Pink Floyd were always good entertainment. With The Floyd you got a lightshow, great guitar solos, innovative music and fabulous cover art. They were good at creating the iconic, raising interest and pushing the boundaries. This latest episode in the soap opera that is the divorce of Waters vs Gilmour, fighting over the bloated baby that is Pink Floyd, is unbelievably damaging to their legacy, and it was not Waters who fired the opening salvo, but instead Gilmour’s wife, the novelist and latter-day Pink Floyd lyricist, Polly Samson!
Sometimes it is not as simple as ‘good vs bad’ or ‘right and wrong’. Sometimes everyone is a little bit wrong, and there are no winners. It all started with Polly Samson, wife of Gilmour, sending out an incendiary tweet, attacking Waters. Now, Polly has involved herself in Pink Floyd, written lyrics and become an ersatz member of the band insinuating herself, to a damaging degree, into Pink Floyd history. Forget Yoko Ono who at worst was a little bit annoying and the victim of anti-Japanese racism; the real toxic wife of Rock and Roll, who cannot leave her husband’s legacy alone is Polly Samson. Her lyrics are like Pink Floyd painting by numbers. Pink Floyd is not a dog or a sheep, but a sacred cow, and the post Water’s era has slaughtered this cow ritually every time they release inferior material under the Pink Floyd name, and involved Samson in lyrical artistic output and shut Waters out of his own legacy.
Polly launched a vile attack on Waters, that accused him of things that ranged from illegal to immoral. The range of her attack was shocking, and seemingly came out of nowhere.
Of course Gilmour ran to defend his wife and double down on her attack, leaving a bewildered Waters, who was minding his own business (kind of has to since he has been shut out of his own band), scrambling to defend himself.
Clearly Roger Waters’ February address to the UN on the subject of the Ukraine ruffled some feathers. Gilmour has a Ukrainian daughter in law, and has put out a well-meaning but truly terrible song to raise money for Ukrainian charities. Meanwhile Waters sees the Ukraine as a provoker of war and has come down on Moscow’s side. Personally I cannot agree with condoning Russia at all, at least knowing the little I know of the situation, and having seen proof via the media that the Russian invaders have committed terrible acts – things that look like they need to be investigated by a war crimes tribunal. Russia invaded a sovereign state, under some phony pretext. I don’t agree with Waters, but I do agree with his right to have his opinion, and to have his say. Even if he called for an immediate ceasefire, and what he had to say was distasteful at best:
“Also the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked. So I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms”Roger Waters. Speech to the UN
This whole culture of silencing anyone who disagrees with the herd view is damaging to democracy and art alike. Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased Voltaire’s philosophy as: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Whilst I do not agree with Waters, I do agree with Voltaire, and any group of people who seek to silence and deny freedom of speech are not ‘the good guys’.
There was no need for any of this. I suspect tensions over Pink Floyd’s back catalogue sale have spilled over into vitriol on twitter. Variety magazine reported back in late 2022 that Pink Floyd, as an entity that Waters is shut out of, has been hawking their “recorded music catalog and other assets for several months, seeking as much as $500 million.” This deal was jeopardized and shelved allegedly due to Waters’ outspoken comments that have been misconstrued by many as blatant antisemitism. In a world where actual anti-semitism is rife and increasingly a danger to Jewish people all over the world, to paint Waters as an anti-semite cheapens the actual instances of anti-semitism that sicken every right- thinking person out there. I don’t happen to agree with Waters over Israel, but know that I could talk to Roger and we would not agree, but we would be able to sit at his fabled bar, and have a measured discussion. Roger cares, and is too old and too rich and has too strong a platform to shut the fuck up and play the money game.
Roger as the real lyricist of Pink Floyd is worth a lot of money, 310 million dollars at the last reckoning, and probably does not see the need to cash out of the Pink Floyd back catalogue. Besides, it is not priceless to see the band apoplectic to the point of ‘mummy-Polly’ scolding him on twitter? To be frank her stern ‘enough of your nonsense’ parting shot was ridiculously authoritarian. Samson is coming on like she is running Pink Floyd and ruling the band with an iron fist, minus the velvet glove. The fans are talking about her hold over Gilmour with some hilarious, but bad taste memes, and to be frank this outburst deserves such a reception. I hope Waters is enjoying this meltdown. Isn’t it delicious for Waters to infuriate the band that installed Gilmour’s wife as a lyricist by thwarting this highly lucrative sale? To echo and slightly bend the words of the Waters/Pink Floyd song, Mother, I can’t help but hear the lyrics in relation to Polly Samson and her hapless husband:
Mama’s gonna make all of yourMother, Pink Floyd/ lyrics: Roger Waters. The Wall
Nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here
Under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Mama will keep baby cosy and warm
Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
Of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall
I would say to Waters it might be worth delaying his share of the 500 million bucks in order to get his own back on his old band. Polly is certainly helping build the wall between Waters and Gilmour. She might let Gilmour sing, but apparently only as long as she is writing the songs.
Gilmour’s Floyd is a spineless, musically worthless, gutted shadow of the Waters era Floyd. It has all the float and soaring of Gilmour’s superlative guitarwork, with none of the bite, social commentary or genius of the Waters era. Pulse was all lights and no trousers: no BALLS, no heavy STONE to it all (sorry, reddit Pink Floyd fan club joke). It has no weight, yet throws a lot of it around. It is muzac to drive one of Mason’s supercars down a neat little English country road to. Waters responded, like Waters can’t help doing, and to be frank I don’t blame him.
