From the Archives

"Dark Side" at 30: Roger Waters

A brainchild born of insanity

John HarrisPosted Mar 12, 2003 12:00 AM

After Syd Barrett descended into mental illness, Roger Waters took over as Pink Floyd's driving force. From Dark Side of the Moon until The Final Cut, he wrote ninety-five percent of the lyrics and devised the concepts that underpinned the albums. Despite the band's messy 1987 splintering, he is now on friendly terms with Rick Wright and Nick Mason, but he has yet reconcile with David Gilmour.

Dark Side of the Moon is partly based on the underlying theme of insanity. Was that there from the start?

Yeah, I think so. There is a residue of Syd in all of this. Syd had been the central creative force in the early days, and so his having succumbed to schizophrenia was an enormous blow. And also, when you see that happening to someone you've been very close friends with, and known more or less your whole life, it really concentrates the mind on how ephemeral one's sensibilities and mental capacities can be. For me, it was very much "There but for the grace of God go I." That was certainly expressed in "Brain Damage."

You've said in the past that your direct style of lyric-writing on Dark Side of the Moon was influenced by 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.

I just think that's one of the truly great moments in the history of rock & roll, or of the history of any writing. It's a remarkable piece of work. Who knows? He might have found his way back to making something of similar power had he lived. It's so raw. There are a number of records that, when one's young, knock you into a different place and give you the will to go on trying to do something. That record is one of them. Another one was the Band's first album. That completely changed everything about records for me. Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, too.

What's your memory of writing "Money"?

Although it's based around a bass line, I wrote it on an acoustic guitar. Occasionally, I would do things and Dave would say, "No, that's wrong. There should be another beat. That's only seven." I'd say, "Well, that's how it is." A number of my songs have bars of odd length. When you play "Money" on an acoustic guitar, it's very much a blues thing. That's how the demo was. There's a very bluesy feel to it.

And how did you come up with the tape loops on that track?

I made those recordings in a shed at the bottom of the garden, throwing coins into a big industrial bowl that my wife used for mixing clay. I recorded those sound effects on my first proper tape recorder, chopped them up and glued them together, stuck them in the machine, put a mike stand there to hold tape taut, and off we went.

What do you recall of recording "The Great Gig in the Sky"?

It was something that Rick had already written. It's a great chord sequence. "The Great Gig in the Sky" and the piano part on "Us and Them," in my view, are the best things that Rick did -- they're both really beautiful. And Alan [Parsons] suggested Clare Torry. I've no idea whose idea it was to have someone wailing on it. Clare came into the studio one day, and we said, "There's no lyrics. It's about dying -- have a bit of a sing on that, girl." I think she only did one take. And we all said, "Wow, that's that done. Here's your sixty quid." Years later, I moved house, and she lived just round the corner. I used to run into her all the time, walking her dog.

It was your idea to record the snippets of speech that are all over the album . . .

I thought it was a terrific idea. I wrote questions down on a set of cards, and they were in sequence. Whoever was in the building came and did it. They would read the top card and answer it -- with no one else in the room -- and then take that card off, and do the second one. So, for instance, when it said "When was the last time you were violent?" the next one said, "Were you in the right?" It provided essential color for the record. The questions that provided us with the best material were the ones about violence.

Looking back on your relationship with Dave Gilmour, what do you make of the theory that your input was based around organizing ideas and frameworks, and he contributed his intuitive musicianship?

That's crap. There's no question that Dave needs a vehicle to bring out the best of his guitar playing. And he is a great guitar player. But the idea, which he's tried to propagate over the years, that he's somehow more musical than I am, is absolute fucking nonsense. It's an absurd notion, but people seem quite happy to believe it.

How did you feel as you watched the album become so successful?

We were very pleased, but not surprised. It went up the American charts quite quickly. We were on tour in the States while that was happening. It was obviously going to be a big record -- particularly after AM as well as FM radio embraced "Money." From that moment, it was going to be a big record.

How did your life change?

If I'm honest, I have to accept that at that point, I became a capitalist. When you suddenly make a lot of money, you have to decide whether to give it away to poor people or invest it. I decided to give some of it away to poor people and invest the rest. I was faced with that dilemma, coming from the background I did. I could no longer pretend that I was a true socialist, but twenty-five percent of my money went into a charitable trust that I've run ever since. I don't make a song and dance about it. One of the good things about being a capitalist, is that you become a philanthropist, to a certain extent.

Did Pink Floyd ever make another record as good as Dark Side of the Moon?

Well, I think The Wall is as good. I think those are the two great records we made together.

[From Issue 922 — May 15, 2003]

Back to 30 Years of Dark Side of the Moon

Comments

Photo

More Photos

Different tunes


Advertisement


Advertisement

Advertisement