Rock Out To These Little-Known Facts About Pink Floyd

Fans of classic rock have certainly heard a song or two by Pink Floyd. They are one of the most commercially successful bands of all time, known for songs such as “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Hey You,” “Wish You Were Here,” and many more. After selling over 250 million records worldwide, members David Gilmour, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Bob Klose, and Richard Wright will go down in music history. Now, read on for some little-known facts about Pink Floyd that even many superfans wouldn’t even know.

“Arnold Layne” Was Based On A Real Person

band members of pink floyd in psychedelic lighting
Andrew Whittuck/Redferns/Getty Images
Andrew Whittuck/Redferns/Getty Images

“Arnold Layne” was Pink Floyd’s debut single and was released on March 10, 1967. The song was written about a real person that band member Roger Waters knew personally.

“Both my mother and Syd’s mother had students as lodgers because there was a girls’ college up the road, so there were constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines and ‘Arnold’ or whoever he was, had bits off our washing lines,” said Waters.

Nick Mason’s Vocals Are Rarely Heard

English drummer Nick Mason of rock group Pink Floyd being interviewed
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Nick Mason is best known as the drummer for Pink Floyd, so it was rare to hear his vocals on the tracks. He is one of the founding members of the band, but his vocals were rarely featured.

For example, Mason uttered only one sentence in the song “One of These Days” from Meddle. His voice was slowed down in order to sound scary. There are only a handful of other times Mason is heard in their recordings.

A Staggering Statistic About The Dark Side Of The Moon

Album cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon with a triangle and rainbow
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon is the third best-selling album of all time. Released in 1973, there have been over 45 million records sold. It topped the Billboard charts for 957 weeks, which is equivalent to more than 18 years, and was selected for the United States National Recording Registry.

Some Pink Floyd fans may not know that there’s a unique fact about the magnitude of this album. It is estimated that 1 in 12 people own the album!

They Recorded Next To The Beatles

The Beatles play pianos at Abbey Road Studios, London, circa 1967
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images

Several famous artists have recorded music at Abbey Road Studios in London, England with the most prolific being the Beatles. Pink Floyd had the opportunity to record some of their music while the Beatles were doing the same.

In 1967, Pink Floyd recorded their first studio album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band right next to them. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was massively successful and heralded the Summer of Love.

The Inspiration Behind Atom Heart Mother

pink floyd posing for a photo in 1967
Cyrus Andrews/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Cyrus Andrews/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Pink Floyd was always able to find inspiration around them when it came to their music. Their 1970 album, Atom Heart Mother, has a unique story behind it.

The album was inspired after the band saw a newspaper headline about a woman being fitted for the very first atomic pacemaker. The album was the first to not include the band’s name or a photo of them. Instead, they used a photo of a cow on a field.

They Went To Outer Space (Sort Of)

an astronaut doing a space walk to the International Space Station
NASA/Getty Images
NASA/Getty Images

Not many bands have had the chance to travel to outer space. While the members of Pink Floyd didn’t actually get launched into space, one of their albums did.

Russian cosmonauts took their live 1988 album, Delicate Sound of Thunder, to space in 1989. It turned out to be the very first rock album to ever be played in space. The decision to go with Delicate Sound of Thunder was because it was one of the very few Pink Floyd albums released in Russia.

They Are Banned By Several Venues

members of pink floyd in a black and white portrait
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Pink Floyd are known for their over-the-top and original live performances. They aren’t afraid to go all out in order to create a live visual spectacle. While this can be entertaining to see live, they also have caused some huge safety hazards.

The band was banned by several venues because of their risky special effects which included pyrotechnics. For example, in 1989 they played on a floating stage in Venice, Italy for 200,000 people, which ruined bridges and marble that were several centuries old.

Pink Floyd Were Huge Monty Python Fans

comedians from monty python in a still from monty python and the holy grail
Warner Bros./Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Warner Bros./Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Monty Python were one of the most popular comedy troupes during the ’60s and ’70s and they had some pretty famous fans. Pink Floyd were such huge fans of Monty Python that they even did them a massive favor.

The band gave them a ton of money in order for them to make their timeless and classic comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was the highest-grossing British film of 1975 and is still considered to be one of the best comedies of all time.

References To A Historic Novel Were Used On Animals

David Gilmour playing guitar in 1971
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Those familiar with the cover art for Pink Floyd’s 10th studio album, Animals, will remember the Battersea Power Station with a flying pig balloon in the distance. The artwork was actually inspired by a famous novel.

The band got the idea to include the flying pig against the backdrop of the power plant from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Many of the lyrics on the album are also based on the book, which describes the different social and economic classes as animals.

The Original Members’ Last Performance

David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright from the band Pink Floyd on stage in 2005
MJ Kim/Getty Images
MJ Kim/Getty Images

Since the founding members left Pink Floyd at different times, it was rare that audiences were able to see them all together in their later years. In 2005, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, and Roger Waters reunited at the Live8 concert in Hyde Park, London.

The four founding members hadn’t been together since 1981. Sadly, it was also the last time they were all together before they went their separate ways. “[It is] quite emotional, standing up here with these three guys after all these years,” said Waters.

