Roger Waters – circa 1973
“Now there’s a look in your eyes / Like black holes in the sky” – ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ (Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright)
His hands don’t seem to work. Syd Barrett looks down at his guitar. The leader of the British rock band Pink Floyd, Barrett is not at his best. Some nights he plays music that has little to do with what the rest of the band are playing. Some nights he just stares at the audience while playing the same chord all evening. And then some nights he goes ‘catatonic’ on stage, not playing at all and remaining motionless on stage. Syd is becoming ‘an acid casualty.’ On 6 April 1968 there is an announcement from Pink Floyd that Syd Barrett has officially left the group.
This is the first major crossroads for Pink Floyd – but not the last. Over the years, the stewardship of Pink Floyd changes hands from Syd Barrett to Roger Waters to Dave Gilmour. There are corresponding changes of musical direction yet each of these people is part of the story almost from the beginning, rather than interlopers. Perhaps the best place to start is with the man who holds the reins the longest and, arguably, has the greatest impact.
George Roger Waters is born 6 September 1943 in Great Bookham, Surrey, England. “My father was a wonderful man…a very interesting man…,” explains Roger Waters. Eric Fletcher Waters had a tertiary education. He was a Christian and a pacifist. “He worked as an ambulance driver through the blitz [the bombing of England by Nazi Germany in the Second World War]…where he met my mother [Mary Whyte, and they] both joined the communist party,” Roger says. Yet Eric Waters decided he must do more. “He died very young. He was only 30 years old when he died at Anzio in Italy fighting the Nazis,” Roger concludes. Eric Waters died in 1944 when his son, Roger, was less than a year old.
Roger Waters goes on to attend Cambridge High School for Boys, an experience he does not remember with any fondness. Two of his fellow students are the younger Roger Keith (Syd) Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006) and David Gilmour (born 6 March 1946). Both Barrett and Gilmour are born in the city of Cambridge, England. Like Roger Waters, Syd Barrett’s father died when he was a child, possibly leaving him with some mental scars. Dave Gilmour notes that, “Syd was a strange guy, even back in Cambridge.” When Roger Waters is old enough, he leaves Cambridge High School and goes to London where he attends the Regent Street Polytechnic.
Back at Cambridge High School, 13 year old Dave Gilmour makes the acquaintance of the exotically named Storm Thorgerson. This artistically-inclined 15 year old will play a supporting role later in the story. Syd Barrett meets Bob Klose, a fellow student, who plays guitar. Both Dave Gilmour and Syd Barrett follow their own artistic natures to the Camberwell School of Art in London. As well as learning to paint, at this point Syd Barrett learns to play guitar. During lunch-breaks, the slightly more musically adept Dave Gilmour teaches Syd how to play some songs by popular British rock band The Rolling Stones. Dave and Syd play some folk gigs with acoustic guitars. Syd Barrett is rather more serious about music than his mate. He plays electric guitar with Geoff Mott And The Mottos and then The Hollering Blues. The folk stuff is just a bit of a sideline for Syd.
Across town, Roger Waters has his own musical ambitions. He forms a group with two of his fellow students from the architecture course. These young men are Richard Wright (28 July 1943 – 15 September 2008) from Hatch End, Middlesex, and Nick Mason (born 27 January 1944) from Edgbaston, Birmingham. The trio call themselves Sigma 6. Unable to score a recording contract, they change identities becoming The T-Set, The Abdabs and then The Screaming Abdabs. In this form their line-up is: Keith Noble (vocals), Juliette Gale (vocals), Roger Waters (guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards), Clive Metcalf (bass) and Nick Mason (drums). The Screaming Abdabs split up. “We just played for fun when we were at college,” recalls Roger Waters.
In 1965 Richard Wright marries Juliette Gale, the former Screaming Abdabs vocalist. They go on to have two children, Gala and Jamie. Years later, their daughter Gala marries Guy Pratt, a notable British bass player who works with such acts as Roxy Music and Icehouse.
Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason decide to try their luck again. Roger Waters switches to bass and jazz guitarist Bob Klose is brought into the group. Klose brings in fellow guitarist Syd Barrett who he knows from when they were both students at Cambridge. It is Syd Barrett who gives this new group the name The Pink Floyd Sound, but this is soon abbreviated to Pink Floyd. The name is derived from a record Barrett owns by blues musicians from Georgia in the U.S.A.: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. ‘Musical differences’ between Bob Klose and Syd Barrett result in the former leaving the band. So Pink Floyd becomes the quartet of: Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards), Roger Waters (bass) and Nick Mason (drums).
“We played R & B [rhythm and blues], Rolling Stones numbers, Bo Diddley…like all groups did in those days,” shrugs Richard Wright. Indeed, there is, at first, nothing much to distinguish Pink Floyd from their peers. Two things change that, Syd Barrett and electronics.
Pink Floyd segues from playing covers versions of their favourite songs to crafting their own work. Syd Barrett becomes their leader and the architect of their style and sound. He has a ‘distinctive’ guitar sound that is part chaos and part otherworldly. Perhaps more important is his songwriting, ‘subtly echoing the work of Lewis Carroll [the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1865)], combining the innocent and the menacing.’ “I’m full of dust and guitars,” Syd giggles. Dave Gilmour describes Syd Barrett as, “…one of the three or four greats, along with [1960s folk rock icon] Bob Dylan.”
The electronics come from a combination of Syd Barrett fooling around with guitar feedback and the advancing technology incorporated into Richard Wright’s keyboards. “[Getting into electronics] was not a conscious development,” Wright claims, believing it was just something the group fell into…perhaps in the same way that Alice plunged down the rabbit hole in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It has to be acknowledged that this coincides with the rise of mind-expanding recreational drugs. To an audience of youngsters on hallucinogenic drugs, the strange sounds emanating from a Pink Floyd performance is a natural soundtrack. ‘While the rest of the band is more into booze…Barrett is deeply involved in the psychedelic side…taking large amounts of L.S.D. and drawing the inspiration for much of his playing and writing from it.’ This style of music is known as psychedelia and is popular from 1966 to 1968.
In February 1966 Pink Floyd get their first regular gig on Sunday afternoons at London’s Marquee Club. This series of shows becomes known as ‘The Spontaneous Underground’. It is here they are first seen by Peter Jenner, the group’s future manager. In October 1966 Pink Floyd put on a series of shows at the London Free School’s sound/light workshop in All Saint’s Church Hall, Notting Hill. At this venue, the American couple Joel and Toni Brown project slides of moving liquid over the group, developing a distinctive light show to accompany Pink Floyd’s music. On 15 October 1966 Pink Floyd enhance their standing with the counter culture when, together with fellow avant-garde act Soft Machine, they play the launch for ‘The International Times’, Britain’s youth-oriented underground newspaper. On 31 October 1966 Peter Jenner and Andrew King officially become Pink Floyd’s managers. On 23 December 1966 Pink Floyd becomes the house band at ‘The Day Tripper’, a London club that soon changes its name to ‘The U.F.O. Club’ and becomes ‘the centre of London’s psychedelic underground.’
On 16 January 1967 Pink Floyd play a show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art – and then discuss the performance with the audience.
On 27 February 1967 Pink Floyd record their first single for Columbia Records (in the U.K.)/Capitol (in the U.S.). Heralded on the sleeve as ‘the next projected sound of ‘67’, this single is produced by Joe Boyd, the musical director from ‘The U.F.O. Club’. ‘Arnold Layne’ (UK No. 20) is a Syd Barrett song about ‘a pervert transvestite who steals ladies’ underwear from washing lines’: “Arnold Layne had a strange hobby / Collecting clothes / Moonshine, washing line / They suit him fine.” It’s weirdly endearing, but Radio London bans it for being ‘too smutty.’
