1978–1985: Waters-Led Era

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Posted on Mon, 02/16/2015 - 8:13pm
by Angie Spray

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The Wall

In July 1978, amid a financial turmoil caused by negligent investments, Waters presented the group with two original ideas for their next album. The first was a 90-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, and the other would later become Waters' first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Although both Mason and Gilmour were initially cautious, they chose the former to be their next album. Bob Ezrin co-produced, and he wrote a forty-page script for the new album. Ezrin based the story on the central figure of Pink—a gestalt character inspired by Waters' childhood experiences, the most notable of which was the death of his father in World War II. This first metaphorical brick led to more problems; Pink would become drug-addled and depressed by the music industry, eventually transforming into a megalomaniac, a development inspired partly by the decline of Syd Barrett. At the end of the album, the increasingly fascist audience would watch as Pink tore down the wall, once again becoming a regular and caring person.

During the recording of The Wall, Waters, Gilmour and Mason became increasingly dissatisfied with Wright's lack of contribution to the album. Gilmour said that Wright "hadn't contributed anything of any value whatsoever to the album—he did very, very little" and that is why he "got the boot". According to Mason, "Rick's contribution was to turn up and sit in on the sessions without doing anything, just 'being a producer'." Waters commented: "[Wright] was not prepared to cooperate in making the record ... [and] it was agreed by everybody ... either [he] can have a long battle or [he] can agree to ... finish making the album, keep [his] full share ... but at the end of it [he would] leave quietly. Rick agreed."

Although Pink Floyd had not released a single since 1973's "Money", "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" supported the album, topping the charts in the US and the UK. Released on 30 November 1979, The Wall topped the Billboard chart in the US for fifteen weeks, reaching number three in the UK. The Wall ranks number three on the RIAA's list of the all-time Top 100 albums, with 23 million certified units sold in the US. The cover is one of their most minimalist designs, with a stark white brick wall, and no trademark or band name. It was also their first album cover since The Piper at the Gates of Dawn not designed by Hipgnosis.

Gerald Scarfe produced a series of animations for the subsequent live shows, The Wall Tour. He also commissioned the construction of large inflatable puppets representing characters from the storyline including the "Mother", the "Ex-wife" and the "Schoolmaster". Pink Floyd used the puppets during their performances of the album. Relationships within the band were at an all-time low; their four Winnebagos parked in a circle, the doors facing away from the centre. Waters used his own vehicle to arrive at the venue and stayed in different hotels from the rest of the band. Wright returned as a paid musician and was the only one of the four to profit from the venture, which lost about $600,000.

The Wall concept also spawned a film, the original idea for which was to be a combination of live concert footage and animated scenes. However, the concert footage proved impractical to film. Alan Parker agreed to direct and took a different approach. The animated sequences would remain, but scenes would be acted by professional actors with no dialogue. Waters was screen-tested, but quickly discarded and they asked Bob Geldof to accept the role of Pink. Geldof was initially dismissive, condemning The Wall '​s storyline as "bollocks". Eventually won over by the prospect of participation in a significant film and receiving a large payment for his work, Geldof agreed. Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1982, Pink Floyd – The Wall premièred in the UK in July 1982.

The Final Cut

In 1982, Waters suggested a new musical project for the band, with the working title Spare Bricks, originally conceived as the soundtrack album for Pink Floyd – The Wall; however, with the onset of the Falklands War, Waters changed artistic direction and began writing new material. Waters saw Margaret Thatcher's response to the invasion of the Falklands as jingoistic and unnecessary, and he dedicated the new album to his late father. Immediately there were arguments between Waters and Gilmour, who felt that the album should include all new material, rather than recycling a number of songs passed over for The Wall. Waters felt that Gilmour had contributed little to the band's lyrical repertoire. Michael Kamen, a contributor to the orchestral arrangements of The Wall, mediated between the two, also performing the role traditionally occupied by the then absent Wright. The tension within the band grew. Waters and Gilmour worked independently; however, Gilmour began to feel the strain, sometimes barely maintaining his composure. After a final confrontation, Gilmour's name disappeared from the credit list, reflecting what Waters felt was his lack of songwriting contributions.

Though Mason's musical contributions were minimal, he stayed busy recording sound effects for an experimental Holophonic system to be used on the album. With marital problems of his own, he remained a distant figure. Pink Floyd did not use Thorgerson for the cover design, Waters choosing to design the cover himself. Released in March 1983, The Final Cut went straight to number one in the UK and number six in the US. Waters wrote all the lyrics, as well as all the music on the album. Gilmour did not have any material ready for the album and asked Waters to delay the recording until he could write some songs, but Waters refused. Gilmour later commented, "I'm certainly guilty at times of being lazy ... but he wasn't right about wanting to put some duff tracks on The Final Cut." Rolling Stone magazine gave the album five stars, with Kurt Loder calling it "a superlative achievement ... art rock's crowning masterpiece". Loder viewed The Final Cut as "essentially a Roger Waters solo album".

"A spent force" and Waters' departure

Gilmour had recorded his second solo album, About Face, in 1984, and he used it to express his feelings about a variety of topics; from the murder of John Lennon to his relationship with Waters. He later stated that he used the album to distance himself from Pink Floyd. Soon afterwards, Waters began touring his first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Wright formed Zee with Dave Harris and recorded Identity, which went almost unnoticed upon its release. Mason released his second solo album, Profiles, in August 1985.

Following the release of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Waters publicly insisted that Pink Floyd would not reunite. He contacted O'Rourke to discuss settling future royalty payments. O'Rourke felt obliged to inform Mason and Gilmour, and this angered Waters, who wanted to dismiss him as the band's manager. Waters terminated his management contract with O'Rourke and employed Peter Rudge to manage his affairs. Waters wrote to EMI and Columbia announcing he had left the band, and asked them to release him from his contractual obligations. Gilmour believed that Waters left to hasten the demise of Pink Floyd. Waters later stated that, by not making new albums, Pink Floyd would be in breach of contract—which would suggest that royalty payments would be suspended—and that the other band members had forced him from the group by threatening to sue him. Waters then went to the High Court in an effort to dissolve the band and prevent the use of the Pink Floyd name, declaring Pink Floyd "a spent force creatively." When his lawyers discovered that the partnership had never been formally confirmed, Waters returned to the High Court in an attempt to obtain a veto over further use of the band's name. Gilmour responded by issuing a carefully worded press release affirming that Pink Floyd would continue to exist. He later told The Sunday Times: "Roger is a dog in the manger and I'm going to fight him".

 

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