Led Zeppelin was the definitive heavy metal band. It wasn't just their crushingly loud interpretation of the blues — it was how they incorporated mythology, mysticism, and a variety of other genres (most notably world music and British folk) — into their sound. Led Zeppelin had mystique. They rarely gave interviews, since the music press detested the band. Consequently, the only connection the audience had with the band was through the records and the concerts. More than any other band, Led Zeppelin established the concept of album-oriented rock, refusing to release popular songs from their albums as singles. In doing so, they established the dominant format for heavy metal, as well as the genre's actual sound.
Led Zeppelin formed out of the ashes of the Yardbirds. Jimmy Page had joined the band in its final days, playing a pivotal role on their final album, 1967's Little Games, which also featured string arrangements from John Paul Jones. During 1967, the Yardbirds were fairly inactive. While the Yardbirds decided their future, Page returned to session work in 1967. In the spring of 1968, he played on Jones' arrangement of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man." During the sessions, Jones requested to be part of any future project Page would develop. Page would have to assemble a band sooner than he had planned. In the summer of 1968, the Yardbirds' Keith Relf and James McCarty left the band, leaving Page and bassist Chris Dreja with the rights to the name, as well as the obligation of fulfilling an upcoming fall tour. Page set out to find a replacement vocalist and drummer. Initially, he wanted to enlist singer Terry Reid and Procol Harum's drummer B.J. Wilson, but neither musician was able to join the group. Reid suggested that Page contact Robert Plant, who was singing with a band called Hobbstweedle.
After hearing him sing, Page asked Plant to join the band in August of 1968, the same month Chris Dreja dropped out of the new project. Following Dreja's departure, John Paul Jones joined the group as its bassist. Plant recommended that Page hire John Bonham, the drummer for Plant's old band, the Band of Joy. Bonham had to be persuaded to join the group, as he was being courted by other artists who offered the drummer considerably more money. By September, Bonham agreed to join the band. Performing under the name the New Yardbirds, the band fulfilled the Yardbirds' previously booked engagements in late September 1968. The following month, they recorded their debut album in just under 30 hours. Also in October, the group switched their name to Led Zeppelin. The band secured a contract with Atlantic Records in the United States before the end of the year. Early in 1969, Led Zeppelin set out on their first American tour, which helped set the stage for the January release of their eponymous debut album. Two months after its release, Led Zeppelin had climbed into the U.S. Top Ten. Throughout 1969, the band toured relentlessly, playing dates in America and England. While they were on the road, they recorded their second album, Led Zeppelin II, which was released in October of 1969. Like its predecessor, Led Zeppelin II was an immediate hit, topping the American charts two months after its release and spending seven weeks at number one. The album helped establish Led Zeppelin as an international concert attraction, and for the next year, the group continued to tour relentlessly. Led Zeppelin's sound began to deepen with Led Zeppelin III. Released in October of 1970, the album featured an overt British folk influence. The group's infatuation with folk and mythology would reach a fruition on the group's untitled fourth album, which was released in November of 1971. Led Zeppelin IV was the band's most musically diverse effort to date, featuring everything from the crunching rock of "Black Dog" to the folk of "The Battle of Evermore," as well as "Stairway to Heaven," which found the bridge between the two genres. "Stairway to Heaven" was an immediate radio hit, eventually becoming the most played song in the history of album-oriented radio; the song was never released as a single. Despite the fact that the album never reached number one in America, Led Zeppelin IV was their biggest album ever, selling well over 16 million copies over the next two and a half decades.
Led Zeppelin did tour to support both Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV, but they played fewer shows than they did on their previous tours. Instead, they concentrated on only playing larger venues. After completing their 1972 tour, the band retreated from the spotlight and recorded their fifth album. Released in the spring of 1973, Houses of the Holy continued the band's musical experimentation, featuring touches of funk and reggae among their trademark rock and folk. Houses of the Holy debuted at number one in both America and Britain, setting the stage for a record-breaking American tour. Throughout their 1973 tour, Led Zeppelin broke box-office records — most of which were previously held by the Beatles — across America. The group's concert at Madison Square Garden in July was filmed for use in the feature film The Song Remains the Same, which was released three years later. After their 1973 tour, Led Zeppelin spent a quiet year during 1974, releasing no new material and performing no concerts. They did, however, establish their own record label, Swan Song, which released all of Led Zeppelin's subsequent albums, as well as records by Dave Edmunds, Bad Company, the Pretty Things, and several others. Physical Graffiti, a double album released in February of 1975, was the band's first release on Swan Song. The album was an immediate success, topping the charts in both America and England. Led Zeppelin planned to launch a large American tour in the late summer of 1975 when Robert Plant and his wife suffered a serious car crash while vacationing in Greece. Plans for the tour were cancelled and Plant spent the rest of the year recuperating from the accident.
Led Zeppelin returned to action in the spring of 1976 with Presence. Although the album debuted at number one in both America and England, the reviews for the album were lukewarm, as was the reception to the live concert film The Song Remains the Same, which appeared in the fall of 1976. The band finally returned to tour America in the Spring of 1977. A couple of months into the tour, Plant's six-year-old son Karac died of a stomach infection. Led Zeppelin immediately cancelled the tour and offered no word whether or not it would be rescheduled, causing widespread speculation about the band's future. For a while, it did appear that Led Zeppelin was finished. Robert Plant spent the latter half of 1977 and the better part of 1978 in seclusion. The group didn't begin work on a new album until late in the summer of 1978, when they began recording at ABBA's Polar studios in Sweden. A year later, the band played a short European tour, performing in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Austria. In August of 1979, Led Zeppelin played two large concerts at Knebworth; the shows would be their last English performances.
In Through the Out Door, the band's much-delayed eighth studio album, was finally released in September of 1979. The album entered the charts at number one in both America and England. In May of 1980, Led Zeppelin embarked on their final European tour. In September, Led Zeppelin began rehearsing at Jimmy Page's house in preparation for an American tour. On September 25, John Bonham was found dead in his bed — following an all-day drinking binge, he had passed out and choked on his own vomit. In December of 1980, Led Zeppelin announced they were disbanding, since they could not continue without Bonham.
Following the breakup, the remaining members all began solo careers. John Paul Jones returned to producing and arranging, finally releasing his solo debut Zooma in 1999. After recording the soundtrack for Death Wish II, Jimmy Page compiled the Zeppelin outtakes collection, Coda, which was released at the end of 1982. That same year, Robert Plant began a solo career with the Pictures at Eleven album. In 1984, Plant and Page briefly reunited in the all-star oldies band the Honeydrippers. After recording one EP with the Honeydrippers, Plant returned to his solo career and Page formed the Firm with former Bad Company singer Paul Rogers. In 1985, Led Zeppelin reunited to play Live Aid, sparking off a flurry of reunion rumors; the reunion never materialized. In 1988, the band re-formed to play Atlantic's 25th Anniversary Concert. During 1989, Page remastered the band's catalog for release on the 1990 box set, Led Zeppelin. The four-disc set became the biggest selling multi-disc box set of all time, which was followed up 3 years later by another boxset, the mammoth 10 disc set 'The Complete Studio Recordings.'
In 1994, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited to record a segment for MTV Unplugged, which was released as Unledded in the fall of 1994. Although the album went platinum, the sales were disappointing considering the anticipation of a Zeppelin reunion. The following year, Page and Plant embarked on a successful international tour, which eventually led to an all new studio recording in '98 — the Steve Albini-produced 'Walking into Clarksdale.' Surprisingly, the album was met with a cool reception by the record buying public, as Page and Plant ended their union shortly thereafter, once again going their separate ways (Page would go on to tour with the Black Crowes, while Plant would resume his solo career). Further Zeppelin compilation releases saw the light of day in the late-90s, including 97's stellar double disc 'BBC Sessions,' plus Zep's first true 'best of' collections — 99's 'Early Days: The Best of Vol. 1' and 2000s 'Latter Days: The Best of Vol. 2.'. —
1969 Led Zeppelin [I] Atlantic
1969 Led Zeppelin II Atlantic
1970 Led Zeppelin III Atlantic
1971 Led Zeppelin IV Atlantic
1973 Houses of the Holy Atlantic
1975 Physical Graffiti Swan Song
1976 The Song Remains the Same [live] Swan Song
1976 Presence Swan Song
1979 In Through the Out Door Swan Song
1982 Coda Swan Song
1990 Led Zeppelin [Box Set] Swan Song x
1991 Remasters Highlights [Double Cassette]
1991 Greatest Hits [Import] Alex
1992 Led Zeppelin Remasters Swan Song x
1993 Led Zeppelin [Box Set 2] Swan Song x
1993 Complete Studio Recordings Swan Song x
1997 BBC Sessions [live] Atlantic
1999 Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 Atlantic
2000 Latter Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 2 Atlantic
2001 Making Of Lake Shore
2001 A Legend in Their Own Lifetime Rockview
Led Zeppelin [Joker] Joker
Nace en 1968 con Ritchie Blackmore (gui), Jon Lord (tec), Nick Simper (bj), Ian Paice (bat), Rod Evans (voz). Toman el nombre de una canción de los 40. 1º álbum: Shades of Deep Purple (Tetragrammaton), que incluye el éxito Hush. 2º LP: The Book of Taliesyn, que incluye Kentucky Woman de Neil Diamond. 1969: 3º LP, Deep Purple, que incluye April, Part 1 & 2 (sección orquestal de cuerdas). A fines de ese año despiden a Simper y Evans, reemplazados por Roger Glover y por Ian Gillan. Graban Concerto for Group and Orchestra de Lord, con la Philarmonic Orchestra de Londres, esto al fin les abre las puertas en Inglaterra. 1970: en julio editan LP In Rock, que incluye Child in Time, Speed King y otros. 1971: LP Fireball, que incluye The Mule y Strange Kind of Woman. A fines de ese año, Lord graba Gemini Suite. 1972: LP Machine Head que incluye Lazy, Space Truckin, Highway Star y Smoke on the Water. Giras diversas, incluyendo por Japón, origen de Made in Japan, 1º álbum doble en vivo en la historia. 1973: LP Who Do We Think We Are?, bajón. Gillan (exitoso con su participación en Jesus Christ Superstar) y Glover se retiran, reemplazados por Glenn Hughes y David Coverdale. Se graban Burn (1974) y Stormbringer (1974). 1975: graban Made in Europe (que sale año y medio después) y se va Blackmore. Entra Tommy Bolin se graba Come On Taste the Band. 1976: se disuelven. 1984: nuevo intento con la formación de Machine Head, graban el LP Perfect Strangers. 1987: LP The House of the Blue Light. 1988: se lanza álbum en vivo Nobody's Perfect. 1989: se va Gillan y entra Joe Lyn Turner. 1993: retorno de Gillan.
