The Rise of Pink Floyd and the Decline of Syd Barrett
It is a strange and chilling thought, that the all-time most successful British rock bands have all suffered a death in the ranks. Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones, Bonham and Moon from Zeppelin and The Who, and, although it’s not a strictly comparable situation, autograph-hunter Mark Chapman finally put paid to any hopes of a Beatles reunion the night he added John Lennon to his collection. It seems as if success at this level demands a price.
Pink Floyd, described by their biographer Miles as ” the most commercially successful group on the planet”, suffered a slightly different tragedy. Syd Barrett, their original guitarist, lost his mind. His replacement in the group, David Gilmour, was brought in before Syd Barrett left, for certain specific reasons, not least to add a sorely missed element of stability. ” Dave Gilmour was brought in because we knew he could sing and we knew he could play the guitar which was what we badly needed. We also thought he was someone we could get on with.” commented Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer, in 1972.
Today, 15 years after his recruitment, David Gilmour is still the guitarist with Pink Floyd, now a trio, following the departure in 1979 of founding member, keyboard player, Rick Wright. With a line-up of Gilmour, Nick Mason (drums), and Roger Waters (bass/vocals), the Floyd are the first of the British mega-bands to present a new album in 1983. Released on 21 March, it is formally titled “The Final Cut- A Requiem For The Post War Dream”, by Roger Waters and performed by Pink Floyd. The album, produced by Roger Waters, James Guthrie, and Michael Kamen, was recorded at various studios using a new technique called Holophonic or three dimensional sound.
David Gilmour was born on 6 March 1946 in Cambridge, and began playing guitar when he was 14 years old. The nearest he got to any formal training was a Pete Seeger tutoring book and album. Otherwise he just picked up what he could from listening to records.
“My interest were incredibly broad. I was heavily into folk music, Leadbelly, all that stuff, 12 string stuff, but at the same time heavily into rock’n’roll, ‘Rock Around The Clock’ and those kind of things. Absolutely everything!” While still at school in Cambridge, he met another aspiring guitarist, Roger Keith Barrett – Syd to his mates.
“We became friends when I was about 14 I suppose. We did a lot of learning together and later on of course we both moved to the Cambridge Tech (The Cambridge College of Art & Technology). I was there doing A levels and he was there in the Art School. We used to spend our lunch-times together.”
One summer the pair of them met up with some other Cambridge friends in the south of France.
“We were busking in St. Tropez once, and got arrested for our troubles.”
After leaving college, Barrett moved down to London to study painting at Camberwell Art School in Peckham, sharing a flat with Roger Waters in Highgate. Gilmour stayed in Cambridge and formed a group called Jokers Wild, which lasted for two or three years. He then took a job playing at a club in Spain. He was joined on this venture by fellow Cambridge musicians, drummer Willie Wilson, and bassist Ricky Wills. After that job finished they found similar employment in France where they lived for a year.
Meanwhile, in London Syd Barrett and Roger Waters had not been idle. Waters had gone to study architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic, and doing the same course were drummer Nick Mason, and organist Rick Wright. The three of them formed a group called Sigma 6, and with varying line-ups, they also called themselves at different times the T-Set, The Abdabs and The Screaming Abdabs. With the addition of Syd Barrett they became known as The Pink Floyd Sound, after a record Syd owned by the Georgia bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The Pink Floyd Sound played some gigs together with Jokers Wild while Gilmour was still playing with the latter.
“They were an amateur band in London and we were in Cambridge, but we’d cross paths sometimes either when we’d play in London or they’d come and play in Cambridge.”
