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Inside Pink Floyd: Rolling Stone's 1987 Cover Story

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According to Gilmour and Mason, Waters officially announced his leaving in a letter to the Floyd's record companies, Columbia in America, Emi in the U.K., in December 1985. "We had had discussions," Mason says. "We sort of knew something was up." Gilmour and Mason say that Waters thought his exit would mean the de facto end of the group.

"We'd been having these meetings in which Roger said, 'I'm not working with you guys again,'" Gilmour says. "He'd say to ME, 'Are you going to carry on?' And I'd say, quite honestly, 'I don't know. But when we're good and ready, I'll tell everyone what the plan is. And we'll get on with it.' I think partly his letter was to gear us up into doing something."

"Because he believed very strongly that we wouldn't do it," says Mason.

"Or couldn't do it," Gilmour says. "I remember meetings in which he said, 'You'll never fucking do it.' That's precisely what was said. Exactly that term." He laughs wryly. "Except slightly harder."

Waters and the other Floyds, particularly Gilmour, had been on a collision course for years, as far back as the making of The Dark Side of the Moon, in 1972. Producer Chris Thomas was brought in to supervise the mixing of that album, Gilmour says, because he and Waters were having "a radical argument" over how the record should sound. Later, as Waters assumed greater responsibility for the group's conceptual direction and music, the acrimony increased.

"He forced his way to become that central figure," Gilmour says. "That's what he really wanted, to be that central figure. I felt, and I'm sure Nick did too, that it was not the best thing to happen. As productive as we were, we could have been making better records if Roger had been willing to back off a little bit, to be more open to other people's input. It wasn't like we were all sitting there leaning on him to look after us. It was a question of him having forced his way to that position, of him being very tough and having more energy for that sort of fighting."

Bob Ezrin, who functioned as both coproducer and referee during the making of The Wall (he and Gilmour coproduced the new Floyd album as well), says the verbal brawling never escalated to fisticuffs. "It was all done under that English smiling, left-handed, adversarial stance they take, with the smiles on their faces and soft voices. But basically they were saying, 'I hate you, and I'm going to kill you.' The war that existed between those two guys was unbelievable."

They dropped the pretense of politeness, however, during the recording of The Final Cut, Waters's album-length meditation on the death of his father in World War Ii. Waters was, understandably, very possessive of the piece; it was a highly personal exorcism of his obsession with his loss as well as an expression of unbridled outrage at the politicians and generals who casually demand such pointless sacrifices. Gilmour didn't share Waters's enthusiasm for the record. He complained that some of the songs weren't up to snuff, pointing out that they were in fact rejects from the original Wall demos.

"Basically, he felt and says that I was being will-fully obstructive," Gilmour says, visibly bristling. "Which is absolutely not true. My criticisms and objections were constructive in the best possible way. They are the sort of constructive criticisms that made other albums, like The Wall."

Waters didn't see it that way, Gilmour says. He threatened to scrap the whole record if the guitarist would not relinquish his position as coproducer. Gilmour agreed but refused to give up the extra producer's royalties that would have been due him. "That's how it ended up, very miserable," Gilmour says. "Even Roger says what a miserable period it was. And he was the one who entirely made it miserable, in my opinion."

Relaxing by the hotel pool under a bright, warm California sun the day after his Oakland show, Waters calmly but firmly refutes Gilmour's version of the Final Cut clashes. The album, he admits, was originally supposed to be songs left over from the movie version of The Wall. "Then I got on a roll," he says, "and started writing this piece about my father. I was on a roll, and I was gone. The fact of the matter was that I was making this record. And Dave didn't like it. And he said so."

But Waters, 43, dismisses as "absolute bollocks" the notion that he forced The Final Cut on Gilmour and Mason. "I said, 'Perhaps this should be a solo record. I'll pay you guys the money we've spent, and I'll make this a solo album.'" He smirks. "No, they didn't want that, because they know songs don't grow on trees. They wanted it to be a Floyd record."

The record came out as a Floyd effort. Any illusion, though, that this trio ever would or ever could work together again was shattered. Waters would have nothing else to do with Gilmour. Gilmour refused to be a mere sessionman in a Waters-led Floyd. Even Nick Mason, who had maintained a personal friendship with Waters and shared his interest in theatrical presentation, allied himself with Gilmour. "Dave found himself particularly picked on during The Final Cut," Mason says. "I found myself feeling that this was not fair."

That was over three years ago. But the stage was set for the current legal imbroglio. Waters insisted that Pink Floyd as a band, as a musical partnership, was finished. Gilmour's position was that just because Waters said it was finished didn't make it so. Ironically, though, it wasn't the Pink Floyd name game that set the whole ugly mess in motion, but a tangentially related business matter. Waters's version of what happened is this:

In early 1985, he terminated his management deal with Steve O'Rourke, Pink Floyd's longtime manager, over a dispute regarding contractual obligations for future Pink Floyd product – how could there be future Pink Floyd records if there was no group? – and resultant royalty penalties if those commitments were not filled. Waters insists he gave O'Rourke six months' notice, as called for in his deal. O'Rourke says he was terminated illegally. Waters then offered Gilmour and Mason a series of compromise deals in which he essentially would let them have the name Pink Floyd if they ratified his dismissal of O'Rourke. In doing so, Waters was taking a calculated risk that Gilmour and Mason would not continue as the Floyd.

"Don't ask me why they never took that deal," Waters says. In June 1986, O'Rourke prepared to sue Waters over the management deal and back royalties. At that point, Waters claims, he told the other Floyds, "Listen, guys, if those papers come through my door, we all go to court. I am not going to be hung out to dry in court for years and years while you guys are calling yourselves Pink Floyd." The following October 31st, Waters made good his threat, filing suit in London against Gilmour and Mason to prevent them from using the name Pink Floyd.

Waters admits there is a certain inconsistency in his current stand against Gilmour and Mason's use of the Floyd name and his earlier willingness to let them have the name. But it was, he contends, "for the sake of a quiet life. This was two years ago. Believe ME, my life has been anything but quiet for the last two years. I thought it was wrong. I still think it's completely wrong. I don't think they should be called Pink Floyd.

"It's taken me two years to make some fundamental connections. There is the legal issue, which is the only thing that can be resolved in court. And that is, who owns the piece of property that is the name Pink Floyd? That is a legal issue; you go to court and fight over it.

"The other issue is completely separate, the whole issue about what is or isn't a rock group. What is the Beatles? Are Paul Mccartney and Ringo Starr the Beatles? My view now is they're not, any more than the Firm should have been called Led Zeppelin, even if John Paul Jones had been there."

Gilmour counters Waters's logic with a very simple statement. "I had an awful lot of time invested in the group," he declares. "It was an intolerable situation, but I was damned if I was going to be forced out. I am an extremely stubborn person, and I will not be forced out of something I consider to be partly mine." As to whether he and Mason do or do not qualify as Pink Floyd without Waters, Gilmour says A Momentary Lapse of Reason is all the proof he needs.

"We never sat down at any point during this record and said, 'It doesn't sound Floyd enough. Make this more Floyd.' We just worked on the songs until they sounded right. When they sounded great and right, that's when it became Pink Floyd."

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