University students Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Syd Barrett, and Richard Wright formed the band in 1965. Barrett was originally the creative leader of the band and their early singles and albums are mostly his work. The band was very experimental in nature for its day, blending complex arrangements, sonic experimentation, and philosophical lyrics. Later, David Gimour joined as a second guitarist as Syd Barrett's mental health began to deteriorate. Gradually, the majority of the creative guidance passed to Roger Waters.
Early influences included bands like 'The Searchers' and numerous R&B performers. But Pink Floyd tended to be rather original from the get-go. They were pioneers of the psychedelic scene blending sonically strange music with abstract visuals and projections. It is trite to suggest one of the main influences was probably LSD, but it is likely somewhat true.
Main Creative Force
Roger Waters is responsible for the band's most recognizable sounds and concepts. While all the members of Floyd contributed to writing and the creative process, it is really Waters who is the main creative force. Most of their albums were concept-driven with songs blending together and creating a seamless sonic ride. Waters was the key arranger of this sound.
Most Likely To Be A Mainstream Rocker
While any member of Floyd could certainly hold his own in most any musical millieu, David Gilmour is a lead guitarist whose work has been in high demand as a studio musician over the years. He has performed in support of a galaxy of rock superstars and has also lent his skills as a producer. Gilmour probably has had more influence outside of Pink Floyd than any other member of the band.
First Hint of Prog Brilliance
Early albums like 'Saucerful of Secrets', 'Ummagumma', and 'Atom Heart Mother' all sound like what Pink Floyd would become. In truth, the hallmarks of their sound were there from the beginning and I think for those who were watching the progressive or art scene, Pink Floyd was always influential and significant.
In 1973, Pink Floyd released one of the most successful recordings in music history, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'.
Since its release, the album has spent a total of 1500 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart. It has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. The album really only spawned one hit that saw consistent radio airplay, the socially scathing Money. Another single, Time, was less successful. From the standpoint of commercial accessibility through hits, the album is baffling. It should not have the level of sales it does, based on traditional measures of popularity. But the album as a whole has a power that defies virtually every recording made since.
Influenced By Them
Probably every single psychedelic rock band from 1970 on can claim Pink Floyd as an influence. As a cultural phoenomena, their album, 'The Wall' deserves special mention for its social impact on the entire world during the closing years of the Cold War.
The band's albums from the 70s - from 'Dark Side of the Moon' to 'Wish You Were Here' to 'Animals' and finally 'The Wall' can be considered a monumental achievement in rock and roll. They are all superb albums and should establish Roger Waters as a creative genius with few if any peers. Pink Floyd is unique among progressive bands. The quality of the music, the lyrical content, and the heavy use of concept albums makes them undeniably a Prog band. But their unparalleled popularity and commercial success are an amazing accomplishment for any musician, let alone a Prog band. Consequently, of all the progressive rock bands throughout history, they are one of the hardest for the Almighty RRHOF to ignore. They were inducted into the Rock Hall in 1996.
My Personal Take
From my earliest association with prog in the late 60s, Pink Floyd was the music most associated with drugs. Getting high and listening to Floyd was somewhat iconic. After all, it was pretty spacey music and generally of the slow, symphonic style that was easiest to assimilate when your mental faculties were chemically impaired. I freely admit I wasn't into Floyd before Dark Side but I have gone back and heard some of the earlier stuff and it was equally brilliant. For my money, Wish You Were Here is still my favorite. But I worked a number of years in and around radio during which time I always had access to the weekly Billboard magazine and the phenomenal run of Dark Side on the album chart is legendary. Still an accomplishment worthy of awe.
One Pink Floyd anecdote: When I was working as a wedding photographer in the 90s, I did one wedding where a cousin of the groom had been asked to DJ the dance. He had not bothered to ask the couple what music they wanted for their first dance and when he realized this was expected, he panicked because he'd brought a ton of heavy metal and very little that was pop or even remotely romantic. The couple just told him to play something slow that they could dance to. He turned to me for advice and after looking through his CD collection, the only song even remotely suitable in terms of tempo was Comfortably Numb from 'The Wall'. I hope no one took it as an omen.