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Home arrow Interviews arrow Pink Floyd band interviews arrow August 1988 - Musician Magazine
August 1988 - Musician Magazine Print E-mail

Repent, Pink Floyd Idolaters!

"This is definitely the biggest thing ever to hit Columbus," declares one of the 240 clean-cut Ohio State University students whose good grades qualified them for the coveted position of Pink Floyd usher. For the first time ever, rockophobic school authorities have permitted the staging of a rock concert at their 66-year-old football stadium, and all tickets were snapped up within hours of going on sale on campus. Though the original plan was merely to give O.S.U.'s 100,000 students first crack at Ohio Stadium's 63,016 seats, any townies wishing to see the show were left with no choice but to pay scalpers upwards of $40.

Throughout the past 24 hours, local stations have been regaling the state capital virtually nonstop with the classic 1970's albums "Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," and "The Wall." As the band's police-escorted minibus proceeds through the sprawling campus, groups of jocks - some wearing nothing but, of all things, electric pink shorts - interrupted their volleyball to cheer and shake their fists in approval at the smoked windows. Dormitory windows are festooned with bouquets of pink balloons and announcements of "post-Pink" parties; and at least one campus bar attempts to lure customers with the promise of pink beer. (At the tour's previous university stop, some students went so far as to repaint their dorms pink.)

In the eye of this storm of Pinkmania are three soft-spoken English gentlemen whose graying hair and unprepossessing appearance - and, above all, total lack of airs or pretensions - would seem the absolute antithesis of anyone's idea of rock 'n' roll superstars. Drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright are the remaining founding members of the group whose legendary original leader, Syd Barrett, christened "the Pink Floyd" over 22 years ago. Guitarist and singer David Gilmour - who has inherited the mantle of frontman and main composer following the recent acrimonious split with bassist and singer/songwriter/conceptualist Roger Waters - was originally recruited as a mere stand-in for his old school chum Barrett when the latter began to succumb to the LSD-fueled madness that compelled his 1968 departure from the group. Since launching their post-Waters live "comeback" in September 1987, Gilmour, Mason and Wright have been augmented onstage by a trans-Atlantic troupe of five musicians and three female singers - some of whom were barely out of their playpens when the London hippie underground celebrated its Summer of Love to the soundtrack of the Floyd's magical 1967 debut album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn."

Following a string of open-air concerts in the sun belt during which rain was so pervasive that the band had begun calling it the Pink Flood tour, the weather is at last gloriously cooperative. Behind the stadium, thousands of ticketless fans camp out on the playing field hoping at least to hear the show. The sole discordant note is provided by "Christian" picketers brandishing the signs WORSHIP GOD NOT PINK FLOYD SINNERS and REPENT PINK FLOYD IDOLATERS, and chanting slogans linking rock 'n' roll to such ungodly pursuits as homosexuality and drug-taking.

"Have you ever noticed," observes Guy Pratt, the bassist with the pop-star good looks, "that these anally retentive bigots are almost invariably ugly?" "They must act like that because they could never get laid," cracks Californian saxophonist Scott Page.

"This is the side of America that really scares me," Pratt says. "I can't even watch television in this country." The gaunt Rick Wright merely shrugs with the world-weary manner of one who has seen it all many times before.

After the sound check, as the fans begin streaming into their seats, David Gilmour takes a casual tour of the vast stadium.

"He's the most aware person," Page remarks. "He won't say much, and half of the time you wonder if he notices what's going on. But he sees everything, every detail to do with the lights, whatever."

At first it simply doesn't occur to any of the punters that this stocky 42-year-old wandering the aisles could possibly be the leader of the fabled act they have all come to witness. When he is finally recognized, however, Gilmour signs several rounds of autographs with an air of cheerful resignation. "He can't be bothered with bodyguards and all that business," says second guitarist and longtime friend Tim Renwick. "He despises all the bullshit showbiz razzmatazz side of things, and has decided not to be trapped in that star syndrome which cuts you off from everyone. I admire him very much for being able to deal with a success like this."

To see Pink Floyd backstage whiling away the moments before the show - reading, stuffing their faces at the lavish buffet, reminiscing about Syd Barrett's cats, and chuckling at the mordant wisecracks supplied by New Yorker Howie Hoffman in his paid capacity of "Ambience Co-ordinator" - you might not suppose that this was the biggest tour in rock history. Biggest, at least, by the measure of its custom-built stage, production effects and quadraphonic PA system (which fill 56 trucks), the personnel involved (over 100), the time spent on the road (nearly 13 months), and the ground covered (some 150 shows on four continents). Not to mention the sizes of the venues and the number of tickets sold.