Pink Floyd premiere their next release at a show on 12 May 1967 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. With the backing of EMI records, they install a ‘rudimentary’ quadrophonic sound system in the hall to accompany the presentation together with light projections, bubbles and daffodils. It is announced as ‘Games For May’ but, by the time it is issued as a single, it has a name change to ‘See Emily Play’ (UK no. 6). Syd Barrett’s old buddy Dave Gilmour is present for the recording: “I remember I really started to get worried when I went along to the session for ‘See Emily Play’. Syd was still functioning but he definitely wasn’t the person I knew. He looked through you. He wasn’t quite there. He was strange even then. That stare, you know?” Richard Wright’s organ sound blasts like a foghorn in the verses, but is compensated for with light piano triplets on the chorus. “There is no other day / Let’s try it another way,” suggest Syd Barrett, “You’ll lose your mind and play / Free games for May / See Emily play.” There is a new discipline to the weirdness here, a surprisingly catchy sort of psychedelic pop. Pink Floyd will come to virtually ignore singles in later years, but this is their best, their most shiningly commercial song. Norman Smith acts as producer on this and Pink Floyd’s first two albums.
‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (1967) (UK no. 6, US no. 131) is the title of the debut album by Pink Floyd released on 5 August 1967. The name is taken from one of the chapters of ‘Wind in the Willows’ (1908) by Kenneth Grahame. Nine of the disc’s eleven tracks are composed by Syd Barrett. The contents divide into two groups. Some of the songs are whimsical oddities in the spirit of the two previous singles (neither of which are included here). These include strange ditties like ‘The Gnome’, ‘Matilda Mother’, the ‘driving, mysterious rocker’ ‘Lucifer Sam’, and the swirling, capering silliness of ‘Bike’: “I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like / It’s got a basket, a bell that rings.” The other half of the album comprises tracks that seem designed to accompany the space program. There are the two group compositions, ‘Pow R Toc H’ and ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, the latter featuring ‘Richard Wright’s exotic Farfisa [organ] work’. There is also in this group the album’s highlight, ‘Astronomy Dominie’. The psychedelic astronauts float amidst eerie, space-bound guitars. Richard Wright provides the high harmonies as Syd Barrett intones, “Neptune, Titan, stars can frighten.” The album ‘establishes Pink Floyd’s psychedelic reputation around the world.’
In October 1967 Pink Floyd tours the U.S.A. for the first time.
A new single, ‘Apples And Oranges’, is released on 18 November 1967 but ‘it flops.’
Syd Barrett’s behaviour is becoming more unpredictable. On 18 February 1968 Dave Gilmour is added to Pink Floyd as their fifth member. Gilmour has been in France where, amongst his ‘many jobs’, he worked as a male model. He also toured Europe with his own band. The idea initially is for Dave Gilmour to play guitar and ease some of Syd Barrett’s workload. This view changes to the notion that Syd Barrett could become a non-touring creative fountain-head in a manner similar to Brian Wilson’s relationship with The Beach Boys around the same time. Finally, the whole situation with Syd Barrett culminates with Syd leaving the band on 6 April 1968. Managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King are jettisoned at the same time.
Although Syd Barrett is non-functional, the reasons for this are still debated. Some contend that his drug intake had nothing to do with it and Syd was a victim of mental illness. The most thorough theory on this front is that Syd suffered from schizophrenia. Another school of thought argues that Syd was not mentally ill at all and he just overdid it with the hallucinogenic substances. Most likely Syd had a predisposition to mental illness that was exacerbated by his narcotic intake. Peter Jenner and Andrew King continue to manage Syd Barrett and he knocks out a couple of solo albums at irregular intervals in subsequent years. Mostly, perhaps by necessity, he lives a reclusive lifestyle.
Pink Floyd now assumes their most familiar and longest-lasting configuration: Roger Waters (vocals, bass), Dave Gilmour (vocals, guitar), Richard Wright (vocals, keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums).
Without Syd Barrett as leader, the group also needs to realign itself creatively. For the next few years, they act in a fairly democratic fashion while they struggle to find a new direction. “Everybody in the band has a power of veto,” Richard Wright explains.
