Penthouse Magazine, September 1988
The Battle Over Pink Floyd
“Is there anything more sad and unjust than a fake?” frets radically flustered British rock legend Roger Waters, seated in his Spartan loft offices in London. His fervid question fairly scars the afternoon air with its savagery. “Can you imagine the disappointment in learning you’d spent your savings on a false Magritte or a fraudulent John Lennon manuscript? Not to mention the spiritual trust and emotion people invest in the symbolic power of any name.”
Indeed, Waters allows, in many ancient cultures names were sacred things that could never be changed, transferred, or falsely assumed. To tamper with a name, much less manipulate it in the marketplace, was to desecrate the spiritual force it contained. It was like spitting on the soul. “And it was the struggle against these kinds of attitudes,” adds the wiry Waters, his square jaw stiffening, “that helped John Lennon create the sense of artistic decency that I like to call the Lennon Instinct.”
The fight that Waters is discussing is closer to home than any cunning exploitation of the farflung Beatles legacy, but the stakes are still plenty high. Indeed, one of the biggest and most bitter battles in the annals of the billion-dollar rock business concerns the much-coveted legal custody of a quirky musical trademark: Pink Floyd. In the beginning were the words, and the words were the Pink Floyd sound. Derived from the first names of two obscure Georgia bluesmen (Pink Anderson and Floyd Council), the term was applied in 1965 to a certain experimental British rock band; and over the course of two decades it has become synonymous with a magnetic, edgy music in which its pervasive chilling mood is the star.
The man at the center of the ugly contest for control of this potent rock presence is songwriter Roger Waters, a lyricist extraordinaire whose spiky meditations on death, madness, and apocalypse were pivotal in leading an obscure British psychedelic group to the pinnacle of commercial pre-eminence in progressive rock. In particular, Waters wrote all the words and the better part of the music for Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, Dark Side Of The Moon (Wic Note: Roger Waters wrote all the words for Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall and The Final Cut as well). One of the most successful records of all time, the hypnotic Dark Side has lingered for a staggering 725 weeks on Billboard’s pop charts; yet its spooky cover image of a prismatic pyramid is the closest its faceless creators have ever come to iconlike stardom.
Waters’ legendary fertile imagination yielded another phenomenal blockbuster in 1979, the epic autobiographical ode to postwar alienation, The Wall — and under his leadership the band would ultimately move more than 55 million albums. But the focus of fans’ adulation remained the anonymous banner of “Pink Floyd.” The Floyd broke up in 1983 — notwithstanding all flamboyant appearances to the contrary — and now Waters and longtime Floyd lead guitarist/vocalist Dave Gilmour are locked in a fight over rights to the name. Waters wants “the reigning trade-emblem of rock” to be permanently retired, pleading, “Let’s be fair to our public, for pity’s sake, and admit the group disintegrated long ago!”
Gilmour vehemently rejects such notions, raging, “I’ve been working on my career with Pink Floyd for 20 years — since 1968. I’m 44 now, too old to start all over at this stage of my career, and I don’t see any reason why I should. Pink Floyd is not some sacred or hallowed thing that never made bad or boring records in the past. And I’m not destroying anything by trying to carry on!” Actually, these pitched acrimonies evolved out of a 1985 management rift, in which Waters ended his representation by veteran Floyd manager Steve O’Rourke. Their falling-out was over contractual agreements for future Floyd output — a matter Waters deemed moot since the band was, to his mind, defunct. When O’Rourke bridled, calling his termination by Waters a violation of his own formal agreements with, and responsibilities toward, the entity known as Pink Floyd, Roger sought support from former band members Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason (Roger even rashly proposed to cede the band’s rights to Pink Floyd if they’d close ranks against O’Rourke’s claims; neither Gilmour nor Mason accepted Waters never-to-be-repeated offer.)
