Long before prog-rock firebrands Pink Floyd defined cerebral pop for a generation with albums like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, they were Stones-y blues rockers, psychedelic space cadets, folk-rock moodscapers and heady musical mad scientists. Each captivating turn they made in their salad days, whether with original frontman Syd Barrett or the partnership of Roger Waters and David Gilmour leading the way, kept listeners’ ears piqued for what they would come up with next.
The ginormous new box set The Early Years 1965 – 1972 presents a goldmine of footage and recordings of the band before they were megastars. The collection contains 27 discs, including DVDs and Blu-rays, with unreleased outtakes, TV performances and other film clips, as well as five seven-inch singles and reproduced memorabilia. It all documents the group’s genesis through the release of their Obscured by Clouds LP, as they weirded out Dick Clark on American Bandstand, reorganized their catalogue into conceptual performances, worked with a ballet company and stormed the ruins of Pompeii.
The set comes in a giant box – about the size of a treasure chest – patterned to look like Pink Floyd’s original bus and it includes seven hours of previously unreleased audio and more than seven hours of rare footage. It costs a hefty price ($550 on the group’s website, more on Amazon), but diehard fans will justify the cost since while some of the collection’s rarities have circulated on bootleg circuits, they have never sounded or looked so good.
Here are Rolling Stone’s picks for the greatest highlights from The Early Years.
1. 1965 Recordings
The band released this sextet of songs from its first recording session last year as a limited-edition seven-inch to preserve the copyright, but it was such a small run (1,050 copies) that prices for it have skyrocketed. At this point in Pink Floyd’s career, they sounded very much in the vein of the Rolling Stones – big, bluesy pop songs, a Bo Diddley tribute, a Slim Harpo cover – and Barrett howled a bit like Mick. Their lead guitarist at the time, Rado Klose, played bouncy pentatonic solos, and they welcomed keyboardist Rick Wright’s wife, Juliette Gale, to sing background on the whimsical Waters-penned tune “Walk With Me Sydney.” Within a couple of years they’d be trawling the depths of psychedelia, making this period of time all the more curious.