To begin with The Pink Floyd Sound played R&B, but gradually they began a process of defining their own original sound. They had a natural flair for stage improvisation, utilizing various electronic noises in tandem with a crude light show, to build soundscapes that delighted the stoned audiences of ‘The Spontaneous Underground’ (their regular Sunday afternoon gig at The Marquee) and The UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road, where the Pink Floyd (as they soon became known) became the house band. At the same time Syd Barrett emerged as a writer of real talent, and although there was a real schizophrenia between his short anecdotal often nursery rhyme-ish songs, and the long weighty extemporizing of the live shows, the Floyd nevertheless rapidly gained momentum. In 1967 they scored two Barrett composed hit singles, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” and a No. 6 album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”, which was 80 percent written by Barrett.
The stories marking the decline of Barrett’s mental health are legion and all tingled with dual elements of farce and tragedy. There’s the famous one about the occasion when, just as the band was due to go on stage, Barrett, who was having trouble getting his hair arranged to his satisfaction, crushed up a heap of Mandrax pills, mixed them in with a full jar of Brylcreem and then slopped the whole lot on his head. On stage, under the heat of the lights, the coagulated gloop began to melt, slithering down his face, to give the impression his features were somehow melting apart. Or there was the time he wandered into a Kings Row shop, tried on three vastly different sizes of the same style of trousers, announced that they all fitted him perfectly, then left without buying any of them.
By the start of 1968, Barrett had become impossible to work with. Quite often he would go on stage and not play anything at all, or he might stand stoney faced strumming the same chord through the performance. “Syd turned into a very strange person. Whether he was sick in any way or not is not for us to say in these days of dispute about the nature of madness. All I know is that he was f-cking murder to live and work with.” [Roger Waters]
Something had to be done, and in February 1968, David Gilmour was invited to join the band. For about seven weeks he and Barrett were in the band together, before Barrett left in April 1968. The band’s management, Peter Jenner and Andrew King left with him, such was their skepticism as to the future chances of a Pink Floyd without Barrett, a view widely shared in music business circles at the time.
In fact it turned out the other way round, Pink Floyd with Gilmour went to the top, while Barrett faded. Gilmour co-produced two solo albums for Barrett, “The Madcap Laughs” (1970 with Roger Waters) and “Barrett” (also 1970 with Rick Wright), on the latter of which Gilmour also played guitar, organ, and drums (on the outro of ‘Dominoes’). The albums were not successful commercially. Barrett continued to deteriorate, rarely venturing out of the cellar of his mother’s house in Cambridge where he had taken up residence.
He joined/formed a band called Stars with drummer Twink (ex-Pretty Things, ex-Pink Fairies) and bassist Jack Monck. They played only a couple of gigs, one at the Cambridge Corn Exchange supporting the MC5, which was a shambles. In 1974, Barrett attempted to record a third solo album with Peter Jenner producing. At one point Barrett was handed a sheet of lyrics typed in red. He thought he was being given a bill and tried to bite the bloke’s fingers off. His playing, by all accounts was as sharp as his reasoning, and the project was abandoned after three days.
Finally, in 1975, Barrett turned up uninvited at the Pink Floyd recording sessions for “Wish You Were Here”, announcing that he was “ready to do his bit”. Roger Waters, deeply moved by Syd’s condition described him as “this great, fat, bald, mad person”. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” on that album was the Floyd’s tribute to Syd Barrett who Gilmour once described as “One of the three or four greats, along with Bob Dylan”.
You were caught in the cross fire of childhood and stardom…Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!
So, the last thing the Floyd wanted when they recruited Gilmour was another Syd Barrett, and thankfully Gilmour was of a much more solid disposition. Generally the emphasis of songwriting and singing switched now to Waters, who tended to write longer, heavier more concept oriented music than Barrett. Gilmour slotted in as guitarist rather than in a particularly creative capacity. He demonstrated right from his first recorded appearance with the band, “A Saucerful Of Secrets” (1968), an uncluttered and forceful approach, that was mistakenly if understandably compared and likened to Barrett’s. On “Corporal Clegg” he played some particularly brash Hendrix-style chord work. “A Saucerful Of Secrets”, only their second album, was the Floyd’s first British No.1
As the live sides of “Ummagumma” (1969) showed, Gilmour was certainly well able to take care of the Barrett business, but beyond this, “The Narrow Way Parts 1-3”, Gilmour’s contribution to the studio sides, displayed his ability as composer and acoustic guitarist. On later albums he showed his considerable talent as a slide player (‘One Of These Days’ from “Meddle” (1971)) and a guitarist of great melodic flair and invention.