As Waters tells it, when he calmed down and took the long view on both the deepening breach with O’Rourke and his estrangement from Gilmour, Mason and Floyd orphan Rick Wright (who Roger says was fired by mutual consent of the rest in 1980), he decided the sanest course of action was a writ to nullify the name Pink Floyd. In 1986, on Halloween, Roger Waters filed suit in London against Gilmour and Mason. Last year, the dispute spilled out of the offices of the principals’ attorneys and onto the world’s concert stages. Roger Waters mounted a massive tour in support of Radio KAOS, his second solo LP, while Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason LP under the Pink Floyd flag.
Waters’ record drew wildly mixed reviews and sold modestly; yet his much-praised KAOS concert pageant, while pitted against the rising tide of pseudo-Floyd promotion, slowly prospered to where Waters could sell out solo shows in England’s gigantic Wembley Arena on two consecutive nights. Meanwhile, the product of Gilmour’s Floyd facsimile drew similarly mixed notices but triumphed in record stores, sparking a hefty 3 million purchases in the U.S. alone; and the laser and prop-packed Lapse Of Reason dates proved a steady sellout internationally. On both tours, crowds were treated to the bountifully foreboding sweep of the Pink Floyd aesthetic. Hits and FM favorites like “Welcome to the Machine”, “Money”, and “Another Brick In The Wall” were lavished on all comers, but it was only during the Radio KAOS concerts that noted Los Angeles deejay Jim Ladd (performing as the voice of the mythical KAOS station) deigned to declare, “Words and music by Roger Waters!”
While Waters’ authorship of the best of the Pink Floyd repertoire was plain from the start, it was opponent Dave Gilmour who won the crucial first round at the box office. While savoring the bounty from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, Dave permitted himself a bit of boasting last November in the pages of Rolling Stone: “We never sat down at any point 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.” Roger Waters read that “arrogant soliloquy” down in Nassau’s Compass Point Studios last spring while at work with Paul “Don’t Shed A Tear” Carrack and the Bleeding Heart Band on the then untitled follow-up to Radio KAOS. For Roger, Gilmour’s assertion was the last straw. “That’s an outright lie, absolute and barefaced,” he seethed, slamming the magazine down, “and someday the world will know the depth of this entire hoax!”
Waters saw Gilmour’s quote in Rolling Stone as the rock equivalent of the Iran-Contra crew and their droll demurrals concerning official misconduct, despite a damning paper trail to the contrary. The Gilmour statement emboldened Waters to come forth for the first time with details of what he sees as the behind-the-scenes disloyalties and double-dealings that gave rise to A Momentary Lapse of Reason. “I must say,” Waters quips, “that under the circumstances, it’s a superb title for a so-called Pink Floyd record.” Granted, anyone can say anything to the press to justify his position to Pink Floyd’s legion of rabid fans. However, the intrigues that emerge from six months of independent inquiry into this epic test of rock ‘n’ roll wills differ shockingly from all previous accounts.
What emerges is a saga of greed, cynicism, and misrepresentation in the modern music business. Over the last 20 years, rock has grown from the simple expression of a spirited singer and his song into a gigantic entertainment juggernaut in which even the most splendid displays of “talent” and “vision” can be of synthetic origin. Thanks to the convolutions of current recording technology, a musician needn’t play, a band needn’t assemble, an artistic bond needn’t exist. A songwriter/producer can adopt the focused traits of an assembly-line foreman as he brings the illusion of a supergroup and its latest album into being. This is the story of a massive controversy, centered on the marketing of two seemingly foolish words: Pink Floyd.
“You learn nothing from a lie,” says Roger Waters, stretched out in the Billiard Room, a home studio that has supplanted the game room of his spacious house in Barnes, West London. It’s been a troubled six months since our initial Pink Floyd-related talk, and the sinewy Waters looks distinctly world-weary. “Even as you discover a deliberate untruth, it always only confirms what you already knew but refused to face.”
