Nevertheless, in accepting the challenge of making a new record under the Floyd banner, Gilmour and Mason were faced with the daunting task of measuring up to public anticipations based in great part on the standards set by Waters. That they made an album lacking the strident, pedagogical edge of The Wall or The Final Cut is no surprise. That the album is aurally sumptuous and texturally seductive will be reassuring to anyone who was spellbound by the glacial grandeur of Meddle or the extended instrumental passages of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." With "On the Turning Away," the reconstituted Floyd may also have a hit single of "Money" proportions on its hands. A caressing ballad with a glowing chorus and climactic Gilmour guitar, it is more openly hopeful and loving than anything Waters allowed himself to write for the Floyd.
The question of just who is Pink Floyd is complicated by the fact that Gilmour and Mason are out-numbered eighteen to two on this record by the assorted session musicians, background singers and lyricists who were recruited to make Lapse – and that's not counting Rick Wright, who returned to contribute keyboards partway through the recording of the album, and Bob Ezrin, who played additional keyboards and percussion. But Gilmour does not try to disguise the fact that he could not do it alone, that he needed and wanted help.
"You can't go back," he says. "You have to find a new way of working, of operating and getting on with it. We didn't make this remotely like we've made any other Floyd record. It was different systems, everything."
For one thing, he dispensed with the idea of making a concept album early on. "We thought, 'sod this, we don't have to make a concept album. If we work on making everything great, then maybe it will show itself to have some sort of linear form later.'"
"It's not our métier," says Ezrin. "We're not kidding ourselves. We're not Roger Waters. But we do other things, and we do them very well. We decided the atmosphere was the most important thing. The concept really just had to be a feeling that was pervasive. The atmosphere of the album is best defined by the environment in which we were working."
That environment was the river Thames, on the Astoria, Gilmour's lavish turn-of-the-century houseboat, which he has turned into a recording studio. Ezrin and the Floyd spent seven months on the Astoria, which is docked sixteen miles outside of London, recording most of A Momentary Lapse. "The river became the motif," Ezrin says. "It came up in all the songs. The river imposed itself." Also imposing itself on the sessions was the specter of Waters and his repeated assertions that a Gilmour-led Floyd was no Floyd at all.
"It's like a challenge in public," says Ezrin. "By virtue of Roger saying, 'I did it all, and if I leave, it doesn't exist,' basically what he's saying is that David is a nonentity artistically. That's not fair. But if someone puts that message across long enough and hard enough, then you have to prove yourself. My perception was that Dave was torn between an angry posture that says, 'Goddamnit, I've been here for twenty years, and I have a right to be here,' and having a little voice in there that says, 'Maybe I'm not good anymore.'"
Waters suffered no such misgivings with Radio K.A.O.S., although he admits that the K.A.O.S. stage production – which incorporated pertinent old Floyd songs and graphically illustrated the album's apocalyptic theme – transmits his message a lot more effectively than the album alone. "I accepted halfway through the record that as a narrative form, the album was doomed to failure. You just get a taste of the narrative. I made the decision to go with it anyway and allow the project to develop if it was going or stop if it's not." Unfortunately, Waters isn't exactly doing Floyd-like business on the road. While Floyd is packing arenas and stadiums, he's having trouble selling out one-nighters.
"The connections one makes in quality make up for the ones you make in quantity," he declares. "In Indianapolis and San Diego, we had like 4000 people in 12,000-seat halls. And strangely enough, at those shows, I got a fantastic affirmation from the audience, that not only did they want to grasp some of this stuff, but that they actually do. And that helps me get over the moments, the knockers who sit at their typewriters and say, 'This is all liberal airy-fairy bullshit.'"
The affirmation of his audiences has been therapeutic during the War of the Floyds. "This tour has really helped me to junk a lot of this," Waters says. "I feel like I'm leaving a lot of this crap on the side of the road. And I'm very grateful for that."
Waters and the other Floyds aren't exactly sitting around waiting to be declared the victor. Waters was so heartened by the reaction to his K.A.O.S. roadshow that immediately after the first leg of the tour, he flew to Compass Point Studios, in Nassau, the Bahamas, with his live band to cut songs for a K.A.O.S. II album. The Gilmour-Mason-Wright Floyd will be on the road for nearly a year; plans include a second swing through the U.S. in 1988.
Yet both sides are haunted by the loss of the spirit that united them once upon a time. "I can't tell you how sorry I am about all this," sighs Mason. "It's so pointless. I'm sorry that I've fallen out with a friend."
"I regret Nick Mason, yeah," says Waters, pausing thoughtfully. "I feel very betrayed by him."
Meanwhile, the lawyers keep racking up those fees, and the fans shop and compare. And when the dust finally settles, you can bet The Dark Side of the Moon will still be on the charts.
This story is from the November 19, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone.
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