They simply refused to leave. The houselights were up, and the ushers were counting the minutes before they could knock off for the night. But even after three full hours of lasers in the face, trippy sound-in-the-round, brain-frying special effects and all those Fm-radio classics – “One of These Days,” “Time,” “Us and Them,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “Comfortably Numb”–the 15,000 kids in the Montreal Forum would not budge. For nearly twenty minutes, they stood at their seats, screaming themselves hoarse, determined not to move an inch until Pink Floyd came back onstage.
That this wasn’t quite the same Pink Floyd – Roger Waters, the band’s bassist, singer and dominant songwriter, was absent – that had transfixed potheads in the early, spacey Seventies did not faze this audience, or the other two Sro crowds during the group’s three-night stand in Montreal. Hell, they’d just seen the humongous inflatable pig from the ‘77 Animals tour and the crashing airplane from the old Dark Side of the Moon shows. And when the silvery chime of David Gilmour’s guitar skated over Rick Wright’s burbling Hammond organ and Nick Mason’s heartbeat drumming in “Echoes,” with Gilmour’s and Wright’s voices gliding together in feathery harmony, it definitely sounded like Pink Floyd. Veteran Floyd freaks had waited for this a long time, a whole decade since the full quartet’s last major tour. Novices were here because of the Great Floyd Mystique, the tales of concert wonder passed down by elder brothers and old hippie uncles. And the crowd wasn’t going to leave until it got one more shot.
Eventually, the Floyd relented, returning with its seven-member troupe of extra musicians and singers for a stab at “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which they’d tested only a couple of times in rehearsal. “It was extraordinary,” said Gilmour later. “The people were on their feet cheering so loudly that at a couple of points I couldn’t even hear what I was playing.”
“There were a few mistakes,” said Wright, laughing, “but we got through it. And the song is so Floydian. It was a perfect way to end the evening.” Gilmour had announced the song with peals of church-bell guitar over icy keyboards and a slow blues pulse, heightening the chill of the absent Waters’s reflection on the eclipsing of genius by madness. Later, as the fans filed out, one of the big sellers at the merchandise stands was a T-shirt that said, on the front, “Pink Floyd,” and, on the back, “Still First in Space.”
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.”
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.”
It’s unlikely that any judge or jury, if the suit comes to trial, will decide the rightful ownership of the name Pink Floyd by listening to a record. And both Waters and Gilmour realize that, legally or otherwise, any settlement or judgment will probably fall short of their demands. “The ideal settlement would have happened years ago when we could have all shaken hands,” says Waters. “I’ve finally understood that no court in the world is interested in this airy-fairy nonsense of what is or isn’t Pink Floyd. All I’m likely to get out of it – or could possibly get out of it – is a slice.”
“It will never be solved to everyone’s satisfaction,” Gilmour says wearily. “But it will be solved to the point of reality. And soon, I hope.”
In the beginning, there was Syd Barrett. And in London’s paisley underground of 1966-67, it was commonly accepted that he was Pink. An art student from Cambridge, he cofounded Pink Floyd in late ’65 with Waters, a schoolboy chum from Cambridge who was studying architecture in London, and two other architecture students, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. It was Barrett who named the group (combining the names of two old bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council); he also sang most of the songs and gave the group its charisma. Driven by his eccentric muse and regular excursions on Lsd, he steeped the fledgling Floyd in a heady synthesis of English teapot whimsy, riveting melodic invention and freak-rock tumult, all captured vividly for posterity on the group’s 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Another surviving artifact of Barrett’s errant genius is a captivating 1967 black-and-white promo video of the original Floyd cavorting to its first single, “Arnold Layne,” a film clip Waters shows in his Radio K.A.O.S. concerts every night, always announcing at the end, “The great Syd Barrett, lest we forget.” Waters says he still likes to sing old Barrett gems like “Bike” and “Dark Globe” in the bath.
“What was so stunning about Syd’s songs,” he says, “was, through the whimsy and the crazy juxtaposition of ideas and words, there was a very powerful grasp of humanity. They were quintessentially human songs. And that is what I’ve always attempted to aspire to. In that sense, I feel a strong connection to him.”