This blunt observation is at the core of Roger Waters’ outlook as a composer, since unsentimental confrontations with delusion form the fundamental themes of his work. Like many old-guard rock practitioners, Waters values the unconditional openness of the best rock as a public expression of a personal truth. Naysayers claim that rock no longer requires any creed or substance beyond the brazen announcement of itself.
“In Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World,” mulls Waters, nursing a cup of strong tea, “he warned about every human being conditioned to accept his lot so that the bosses arrive at a nice smooth situation where nobody questions anything and everything is supposedly ‘taken care of’. This is the deluded scenario I put forth in Radio KAOS — which was my doomsday-bound vision of a ‘soap-operatic republic’ in which nobody gives a shit if, for instance, Oliver North did the right thing or was wrong, or what effect it had on anything else. All that many viewers still care about concerning the indicted Mr. North is whether he gave a good, solid, John Wayne television performance. And because North’s airtime suddenly became entwined with the American networks’ sickening concept of what constitutes great television, it was literally excused! What it comes down to for me is: Will the technologies of communication and culture — and especially popular music, which is a vast and beloved enterprise — help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart? While there’s still time, we all have to answer for ourselves. But neither Huxley nor Meese nor Ollie North could have prepared me for the creative, technological and moral issues I’m facing with the Pink Floyd sham — a grand display that’s also being excused in public because it makes for great arena rock. Naturally,” he chuckles, showing a handsome, seldom seen grin that merits more exposure, “all of this solemn contemplation is showing up in my music. Radio KAOS was hopefully universal in its pained concern, but my new album’s themes involve anguish in my very own backyard.”
Indeed, one day last winter, as the personnel calling themselves Pink Floyd were moving across the map from San Diego to Sydney in fierce pursuit of ticket sales, a pensive Roger Waters went to the Billiard Room and began writing stanzas for what became a song for his new album:
We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on Earth
But then it was over
We oohed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed lookout spied a flickering star
Our last hurrah
Waters gradually realized the two verses were a requiem for the fragile integrity of the Pink Floyd reign. And yes, tens of thousands of spectators were at that moment crowding arenas to hear a band calling itself Pink Floyd. Yet the most devout fans surely were aware that the whole presentation could not be further in fact or intent from the aims of the idealistic school chums who forged the Pink Floyd Sound. When a title for his bittersweet new song eventually occurred to Roger Waters, it also seemed an apt name for both his latest solo album and the tragic creative destiny that it summarized. “I didn’t know what else to call it,” he shrugs, “but Amused to Death.”
Among ultra-hard-core Pink Floyd zealots, the period of mourning for the band commenced way back in 1968, when another Roger — Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett — was booted from the psychedelic act he’d named. A fellow student of Waters’ at Cambridge High School for Boys, Syd Barrett was invited by Roger in late 1965 to join a combo he’d formed with two other architecture majors (Nick Mason, Rick Wright) at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic. Spewing barrages of feedback-cum-Chuck Berry chords during Sunday afternoon “Spontaneous Underground” sessions at the fabled Marquee Club, Pink Floyd quickly became the vanguard experimental outfit on the London underground scene. Unfortunately, young Syd too quickly became high-priest-without-portfolio of a surreal strain of hallucinogen-fueled rock songcraft, whose halcyon era was as hazy as his own cerebellum. While still sufficiently grounded as of January 1967 to author Pink Floyd’s first British hit, “Arnold Layne,” Barrett soon tired of the rigors of reality. He was halfway to the laughing house when The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, the debut Floyd LP, emerged from Abbey Road Studios in August 1967.
Cambridge High School alumnus’ Dave Gilmour, fresh from gigs as a male model in France, was brought on board in February 1968, to serve as backup guitarist and vocalist for the dangerously balmy Barrett. When too many visits to the popstar pharmacy paved the way for Syd’s inevitable on-tour mental collapse, Gilmour got the nod as new guitar hero. Waters, Gilmour, and Rick Wright went on to assist Barrett in two loopy solo LPs (The Madcap Laughs; Barrett), and then Syd retired to his mum’s house to preserve his premier rank as acid-fried rock savant.
