Pink Floyd is, without a doubt, one of the best-selling groups of all time. Thanks in part to the runaway success of cultural touchstone albums The Darkside of the Moon and The Wall, Pink Floyd has enjoyed massive sales and placement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And with the successful release of their first new song in 28 years, Pink Floyd has reminded the world why they’re one of the most talented and inventive groups of musicians ever assembled.
Despite their incredible album sales (reports estimate they’ve moved somewhere between 200 million and 250 million records since they formed in the 1960s) and public recognition, their greatest legacy may lay their influence on contemporary bands. There are tons of groups—both in the spotlight and underground—who owe much of their sound to Pink Floyd.
Today, we’re walking through six awesome bands that have been influenced by the great Pink Floyd. But before we dive in, let’s recap a quick history of the band to understand the expansive shifts in their nuanced sound.
A Quick History of Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd has always been known for their exploratory sound (one that’s often wavered between progressive and psychedelic), philosophical lyrics, and immersive live shows.
But their origins were a bit more humble. In their early days, when they were led by creative force Syd Barrett, the band experimented with long sets emphasizing guitar solos and plenty of lights (decisions that were often ridiculed by detractors).
Under Syd Barrett’s guidance, the band’s sound was extremely psychedelic—even acidic. 1967’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn was an intricate affair, slipping between Beatle-esque melodies and complex, psychedelic soundscapes.
Unfortunately, Syd Barrett’s mental health was deteriorating, and he quickly grew more and more distant and more and more difficult to work with, both on the stage and within the studio. One story even tells of Syd trying to teach the band a new song, but changing the way it was played every time he showed it to them, making it impossible for them to learn the “real” version.
With such creative and procedural difficulties in the way of the band’s growth, Barrett agreed to leave in early 1968, and his vacancy was filled by David Gilmour. As we’ll see later on, Barrett no longer contributed to the band musically, but his friendship and impact would remain incredibly influential on the band’s creative direction in the future.
Over the next few years, Pink Floyd released a slew of albums, including:
- A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) – Somewhat of a continuation of the band’s first album and the sound they established, A Saucerful of Secrets is tense and unsettling, often creating a sense of unease through its instrumentation. The title track, for example, is extremely fraught.
- Ummagumma (1969) – Named after a slang term for sex, Ummagumma was a double album compilation of live tracks and solo compositions from individual band members. A strange and unique approach to building an album, Ummagumma has since been panned by both critics and the band members themselves.
- Atom Mother Heart (1970) – Bookended by two massive tracks (the title track opener runs nearly 24 minutes), Atom Mother Heart featured soft melodies and lovely acoustic guitars—as well as long keyboard chords and sustained electric guitars. One could argue that the title track was an important stepping stone to reaching the band’s “classic” phase.
These albums eventually led to Meddle in 1971. Meddle ascended to No. 3 on the UK charts—and spent a whopping 82 weeks in the rankings. In Meddle, we hear the band embracing the sound they would come to be known for—especially in their classic era. The opening track “One of These Days” is a multi-sectional psychedelic romp, while closer “Echoes” is an ambitious and expansive sensory experience.
Pink Floyd’s Classic Era
Two years later, Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon, an instant classic and one of the most popular rock albums of all time. Although the band had become known for their long (very long) tracks, The Dark Side of the Moon committed to shorter songs (the longest track on the album, “Us and Them,” runs 7:49), and the album is riddled with Pink Floyd classics: “Breathe (In the Air),” “Time,” “The Great Gig In the Sky,” “Money”—nearly every song is a standout.
And while the band is musically tighter and arguably more deliberate on The Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters’ lyrics are also more intense and direct, addressing timeless issues such as greed, time, death, and mental health (with plenty of inspiration pulled from the band’s relationship with Syd Barrett).
After touring for The Dark Side of the Moon, the band recorded and released Wish You Were Here in 1975. Dedicated in large part to Syd Barrett, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here” were about the band’s friendship with Barrett, and “Welcome to the Machine” was about the difficulty of dealing with the rougher sides of life. Like many albums before it, Wish You Were Here blended expansive psychedelic tracks and beautiful acoustic songs.