That connection took a darker turn toward the end of ’67 as Barrett – unable to shoulder the burdens of fame and his own acid-accelerated mental instability – withdrew into a debilitating madness. He never recovered. David Gilmour, also from Cambridge, was soon recruited to pick up Syd’s guitar and vocal duties. At that point, despite two English hits (“Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”), the Floyd was at its lowest ebb, adrift without a songwriter or a direction.
“It was an open page,” Gilmour says. “My initial ambition was just to get the band into some sort of shape. It seems ridiculous now, but I thought the band was awfully bad at the time when I joined. The gigs I’d seen with Syd were incredibly undisciplined. The leader figure was falling apart, and so was the band.”
Pink Floyd spent the next four years in space, so to speak. On transitional records like A Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, the band developed a compositional style based on long exploratory jams from which melodic themes and pivotal riffs would emerge and, in turn, be spread across lengthy suitelike canvases. Although the band’s vigorously antipop aesthetic and imaginative sonic architecture was in large part responsible for the rise of English progressive rock in the Seventies, Waters – who gradually assumed responsibility for writing the band’s lyrics after Barrett’s psychological collapse – scoffs at the “space music” tag frequently applied to the Floyd records of that period.
“The space thing was a joke,” he says. “None of those pieces were about outer space. They were about inner space. That’s all it’s ever been about – human beings and their insides, whether it was Syd’s writing or mine. They were both about the same thing.”
The group’s exploration of inner space reached its artistic and commercial apex in 1973 with the release of The Dark Side of the Moon, one of the biggest-selling Lps of all time; as of this writing, it has spent 698 weeks on the Billboard album charts. Conceptually unified, immaculately recorded, The Dark Side of the Moon found the Floyd grafting the rigors of formal songwriting onto its muralistic style of composition – and succeeding beyond its wildest expectations. It was also one of the last genuinely collaborative Floyd records, highlighted not just by Waters’s incisive observations of alienation, schizophrenia and death but by the strong instrumental brushstrokes of Gilmour and Wright, particularly the latter’s love of jazzy minor-seventh and flatted-second chord changes. (Wright’s chorus for “Time” was based, in part, on “So What,” from Miles Davis’s album Kind of Blue.)
“Occasionally, people would come in with a complete song,” says Wright. “For example, ‘Us and Them’ was a little piano piece I had worked out. I played it for them; they liked it. Roger went into another room and started working on the lyrics. Whereas things like ‘Echoes’ [on Meddle] would be all of us in a rehearsal room, just sitting there thinking, playing, working out ideas to see if they went anywhere. It’s a nice way to work, and I think, in a way, the most Floydian material we ever did came about that way.”
The Dark Side of the Moon had two important effects on Pink Floyd. One was stardom; overnight they went from being highly respected psychedelic artisans and Fm-radio cult heroes to being the objects of fanatic adolescent-male adoration. “It took me until ten years ago to stop being upset that people whistled through the quiet numbers,” says Waters. “I used to stop and go, ‘Right! Who’s whistling? C’mon, be quiet!'”
The other major consequence was Waters’s increased interest in narrative songwriting, big themes and grand theatrical gestures, culminating in The Wall and The Final Cut. “I was always trying to push the band into more specific areas of subject matter,” he says, “always trying to be more direct. Visually, I was always trying to get away from the blobs. I wanted to work with visual material that meant something, where there isn’t much left for you to interpret.”
“I don’t think any of us differed all the way through on the subjects Roger approached,” says Gilmour. “We were pretty much of a like mind. On The Wall, although I didn’t agree with that part of the concept – the wall between us and the audience – I still thought it was a good subject to do. My father didn’t go off to the war and get killed in it. So that area of it did not apply to me. But I could get into it as fiction.”
Which is about as far as Waters would let any of the other Floyds get. “There wasn’t any room for anyone else to be writing,” he states frankly. “If there were chord sequences there, I would always use them. There was no point in Gilmour, Mason or Wright trying to write lyrics. Because they’ll never be as good as mine. Gilmour’s lyrics are very third-rate. They always will be. And in comparison with what I do, I’m sure he’d agree. He’s just not as good. I didn’t play the guitar solos; he didn’t write any lyrics.”