Consolidating their post-Barrett position, Pink Floyd found their music with potent aural imagery, in demand by film makers. As well as recording two entire soundtrack albums, “More” (1969), and “Obscured By Clouds” (1972), they contributed among others to Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point”. “Atom Heart Mother” (1970), and “Meddle” (1971), both continued the development of albums as vehicles for Roger Waters’ Floydian concepts, and set the stage for 1973’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”. One journalist, present at this album’s premiere when it was played through a quadraphonic system beneath the stars at the London Planetarium , found Side 1 “diabolically uninteresting”, but cheered up for Side 2, declaring it to be a “nice one”.
As well as being their first American No. 1, the album was of course one of the most enduringly successful records in the entire history of the recording industry. To this day, nearly 10 years later, it remains in the American Billboard Top 200 album chart. Despite its (analogous) title, “The Dark Side Of The Moon” was an attempt to bring a more earthbound theme to bear on the Floyd’s music – the theme of madness, and all the pressures of modern life that drive people mad. Roger Waters, the idea’s principal architect, wrote all the lyrics, and the superlative production was done by the band themselves. The album is still regarded by many as the Floyd’s greatest artistic achievement, while those cash tills ringing at the start of “Money” on side 2, have never stopped.
In the aftermath of “The Dark Side Of The Moon”, Gilmour, having already done the two Barrett albums, drifted into more production work, this time for a group called Unicorn, a band built round the song writing talents of Ken Baker. Gilmour produced three albums for them: ‘Blue Pine Trees’ (1974), ‘Too Many Crooks’ (1976), and ‘One More Tomorrow’ (1977). He, himself, played pedal steel guitar on the first two of these albums. In addition to the Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” (1975), and “Animals” (1977), Gilmour also presented his first, and to date, only solo album in 1978, titled “David Gilmour”. He produced the album himself and used the services of his old cohorts from pre-Floyd days, Rick Wills on bass, and Willie Wilson on drums. Gilmour’s other musical activities outside Pink Floyd include playing on Roy Harper’s album ‘H.Q.’ (1975), and David Courtenay’s ‘First Day’ (1975), as well as sitting in on the occasional Sutherland Bothers & Quiver gig.
With the release of “The Wall” album, stage show, and film, Roger Waters’ concept approach reached a new zenith, and Pink Floyd at last emerged from the shadow of “The Dark Side Of The Moon”. “The Wall”, a lavish double album, described by Melody Maker’s Michael Watts as “a psychodrama of the bleakest pessimism”, yielded the No. 1 hit single ‘Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2’, and was followed by the Floyd’s most ambitious stage show yet. More than 40 people spent six months constructing the show which was estimated to have cost $225,000 for the American productions alone. As well as the complete creation of a hotel room and plane dive-bombing across the auditorium, plus bizarre inflatable effects by Gerald Scarfe, there was the construction at each performance of a symbolic wall 210 ft. wide by 35 ft. high between the band and audience. They performed the show in America during February 1980, and did six nights at London’s Earls Court the following August. The comparably epic film starring Bob Geldof as Pink, went on general release in the summer of 1982.
I talked to David Gilmour at his offices in West London, in a ground floor room of austere opulence with permanently drawn white blinds covering the windows, and walls lined with gold and silver records. Having just returned from a holiday in Sri Lanka he looked tanned and relaxed, and spoke to me with courtesy and candor.
Despite his assertions that there is “no big plot” to exclude the press and avoid doing interviews, it seems to me that the paucity of Floyd communications with the media these days put me in something of a privileged position, and I took the opportunity of first asking him at some length about Syd Barrett, a guitarist and songwriter of legendary status, and a subject of great personal fascination to me.
