Welcome to another installation of Deep Dive, where I take a look at the extended studio discographies of some of the biggest names in progressive rock. I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and that is an element often missed in a ranked list.
Today, I’m covering a doozy. Pink Floyd is the most commercially successful progressive rock act by a wide margin. Their global sales tally somewhere between 200 and 250 million records since their debut in 1965, placing them eighth all time among recording artists. The second-most successful prog act is Genesis, with roughly 100 million sales and significant non-prog output.
Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd were my two primary introductions to progressive rock, and those are my second- and third-most-listened-to acts, respectively, according to my Last.fm profile, trailing only The Beatles. I have a deep, intense love of their music, and Richard Wright is probably my single biggest influence as a musician. At the same time, don’t expect this to be a one hundred percent worshipful lovefest, as I have some (strong) opinions which are heterodox among the Pink Floyd fandom.
Unlike other artists I have covered or will cover in this column, Pink Floyd has a huge amount of material which either never saw official release or was released in unusual ways. As such, there is a significant portion of their output which will not be included in the ranking at the end, though I will address it in the body of this essay. Most of this oddball material was recorded 1965-1970 and was released as a part of the 2016 box set The Early Years, 1965-1972.
I will also refrain from ranking Pink Floyd’s live output, as that strays beyond the limitations of this column. That’s unfortunate, too, as Pink Floyd bootlegs from 1968-1972 are something of an addiction for me. Their live performances from this time period are fantastic and deeply interesting, and I really recommend you look into this material yourselves.
Part I: The Barrett Years (1963-1968)
Prior to becoming “Pink Floyd,” Roger Waters (bass), Nick Mason (drums), Richard Wright (keys), Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar), and Bob Klose (guitar) performed rhythm and blues and cut a handful of singles under the name The Tea Set. And immediately upon starting this piece, I’m struck by the issue of Pink Floyd’s massive catalog of unreleased and non-album material.
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