When many people think about the late ’60s and early ’70s, they often go to two places — music and drugs. With the two worlds being ever comparable, few things cross them over like Pink Floyd.
Since the band first burst onto the scene, their music has been labeled as drug music, and that connection has led to several strange theories about their music. If you ask Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, however, this reputation is overblown.
Pink Floyd is one of the most legendary bands of all-time
Part of the British Invasion, Pink Floyd formed in the 1960s in the shadow of the Beatles, according to Britannica.com. While the Beatles were still a relatively clean-cut band with classic pop sounds and lyrics, Pink Floyd offered something different. There were no standard pop anthems, just bluesy stylings with psychedelic references to fantasy books and a strange, mystical quality.
The band found some success with their first few albums, but after founder Syd Barrett left the band due to health issues stemming from LSD overuse, they had their biggest album yet. With Dark Side of the Moon, the band took the concept album to another level, giving listeners a trippy, ethereal sound that was unlike anything the band had ever done before. The band went from a success to a downright legend overnight.
From Animals to the Wall, the band developed a reputation for music that was less about singles and radio hits and more about an album that existed as a singular narrative.
They defied logic and sound, and their out-there lyrics started developing them a reputation that lives to this day. However, Roger Waters is not a fan of this reputation, and he’s spoken many times about the damaging misconception about his drug use.
Roger Waters hits back
Waters never liked the band’s reputation as being heavily influenced by drugs because he believed that it both exaggerated the role that drugs played on their music and took away from the artistry that went behind every album.
He spoke with HuffPost about that reputation in 2013. According to Waters, the spacey tones of the album made people make false equivalencies with drug use. He said at one point:
“How Pink Floyd fans ever came to formulate the philosophy that somehow it was all to do with outer space, which happened earlier. I think it had to do with the fact that one song was called “Interstellar Overdrive,” and another song was called “Astronomy Domine,” both compositions of Syd’s.”
Waters believes that the literary lyrics, which were inspired by classic literature more than drugs, gave people a false sense that they knew exactly what the band was singing about.
It wasn’t the first or last time Waters took issue with this, either. In an interview with Howard Stern, Waters acknowledged that he suffered through nicotine addiction and tried acid twice. He never relied on drugs to create new music.
However, drug culture and Pink Floyd have become synonymous, and right or wrong, they’ve become a go-to combination for fans who want the best of both worlds.
Whether or not this affected their artistry is up for debate, but the band made more hit music than most could ever dream of, and their legacy remains steadfast to this day.
Legends of the craft
Waters might fightback from the band’s reputation, but the band remains one of the greatest rock groups ever to do it. Rogers still sells out stadiums playing both his solo hits and Pink Floyd’s, and whether or not drugs helped elevate any of their performances, they remain the gold standard for experimental rock.
Pink Floyd has a long and complicated history. While some of this is less-endearing than other aspects, their place in music history and, yes, drug culture cannot be denied. Years beyond their peak, they still speak to audiences of all walks of life. This is, inarguably, their biggest crowning achievement of them all.
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