David Gilmour – DG
DS: What was Syd like in those early days before the Floyd? Was he always a bit of a lunatic?
DG: No – he wasn’t at all. He was one of those people that everyone loves, everyone wants to be like and who seems to have every door open for him. Very good looking, obviously very talented. He showed up as being talented at art before he did at guitar. In fact in the very early days, guitar was one of the few things I thought he wasn’t very good at, but he certainly developed his own distinctive style. (wry smile)
DS: You used to teach him Stones riffs I read somewhere.
DG: Well – not teach him. We learnt them together, yes. I was better at learning other people’s stuff parrot fashion than he was. We’d learn stuff together.
DS: Pink Floyd asked you to join in because Syd was in quite a mess by that time. Were all the stories about him true that one hears?
DG: It depends which ones.
DS: I don’t know… The mandrax and Brylcreem one?
DG: I don’t know about the Mandrax part of it. He did have a thing about Brylcreem at one time. Yes – he did go fairly mad. He did go mad or whatever you want to call it.
DS: How did you cope with joining a band in that position with Syd in the way he was?
DG: It’s very hard to imagine it now. I don’t know how they dealt with it for all the time they dealt with it. Not that it was very long it terms of actual time on a calendar. The period of time from when they signed their first record contract and their first record came out, “Arnold Layne”, to when he left was only 10 months.
DS: It must have been incredibly destabilizing. You’ve got your prime mover of the operation falling apart before your eyes.
DG: Yes – it was very very odd. The original idea of getting me in was to have someone to stand up there and sing the songs and play the guitar, and create a basis so that Syd could depart on his own tangent however he wanted to. But it very soon became obvious it wasn’t really going to work out and we stopped going round to pick him up after five or six gigs with five of us.
DS: What do you suppose caused his deterioration?
DG: Your guess is as good as mine.
DS: He was often referred to as an acid casualty.
DG: Well, that’s what people say. I don’t actually hold with that theory myself. I’ve said it before, but I always imagine that that would have happened anyway to him at some other point, and maybe the pressures of being a rock’n’roll star and things like acid and stuff I suppose act as catalysts. I think it’s more that he couldn’t handle success on that level than it has to do with drugs really. And to do with his past life, his father dying and all that stuff which happened shortly before he was 15 or 16.
DS: What was it like producing his two solo albums?
DG: It was hell. But you know, we always felt that there was a talent there, it was just a matter of trying to get it out onto record so that people would hear it, and of course Syd didn’t make that any easier for us. There were various techniques we had to invent for trying to get the stuff recorded. It was very very difficult; not really very rewarding. And I’ve no idea how Syd felt about it most of the time.
The only thing he ever said about it was at the end of the second album, when we’d finished. We were going up the lift in his block of flats in Earls Court, and he turned round to me and he said, ‘Thanks – thanks very much.’ And that’s the only expression of approval or disapproval of anything that I got out of him through two albums I think.
I’ve no idea if they were how he wanted them to be, but as he didn’t offer opinions, we had to take it onto ourselves to decide how it should be – which is quite a normal thing with producers – but it wasn’t because we were trying to assert that on him, it’s just there wasn’t anything coming from him to tell us how he thought it should be.
DS: Have you seen him recently?
DG: No. I know people who have seen him recently.
DS: How is he?
DG: He’s quite reasonable, I understand.
DS: Not showing any desire to play again?
DG: No. I don’t think he’s ever shown any great desire to play again since he left really. There was that thing called Stars or whatever it was called, with Twink and one or two other people, but I don’t think he really had anything to do with that. They just went down and tried to persuade him that this was what he ought to do, and he sort of half-heartedly went out.
DS: Was “Corporal Clegg” on “Saucerful Of Secrets” a deliberate Hendrix-style sound that you were going for?