Just after the sun goes down, the Floyd's trademark 32-foot circular screen, now ringed with computer controlled Vari-Lights, begins to swirl oranges and greens, and the first siren strains of their epic Syd Barrett tribute "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" respond through the billowing dry ice. Despite the music's languid tempo, the audience seems transfixed to a degree almost unheard-of at a 1980's rock concert, and drowns each familiar lick in ecstatic applause. "There is something incredible." Renwick says later, "about looking out at 70,000 people and there's no movement, really intense - not like your normal heavy-metal gig where everyone's milling around and falling and throwing up."

The recent album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason," which preempts the rest of the show's first half, is enhanced by a sequence of films featuring the handsome young actor Langley Iddens. ("Is he in Pink Floyd," a teenage girl in the audience asks eagerly.) After rowing down the Thames to appropriately aquatic sound effects from the quad PA, Iddens trades his canoe for a plane that soars out of the screen and across the stadium during "Learning to Fly."

"The idea is always to pull the last kid in the last seat of the stadium into the show," says lighting designer Mark Brickman. "That's also why the stage is so high and wide." Guy Pratt adds after the show, "The psychology of the quad is so wonderful because if you're at the back, you've still got stuff going on behind you. You're inside the event."

All the while, computer-operated light banks and four mobile robotic "Floyd 'droids" cast ever-shifting shapes and colors over the stage. Jets of brilliant laser light shoot over the audience, coalescing into a shining green sea of laser waves for "Terminal Frost."

But it is in the second half that the fans get what they really came to hear and see. On the spacey 1971 instrumental "One of These Days (I'm Going to Cut You into Little Pieces)," the Floyd's famous 40-foot inflatable anatomically correct pig, eyes glowering, lurches over the cheering crowd - whose fervor, if possible, only intensifies when the sounds of alarm bells and ticking clocks announce "Time," for the first of five selections from "Dark Side of the Moon." During "On the Run" Iddens reappears onscreen, strapped to a hospital bed, in a dramatization of the Lapse of Reason album cover; when the piece ends, a giant inflatable bed crashes into the stage in flames.

So it goes through "Welcome to the Machine," "Us and Them" and "Money," each illustrated with vintage mind-bending Floyd film footage. And in the show's most poignant moment, the entire stadium, with no incitement from Gilmour, sings along with him throughout the acoustic "Wish You Were Here." The set climaxes with "Comfortably Numb" (the hands-down favorite of everyone involved in the tour), wherein Brickman inundates the high base of the stage with white smoke - to simulate that moment in the Floyd's famous 1980 concerts when Gilmour played his big solo atom the Wall - and the largest mirrorball in history splits open to flower into dazzling petals.

For the final encore, "Run Like Hell," Brickman and his team, unleashing what he calls "Warp Factor Number 10," pull out all the stops with the special effects; even the near-full moon is briefly dimmed by the fireworks display that lights up the Columbus skies.

Pink Floyd shows were not always so meticulously planned. During the Syd Barrett era they were renowned for their anarchic spontaneity; even in the year or two after the "madcap"'s departure, no two performances were ever quite the same. Tim Fenwick fondly recalls one London concert during which the Floyd "built a table with rhythmic hammering and sawing. When it was done the roadies came on with a pot of tea and switched on a transistor radio and put a mike in front of it, with the audience listening to whatever happened to be on the radio at the time while the guys were drinking their tea." Their performance philosophy, like almost everything else about Pink Floyd, was to change dramatically over the years - in this instance because in their pioneering work with recording technique, the endless overdubbing process allowed little to be left to chance.

During the course of the Memorial Day weekend, the members of Pink Floyd take time out to review milestones in the band's evolution with an openness that belies their 1970's reputation for being unforthcoming with writers. "We took on this lightly precious feeling," Nick Mason recalls, "that there wasn't much point in doing interviews. It generally became: 'Well, we're not going to do interviews because we always get slagged off,' and then thinking 'Well, they won't do interviews so we'll slag them off.'"