Formed 1969 in Birmingham, England
Group Members Ian Gillan Ozzy Osbourne Glenn Hughes Don Airey Vinny Appice Bev Bevan Geezer Butler Terry Chimes Laurence Cottle Bob Daisley Ronnie James Dio Ray Gillen Tony Iommi Neil Murray Geoff Nichols Cozy Powell Bob Rondinelli Eric Singer Dave Spitz Dave Walker Jo Burt Bill Ward Dave Donato Tony Martin Donna Donato Steve Redvers
Black Sabbath has been so influential in the development of heavy metal rock music as to be a defining force in the style. The group took the blues-rock sound of late '60s acts like Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge to its logical conclusion, slowing the tempo, accentuating the bass, and emphasizing screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of lyrics expressing mental anguish and macabre fantasies. If their predecessors clearly came out of an electrified blues tradition, Black Sabbath took that tradition in a new direction, and in so doing helped give birth to a musical style that continued to attract millions of fans decades later.
The group was formed by four teenage friends from Aston, near Birmingham, England: Anthony "Tony" Iommi (b. Feb 19, 1948), guitar; William "Bill" Ward (b. May 5, 1948), drums; John "Ozzy" Osbourne (b. Dec 3, 1948), vocals; and Terence "Geezer" Butler (b. Jul 17, 1949), bass. They originally called their jazz-blues band Polka Tulk, later renaming themselves Earth, and they played extensively in Europe. In early 1969, they decided to change their name again when they found that they were being mistaken for another group called Earth. Butler had written a song that took its title from a novel by occult writer Dennis Wheatley, Black Sabbath, and the group adopted it as their name as well. As they attracted attention for their live performances, record labels showed interest, and they were signed to Phillips Records in 1969. In January 1970, the Phillips subsidiary Fontana released their debut single, "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)," a cover of a song that had just become a U.S. hit for Crow; it did not chart. The following month, a different Phillips subsidiary, Vertigo, released Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album, which reached the U.K. Top Ten. Though it was a less immediate success in the U.S. — where the band's recordings were licensed to Warner Bros. Records and appeared in May 1970 — the LP broke into the American charts in August, reaching the Top 40, remaining in the charts over a year, and selling a million copies.
Appearing at the start of the '70s, Black Sabbath embodied the Balkanization of popular music that followed the relatively homogenous second half of the 1960s. As exemplified by its most popular act, the Beatles, the 1960s suggested that many different aspects of popular music could be integrated into an eclectic style with a broad appeal. The Beatles were as likely to perform an acoustic ballad as a hard rocker or R&B-influenced tune. At the start of the 1970s, however, those styles began to become more discrete for new artists, with soft rockers like James Taylor and the Carpenters emerging to play only ballad material, and hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad taking a radically different course, while R&B music turned increasingly militant. The first wave of rock critics, which had come into existence with the Beatles, was dismayed with this development, and the new acts tended to be poorly reviewed despite their popularity. Black Sabbath, which took an even more extreme tack than the still blues- and folk-based Led Zeppelin, was lambasted by critics (and though they eventually made their peace with Zeppelin, they never did with Sabbath). But the band had discovered a new audience eager for its uncompromising approach.
Black Sabbath quickly followed its debut album with a second album, Paranoid, in September 1970. The title track, released as a single in advance of the LP, hit the Top Five in the U.K., and the album went to number one there. In the U.S., where the first album had just begun to sell, Paranoid was held up for release until January 1971, again preceded by the title track, which made the singles charts in November; the album broke into the Top Ten in March 1971 and remained in the charts over a year, eventually selling over four million copies, by far the band's best-selling effort. (Its sales were stimulated by the belated release of one of its tracks, "Iron Man," as a U.S. single in early 1972; the 45 got almost halfway up the charts, the band's best showing for an American single.)
Master of Reality, the third album, followed in August 1971, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic and selling over a million copies. Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 (September 1972) was another Top Ten million-seller. For Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (November 1973), the band brought in Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman on one track, signaling a slight change in musical direction; it was Black Sabbath's fifth straight Top Ten hit and million-seller. In 1974, the group went through managerial disputes that idled them for an extended period. When they returned to action in July 1975 with their sixth album, Sabotage, they were welcomed back at home, but in the U.S. the musical climate had changed, making things more difficult for an album-oriented band with a heavy style, and though the LP reached the Top 20, it did not match previous sales levels. Black Sabbath's record labels quickly responded with a million-selling double-LP compilation, We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll (December 1975), and the band contemplated a more pronounced change of musical style. This brought about disagreement, with guitarist Iommi wanting to add elements to the sound, including horns, and singer Osbourne resisting any variation in the formula. Technical Ecstasy (October 1976), which adopted some of Iommi's innovations, was another good — but not great — seller, and Osbourne's frustration eventually led to his quitting the band in November 1977. He was replaced for some live dates by former Savoy Brown singer Dave Walker, then returned in January 1978. Black Sabbath recorded its eighth album, Never Say Die! (September 1978), the title track becoming a U.K. Top 40 hit before the LP's release and "Hard Road" making the Top 40 afterwards. But the singles did not improve the album's commercial success, which was again modest, and Osbourne left Black Sabbath for a solo career, replaced in June 1979 by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio (b. June 10, 1949). (Also during this period, keyboardist Geoff Nichols became a regular part of the band's performing and recording efforts, though he was not officially considered a band member until later.)
The new lineup took its time getting into the recording studio, not releasing its first effort until April 1980 with Heaven and Hell. The result was a commercial resurgence. In the U.S., the album was a million-seller; in Britain, it was a Top Ten hit that threw off two chart singles, "Neon Knights" and "Die Young." (At the same time, the band's former British record label issued a five-year old concert album, Black Sabbath Live at Last, that was quickly withdrawn, though not before making the U.K. Top Five, and reissued "Paranoid" as a single, getting it into the Top 20.) Meanwhile, drummer Bill Ward left Black Sabbath due to ill health and was replaced by Vinnie Appice. The lineup of Iommi, Butler, Dio, and Appice then recorded Mob Rules (November 1981), which was almost as successful as its predecessor: In the U.S., it went gold, and in the U.K. it reached the Top 20 and spawned two chart singles, the title track and "Turn up the Night." Next on the schedule was a concert album, but Iommi and Dio clashed over the mixing of it, and by the time Live Evil appeared in January 1983, Dio had left Black Sabbath, taking Appice with him.
The group reorganized by persuading original drummer Bill Ward to return and, in a move that surprised heavy metal fans, recruiting Ian Gillan (b. Aug. 19, 1945), former lead singer of Black Sabbath rivals Deep Purple. This lineup — Iommi, Butler, Ward, and Gillan — recorded Born Again, released in September 1983. Black Sabbath hit the road prior to the album's release, with drummer Bev Bevan (b. Nov 25, 1946) substituting for Ward, who would return to the band in the spring of 1984. The album was a Top Five hit in the U.K. but only made the Top 40 in the U.S. Gillan remained with Black Sabbath until March 1984, when he joined a Deep Purple reunion and was replaced by singer Dave Donato, who was in the band until October without being featured on any of its recordings.
Black Sabbath reunited with Ozzy Osbourne for its set at the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985, but soon after the performance, bassist Geezer Butler left the band, and with that the group became guitarist Tony Iommi's vehicle, a fact emphasized by the next album, Seventh Star, released in January 1986 and credited to "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi." On this release, the lineup was Iommi (guitar); another former Deep Purple singer, Glenn Hughes (b. Aug 21, 1952) (vocals); Dave Spitz (bass); Geoff Nichols (keyboards); and Eric Singer (drums). The album was a modest commercial success, but the new band began to fragment immediately, with Hughes replaced by singer Ray Gillen for the promotional tour in March 1986.
With Black Sabbath now consisting of Iommi and his employees, personnel changes were rapid. The Eternal Idol (November 1987), which failed to crack the U.K. Top 50 or the U.S. Top 100, featured a returning Bev Bevan, bassist Bob Daisley, and singer Tony Martin. Bevan and Daisley didn't stay long, and there were several replacements in the bass and drum positions over the next couple of years. Headless Cross (April 1989), the band's first album for I.R.S. Records, found veteran drummer Cozy Powell (b. Dec 29, 1947, d. Apr 5, 1998) and bassist Laurence Cottle joining Iommi and Martin. It marked a slight uptick in Black Sabbath's fortunes at home, with the title song managing a week in the singles charts. Shortly after its release, Cottle was replaced by bassist Neil Murray. With Geoff Nichols back on keyboards, this lineup made Tyr (August 1990), which charted in the Top 40 in the U.K. but became Black Sabbath's first regular album to miss the U.S. charts.
Iommi was able to reunite the 1979-1983 lineup of the band — himself, Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio, and Vinnie Appice — for Dehumanizer (June 1992), which brought Black Sabbath back into the American Top 50 for the first time in nine years, while in the U.K. the album spawned "TV Crimes," their first Top 40 hit in a decade. And on November 15, 1992, Iommi, Butler, and Appice backed Ozzy Osbourne as part of what was billed as the singer's final live appearance. Shortly after, it was announced that Osbourne would be rejoining Black Sabbath.
