When Pink Floyd fans talk about their favorite band, invariably the discussion descends into a recitation of the group's chronology. There's the original Syd Barrett version of the quartet in the 1960s; the early David Gilmour years (1968-1972); the commercial successes of the 1970s beginning with "Dark Side of the Moon" (1973) and ending with "The Wall" (1979); and the lawsuit decade of the 1980s, when estranged bassist Roger Waters unsuccessfully tried to prevent his former bandmates from touring or releasing records as Pink Floyd.
From the vantage point of the 21st century, the Syd Barrett era is easily most infamous. By all accounts, the late Barrett (he passed away in 2006) was a brilliant but troubled artist, consuming brain-melting quantities of psychedelic drugs that inspired him to artistic heights in the beginning but quickly took their toll. Collectors look for the Columbia (EMI) 45 rpm mono recordings of “Arnold Layne,” the Floyd’s first single, which began to climb the charts in 1967 until its transvestite content caught the ear of radio programmers, who removed it from their station’s playlists.
The band’s first LP, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” 1967, was also the last Pink Floyd album produced with Barrett as the band’s leader. It was recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London at the same time as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles. Collectors prefer mono LPs over the stereo remasters, and look for copies on the Tower label, which were distributed in the United States. Memorable tracks from the album include the chant-like “Astronomy Dominé” and an instrumental called “Intersteller Overdrive,” which was a major part of live Pink Floyd shows for years.
“A Saucerful of Secrets” came next in 1968 and is notable for the presence in the studio of both Barrett and Gilmour. But the album is perhaps best known for a Waters track called “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” as well as its psychedelic album cover by Hipgnosis, which created numerous Pink Floyd covers, as well as ones for Led Zeppelin and prog-rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
After releasing the brilliant “Meddle” in 1971 (all 23 minutes and 27 seconds of side two are devoted to a song called “Echoes”) and a soundtrack for a Barbet Schroeder film in 1972 (the movie was called “La Vallée” but the album was called “Obscured By Clouds”), Pink Floyd produced its first certifiable classic in 1973, “Dark Side of the Moon.” The album included stickers and posters, so collectors today pay a small premium for copies with those bits of ephemera intact.
Subsequent Pink Floyd albums sold in such numbers that their supply has always been plentiful, making them relatively easy, and inexpensive, to collect. Exceptions to this general rule include Japanese issues of “Dark Side” and “The Wall,” as well as picture discs of “Rare Beauties” and “Wish You Were Here.”
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