Following Wish You Were Here, the band released Animals in 1977, a concept album addressing the contemporary socio-political climate within Britain. A bit more progressive than their previous work, Animals was partially inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm (you’ll notice that each track is named after a different type of animal).
Although Animals didn’t produce any noteworthy singles, the story behind Animals is critical to understanding Pink Floyd as a band. While on tour promoting the album, the band found themselves playing stadiums for the first time—something they found incredibly uncomfortable. The tension and pressure began to disrupt the members’ already-tense relationships, and Roger Waters even found himself spitting into the crowd at one point. This, however, would turn out to be a driving force behind the next record: The Wall.
Released in 1979, The Wall was an incredibly successful record that nearly reached the heights of The Dark Side of the Moon. A concept double-album about a man growing up through WWII, joining the music industry, and becoming an isolated megalomaniac, The Wall even spun out a full-length film telling the story of the album’s main character.
As with The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall focused on delivering tracks in the more traditional rock structure, but it also went a step further: many of the songs on The Wall eschew prog and psychedelic tendencies to produce something we would simply call classic rock. Songs like “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” “Young Lust,” and “Comfortably Numb” are incredible, timeless tracks even to this day.
After The Wall, the band released The Final Cut in 1983. A mix of new material and unused songs from The Wall, The Final Cut was another concept album—a response to the Falkland Wars by exploring the trials of Roger Waters’ father during WWII.
The Final Cut received mixed reviews. And although it ranked number one in the UK and sold a million copies in the USA, it was the band’s poorest performing record since Meddle.
Sonically, though, The Final Cut took many of its cues from The Wall, mixing intense emotional sections with upbeat rock and roll numbers, including “Not Now John” (which occasionally packs the same punch as “Young Lust”).
The Gilmour-Led Era
After The Final Cut, the band’s internal tensions reached a head. Roger Waters, the primary creative force behind Pink Floyd since Syd Barrett’s departure, walked away, and he even sued at one point to kill the use of the Pink Floyd name in new commercial endeavors. The lawsuit failed, however, and the band marched on—this time led by David Gilmour.
1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for its instrumentation and inventiveness, but derision for its lyrics and writing.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason embraced much of the classic ‘80s sound happening around the band: the big drums, the big keyboards, the big guitar solos. Singles like “Learning to Fly” and “One Slip” were landmark moments on the record, but it wasn’t enough to save the album from the critics.
After A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the band members pursued their own creative projects for a few years—before reforming to release The Division Bell in 1994.
The Division Bell was an enormous financial success, immediately charting in the UK and USA, and even selling a whopping 5 million tickets for the tour, which raked in an impressive $100 million.
The Division Bell channeled much of that big, bombastic sound within A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and while the album was praised for its opening, it was heavily criticized for its weaker second half (though songs like “Take It Back” and “Coming Back to Life” do a valiant job of holding the record up).
The Division Bell would be the last of Pink Floyd’s studio work (unless you count the 2014 compilation album The Endless River) until the recent release of “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!” about the war in Ukraine.
Contemporary Bands Influenced By Pink Floyd
Now that we have a better sense of Pink Floyd’s history and sound, we’re ready to dip into a longer list of bands influenced by Pink Floyd.
1. Tame Impala
Perhaps the most successful act on this list (“The Less I Know The Better” has more than 1 billion Spotify streams as of this writing), Tame Impala is the brainchild of Australian solo artist Kevin Parker.
Because Tame Impala is heavily influenced by ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic rock, spotting the likes of The Beatles, The Doors, and Pink Floyd is quite easy in Parker’s first few records as Tame Impala.
Early Tame Impala was deliberately fuzzy, lo-fi, and textured, giving it a sound like it was plucked out of the radio from decades before. A few perfect examples:
In “It Is Not Meant to Be,” you can hear elements of the Syd Barrett-led The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, especially in those ethereal vocals.
“Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” has that bombastic, unpredictable psychedelic quality that permeated so much of Pink Floyd’s early work.
2. King Buffalo
King Buffalo is a heavy psychedelic trio from Rochester, New York, located just outside of Buffalo. Consistently ranked among the greatest and most polished acts of the rock and metal underground, King Buffalo owes much of its sound (and success) to Pink Floyd, the psychedelic pioneers.
For starters, much of King Buffalo’s sound is built on a consistent pattern: Establish a shimmering riff, add reverb, then blast into overdrive for massive choruses. Those glittering guitar riffs are, perhaps, the closest and most immediate tie back to Pink Floyd, as one can easily recall moments from Dark Side of the Moon or even Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
But one of the most overt connections back to Pink Floyd is in the intro to “Orion,” which guitarist and frontman Sean McVay says is a nod to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” (the open and close from Wish You Were Here), and “Morning Song,” which mirrors Pink Floyd’s acoustic side:
Listen to those intro notes of “Orion” and imagine it alongside “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
“Morning Song” does what so many Pink Floyd songs do: it melds beautiful acoustic sections with lovely electric guitars and flat, deliberate vocals.
3. Porcupine Tree
An English progressive rock band that flows seamlessly between psychedelic rock and progressive metal (sometimes within the same song), Porcupine Tree was initially formed in 1987. Though it was originally intended to be a light-hearted side project with an amusing, fictional backstory, the project grew into something much bigger as critics and fans unironically latched onto the music.
Although the Porcupine Tree sound has evolved over the decades, the Pink Floyd influence has remained consistent. A few examples:
“Lips of Ashes” is a taut acoustic track that immediately dips into the psychedelic, calling to mind moments from The Wall—and those flat, layered vocals only solidify the connection even further.
Like many of the songs in their discography, “Russia on Ice” features a wide range of sounds and textures. What begins with a tense keyboard arrangement eventually leads into a tense metal song with a thick bassline and whirling guitars. With that in mind, the song sounds like it pulls influences from The Dark Side of the Moon (especially with the keyboard) and the heavier moments of 1971’s Meddle (especially “One of These Days”).
4. Dream Theater
Known for blending their outstanding technical proficiency with intricate songwriting, Dream Theater has been one of the world’s premier prog metal bands since they first garnered the spotlight in the early ‘90s.
And while they admittedly owe plenty to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica, they openly praise their Pink Floyd heroes—so much so that they included The Dark Side of the Moon in their cover series for a full reinterpretation.
But Pink Floyd’s influence goes well beyond dramatic keyboard solos and multi-sectional songs. Dream Theater’s 1999 album, Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory, a concept album about a troubled man undergoing hypnotherapy and trying to solve the murder of a young woman, was directly influenced by a number of noteworthy prog concept albums—including Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Final Cut.
Of course, there are many moments that are much more overt:
The saxophone solo in “Another Day” from 1992’s Images and Words calls to mind classic Pink Floyd.
The first few moments of the intro to “Scene Two: I. Overture 1928” is very reminiscent of The Wall.
5. Mount Hush
One of the best bands you’ve likely never heard of, Mount Hush is what Pink Floyd could have been if the Roger Waters-led era committed to jamming out. Psychedelic and endlessly chill, Mount Hush’s 2020 self-titled album channeled many of the hallmark moments of Pink Floyd’s classic era.
A couple of examples:
The incredible saxophone solo on “Fuenf” calls to mind instrumental peaks from The Dark Side of the Moon.
The slow, gradual build behind “The Ascent” is similar to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” or “Breathe (In the Air),” and you can easily hear David Gilmour’s influence on the guitar tone and Richard Wright’s influence on the keyboard.
Article by Patrick Schober.
About Pat: Pat Schober grew up on a steady diet of Pink Floyd, learning the words to “The Dark Side of the Moon” in his father’s pickup truck before his feet could reach the floor. Today, Pat often writes about psychedelic music as the editor of Monster Riff, a website dedicated to stoner rock, doom metal, and (of course) psych.