That didn't happen — yet. Instead, Dio and Appice left again, and Iommi replaced them by bringing back Tony Martin and adding drummer Bob Rondinelli. Cross Purposes (February 1994) was a modest seller, and, with Iommi apparently maintaining a Rolodex of all former members from which to pick and choose, the next album, Forbidden (June 1995), featured returning musicians Cozy Powell, Geoff Nichols, and Neil Murray, along with Iommi and Martin. The disc spent only one week in the British charts, suggesting that Black Sabbath finally had exhausted its commercial appeal, at least as a record seller. With that, the group followed the lead of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, putting the most popular lineup of the band back together for a live album with a couple of new studio tracks on it. Recorded in the band's hometown of Birmingham, England, in December 1997, the two-CD set Reunion — featuring all four of Black Sabbath's original members, Iommi, Osbourne, Butler, and Ward — was released in October 1998. It charted only briefly in the U.K., but in the U.S. it just missed reaching the Top Ten and went platinum. The track "Iron Man" won Black Sabbath its first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The band toured through the end of 1999, concluding their reunion tour on December 22, 1999, back in Birmingham. In February 2001, Black Sabbath announced that it would reunite once again to headline the sixth edition of Ozzfest, Osbourne's summer concert festival, playing 29 cities in the U.S. beginning in June. More surprisingly, the group also announced its intention to record a studio album of all-new material, the original lineup's first since 1978.
1970 Black Sabbath Warner
1971 Paranoid Warner
1971 Master of Reality Warner
1972 Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 Warner
1973 Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath Warner
1975 Sabotage Warner
1976 Technical Ecstasy Warner
1976 Black Sabbath [NEMS] NEMS
1978 Never Say Die! Warner
1980 Heaven & Hell Warner
1980 Live at Last Nems
1981 The Mob Rules Warner
1982 Live Evil Vertigo
1983 Born Again Warner
1986 Seventh Star Warner
1987 The Eternal Idol Warner
1989 Headless Cross IRS
1990 T Y R IRS
1992 Dehumanizer Warner
1994 Cross Purposes IRS
1995 Forbidden EMI
1998 Cross Purposes [Japan] Import
2000 Best of Black Sabbath [Capitol Special... [live] EMI-Capitol
Formed 1968 in Birmingham, England
Group Members Rick Wakeman Jon Anderson Peter Banks Bill Bruford Steve Howe Trevor Rabin Chris Squire Alan White Tony Kaye
Far and away the longest lasting and the most successful of the 1970s' progressive rock groups, Yes has proved one of the lingering success stories from that musical genre. The band, founded in 1968, has overcome a generational shift in its audience and the departure of its most visible members at key points in its history to reach the end of the century as the definitive progressive rock band. Where rivals such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer withered away commercially after the mid-'70s, and Genesis and King Crimson altered their sounds so radically as to become unrecognizable to their original fans, Yes has retained the same sound, and performs much of the same repertory that they were doing in 1971 — and for their trouble, they find themselves being taken seriously a quarter of a century later. Their audience remains huge because they've always attracted younger listeners drawn to their mix of daunting virtuosity, cosmic (often mystical) lyrics, complex musical textures, and powerful yet delicate lead vocals.
Lead singer Jon Anderson (b. Oct. 25, 1944, Accrington, Lancashire) started out during the British beat boom as a member of the Warriors, who recorded a single for Decca in 1964, and later was in the band Gun, before going solo in 1967 with two singles on the Parlophone label. He was making a meager living cleaning up at a London club called La Chasse during June of 1968, and was thinking of starting up a new band. One day at the bar, he chanced to meet bassist/vocalist Chris Squire, a former member of the band the Syn, who had recorded for Deram, the progressive division of Decca.
The two learned that they shared several musical interests, including an appreciation for the harmony singing of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and within a matter of days were trying to write songs together. They began developing the beginnings of a sound that incorporated harmonies with a solid rock backing, rooted in Squire's very precise approach to the bass. Anderson and Squire saw the groups around them as having either strong vocals and weak instrumental backup, or powerful backup and weak lead vocals, and they sought to combine the best of both. Their initial inspiration, at least as far as the precision of their vocals, according to Squire, was the pop/soul act the Fifth Dimension.
They recruited Tony Kaye (b. Jan. 11, 1946), formerly of the Federals, on keyboards; Peter Banks (b. July 7, 1947), previously a member of the Syn, on guitar; and drummer Bill Bruford (b. May 17, 1948), who had only just joined the blues band Savoy Brown a few weeks earlier. The name Yes was chosen for the band as something short, direct, and memorable.
The British music scene at this time was in a state of flux. The pop/psychedelic era, with its pretty melodies and delicate sounds, was drawing to a close, replaced by the heavier sounds of groups like Cream. Progressive rock, with a heavy dose of late-19th-century classical music, was also starting to make a noise that was being heard, in the guise of acts such as the Nice, featuring Keith Emerson, and the original Deep Purple.
The group's break came in October of 1968 when the band, on the recommendation of the Nice's manager, Tony Stratton-Smith (later the founder of Charisma Records), played a gig at the Speakeasy Club in London, filling in for an absent Sly & the Family Stone. The group was later selected to open for Cream's November 26, 1968 farewell concert at Royal Albert Hall. This concert, in turn, led to a residency at London's Marquee Club and their first radio appearance, on John Peel's Top Gear radio show. They subsequently opened for Janis Joplin at her Royal Albert Hall concert in April 1969, and were signed to Atlantic Records soon after.
Their debut single, and Anderson and Squire's first song, entitled "Sweetness," was released soon after. Their first album, Yes, was released in November of 1969. The record displayed the basic sound that would characterize the band's subsequent records, including impeccable high harmonies, clearly defined, emphatic playing, and an approach to music that derived from folk and classical, far more than the R&B from which most rock music sprung, but it was much more in a pop-music context, featuring covers of Beatles and Byrds songs. Also present was a hint of the "space rock" sound (on "Beyond and Before") in which they would later come to specialize.
Anderson's falsetto lead vocals gave the music an ethereal quality, while Banks' angular guitar, seemingly all picked and none strummed, drew from folk and skiffle elements. Squire's bass had a huge sound, owing to his playing with a pick, giving him one of the most distinctive sounds on the instrument this side of the Who's John Entwistle, while Bruford's drumming was very complex within the pop-song context, and Kaye's playing was rich and melodic.
In February of 1970, Yes supported the Nice at their Royal Albert Hall show, while they were preparing their second album, Time and a Word. By the time it was released in June of 1970, Peter Banks had left the lineup, to be replaced by guitarist Steve Howe (b. Apr. 8, 1947), a former member of the Syndicats, the In Crowd, Tomorrow ("My White Bicycle"), and Bodast. Howe is pictured with the group on the jacket of Time and a Word, which was released in August, and played his first show with the group at Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 21, 1970, but Banks actually played on the album. This record was far more sophisticated than its predecessor, and even included an overdubbed orchestra on some songs, the only time that Yes would rely on outside musicians to augment their sound. The cosmic and mystical elements of their songwriting were even more evident on this album.
The group's fame in England continued to rise as they became an increasingly popular concert attraction, especially after they were seen by millions as the opening act for Iron Butterfly. It was with the release of The Yes Album in April of 1971 that the public began to glimpse the group's full potential.
That record, made up entirely of original compositions, was filled with complex, multi-part harmonies, loud, heavily layered guitar and bass parts, beautiful and melodic drum parts, and surging organ (with piano embellishments) passages bridging them all. Everybody was working on a far more expansive level than on any of their previous recordings — on "Your Move" (which became the group's first U.S. chart entry, at number 40), the harmonies were woven together in layers and patterns that were dazzling in their own right, while "Starship Trooper" (which drew its name from a Robert Heinlein novel, thus reinforcing the group's "space rock" image) and "All Good People" gave Howe, Squire, and Bruford the opportunity to play extended instrumental passages of tremendous forcefulness. "Starship Trooper," "I've Seen All Good People," "Perpetual Change," and "Yours Is No Disgrace" also became parts of the group's concert sets for years to come.
The Yes Album opened a new phase in the group's history and its approach to music. None of it was pop music in the "Top 40" sense of the term. Rather, it was built on compositions which resembled sound paintings, rather than songs — the swelling sound of Kaye's Moog synthesizer and organ, Howe's fluid yet stinging guitar passages, Squire's rippling bass, and Anderson's haunting falsetto leads all evoked sonic landscapes that were strangely compelling to the imagination of the listener.
The Yes Album reached number seven in England and number 40 in America in the spring of 1971. Early in 1971, Yes made their first U.S. tour opening for Jethro Tull, and they were back late in the year sharing billing with Ten Years After and the J. Geils Band. The band began work on their next album, but were interrupted when keyboard player Tony Kaye quit in August of 1971, to join ex-Yes guitarist Peter Banks in the group Flash. He was replaced by former Strawbs keyboard player Rick Wakeman, who played his first shows with the band in September and October of 1971.
Wakeman was a far more flamboyant musician than Kaye, not only in his approach to playing but the number of instruments that he used and the way he played them. In place of the three keyboards that Kaye used, Wakeman used an entire bank of upwards of a dozen instruments, including Mellotron, various synthesizers, organ, two or more pianos, and electric harpsichord. This lineup, Anderson Squire, Howe, Wakeman, and Bruford, which actually only lasted for one year, from August of 1971 until August of 1972, is generally considered the best of all the Yes configurations, and the strongest incarnation of the band.
The group completed their next album, Fragile, in less than two months, partly out of a need to get a new album out to help pay for all of Wakeman's equipment. And partly due to this haste, the new album featured only four tracks by the group as a whole, "Roundabout," "The South Side of the Sky," "Heart of the Sunrise," and "Long Distance Runaround" — although, significantly, all except "Long Distance Runaround" ran between seven and thirteen minutes — and was rounded out by five pieces showcasing each member of the band individually. Anderson's voice was represented in multiple overdubs on "We Have Heaven," while Squire's bass provided the instrumental "The Fish," which later became an important part of the group's concerts; Howe's "Mood for a Day" showed him off as a classical guitarist; Bruford's drums were the focus of "Five Percent for Nothing"; and Wakeman turned in "Cans and Brahms," an electronic keyboard fantasy built on one movement from Brahms's Fourth Symphony.
