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Of course, it’s become de rigueur in the punk narrative to sneer at Pink Floyd. After all there was the legendary Johnny Rotten ‘I hate Pink Floyd’ shirt and for a few years all the young punk were hiding their Pink Floyd and prog albums at the back of their record collections but this sheep-like adherence to the strict rules of the movement of no rules was living a pop culture lie.

On investigation, it turns out that the shadow of Pink Floyd was hanging heavy over punk rock from day one or year zero to be more accurate.

Of course the classic influences on punk rock like the Stooges, Dolls and Bowie etc can never be denied but it’s this exorcism of other bands that becomes suffocating and Pink Floyd’s fingerprints were all over the movement from the Sex Pistols talking about getting Syd Barrett to produce their debut album only to find out the founder of Floyd was a burned out acid casualty living in a hotel room and watching a bank of TV’s tuned into different channels and perhaps the inspiration for the man who fell to earth.

In the end it was the Damned who attempted to find Syd but ended up with the Floyd’s mighty drummer, Nick Mason, instead for the much-maligned but underrated second album – an album that Damned guitarist Brian James was attempting to recreate a Punk Floyd with Problem Child being a punkish take on Syd’s classic Astronomy Domine.

Speaking of Syd – Sid Vicous was probably named after the iconic Floyd founder who had burned out after twelve months at the frontline of pop culture and whose iconic music and style was a huge influence on both Bowie and Bolan and left him entwined at the heart of British pop culture – the sad ghost who fluttered so brilliantly and whose intangible presence hangs heavily over most of the great British pop culture – ask Captain Sensible who was first turned onto the possibility of pop music when he heard the Floyd 1967 hit single Arnold Layne on the radio at school and was stunned by its genius and who has always been trying to turn the Damned into Syd Floyd.

Talking of Punk Floyd brings the Stranglers into the equation and that curious band of brilliant misfits with their prog psyche punk sounded like an angry Pink Floyd with plenty of tripped-out reference points, Wire were also pursuing a not too distant path – attempting to sneak Floyd through the back door and even signing to prog imprint Harvest records. Deep into the punk wars John Peel was still championing Pink Floyd – right up to and including the Wall album.

All over punk, there are echoes (ha!) of Pink Floyd – any band that was moving beyond the straight three chord ramalama was following the same path with an added pinch of late seventies psychosis whilst post-punk is littered with countless examples of bands taking the same experimental route and beyond to bands like Swans and Einsturzende Neubauten.

All the best music is twisted, whether its tripped out or wired and the best punk rock somehow managed to capture both into its mix. The denial of Floyd was, in the end, a music press invention roundly ignored by the musicians who took inspiration from where they wanted to recreate their own musical vistas and Floyd lie at the heart of bands that influence punk – the unspoken influence right up their with Iggy’s droogs but in a very different way…

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m fortunate to have seen Floyd from their early days (including with Syd) up until The Wall. I recently saw the V&A exhibition and it brought back so many memories of spectacular gigs but the band themselves were so overshadowed by the theatrics they became almost faceless. The early gigs were so anarchistic in terms of noise, volume and basic “fuck you we’ll play what we want” attitude that they could certainly have been considered early punks.

  2. Great piece John. Certainly the Syd influence is there and even though it’s seen as some behemoth The Wall is one of the bleakest and nasty pieces of work recorded (and it only really contains a few actual “songs” with the rest being snippets etc. The themes of mental illness, anger, the human condition, feeling ostracised etc that courses through many punk albums can also be found on that run of albums through DSOTM, WYWH, TW. They may not be a direct influence but thematically they were cut from the same cloth (just came in different audio packaging)

  3. You nailed it with that bit of research “Speaking of Syd – Sid Vicous was probably named after the iconic Floyd founder…” It all makes sense now… thanks John…

  4. I think Pink Floyd were a world away from punk ESPECIALLY SID VICOUS AND THE SEX PISTOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were a big influence on many other music artists and anyone for that matter!!!!! From Syd Barrett days till now they are one of the greatest bands of all time!!!!!!!! They can sing,play instruments,write lyrics. ‘properly’.
    They didn’t SPIT…… not once!!!!!!!!!

  5. I think Syd-era Floyd were always an implicit Punk touchstone. Barrett himself, especially, was considered a crucial figure. He was even held in high esteem by McLaren, who may have disparaged the remainder of the band as middle class students but held Syd up as the embodiment of the anarchic spirit he hoped the Pistols would continue. However, making a break with the past was a much more pressing concern at that time. Time being relative, the youthful Pistols may have disparaged Syd as a old acid burn out, and his former bandmates as middle-class and middle aged (despite only being about ten years older – decades being eternity in pop). But this is an ‘older-brother-killing’ exercise. From the perspective of 2017, Piper sounds utterly Punkoid, and where it isn’t, is adventurous in ways that bands, punk and otherwise, ought not to be afriad of exploring. The ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ pose was simply a sacred cow slaughtering shock effect to rile the Rock Fan out of their complacency, and surely also masks a jealousy of the success and talent all incarnations of the Floyd demonstrated.

  6. Well, the Animals album is the classic Floyd lineups musical bridgehead from prog to punk attitudes. Roger Waters recent solo ITTLWRW continues that tradition and one John Lydon no less recently admits to admiring Waters spirit and that Pink Floyd era without mentioning him by name. Also, Waters ex-wife Jude taught his brother clay modelling or similar. Another connection. Only Syd & Rick could play their instruments properly at first and even then Syd detuned his guitar. Syd dalliances with the flower power era were very short-lived and soon replaced by more nihilistic type attitudes and anarchic self-destruction of both himself and eventually his own Floyd’s commercial output. A template aped less than a decade later by those fascinated by all the Syd Barrett legendary drug casualty, amatuer drug pharmacy type analysis of a guy high on drugs, who depending on your viewpoint, crashed and burned on the drugs whilst throwing in the towel on pop fame and stardom. Put it this way I played A Piper At The Gates Of Dawn to friends back in ’78 and told them it was a ‘punk album’ and wasn’t rumbled for some time. It has the same pioneering spirit as English Punk 1976. I rest my case.

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