With Gilmour the appointed front man, Waters gripped Floyd’s artistic reins and steered them into years of exotic progressive-rock reveries. The electronics-drenched albums had titles like A Saucerful of Secrets; Ummagumma; Atom Heart Mother; Meddle. And the spacey songs followed suit: “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and “Astronome Domine”. The band also provided soundtrack scores for a few of the more outré late sixties, early seventies art movies, notably More and Michelangelo Antonioni’s daffily desolate Zabriske Point (1970) in which the Floyd song “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” soared over the closing sequence of desert explosions.
The Pink Floyd stage productions of the era were the forerunners of the modern rock extravaganza, featuring elaborate special effects and one of rock’s inaugural light shows, plus protracted instrumental suites served up via a remarkable 360-degree sound system called the Azimuth Coordinator. At one UK concert, a 50-foot inflatable octopus rose from an adjacent pond during a climactic number, the Floyd playing so loudly the decibel level actually decimated the real aquatic life in the water. For all its bizarre overkill, the Floyd had no impact on the American market until 1972’s Obscured By Clouds was embraced by FM radio. From there it was a short step to a commercial blast-off courtesy The Dark Side Of The Moon, with its immaculate instrumentation, ominous phonic mumbles, and jarring sound effects (ticking clocks, ringing cash registers). Each band member contributed something to the mix of Dark Side, but lyrically, musically, and conceptually it was Roger Waters’ coming out party. While the rest of the group basked in the glow of their abrupt mass acceptance, Waters busily exorcised his ingrained demons, expounding throughout Wish You Were Here (1975, dedicated to Syd Barrett), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983), on gloomy human themes rooted in grief for his airman father’s World War II death.
“My father was a schoolteacher before the war,” Waters explains evenly. “He taught physical education and religious instruction, strangely enough. He was a deeply committed Christian who was killed when I was three months old. A wrenching waste. I concede that awful loss has colored much of my writing and my worldview.”
It has also shaped Waters’ intense sense of protectiveness toward Pink Floyd’s recording heritage, since it encompasses major developmental horrors in his life — whether they involved coping with the death of the dad he never knew, or the psychic dissolution of adolescent companion Syd Barrett. “Syd and I went through our most formative years together,” Waters shyly admits, “riding on my motorbike, getting drunk, doing a little dope, flirting with girls, all that basic stuff. I still consider Syd a great primary inspiration; there was a wonderful human tenderness to all his unique musical flights.”
From his alternately slack and hypertense body language to the crackling clarity of his discourse, Roger Waters, 44, is the epitome of the overly bright man for whom intellect, self-awareness, and social conscience are a decidedly mixed blessing. The hardness of his chiseled visage and flinty gaze are leavened, however, by the disarming vulnerability of his nature.
“There’s something to be said for disastrous business miscalculation and failure in the marketplace,” he says with a hapless chuckle. “They send you back home to ponder your value systems, and at the same time they reward you with a new freedom to follow your creative heart without worrying about commercial tyrannies. I’ve also discovered that the law is not so much interested in moral issues as the cold factors of ownership, treating the name Pink Floyd as if it were McDonald’s or Boeing! On a personal level, I have nothing against Dave Gilmour furthering his own goals. It’s just the idea of Dave’s solo career masquerading as Pink Floyd that offends me!”
Gilmour is the polar opposite of his adversary in both appearance and opinion. Round-faced, smiling, with a teddy-bear torso, he projects amicability and approachability — until his darting eyes sense weakness in their vicinity. At which point, the smile turns to a fixed leer and a fabled sarcasm spills forth.