Fragile, released in December of 1971, reached number seven in England and number four in America. The album's success was enhanced by the release of an edited single of "Roundabout," the group's first (and, for over a decade, only) major hit, which reached number 13 on the U.S. charts. For millions of listeners, "Roundabout," with its crisp interwoven acoustic and electric guitar parts and very vivid bass textures, exquisite vocals (especially the harmonies), swirling keyboard passages, and brisk beat, proved an ideal introduction to the group's sound. Neither Emerson, Lake & Palmer nor King Crimson, the group's leading rivals at that time, ever had so successful a pop-chart entry. The single's impact among teenage and college-age listeners was far greater than this chart position would indicate — they simply flocked to the band, with the result that not only did Fragile sell in huge numbers, but the group's earlier records (especially The Yes Album) were suddenly in demand again.
Even the album's jacket, designed by artist Roger Dean, featured distinctive, surreal landscape graphics, which evoked images seemingly related to the music inside. These paintings would become part-and-parcel with the audience's impression of Yes' music, and later tours by the group would feature stage sets designed by Dean as an integral part of their shows.
The group's appeal was multi-level. In some ways, they were the successors to psychedelic metal bands such as Iron Butterfly — "Roundabout" may have been space rock, with a driving beat that carried the listener soaring into the heavens, but lines like "In and around the lake/Mountains come out of the sky/they stand there" evoked a surreal imagery not far removed (in the minds of some listeners) from "In a Gadda Da Vida," and just as effective, amid Wakeman's swirling synthesizer and Mellotron passages, as a musical background for any druggy indulgences that fans might pursue. These would also be among the last lyrics that fans of the band would have to deal with, apart from anomalies such as the ethereal "I get up, I get down" from "Close to the Edge" or the topical "Don't Kill the Whale" — on most of the band's future releases, and for much of this song as well, Anderson's voice was part of the overall mix of sounds generated by Yes. Some of his lyrics in future years were worth a detailed look, however, often possessing complex subtexts drawn from religious and literary sources which made them good for intellectual analysis, and something that college students could listen to with no shame or rationalizing. In that respect, Yes were as much the successors to the Moody Blues, with a beat and balls in place of the pioneering art-rock/psychedelic band's stateliness and overt seriousness, as they were to Iron Butterfly.
Jon Anderson's falsetto vocals, moreover, compared very well with those of his Atlantic Records stablemate Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Their classical music influences offered a level of intellectual stimulation that Led Zeppelin seldom bothered with. And Yes played loud and hard — they were progressive, but they weren't wimps, and they put on a better show than Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Their music seemed to evoke the most appealing elements of heavy metal rock, psychedelic music, the work of composers as different as Igor Stravinsky and film composer Jerome Moross (whose "Main Theme from the Big Country" provided the basis for the group's version of "No Experience Necessary"), and eastern religion, all wrapped in songs running upwards of 22 minutes, an entire side of an album.
"Roundabout" would be the group's biggest single success for the next 12 years, but it was more than enough. Although they would continue to release 45's periodically, including a cover of Paul Simon's "America" during the summer of 1972, Yes' future clearly lay with their albums. On Fragile, "Long Distance Runaround," as a three-minute song, had been the anomaly — the band was clearly looking at longer forms in which to write and play their music.
Close to the Edge, recorded in the late spring of 1972 and released in September of that year, showed just where they were headed, consisting of only three long tracks, essentially three sound paintings, in which the overall sound and musical textures mattered more than the lyrics or any specific melody, harmonization, or solo. "Siberian Khatru" was almost a rock adaptation of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, recalling the composer's most famous work and sounding as though Anderson and company had tapped into a element of ritual and a state of consciousness going back practically to the dawn of time (or stretching to the end of time), while "And You and I" seemed to take "Your Move" to a newly cosmic level. The fans and critics alike loved Close to the Edge, resplendent in its rich harmonies and keyboard passages of astonishing beauty and complexity, brittle but powerful guitar, and drumming that was gorgeous in its own right. The album reached number four in England and number three in the United States without help from a hit single (though an edited version of "And You and I" did reach number 42 in America).
By the time of the record's release, however, Bill Bruford had left the band to join King Crimson, and was replaced by Alan White (b. June 14, 1949, Pelton, Durham), a session drummer who was previously best known for having played with John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band. With White — who was a powerful player, but lacked the subtle melodic technique of Bill Bruford — installed at the drum kit, the group went on tour behind the new album to massive audience response and critical acclaim. As an added bonus for fans, Rick Wakeman had completed his first solo LP, the instrumental concept album The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which was released by A&M Records in February of 1973 (Wakeman had played excerpts from it during his featured solo spot during the previous Yes tour).
A large part of the Close to the Edge tour, like the group's prior tour with Bruford on the drums, was recorded, and a three-LP (two-CD) set entitled Yessongs, released in May of 1973, was assembled from the best work on the tour. Yessongs became a model for progressive rock live albums — at over 120 minutes, it included the band's entire stage repertory (not coincidentally, the best songs from the three preceding albums), all of it uncut and all of it well-played. The live album reached number seven in England and number 12 in the United States.
The group spent the second half of 1973 trying to come up with a follow-up to four successive hit albums. The resulting record, a double LP entitled Tales from Topographic Oceans, was released in January of 1974 with such high expectations, that it earned a gold record from its advanced orders.
Tales from Topographic Oceans broke all previous artistic boundaries, consisting of four long tracks each taking up the full side of an LP, with titles like "The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)." If the group's prior albums were made up of paintings in sound, then Topographic Oceans was a series of sonic murals, painted across vast spaces on a massive scale that did not make for light listening. If this all seems ridiculously overblown today, perhaps it was, but this work was being done in an era in which groups like Emerson, Lake, & Palmer were recording album-length suites and stretching relatively modest works such as "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland into ten-minute epics. The group believed it had cultivated an audience for such music, and they were right — Topographic Oceans not only topped the British charts but reach number six on the American charts.
No album has more divided both fans and critics of Yes alike. At the time of its release, Tales from Topographic Oceans was considered an unqualified success by most critics. Writing in the Village Voice (a journal notoriously skeptical of progressive rock) in February of 1974, Frank Rose called it "by far the most impressive work the group has produced in its five-year history" and went on to describe the music in exalted terms. And some listeners (this writer included) still regard this album as the group's magnum opus.
This view of the album changed during the 1980s and 1990s, as many critics and the group's fans came to consider it excessive, representing the height of progressive rock's self-indulgent nature (of course, many of these same people scoff at the very notion of any double-LP rock album). Originally inspired by Jon Anderson's reaction to a set of Shastric scriptures, the album displayed a sublime beauty in many parts, and immense, mesmerizing stretches of high-energy virtuosity for most of its length. In concert, as Rose remarked, its performance took on "aspects of the Apocalypse." Its only regrettable moment was an obligatory percussion solo, the only time Yes ever fell into this cliché of the progressive rock genre.
The group toured behind Topographic Oceans early in 1974, performing most of the album on stage. Following this tour, plans were announced for each member of the group to release a solo album of his own. At this point, the group faced another major lineup change as Wakeman — whose second solo album, Journey to the Center of the Earth, appeared in May of 1974 — announced that he was leaving Yes' lineup in June to pursue a solo career. In fact, as he revealed in interviews many years later, he'd been very unhappy with the content of Tales from Topographic Oceans, feeling that its music no longer reflected the direction he wanted to go in and that it was time to part company with the band. Wakeman's decision created a major problem for the band, for the keyboard player had become a star within their ranks, and was the group's most well-known individual member — people definitely paid to see and hear his keyboards rippling amid the Yes sound.
In August of 1974, it was announced that Patrick Moraz (b. June 24, 1948, Morges, Switzerland), formerly of the progressive rock trio Refugee, had replaced Wakeman. Three months later, the group's new album, Relayer, was released, reaching the British number four spot and the American number five position. Moraz proved an adequate replacement for Wakeman, but lacked his predecessor's gift for showmanship and extravagance. The group toured in the wake of Relayer's release in November of 1974, but didn't record together again for two and a half years.
Indeed, in order to satisfy the demand for more Yes material in the absence of a new album while the group was on the road, Atlantic in March of 1975 released a collection of their early music entitled Yesterdays, drawn from the first two albums and various singles, which rose to number 27 in England and number 17 in America. A film that the group had made along their 1973 tour, entitled Yessongs, was released to theaters at around the same time. The movie received poor reviews, owing to the fact that most reviewers were unfamiliar with the group's music, but it was profitable and has been popular for years on home video.
Meanwhile, in the absence of new albums by Yes, other bands began trying and capitalize on their own version of the Yes sound. The most notable of these were Starcastle, a progressive rock band signed by Epic Records, who made their recording debut in 1976 with a self-titled album that could've been another incarnation of Yes; and Fireballet, a Passport Records quartet who seemed to bridge the music of Yes and ELP.
In November of 1975, Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water and Steve Howe's Beginnings were both released and climbed into the mid-60s level of the American charts. Squire's record was clearly the more accomplished of the two, virtually a lost Yes album, with the bassist exploring new instrumental and orchestral textures, and turning in a credible vocal performance as well. Howe's record was an interesting, low-key effort that might've impressed other guitarists, but was sorely lacking in the songwriting department.
These were followed in March of 1976 by Alan White's Ramshackled, which placed at number 41 in England, and Moraz's solo venture Patrick Moraz, which reached number 28 in England and number 132 in America. And in July of 1976, Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow, a dazzling, Tolkien-esque science-fiction/fantasy epic (with packaging on the original LP that must've doubled the basic production cost of the jacket) that sounded as much like a Yes album as any record not made by the entire band could, reached number eight in England and number 47 in America.
Amid all of these solo projects, the group's lineup changed once again, as Wakeman announced his return to the fold in late 1976, while Moraz exited. Wakeman's original plan was to assist the group in the studio on their new album, but the sessions proved so productive that he made the decision, fully supported by the band, to return to the band's lineup permanently.
The group's next album, Going for the One, released in August of 1977, represented a much more austere, basic style of rock music, built around shorter songs. The long-player topped the British charts for two weeks and reached number eight on the American charts, while the singles "Wonderous Stories" and "Going for the One" rose to numbers seven and 24, respectively. The group embarked on a massive tour shortly after the album's release, including their most successful American appearances ever, playing to record audiences on the East Coast.
