February 21, 2018

Book Review: Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon

For more than half a century Pink Floyd produced some of the most fabled and successful albums in popular music history yet the singular British band has nevertheless remained, at least in some respects, an enigma. 

Much of that enigma surrounds Syd Barrett, the Floyd’s principal songwriter and eccentric visionary behind the band’s earliest efforts. The music he created with Pink Floyd in the mid-to-late sixties—enriched by his distinctly puerile songwriting style and psychedelic eccentricities—contrasts so boldly from the music the Floyd made following his termination from the lineup in 1968 so as to sound like a different band altogether. Even still, Barrett’s legacy loomed over the band (bassist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard Wright, drummer Nick Mason, and Barrett’s replacement, guitarist David Gilmour) for decades thereafter.

In Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon, author Bill Kopp reframes the band’s legendary oeuvre by surveying those earliest efforts to illustrate how they presaged and ultimately informed the Floyd’s most celebrated subsequent discography beginning with 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon. He delves deep, for instance, into the band’s nascent recording sessions and performances, including early studio albums like 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets as well as experimental forays into film-soundtrack recordings. 

Kopp exerts a keen perspective throughout, contextualizing each project by dissecting each one’s artistic direction with the knowledge of one who is not only intimately familiar with the band’s expansive output but with rudimentary music principles as well. Such explanations never succumb to sounding too technical or abstract for casual fans to appreciate, thankfully, as Kopp offers just enough expert analysis to enlighten—rather than overwhelm—the reader. Overall, Reinventing Pink Floyd sheds light on a pivotal and all-too-often overlooked era of one of the all-time great bands just as it was evolving into an undisputed commercial hit-making  behemoth of progressive rock. Highly recommended.