971, were forced to record Meddle during tiny breaks throughout much of the year. The album kicks off with "One of These Days," a sinister instrumental with a killer bass line that builds to an amazing climax. Nick Mason speaks the only line of the song: "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces." It sounds like the cry of a horror-movie monster, largely because they messed around with the speed of the tape. It was an ambitious work, but nothing compares with the 23-minute "Echoes," which takes up the entire second side. The four members of Floyd wrote the song together, and it's an amazing showcase for the entire band. Meddle didn't sell well at the time, but it's become one of their most beloved albums.
Pink Floyd were one of the biggest bands on the planet when they began writing songs for Wish You Were Here, and it made them reflect on their early days a decade earlier. Many newer Floyd fans had never even heard of Syd Barrett, but the band wouldn't exist without him and they wanted to honor him with a musical tribute. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a beautiful salute to the lost genius, and it features some of David Gilmour's greatest guitar work. "Wish You Were Here" has become Pink Floyd's most enduring composition, while "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" are biting critiques of the record industry. The album has aged remarkably well and is a perfect entry point for new fans.
Animals is not exactly the album that EMI Records hoped Pink Floyd would make after Wish You Were Here. Most of the songs are over 10 minutes long, and there's nothing that even remotely resembles another "Wish You Were Here," "Money" or anything that would work on the radio. It also doesn't paint their audience (or humanity, for that matter) in a positive light, saying that we're all just pigs, dogs or sheep. Few bands could have turned such an intense, anti-commercial album into a hit, but Pink Floyd were absolutely huge in 1977. This was also the height of prog rock, and rock fans were accustomed to work like this. The songs were also pretty fantastic. It sold millions of copies and launched a huge stadium tour. Fans who checked out the album credits noticed that Roger Waters wrote everything but "Dogs" on his own. It was a bad omen.
This wasn't even a close contest. The Dark Side of the Moon destroyed everything else in the poll, and it's really no big surprise. This is the album that Pink Floyd had been working toward since their very first rehearsal in 1965. They were still a cult band before they cut Dark Side, and they toured constantly. It gave them a chance to road-test the bulk of the material on the album, with each member making tremendous contributions. It's not exactly a concept record, but each side (loosely) tells the story of a man's life from birth to death. Though they weren't exactly a singles band, "Money" and "Time" did take off on radio, finally earning the band some mainstream attention. Prog rock was big at the time, but no band had quite managed to give it a sound palpable for the masses until Pink Floyd. It turned them into one of the biggest bands on the planet, but it also kick-started their slow downfall.