More punk than pink: Pink Floyd’s relationship with 1970s UK punk

Martin James

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    When a young Johnny Rotten walked into Malcolm McClaren’s Kings Road shop SEX wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled above the band’s name a tension was created between punk and the generation of hippies before them. Pink Floyd and prog rock quickly became represented as punk’s natural enemy in the press, while young punk throughout the country quickly embraced an outward hatred of their older siblings’ record collections.

    Similarly punk was represented as the enemy of musicians everywhere, with prog rockers and their fans openly taking up arms (and cloaks) against these unskilled upstarts. And here started a battleground that would became central to the official histories of both prog and punk - the former would point to their foe as the reason for their demise, while the latter would present their enemies as being emblematic of everything they’d come to destroy.

    Except that was neither an accurate portrayal of the relationships between each scene and associated bands, nor was it an honest appraisal of the subcultural actors associated with these styles. In fact the battleground was less about simple opposition than the personal tensions caused by both the authenticating agents and processes associated with those authenticities. Official histories prefer the simplistic binaries of love/ hate, good/bad etc yet Pink Floyd’s relationship with punk would explore the tensions, revel in the supposed opposition and ‘zig-zag away, through the boredom and pain’.

    This chapter will explore the influence of Pink Floyd on punk through early tracks like ‘Interstellar Overdrive’; the influence of punk on Floyd as heard on Animals and the band’s associations with punk through politics, production and performance. Indeed, just as John Lydon would admit to his love of progressive rock after his departure from the Sex Pistols before embarking on the progressive punk Public Image Ltd, so too Pink Floyd would explore many of the same themes and concerns as those expressed in punk.

    At Pink Floyd’s Animals gigs in London’s Wembley Empire Pool it was noticeable just how many young punks were present. Enjoying a guilty pleasure before the laws of punk became enforced perhaps, but more likely the political dynamic of Floyd’s output actually found an uncomfortable, unlikely and in denial bedfellow in punk. Not for nothing did The Damned ask Nick Mason to produce their second album Music for Pleasure.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Pink Floyd
    EditorsSimon Morrison, Christopher Hart
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022


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