All three - not least David Gilmour, who wasn't even on it - evince a special affection for the psychedelic fantasies of the Piper album. "Just listen to Syd's songs, the imagination that he had," Rick Wright says. "If he hadn't had this complete breakdown, he could easily be one of the greatest songwriters today. I think it's one of the saddest stories in rock 'n' roll, what happened to Syd. He was brilliant - and such a nice guy." The last time Write saw Barrett was during - ironically - the recording of "Wish You Were Here," when a shaven-headed and overweight Syd materialized at the sessions and no one at first knew who he was. Barrett's relatives subsequently asked the Floyd to keep their distance because any contact sends him into a deep depression. "He is aware of what happened," Wright says. "And what might have been."

Mason reflects that "one of the reasons Syd is still a legend is the James Dean syndrome, that thing of not fulfilling what seems to be your destiny." The latest manifestation of that legend - the closest we're likely to get to a new Syd album - is "Beyond the Wildwood," a collection of barrett covers by young British bands, which none of the Floyd has yet heard. "That's excellent news," Wright says. "More money for Syd."

"He seems reasonably content living with his mum," Mason says, "but he's certainly not able to function really and he can't be but back to work. There's a million people out there who'd love to see Syd do another album, come back and all that. I just think it's quite beyond him."

Most of the second Floyd album, 1968's transitional "Saucerful of Secrets," was written by Waters or Wright. The latter now dismisses his pieces as "an embarrassment," adding that "through these songs I learned I wasn't a lyric writer." He and Gilmour subsequently let Waters assume responsibility for writing the words even to their own music. Says Gilmour: "I've never had the belief in myself in that direction, and I've let myself be dominated by Roger. Never argued with him having his idea for an album and me backing off saying, 'Okay, you do them, I don't do this really.'"

Mason calls "Saucerful's" instrumental title suite the key to "helping sort out the direction we were going to move in. It contains ideas that were well ahead of the period, and very much a route that I think we have followed. Even without using a lot of elaborate technique, without being particularly able in our own right, finding something we can do individually that other people haven't provoking the most extraordinary sounds from a piano by scratching 'round inside it."

"I still think it's great," Gilmour says of that track. "That was the first clue to our direction forwards, from there. If you take 'Saucerful of Secrets,' the track 'Atom Heart Mother,' then 'Echoes - all lead quite logically towards 'Dark Side of the Moon.'"

None of the Floyd has a ready explanation for the phenomenal and ongoing success of that 1973 classic, still enjoying a ride on the charts. Mason cites, among other nebulous factors, "that peculiar '60s message" which "still applies to people of whatever age."

"We always knew," Gilmour says, "that it would sell more than anything we had done before. Because it was better, more complete and more focused, better cover art. Every detail was well attended to." Yet both he and Wright seem at least as proud of the 1975's "Wish You Were Here," even though the pressure of following Dark Side made its composition and recording excruciatingly difficult for all concerned.

It was around this time that Pink Floyd became a favorite punching bag among the new wave of punk rockers. "I remember it quite well," Mason says, "because I produced an album by the Damned. Quite illuminating in terms of watching people rediscover the roots of rock 'n' roll, which had become complete techno-flash overkill: Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Pink Floyd; huge massive dinosaurs rumbling across the earth. What punk did was say, 'We can make records for 20 quid again'; it was about energy and wanting to perform, not who's the greatest musician in the world.

"Of course," he maintains, "you don't want the world populated only with dinosaurs, but it's a terribly good thing to keep some of them alive."

Coincidentally or not, Waters' writing took a more hard-hitting and overtly topical tack on 1977's "Animals," which, Wright says, "I'm not fond of. That was the first one I didn't write anything for and it was the first album where the group was losing its unity. That was where it was beginning where Roger wanted to do everything." Waters went on to incorporate his political preoccupations into the ambitious autobiographical psychodrama of "The Wall" (1979).

"I love the Wall album," Gilmour emphasizes. "Whatever anyone says, I was there. I have my money on that record, tons and tons of stuff. Myself and [producer Bob] Ezrin. I know lots of people think of that as the first Roger Waters solo album, but it ain't. Roger wouldn't have been able to make that by himself, no way. He's had three other goes at making solo records, and you can judge for yourself the difference."

It was at the time of "The Wall" that Rick Wright, in one of the murkier episodes in Pink history, tendered his resignation. According to Wright, "Roger and I just couldn't get on. Whatever I tried to do, he would say it was wrong. It was impossible for me, really, to work with him.