Roger Waters and I disagree on Russia, on Israel, and no doubt on a whole range of subjects, but we do agree on humanity needing to come together and talk it out. We absolutely agree on the fact that ‘this is not a drill’ and the current climate of censorship is a danger, as is the constant push towards war. I agree with the pacifist, anti-racist Waters on more than we disagree on. Waters’ heart is in the right place, even if his views are sometimes unpalatable. He is an unrepentant antizionist, and whilst he sometimes states this position to the point of making me wonder if that In The Flesh black leather duster coat is real or an act, Roger always comes down on the side of peace, love and understanding. I don’t agree with Waters, but I will defend his right to disagree with me, to the ends of the earth. Roger Waters makes me feel that we might have a glimmer of hope of a future of freedom: free from The Man, The Powers That Be that Roger sings about in one of his most powerful songs. Roger wants a future where we are free of the Dogs and Pigs of one of Floyd’s most impactful albums, Animals. No one sane wants death and war and an Orwellian future where we can only spout the approved party-line, or else be thrown out of the discussion and society in general. I wonder how sane the rest of Pink Floyd are in 2023? Seeking to remove Waters’ voice is not a good sign.
Roger is a man scarred by the loss of his father – it shaped him and his world view. He is allowed opinions, and by silencing him (good luck in that!) we are not allowing him his human rights. We live in a world increasingly silenced by the majority that decides what morality currently is. I welcome Roger’s snottiness. I applaud the fact he speaks out and that he says something in a sometimes brutal way. The Floyd of today says nothing in an empty boring soundscape of Gilmour’s overly rote guitarwork. There is only a certain amount that can be said by his guitar and he already said it as well as he was going to say it a hundred times over when he was Waters’ guitarist, because that was the role that suited David best. Roger has his reasons, his causes and his standards. He has not always been commercial enough in his solo career to get those big bucks and sell out those huge venues, but his recent This Is Not A Drill tour we saw Roger at his spitting furious best. Roger doesn’t want the world to blow itself up. He doesn’t want other boys to know the pain of their daddies dying in a useless war, a pain he grew up with. Roger lives that hippy dream but does so with pain and anger and passion. He is sometimes offensive, but the best art provokes and invites discussion. None of us are going to get anywhere fixing this beautiful world if we don’t come together and talk it out.
Perhaps I should be happy the Floyd are fighting, at least they are talking…but just maybe they shouldn’t bring their wives to the bar this time. Pink Floyd is Roger Waters (Lyrics, Vocals, Bass), David Gilmour (vocals, guitar), Nick Mason (drums), and Rick Wright (keyboards) . . . and Syd Barrett (lyrics, madcap muse, vocals and guitar). Rick is dead and was thrown out before The Wall (another one of Waters’ actions I disagree with), Syd went insane after one album and is dead now. I can only hope that Roger sticks to his pacifist guns and spits out more vitriol, meaningful music and controversy like a good rock star should, and doesn’t become a bland, oatmeal version of himself. I don’t think there is much chance of Roger selling out, thank goodness. There is no warmth in outer space, and all that Syd Barrett Astronomy Domine chill was warmed up by Waters and his bass. The natural successor to the space man vibe was Gilmour, not Waters. Waters is more concerned with the suffering down here on earth, not that airy fairy stuff about moons and stars and learning to fly, and is better for it. Roger is a humanist, not a space man. It is airheaded to think that such potentially libelous jibes would be let go by Waters, but that is the sad state of play between a group of guys that made some of the best music of the 1970s…and one of their wives…
After Roger quit the band in 1983, after The Final Cut, expecting the band to then break up and not use the Pink Floyd name. He legally petitioned to stop the band from using the Pink Floyd name when the band shockingly decided to carry on without him. Waters’ case was denied in court and things have been on a war footing between Waters and the rest of the band ever since. Roger defended himself in a tweet, with an unsurprisingly legalistic sound to it. Third person. Taking advice. The lawyers must be rubbing their hands together with glee, but it could be argued that the Gilmour-Samson’s were ill advised to attack Waters with such serious accusations.
The shocking ‘tax avoidance’ accusation seemed particularly ill advised and I hope that Waters fights it and wins. Pink Floyd are still entertaining, just not in the way they used to be. This is pure theater and I am not sure I like it very much. I would much rather go to the bar with Roger and talk about the things we do agree on…and the things we don’t. Me and Roger do have one thing in common: a dedication to the cause of freedom of speech and artistic freedom of creation . . . Though Polly Samson’s “Floyd” lyrics make a great case for censorship: I would much rather not hear them put out under the Floyd name, and I don’t think I am alone in that desire. Roger has been remarkably restrained in the face of extreme provocation and a concerted effort to deny him of his freedom of speech. I can only hope this mess goes away and does not sully the legacy of one of the greatest bands of all time, because that would be unforgivable.
The fact of the matter is Roger just wants nobody fighting, no wars and no dying. He might end up offending people in his quest for world peace, but his heart seems to be ultimately in the right place, even if some of his ideology is disagreeable to some – including this culture critic. The rest of the band seem to be solely interested in money….”(Get back/I’m alright, Jack, keep your hands off of my stack/Money/It’s a hit/Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit). Perhaps Gilmour and Mason need to listen to some of Roger’s old lyrics?