The classic Pink Floyd song that started out as a prank

Pink Floyd

In the bustling capital of England, Pink Floyd was just one of many ambitious R&B bands when it first came to prominence in the mid-1960s. But with a crazy figure like Syd Barrett front and centre, it wouldn’t take long for the band to find their identity in psychedelic music. Emerging as leaders in the genre alongside acts like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Pink Floyd demonstrated beyond all doubt that psychedelic rock was the primary inspiration behind the prog-rock movement of the early 1970s. After Barrett was fired in the late 1960s and guitarist David Gilmour joined the group, the group kept experimenting with its sound. And introduced extended, improvisational composition to rock ‘n’ roll for the first time.

The years 1968–1972 was Pink Floyd’s chrysalis era. Records from this era, like Ummagumma (1969) and Atom Heart Mother (1970), may not rank among the band’s best. But they were ominous harbingers of bigger things to come.

Prolonged improvisational sessions produced long, meandering compositions such as the “Atom Heart Mother Suite.” Through perseverance, Pink Floyd produced their first epic masterpiece, “Echoes,” in 1971. This song closely linked to the band’s current ethereal sound.

With the release of The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, this chapter of chrysalis came to conclusion. The groundbreaking record condensed all that had been discovered over the preceding six years into a single, stylish, and alluring offering. The album is the prototypical prog-rock record and considered as one of the best-ever releases of any genre.

This time, Pink Floyd spared the audience from difficult 20-minute epics. But the album was full of compositions that were purely accidental and spontaneous. Pianist Richard Wright composed “The Great Gig in the Sky,” perhaps the most emotionally charged track on the album. And singer Clare Torry added spontaneous, wordless vocals to it.

Wright’s piano played a major role in “The Great Gig in the Sky”. But his skill was evident all throughout the record. Wright’s jazz-inspired progression was the driving force for another particularly striking chapter, “Us and Them”. This was supposedly the fortuitous outcome of a studio joke.

In a nearby studio, Wright would record his piano portions for multiple pieces from Dark Side of the Moon. Roger Waters, Nick Mason, and David Gilmour, being young scoundrels at the time, chose to play an old cassette tape and departed from the room. Believing his fellow musicians were performing nearby, Wright started embellishing the song with the piano melody. It eventually became “Us and Them”.

This small example of the positive effects of practical jokes possibly contributed to a bullying-filled future. Even if the goal was to capitalise on Wright’s brilliance. It was “one of the best things Rick ever did,” as renowned producer and engineer Alan Parsons once remarked to Mojo.

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