Tormato, released nearly a year later (heralded by the single "Don't Kill the Whale," the group's first song with a topical message), made the Top Ten in both England and America in the fall of 1978. Once again, after finishing the tour behind the album, the group members began working on solo projects. The year 1979 saw the release of The Steve Howe Album, while early in 1980 Jon Anderson hooked up with Greek-born keyboard player Vangelis, and the two released an album, Short Stories, and an accompanying single, "I Hear You," early in 1980, both of which reached the British Top Ten. Jon & Vangelis, as the team became known, went on to cut several more records together.
In March of 1980, Yes' lineup collapsed, as Wakeman and then Anderson walked out after an unsuccessful attempt to start work on a new album. Two months later, Trevor Horn (vocals, guitar) and Geoff Downes (keyboards), formerly of the British band Buggles, joined the Yes lineup of Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Alan White. This configuration recorded a new album, Drama, which was released in August of 1980 — rather ominously, this record did dramatically better in England, reaching the number-two spot, than it did in America, where it got no higher than number 18. This hybrid lineup lasted for a year, but the old Yes incarnation remained much closer to the hearts of fans — in January of 1981 Atlantic Record released Yesshows, a double live album made up of stage performances dating from 1976 through 1978 that reached number 22 in England and number 43 in America.
Finally, in April of 1981, the breakup of Yes was announced. Geoff Downes formed Asia with Steve Howe, which went on to some considerable if short-lived success in the early '80s, and the rest of the band scattered to different projects. For a year-and-a-half, the group seemed a dead issue, until Chris Squire and Alan White announced the formation of a new group called Cinema, with original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye and South African guitarist Trevor Rabin. This band proved unsatisfactory, and Squire invited Jon Anderson to join. It was just about then that everyone realized that they'd reformed virtually the core of the Yes lineup, and that they should simply revive the name.
In late 1983, this Yes lineup, with guitarist/vocalist Trevor Horn serving as producer, released an unexpected chart-topping hit (number one in the U.S. in January of 1984) single in "Owner of a Lonely Heart," displaying a stripped-down modern dance-rock sound unlike anything the group had ever produced before. The remaining group released a successful dance-rock style album, 90125, under Horn's guidance, which sold well but also proved a dead-end, with no follow-up, when Horn chose not to remain with the group.
Yes was invisible for nearly two years after that, until the late 1987 release of The Big Generator, which performed only moderately well. Meanwhile, in 1986, Steve Howe reappeared as a member of the quintet GTR, whose self-titled album reached number 11 in America. The proliferation of ex-Yes members gathering together in various combinations led to an ongoing legal dispute over who owned the group name, which came to a head in 1989. Luckily for four of them, the name "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe" was recognizable enough to reach the fans, which sent the resulting album into the US Top 30 and the British Top 20, more or less handing them a victory by acclamation (later supported by the settlement) in their dispute over the name. By touring with "An Evening of Yes Music," they presented their classic repertory to sell-out houses all over the country, including a 1990 gig at Madison Square Garden.
The legal squabbles had all been settled by the spring of 1991, at which time a composite "mega Yes" group consisting of Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, Squire, Kaye, White, Rabin, and Bruford (all of the key past members except Peter Banks) embarked on a blow-out world tour (which included the filming of a video historical documentary of the band, Yesyears: The Video) called Yesshows 1991. The accompanying album, Union, which displayed somewhat tougher sound than they'd been known for, debuted on the British charts at number seven and reached number 15 in America. This tour, which allowed the band to showcase music from all of its previous incarnations and, in the second half, featured each member who wished it in a solo spot, broke more records. These mammoth three-hour shows and the resulting publicity (even news organizations that normally didn't cover rock concerts did features on the reunion) only seemed to heighten interest in the four-CD boxed set YesYears, which was released by Atlantic in 1991.
By the mid-'90s, even longtime detractors of progressive rock, who loathed the band's early-'70s album-length musical excursions, conceded that Yes is the best of all the bands in their particular field of endeavor in what they do. The group continues to sell CDs in large quantity — in 1995, Atlantic Records issued upgraded, remastered versions of the group's classic 1960s and '70s albums — even as the work of many of their one-time rivals are consigned to the cut-out bins, and their periodic tours, as well as numerous solo albums (especially by Wakeman, and lately by Anderson and Howe), are taken very seriously by fans and critics. Today, their music of almost every era is regarded by fans with undiminished enthusiasm, and by their critics as respectable attempts at doing something serious with rock music.
1969 Yes Atlantic
1970 Time and a Word Atlantic
1971 The Yes Album Atlantic
1972 Fragile Atlantic
1972 Close to the Edge Atlantic
1973 Yessongs [live] Atlantic
1974 Tales from Topographic Oceans Atlantic
1974 Relayer Atlantic
1977 Going for the One Atlantic
1978 Tormato Atlantic
1980 Drama Atlantic
1980 Yesshows [live] Atlantic
1983 90125 Atco
1983 12 Inches on Tape Atco
1985 90125 Live: The Solos Atlantic
1987 Big Generator Atco
1991 Union Arista
1991 Union [Special European Release] Arista
1994 Talk Victory
1994 An Evening of Yes Music Plus Herald
1996 Keys to Ascension CMC
1997 Keys to Ascension, Vol. 2 Cleopatra
1997 Open Your Eyes Beyond
1998 Something's Coming Wea
1999 The Ladder Damian
1999 The Ladder [Japan Bonus Tracks] JVC Japan
2000 House of Yes: Live From House of Blues Beyond
2001 Magnification Beyond
2001 Keys to the Studio Ascension Castle
2001 Magnification [Japan Bonus Track] Import
EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER
Formed 1970 in Bournemouth, Dorset, England
Disbanded 1978 12
Emerson, Lake & Palmer were progressive rock's first supergroup. Greeted by the rock press and the public as something akin to conquering heroes, they succeeded in broadening the audience for progressive rock from hundreds of thousands into tens of millions of listeners, creating a major radio phenomenon as well. Their flamboyance on record and in the studio echoed the best work of the heavy metal bands of the era, proving that classical rockers could compete for that arena-scale audience. Over and above their own commercial success, the trio also paved the way for the success of such bands as Yes, who would become their chief rivals for much of the 1970's.
Keyboardist Keith Emerson planted the seeds of the group in late 1969 when his band the Nice shared a bill at the Fillmore West with King Crimson, an up-and-coming band which featured lead singer and bassist Greg Lake. Emerson and Lake first discussed the possibility of collaborating at that point, but only after the Crimson line-up began disintegrating during their first U.S. tour did he finally opt to leave the group (after agreeing to sing on the forthcoming Crimson album). Upon officially teaming in 1970, Emerson and Lake auditioned several drummers, including Mitch Mitchell, before they approached Carl Palmer, a former member of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown who later hooked up with bandmates Vincent Crane in an experimental band called Atomic Rooster.
The trio's first rehearsals mostly picked up from the Nice's and King Crimson's repertoires, including such well known numbers as "Rondo" and "21st Century Schizoid Man." In August of 1970, even as they were working on the songs that would ultimately comprise their first album, ELP played its first show at Plymouth, just ahead of the Isle of Wight Festival in August of 1970. The group's self-titled debut album was finished the following month and released in November; an instant success, it rose to the Top Five in England and the Top 20 in America. The single "Lucky Man" also was a hit, and their stage act rapidly became the stuff of legend.
The recording of their second album, 1971's Tarkus, tested the group's cohesiveness while stretching their sound in new directions. Emerson was interested in further exploiting the range of the Moog synthesizer, and had conceived of an extended suite built around an opening eruption of sound, while Palmer had come up with an unusual drum pattern that he was eager to use. When they tried to present their ideas to Lake, who had assumed the mantle of producer with the first album, however, he couldn't really grasp the piece. He balked, and arguments ensued, and for a time it looked as though there might be no second album.
The group eventually agreed to disagree about the proposed track: "Tarkus" became the title of the new album, and ultimately defined the ELP sound as most people understood it — the song was loud and bombastic, somewhat gloomy in its lyrical tone, and exultant in its instrumental power. A descendant of "The Three Fates" and "Tank" from the first album, "Tarkus" was a much denser piece of music, featuring not only multiple overdubs of instruments but textures that ultimately proved very difficult to recreate on stage. After Tarkus hit the No. 1 spot on the English charts and reached the top 10 in America, their March 21, 1971 concert at Newcastle City Hall — featuring the group's adaptation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition — was recorded for release, and became another major hit.
It was eight months before the ELP's next record, Trilogy, was released in July of 1972. In the interim, the group toured extensively, and they made it their business to cultivate the college audience that took most naturally to their work. With Trilogy, the partnership was back fully in balance, with each member taking an equal share of musical responsibility. Moreover, Lake never sang better, nor did the group ever sound more comfortable and laid back; among the eight very solid numbers in a classical-rock vein, there was tucked a track that became virtually the band's signature tune, their version of Aaron Copland's "Hoedown."
Such was the group's credibility that when it came time to record a version of the first movement of Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto No. 1 and the publisher denied them permission, they approached the composer himself, who fully approved and applauded the track that became "Tocatta" on Brain Salad Surgery, released in 1973 on their own record label, Manticore (named for one of the mythological creatures portrayed in "Tarkus"). Through Manticore ELP also released material by Pete Sinfield and the Italian progressive-rock band PFM; Sinfield's presence as a composer with Lake on Brain Salad Surgery helped strengthen one of the group's lingering weaknesses, their lyrics — where Lake's use of language had always tended toward the pleasant but simplistic, Sinfield, a veteran of King Crimson, provided lyrical complexity nearly as daunting as the best of their music.
In the wake of this string of successes, ELP released a triple live album, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, in August of 1974, but their streak came to a halt with Works, an album that also marked the dissolution of the group sound. At the time, each member was feeling constrained by the presence of the others, and their inclination was to release a trio of solo albums; cooler heads prevailed, however, and they reasoned that none of their solo works would sell remotely as well as an ELP album. The result was Works, a double album released in March of 1977. The album consisted of three solo sides and a fourth side on which the group did two extended collaborative efforts, "Pirates" and "Fanfare for the Common Man."
