Roger Waters: After Dark Side, Pink Floyd was just ‘clinging to the trademark’

In some ways, time seems to have softened Roger Waters’ feelings about his old band, at least based on comments he made Wednesday on the Howard Stern radio program. But he can still be brutally honest about their legacy.

Waters, the creative engine behind Pink Floyd’s multimedia smash hit The Wall, famously dragged the remaining members into court when they chose to continue recording under the band moniker without him in the 1980s — filing papers that called the group “a spent force.”

Fast forward 25 years, after a series of emotional reunions that included Pink Floyd’s celebrated appearance at Live 8, and Waters seems to be thinking twice about that hardline stance. Asked by Stern if David Gilmour and Co. were “wrong to play those songs without you?,” Waters replied: “No I don’t think so. I think I was wrong to think they were wrong.”

Waters visited the radio program to promote the return to U.S. stages of his ongoing solo presentation of The Wall.

Asked if he wished, in retrospect, he had simply written and recorded that and other Pink Floyd projects alone, Waters leapt to the defense of the former bandmates he’d once sued. “Oh absolutely not. No!,” Waters told Stern. “We were a cracking team when we were younger. From ’68 to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ we were a pretty tightly knit group.”

A variety of issues, Waters said, ultimately undid Pink Floyd — not least of which, in Waters’ typically blunt assessment, was fame: “‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ was the first time we made any cash,” he said. “We were reasonably generous with one another at that time. I think once you’ve achieved that measure of success, you’ve really done what it was that you set out to do together. From then on, it was really about clinging to the trademark in a kind of frightened way, not wanting to lose the umbrella with the words Pink and Floyd together.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Pink Floyd, and related solo projects. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

HAVE A CIGAR!: CELEBRATING PINK FLOYD’S MASSIVE REISSUE PROJECT: Psych-rockers Pink Floyd and EMI are launching an exhaustive re-release campaign, beginning today. You could say that tickled us … pink. Released under the banner “Why Pink Floyd?,” the band will start by issuing remastered editions of all 14 of its albums, with a staggered schedule to follow of unreleased material from its archives for super-deluxe box sets. The remastered studio albums are available either separately or as a box set. To celebrate, we took reminisced about a few key cuts.

ONE TRACK MIND: “MONEY,” (DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, 1973): Notable for its unusual rhythmic signature, the sixth track from this psychedelic rock band’s most recognizable release was the only one to enter the Billboard Top 20. Henry McCullough memorably appears toward the end of the song, as part of a series of spoken-word snippets, saying: “I don’t know; I was really drunk at the time.” McCullough, a former sideman with Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney, remembers: “People still come up to me at different times to talk about that. Wings were in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, and Pink Floyd were doing Dark Side in Studio 2 right across the hall. They asked Paul to do a little bit of work on it with them. He said: ‘Henry, I’m busy. Nip across and see what the lads want.’ I go over, and they have six questions on pieces of paper, face down. For whatever reason, they wanted me to answer one — and the first thing you said was going to be recorded. They wanted something spontaneous. My piece of paper said: ‘When was the last time you had a fight with your wife?’” (Laughs uproariously.)

THE ORB FEATURING DAVID GILMOUR – METALLIC SPHERES (2010): Gilmour’s familiar Fender Stratocaster vibrato effortlessly blends with the Orb’s next-galaxy synthesizer washes, mid-tempo house flourishes and whoa-man effects. And, along the way, helps both Gilmour and the Orb reclaim a measure of their own early promise. After years of wandering through what can only be described as a post-rave wasteland, the Orb belatedly re-emerges with a winning new techno amalgam — Floyd-meets-dubstep? — on Metallic Spheres. In fact, we might just be hearing the best collaboration from any edition of Pink Floyd in the last three decades. Since Roger Waters’ departure, Gilmour has worked alongside a series of lyricists and co-writers, notably partner Polly Samson, achieving mixed results. Revisiting a pre-Dark Side of the Moon penchant for narrative instrumental musings allows Gilmour a return to his own roots, even as it hurtles him past an impossible talisman in Pink Floyd.

RICHARD WRIGHT (1943-2008): AN APPRECIATION: Wright met Roger Waters and Nick Mason in college and joined their early band, Sigma 6. Along with the late Syd Barrett, the four later formed Pink Floyd in 1965. David Gilmour completed an initial, short-lived quintet, which quickly became known for jazz-infused rock and drug-laced multimedia “happenings.” Barrett and Wright were the band’s first creative forces (the keyboardist made notable contributions, for instance, on Ummagumma, Meddle and the ageless Dark Side of the Moon), but later took a backseat to Waters through The Wall era. By the early 1980s both Barrett — he flamed out before the Floyd’s heyday — and Wright had left. Wright returned later in the decade to a Water-less version of Pink Floyd with Gilmour and Mason. He also continued a sporadic solo career (including 1978?s Wet Dream and 1996?s Broken China) and worked on Gilmour releases, too. We celebrated his legacy with a look back at some of our previous entries on Wright, Barrett, Gilmour, Waters and the band Pink Floyd.

ROGER WATERS – AMUSED TO DEATH (1992): Waters, the primary creative force in Pink Floyd for a decade starting in the early 1970s, has seen his solo career suffer from inconsistency. The same can’t be said for this album — since, like the great Floyd albums released so many years before it, Waters finally succeeds through a collaborative bond with a forceful and equally artful guitarist … this time, Jeff Beck. Here, Waters again focuses on the problems of modern life — capitalism, war, mindless entertainment consumption. Might sound familiar … but on Amused to Death we find far and away the best output of any of the Dark Side-era members from the period. It works in enjoyable contrast with what came before — the transitional, on-balance unsatisfying Floyd release Momentary Lapse of Reason. And it stands as the most coherent reiteration of Waters’ mindset — in particular after his own confusing, too-wordy and too-synthy Radio KAOS.

GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE PINK FLOYD, WELL, SUCKED: Everybody went through a Pink Floyd phase, right? But, the child is grown; the dream is gone. Let’s face it, some of this stuff, well, sucked. So while we still have a deep respect — and I mean that most sincerely — for, say, Dark Side of the Moon, careful adult inspection reveals that even that psych-masterpiece boasts at least one awful clunker. So, have a cigar, as we count down the stuff that didn’t quite make their hall-of-fame resume — the ones where they were tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit … well, you get the idea.

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