FOUR THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PINK FLOYD

Where London - - Pink Floyd -

1 They ini­tially wanted to be­come ar­chi­tects

Most peo­ple know Re­gent Street as a shop­per’s par­adise, but since the 1830s it’s also been a place of academia and home to the first polytech­nic in­sti­tu­tion in the UK (now the Univer­sity of West­min­ster). It was here that in 1963 Pink Floyd’s found­ing mem­bers – Roger Wa­ters, Nick Ma­son and Richard Wright – met while study­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. To­gether they formed a group called Sigma 6 and per­formed at pri­vate func­tions and in a tea­room un­der­neath their class­rooms.

‘I could have been an ar­chi­tect, but I don’t think I’d have been very happy,’ said bassist Wa­ters. ‘Nearly all mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture is a silly game as far as I can see.’

If you’re cu­ri­ous to see their first flat, visit 39 Stan­hope Gar­dens in High­gate. ‘[ The flat] made a real dif­fer­ence to our mu­si­cal ac­tiv­i­ties,’ Ma­son wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. ‘We had our own per­ma­nent re­hearsal fa­cil­ity, thanks to an in­dul­gent land­lord.’

Die-hard fans might even be tempted to stay there while in Lon­don, which you can do for about £2,000 a week – although we should warn you that now it’s a six-bed­room rented prop­erty, the in­te­ri­ors are a lit­tle less rock ‘n’ roll than they used to be.

2 They only had one hit sin­gle

‘We don’t do sin­gles,’ Wa­ters is al­leged to have told his pro­ducer Bob Ezrin in 1979 when asked to ex­tend the song

Another Brick in the Wall past its orig­i­nal run time of one minute and 20 sec­onds. Like ev­ery­thing they wrote, the song was al­ways meant to be part of a big­ger whole, in this case The Wall, a soar­ing rock opera re­leased as a dou­ble record and now widely thought to be one of the best al­bums of all time. But Ezrin, con­vinced of the song’s po­ten­tial, went be­hind Wa­ters’ back, adding a disco beat, dou­bling the in­stru­men­tals and re­cruit­ing a lo­cal school choir to sing a verse and cho­rus. ‘I called Roger into the room,’ Ezrin told Gui­tar

World in 2009, ‘and when the kids came in on the sec­ond verse there was a to­tal soft­en­ing of his face, and you just knew that he knew it was go­ing to be an im­por­tant record.’

‘Im­por­tant’ is putting it mildly when you con­sider the im­pact their only hit sin­gle has had on the world. On its re­lease, it topped the charts in the UK, US, Ger­many, Canada, Nor­way, Por­tu­gal, New Zealand, Swe­den, Is­rael and Bel­gium. It was banned in South Africa after black school­child­ren took to chant­ing the lyrics to con­demn the ed­u­ca­tional apartheid. Even to­day, it con­tin­ues to res­onate with peo­ple of all ages.

‘ The song is meant to be a re­bel­lion against er­rant gov­ern­ment, against peo­ple who have power over you, who are wrong,’ ex­plains Wa­ters.

Half a cen­tury may have passed since Pink Floyd blazed their way into pop­u­lar cul­ture, but they con­tinue to shine on, like the crazy di­a­monds that they are.

3 Most of the band pre­ferred beer to LSD

Given their fond­ness for psy­che­delic lights, philo­soph­i­cal lyrics and lengthy in­stru­men­tals, it’s only nat­u­ral that most peo­ple as­sumed Pink Floyd were all ad­dicted to acid. But in re­al­ity, it was just their first lead singer, Syd Bar­rett, who took LSD reg­u­larly – so reg­u­larly, in fact, that within a year of their de­but al­bum re­lease, he was on the verge of a psy­chotic break­down and forced to leave the band.

‘He was our friend, but most of the time we wanted to stran­gle him,’ Wa­ters ad­mit­ted years later.

With Bar­rett out by 1968, and David Gil­mour in, Pink Floyd be­gan their world dom­i­na­tion – but they never for­got their Lon­don links. Over the past five decades the cap­i­tal has been both home and muse to the group.

Re­live some of the band’s most iconic mo­ments at lo­ca­tions across the city, in­clud­ing Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion (as seen on the al­bum cover for An­i­mals); Alexan­dra Palace (used for The 14 Hour Tech­ni­color Dream con­cert); Abbey Road Stu­dios (where the band recorded at the same time as The Bea­tles); Is­ling­ton Green (where a group of lo­cal school­child­ren sang on Another Brick in the Wall); and David Gil­mour’s house­boat record­ing studio As­to­ria (it was first built in 1911 for theatre pro­ducer Fred Karno, who wanted the deck to ac­com­mo­date a 90-piece orches­tra).

4 Their con­certs were al­ways a mul­ti­me­dia spec­ta­cle

When Iron Maiden, Ari­ana Grande and KISS take to the stage at Lon­don’s O2 arena this month, it’s safe to as­sume there will be light shows and video pro­jec­tions as part of their per­for­mances. But long be­fore it be­came the stan­dard for con­certs, Pink Floyd pi­o­neered the use of vi­su­als in their live shows. As early as 1966, they pro­jected psy­che­delic lights on to a back­drop while they played, and even ap­peared on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion to show off their light­ing skills while im­pro­vis­ing mu­sic. As their pop­u­lar­ity (and bud­gets) grew, so did their au­dio-vis­ual am­bi­tions. Be­fore long, gi­ant in­flat­a­bles, 35mm films, lav­ish py­rotech­nics and ‘in­tel­li­gent’ lights were part of the fab­ric of Pink Floyd shows, lead­ing to a spate of venue bans. One of their most fa­mous con­certs at Earls Court saw a 40ft wall placed be­tween them and the au­di­ence. They were also the first to cham­pion live sur­round sound, with the help of the Az­imuth Co-or­di­na­tor quadro­phonic sound sys­tem – on dis­play as part of the V&A’s ex­hi­bi­tion. ‘Along­side cre­at­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­sic, they have for over five decades been pioneers in unit­ing sound and vi­sion,’ says for­mer V&A direc­tor Martin Roth, ‘from their ear­li­est 1960s per­for­mances with ex­per­i­men­tal light shows, through their spec­tac­u­lar sta­dium rock shows, to their con­sis­tently iconic al­bum cov­ers.’ The Pink Floyd Ex­hi­bi­tion: Their Mor­tal Re­mains. From 13 May. V&A, Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL. T: 020-7942 2000. www.vam.ac.uk

Clock­wise from main im­age: Pink Floyd in 1971; Abbey Road Stu­dios; The Dark Side of the Moon and Atom Heart Mother al­bums

FOR OVER FIVE DECADES HAVE BEEN PIONEERS IN UNIT­ING SOUND AND VI­SION

Clock­wise from top left: David Gil­mour; light pro­jec­tor used in the band’s con­certs; Pink Floyd in 1971; The Wall and The Di­vi­sion Bell al­bum cov­ers; Pink Floyd for The Di­vi­sion Bell; the launch of the V&A ex­hi­bi­tion; An­i­mals and Wish You Were Here al­bum cov­ers; ro­tat­ing mir­ror­ball with petals

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