DG: No, not really. I didn’t know what the hell I was trying to play at the time to be quite honest. I’d really no idea. What I was used to playing, the style I had, didn’t fit Pink Floyd at the time, and I didn’t really know quite what to do. Gradually over the years my style changed to fit Pink Floyd, and Pink Floyd changed to fit my style.
DS: How would you have characterized your style at that time?
DG: I don’t think I had on really.
DS: What was your inspiration for ‘The Narrow Way’ (on “Ummagumma”) your first major Floyd composition?
DG: Well, we’d decided to make the damn album, and each of us to do a piece of music on our own…it was just desperation really, trying to think of something to do, to write by myself. I’d never written anything before, I just went into a studio and started waffling about, tacking bits and pieces together. I haven’t heard it in years. I’ve no idea what it’s like.
DS: The track was an early example of your acoustic playing. What acoustic guitars have you used?
DG: At the beginning we used Levins, which were quite good guitars, a bit like Martins, made in Sweden or somewhere, then we moved onto Martin D-35s and things like that and now we tend to use Ovations mostly for recording and things. I also use a Gibson Everly Brothers I’ve got and various others.
(Earlier, David had shown me the battered black Stratocaster which has been his most used and customized guitar over the years. He bought it new in about 1970).
DG: I just keep trying things out on it. The neck’s changed about three times on it, pick ups have changed a few times – but basically it’s pretty standard.”
The guitar is fitted with an extra switch which allows him to add either of the outside pick ups in any combination with the other pick ups, giving him a complete range of any combination over all three pick ups. The guitar also has a very sensitive tremolo arm, the use of which is a fully integral part of his playing style. There is a clamping device for ‘locking’ the strings between the nut and the machine heads, but he usually leaves it off. Considering the big swoops and bends that the tremolo arm can deliver, the tuning stays remarkably accurate. The Fender is undoubtedly his favourite guitar.
“I’ve never managed to fully get on with anything else.”
DS: When did you start playing slide guitar?
DG: I’ve always liked slide guitar. I first bought an early Fender pedal steel in a junk shop in 1968 in America, so I guess I must have started playing some sort of slide stuff right then.
DS: What’s your approach to playing? (Long silence). How would you characterize it?
DG: God… I don’t know.
DS: Do you think of yourself as a technical player especially?
DG: No, no definitely not. My technique is laughable at times. I have developed a style of my own, I suppose, which creeps around … I don’t have to have too much technique for it. I’ve developed the parts of my technique that are useful to me. I’ll never be a very fast guitar player. I don’t really know what to say about my style. There’s always a melodic intent in there.
DS: It often seems to me that you use blues motifs, blues-sounding things and somehow weld them into what the Floyd does. “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2’s” solo is very bluesy really.
DG: Yes – but that’s rather an atypical solo.
DS: It’s a well-known one!
DG: Yes, it is a well-known one. But it’s an unusual type of solo, an unusual sort of sound for me that one.
DS: The beginning of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ sounds almost like Peter Green.
DG: Does it? Thank you (laughs) we try! Yes, it’s obviously largely based in blues stuff. I’ve got a background in that – psychedelia and blues coming together is obviously a large part of what I do I suppose.
DS: What are your feelings, 10 years on, about “Dark Side Of The Moon”?
DG: My feelings about the record itself haven’t really changed. I’ve always thought it was a good overall package. The lyrics came to the fore on that record, and made a big difference. Areas of it, musically, are a bit weak. But it was the strongest whole thing we’d ever done. There was no doubt in any of our minds when it came out that it would do better than anything we’d done before. But we didn’t expect it to still be in the charts now.
DS: Why do you think that is?
DG: Beats me! I’ve no idea. I can’t explain it. People must like it a lot and must go back and buy new copies all the time.
DS: In 1978 you released your solo album (‘David Gilmour’). Were you pleased with that?
DG: Yes I think so. There’s a lot that I can see now that I could have done more with it. The sound, the sound quality of the mixing isn’t as good as what we are doing with the Floyd these days.