The record fared poorly, and the group was never the same: Works destroyed ELP's unity, and their main motivation for recording seemed only to be their contractual obligations. Worse still, they'd squandered valuable time with work on the double album, time during which the public's taste was changing — the progressive bands were coming in for special criticism, and the notion of extended suites, conceptual rock albums and classical-rock fusion now seemed hopelessly ponderous and pretentious as the rise of punk rock and disco seemed to undermine any notion of intellectualism in rock. Works Vol. 2, released in November of 1977, was nothing more than a collection of obscure B-sides and odd tracks dating back four years, while their next album of new material, Love Beach, was later described by the band members themselves as nothing more than a matter of going through the motions.
ELP split up in 1979: Lake embarked on a moderately successful solo career, Emerson took to composing film scores and recorded the occasional solo project, and after a stint with the band PM, Palmer joined the pop super-group Asia. In the mid-1980s Emerson and Lake got together with drummer Cozy Powell as the short-lived Emerson, Lake & Powell, complete with a self-titled 1985 album. In 1991, Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunited for an album called Black Moon, followed by a fairly successful tour. In 1993, they released Live At Royal Albert Hall. Their attempt at another new album, In the Hot Seat, was doomed to failure by Emerson's developing of a repetitive stress disorder in one hand which required surgery and restricted the group's ability to record or perform.
1970 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Rhino
1971 Tarkus Rhino
1972 Pictures at an Exhibition [live] Rhino
1972 Trilogy Rhino
1973 Brain Salad Surgery Rhino
1974 Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That... [live] Victory Music
1974 Ladies & Gentlemen (Welcome Back My Friends... [live] Manticore
1977 Works, Vol. 1 Rhino
1977 Works, Vol. 2 Rhino
1978 Love Beach Rhino
1979 In Concert [live] Atlantic
1992 Black Moon Rhino
1992 Live at the Royal Albert Hall Victory
1993 Works Live Victory Music
1994 In the Hot Seat Victory
1997 Live at the Isle of Wight Festival Manticore
2001 Live in Poland Import
2001 Brain Salad Surgery [UK Bonus Tracks] Castle
Formed 1966 in Godalming, England
Group Members Phil Collins Peter Gabriel Steve Hackett Anthony Phillips Tony Banks John Mayhew Mike Rutherford Chris Stewart John Silver Ray Wilson
One of the most successful rock acts of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Genesis enjoyed a longevity exceeded only by the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, in the process providing a launching pad for the superstardom of members Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.The group had its roots in the Garden Wall, a band founded by 15-year-olds Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks in 1965 at Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey, where fellow students Michael Rutherford and Anthony Phillips were members of another group called Anon. The two groups initially merged out of expediency as the older members of each graduated; Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford, Phillips, and drummer Chris Stewart soon joined together as the New Anon, and recorded a six-song demo featuring songs primarily written by Rutherford and Phillips.
The Charterhouse connection worked in their favor when an ex-student, recording artist and producer Jonathan King, heard the tape and arranged for the group to continue working in the studio, developing their sound. It was also King who renamed the band Genesis. In December of 1967 the group had their first formal recording sessions. Their debut single, "The Silent Sun," was released in February of 1968 without attracting much notice from the public. A second single, "A Winter's Tale," followed just about the time that Dave Stewart quit — his replacement, John Silver, joined just in time to participate in the group's first LP sessions that summer. King later added orchestral accompaniment to the band's tracks, in order to make them sound even more like the Moody Blues, and the resulting album, entitled From Genesis to Revelation, was released in March of 1969.
Music seemed to be shaping up as a brief digression in the lives of the members as they graduated from Charterhouse that summer. The group felt strongly enough about their work, however, that they decided to try it as a professional band; it was around this time that Silver exited, replaced by John Mayhew. They got their first paying gig in September of 1969, and spent the next several months working out new material. Genesis soon became one of the first groups signed to the fledgling Charisma label, and they recorded their second album Trespass that spring; following its completion, the unit went through major personnel changes — Phillips, who had developed crippling stage fright, was forced to leave the line-up in July of 1970, followed by Mayhew.
Enter Phil Collins, a onetime child actor turned drummer and former member of Hickory and Flaming Youth.
The group's line-up was completed with the addition of guitarist Steve Hackett, a former member of Quiet World; his presence and that of Collins toughened up the group's sound, which became apparent immediately upon the release of their next album, Nursery Cryme. The theatrical attributes of Gabriel's singing fit in well with he group's live performances during this period as he began to make ever more extensive use of masks, make-up, and props in concert, telling framing stories in order to set up their increasingly complicated songs. When presented amid the group's very strong playing, this aspect of Gabriel's work turned Genesis's performances into multi-media events.
Foxtrot, issued in the fall of 1972, was the flashpoint in Genesis's history, and not just on commercial terms. The writing, especially on "Supper's Ready," was as sophisticated as anything in progressive rock, and the lyrics were complex, serious and clever, a far cry from the usual overblown words attached to most prog-rock. Genesis's live performances by now were practically legend, and in response to the demand, in August of 1973 Charisma released Genesis Live, an album assembled from shows in Leicester and Manchester originally taped for an American radio broadcast. 1973 also saw the release of Selling England by the Pound, the group's most sophisticated album to date.
The release of the ambitious double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in late 1974 marked the culmination of the group's early history; in May of 1975, following a show in France, Gabriel announced that he was leaving Genesis, owing to personal reasons. The group tried auditioning potential replacements, but it became clear that the remaining members all preferred that drummer Collins take over the role of lead singer. The band returned to the studio as an official quartet in October of 1975 to begin work on their new album: the resulting Trick of the Tail made number three in England and number 31 in America, the best chart showing up to that time for a Genesis album, its success completely confounded critics and fans who'd been unable to conceive of Genesis without Peter Gabriel.
The group seemed to be on its way to bigger success than it ever had during Gabriel's tenure as 1977's Wind and Wuthering became another smash. But then Hackett announced that he was leaving on the eve of the release of a new double live album, Seconds Out; he was replaced on the subsequent American and European tours by Daryl Steurmer, but there was no permanent replacement in the studio. In 1978, Genesis released And Then There Were Three, which abandoned any efforts at progressive rock in favor of a softer, much more accessible and less ambitious pop sound. After a flurry of solo projects, the group reconvened for 1980's Duke, which became their first chart-topper in England while rising to number 11 in America.
The continued changes in their sound helped turn Genesis into an arena-scale act: Abacab, released in late 1981, was another smash, and 1983's self-titled Genesis furthered the group's record of British chart-toppers and American top 10 hits, becoming their second million-selling U.S. album while also yielding their first American Top Ten single, "That's All." Two years later, the group outdid themselves with the release of their most commercially successful album to date, Invisible Touch, which went platinum several times over in America. Its release coincided with the biggest tour in their history, a string of sold out arena shows that cast the group in the same league as concert stalwarts like the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. Their 1991 album We Can't Dance debuted at Number One in England and got to number four in America; it was Collins' last album with the group, and with new vocalist Ray Wilson, formerly of the group Stiltskin. Genesis resurfaced in 1997 with Calling All Stations, which recalled their art-rock roots. Neither the critics nor the fans warmed to the album — it sold poorly and the tour was equally unsuccessful. Coming on the heels of the disappointing Calling All Stations, the long-awaited box-set retrospective Archives, Vol. 1: 67-75 was even more welcome. Containing nothing but unreleased material and rarities from previously unavailable on CD, the set was released to surprisingly strong reviews in the summer of 1998. A followup, containing unreleased material from the Phil Collins era, was scheduled for release the following year.
1969 From Genesis to Revelation Decca
1970 Trespass MCA
1971 Nursery Cryme Atco
1972 Foxtrot Atco
1973 Genesis: Live Atco
1973 Selling England by the Pound Atco
1974 The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Atco
1974 Romeo and Juliet ARC
1976 Trick of the Tail Atco
1976 Wind and Wuthering Atco
1977 Seconds Out Atlantic
1978 And Then There Were Three Atlantic
1980 Duke Atlantic
1981 Abacab Atlantic
1982 Three Sides Live [US Original Release] Atlantic
1982 Three Sides Live [Atlantic Remaster] Virgin
1983 Genesis Atlantic
1986 Invisible Touch Atlantic
1991 We Can't Dance Atlantic
1992 Genesis Live: The Way We Walk, Vol. 1 (The... Atlantic
1993 Genesis Live: The Way We Walk, Vol. 2 (The... Atlantic
1997 Calling All Stations Atlantic
Formed 1969 in England
Group Members Adrian Belew Bill Bruford John Wetton Keith Tippett Gordon Haskell Greg Lake Trey Gunn Boz Burrell Mel Collins David Cross Robert Fripp Michael Giles Peter Giles Tony Levin Pat Mastelotto Ian McDonald Jamie Muir Ian Wallace
If there is one group that embodies progressive rock, it is King Crimson. Led by guitar/Mellotron virtuoso Robert Fripp, during its first five years of existence the band stretched both the language and structure of rock into realms of jazz and classical music, all the while avoiding pop and psychedelic sensibilities; the absence of mainstream compromises and the lack of an overt sense of humor ultimately doomed the group to nothing more than a large cult following, but made their albums among the most enduring and respectable of the prog-rock era.
King Crimson originally grew out of the remnants of an unsuccessful trio called Giles, Giles & Fripp. Michael Giles (drums, vocals), Peter Giles (bass, vocals), and Robert Fripp (guitar) had begun working together in late 1967 after playing in a variety of bands: Fripp's resume included tenures with the League of Gentlemen and the Majestic Dance Orchestra, while the Giles brothers had played with Trendsetters, Ltd. After signing to Deram, the trio recorded their debut single, "One in a Million, " and began cutting a follow-up album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp, during the summer of 1968.
Even as the album was in the works, however, the group's line-up was changing: ex-Infinity singers/guitarists Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield joined late in 1968, and Julie Dyble, who had passed through the first Fairport Convention line-up, signed on briefly as a singer. This line-up recorded demos of "I Talk to the Wind" and "Under the Sky, " but soon dissolved: Peter Giles exited the scene in November of 1968, and Fripp's childhood friend, vocalist/bassist Greg Lake, joined two days later. The new roster of Fripp, Lake, McDonald, and Michael Giles — with satellite member Sinfield writing their lyrics and later running their light-show, among other functions — officially became King Crimson on January 13, 1969, deriving the name from Sinfield's lyrics for the song "Court of the Crimson King."
