- Book author
- Chris Hart
- Simon A. Morrison
The Routledge Handbook of Pink Floyd is intended for scholars and researchers of popular music, as well as music industry professionals and fans of the band. It brings together international researchers to assess, evaluate and reformulate approaches to the critical study and interpretation of one of the world’s most important and successful bands. For the first time, this Handbook will ‘tear down the wall,’ examining the band’s collective artistic creations and the influence of social, technological, commercial and political environments over several decades on their work. Divided into five parts, the book provides a thoroughly contextualised overview of the musical works of Pink Floyd, including coverage of performance and sound; media, reception and fandom; genre; periods of Pink Floyd’s work; and aesthetics and subjectivity. Drawing on art, design, performance, culture and counterculture, emergent theoretical resources and analytical frames are evaluated and discussed from across the social sciences, humanities and creative arts. The Handbook is intended for scholars and researchers of popular music, as well as music industry professionals. It will appeal across a range of related subjects from music production to cultural studies and media/communication studies.
‘What happened to the post-war dream?’ Te story of Pink Floyd
Chris Hart and Simon A. Morrison
‘What happened to the post-war dream?’ Te story of Pink Floyd
Chris Hart and Simon A. Morrison
Many people reading this book, just like those of you putting a Pink Floyd album on the turntable, will already know something of the who, the what and the when of this intriguing and continually relevant band. But for those of you who were not born in the 1950s or 1960s, perhaps, what follows is an introduction to the biography and context of Pink Floyd’s members, taking us through some of the events of the shared history that they experienced and setting the socio-historic context which infuenced and shaped the band they were to become. While we halt this historical journey around the time of the release of The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), at the end of this book, you will fnd a chronology of dates and events that adds more granularity to the times and key events of all of the albums. As editors of this collection, we both felt keenly that there was something about this particular band, something almost intangible, that elevated them beyond other contemporaries of their era and warranted this level of penetrative scholarly enquiry. However, before we even reach that point, it will be useful to outline the form and function of this book itself and how it might best be deployed as a companion, and as a guide, into the world of Pink Floyd.
Critical framework, genesis and mission for the Handbook
The cover of Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album – 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon – famously features a prism into which a beam of white light is refracted, emerging in a dazzling rainbow of primary colours. Designed by long-term Floyd collaborators Hipgnosis, the image is now iconic. The pyramid also says much, however, about the monolithic, almost mystical status achieved by this rock band. Further, the notion of the prism might also stand as a useful image for this book, projecting light onto Pink Floyd but also tracing the many diferent routes of analysis of the band and the varying discourses that run through their cultural and musical DNA. In this section, therefore, the editors will ofer some guidance for how to navigate this book: a useful compass, perhaps, to assist readers to orient themselves within its pages and perhaps more swiftly fnd their way to materials they need.
Certainly, this Handbook is intended primarily for an academic audience and for popular music scholars interested in both notions of popular music scholarship more broadly and, more specifcally, the band Pink Floyd. However, the editors of this book were keen from the very outset that, given its focus on an important band in the popular music canon, this book would also be of interest to, and accessible for, a wider readership that might include, for instance, more undergraduate students and the more casual music fan; to fans of the band and more non-cognate readers; and to a global audience of music lovers from the Anglophone world from which the band itself derives but also, importantly, beyond. While some chapters certainly take a deep dive into issues of musicology and musicianship, or semiotics and cultural sociology, penned by an array of music academics from across the globe, others will be very easily readable for an audience beyond the – perhaps rarefed halls – of the academy.
To select one or two examples, certainly Richard Perks’ analysis of the guitar style of David Gilmour (Chapter 3) comes into the former category and would suit students of music and those primarily interested in a musicological route into music as text. We were also keen to include the thoughts of independent scholars and music writers, however, and authors of more commercially oriented works of music biography. In the case of Rob Chapman, for instance – a writer we knew had already contributed to the knowledge of Pink Floyd with his fascinating biography of Syd Barrett, A Very Peculiar Head – we hoped (and were glad to be proved right) that he might be open to the idea of contributing some further thoughts to this collection (Chapter 15). Equally, we were delighted that key prog rock writer Daryl Easlea would add something specifcally on The Dark Side of the Moon. Easlea is a journalist who has interviewed several band members and penned cover features for magazines, such as the Animals cover story for Prog magazine that appeared during the editing of this book in January 2021. As editors, we are both extremely proud that what started as a causal conversation on campus has now evolved into what we believe to be the largest scholarly interrogation of the band yet undertaken. And why be restricted, even, to words? Certainly, this was a band themselves given to instrumen- tal composition and also the importance of visuals in both album cover design and their live performance. Towards the centre of this book, therefore, you will fnd a largely visual essay on the notion of music and memorabilia, with the collection of Floyd material assembled by uber- enthusiast Bob Follen.
