No rivalry between the lead singer of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour, and the band’s former creative force, Roger Waters, has lasted as long or been more nasty in the history of rock music. Despite writing a number of timeless songs together, including “Echoes” and “Wish You Were Here,” the two artists have been at odds ever since Waters’ tumultuous split from the band in 1985.
The band’s iconic lineup was officially disbanded with the release of The Final Cut in 1983. Waters was mostly in charge of events throughout that depressing phase. During the recording of 1979’s The Wall, keyboardist Rick Wright had already quit, while drummer Nick Mason was largely absent due to his developing interest in motorsports and a failing relationship. Gilmour was reduced to the role of session guitarist.
Given that The Final Cut marked the moment when Waters and Gilmour’s relationship reached an impasse, its plot is well known. The situation then reached a breaking point in October 1986 when Waters filed a high court petition to try to dissolve the band because he believed they could not survive without him, even though he was ultimately found to be mistaken. The two would put their problems on hold for a limited period of time for a surprise reunion appearance at Live 8 in 2005, but that is now just a distant memory as both have recently traded fierce – and very public – insults.
Nick Mason provided the following backdrop for the conflict between Gilmour and Waters in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018: “It’s a really odd thing in my opinion. But I think the problem is Roger doesn’t really respect David. He feels that writing is everything and that guitar playing and the singing are something that, I won’t say anyone can do, but that everything should be judged on the writing rather than the playing. I think it rankles with Roger that he made a sort of error in a way that he left the band assuming that without him, it would fold.”
He added, “It’s a constant irritation, really, that he’s still going back to it. I’m hesitant to get too stuck into this one, just because it’s between the two of them rather than me. I actually get along with both of them, and I think it’s really disappointing that these rather elderly gentlemen are still at loggerheads.”
Even if the Gilmour and Waters tale has many noteworthy moments, today we’re recalling the “last” song the duo collaborated on, in David Gilmour’s words. In addition, it’s one of their most well-known songs, “Comfortably Numb,” from The Wall, which is so powerful that it was made available as a single in 1980.
Gilmour observed that the song was “the last embers of mine and Roger’s ability to work collaboratively together” in an interview with Mark Blake’s 2008 book Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd. What a way to go off, too, with some of Gilmour and Waters’ finest work.
It’s a fascinating topic because disagreements were there even in this collective victory. Later, Gilmour stated, “We argued over ‘Comfortably Numb’ like mad. Really had a big fight, went on for ages.”
In another interview with Absolute Radio from 2011, Roger Waters remembered the disagreement that gave rise to one of Pink Floyd’s well-known songs. He said, “Dave and I, when we were in the South of France where we did most of the recording for The Wall, we had quite a serious disagreement about the recording of ‘Comfortably Numb’.”
He added, “It’s probably one story where his memory and my memory are almost exactly the same. It was that we had made a rhythm track and I loved it and he thought it wasn’t precise enough rhythmically, so (he) re-cut the drum track and said, ‘That’s better’, so I went, ‘No, it’s not, I hate that.'”
Waters spoke on the intricacies involved in composing music with others. He said, “It’s a very strange thing when you’re a musician and you work in these things, there are things to a layman which may seem like nothing that (are) is really glaring and jarring. Though, I did read that David said somewhere or other that if we listened to them both now, we wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.”