Looking back at the life and career of the man behind “The Dark Side Of The Moon”, “The Wall” and several other Rock music masterpieces
Genius musician and Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters turns 80
The influential Pink Floyd’s maestro and genius, the multi-instrumentalist Roger Waters was born George Roger Waters on September 6th, 1943 in Great Bookham, Surrey, England. The loss of his father during the War in 1944 inspired him later to write one of Rock’s masterpieces “The Wall”.
He formed Pink Floyd in 1965 together with Nick Manson and Richard Wright after several different bands they had been in and different name choices for the band which included Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, Spectrum 5 and Tea Set. Waters became the main composer and bass player (though a multi-instrumentalist in studio) in the band that featured also Syd Barret on vocals and guitar. By 1967 Pink Floyd are one of London’s music scene most interesting and original bands, with their experimental and edgier Psychedelic Rock. In 1967 they released their debut album “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” which Waters wrote and co-wrote. The band meet considerable success despite their non-commercial songs distinctly different from the Flower Power trend at those days, though they had a string of commercial hit singles such as “See Emily Play” and “Arnold Layne”. In 1968 Syd Barret leaves the band and is replaced by David Gilmour. Pink Floyd release a succession of albums under the same edgier and experimental Psychedelic style, but as the 70’s approach they start playing with the idea of concept album, that was becoming somehow popular among the emerging Progressive Rock style. The 1970 album “Atom Earth Mother” was possibly their first big incursion into the idea of concept, with a sonority already very distant from their early records, Stanley Kubrick approached the band during that period to ask them if he could use the album as the soundtrack of his upcoming movie “A Clockwork Orange” but got refused permission by the band, however, in the movie the album can still be seen in the shelves of the record store scene. In 1973 Pink Floyd release what is considered their masterpiece, the finished concept album “The Dark Side Of The Moon”, one of the most commercially successful rock albums ever. It spent 736 straight weeks on the Billboard 200 chart—until July 1988—and sold over 40 million copies worldwide. It was continuing to sell over 8,000 units every week as of 2005. Throughout the 70’s they developed their own unique marketing strategy and released important and significant albums “Wish You Were Here” 1975, “Animals” 1977 and their second masterpiece “The Wall” 1979—written largely by Waters. He referred or alluded to the cost of war and the loss of his father throughout his work, from “Corporal Clegg” (“A Saucerful of Secrets”, 1968) and “Free Four” (“Obscured by Clouds”, 1972) to “Us and Them” from “The Dark Side of the Moon”, “When the Tigers Broke Free”, first used in the feature film, “The Wall “(1982), later included with “The Fletcher Memorial Home” on 1983 “The Final Cut”, an album dedicated to his father.
Watch Pink Floyd with Roger Waters performing “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” live at Pompeii 1972
The Wall Concept
The theme and composition of “The Wall” was influenced by his upbringing in an English society depleted of men after the Second World War. According to Pink Floyd biographer Glen Povey, “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the world’s second best-selling album, and the United States’ 21st best-selling album of all time.The double album “The Wall” was written almost entirely by Waters and is largely based on his life story having sold over 23 million certified units in the US as of 2013, is one of the top three best-selling albums of all time in America. During the 70’s Pink Floyd started to organize large scale concerts with unique stage props and laser lights, a new concept started by them during “The Dark Side Of The Moon Tour”, before that, in 1971 they already had organized the extraordinary (audience free) concert at the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater in Pompeii, Italy to be released on film. In 1980-1981 “The Wall Tour” was relatively small compared to previous tours for a major release, with only 31 shows in total. The tour was notable for its extensive use of stage theatrics, most notably a giant wall constructed across the stage to convey the sense of alienation present in both the album, and Roger Waters’ personal feelings at the time. Pink Floyd continued to enjoy huge popularity all through out the 80’s but Waters left the band in 1985. In July 1990 Waters staged one of the largest and most elaborate rock concerts in history, “The Wall – Live in Berlin”, on the vacant terrain between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate. The show reported an official attendance of 200,000, though some estimates are as much as twice that, with approximately one billion television viewers. Leonard Cheshire asked him to do the concert to raise funds for charity. Waters’ group of musicians included Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Scorpions, and Sinéad O’Connor. Waters also used an East German symphony orchestra and choir, a Soviet marching band, and a pair of helicopters from the U.S. 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron. Designed by Mark Fisher, the Wall was 25 meters tall and 170 meters long and was built across the set. Scarfe’s inflatable puppets were recreated on an enlarged scale, and although many rock icons received invitations to the show, Gilmour, Mason, and Wright, did not. Waters career never went through a low moment and he knew how to conduct it well enough to not compete directly with his old band. Pink Floyd officially disbanded after the death of Richard Wright in 2008, they still released one last album, the 2012 “The Endless River” that contains the last songs finished with Wright. Waters last album with Pink Floyd was 1983 “The Final Cut”. Besides music, Waters is an activist in several fronts for human rights, animal rights and in recent years he have became a more political outspoken person. He also is involved in ecological activism. Waters has been touring frequently over the last years and releasing new albums. His latest album is a re-recording of Pink Floyd’s classic “Dark Side Of The Moon” set to be released in October 2023.
Watch Roger Waters performing “In The Flesh” live from his “The Wall Live” recent tour
Listen to some of Pink Floyd’s most memorable songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify
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