"Then he said, 'Either you leave after the album's made, or I'm going to scrap the whole thing.' It was an impossible situation. It was a game of bluff, but knowing Roger he might have done what he threatened to do. Which would mean no royalties from the album [to pay off Floyd's taxes in the wake of an investment scam that left the group near bankruptcy]. So I had to say yes. And in some ways I was happy to get out, because I was fed up with the whole things. And then, from what I've heard, it just got worse and worse for Dave and Nick on "The Final Cut," which I had nothing to do with.

"I wish Roger all the best in everything he does, but he's an extremely hard man to work with. It's a shame he isn't more open to other people's ideas, because it makes the music so much better."

Ironically, Wright ended up the only member of Pink Floyd to make any money from the live performances of "The Wall" - which he remembers as "hell to do, but a brilliant concept and an amazing piece of theater" - because Waters had put him on a salary pending his final exit from the group, and the cost of the show (like everything else about it) was so spectacular that the band lost a fortune. "The Wall" behind him, Wright all but disappeared from the music scene for seven years, much of which he passed in "semi-retirement" on a Greek island.

Gilmour, meanwhile, grew increasingly resentful of the autocratic regime during the recording of Water's bleakest and most strident song cycle to date. "Songs in there that we threw off The Wall, he brought them back for The Final Cut, same songs. I thought, 'Nobody thought they were that good then, what seems so good now?' I bet he thought I was being obstructive." That said, Gilmour calls three of the 12 numbers - "Gunner's Dream," "Fletcher's Memorial Home" and the title track - "really great. I wouldn't want to knock anything that's good, whoever it's by." But in view of the ill will generated by the Final Cut sessions, Waters simply declared Pink Floyd defunct, bringing his thematic and theatrical fixations to bear on a series of solo projects.

Gilmour then recorded his second solo album "About Face" - which, significantly, sounded more "Floydian" than Waters' "Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking" - and undertook a sequence of low-profile gigs as sideman for the likes of Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry and Pete Townshend. "It's probably every schoolboy guitar player's dream," Gilmour says, "to play things like 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' instead of Pete, with Pete singing it. A seriously fun dream.

"He asked me if I would do the shows with him because he wanted to move away from being the guitar hero. He refused point blank to play electric guitar, and people said, 'Oh, come on, at least "Won't Get Fooled Again," strap on a guitar and do it.' But he refused he wanted the whole project to be not 'Pete Townshend, guitar hero' but 'Pete Townshend, singer, writer, bank leader.' It was great."

By 1986, however, Gilmour - who stresses he had "always made it absolutely clear" to Waters that he hadn't left the group - found himself missing the opportunities afforded by the vehicle of Pink Floyd. Assisted by producer Ezrin and a crack team of outside lyricists and musicians, he and Mason began concocting the "Momentary Lapse of Reason" album. "If I don't want to throw away 20 years of my hard work and start again with only my solo career, this is what I had to do." Alluding to the faceless Floyd mystique, he adds: "People don't know my name. I haven't spent 20 years building my name, I've spent 20 years building up Pink Floyd's name."

Among longtime fans, the new Floyd's credibility was enhanced by the restoration of Rick Wright. "By the time this whole thing got started," Wright says, "I realized I had to get back; I was missing it. I went to Dave and said, 'If you ever need me or want to work with me, I really want to work with you.' Halfway through the recording of the album he asked me to come along and play on some tracks." Still not reinstated as a full-fledged partner in Pink Floyd, Wright was been working on a salary basis - much as had been the case on the Wall shows. "Both sides said, we'll see how it goes. For me, it's gone extremely well; I'm really happy."

One person who was not happy about the developments was Waters, who bitterly denounced the new Floyd as a fraud, and even took legal action against Gilmour and Mason in an attempt to block their use of the band's name. Thus was Pink Floyd's inscrutable anonymity shattered by the barrage of attacks and counterattacks. "If one's kids behaved like that, fought in public like we have," Mason says, "I'd be very cross with them. There would be no pocket money for a week." He contends that Waters "wanted the band to finish, and he could have finished it by staying in it. His big mistake was to leave. Because by leaving suddenly it regenerated."

"Roger said Pink Floyd was creatively dead. Quite right, it was. But by leaving it, the ashes suddenly picked up. Dave had been incredibly repressed by Roger, particularly over the past few years of Roger wanting to do more and more. There was a whole bunch of stuff waiting to get out, which I don't think Dave even realized.