From 1968 to 1973 Pink Floyd transition from being a psychedelic act to a progressive rock act. The colourful whimsy and humour gives way to a more experimental, self-consciously artistic approach. Similarly, the slides of moving liquid are superseded by a more professional and technically complicated system of light shows. The introduction of synthesisers – computer-driven keyboards that, literally, synthesise a variety of sounds and tones – changes the face of music and Pink Floyd are early adopters. The electronics are primarily the domain of Richard Wright but all the group messes about with them to varying degrees. Progressive rock aims at a grandeur more commonly associated with classical music than pop music. Dave Gilmour tries to articulate Pink Floyd’s new ethos: ‘We are very into timeless, ageless, spacious…moods in our music. Atmospheric…not really occult, I wouldn’t say.”
In 1968 Nick Mason marries Lynette ‘Lindy’ Rutter. They go on to have two daughters, Holly and Chloe.
On 29 July 1968 Pink Floyd plays a free concert in London’s Hyde Park. This was organised by their previous management team before their departure. Support acts on the bill are medieval prog-rockers Jethro Tull and idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Roy Harper.
Pink Floyd’s second album, ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ (1968) (UK no. 9), is released on the same day as their Hyde Park concert. “’Saucerful Of Secrets’ started completely in the studio…from scratch,” claims Richard Wright. This transitional set holds Syd Barrett’s incongruous ‘Jugband Blues’, a piece of wonky whimsy that ponders, “And what exactly is a dream / And what exactly is a joke.” The order of the day though is songs like the title track with ‘long instrumental parts.’ Roger Waters begins to make his presence felt in tracks like ‘Let There Be More Light’ and the hypnotic mantra of ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’. The albums’ cover artwork is created by a firm called Hipgnosis. Led by Dave Gilmour’s old school chum, Storm Thorgerson, Hipgnosis designs the oblique and cryptic cover images for all Pink Floyd’s albums up to and including 1977.
In 1969 Roger Waters marries his ‘childhood sweetheart’, Judy Trim.
With their third album, Pink Floyd begin acting as their own record producers. ‘More’ (1969) (UK no. 9, US no. 153), released in July, is the soundtrack to a film directed by Barbet Schroeder. Film soundtracks prove fertile ground for Pink Floyd’s ‘atmospheric’ music, but ‘More’ is the only soundtrack officially considered to be a Pink Floyd album. Other films to which they contribute around this time are: Peter Whitehead’s ‘Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London’ (1967); Paul Jones’ ‘The Committee’ (1968); Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Zabriskie Point’ (1970) [Roger Waters describes working with the director this way: “It was hell, sheer hell.”]; Roy Battersby’s ‘The Body’ [on which Pink Floyd work with ‘electronics experimenter’ Ron Geesin]; and another Barbet Schroeder film, ‘La Vallee’ (1972).
‘Ummagumma’ (1969) (UK no. 5, US no. 74), in October, is Pink Floyd’s first release on EMI’s ‘underground’ label, Harvest. This is a double album. The first disc is a live recording from shows earlier in the year. The second disc gives each of the four members half a side’s worth of space to experiment with as they choose. ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970) (UK no. 1, US no. 55, AUS no. 30) is a ‘symphonic work’ co-created with Ron Geesin. Pink Floyd performs it at the Classical Music Festival in Montreaux, Switzerland, on 18 September 1971.
On 15 May 1970 Pink Floyd plays the Crystal Palace Garden Party. Unfortunately the volume from the speakers kills all the fish in the venue’s lake. On the night, the band premieres ‘Return To The Son Of Nothing’. Renamed ‘Echoes’, this epic occupies one whole side of Pink Floyd’s next album, ‘Meddle’ (1972) (UK no. 3, US no. 70, AUS no. 24). Dave Gilmour and Richard Wright share the vocals for this group composition that builds in intensity from sonar sounds through a sort of ghostly sea story: “In labyrinths of coral caves / The echo of a distant time / Comes willowing across the sand / And everything is green and submarine.” This album is also home to the rubber band bass of the instrumental ‘One Of These Days’, another track on which all four members of Pink Floyd share songwriting credit. The puzzling cover image provided by Hipgnosis for ‘Meddle’ is actually a human ear underwater.
