I’m John Felthous, and I work on the KEXP Documentary team. Each week we produce a short radio story on a musical subject. Our current series is Psychedelics, where we trace the origins of psych music from 1966 until today. This past week’s story was on one of the top-selling rock groups of all time — Pink Floyd.
The Pink Floyd burst onto the London underground scene with fairy-tale pop songs and mind-expanding sounds. Crowds loved the space-y light shows and druggy suggestions of the music. Everyone wanted to alter their state, bliss out and follow the trance-state to the center of the universe. Singer Syd Barrett experimented with LSD and slowly began to lose the ability to perform. In 1968, the band replaced him with his friend, guitarist David Gilmore. By the end of the year Syd was gone, and Pink Floyd had to face the challenge of finding a new sound. After a few years of playing at crappy clubs, Pink Floyd’s sound came together on “Meddle” in 1971, a swirly pop album that’s a mix of Floyd’s psychedelic past and the new era of the 70s. “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” followed. These albums both had songs that were written to Syd Barrett. The band still identified with Syd. It’s like they kept examining their own states of madness. “So… do you think you can tell… heaven from hell? Blue Skies from pain… ? Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?”
KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers. Assistant producer is Kate Shantry. With help from John Felthous, Zeek Earl and Leah Pogwizd. You can hear all our KEXP Documentary series online, including “Heart of Soul”, “Punk Evolution”, “Portraits of Post-Punk” and “Pop Goes Electronic” in the On Demand section of kexp.org.