Why Roger Waters decided to leave Pink Floyd

Roger Waters

The bassist, singer and songwriter Roger Waters helped to form Pink Floyd in 1965 alongside Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. In the following years they became one of the pioneers of Progressive Rock and with the addition of David Gilmour to the band things started to change and their songwriting evolved. The start of their peak happened with the release of “Dark Side of The Moon” released in 1973, that quickly became one of the best-selling albums of all time. That success was followed with other praised and successful records like “Wish You Were Here” (1975) “Animals” (1977) and “The Wall” (1979).

During those years Waters became the band’s main songwriter and the fights started. As his bandmates said later, he believed that “he was” Pink Floyd and didn’t need the other. One of the first big changes happened when said that the keyboardist Richar Wright should quit the band in the middle of “The Wall”. He was forced out of the band and toured in the following year as a hired musician.

The following album “The Final Cut” had only Waters, Gilmour and Mason and it ended up being the final Pink Floyd album with Roger. But why he decided to leave the band?

The reason why Roger Waters decided to leave Pink Floyd

During the late 70s, Roger Waters already felt like the other members of the band, especially Richard Wright, were not very committed to songwriting anymore and were contributing less and less, which gave him the space to be their main songwriter even more. On the other side, Nick, David and Richard felt like Waters’ ego was so inflated that he believed that “he was” Pink Floyd and didn’t need them to write.

Since there were two different visions about what was happening, things first evolved to the point Richard Wright was out of the band and the end came curiously in “The Final Cut”. Although they didn’t know it was going to be the final album with Waters, the title was really the definition to what was going to happen. On “The Wall”, although almost all the tracks were written by Waters, there were some contributions from Bob Ezrin and David Gilmour, which didn’t happen in “The Final Cut”. Even Waters agreed afterwards that it could be considered his first solo studio album, because he wrote everything.

So the reason why he left Pink Floyd was because he felt the group was not writing anymore together enough to be considered a real team, or a band. But his bandmates felt that it was actually the opposite. They believed Roger was actually trying to do everything alone because he felt he was better and didn’t need their help.

Waters said that final Pink Floyd album was really “Wish You Were Here”

In an interview with Musician magazine in 1992, Roger Waters talked about the tension between him and his bandmates. He also said that the final Pink Floyd album in his opinion was “Wish You Were Here” (1975). Mainly because in the following records the other musicians didn’t contribute enough as songwriters.

“When Rick was expelled in 1979, I said, the band dynamic changed. A rock quartet losing its keyboardist leaves a very crucial element of its sound to an outsider, like a session player. That alone is a real indication that you were effectively disbanding the group even then.”

“I think you could say that ‘Wish You Were Here’ was written, partially specifically about Syd. But largely about my sense of the absence of one from another, and from the band. So as far as I’m concerned, ‘Wish You Were Here’ was the last Pink Floyd album. ‘The Wall’ was my record and so was ‘The Final Cut’. Who played or didn’t play on it – though I don’t want to belittle Dave’s contributions to ‘The Wall’.”

He continued:

“He played some great stuff, and wrote a couple of great guitar riffs as well. ‘Run Like Hell,’ the intro to ‘Young Lust.’ But by and large, those records were nothing to do with anybody but me. And certainly Ezrin’s contribution to ‘The Wall’ was far greater than anybody in the band. He and I made the record together. And he was a great help.”

“You know, Rick had drifted out of range by that point. (…) You know, Rick had left “long” before the summer of ’79 – “long”, long before. He was “gone”. We split up years before. And it wasn’t the unilateral and heinous, wicked thing that gets described in the “unofficial” histories,” Roger Waters said.

At the time Waters believed that Pink Floyd was really over once he left because David Gilmour never wrote many lyrics. He always was better at writing the music and the same applied to Nick Mason. However, the other two musicians decided to move on with Pink Floyd even without Roger. Ther result a huge lawsuit that eventually was settled outside the court. They were able to continue using the name and even invited Richard Wright back.

David Gilmour said it was like torture to make the final album with Roger Waters

Since the “Final Cut” was practically entirely done by Waters himself, it wasn’t something easy for the relationship between him, Gilmour and Mason. As the guitarist told BBC in 1994, he felt like he was being tortured in the recording of the album. They were not getting along well and Waters wanted to record tracks that were already dumped in the making of “The Wall”.

“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) It was torture to me. We really were not getting on at all well. I felt like Roger was resurrecting tracks that we had not accepted for ‘The Wall’ album. I did say ‘They weren’t good enough then. Why they are good enough now?’ It got so difficult that Roger wanted me to not have a say in what was going on, on the production side of the album. So after a lot of arguing and soul searching, I agreed to come off the production credits,” David Gilmour said.

The drummer Nick Mason also wasn’t happy during those sessions. He said: “It was dreadful, really. It’s not the way a band should make records and I think we all thought that. Roger certainly thought it, because he left the band shortly afterwards”.

It ended up being not commercially success when compared to the post “Dark Side of The Moon” albums. It only sold an estimated amount of more than 3 million copies worldwide.

He believes bands are not meant to stay together forever

As he told Hot Press in 2010, Roger believes that bands are not meant to last forever and they are basically groups of people. So usually you won’t have the same friends forever or will stay married for the rest of your life with the same person.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bands are like other groups of people. They have a life. They have a half-life or whatever it is and then it’s over. When Pink Floyd was over, it was over. People keep raking over the coals of it and people miss it. That’s absolutely fine, I don’t mind that at all, but I was there.”

“I know the reasons why we broke up were very real. They were very right and it was the correct thing to do. I have no regrets about leaving. Even on that cold night when I was playing to those 1500 people in Cincinnati. Absolutely no regrets,” Roger Waters said.

Since he left the group in 1985, Waters released four studio albums and was involved in many other projects. The most recent was re-writing the band’s classic album “Dark Side of The Moon”. The only time Pink Floyd reunited with Waters was during the Live 8 in 2005.

Rafael Polcaro: I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG