Pink Floyd facts: Members, concept albums, songs, bustups and reunions of the rock legends

17 May 2024, 13:45 | Updated: 10 June 2024, 16:41

Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd – Trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Pink Floyd have (almost) become as famous for their bust-ups as their remarkable music.

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Pink Floyd aren't just one of the greatest bands of all time, in some way they're three of the greatest bands of all time.

Under the control of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and then David Gilmour, they've released albums that have stood the test of time.

But how much do you know about (The) Pink Floyd in all their incarnations?

As surviving leaders Roger Waters and David Gilmour each continue to branch out in their separate ways, we're taking a look at the story of the band that made them superstars.

Read on for all the essential facts about the prog psych icons.

When did Pink Floyd form and who has been in all their lineups?

Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright
Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright. Picture: Getty Images

The Pink Floyd (as they were first known) was formed in 1965 by lead singer and guitarist Syd Barrett, drummer Nick Mason, bass player Roger Waters and keyboard player Richard Wright.

Waters, Mason and Wright were all enrolled at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street (now known as the University of Westminster), in Sept 1962 to study architecture.

The trio first played together the following year, in a band called Sigma 6 (and sometimes the Meggadeaths), alongside singer Keith Noble and bass player Clive Metcalf.

The lineup fluctuated – guitarist Bob Klose came and went – and the band name changed a few times. They were briefly Tea Set, and The Pink Floyd Sound.

Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne (Official Music Video)

The latter stuck, though "Sound" was swiftly sliced off, and "The" followed a little while later.

Syd Barett, a childhood friend of Roger Waters, made the trip to London in 1964 to study at the Camberwell College of Arts, and joined the band in 1965.

Indeed, the band got their name from Pink Anderson and Floyd Council – two blues artists whom Syd had in his record collection.

Before coming to the capital, Barrett had met David Gilmour at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology.

When Syd's mental ill health deteriorated, the band added Gilmour to the lineup. Initially, he was considered a fifth member, there to help lighten the load on Barrett, but Syd only lasted a few more months in the group, officially leaving in March 1968.

Pink Floyd in 1971
Pink Floyd in 1971. Picture: Getty Images

Syd released a couple of solo albums before disappearing from the public eye. He died in 2006. Roger Waters left in 1985, only returning once in 2005 for their Live 8 reunion (more on that later).

Richard Wright was forced from the group in 1979, but performed with them technically as a session player from 1980 to 1981 and again from 1986 to 1987, before properly rejoining in 1988. He died in 2008.

David Gilmour and Nick Mason remain technically members of the band to this day.

Pink Floyd have worked with more touring members and session players than we can even begin to mention here, but it's worth giving a quick shoutout to 'The Great Gig In The Sky' singer Clare Torry, saxophonist Dick Parry, guitarist Snowy White and bass player Guy Pratt.

While never technically a member of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour's then-girlfriend and soon-to-be wife Polly Samson co-wrote seven of the songs on The Division Bell, as well as the words to 'Louder Than Words', the only song on The Endless River with lead vocals.

What are Pink Floyd's biggest albums and songs?

Pink Floyd albums
Pink Floyd albums. Picture: Alamy

After originally grabbing attention as part of the underground psychedelic scene with shows at places like the Roundhouse, UFO Club and The Marquee, Pink Floyd became one of the biggest bands in the history of music, and have sold more albums than nearly everyone else.

They don't have oodles of hit singles, though, despite kicking off their career with a couple of decent-sized hits in 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play'.

Follow-ups 'Apples and Oranges', 'It Would Be So Nice' and 'Point Me at the Sky' flopped, and the band shied away from singles for the rest of their career, instead focusing on albums.

Pink Floyd- The Wall – movie trailer

'Money' was released in the US and became a big hit in 1973. 'Another Brick In the Wall (Part 2)' in 1979 was the group's first UK single in more than ten years.

Their last single was the shock 'Hey, Hey, Rise Up!' (featuring Andriy Khlyvnyuk), recorded and released in support of Ukraine following the Russian invasion in 2022

So it was their long players, often concept-heavy thematically-linked works, that the band were best known for.

The group have released 15 studio albums, starting with 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and ending on 2014's The Endless River.

Pink Floyd - Hey Hey Rise Up (feat. Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox)

Their biggest albums were 1973's The Dark Side of The Moon and 1979's The Wall, with Wish You Were Here (1975) and Animals (1977) often cited as fan favourites.

Of the albums released after Roger Waters left the group, 1994's The Division Bell is the pick of the bunch.

