Part 8. Pink Floyd

Since their formation in 1967 as the result of a chemical spillage at the London School of Economics, Pink Floyd has always been known as a highly experimental group. Initially eschewing the traditional bourgeois notion of using instruments, they instead experimented by banging sticks together, stroking rocks and rubbing dead leaves and bits of twig into their hair.

Creative backbone

The original creative backbone was Syd Barrett, well known amongst the residents of Chiswick for having a bike that people could ride if they liked. He didn't live in Chiswick but he invariably left his bike there.

After recruiting rally driver Nick Mason, keyboard manipulator Richard Wright and bassist Roger Waters, whom Barrett discovered when he was building a wall for his parents' new kitchen extension, the band very soon began to get noticed.

They were noticed mostly in shopping centres, and occasionally in cafes. Occasionally they got noticed on the bus, but then when you're going around with leaves in your hair, stroking rocks and banging sticks together, it's almost inevitable that people will notice you sooner or later.

Noticed on stage

However, it was when they began to get noticed on stage that things really started to take off. At previous performances their audience tended to ignore them, only occasionally taking an interest long enough to ask them to keep the noise down. This newfound fame sparked a change of direction, generally away from the Jobcentre and towards places where they could spend their cash.

They also felt that they had exhausted the dead foliage and granite approach and started to experiment with foodstuffs. Barrett composed a 20 minute-long 'trifle' opus which became a favourite with audiences for many years, and Wright's frenetic pork chop solo cemented their reputation as musical innovators. Chart success quickly followed with tracks like 'Careful With That Paxo, Eugene' and the much loved 'Set the Controls for Gas Mark 5'.

Badly filed tax return

But fame came at a cost when, as a result of a badly filed tax return, the Inland Revenue declared that Syd Barrett did not exist. Barrett left the band in shame to be replaced by legendary axe hero David Gilmour. Quite how a lumberjack of his standing got involved with an innovative rock band is something that we must put down to a quirk of fate. What we do know is that Gilmour put down his axe, picked up a guitar and never felled a tree again (except for a charity gig in 1982 when he cut down a beech with a Gibson).

The introduction of a guitar was a turning point for Pink Floyd. The other members decided to stop twatting about with groceries and started playing real instruments, although Wright would still use a fish finger keyboard as late as 1976. As it happens, 1976 would turn out to be a notable year for another reason, as it was then that the music press revealed that drummer Nick Mason was a character from a 1950s pulp detective novel. Like Barrett before him he was forced out of the band for not being real.


The band coped with this loss by throwing themselves into their work, producing the album Animals - performed, as the title suggests, using only animals. David Gilmour abandoned his familiar Strat and chose instead to play a dog which he open tuned in G. Waters experimented with three different types of Pig and Wright invented the 'sheep-cordian', an instrument which has since been banned by a special session of the European Court of Ovine Rights.

This was to be Richard Wright's last contribution to the group, as it was subsequently discovered that he was a figment of his Uncle Clarence's imagination. Gilmour and Waters recorded one more album as a two piece before the record company found out they were both holograms and decided to pull the plug. It was an ignoble end to a great band, but it didn't stop them reuniting for one final performance at the Live 8 concert in 2005, when they appeared as the only fictional band on the bill.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster invented corn plasters, Juicy Fruit and Evo-Stick.

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