DS: What about the writing?
DG: The basic writing I think is quite good. I’m very happy with all the stuff. I could have spent a lot more time honing the ideas down, and making it a bit more compact if you like, but I really wanted to get in and do it fast. I was only three weeks recording it, and it does show a little bit.
DS: As one might expect, there’s a lot more guitar playing on it than you’d find on a typical Floyd album. Do you ever find yourself stifled or frustrated by your role in Pink Floyd?
DG: Of course – one is bound to at times. You’re in a compromise situation. You’re always going to wind up having to compromise. The only way to have everything your own way is to make your own records. That may or may not be the best thing for you.
DS: Can you tell me something about your guitar collection? I understand that you’ve got the first Strat ever made.
DG: I’ve got the one with the Number 0001 serial number, yes. As far as anyone can tell it was one of the first batch that was made and did have the first number screwed onto it – on the plate on the back of the neck. I’ve got a number of quite early Strats; I’ve got a couple of Broadcasters; I’ve got a range Gretsch solid bodies and semi-acoustics – a white Falcon; I’ve got a Gretsch Penguin which is the solid-bodied version of the white Falcon, which is very, very rare, they tell me.
DS: What equipment did you use on “The Final Cut”?
DG: I used both the Fender guitar and a Gibson Les Paul, both with tremolo units on them. For amplifiers I used a Hi-Watt 100 and two 4×12’s. I’ve got two Yamaha-type Leslie things that I have going at the same time. I’ve got a pedal board with a whole bunch of effects stuck on it. I use a DDL echo machine, chorus pedals, flangers, fuzz boxes…
DS: You’re not at all shy of this kind of gadgetry!
DG: No, no, no – sorry, I’m not a purist about these things. I’ll use any gadget or trick that will make me achieve something that sounds nice to my ear, and that I can use in some way.
DS: Do you use synthesizers at all?
DG: I haven’t got a guitar synthesizer. I’ve tried out the Roland one a couple of times but it hasn’t really particularly interested me. What I’d like most would be to get a type of six string pitch to voltage converter which I could plug into a Prophet. That would really be good. Unfortunately, no one’s made one of those yet. The synthesizer section on a Roland guitar synth is rather pathetic, and no one seems to have really made something like a Prophet or one of those keyboard synthesizers that has got a lot of stuff on it, and have that hooked up to a guitar. There’s no difficulty in doing it really. One day I expect…
DS: Can you tell me a bit about this Holophonic sound on the new album?
DG: There’s some of it on this album. We really didn’t have the time or energy to really do it justice on this record, I don’t think. It is a system that works best on headphones. It works best on the Sony, the little Walkman type headphones. It’s good on other headphones, and it does work to a certain extent on speakers. The type of sound effects and things you hear on the record are very realistic, they sound better and more realistic because of it but you don’t get all the things that you get with it on headphones.
If you listen on point source speakers or time aligned speakers it works better than it does on the type of speakers that most people have on their hi-fi’s these days, which are two or three way speakers which aren’t time aligned and unfortunately the phase shift between the different speaker units in a cabinet tends to destroy part of the effect. On some of the demonstration stuff that I’ve heard from it, on Walkman headphones, it’s quite astounding. You probably know the dummy head stereo…”
DG: Well, there’s a dummy head thing that Neumann and Sennheiser used to make – a dummy head microphone thing, where you just have a head with microphones in, and if you listen back to stuff recorded on that on headphones, you actually get all-round sound. But this one does all-round sound and up and down and all sorts of strange stuff.
It has a dynamic thing as well, where it affects the dynamics and you can have things that appear to your brain to be fantastically loud, but they’re not moving the needles very loud at all. It’s not actually a loud sound on the tape,but your brain thinks it is. The secret of this Holophonic thing is that it actually fools your brain; it’s not what is actually on the tape or on the record, that isn’t all of it – it’s actually making a reaction with your brain; it’s very hard to explain but it alters how you perceive the sound.