‘Obscured By Clouds’ (1972) (UK no. 6, US no. 46, AUS no. 44) comes out the same year as Adrian Maben’s documentary / concert film ‘Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii’ (1972).
The era of a democratic, experimental Pink Floyd is drawing to a close. Roger Waters more firmly takes the reins from this point. The airy hippie sentiments are pushed aside for a darker worldview, a more cynical and sour outlook. In a way, this saves Pink Floyd from obsolescence. Many other progressive rock acts fall by the wayside, crushed under the weight of their own pretensions. By contrast, Pink Floyd sharpen their focus and become more withering. The image of Roger Waters hunched over his bass exemplifies the band’s attempt to shield themselves from scrutiny and image mongering.
‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ (1973) (UK no. 2, US no. 1, AUS no. 2) is Pink Floyd’s masterpiece. “I think every album was a step towards ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’,” suggests Richard Wright. “We were learning all the time, the techniques of the recording and our writing was getting better.” Dave Gilmour admits that, “Roger [Waters] came in with the central theme of how the pressures of modern life get to you.” ‘Breathe (In The Air)’ by Waters, Gilmour and Wright is a sort of meditative, calming exercise, though there is something sad about Gilmour’s sighing guitar. Introduced by clocks striking the hour, the group composition ‘Time’ contemplates the passage of the moments to the beat of a forthright groove. Yet, here again, is the spectre of defeat: “The time has gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.” “[Richard Wright] brought in the music for ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’,” points out Dave Gilmour. The keyboard player’s instrumental is full of ‘cinematic lustre’, enhanced by Clare Torry’s wordless vocalising that reaches for heaven. ‘Money’ is unusual with its 7/8 time signature like a waltz. Roger Waters’ misanthropic bile is framed by the sound of ringing cash registers and spotlights a squawking saxophone solo from Dick Parry. “Don’t give me that goody good bulls***,” snarls Roger Waters in ‘Money’. He co-writes ‘Us And Them’ with Richard Wright, making use of a discarded piano piece originally written for ‘Zabriskie Point’. The track has a pastoral feel, an almost childlike sing-along, but it seems to come from someone whose head is buried despairingly in his hands. Waters closes the album with ‘Brain Damage’, a greeting card from a mental asylum, and the last sundown gasp of ‘Eclipse’. ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ is ‘the era’s keynote album.’
Such is the impact of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ that it creates its own little industry of legends and factoids. Here are some examples: (1) The heartbeat that brackets the album “is done with a tom-tom. It’s not a real heartbeat,” explains Dave Gilmour. (2) In a theory first circulated in 1995, it is claimed that ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ syncs up with the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). That is, you can play the film with the sound down at the same time as the Pink Floyd album and each will enhance the other, revealing new insights. (3) The ‘manic laugh’ heard at various points in the album, particularly towards the end, belongs to Peter Watts, a sound engineer and roadie for Pink Floyd. He is the father of the famed actress Naomi Watts. (4) Part of the success of the album is attributed to the wealth of sonic detail in its ‘state-of-the-art production’ job which is ‘a stereo wet-dream for hi-fi snobs.’ (5) ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ enjoys incredible longevity. It takes up a spot ‘on the British charts for more than two years.’ In the U.S.A. it racks up an incomprehensible seven hundred and forty-one weeks on the ‘Billboard’ magazine album chart. That’s more than fourteen years!
On 7 July 1975 Dave Gilmour marries U.S. born artist/model Virginia ‘Ginger’ Hasenbein. The couple go on to have four children: Alice (born 1979), Clare (born 1979), Sara (born 1983) and Matthew (born 1986).
