Despite their huge success, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and David Gilmour have always shared a somewhat dysfunctional partnership. Waters has always been slightly hesitant towards the idea of collaboration and would much rather be the captain of his own ship. Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in 1968, but as the years progressed, the two men were locked in a power struggle as their creative visions collided and, ultimately, Roger Waters left the band in 1985.
When Waters originally withdrew from the group, he immediately locked horns with Gilmour in a bitter legal battle which would last years. To announce his departure, Waters issued a statement to EMI and CBS invoking the ‘Leaving Member’ clause in his contract, and as the main creative force in the band, he didn’t believe Pink Floyd could continue in his absence. Therefore in October 1986, Waters started High Court proceedings to formally dissolve Pink Floyd, labelling the group a “spent force creatively”.
David Gilmour and Nick Mason opposed this, stating that Pink Floyd was going nowhere and that Waters couldn’t declare it was dead while the group were still trying to make music. Waters eventually came to an agreement, which saw him resign after careful legal considerations in 1987. However, he did note: “If I hadn’t, the financial repercussions would have wiped me out completely.”
Speaking to the BBC in 2013, Waters admitted that trying to dissolve the band was not the right way to go: “I was wrong! Of course I was,” before adding, “Who cares? It’s one of the few times that the legal profession has taught me something,” Waters then said of the issue.
Adding: “Because when I went to these chaps and said, ‘Listen we’re broke, this isn’t Pink Floyd anymore,’ they went, ‘What do you mean? That’s irrelevant, it is a label, and it has commercial value. You can’t say it’s going to cease to exist… you obviously don’t understand English jurisprudence.'”
Despite the unlikely reunion in 2005 for Live 8, where they managed to put their differences aside for a cause much more significant than themselves, the Waters-Gilmour days are long gone, and the chances of another Floyd show now looks impossible. But perhaps not all hope is lost, after all, in 2008 the duo still had differences, but they “agreed to roll over for one night only” to get through the show.
The performance was an utter triumph, with Floyd then being offered a mouthwatering $150 million for a US tour following the Hyde Park appearance. To add credence to the claim that it wasn’t about the cash for the band, not even that kind of money could get Waters and Gilmour back on the road together again.
It’s remarkable that the duo managed to get on the same page again, even if it was just a one-off in aid of charity. One would assume that this would stop all the churlish digs they have at one another through the press if nothing more, but, despite Waters leaving Pink Floyd 36 years ago — he still manages to find things that irritate him about Gilmour.
In a five-minute video shared on his official Twitter page in 2020, Waters lamented how he doesn’t have access to the Pink Floyd social media channels, yet, Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson can use the platforms to promote her novels.
“One and half million of you have viewed our new version of ‘Mother’, which is lovely – it really warms my heart,” Waters stated. “But it does bring up the question: why is this video not available on a website that calls itself The Pink Floyd website? Well, the answer to that is because nothing from me is on the website – I am banned by David Gilmour from the website.
“David thinks he owns it. I think he thinks that because I left the band in 1985, that he owns Pink Floyd, that he is Pink Floyd and I’m irrelevant and I should just keep my mouth shut.” Waters then took aim at Gilmour’s wife, sniping that some of his friends recently asked him:” ‘Why do we have to sit and watch Polly Samson, year after year, month after month, day after day – and the Von Trapps reading us excerpts from their novels to get us to go to sleep at night?’
“We’re not allowed to even mention [my projects] on the official Pink Floyd website,” Waters fumed. “This is wrong. We should rise up… or, just change the name of the band to Spinal Tap and then everything will be hunky-dory.”
The feud between the two men was put into context during an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018; Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason speculated: “It’s a really odd thing in my opinion But I think the problem is Roger doesn’t really respect David. He feels that writing is everything, and that guitar playing and the singing are something that, I won’t say anyone can do, but that everything should be judged on the writing rather than the playing. I think it rankles with Roger that he made a sort of error in a way that he left the band assuming that without him it would fold.”
He then added: “It’s a constant irritation, really, that he’s still going back to it. I’m hesitant to get too stuck into this one, just because it’s between the two of them rather than me. I actually get along with both of them, and I think it’s really disappointing that these rather elderly gentlemen are still at loggerheads.”
Gilmour has resisted retaliating to Waters’ latest snarls. However, he didn’t hold back when he gave his opinion on his former bandmate to Rolling Stone in 2014: “Why on Earth anyone thinks what we do now would have anything to do with him [Roger] is a mystery to me. Roger was tired of being in a pop group. He is very used to being the sole power behind his career.
“The thought of him coming into something that has any form of democracy to it, he just wouldn’t be good at that. Besides, I was in my thirties when Roger left the group. I’m 68 now. It’s over half a lifetime away. We really don’t have that much in common anymore.”
Waters attempted a peace summit between his bandmates during the last few years at an airport hotel, but, alas, it ended in disaster and confirmed that there would be no truce between the two men. They are no longer the same people they once were, and their careers have taken different routes; however, it’s hard not to hold out still hope that they can repair their friendship.
Gilmour and Waters have spent close to 40-years locked in this vicious feud and chances are the two men won’t resolve it anytime soon. This bitter dispute is a source of sadness for millions of Floyd plans on the planet. Even if a reunion is firmly out of the window, putting their childish feud behind them would be enough to put a smile back on their fans faces.