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Inside Pink Floyd: Rolling Stone's 1987 Cover Story

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Two weeks later, in the Oakland Coliseum, Roger Waters wasn't settling for second place. He didn't have the pig or the airplane. But as usual, he had a couple of heavy axes to grind, among them the threat of nuclear self-destruction and the potential of communications technology as a means to bring people together, two themes central to his latest album, Radio K.A.O.S. Not surprisingly, Waters ground those axes with the same black humor, theatrical ingenuity and apocalyptic urgency that he brought to the staging of his musical autobiography The Wall, incorporating striking computer graphics, newsreel footage of Armageddon in the making and fictional telephone exchanges between a young spastic boy named Billy and a Kaos Dj, played by real-life radio pro Jim Ladd.

But there was also a matter of honor at stake here. When Waters poignantly reprised old songs like "Welcome to the Machine," "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall," he wasn't just doing the best of Floyd. Those were his songs, "the words and music of Roger Waters," as Ladd declared at the end of an extended Floyd medley in the first half. The implication, of course, was unmistakable: anyone else out there playing these songs, claiming to be Floyd, is bogus.

"I would be terribly happy for you to like what I'm doing and to like what he's doing," Waters said sharply the next day, referring to Gilmour, "if it wasn't for the fact that he was calling himself Pink Floyd. He isn't. If one of us was going to be called Pink Floyd, it's me." Even the old props in the current Floyd show, Waters insisted, were originally his idea. "That's my pig up there," he said. "That's my plane crashing." He snickered and added, "It's their dry ice."

The "which one's Pink?" debate has been a legal football kicked around by lawyers since last fall, when Waters sued Gilmour and Mason in an attempt to prevent them from using the name, claiming the group was "a spent force creatively." (Rick Wright, who quietly left the group in 1980 after the Wall shows, has unofficially returned for the new Floyd album and tour.) Both camps, however, have now taken their cases to the people in a vindictive press war. Floyd fans are, in a sense, getting two state-of-the-art-rock shows and records – Waters's Radio K.A.O.S., the Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason – for the price of one band. But the price has been disastrously high. In their fight to determine who is the rightful heir to the Pink Floyd throne and the continuing fortune it's worth, Waters, Gilmour and Mason have destroyed whatever personal friendship, band camaraderie and musical unity first bonded them two decades ago. The musicians who created The Wall are now up against a wall of their own – the one separating them from one another.

When asked about the barrage of charges and countercharges flying between the other Floyds and him, Roger Waters quotes a lyric from Don Henley's "Long Way Home": "There's three sides to every story/Yours and mine and the cold, hard truth." And in Waters v. Floyd, the cold, hard truth is that they can't stand each other. They resent what each has done to the other, what each has said publicly about the other, what each has exacted from the other emotionally, artistically and financially.

If you believe half of what Gilmour and Mason say about their former bassist, Waters is an arrogant, dictatorial egomaniac hungry for all the credit and the subsequent rewards. If you believe half of what Waters says of the surviving Floyds, they are lazy, greedy bastards hacking out a record and sleepwalking through a tour to build up a multimillion-dollar retirement nest egg using, in Waters's words, "the good will and the name Pink Floyd." It's as if they lived in parallel universes, each battling visions of the other's monstrosity.

The fans, of course, are happy to be getting any Floyd, any Waters, at all. Twenty years of reclusive media silence and infrequent tours and albums have only increased the rock public's hunger for all things Floyd. Unfortunately, the public's joy and approval can't always be heard over the din of accusations and allegations and the brittle snap of lawyers' briefcases opening and closing.

David Gilmour, 41, has heard the snap of those briefcases a lot during the past year. While recording A Momentary Lapse of Reason and preparing for the current Floyd tour, he was either in conference or on the phone with lawyers nearly every day, planning responses to Waters's suit. Reclining on a hotel-room sofa one morning after one of the Montreal gigs, Gilmour talks about the Floyd feud with a combination of resignation and stubbornness. Rumors of the group's demise following the release of Waters's strident antiwar epic The Final Cut, in 1983, were premature, he claims. Waters's decision to hit the solo trail was not the end of the band, at least as Gilmour and Nick Mason knew it.

"We never assumed that it was defunct," says Gilmour. "But the growing tide of rumors and Roger's vocal output combined made it almost like an avalanche. We couldn't keep issuing press statements saying, 'No, we haven't split up.' It wasn't worth the bother. Our assumption – my assumption, anyway – was that we would do another record."

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