Creating a follow-up to the monolithic ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ is a difficult task for Pink Floyd. Almost inevitably, there is some disappointment in the initial reactions to ‘Wish You Were Here’ (1975) (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 1), released in September. However, time shows this to be unfair and the album underrated. “For me, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is very satisfying,” offers Dave Gilmour. “I’d rather listen to it than ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. I think we achieved a better balance of music and lyrics. [On] ‘Dark Side’…sometimes the tunes were neglected.” Parts of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ (e.g. ‘Brain Damage’) can be interpreted as being about the group’s former leader, Syd Barrett. ‘Wish You Were Here’ addresses the subject much more directly. In a sort of rock music version of survivor’s guilt, Pink Floyd meditate on the absence of Barrett in the light of their greatest triumph. Ironically, during the recording, Syd Barrett turns up at the studio announcing that he is “ready to do his bit.” Presumably, he is politely but firmly turned away. ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, written by Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Dave Gilmour, is a tribute to Barrett. This massive nine-part ‘liquid-rock suite’ bookends the album; the first five parts open the disc and the final four close it. In between, Waters grumbles about conformity in ‘Welcome To The Machine’ and satirises the music business in ‘Have A Cigar’ (the latter featuring the band’s old acquaintance Roy Harper as guest vocalist). The title track, ‘Wish You Were Here’, is co-written by Waters and Gilmour and is built around Gilmour’s lingering, bluesy guitar figure. The aching camaraderie is unmistakable: “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl / Year after year.”
In 1975 Roger Waters divorces Judy Trim. They had no children. In 1976 Waters marries his second wife, Lady Caroline Christie. They have a son, Harry (born 16 November 1976), and a daughter, India.
For the last Pink Floyd album cover created by Hipgnosis, a forty-foot-long inflatable pig is created. The balloon is photographed above the industrial site of Battersea Power Station on 3 December 1976. However the balloon breaks free from its guide wires and wafts off, attaining a height of eighteen thousand feet before it comes to ground in Kent…proving pigs really can fly.
The album related to the balloon misadventure, ‘Animals’ (1977) (UK no. 2, US no. 3, AUS no. 2), features ‘Roger Waters’ distinctly jaundiced view of the human condition.’ The porker from the cover is represented in ‘Pigs On The Wing – Part 1’ (the opener) and ‘Pigs On The Wing – Part 2’ (the closer) as well as ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ in the middle. Separating the three little pigs is ‘Dogs’ (co-written with Dave Gilmour) and the album’s highlight, ‘Sheep’. Over Gilmour’s darkly implacable guitarwork, Waters rants, “Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away / Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.”
Roger Waters struggles with Pink Floyd’s new status post-‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. The adulation the band enjoys just seems to make him more bitter and twisted. Ideally, he’d like to build a wall between himself and the baying hordes…so this is what he does. ‘The Wall’ (1979) (UK no. 3, US no. 1, AUS no. 1) is a double album and ‘the product of an angry…man.’ Waters brings in Bob Ezrin to co-produce the album with him and Dave Gilmour. Richard Wright and Nick Mason are denied a production credit. In fact, Waters goes so far as to demand Wright be dismissed because ‘he doesn’t think that Wright is pulling his weight.’ Waters takes aim at his stultifying school days with ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 2): “Hey teacher, leave them kids alone / All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.” Originally, the track is just a minute and a half, but producer Bob Ezrin convinces drummer Nick Mason ‘to experiment with a disco drum beat’ and Ezrin adds a kiddie chorus by the children of Islington Green School. The result is an unlikely hit single. Society in general gets a pasting through ‘In The Flesh’ and ‘The Trial’ as well as the attempted communication of ‘Hey You’. Some sort of apex is reached in the medicated mentality of ‘Comfortably Numb’ which manages to be simultaneously soothing and unsettling. Waters and Gilmour share the vocals and the songwriting on this track. “There is no pain, you are receding,” Dave Gilmour gently sings, “A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.” With this album, Pink Floyd’s sound begins ‘losing some of its heavy-duty electronic textures in favour of more approachable elements’ so the term ‘progressive rock’ is no long fitting and perhaps hasn’t been since 1973. ‘The Wall’ is a monument to ‘rock star hubris’.
The tour supporting ‘The Wall’ boasts an elaborate stage-show. There are animations and giant puppets based on the brutal caricatures created by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. During the performance, a wall made of Styrofoam bricks, weighing five pounds each, is built on the stage until the band is totally obscured by the one hundred and twenty by sixty foot wall.
