Today is the 54th birthday of Roger Waters, the main force behind classic-rock
superstars Pink Floyd when they created their best-known masterpieces, 1973's Dark
Side of the Moon and 1979's The Wall.
Waters was born in Surrey, England, and studied architecture in London, where he met
keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason. The three encountered
singer/songwriter/guitarist Syd Barrett in the mid-'60s and they chose the name Pink
Floyd (originally the Pink Floyd Sound) after blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd
Council. The band began by playing blues-rock, but under Barrett's leadership, they
quickly earned fans by venturing into psychedelic pop and using light shows in concert.
The Barrett-guided The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) made an impression
with its clever, playful pop-rock concerning space travel and other out-of-this-world
oddities. Barrett, however, soon began acting mentally unstable and unfit for the stage,
so the other bandmembers brought in their friend David Gilmour for concerts, hoping to
still rely on Barrett for his studio creativity.
But Barrett's behavior eventually forced him out of the band completely and Pink Floyd
soldiered on with Waters writing music that highlighted Gilmour's deft guitar. Subsequent
albums such as Ummagumma (1969) were more serious, classical-influenced
affairs, but the band attracted a following through touring as progressive rock became
All of this culminated with the release of 1973's Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd
added slick production, female singers, futuristic sound effects, horns and tighter songs
to their signature sound and came up with one of the biggest-selling albums in history. It
broke the band in the U.S., where "Money" became a hit, and the album itself spent an
unprecedented 741 weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It had similar sales
success worldwide and has remained a sort of rite of passage for youngsters learning to
appreciate classic rock.
Waters' songwriting influence grew on the #1 Wish You Were Here (1975),
containing the Barrett tribute "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Waters' obsessions with
the coldness of life in the 20th century dominated their next album, Animals
The double-LP concept album The Wall (1979), which dealt with isolation, was a
smash, despite many critical jabs, and the single "Another Brick In The Wall Part II"
topped the U.S. and U.K. pop charts. Pink Floyd also cemented their reputation as the
kings of elaborate showmanship by constructing a wall onstage each night.
Tension began building because of Waters' dominance of Pink Floyd, especially when
1983's The Final Cut was deemed by most to have been an unworthy successor
to The Wall. The band splintered and in 1986, Waters sued to dissolve the
partnership. The remaining three returned with 1987's top 5 A Momentary Lapse of
Reason and continued with massive tours and periodic albums for their solid
Waters has concentrated on a solo career, beginning with 1984's The Pros and Cons
of Hitch Hiking. Except for his 1990 concert staging of The Wall in Berlin with a
supporting cast of other rock stars, Waters has never come close to generating
excitement on the level of Dark Side of the Moon.
Other birthdays: Dave Bargeron (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 56; Perry Bamonte (the
Cure), 38; David Kilgour (the Chills, the Clean), 37; Pål Waaktaar (a-ha), 37; Terry
Bickers (House of Love), 33; and Dolores O'Riordan (the Cranberries), 27.