1983 - Present
Pink Floyd's The Final Cut: A Requiem for the Post War Dream by Roger Waters was an important tipping point in Pink Floyd history: it was the first album without the band's classic line-up of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright. It was the last album to feature Waters, and the only album without Wright.
Following the project, the future of the band was uncertain: Gilmour and Waters each focused on solo albums (Gilmour's second: About Face; Waters' first: The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking), Wright briefly resurfaced as part of the duo Zee (which released only one album, Identity), and Mason released an album with 10cc guitarist Richard Fenn (Mason + Fenn's Profiles).
In the fall of 1985 Mason (the only member of Pink Floyd to appear on all albums) began to voice an interest in touring and recording under the Pink Floyd banner again. Despite this, and under the dark cloud of disagreements over the band's future, at the end of the year Waters served "notice to the record company that he no longer intended to record with Pink Floyd."
With that added degree of ambiguity, Gilmour's work on new material in 1986 could have easily become a third solo album for the guitar player but eventually cemented into the first Pink Floyd album of the 'Gilmour era': A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
During this era, the band would release two more studio albums and two live albums: The Division Bell and The Endless River, as well as Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse.
This period also resulted in a large volume of solo work that continues to this day:
Waters has released When the Wind Blows (1986), Radio K.A.O.S. (1987), The Wall - Live in Berlin (1990), Amused to Death (1992), In The Flesh - Live (2000), Roger Waters: The Wall (2015), Is This the Life We Really Want? (2017), Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale (2018), and Roger Waters: Us + Them (2020).
In addition to his work on Zee's sole album, Identity, Wright, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 65, released Broken China (1996) but would also collaborate and appear on Gilmour's solo recordings: David Gilmour in Concert (2002 video), On an Island (2006), Remember That Night (2007 video), Live in Gdańsk (2008), and Rattle That Lock (2016) (Wright was included posthumously). Gilmour also released David Gilmour Live (1984 video), and Live at Pompeii (2017).
Mason worked on a number of soundtracks: Life Could Be a Dream (1986), White of the Eye (1987), Body Contact (1987), and Tank Malling (1988) (all with Richard Fenn) as well as on the albums Live (1987), Review (2000), and Concertos (2008) (all with Michael Mantler). In 2018 Mason launched Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, which has toured successfully and released the album Live at the Roundhouse (2020). He also published an important account of the band's history, the book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd (2004).
During this period in the band's history a more complex ecosystem of musicians emerged, both as part of Pink Floyd itself but also in solo projects. Although these musicians were all part of the studio and touring personnel, their mark on the band's sound and production is significant.
In 2005, Pink Floyd and Waters performed together at London's Live 8 concert. Pink Floyd's last performance took place in 2007 at Syd Barrett's tribute concert, The Madcap’s Last Laugh. Gilmour and Mason made an appearance at one of Waters' The Wall Live concerts at London's O2 Arena in 2011.
When Pink Floyd released The Endless River, Gilmour stated it would be the band's last album but the band has never disbanded. As stated on the band's official history:
"So is that the end of the Floyd's road? Do they still exist? Yes, they do."
1965 - 1982
Pink Floyd historian Mark Blake recognizes the beginnings of the band, branded in some variation of the name 'Pink Floyd', dating back to 1965. This band consisted of lead singer and guitarist Chris Dennis, guitarist Bob Klose, keyboardist Wright, bassist Waters, and drummer Mason. That same year, Dennis severed ties with the band, Barrett replaced him in the same role, and the group made its first recordings: the singles I'm a King Bee and Lucy Leave.
In 1967 the band signed a record deal with EMI. The band's first single, Arnold Layne, stirred controversy but managed to chart. Its subsequent single, See Emily Play, reached the top 10 in the United Kingdom. By the end of the year, the band had added a second guitar player: Gilmour. In 1968 Barrett and the rest of the band parted ways.
In the period that followed, Waters would take a more pronounced role in the band, but the contributions from each band member struck the sweet spot in 1972, when they recorded Dark Side of the Moon. Released in 1973, the album captured the band's most cohesive creative collaboration and went on to become one of the most iconic recordings of all time:
On March 17, 1973, a band in musical transition named Pink Floyd hit the Top 200 chart with the release of its new album, Dark Side of the Moon. It entered the chart at No. 95, the top debut that week. And then a funny thing happened: It never left. Or almost never, anyway.
More than 14 years later -- 736 weeks to be precise -- in July 1988, it finally fell off The Billboard 200. Add in a later run on that chart and another 759 weeks on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart, and Pink Floyd, with this issue, reaches the staggering plane of 1,500 weeks on the charts.
It's difficult to contextualize just how singularly dominant a chart -- and cultural -- force the album has been. (Billboard Magazine, May 6, 2006)
As of May 12, 2020 "the classic rock release" had "racked up an unprecedented 950 weeks on the Billboard 200," according to Forbes Magazine: "No album has ever spent that much time on the chart. In fact, none has ever come even close to doing so."
Between 1975 and 1979, the band's output was monumentally successful: albums like Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall quickly cemented as classics and produced some of the band's most widely recognized songs. At this stage the band had managed to find good musical synergy but tensions were beginning to undermine a common sense of vision.
A common theme throughout these productions was absence - and most specifically Barrett's. Additionally, the band also wrote a great deal about the recording industry and more political subject matters.
Waters' imprint on this era was robust: by the time the band began to work on The Final Cut, their creative output was a stronger reflection of Waters' vision for the band. While some argue that The Final Cut is a Waters solo album in all but name, it may be fair to state it is the album that most strongly manifests his vision for the band in the same way that A Momentary Lapse of Reason would become Gilmour's.
Throughout Pink Floyd's history, album cover artwork, imagery, and the films that were projected during their live performances helped define their brand. Vic Singh, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell (as individuals and as the Hipgnosis team), Gerald Scarfe, Willie Christie, Ahmed Emad Eldin, and design team Johnson Banks' Michael Johnson all deserve recognition for the important role they have played in helping define our perception of the band.