The whole production spawns Alan Parker’s film ‘Pink Floyd – The Wall’ (1982). It stars Bob Geldof, of Irish new wave act The Boomtown Rats, as ‘Pink’. ‘The film has virtually no dialogue and plot. It is instead a series of surreal episodes equating rock ‘n’ roll with fascism, women and sex with pain and death, and life in general with an inescapable, nihilistic madness.’
In 1982 the exiled Richard Wright divorces his wife, Juliette.
‘The Final Cut’ (1983) (UK no. 1, US no. 6, AUS no. 3) is firmly dominated by Roger Waters. He co-produces the disc with Michael Kamen and James Guthrie. This album is inspired by the Falklands war that saw British troops in combat with Argentine forces. ‘The Fletcher Memorial Home’ is a scathing satire set to piano and a string section. Perhaps named for Roger’s late father, Eric Fletcher Waters – who died fighting for his country – this home “for incurable tyrants and kings” holds such luminaries as England’s Prime Minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher, as well as the likes of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev. These “colonial wasters of life and limb” are subjected to “the final solution”, a term the Nazis used when attempting to exterminate the Jews in World War Two.
In the wake of ‘The Final Cut’, drummer Nick Mason quits Pink Floyd and rumours suggest ‘that Floyd is no more.’
In 1984 Richard Wright marries his second wife, Franka.
Roger Waters leaves Pink Floyd in 1985. “I knew that we were over with, as far as the traditional ‘band of brothers’ notion of a rock group goes,” he says. “I mean, we just weren’t like that any more and we were never going to be like that again.” In 1986 Waters sues Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason to dissolve the group partnership…and loses.
The outcome is the rebirth of Pink Floyd as the trio of Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and the recalled Richard Wright. This coalition is largely guided by Gilmour. ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’ (1987) (UK no. 3, US no. 3, AUS no. 2) is co-produced by Gilmour and Bob Ezrin. Storm Thorgerson, Gilmour’s old friend, returns to create the cover artwork of this and the next Pink Floyd album. ‘Learning To Fly’ (US no. 1), chock full of phased guitars and female backing vocals, is the album’s highlight. It is co-written by Gilmour, Anthony Moore, producer Bob Ezrin and John Carin, who contributes additional keyboards. Session musician Tony Levin plays bass on this album. Gilmour’s jagged guitar chords are also used to good effect on his composition ‘Sorrow’. This set is also home to ‘On The Turning Away’ (UK no. 55, US no. 1), co-written by Gilmour and Moore.
Nick Mason divorces Lindy Rutter in 1988. He later marries Annette ‘Nettie’ Lynton and they have two sons, Guy and Cary.
Richard Wright divorces his wife, Franka, in 1990.
Roger Waters divorces his wife, Lady Caroline Christie, in 1992. He marries his third wife, Priscilla Phillips, in 1993.
‘The Division Bell’ (1994) (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 1) in March, is again co-produced by Dave Gilmour and Bob Ezrin. The title is taken from a line in the nostalgic ‘High Hopes’: “The ringing of the division bell has begun.” Dave Gilmour co-writes this track with his girlfriend Polly Samson. Richard Wright joins them for ‘Keep Talking’ (UK no. 26, US no. 1), a kind of conflict resolution meeting for male-female relations. This song includes the electronic voice of disabled physics genius Stephen Hawking. Richard Wright’s son-in-law, Guy Pratt, plays bass on this album – though Gilmour himself plays bass on ‘High Hopes’.
His first marriage over, Dave Gilmour weds Polly Samson in July 1994. They have four children: Charlie (adopted by Gilmour from Samson’s first marriage), Joe, Gabriel and Romany.
In 1995 Richard Wright marries for the third time. He and Mildred ‘Millie’ Hobbs have a son, Ben.
Roger Waters’ third marriage comes to an end when he and Patricia Phillips split up in 2001.
The best known Pink Floyd line-up – Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason – reunite for one night only. On 25 July 2005 they perform at Live 8, an all-star charity concert in Hyde Park aimed at eradicating (or at least reducing) poverty. The shows coincide with a meeting of the G8 countries (hence the concert’s name). These are, arguably, the wealthiest and most influential countries and so are best placed to make poverty history. Although Pink Floyd put aside their disputes for the evening, it is not a lasting reunion and the band again lapses into inactivity.