"We could have taken five years to make another album, but Roger looking over the gunsights at us made it happen in 10 months. There was absolutely no 'maybe we should, maybe we shouldn't.' It was 'let's do it now, who do we need, how will we do it.' It was galvanizing. I think most bands work best when they're just that bit hungry, when they want to prove themselves. That's why young bands are always so much hotter. The group spirit is there. Everyone wants to get on with it, do it together - not worry about who did what, and who's really the leader of the band, and can they buy another house in the south of France."

While wrapping up work on the album, Gilmour and Mason spent five months devising the staging of the new show with Marc Brickman, production director Robbie Williams and set designer Paul Staples. In the process Gilmour says, "we typed up lists of titles from the first record onward right through. Every title, we'd tick against them reasons for doing them or not doing them. Like if I sang or co-wrote it, Rick co-wrote it, whatever. Or if we had a great piece of film to go with it. Or if it was a great song." He stresses that all but three of the final choices - "Crazy Diamond," "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Run Like Hell" - originally featured his lead vocal exactly as he performs them now. (Certain moments that did spotlight Waters, such as the first part of "Comfortably Numb," are sung onstage by Wright, Guy Pratt and/or Jon Carin.)

Gilmour says he won't let the bad blood between them affect his appreciation for, and identification with, Water's old lyrics. "Why should I suddenly feel strange about singing a lyric I didn't feel strange about for 10 years? They are very good lyrics, that I agree with and can feel for myself. I'd have been proud to write some of those lyrics.

"Even the songs that Roger supposedly wrote by himself," he adds, "it's never the full story. You can never say exactly what happened when that record was made. The whole ending part of 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,' he didn't write the guitar solo or the chords in that section. He didn't make up the drum parts, the rhythm. I'm not going to abandon something I've worked really hard on, or feel I had something major to do with, just because it says Roger Waters wrote it. Life's too short."

Asked about the absence of pre-Dark Side music (apart from Meddle's "One of These Days", Mason responds : "There's something about a lot of the earlier material that's just a bit too early, that feels dated - perhaps lyrically. 'Echoes' is something a lot of people would like to hear, that we did rehearse and did play for a while. But I think dave didn't really feel comfortable singing about albatrosses and sunshine. It was just a bit too sort of...hmmmm,hmmmm..." The droll drummer chuckles and rolls his eyes.

"I love [Syd Barrett's] 'Astronomy Domine.' The trouble is you're right back into the I Ching and interstellar exploration. I think that's something Dave would have some problem with as he approaches dignified middle age, shrieking out this information to the audience. It's easier to talk about how hard life is and how depressed one gets."

Mason says they considered performing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety for certain shows, but it "wasn't satisfactory when you're moving from city to city to do that because it's not a broad enough view of our work. People would have been disappointed to miss out on stuff from The Wall and Wish You Were Here, and it didn't feel right to switch back. But I still like it as an idea for the future.

Animals is not represented at all - in part, Gilmour explains, because "we could do three other great songs in the time taken up by one of that Orwellian trilogy's rambling compositions. "Sheep" came closest to inclusion "because I had a lot to do with making it come out the way it came out and I feel quite proud of it. But Roger sang it and I don't think I could sing it with the same particular venom."

Waters, to give him his due, has certainly never lacked the courage of his convictions - even if that meant steering Pink Floyd away from what the fans expected, and ultimately abandoning the group altogether. His latest concept album, "Amused to Death," now nearing completion in London, is said to feature such out-of-character elements as a catchy upbeat tune or two, and - of all things - a happy ending.

Gilmour readily concedes that he would not be where he is today had it not been for Waters, and that Pink Floyd is a lesser entity without him. Invoking the example of the Beatles, he notes that "the whole was greater than the sum of its parts." Fortunately for Gilmour, however, he can sing Waters' lyrics and draw from the Floyd's 1970s arsenal of theatrical effects, and few will notice the difference. Waters, by contrast, is left to manage without not only the Pink Floyd brand name, but also Gilmour's more tangible musical contribution. Still, one hopes he will eventually take some pride in the fact that, even in his absence, his old ideas are still reaching such a vast audience.

