If you want to know what’s behind Pink Floyd songs, read “Another Brick in the Wall: the Stories Behind Every Pink Floyd Song,” by Cliff Jones, copyright 1996 Carlton Books. (Something in the fine print–can’t remember what–gave me the impression that the book had been called “Echoes” in England.)
The album WISH YOU WERE HERE is not a paen to Syd Barrett. Rather, it is a reaction to the stress of fame and success that followed after “Dark Side of the Moon.” (Up till then, the Floyd had been pretty much a cult or underground band.) Only the song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” refers directly to Barrett. “Welcome to the Machine” describes just another part of the disillusionment that lyricist Roger Waters was feelings at the time over his role in the music industry.
By the way, Waters was never the “undisputed leader” of the band (except, perhaps, in his own mind). That’s just his PR since the breakup. During the glory days (up till WISH YOU WERE HERE), the rest of the band contributed musically, while Waters gradually took over the lyrical and conceptual side because he was good at it, and the rest of the band were happy to have him do it. It was really only during THE FINAL CUT that he started absolutely rejecting any other contribution and insisting that only his ideas be used. This is why the record has been called “a Waters solo record in all but name.” (Cant’ understand how theuglytruth reconsiles this with also calling it “Floyd’s last REAL album.”)
Also, the various histories posted on the band’s “breakup” seem heavily influenced by the Waters PR machine. The group never really “broke up.” After forcing founding member Richard Wright out, Waters himself left, convinced that without him, the rest of the band would not be able to continue. At that time, as far as he was concerned, he was willing to let Gilmour et al have the rights to the name–but only because he was convinced they wouldn’t be able to do anything with it.
After it became apparent that Gilmour would be able to revive the franchise sans Waters–only then did Waters take legal action, on the rather dubious basis that that band was “artistically dead.” How he ever expected a judge to make a ruling based on artistic merit, rather than a legal foundation, is beyond me, but it seems borderline delusional.
As far as the story Waters told about Gilmour’s music not sounding like Pink Floyd, that’s just bullshit. It’s Waters’ music that doesn’t sound like Floyd. Up until nearly the very end of the original Floyd (THE WALL), Gilmour was the architect of the band’s sound, while Waters was increasinlgly worrid that the music was overshadowing his lyrics (this is why Waters disallowed any musical contributions from Gilmour on THE FINAL CUT, which is also why the album, while lyrically interesting, is musically monotonous).
As far as Waters’s famous quote about George Harrisona and Ringo Starr not being the Beatles… I’ve always been curious: What does that make Waters? Paul McCartney? Or John Lennon? Either comparison is silly. The fact is that Waters was not the initial founder of the band; it was Syd Barrett. Barrett even named the group, but no one said that it wasn’t really “Pink Floyd” anymore after Barrett became unstable and was replaced by Gilmour.
Other than his lyrical and vocal talents (well, he played bass, too, but not exceptionally), Waters claims have no leg to stand on. You can argue that Floyd is not as good without him, but you can’t argue that it’s not Floyd. Yes, I know MOMENTARY LAPSE OR REASON is basically Gilmour solo, with Mason and Wright along for the ride, but THE DIVISION BELL is a group work, with Wright contributing compositions and lead vocals, and all three members playing on all the tracks (augmented with studio musicians, but not to the extend of LAPSE).
Yes, the lyrics aren’t as consistently good as the used to be, but tracks like “Sorrow” and “Keep Talking” show that even without Waters, Floyd can still come up with great songs.