Introduction To

Pink Floyd: Five Prequels and Sequels

Pink Floyd are one of the greatest bands of all time. When they briefly reunited in 2005 for Live 8 one critic famously described their arrival, amongst the Madonnas and Robbie Williams’ of the world, as being like the seas parting and the mothership landing.

Not unsurprisingly they’ve influenced almost all rock music that followed, but some call-backs are more direct than others, and all great artists stand on the shoulders of giants, even The Floyd. Here are five such moments from the influences, the influencers and the influenced.

Set Controls For the Heart of the Sun/All My Friends

One of the greatest bands of the 70’s generation had rather a big impact on one of the greatest bands of ours. Hardly surprising really. Syd Barett’s Pink Floyd pops up all over the work of James Murphy’s now equally defunct LCD Soundsystem, from surging choruses to the tuned out drum hits that creep through the original track, off The Floyd’s second record; A Saucerful of Secrets. The song will be surprisingly mellow for those who only know the band from hits like ‘Money’, but the haunting number is the only song ever to feature all five original band members in harmony and their drummer Nick Mason has called it his favourite song they ever made. Its evocative title was sealed in the annuls of music history however when LCD Soundsystem named it on perhaps their most iconic track; ‘All My Friends’. The decidedly more frantic rumination on middle age and middle life recalls when the group got together and ‘Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun/one of the ways that we show our age.’ The line encapsulates not only a major influence for Murphy, but also the ideas in the song; that playing even this icon of music might just show them to be somewhat old-fashioned, and losing their edge.

We’ll Meet Again/Vera

There are few songs as iconic as ‘We’ll Meet Again’; and like ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Hallelujah’ it’s a song whose emotional magnitude is hard to recall and replicate. With its indomitable link to the hopes and sentiment of wartime; and to the knowledge of those lovers and children who may have clung to the words of this song, only to never achieve them… Johnny Cash even failed when he tried. Floyd dared to though, and got somewhere close on this tiny mournful ballad buried in the midst of the cacophonous conceptual epic The Wall. Named after the woman who sung it; Roger Waters finds the key not by replicating the sentiment of the original but seizing on the iconography of the classic; “does anybody remember Vera Lynn?” he sings; warm brass replaced by cold strings, “remember how she said that we would meet again?” Waters lost his own father to the war, and the sentiment of broken promises and isolation found a perfect metaphor in the idea of a world without Vera Lynn.

Us & Them/Us V. Them

I did say they were fans. LCD Soundsystem’s Floyd referencing ‘Us v Them’ appears on their seminal album Sound of Silver, recalling the original track which appeared on their own most iconic release; Dark Side of The Moon. The songs are even of a similar length; and while pretty much dissimilar in every other sense – they are alike in the way they encapsulate the ethos of their respective bands. Floyd’s original has the euphoric choruses and references to Generals moving lines on a map, while ‘Us v. Them’ is a driving foot-tapper, urging your every limb into action like no other group of the noughties could, and all the while singing “all the clever people wanna tell you all the little people wanna dance – it’s true.”

‘Animal Farm’/Pigs

Released in 1977 following the mammoth success of Wish You Were Here, Animals was rather unsubtly an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1945 classic Animal Farm. The novella offered a damning critique of The Soviet Union but shockingly Waters, whose father was a member of the British Communist Party, decided to go another route. With communism mostly eradicated from the west, there wasn’t much to critique anyway – but somehow this hadn’t solved the evils of the world, and so songs like ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ turn their eye to capitalism instead. While ‘Dogs’ had been an allegory for the militaristic class, and ‘Sheep’ the herd-like underclass, ‘Pigs’ pays attention to the rulers at the top of the social ladder, manipulating those below to remain ruthless and competitive; divide-and-conquer style. It also features some epic guitar work by Dave Gilmour, for whom the whole album was basically a showcase. Orwell however never laid down a mean riff in his life.

Young Lust/F**king Problems

If there’s one thing A$AP Rocky’s most infamous track makes clear; it’s that when it comes to bad bitches – he’s got a bloomin’ problem, and he makes it known that “finding somebody real” was not top of his list of priorities. He’s really not picky. But while Rakim spits the hook like it’s a revolutionary concept, some 33 years before on The Wall Gilmour and co. revealed themselves to be similarly unfussed. The Wall tells the tale of a young rock star, Pink, who becomes so alienated by success and fame that he becomes a fascist and builds a literal wall between himself and the rest of the world. ‘Young Lust’ bursts from the silence just as Pink finds the fame and starts to enjoy its trappings, growling “ooooh, I need a dirty woman/ooooh, I need a dirty girl.” While we feel the band might have been taking the piss: singing about the idiocy of rock star swagger on a song that could go toe to toe with many of The Stones’ best – it might also make Dave Gilmour the very first Lord Pretty Flacko Senior.

Liam Inscoe – Jones

Much of Pink Floyd’s back catalogue is available to rent from the University of Nottingham’s CD Library

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Introduction ToMusic

Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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