When David Gilmour set out to form an expanded live Pink Floyd line-up, Tim Renwick must have seemed as logical a choice for second guitarist as Ron Wood have been for the Rolling Stones. After attending high school with Roger Waters, future Floyd art director Storm Thorgerson (of Hipgnosis) and Syd Barrett - who was also Tim's Boy Scout patrol leader! - Renwick became an avid follower of Gilmour's pre-Floyd Cambridge band Jokers Wild. "I remember the day Dave arrived in this frusty little club in Cambridge called the Alley Club, and told me he'd just been taken on as a member of the Pink Floyd. I remember thinking, 'Wonder if this will ever happen to me.' Very strange now."

In the 1970s his own band Quiver shared manager Steve O'Rourke with the Floyd - of whom Renwick "was always very much in awe" - and often served as their supporting act. After Quiver merged with the Sutherland Brothers, Gilmour produced some of their records, and Renwick ended up strumming an acoustic guitar on the Wall film soundtrack. Having accompanied Waters on his first solo tour, he boasts the distinction of being the one musician to have worked with both rival Floyd camps.

"Working with Roger was slightly strained," Renwick recalls. "He's one of these people who needs to have ultimate control of every facet of what's going on; he got very, very obsessive about things. Dave is almost the exact opposite, very, very relaxed. He leaves a lot of things up to you, whereas Roger would have very fixed ideas: 'You are going to do THIS!' This tour has been much more fun, much more sense of camaraderie, a real group. Roger is a bit of a loner, sets himself apart.

"But when I spent a lot of time with him socially, he was really a very charming bloke. Sometimes he's made out to be too much of an ogre because he's got such strong opinions about things. He tends to thrive on tensions in order to create." (In any event, the Waters tour was ultimately a "wonderful break" for Renwick, insofar as it triggered his long association with Eric Clapton - whose participation in the "Pros and Cons" shows was perhaps the most incongruous move in Slowhand's entire checkered career.)

Guy Pratt, who once played bass with the Dream Academy (which Gilmour also produced), views his present position from the slightly different perspective of a youthful Pink Floyd fan. "When those kids go mad in the front rows, I know what it's like - I was one myself." Scott Page, by contrast had only ever heard one Pink Floyd song - "Another Brick in the Wall" - when Gilmour invited him to play sax on Lapse of Reason and then the tour.

"That's the honest-to-God truth - I must be the only person in the world who'd never even heard Dark Side of the Moon," says Page, who previously worked with the likes of Supertramp, Toto, James Brown, and Chuck Berry. "But even so I got a kind of buzz that there was something different about Pink Floyd; they've created a mystique that's very special. And now I'm their biggest fan. To me Gilmour's the master of melody. He can kill you with two little notes; every night he's immaculate. Every night the hair stands up on my arm when he plays 'Comfortably Numb.'

"This is the first gig where I've been able to 'wear my own clothes.' Meaning I can do what I want to without someone constantly telling me to be someone else. This is the easiest gig I've ever had, as far as there's no pressure.

"One night we're on the bandstand, and all the synthesizers go down. You'd think Gilmour would be freaking - but he's laughing. There's no tension, the guy's not worried about it at all. Big deal. And that kind of low pressure makes it really easy to work.

"Dave's such a positive-thinking guy. So's Nick Mason. It took a while for some of us to realize Nick brings something that you just can't buy, a style and a feeling that's a big part of the Pink Floyd magic. Rick, too."

In light of the futuristic image for which the Floyd became famous, it seems slightly ironic that Mason and Wright are each now shadowed by a young musician schooled in the technological advances that have overtaken their instruments. Like all his colleagues, Gary Wallis - whom Gilmour spotted when the classically trained percussionist was accompanying Nik Kershaw - stresses the tour's relaxed and nurturing ambience. "Dave encourages you to play your own thing within his structure - that's why he employed you, for what you do. SOme bands, when you fuck up they snarl or give you the bad eye, whereas Dave just laughs. By doing that, you want to correct yourself a lot more."

After meeting synthesizer wizard Jon Carin when both were backing Bryan Ferry at Live Aid, Gilmour invited them to jam at his home, where Carin popped up with the chord progression that inspired "Learning to Fly." Jon was pleasantly surprised when he was credited as co-writer - "just shows you what kind of a guy Dave is." The proliferation of bylines on Lapse of Reason notwithstanding, Carin - who played on the album - characterizes all the songs as "99 percent Dave."