In July of 1969, the group debuted in front of 650, 000 people at a free concert in London's Hyde Park on a bill with the Rolling Stones; later that month King Crimson ultimately recorded and produced their first album. In the Court of the Crimson King was one of the most challenging albums of the entire fledgling progressive rock movement, but somehow it caught the public's collective ear at the right moment and hit No. 5 in England in November of 1969 — four months later, the album climbed to No. 28 on the American charts. Ironically, at the peak of the LP's success the original band broke up: McDonald and Giles were becoming increasingly unhappy with the music's direction, as well as the strain of touring. By November they decided to leave — Fripp was so shaken that he even offered to exit if they would stay. The original group played its last show in December 1969; Greg Lake, having joined the group last, was uncomfortable with the idea of staying on with two replacement members, and had also been approached by Keith Emerson of the Nice about the possibility of forming a new group. He soon decided to leave Crimson as well, but agreed to stay long enough to record vocals for the next album.
Whether there would even be a next album was debatable for a time after Fripp was offered the chance to replace Peter Banks in Yes. Finally, a new single ("Catfood") and album (In the Wake of Poseidon) were recorded early in 1970: essentially a Fripp-dominated retake of In the Court of the Crimson King, Lake sang on all but one of the songs, Fripp played the Mellotron as well as all of the guitars, and a new singer, Fripp's boyhood friend Gordon Haskell, debuted on "Cadence and Cascade." Fripp spent the month of August rehearsing a new King Crimson line-up, consisting of himself, Haskell (bass, vocals), saxman/flautist Mel Collins (who had played on Poseidon), and Andy McCullough (drums). This group, augmented by pianist Keith Tippett, guest vocalist Jon Anderson of Yes, and oboist/English horn virtuoso Marc Charig, recorded the next Crimson album, Lizard, in the fall of 1970, but Haskell and McCullough both walked out soon after it was finished; with Fripp busy putting a new band together, Peter Sinfield took over the final production chores.
In December of 1970, Ian Wallace joined on drums, and after auditioning several aspiring singers including Bryan Ferry, Fripp chose Boz Burrell as the group's new vocalist. The latest Crimson line-up of Fripp, Burrell, Collins, and Wallace emerged on stage in April of 1971, and for the next year, King Crimson was a going concern, playing gigs across the globe. The only casualty during the remainder of the year was Sinfield, who split in December after Fripp asked him to leave. Their new album, Islands, got to No. 30 in England, and No. 76 in America; the band might've succeeded had it lasted for another album to make its case, but in April of 1972, this latest line-up broke up after Wallace, Collins, and Burrell moved as a trio to join Alexis Korner in a band called Snape. (Burrell later became the bassist with Bad Company.)
It seemed as though King Crimson had finally come to an end. Then, in July of 1972, Fripp put together a new band consisting of ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, ex-Family member John Wetton on bass and vocals, David Cross on violin and Mellotron, and Jamie Muir on percussion. Sinfield's successor as lyricist was Richard Palmer-James, who was otherwise invisible in the line-up. This group recorded their debut album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, and made its debut in Frankfurt in October of 1972. Muir was out of the line-up by early 1973, but as a quartet the band toured England, Europe and America while Larks' Tongues made it all the way to the Top 20 in England. In January of 1974, King Crimson cut a new album, Starless and Bible Black, thus becoming the first line-up to remain intact for more than one American tour and more than one album (discounting the departed Muir).
Alas, by July of 1974 even this long-lasting King Crimson line-up had begun to splinter. This time Cross was the one to exit, following a performance in New York. With King Crimson reduced to a trio of Fripp, Wetton, and Bruford, one more album, Red, was completed that summer with help from Cross and former members Mel Collins and Ian McDonald (who had gone on to fame and fortune as the co-founder of the arena band Foreigner). Fripp disbanded the group on September 25, 1974, seemingly for the last time. Wetton later passed through the line-up of Uriah Heep before going on to international success as the lead singer of Asia, while Cross later turned up on the Mellotron multi-artist showcase album The Rime of the Ancient Sampler.
In June of 1975, 11 months after their last public concert, a live album called USA was issued, followed four years later by Fripp's first solo album, Exposure. Finally, in April of 1981, Fripp formed a new group called Discipline with Bruford, bassist Tony Levin, and guitarist/singer Adrian Belew. By the time their album was released in October of that year, the group's name had been changed to King Crimson (the album was still titled Discipline, however). This band, with a herky-jerky sound completely different from any of the other lineups to use that name, and toured and recorded regularly over the years, including full-length video productions; they splintered after two more albums, 1982's Beat and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.
King Crimson remained silent for about a decade, as compilations and vintage live performances continued to trickle out (including the box sets Frame by Frame, which mostly covered classic studio material, and The Great Deceiver, which featured live performances from 1973-74). Finally, in 1994, Fripp reunited with the Discipline-era lineup, augmenting the group with drummer/percussionist Pat Mastelotto and bassist/guitarist/Chapman Stick player Trey Gunn. The EP VROOOM appeared late that year, setting the stage for a full-fledged comeback with 1995's Thrak. The album earned generally good reviews and re-established Crimson as a viable touring concern, although it took until 2000 for the band to come up with a new studio album (ConstruKction of Light) amidst a continuing stream of archive-clearing collections. In the five years between Thrak and ConstruKction of Light, the members of Crimson often fragmented the band into experimental subgroups dubbed ProjeKcts. The idea was to mix things up a bit and generate fresh musical ideas prior to the forthcoming album; in the meantime, drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Tony Levin left the band. Culled from the supporting European tour, the live box Heavy ConstruKction was released later in 2000. For the band's 30th anniversary, Fripp commissioned the remastering of the first 15 years' catalog. Slated for early 2001, the reissues feature remastered sound, and original album art.
1969 In the Court of the Crimson King EG
1970 In the Wake of Poseidon EG
1970 Lizard EG
1971 Islands EG
1972 Earthbound Polydor
1973 Larks' Tongues in Aspic EG
1974 Starless and Bible Black EG
1974 Red EG
1975 USA Atlantic
1981 Discipline EG
1982 Beat EG
1984 3 of a Perfect Pair Warner
1995 THRAK Virgin
1995 B'Boom [live] Discipline
1996 Thrakattak DPL
1997 Epitaph Discipline
1998 Night Watch Discipline
1998 Space Groove Discipline
1998 Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984 Discipline
1998 Live at the Marquee, 1969 Discipline
1998 Live at Jacksonville, 1972 D.G.M.
1998 Live at the Jazz Cafe DGM
1999 Live Groove Pony Canyon
1999 Live at Cap D'Agde, 1982 DGM
1999 Cirkus Caroline
1999 On Broadway: Live in NYC, 1995 D.G.M.
1999 West Coast Live Pony Canyon
1999 Masque Pony Canyon
1999 Live in San Francisco: The Roar of P4 D.G.M.
1999 The Roar of P4: Live in San Francisco DGM
1999 Deception of Thrush Discipline
1999 The VROOOM Sessions, 1994 D.G.M.
2000 Live at Summit Studios: Denver, 03/12/1972 Pony Canyon
2000 Live in Central Park, NYC '74 D.G.M.
2000 ConstruKction of Light Virgin
2000 Discipline: Live at Moles Club, 1981 DGM
2000 Live at Plymouth, 1971 King Crimson
2000 Nashville Rehearsals, 1997 DGM
2001 Live in Mainz 1974 Discipline Glo
2001 Live In Berkeley, CA 1982 Discipline
2001 Vrooom Vrooom Disciple
3 of Perfect Pair: 30th Anniversary... Caroline
Formed 1965 in London, England
Pink Floyd are the premier space-rock band. Since the mid-'60s, their music has relentlessly tinkered with electronics and all manner of special effects to push pop formats to their outer limits. At the same time they have wrestled with lyrical themes and concepts of such massive scale that their music has taken on almost classical, operatic quality, in both sound and words. Despite their astral image, the group were brought down to earth in the 1980s by decidedly mundane power struggles over leadership and, ultimately, ownership of the band's very name. Since that time, they've been little more than a dinosaur act, capable of filling stadiums and topping the charts, but offering little more than a spectacular recreation of their most successful formulas. Their latter-day staleness cannot disguise the fact that, for the first decade or so of their existence, they were one of the most innovative groups around, in concert and (especially) in the studio.
While Pink Floyd are mostly known for their grandiose concept albums of the 1970s, they started as a very different sort of psychedelic band. Soon after they first began playing together in the mid-'60s, they fell firmly under the leadership of lead guitarist Syd Barrett, the gifted genius who would write and sing most of their early material. The Cambridge native shared the stage with Roger Waters (bass), Rick Wright (keyboards), and Nick Mason (drums). The name Pink Floyd, seemingly so far-out, was actually derived from the first names of two ancient bluesmen (Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). And at first, Pink Floyd were much more conventional than the act into which they would evolve, concentrating on the rock and R&B material that were so common to the repertoires of mid-'60s British bands.
Pink Floyd quickly began to experiment, however, stretching out songs with wild instrumental freak-out passages incorporating feedback, electronic screeches, and unusual, eerie sounds created by loud amplification, reverb, and such tricks as sliding ball bearings up and down guitar strings. In 1966, they began to pick up a following in the London underground; onstage, they began to incorporate light shows to add to the psychedelic effect. Most importantly, Syd Barrett began to compose pop-psychedelic gems that combined unusual psychedelic arrangements (particularly in the haunting guitar and celestial organ licks) with catchy melodies and incisive lyrics that viewed the world with a sense of poetic, child-like wonder.
The group landed a recording contract with EMI in early 1967 and made the Top 20 with a brilliant debut single, "Arnold Layne," a sympathetic, comic vignette about a transvestite. The follow-up, the kaleidoscopic "See Emily Play," made the Top Ten. The debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, also released in 1967, may have been the greatest British psychedelic album other than Sgt. Pepper's. Dominated almost wholly by Barrett's songs, the album was a charming funhouse of driving, mysterious rockers ("Lucifer Sam"), odd character sketches ("The Gnome"), childhood flashbacks ("Bike," "Matilda Mother"), and freakier pieces with lengthy instrumental passages ("Astronomy Domine," "Interstellar Overdrive," "Pow R Toch") that mapped out their fascination with space travel. The record was not only like no other at the time; it was like no other that Pink Floyd would make, colored as it was by a vision that was far more humorous, pop-friendly, and light-hearted than those of their subsequent epics.