Pink Floyd's biggest songs include:

  • Arnold Layne
  • See Emily Play
  • Astronomy Domine
  • Interstellar Overdrive
  • Bike
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
  • Echoes
  • Money
  • The Great Gig In The Sky
  • Breathe (In The Air)
  • Time
  • Shine On You Crazy Diamond
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Sheep
  • Hey You
  • Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
  • Comfortably Numb
  • Mother
  • Goodbye Blue Sky
  • Learning To Fly
  • High Hopes
  • Keep Talking
  • Hey, Hey, Rise Up!

How many albums have Pink Floyd sold in their career?

Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary unboxing video

It's increasingly difficult to say how many "albums" a band has "sold' in the streaming era, but we can say without doubt that not many have sold more than Pink Floyd.

In 2012 it was reported that they had sold over 250 million albums, and that number has surely only increased since then.

The Dark Side of the Moon is the fourth-best-selling album of all time, with around 45 million copies sold alone.

Why did Pink Floyd break up and when did they get back together?

Pink Floyd at Live 8 in 2005
Pink Floyd at Live 8 in 2005. Picture: Getty Images

As we've mentioned, Pink Floyd have had a number of significant lineup changes over the years.

Leader Syd Barrett was the first to leave, being forced from the group in 1968 due to his struggle with mental ill health, presumed to be exacerbated by heavy use of psychedelic drugs.;

Barrett did briefly continue in the music business, releasing The Madcap Laughs and Barrett in 1970, both recorded with input from Roger Waters and David Gilmour, before he quit in 1972.

Keyboard player Richard Wright was then nudged out of the band (officially at least) by Roger Waters during the recording of The Wall, when it was felt he wasn't pulling his weight.

Confusing matters, Wright was kept on as a for-hire session player and touring musician for Pink Floyd in the years that followed. Most fans didn't even know he had "left" the band till they realised that he wasn't credited for and didn't play on 1983's The Final Cut, Roger Waters' last album with the band.

Pink Floyd - Not Now John (Official Music Video)

Waters himself was the next one out. He left the band in 1985, and after a legal struggle lost his battle to stop Gilmour and Mason from carrying on with the Pink Floyd name.

Meanwhile, Richard Wright had played – again as a session man – on the post-Waters A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987, before properly rejoining and contributing heavily to 1994's The Division Bell.

Gilmour, Mason and Wright took the album on the road, and their final tour ended on October 29, 1994. The band effectively split up at this point.

Floyd were no more, until July 2, 2005, when against all the odds the lineup of Gilmour, Mason, Wright and Roger Waters played a one-off reunion set at Live 8 in Hyde Park, London.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (Recorded at Live 8)

"Quite emotional, standing up here with these three guys after all these years, standing to be counted with the rest of you," said Waters from the stage.

"We're doing this for everyone who's not here, and particularly of course for Syd."

Despite being offered a reported £150 million for a tour, that was that.

"The rehearsals convinced me it wasn't something I wanted to be doing a lot of," Gilmour later said of Live 8.

"There have been all sorts of farewell moments in people's lives and careers which they have then rescinded, but I think I can fairly categorically say that there won't be a tour or an album again that I take part in. It isn't to do with animosity or anything like that. It's just... I've been there, I've done it."

Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne (Live at The Barbican 2007)

He added: "I think enough is enough. I am 60 years old. I don't have the will to work as much any more. Pink Floyd was an important part in my life, I have had a wonderful time, but it's over. For me it's much less complicated to work alone."

Syd Barrett died in 2006. There were collaborations between various members in the years that followed.

That included Gilmour, Wright and Mason playing 'Bike' and 'Arnold Layne' at a Syd tribute show in 2007, while a solo Waters played 'Flickering Flame'.

Richard Wright passed away in 2008. Gilmour played 'Comfortably Numb' at a Waters show in 2011, with Mason also joining in for 'Outside the Wall'.

Beyond its individual members playing the band's songs, that was it for any sort of live Pink Floyd, but there was still more to come.

Pink Floyd - Louder Than Words (Official Music Video HD)

In 2014, Pink Floyd released The Endless River, a primarily instrumental ambient album pieced together mainly from outtakes from The Division Bell, with a snippet of 1969 and some new music in there as well.

It felt like the final coda, before 2022's 'Hey, Hey, Rise Up!' (featuring Andriy Khlyvnyuk).

More than just the release of yet more new music without him, Waters was also against the political stance of supporting Ukraine following the Russian invasion in 2022, which may or may not have played a part in his decision to re-record Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon as a solo project not long after.

Since then, there's been plenty of unpleasantness and legal threats flying back and forth between Waters and Gilmour (and Polly Samson), putting any final reunion surely beyond the realms of possibility.