Back in the late 80s, David Gilmour did the unthinkable. He released a Pink Floyd album. For those of you too young to remember, Pink Floyd officially disbanded after the release of The Final Cut in 1983. It was a good, but not great album. It was, however, the end of one of the greatest unions in rock ‘n roll: David Gilmour and Roger Waters.
Then, in 1987, Gilmour brought together Nick Mason and Richard Wright, among others, and released a new album under the Pink Floyd banner: A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Floyd fanbois hither and yon flipped out. FLIPPED. OUT.
“Roger Waters WAS Pink Floyd, man!” was the common refrain among angered fans; and there were plenty of angry fans.
There were legal disputes between the Waters and Gilmour camps as to who owned the rights to the band’s name. Waters lost. For his part, Gilmour always intended to carry on the Pink Floyd name.
And here’s the thing that will rile up all those Roger Waters fanbois: David Gilmour has as much claim to the Pink Floyd legacy as Roger Waters. I’m not suggesting the two post-Waters Floyd studio albums are as good as vintage Floyd, but to every person who insists Roger Waters was Pink Floyd, I respond with: “Whose guitar is that on Wish You Were Here? Who’s guitar is that on Comfortably Numb?”
I am in no way mitigating or trivializing Roger Waters. The truth is, the Waters-Gilmour union was far greater than the sum of its parts. The music they created together was timeless. My brother once pointed out just how phenomenal a guitarist is Gilmour. Listen to him play the opening to Wish You Were Here, he said. It’s a simple riff, but he gets so much out of it.
Pink Floyd’s big, stadium tours in the late 80s and early 90s were bloated productions to mask the fact that these old men weren’t very exciting to see live. But their music? Well, listening to Gilmour play Comfortably Numb is a transcendent experience.
Like I said, you can’t listen to Comfortably Numb and tell me that’s all Roger Waters. Even Waters would agree with you.
While I believe Gilmour was justified in carrying on the Pink Floyd name for a couple albums, it doesn’t mean the material was anywhere near as strong as their work in the 70s. A Momentary Lapse and The Division Bell both have some great and memorable music. But as a whole, they aren’t quite up to par with Dark Side and other vintage Pink Floyd.
That being said, I reject the notion that doesn’t mean they’re Pink Floyd records. They are. KISS, for example, carried on after Peter Criss and Ace Frehley left and put out some strong records. Creatures of the Night is every bit a KISS album as Destroyer.
It’s good that Gilmour and Waters mended fences in retirement, even playing a few gigs together; most notably the 2005 Live 8 concert. Oddly enough, it was Gimour who nixed the notion of Pink Floyd reuniting for an album or tour. Waters was amenable, but not Gilmour. Go figure.
I know this was a long walk for a very short trip, but I feel it’s worth pointing out to the Team Waters camp that Gilmour was more than just a guitar player in the band. Just because he wasn’t there at the beginning with Waters and Syd Barrett doesn’t mean it wasn’t his band, too. And if Waters didn’t want to carry on, it was well within Gilmour’s prerogative to go on without him.
Now if we could only convince the remaining members of Led Zeppelin to tour again…