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Music

How Booker T and the MGs inspired a Pink Floyd classic

For a band who have influenced so many others, its quite often difficult to turn the question around and think about who influenced them. One such band are Pink Floyd, a group with a truly unique sound that defies complete imitation, though one would be hard pressed to find a guitar player who does not admire David Gilmour’s playing style.

Pink Floyd were formed in London in 1965 and were considered one of the first British psychedelic acts, particularly in the early days with lead vocalist Syd Barrett. Barret sadly departed the group after the release of the band’s debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967, when his position was no longer tenable due to severe psychotic mental health issues.

Following Barrett’s departure, Pink Floyd’s sound evolved into a more progressive rock orientation, which began to showcase the individual talents of the group, particularly the lead guitar lines of Gilmour and keyboard skills of Richard Wright. This new sound was most notably issued on The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975) and Animals (1977), though the sound arguably was first experimented with on Meddle (1971), particularly on the 22-minute epic album closer ‘Echoes’.

However, it was Dark Side of the Moon that really drew attention to the band, and today it takes its rightful place as one of the most well-known and beloved rock albums of all time. Lead single ‘Money’ was a great success for the band; it was their first hit in the States, reaching 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While it is difficult to pin down the artists that influenced Pink Floyd, David Gilmour has previously revealed that there was, in fact, a specific influence on his writing. He once said, “Getting specific about how and what influenced what is always difficult, but I was a big Booker T fan. I had the Green Onions album when I was a teenager. And in my previous band, we were going for two or three years, and we went through Beatles and Beach Boys, on to all the Stax and soul stuff. We played ‘Green Onions’ onstage. I’d done a fair bit of that stuff; it was something I thought we could incorporate into our sound without anyone spotting where the influence had come from. And to me, it worked. Nice white English architecture students getting funky is a bit of an odd thought… and isn’t as funky as all that.”

All that Memphis R&B sound is can found in ‘Money’, arguably Pink Floyd’s funkiest track. For instance, take Roger Water’s deliciously groovy bassline, the Delta-blues-like tremolo sound of Gilmour’s rhythm guitar parts, not to mention the roaring saxophone solo by collaborator Dick Parry. Parry would also record a piece for ‘Us and Them’ on Dark Side of the Moon and feature on Wish You Were Here’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’.

‘Money’ went on to be one of Pink Floyd’s best-known tracks, though its influences (like many of the band’s) remained somewhat obscured. The song is also known for its anti-capitalist lyrics, though Roger Waters once expressed his own conflict with this notion, claiming, “Money interested me enormously. I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is it and I have to decide whether I’m really a socialist or not.’ I’m still keen on a general welfare society, but I became a capitalist. You have to accept it. I remember coveting a Bentley like crazy. The only way to get something like that was through rock or the football pools. I very much wanted all that material stuff.”