Pink Floyd's Roger Waters

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

more popular.

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

(1977).

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

fanbase.

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.