By the start of the 1970s, the band were becoming very successful, and were starting to flex their creative muscle following the loss of Syd Barrett.
ATOM HEART MOTHER
This 1970 release continued with their fondness for musical experimentation. The entire first side of the vinyl release is given over to the title track, which was written in collaboration with Scottish avant garde composer Ron Geesin, and includes some extensive orchestral passages.
Side two contains shorter songs – one each from Waters, Wright, & Gilmour – and another experimental piece called Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast which includes a recording of someone preparing & commenting on their breakfast.
Gilmour’s gorgeous song Fat Old Sun is a side two highlight
A clip of part of the title track, live from France:
1971 album Meddle was close to being the first where the sound they’d been making in the 1960s had been replaced by the new band identity.
Similarly to Atom Heart Mother, one side of the vinyl release was given over to shorter songs, whilst the second was devoted to the epic track Echoes. Throughout the album, Gilmour was contributing beautiful music, and his guitar was becoming increasingly central to the sound of the band.
LIVE AT POMPEII
The following year Pink Floyd filmed some performances of much of the Meddle material at a deserted amphitheatre at Pompeii in Italy. This saw a release in 1972, and various versions of this are still available on DVD:
OBSCURED BY CLOUDS
The next venture, also from 1972, was a soundtrack album for another of Barbet Schroeder’s obscure art-house movies, La Vallée. Again, I’ve never seen the movie, and whilst the soundtrack wasn’t well critically received, I think it’s a solid effort, and it points toward the band’s more electronic sound which was to come.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
For many, this is Pink Floyd’s finest hour, and was destined to become one of the biggest selling records ever released.
It’s a “concept” album where the songs explore the pressures and concerns of the age: Love, stress, money, insanity, & death. Roger Waters by this time was writing all the lyrics, and was starting to exhibit a despotic control over the bands’ output, which would wreak havoc in later years.
The sound effects that the Floyd had dabbled in before now were plastered all over this record, and this in combination with Waters’ lyrics, and some absolutely sublime music were a winning combination. Unfortunately, the pressure to follow up this level of success was to present it’s own problems.
The album also apparently synchronises eerily with the first forty minutes of the movie The Wizard of Oz. I’ve never actually tried it, but will at some stage
Original film clip used by the band when playing Money on stage:
And a similar montage for Time
WISH YOU WERE HERE
1975 saw the release of this album which is dominated by a two part song – Shine on You Crazy Diamond – which is a tribute to Syd Barrett.
The rest of the album concerns Waters’ jaundiced view of the music industry. Large parts of the album are instrumental which usually meant that Gilmour’s creative juices were in full flow.
Much of the record is beautiful, and reflective, but I think it’s an inevitably weak follow-up to DSOTM. However, the songs seem to be amongst the fans’ favourites, and many believe this to be their strongest album. These people are wrong.
1977 was the year of the Punk explosion in the UK, and Waters’ lyrics on Animals seemed to fit well with the cynicism & nihilism that were rife at the time.
The album’s five songs categorise capitalists, politicians, and censors as Dogs, Pigs, & Sheep, and the lyrics are bitter and vitriolic. For some reason this album isn’t held in high regard by the band’s fans, but I feel this is close to being the very essence of what the band generally, and waters specifically were trying to articulate.
The music is darker and tougher than any of their previous output, and signposted a development that would continue until the inevitable split some years later.
Video clip of Waters’ band playing Dogs some years later:
During the Animals tour, the band were playing in Canada, and Waters was becoming increasingly frustrated that the audience weren’t listening, but just kept baying for favourite songs. When a fan tried to climb on stage, Waters spat in his face. After the gig he was horrified at the degree of separation he felt was developing between band and audience. Thus the concept for The Wall was born.
If you don’t like angst, then this album won’t be for you, as Waters explored all the formative experiences in his life that had lead him to close himself off from those around him. His father’s death in the 2nd world war whilst he was still very young, his smothering mother, the UK school system, the women in his life, were all included as bricks in his personal wall.
The album was performed as a theatrical show in which a physical wall was built across the front of the stage during the first half, leaving the band invisible for the second half barring occasional glimpses of Waters & Gilmour. The wall was used as a projection screen for some unsettling animations from satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.
The show was only performed a handful of times across four cities in The US & Europe, and was a financial disaster due to the cost of staging it. Interestingly, Rick Wright was fired from the band by Waters in the run up to the tour, but was retained as a hired session player, so he was the only band member to make any money from the tour.
The concept was also produced as a movie, directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof.
Comfortably Numb clip from the movie:
By this stage, Waters’ need to control the band was causing serious strain, and it would only be a matter of time before they imploded…