Pink Floyd had a dedicated system in place by the time they became one of the biggest prog-rock bands on the planet in the mid-1970s. That included the administration of bassist Roger Waters, who took the lead in devising concepts and writing songs for the band. Starting with 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd’s work would be dominated by the way that Waters saw the world around him, for better or often for worse.
It’s easy to forget, though, that there was a long stretch of time where Pink Floyd was basically a captainless ship. After the departure of Syd Barrett in 1968, the Floyd were lost as to what kind of band they wanted to be — space rock excursions, long experimental pieces, folk songs, and even proto-punk tracks were trotted out in an attempt to find their new sound. Richard Wright and David Gilmour were contributing their own compositions as well, but quite a bit of the band’s material was being written through group jams and collaborations in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Then came 1971’s Meddle, which saw Pink Floyd tap into a partnership that would go on to define the band’s dynamic for the rest of their career as Gilmour and Waters decided to work together. Although they had shared writing credits with each other in the past, this would prove to be the first time that Gilmour and Waters wrote without the help of Wright or drummer Nick Mason. Two tracks on Meddle would result from this team-up: ‘A Pillow of Winds’ and ‘Fearless’.
‘A Pillow of Winds’ is one of the gentlest songs in the entire Pink Floyd canon, not terribly unlike Gilmour’s contribution to Atom Heart Mother, ‘Fat Old Sun’. With his acoustic guitar tuned to a unique variation of Open E, Gilmour created a chord progression and melody that Waters later added a set of lyrics to. The results were pleasing for both, so the pair decided to write another track together.
‘Fearless’ was a little more ambitious, incorporating a mix of gentle folk and driving rock along with field recordings of Liverpool F.C. fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, despite Waters and Gilmour both being Arsenal supporters. Once again, the division of labour mostly involved Gilmour writing the music and Rogers writing the lyrics, something that proved to be a creatively fertile well for the band.
A couple of tracks from the band’s follow up, Obscured by Clouds, continued the collaboration between Gilmour and Waters, but that album also two Wright-Waters team-ups and even a Gilmour-Wright collaboration, ‘Mudmen’. But it was the Gilmour-Waters team that proved to be the band’s most successful, creating songs like ‘One the Run’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ’Dogs’, ‘Young Lust’, ‘Run Like Hell’, and ‘Comfortably Numb’ together.
Check out the pair’s first official collaboration on ‘A Pillow of Winds’ down below.