In short, Pink Floyd was now, as Bob Ezrin puts it, “Roger Waters Presents.” He wrote the material, ran the rehearsals, worked on the concert presentations and judged the contributions of the others by the same rigid artistic standards he applied to his own work. He also took the initiative in firing Rick Wright, during the recording of The Wall.
Not surprisingly, there are differing accounts of Wright’s exit from the group. “The story that gets out,” Waters says, “is that it was a personal whim of mine, which is absolute bollocks.” He argues that Wright’s performance in the studio was substandard, that he was making no musical contribution and hadn’t been for years. (Wright had not been listed in Floyd songwriting credits since 1975’s Wish You Were Here.) Bob Ezrin describes Wright as “a victim of Roger’s almost Teutonic cruelty. No matter what Rick did, it didn’t seem to be good enough for Roger. It was clear to me that Roger wasn’t interested in his succeeding.”
Wright diplomatically attributes the friction between Waters and him to “a heavy personality problem” – so heavy that Waters threatened to pull the Wall album and make it into a solo effort if Wright was not dismissed after the conclusion of the project. “I wasn’t particularly happy with the band anyway,” Wright says. “The way it was going, the feeling. I’m in no way trying to put this man down. I think he has great ideas. But he is an extremely difficult man to work with.”
By this time, Pink Floyd was an extremely difficult context to work within for anybody, something even Waters does not deny. “I suppose it comes down to the fact that we are people in rock & roll bands,” he says, “and people in rock & roll bands are greedy for attention. We never managed to come to a common view of the dynamic that existed within the band, of who did what and whether or not it was right. It was an irritation to start with, and it became an impossible irritation towards the end.”
Waters has learned, to his chagrin, that many long-time Pink Floyd fans are also mystified by the creative dynamic that existed within the band, a negative side effect of the Floyd’s shadowy public profile throughout the Seventies. “It is frustrating to find out how many people don’t know who I am or what I actually did in Pink Floyd. We get on a plane, and people ask what band we’re in. I tell ’em I’m Roger Waters, and it doesn’t mean a thing to them. Then I mention Pink Floyd, and they go, ‘Yeah, “Money.” I love The Wall.‘
“Oh, I wanted anonymity. I treasured it. And somehow we made it big and stayed private and anonymous. It was the best of both worlds. But now it’s as if the past twenty years have meant nothing.”
Funny he should say that. Nick Mason did a phone interview with a reporter from a daily newspaper recently in which he answered all the usual questions about Waters, the lawsuit and the new Floyd album. In the course of this, he happened to mention Syd Barrett.
“And this reporter said, ‘Hold on a minute. Who’s Syd Barrett?’ It was quite touching, actually. She had just started writing about pop music. She had no idea about Syd or our early history.
“Maybe in another twenty years,” Mason says, tongue firmly in cheek, “if we’re still around, people will be asking, ‘Who’s Roger Waters?'”
One of the titles David Gilmour considered for the first Waters-less Pink Floyd album was Delusions of Maturity. Waters would have liked that. When asked his opinion of the new Floyd record, he is characteristically blunt.
“I think it’s a very facile but quite clever forgery. If you don’t listen to it too closely, it does sound like Pink Floyd. It’s got Dave Gilmour playing guitar. And with the considered intention of setting out to make something that sounds like everyone’s conception of a Pink Floyd record, it’s inevitable that you will achieve that limited goal.
“I think the songs are poor in general. The lyrics I can’t believe.” He chuckles ironically. “I’m sure it will do very well.”
It is hardly an embarrassment to the Floyd’s post-Dark Side chart tradition. Within three weeks of release, A Momentary Lapse of Reason was in Billboard’s Top 10, while Waters’s Radio K.A.O.S. was on the bottom rungs of the Top 100. There is, of course, more to this than numbers. A healthy percentage of Momentary Lapse’s immediate sales are certainly attributable to the trust rock fans place in the brand name Pink Floyd. The album was leaping off the racks before many people had even heard a single note.
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.