They Were The First Band To Use Surround Sound

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd perform on stage in 1980
Pete Still/Redferns/Getty Images
Pete Still/Redferns/Getty Images

Pink Floyd was always trying to be innovative when it came to their sound. In 1967, they premiered their second single, “See Emily Play,” and used a quadrophonic device called an Azimuth Co-ordinator.

Richard Wright was able to control a joystick to give the music 270-degree surround sound, which produced a sonic swirling effect. Five years later, they were able to update to a full 360-degree surround sound system. Also, Roger Waters would experiment with synthesizers and Nick Mason would experiment with Holophonic audio systems.

Coming Up With The Band Name

Pink Floyd at a photo session in the Japanese garden, Tokyo, March 1972
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Many bands have unusual stories about how they got their names. Lead singer Syd Barrett knew the perfect name for his band after thinking about some of his favorite musicians.

Barrett was a fan of East Coast Piedmont blues singers Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, so he blended their first names together to get Pink Floyd. He thought of the band’s name very spur of the moment because he noticed their albums in his collection.

Naomi Watts’ Dad Had A Deep Connection With The Band

Naomi Watts posing for a photo
Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images
Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images

Naomi Watts is one of Hollywood’s most respected actresses and she has some family members who had been involved in the entertainment industry long before her career. Her father, Peter Watts, was the road manager for Pink Floyd.

The band even recorded him laughing maniacally and featured it on their songs “Speak to Me” and “Brain Damage” from The Dark Side of the Moon. His wife and Naomi’s mother, Patricia “Puddie” Watts also contributed some lyrics to the album.

The Dark Side Of The Moon Syncs With A Popular Musical Film

Pink Floyd performing live in 1975
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most well-known albums in music history. Fans noticed something interesting about the album after watching a particular movie musical.

They figured out that The Dark Side of the Moon perfectly syncs to The Wizard of Oz. People should start the album the exact moment the MGM lion roars the third time. Nick Mason said that the album was actually meant to sync with The Sound of Music and has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz.

Stanley Kubrick Wanted To Use Their Music In A Clockwork Orange

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange
Hawk Films/MovieStillsDB
Hawk Films/MovieStillsDB

Pink Floyd released the album Atom Heart Mother in 1970, which was around the time Stanley Kubrick was working on his film, A Clockwork Orange. He was a fan of their music and thought it would be a good match for the movie.

He asked the band if he could use their 23-minute title track, but they refused. Pink Floyd didn’t know where he would use it in the movie, which could possibly cause some negative reactions from fans and critics. Even years later, Roger Waters had no regrets about his decision.

They Recorded An Album In Pompeii

Roger Waters playing guitar
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Located in the southern part of Campania, Italy is the historic archaeological site of Pompeii. It was once a thriving city, but became a place of ruin after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Now, Pompeii is open to the public with excavated artifacts to explore. Pink Floyd filmed a concert called Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii at Pompeii’s ancient Roman amphitheater, but they didn’t have an audience. Director Adrian Maben visited the amphitheater on vacation a couple years prior and thought it would be the perfect concert venue because it was quiet and filled with ambient sounds.

Pink Floyd Had An Insect Named After Them

members of Pink Floyd posing for a photo in 1971
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

There were many instances throughout Pink Floyd’s career where they knew their music would live on forever. One of those times occurred in Africa in 2015.

A new species of insect called a damselfly was discovered there and the scientists wanted to give it a unique name. They came up with “Umma gumma,” which is a direct reference to Pink Floyd’s 1969 experimental album called Ummagumma. Pink Floyd thought of the term “Ummagumma” because it’s a common Cambridge slang word.

The Meaning Behind “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2”

Psychedelic rock group Pink Floyd pose for a portrait shrouded in pink
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One of the most successful singles by Pink Floyd is “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” Like many songs of the band’s era, it was written as a form of protest.

Pink Floyd wrote the song to protest against boarding schools and the strict policies at those schools that made them feel as though students were cogs in a machine. They added vocals from a children’s choir to give it more emotional depth.

Roger Waters Broke Music Records As A Solo Artist

roger waters playing the bass
Raphael Dias/Getty Images
Raphael Dias/Getty Images

Roger Waters is best-known for being the songwriter, singer, bassist, composer, and co-founder of Pink Floyd. He left due to creative differences in 1985 and had a legal dispute about the band still using the name “Pink Floyd” after he left.

The last album Waters appeared on was 1983’s The Final Cut. He conceived and wrote the entire album without any help from the rest of the band. He went on to be a solo artist and his live tour from 2010-2013 became the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist at that time.

Meddle Syncs Up To 2001: A Space Odyssey

Keir Dullea as Dr. David Bowman in 2001 a space odyssey
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

There is another Pink Floyd fan theory going around about one of their albums syncing to an iconic movie. One of the songs on their Meddle album supposedly syncs up to a scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

According to film blogger Steve Biodrowski, the song “Echoes” on side two of Meddle intentionally was composed and recorded to synchronize with the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” sequence in the movie. The song is 23 minutes and 21 seconds long.