“I don’t share Roger’s sense of angst about music and the world,” he banters scornfully, speaking at dusk in a Providence, Rhode Island, hotel room shortly before another concert stand. “If I did, maybe we would have come to an agreement on our dispute. While Roger’s acted dumbly and isolated himself, I’ve discovered new strength with the extra work load I’ve had to put on myself in this last year. But like him, I did several solo LPs myself and made no demands on anyone when I did. Granted, I did less work with Pink Floyd back in the old days, but that was something Roger was forcing. And now,” Gilmour adds with glee, “the poor chap’s lost his whip hand!”
Perhaps. But David Gilmour is singing a vastly different tune than he did back when his solo future seemed brighter. “Roger comes up with the concepts — he’s the preacher of the group and spends more time home writing with Pink Floyd in mind,” a breezy Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 1978, as his David Gilmour album was being issued. “We get along fine. I know what I give to our sound, and he knows it, too. It’s not a question of him forcing his ideas on us. I get my ideas across as much as I want to. They would use more of my music if I wrote it.”
Gilmour took an aggressive stab at writing his own music for his David Gilmour and 1984 About Face collections, but it appears that only Pink Floyd cultists bought them. It was after his second solo album that he began to press the Pink ploy. “From there, the story takes a sordid turn,” claims Waters, “and after long thought on this mess and the mountain of falsehood that this scheming bunch has created, I’m now going to divulge the cold, hard, indisputable facts. Please do feel free to go back to any of the parties mentioned about their side of the story. I think you’ll stop them dead in their sneaky tracks.”
The first bombshell Waters drops is that Bob Ezrin, who served as coproducer on The Wall as well as A Momentary Lapse of Reason, was originally supposed to produce Radio KAOS.
“That’s right,” Waters says with a grim nod. “We met in New York City in February of 1986. This was after Gilmour had been spouting for a year about how wise it would be to get Pink Floyd back together in any passable form — with me always refusing that scam. So I see Ezrin for a two-day meeting and give him cassettes of the KAOS material I’m working on. He said he was interested in doing the record. We shook on the KAOS agreement, and we agreed to start work in England on April 16 of 1986.”
Come early April, Waters found it impossible to contact Bob Ezrin.
“I couldn’t reach him,” says Waters. “Then, exactly ten days before my first scheduled KAOS session in England, I manage to catch him at home in the wee hours of the morning. He picks up the phone, is startled to find it’s me on the other end, and he blurts out, ‘My wife says she’ll divorce me if I go work in England!’ I was stunned. I said, ‘Couldn’t you have told me that three months ago?’ I’m in a state of shock, and the minute I put the phone down after the conversation, my wife Carolyn says to me, ‘I’ll bet he’s going to do that pseudo-Pink Floyd record David wants’. All I could reply was, ‘I can’t believe he’d do that’. I discovered exactly one week later,” Waters says, “that he had indeed been hired to do a Pink Floyd record.”
After having Waters’ detailed accusations read to him, Bob Ezrin replies:
“I was in Los Angeles in the midst of a Rod Stewart album when Roger called from London in February of ‘86, and I set two days aside at Roger’s insistence and we met each other halfway, both of us flying to New York to talk about KAOS. At the time I met with Roger, I said I wanted to do the album, but I had an instinctive sense that he was being too rigid and intense in his attitudes about the project. And believe me, I know how rigid Roger can get from doing The Wall with him. See, Roger was completely inflexible about when and where he wanted to do KAOS. I have five kids, and he was wanting to move my whole family to England for a minimum of three months. My wife was against it because she felt it would disrupt our children’s school schedule. And so after I thought it through, I exercised my right as a potential employee of Roger’s to decline. It was a full month afterward,” Ezrin proclaims, “that I was approached by Dave Gilmour about producing a Pink Floyd project. I hadn’t been in touch with Dave since producing his About Face album.”
So why, after rejecting a three-month Waters-related stay in England for the good of his family, did Ezrin wind up spending almost seven months in London recording A Momentary Lapse ofReason with Gilmour?
There, a long pause.