Genesis of the Handbook
Every contributor associated with this Handbook has a diferent story to tell, a diferent route into their interest in and association with the band Pink Floyd. In terms of the origins of the book itself – and notwithstanding the perhaps confusing pun on the word ‘genesis’ to discuss the origins of a book on a ‘prog’ (progressive rock) band, we will briefy return to the Biblical, rather than pop, use of the word ‘genesis’ to say one or two things on the origin story of the book. It had been a project occupying the past several years for two academics from the University of Chester in the northwest of England. Chris Hart had both a long-standing interest in the band and also a professional understanding of branding and semiotics that allowed for his own route into thinking about, and writing about, the band. Having spent his life working with imagery, signs and signifers, Chris was always fascinated not only with how this band sounded but how they presented themselves visually and what clues might be encoded in, for instance, the album cover artwork. That structural interest led to his input into the Cinla Seker essay on Pink Floyd album covers (Chapter 8) and also his own conceptual mapping of a route through the recorded output of the band that useful opens this Handbook and provides a thematic, cartographic way to develop an understanding of this complex band. An early iteration of the title of the volume, for instance, encompassed the words ‘band’ and ‘brand’ as two ways of unlocking their story.
Chris then approached his co-editor, Simon A. Morrison, as someone who might be interested in collaborating on this project, since Simon was a) the Programme Leader for Music Journalism and therefore someone with a background in popular music studies and b) someone with an ofce just down the hall from Chris. Simon was, and indeed is, a fan of Pink Floyd. On a trip over from Australia in 1983, an uncle treated him to one or two albums on vinyl as a present. One of these happened to be The Dark Side of the Moon, acquired from Reckless Records on Upper Street, Islington, and it is still the copy he has on his shelf, approaching 40 years later. In 1987 Simon’s dad took him to see Pink Floyd play as part of the Nordof Robins music therapy event at Knebworth, and concerts also followed by Roger Waters, in support of his Radio K.A.O.S. solo album. In 2005 Simon was lucky enough to be in the audience for the reunion of the band for Live 8 at Hyde Park, and an encounter with Floyd bass player Guy Pratt at the Edinburgh Festival also led Simon to book Guy’s one-man show at a music festival in Manchester called Louder Than Words (also, ironically perhaps, the title of the only track with words on the last studio album from the band, 2014’s The Endless River).1 Chris’ ofer was accepted almost immediately.
As academics, and true fans of Pink Floyd, both editors felt that the time was right for this academic collection of chapter. For instance, the 2017 Victoria and Albert exhibition ‘Their Mortal Remains’ provided the evidence of this persistent interest in the band. Both of the editors, and indeed some contributors, visited that exhibition, and all would agree that it was an invaluable experience in terms of a deeper understanding of Floyd, building on exhibits and materials from the band’s own archive, including music equipment and other ephemera.2 The band may no longer be together or functioning as a live or recording outft, but certainly the music remains, as does this interest. Re-issues, box sets and rarities continue to fnd releases, providing fresh materials for scholars to work with. Indeed, Rob Chapman’s contribution to the book, ‘Legacy Recre/Ation: Mining the Elements of The Early Years Boxset’ (Chapter 15), uses just such a release as a way to gain fresh insight into their early recordings, mining the frst seams of material for the band. Still making news, at the time of writing, a rerelease of the 1977 album Animals is being held up, it is suggested, by a dispute between key band members on their contributions to Floyd music and whether sleeve notes should be included with the new release. This Handbook has been something of an endless river in itself, running through these past few tumultuous years for the two editors, but both remain happy that they found contributors who agreed that this was the right time for a fresh scholarly assessment of the band. As editors, they are both extremely proud that what started as a causal conversation on campus has evolved into what they believe to be the largest scholarly interrogation of the band yet undertaken.
Of course a Handbook such as this can only work on the quality of its contributions. The popular music community is truly global, with university courses including popular music on ofer now live across the planet. As editors we hoped to encourage and broaden scholarship and are therefore delighted the book includes contributions from the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as scholars from Finland, France and Turkey. The international element to the contributions certainly supports the enduring global appeal of the band.