Bob Dylan has never followed anything but his own heart. If you listened to Pink Floyd, you wouldn’t notice any influence from Dylan, but he inspired Roger Waters to believe in the band and adopt a similar maverick attitude.
Before Dylan’s emergence, there was a common agreement that music’s primary purpose was radio-play. You’d seldom hear a song that lasted over the four-minute mark because artists were scared that it would never reach the general public. However, Dylan only ever made music for himself, which was refreshing for Waters, who is blessed with a kindred mindset.
Sonically, Pink Floyd were more intent to explore how to evoke searing emotion by travelling into uncharted landscapes. In comparison, Dylan instead prefered to get his point across with cutting lyricism, which can be beautiful and scathing in equal measure.
Even though their creative methods are wildly different, both are experts at guiding art to the same picturesque destination. One struggles to imagine Dylan having much space available in his record collection for Pink Floyd, but he made Waters believe it was possible for a band like them to not just survive, but to thrive in their own right.
“Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan were the two men who allowed us to believe that there was an open door between poetry and song lyrics,” Waters once told the BBC during an appearance on Desert Island Discs.
In another interview with Howard Stern, Waters heaped praise on Dylan again for proving there was another way of making popular music. One that defied conventions and showed that boundaries only exist to be smashed into pieces.
More specifically, the track that opened Waters’ eyes is ‘Sad Lady of the Lowlands’, the eleven-minute closing number from Blonde on Blonde. Dylan wasn’t playing the game; he just expressed his artistry freely, which inspired Waters to forge a richly experimental career.
“When I heard that, I thought if Bob can do it, then I can do it. It’s 20 minutes long. It’s a whole album,” he revealed. “It in no way gets dull or boring. You just get more and more and more engrossed as it gets more and more hypnotic the longer it goes on.”
Blonde On Blonde only arrived a year before Pink Floyd’s debut, and Waters fell in love with ‘Sad Lady of the Lowlands’ just at the time he needed to most. He needed the shot of belief and encouragement to stay true to himself rather than deliver a watered-down version of Pink Floyd. It wasn’t about replicating Dylan’s sound for Waters and, instead, the Pink Floyd founder took inspiration from his maverick mindset.
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn featured the nine-minute instrumental, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, and the absurdly beautiful ‘Pow R. Toc H’, which featured incongruous vocals from Syd Barrett.
The debut album by Pink Floyd didn’t bear any resemblance to Bob Dylan, but it did ignore the assumed protocol of what music should be, just like ‘Sad Lady of the Lowlands’. The record locks you in a trance in a congruent way to Dylan’s most esoteric work and was lightyears ahead of its time.