“Dave didn’t demand things like Roger did,” Ezrin finally replies. “While Roger was thinking only of his family’s schedule, Dave was willing to work out a more flexible calendar plan that would accomodate the school schedules of both our sets of kids. Also, Dave flew to LA to hang out and play his work tapes — rather than insisting that I go to him.”
Ezrin’s disclaimers sound peculiarly prissy coming from an itinerant veteran whose studio dance card has regularly included heavy-metal hell-raisers like Alice Cooper and Kiss. However, giving him the benefit of the doubt, we move on to the artistic integrity of Lapse of Reason. Roger Water’ outspoken ire, you’ll recall, was triggered by Gilmour’s assertion to Rolling Stone that “we never sat down at any point during this record and said, ‘It doesn’t sound Floyd enough. Make this more Floyd.’” On the contrary, according to Waters, it was Bob Ezrin who rang just such an alarm at the halfway mark in the Lapse sessions.
“After four to five months of constant work with Gilmour and company,” says Roger, “Bob spoke to Michael Kamen, who did orchestral arrangements on The Wall and also co-produced my first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Bob told him the tracks were ‘an absolute disaster, with no words, no heart, no continuity’.”
Michael Kamen, who had declined involvement at the start of the project, confirms Water’ account of the conversation with Ezrin.
“Ezrin was so depressed,” says Waters, “he took a cassette copy of the tapes home to his house in Encino, where his teenage son Josh discovered it and played it with his friend. Both of the kids got angry, and Josh told Ezrin, ‘Dad, it’s not Pink Floyd!’”
“What happened next,” says Waters, gathering steam, “was that Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, and CBS Records executive Stephen Ralbovsky had a confidential lunch meeting at Langan’s Brasserie, the famous London bistro in Hampton Court, in October or November of ‘86, wherein both Ezrin and Ralbovsky told Gilmour, ‘This music doesn’t sound a fucking thing like Pink Floyd!’ And according to what Dave told me, they had spent $1.2 million on it!”
Back to Bob Ezrin. Is Roger Water’ account of this secret meeting correct?
“Oh, my gosh!” gasps Ezrin in dismay. Then, in a quavery tone: “How Roger could have known that we all had that meeting is remarkable to me! Okay, fair enough; the point of the meeting was for me to tell David that what he had thus far was not up to Pink Floyd standards. Wait a minute, let me rephrase that: I said it was not up to our standard of a Pink Floyd project, and that we should start over again. And David was open and willing to do that. But the fact, amazingly, that Roger has become a detective to learn about that meeting says to me that this thing has become…er, it’s gone too far past, er … It’s not about the music anymore! It’s about the simple ‘making’ of the Lapse of Reason record — as well as the fact that Roger’s not on it.”
Precisely. Roger Waters’ most vociferous charge has always been that the intention on the part of Gilmour, Ezrin, et al., was never to create music that succeeded on its own terms, but instead, from the corporate estimation on down, to endeavor to fake the Pink Floyd Sound. Right? Another uncomfortable pause.
“Well,” Ezrin murmurs, “I won’t tell you that there weren’t times when I didn’t say to David or David didn’t say to me, ‘This would be easier if Roger were hereֹ, or ‘Roger would know what to do’, or ‘Roger could give us that flavor’. But both David and I knew that that would mean contending with the rigid, intense, obsessive, and artistic Roger — which we didn’t want.”
And which Roger had closed the door on anyway.
“Er, … yes. So we had no choice but to go our own route and start over — and we did.” Which brings us to the question of exactly whose fingerprints are on (and not on) the version of A Momentary Lapse of Reason that reached the marketplace. Scanning the fine print on the inside of the expensive gatefold album jacket, one discovers — in addition to Gilmour, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, and Bob Ezrin — a guest list of 15 noted session musicians. No less than 18 more musicians and technical experts are acknowledged and thanked in the sub-fine print. And the songwriters tucked away on the record’s label include, besides Gilmour and Ezrin, Messieurs Anthony Moore, Phil Manzanera, Jon Carin, and Pat Leonard. This mysterious multitude is discreetly substituting for an act that last consisted of Waters, Mason, and Wright, with Roger doing the overwhelming majority of the songwriting. Does Dave Gilmour still presume to call this army of hired guns and mercenaries Pink Floyd?