DS: Why weren’t you involved in the production of this album as you have been previously?
DG: It’s very very much Roger’s baby, more than any one has been before and I didn’t… it’s not the way I’d have produced it and we did have an argument about the production on this record – several arguments, and I came off the production credits because my ideas of production weren’t the way that Roger saw it being.
DS: What way was that?
DG: Obviously the way it is is the way Roger wanted it to be.
DS: And you’re not very happy with it?
DG: It’s very very good, but it’s not personally how I would see a Pink Floyd record going. The sound quality is very good, it’s very very well recorded, and the string arrangements and orchestral stuff are very well done, but it’s not me. Consequently, I was arguing about how to make the record, at the beginning and it was being counterproductive.
DS: Why did Rick Wright leave?
DG: Um… What’s the best cliche I can think of…?
DS: Well, Roger Waters said: ” Our paths were not parallel enough.”
DG: That’s good enough (laughs). You’d have to ask him really. Ask Rick one day.
DS: Yours and Roger’s paths are still parallel enough then?
DG: Well, no they’re not really. We diverge quite a lot but we do still just about manage to work together and we still have got things that we can contribute to each other. I think the thing with Rick was that he didn’t have anything that any of us felt was contributing to what Pink Floyd do.
DS: What, compositionally or…?
DG: In any way.
DS: Pink Floyd sometimes seems to be a bit of a glum band. Musically, and your persona, particularly Roger’s persona seems to be terribly introspective. Are you a glum sort of person?
DG: I’m not personally particularly glum. But I am introspective to a certain extent. I do spend a lot of time worrying about the way of the world, having a good time, enjoying the world for what it is. And so does Roger. The predominance of Roger’s writing is, as you say, introspective, and it’s looking on the worst aspects of the world, reflecting them. And as all the Pink Floyd music basically over the past few years has been Roger’s writing then that is inevitable. I find it hard to write stuff that is overtly cheerful; Roger obviously does too (laughs).
Certainly with Roger, one would get the impression from what the public see of him that he’s a permanently miserable character, but that’s far from the truth.
DS: What sort of music do you listen to now?
DG: I’ve always had a very wide taste – I still have that width in the things I like, and I can wind up listening to almost anything. Randy Newman, Dire Straits, Joni Mitchell. I can listen to Van Halen sometimes, Jeff Beck a lot, hundreds; very diverse. I either like it or I don’t. If I do I listen to it.
DS: Peter Green said in a recent interview (Guitar Heroes, April 1983): ” I think rock’n’roll is a joke invented by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.” What do you think of rock’n’roll?
DG: Well…(pause) it’s a very very big subject. What I call rock’n’roll is any popular music or anything that we would call the music business over the past 20 years. It itself is not a joke, but an awful lot of it is a joke. You can see what he means about Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. That seems quite self-parody. But even he comes out with moments of brilliance once in a while.
DS: What I was getting at as well was that Pink Floyd exist, and yourself personally, rather outside that rock’n’roll circus. Where do you see your place in it, if at all?
DG: I don’t really look on it as it being something that I’m on the periphery of. I can’t quite see it in that way. I look on myself as a musician, right or wrong, trying to get through my life making music and enjoying myself and perhaps transmitting emotions to other people in what I do. And I don’t really know much about the rest of it apart from that.
I have other friends who are also musicians but I can’t really relate to it in terms of a rock’n’roll thing, as a whole entity. For me it’s all good or bad, and there are people in it who are good at it, and people who for me, are not. I like them or I don’t like them – that for me is good or bad. Ninety per cent of it I’m not interested in at all, at least 90 per cent of it. I think Mick Jagger himself actually loves publicity and loves being in the spotlight all the time. I’ve actually been out for an evening with him once, which amazed me at how much he loved it. I’d be trying to slip off somewhere out of it, and he’d be welcoming it. Still, it takes all sorts to make a world they say.”