The reason Pink Floyd never made a similar album was that Piper was the only one to be recorded under Barrett's leadership. Around mid-1967, the prodigy began showing increasingly alarming signs of mental instability. Syd would go catatonic onstage, playing music that had little to do with the material, or not playing at all. An American tour had to be cut short when he was barely able to function at all, let alone play the pop star game. Dependent upon Barrett for most of their vision and material, the rest of the group were nevertheless finding him impossible to work with, live or in the studio.
Around the beginning of 1968, guitarist Dave Gilmour, a friend of the band who was also from Cambridge, was brought in as a fifth member. The idea was that Gilmour would enable the Floyd to continue as a live outfit; Barrett would still be able to write and contribute to the records. That couldn't work either, and within a few months Barrett was out of the group. Pink Floyd's management, looking at the wreckage of a band that was now without its lead guitarist, lead singer, and primary songwriter, decided to abandon the group and manage Syd as a solo act.
Such calamities would have proven insurmountable for 99 out of 100 bands in similar predicaments. Incredibly, Pink Floyd would regroup and not only maintain their popularity, but eventually become even more successful. It was early in the game yet, after all; the first album had made the British Top Ten, but the group were still virtually unknown in America, where the loss of Syd Barrett meant nothing to the media. Gilmour was an excellent guitarist, and the band proved capable of writing enough original material to generate further ambitious albums, Waters eventually emerging as the dominant composer. The 1968 follow-up to Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, made the British Top Ten, using Barrett's vision as an obvious blueprint, but taking a more formal, somber, and quasi-classical tone, especially in the long instrumental parts. Barrett, for his part, would go on to make a couple of interesting solo records before his mental problems instigated a retreat into oblivion.
Over the next four years, Pink Floyd would continue to polish their brand of experimental rock, which married psychedelia with ever-grander arrangements on a Wagnerian operatic scale. Hidden underneath the pulsing, reverberant organs and guitars and insistently restated themes were subtle blues and pop influences that kept the material accessible to a wide audience. Abandoning the singles market, they concentrated on album-length works, and built a huge following in the progressive rock underground with constant touring in both Europe and North America. While LPs like Ummagumma (divided into live recordings and experimental outings by each member of the band), Atom Heart Mother (a collaboration with composer Ron Geesin), and More... (a film soundtrack) were erratic, each contained some extremely effective music.
By the early '70s Syd Barrett was a fading or nonexistent memory for most of Pink Floyd's fans, although the group, one could argue, never did match the brilliance of that somewhat anomalous 1967 debut. Meddle (1971) sharpened the band's sprawling epics into something more accessible, and polished the science-fiction ambience that the group had been exploring ever since 1968. Nothing, however, prepared Pink Floyd or their audience for the massive mainstream success of their 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon, which made their brand of cosmic rock even more approachable with state-of-the-art production, more focused songwriting, an army of well-time stereophonic sound effects, and touches of saxophone and soulful female backup vocals.
Dark Side of the Moon finally broke Pink Floyd as superstars in the United States, where it made #1. More astonishingly, it made them one of the biggest-selling acts of all time. Dark Side of the Moon spent an incomprensible 741 weeks on the Billboard album chart. Additionally, the primarily instrumental textures of the songs helped make Dark Side of the Moon easily translatable on an international level, and the record became (and still is) one of the most popular rock albums worldwide.
It was also an extremely hard act to follow, although the follow-up, Wish You Were Here (1975), also made #1, highlighted by a tribute of sorts to the long-departed Barrett, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." Dark Side of the Moon had been dominated by lyrical themes of insecurity, fear, and the cold sterility of modern life; Wish You Were Here and Animals (1977) developed these morose themes even more explicitly. By this time Waters was taking a firm hand over Pink Floyd's lyrical and musical vision, which was consolidated by The Wall (1979).
The bleak, overambitious double concept album concerned itself with the material and emotional walls modern humans build around themselves for survival. The Wall was a huge success (even by Pink Floyd's standards), in part because the music was losing some of its heavy-duty electronic textures in favor of more approachable pop elements. Although Pink Floyd had rarely even released singles since the late '60s, one of the tracks, "Another Brick in the Wall," became a transatlantic #1. The band had been launching increasingly elaborate stage shows throughout the '70s, but the touring production of The Wall, featuring a construction of an actual wall during the band's performance, was the most excessive yet.
In the 1980s, the group began to unravel. Each of the four had done some side and solo projects in the past; more troublingly, Waters was asserting control of the band's musical and lyrical identity. That wouldn't have been such a problem had The Final Cut (1983) been such an unimpressive effort, with little of the electronic innovation so typical of their previous work. Shortly afterward, the band split up — for a while. In 1986, Waters was suing Gilmour and Mason to dissolve the group's partnership (Wright had lost full membership status entirely); Waters lost, leaving a Roger-less Pink Floyd to get a Top Five album with Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987. In an irony that was nothing less than cosmic, about 20 years after Pink Floyd shed its original leader to resume its career with great commercial success, they would do the same again to his successor. Waters released ambitious solo albums to nothing more than moderate sales and attention, while he watched his former colleagues (with Wright back in tow) rescale the charts.
Pink Floyd still have a huge fan base, but there's little that's noteworthy about their post-Waters output. They know their formula, they can execute it on a grand scale, and they can count on millions of customers — many of them unborn when Dark Side of the Moon came out, and unaware that Syd Barrett was ever a member — to buy their records and see their sporadic tours. The Division Bell, their first studio album in seven years, topped the charts in 1994 without making any impact on the current rock scene, except in a marketing sense. Ditto for the live Pulse album, recorded during a typically elaborately staged 1994 tour, which included a concert version of The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. Waters' solo career sputtered along, highlighted by a solo recreation of The Wall, performed at the site of the former Berlin Wall in 1990, and released as an album. Syd Barrett, it was reported in the summer of 1996, was lying ill in a Cambridge hospital, unable or unwilling to regulate his diabetic condition.
1967 The Piper at the Gates of Dawn Capitol
1968 A Saucerful of Secrets Capitol
1969 More Capitol
1969 Ummagumma Capitol
1970 Atom Heart Mother Capitol
1971 Meddle Capitol
1972 Obscured by Clouds Capitol
1973 Dark Side of the Moon Capitol
1975 Wish You Were Here Capitol
1977 Animals Capitol
1979 The Wall Capitol
1983 The Final Cut Columbia
1987 A Momentary Lapse of Reason Columbia
1988 Delicate Sound of Thunder [live] Columbia
1994 The Division Bell Columbia
1995 Pulse [live] Columbia
Born May 15, 1953 in Reading, Berkshire, England
Composer Mike Oldfield rose to fame on the success of Tubular Bells, an eerie, album-length conceptual piece employed to stunning effect in the film The Exorcist. Born May 15, 1953 in Reading, England, Oldfield began his professional career at the age of 14, forming a folk duo with his sister Sally; a year later, the siblings issued their debut LP, Sallyangie. By the age of 16, he was playing bass with Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers' group the Whole World alongside experimental classical arranger David Bedford and avant-jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill; within months, Oldfield was tapped to become the band's lead guitarist prior to recording the 1971 LP Shooting at the Moon.
Tubular Bells, originally dubbed Opus 1, grew out of studio time gifted by Richard Branson, who at the time was running a mail-order record retail service. After its completion, Oldfield shopped the record to a series of labels, only to meet with rejection; frustrated, Branson decided to found his own label, and in 1973 Tubular Bells became the inaugural release of Virgin Records. An atmospheric, intricate composition which fused rock and folk motifs with the structures of minimalist composition, the 49-minute instumental piece (performed on close to 30 different instruments, virtually all of them played by Oldfield himself) spent months in the Number One spot on the U.K. charts, and eventually sold over 16 million copies globally. In addition to almost singlehandedly establishing Virgin as one of the most important labels in the record industry, Tubular Bells also created a market for what would later be dubbed New Age music, and won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 1974.
The follow-up, 1974's Hergest Ridge (named after Oldfield's retreat in a remote area of Herefordshire) also proved phenomenally successful, and dislodged Tubular Bells at the top of the British chart. With 1975's Ommadawn, he explored ambient textures and world music; however, the emergence of punk left Oldfield baffled, and he retreated from sight for three years following the LP's release. He resurfaced with 1978's Incantations, which featured the single "Guilty," a nod to the disco movement; Platinum, issued a year later, kept its eye on the clubs, and featured a dance version of the Philip Glass composition "North Star." With 1980's QE 2, Oldfield moved completely away from his epic-length pieces and travelled into pop territory, a shift typified by the album's cover of ABBA's "Arrival." He continued in a pop vein for much of the 1980s, as albums like 1983's Crises, 1984's Discovery and 1987's Islands encroached further and further upon mainstream accessibility. In 1992, Oldfield teamed with producer Trevor Horn for Tubular Bells II, which returned him to the top of the U.K. charts. The Sound of Distant Earth appeared two years later, followed by a third Tubular Bells update in 1998.
1973 Tubular Bells Virgin
1974 Hergest Ridge Virgin
1975 The Orchestral Tubular Bells Virgin
1975 Ommadawn Virgin
1976 Mike Oldfield Virgin
1978 Incantations Blue Plate
1979 Exposed [live] Plan
1979 Platinum Blue Plate
1980 Airborne Virgin
1980 QE2 Plan
1981 Five Miles Out Caroline
1983 Crisis Plan
1984 The Killing Fields [Original Soundtrack] Virgin
1984 Discovery Plan
1987 Islands Virgin
1987 Islands [UK] Virgin
1989 Earth Moving Virgin
1990 Amarok Caroline
1991 Heaven's Open Import
1992 Tubular Bells II Warner
1996 The Songs of Distant Earth Warner
1996 Voyager WEA
1998 Tubular Bells III Warner
1999 Guitars Import
1999 Millennium Bell Wea
1999 Orchestral Tubular Bells [UK] EMI
2000 Heavens Open [Disky] Disky