“Listen,” Gilmour fumes, “the band is bound to change! It must, regardless of the external or internal climate it faces. But Nick and Bob Ezrin and I ultimately sat down with the material and decided what worked and what didn’t!” Notice there is no mention by Gilmour of the fourth member of the unfathomable Pink Floyd, Rick Wright. “That’s because Rick Wright is merely on a wage on this entire Pink Floyd world tour,” Waters explains. “Rick has been burnt out since 1979, when Gilmour, Ezrin and myself unanimously decided to fire him.”
“Ezrin was the person to first call Rick during Rick’s odd little vacation that fall to Greece — just as The Wall was being completed — and said, ‘You’re no longer pulling your weight’. And Rick told him, ‘Fuck off!’ It was then we all discussed the matter, and Gilmour said, ‘Let’s get rid of Nick Mason, too!’ Eventually Rick did some Wall shows, but he only received a wage, and then in 1980 we fired him for good.”
(Gilmour corroborated these charges of Wright’s failings and “severance” arrangement in a 1984 interview, in which he said of Wright, ‘He wasn’t performing in any way for us; he certainly wasn’t doing the job he was paid to do. On The Wall … Rick didn’t play many keyboards’.)
“On August 4 of ‘86,” Waters says, “I had a meeting with Dave on the Astoria, his houseboat-recording studio that’s anchored on the Thames, because we were still trying to settle our differences. Dave told me himself that he still had no respect for either Wright or Mason, but that they were useful to him. The man who was most useful, however, was Bob Ezrin, which is why Dave and Bob now each split three points right off the top from the gross retail sales of Lapse. The remaining 12 or so points are divided amongst a sea of other participants like Mason. As for poor Rick Wright, he’s on a weekly salary of $11,000. I know, because I’ve seen his contract with my own eyes. At least Rick knows it’s just a payday. Nick Mason goes around acting like Pink Floyd might really be a functioning tour band. And once again, I invite and urge you to go to Wright and Mason and repeat all these charges.”
Unfortunately, Wright and Mason refused all requests for interviews, which were repeatedly tendered through both the press offices of CBS Records (which also remains Roger Waters’ label) and those of JLM Public Relations, Waters’ own Manhattan representative. If, as Waters alleges, the erstwhile personnel of Pink Floyd merely function as potted phantoms and paid-off tour props, who can be counted on to propagate the Pink Floyd Ploy beyond the ‘88 World Tour?
“That’s the most scandalous facet of this whole ruse,” Waters rules, “because Gilmour has built up an entire cast of backstage characters that he’s sought to enlist as sources of material for the next so-called Pink Floyd album. Many of them are leftovers from the first abortive try, when he and Ezrin were pulling their hair out in vain efforts to concoct a concept album. Failing that, they just established relationships with anybody willing to cook up songs that resembled something Pink.”
Could Waters reveal the names of any of these other phantom Floyds? “Oh, sure. One is Eric Stewart, a founding member of the original 10cc band and a very talented British songwriter who’s collaborated with Paul McCartney, for instance, on Paul’s 1986 Press to Play album. Another lyricist David has waiting in the wings is Roger McGough, the Liverpool poet, who was a member of the famous experimental mid-sixties rock group Scaffold — which also had Mike McGear, McCartney’s brother. And then there’s Carol Pope, who’s one of the finest contemporary Canadian song-writers. I’ll give Gilmour credit: When he devises a fraud, he goes to first-class talent for assistance.”