Rounding out the line-up are the seasoned young chanteuses Margaret Taylor and Rachel Fury, and Durga McBroom. Gilmour had never heard McBroom when he added her to the lineup last November on the strength of her photograph (and the Nile Rogers album cited in her resume) to fulfill his whim that a black singer bring a "bit of color," as she puts it, to a full-length Floyd concert film. Though its commercial release remains uncertain, it has yielded videoclips of "On the Turning Away" and "Dogs of War" as well as live tracks on a recent maxi-single.)

If there is one thing this diverse troupe has in common, it is an extraordinary regard for, and fascination with, David Gilmour. "He's a real thrill seeker," the voluble Page says of the author of "Learning to Fly." "Here we are on a big giant tour, and the guy is out jetskiing, cableskiing, hang gliding, flying 757s - he wants to be able to do everything.

"Every night when we hang with the crew or in the hotel rooms, the conversation always comes back to Gilmour. He really affects everybody, in a strange way."

By the time Pink Floyd hits its next city, the normally smooth-running tour has taken such a farcical turn that the band is now calling it Spinal Tap. Nick Mason's passport and computer have mysteriously vanished from his Columbus hotel room; then at the Pittsburgh airport Rick Wright and the auxiliary musicians and singers are obliged to broil on the tarmac for two hours because someone has forgotten to arrange ground transportation. "This would never happen if Steve were here," Wright sighs. Manager Steve O'Rourke, along with Gilmour and Mason - for whom automobile racing relegates even drumming to second place among his major passions - have taken the day off to attend the Indianapolis 500. "They received us like royalty there," Mason reports later. "On a scale of enjoyment from one to ten, I'd rate the day at least a fifteen."

Not so for the rest of the musicians. The Floyd's Pittsburgh hotel is hosting, of all things, a convention of blind bowlers, and most of the guests appear to be equipped with metal canes or seeing-eye dogs. In attending to their needs, the hotel staff has neglected to get the Floyd entourage's rooms ready in time for their arrival.

The following afternoon, the chauffeur loses his way during the short drive to Three Rivers Stadium, then ends up driving the band to the stage door full-speed in reverse. Even the fan zeal seems to have gone slightly out of hand: Among such customary Floyd totems as silkscreen banners depicting characters from The Wall against the album cover's white brick backdrop, a real pig's head, decked out in sunglasses, leers atop a blood-stained pole.

To cap it all off, the power blows during "Sorrow," occasioning an unplanned 10-minute intermission. "That song was getting a bit boring, anyway," Gilmour drily announces when the power is restored. "Let's try another one." From there on in, the performance proceeds in its usual spectacular form, and 51,101 mostly-young Pittsburgers respond with rapturous ovations.

The day's mishaps have hardly dented the band's morale. "This is the happiest tour that I've ever been on," Wright says, "in terms of friendship, and being with the other musicians. After The Wall, where the ego trips made life unbearable, this tour is the opposite. You can tell in the way we play, the way the music is sounding onstage. Nick and Dave are playing better that ever before, partly because of the good feelings we have for each other backstage. This year has gone so fast; I know when we finish I'm going to miss it."

After the European finale late this summer, Wright intends to spend three weeks sailing the Aegean on his yacht before buckling down to writing material that he hopes will prove "good enough for Dave to say, 'Yeah, I like that'" - and include on the next Floyd album. He also expresses an interest in composing film scores.

As we talk in the hotel lobby, two teenage boys interrupt to ask if we know which floor Pink Floyd is staying on, saying they'd dreamed for years of getting one of their autographs. When Wright deadpans that he is unaware the Floyd was even at the hotel, the boys wander off disconsolately.

"There are two advantages to our anonymity, to our never having sold ourselves with our faces," Wright says. "One is that you can walk around the street with no problem. The other advantage, which we're now finding out, is that since nobody looks on us as rock stars we can go out at 45 and play our music as long as we want, because people have never come to see us like they'd go to see Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart. There'll come a time when people won't accept Mick Jagger as a 60-year-old man prancing around. But I can see now Pink Floyd playing into their 70's. Because a Pink Floyd show is not the individuals, it's the music and the lights."

Whereupon the two autograph hounds reappear, having gleaned the secret of Wrights identity - only to discover that they've left their pens at home. One attempts to stem the embarrassment with, "What do you think of Roger Waters?"

"He's a very clever man," Wright replies. "If you want to know more, buy the next issue of 'Musician.'" Then he takes it upon himself to borrow paper and pen from the front desk so that the boys might have their Pink Floyd autograph.

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