Syd Barrett dies from pancreatic cancer on 7 July 2006.
Richard Wright’s marriage to Millie Hobbs ends in 2007. Wright dies from an undisclosed form of cancer on 15 September 2008.
Roger Waters marries for the fourth time on 14 January 2012. He had been engaged to his bride, actress and filmmaker Laurie Durning, since 2004.
‘The Endless River’ (2014) (UK no. 1, US no. 3, AUS no. 3) is a mostly instrumental album; only the last piece on the disc, ‘Louder Than Words’, has vocals. The tracks on this album are offcuts from ‘The Division Bell’ recording sessions twenty years earlier.
The two disc compilation album ‘Cre/ation: The Early Years 1965-1972’ (2016) (UK no. 19, US no. 103, AUS no. 47) collects the best of Pink Floyd’s work in the years before ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. It is actually distilled from the massive twenty-seven disc box set ‘The Early Years 1965-1972’ (2016) which includes DVDs (or Blu-ray discs) as well as many more audio recordings.
When Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968 it seemed the band would not be able to continue without its visionary leader. After a few years of experimenting, Pink Floyd emerged stronger than ever under the stewardship of Roger Waters. When Waters parted ways with the group in 1985, they again picked themselves up and carried on. If the albums recorded after that, with Dave Gilmour as spearhead, were not as triumphant as Waters’ post-Barrett renaissance, Waters solo albums without Pink Floyd were not too distinguished either. Realistically, change of leaders or not, Pink Floyd’s time was probably up by the end of the 1970s. It seems likely that at least some of their albums – ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘The Wall’ etc. – will be discovered and enjoyed by subsequent generations. Hopefully, they will also remember Syd Barrett. Pink Floyd ‘shoehorned music, art and a melancholic disposition into each and every masterpiece.’ ‘…For the first decade or so of their existence, they were one of the most innovative groups around…’
- allmusic.com, ‘Pink Floyd’ by Richie Unterberger as at 24 July 2003
- ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 181, 182, 183
- ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 164
- ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 121, 123, 126, 127, 133, 143, 190, 309, 359
- wikipedia.org as at 2 September 2013, 1 January 2015, 7 January 2017
- ‘HARDtalk’, BBC News – Roger Waters interview conducted by Stephen Sackur (20 September 2013)
- Notable names database – nndb.com – as at 2 September 2013
- Dave Gilmour video interview conducted by Paul Rappaport (September 2011)
- schizophrenia.com – Item about Syd Barrett’s mental illness (12 July 2006)
- Pink Floyd Australian tour video interview (1971)
- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 43, 47, 58, 66
- ‘The History of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 158, 159, 317
- ‘Echoes – The Best Of Pink Floyd’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (EMI Records Limited, 2001) p. 6, 10, 22, 23
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 77, 123
- angelfire.com as at 27 October 2013
- famousbirthdays.com as at 27 October 2013
- Internet movie database imdb.com as at 29 July 2013
- ‘DVD & Video Guide 2007’ by Mick Martin, Marsha Porter (Ballantine Books, 2006) p. 1286
- ‘People’ magazine (30 September 1982) (reproduced on people.com)
- biography.com as at 27 October 2013
- davidgilmour.com/press/1995 as at 27 October 2013
- ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia newspaper) – ‘The Endless River’ review by Cameron Adams (13 November 2014) p. 48
Song lyrics copyright Pink Floyd Music Publishers / Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd (Artemis BV) with the exceptions of ‘Arnold Layne’ (Peermusic); ‘See Emily Play’, ‘Astronomy Dominie’, ‘Bike’, ‘Jugband Blues’, ‘Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun’ (all five: Westminster Music Ltd); ‘Money’, ‘Sheep’, ‘Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)’, ‘The Fletcher Memorial Home’ (all four: Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd (Artemis BV); ‘High Hopes’ (Pink Floyd Music Publishers).
Last revised 12 January 2017