“Yes,” Eric Stewart confirms, “Dave Gilmour and I got together around August or September of 1986 to work on a concept that was definitely intended for the next Pink Floyd album. We sat around writing for a period of time, but we couldn’t get the different elements and ideas to gel. The songwriting itself was acceptable in certain parts, but not as a whole; so the concept was eventually scrapped. I don’t want to divulge the concept because, especially knowing Dave, he may want to go back and revive it. It may well be used in the future.”
Peter Brown, former director of the Beatles NEMS Enterprises management company and present manager of Roger McGough, is happy to give similar confirmation of his client’s Pink Floyd related collaborations with Dave Gilmour. “Dave worked with Roger McGough late in 1986 on original ideas for the Pink Floyd project,” Brown explains, “but those ideas remain a grey area. We’re waiting for Dave to finish his Pink Floyd world tour to see what will come of it all.”
“The idea to contact me came from Bob Ezrin,” says Carole Pope. “It was January of 1987 and they were looking for somebody to rewrite a batch of Dave Gilmour’s material, so I went over to England for a few weeks to lend assistance. Bob and David also asked me if I had any suggestions for concept albums in the Pink Floyd style. By the time I left England in February, they still couldn’t decide what to do. They did have one song, though, which I thought was quite nice, though it never surfaced on Lapse Of Reason. It was a mid-tempo thing about Roger Waters, called Peace Be With You. Seems strange that they didn’t use it.”
And so, while the genuine creative alliance of the Pink Floyd Sound lies in an unquiet grave, David Gilmour has contrived a ghoulish farm-club system designed to generate prolific stand-ins and impostors. As you read this, the current Floyd cavalcade is fulfilling its last global concert commitments. But peace is not at hand. Once Gilmour completes the tour, perhaps he’ll contact those collaborators currently on hold for whatever Pink Floyd roles stand vacant. It’s as if a surviving Beatle — say, Paul McCartney — had instituted an employment agency for Beatles clones, and found it worked efficiently enough to dare call the fickle roster the Fab Four.
Bob Ezrin, who could be at the helm for the next episode of this pop chicanery, has his own convoluted rationale for this enterprise. “I think Roger is brilliant, but he’s a tough guy to disagree with, and he can be overly passionate and uncompromising. It’s those qualities that go into making him a great artist, but neither Dave nor I would ever consider ourselves great artists. We’re more interested in creating something that’s popular and fun. Actually, I hate the word artist, but I would definitely concede that Roger is a great artist — as well as a total obsessive and a psychiatrist’s dream. I love Roger, and I truly love most of what he does, but not enough anymore to go through what’s necessary to be a part of his process. It’s far easier for Dave and I to do our version of a Floyd record.”
For Gilmour’s part, he will press on unless a court decision prohibits him from such activities. “I don’t see any reason why I should stop,” he states tersely. “It took decades of care and feeding for Pink Floyd to find its loyal audience, and I won’t throw in the towel, especially after Lapse of Reason has been such a huge success. Roger doesn’t have the right at present to tell me what to do with my life, although he believes that he does. And he’ll not ruin my career, although lately he’s been trying to.”
Actually, apart from the ongoing legal fray, Roger Waters is pouring most of his energies into promoting and performing Amused to Death — plus writing material for a fourth album of his own. “Things change so drastically and yet they remain the same,” Waters assures, leaving his chair in his West London home to begin another afternoon of trial-and-error songcraft in the Billiard Room. “The Lennon Instinct tells me that, as with John’s song of the same name, my approach to the Floyd fight is ‘just like starting over’. Yet I’m also pleased that I’ve got a new career, a solo career, that I’ve been nurturing since 1984. The main difference between me and Dave Gilmour is that, when it comes time for him to finally confess his dishonest…venture to the world, I’ll at least have the justice of a solid, credible head start on him.” Waters shows a fatigued grin. “That’s the advantage of putting your own good name on your work. If people do decide they enjoy it, they always know who to thank and where to find you.”