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Did you know that Money from the Dark Side Of The Moon album is the most played song on American radio stations ever? Did you know that David Gilmour’s name causes difficulty not only to the Czechs? On some editions of the Final Cut album his name is misspelled as Gilmoure, while in the More film credits it‘s Gilmore? Did you know that the voice at the end of the Dark Side Of The Moon album belongs to Abbey Road studios’ then doorman Jerry Driscoll?
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Pink Floyd Biography

At the gates of dawn (1965-1968)

Psychadelicky žlutá fotka Pink Floyd se Sydem na terase u čajeJust like Liverpool was indissolubly wedded to the beginnings of The Beatles, Pink Floyd have their roots in Cambridge. Three of them were born in Cambridge and went to school there. These boys went fishing and bathing to river Cam, learned to play guitar (Grandchester Meadows), and perhaps listened to the Ely cathedral bells... The best childhood one could ask for.

The history of the band began a bit later in a melting pot of swing and rock'n'roll - the 1960's Swinging London. In the age of love, drugs and art, London became the home of many young bands. Most of them never got any further from garages and gyms. The luckier ones were happy to play a few covers in one of the underground clubs. The government was considered progressive, it was an age of economic growth and the overall atmosphere of the times was very relaxed.

Three young students of architecture, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Rick Wright were soon drawn into the maelstrom, when they started a band called Sigma 6, which was quite untypical for the time and age. Waters played the solo guitar, Wright played the backing guitar and Mason was the drummer, while none of them was very good at playing his instrument. Bass guitarist Clive Metcalf, singer Juliett Gale and singer Ken Chapman were part of the band as well. Chapman was the leading figure of the band then, bringing his own (slightly extravagant) repertoire and promoting the band. As time went by, Waters became intolerant to his extravagance and Chapmant left the band. The band then changed its name to T-Set, sometimes Tea-set, then Megadeaths, Architectural Abdabs, Screaming Abdabs or just Abdabs. Waters moved to Mason's flat and soon after two more guys moved in, who insisted to play with the Abdabs. The first one was Bob Klose, the other was a very extravagant hippie keen on everything - Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett. After a five-minute talking they both became part of the band.

Syd was not a guitar virtuoso, but he had a sense of improvisation. Soon he became the lead guitarist of the band, Waters played the rhythm guitar for a while, just to become the bass guitarist and fear becoming the drummer for the next few months. Rick Wright began to play the keyboards, having taken a few lessons of piano, and Bob Klose tried to join Syd on the guitar. But Syd liked neither the name nor the style of the band. There were hundreds of bands that played covers of old evergreens and Syd did not take up with being one of a lot. So he decided to "play something like blues, but in a different way - alternative!" That resulted in something hard to describe. Blues and jazz were still the basis, but Syd would often unpredictably start to improvise. He experimented with his guitar, used a lighter, beat the strings with his fist, rubbed the strings against the microphone stand (like Gilmour did years later). Syd's style became known as the "glissando guitar." Syd also suggested a new, slightly mysterious name for the band - The Pink Floyd Sound, after Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, two American bluesmen from Georgia.

One of the most important thinks to Pink Floyd was the alternative, progressive Marquee club, where they would often play in the beginnings. Soon they became the resident band of the club. Marquee is where their first manager, Peter Jenner, first met Pink Floyd. Jenner is said to have been impressed by Syd's free improvising and "not being sure, what instruments he heard" during the instrumental parts. It was the extravagance, not exclusively musical, that made Bob Klose, a calm, precise guitarist, leave the band and let Syd become the leader. The Pink Floyd Sound then enjoyed a great success with their first single, Arnold Layne. The song told a (true) story of a guy who found pleasure in stealing women's underwear from clotheslines in the neighbourhood. The single made it to the 28th position of the British chart and the recording industry became aware of the existence of the band. The success of the following singles (most dominantly See Emily Play,) helped Pink Floyd get signed to EMI and record their first LP named Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The name, lyrical themes and overall atmosphere of the record were heavily influenced by Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows, a classic of children's literature (and of course, the "fairytale" age and place the record was made.) At the same studios at Abbey Road The Beatles were making their famous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by that time. The only track not to be composed by Barrett is Roger Waters' Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk.

Following the release of Piper, a golden age suddenly came. The album was a great success and Pink Floyd became pop stars. The fans began to adore the band like rock'n'roll heroes and Syd in particular attracted lots of groupies. That was partly because of his behaviour, and partly because of his enthusiasm for everything new and undiscovered. At his flat, which he shared with several other artists, including the later author of PF artworks Storm Thorgerson, there were always many famous people as well as ordinary hippies and it all seemed to be a never ending party. However, Syd began to help himself into the right mood with LSD trips and he became addicted to drugs. That was quite common at that time and the rest of the band, too, enjoyed marijuana and LSD, along with alcohol, but in Syd's case, both the dosages and the frequency were slightly over the top even for the sixties standards. That resulted in Syd collapsing on the stage, where he often just stood and didn't make a sound or repeated one tone over and over again. Once he even attacked his girlfriend with a mandolin, because he thought she wanted to kill him. Truth be told, his friends too did their bit. For example, quite often they would lock him in a closet when he was on a bad trip, just for fun. Plenty of such legends and hearsay about Syd are told even today. That is one of the things that made him one of the most adored personalities of the underground.

Soon it was no more a funny thing to the rest of the band. Although Syd kept writing amazing lyrics and marvellous music, his unpredictable behaviour was hurting the band. Despite that, Pink Floyd started working on their second album, which was meant to be a sequel to the great success of Piper At The Gates of Dawn. But during the recording sessions, Syd's condition got so bad it was not possible to work with him anymore. Waters, Mason, Wright and Jenner had to decide what to do. Finally, when driving to one of the gig venues, they decided not to pick Syd up and play the gig without him...

In 1968 Syd left the band for good. The thing that worked with Beach Boys (the leader of the band not performing and only writing songs,) failed to work with Pink Floyd. The band decided to finish Saucerful of Secrets, even though many fans considered Syd's retirement the end of Pink Floyd. Since none of the three players could play Syd's difficult guitar parts, they had to find a new guitarist. David Gilmour, Syd's childhood friend and a guitar prodigy, played along with Syd at first, just in case he was not able to play, but then David became a regular member. When Syd left, Gilmour tried to copy him until he found his own style.

The Saucerful of Secrets album was meant to be slightly different from what Syd did because Pink Floyd wanted to show that they could get around without him. The original aim was to record a series of short, simple, radio-friendly songs. The result was a lengthy instrumental composition, not very similar to the thing Pink Floyd resolved to make. None the less, the record was a hit, especially when performed live. Perhaps the best performance was the Live At Pompeii gig without audience, which took place in a ruined ancient roman amphitheatre.

The Saucerful of Secrets album was another commercial success for Pink Floyd, who shifted from Barrett's fairy-tale lyrical themes to a whole new thing - the space (although Syd's influence is clearly audible on the album - he recorded some of the guitar parts and wrote part of the lyrics). The new "space sound" was the origin of one of the band's nicknames - the space rockers. Pink Floyd then started to omit the "the" in the name of the band and became just Pink Floyd. Later they began to see their new style as a limitation, because they felt the fans expected them to play what they were used to and the band couldn't do things their own way.


English version by:
Vít Benešovský, Jan "Johnny" Petrus

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