An abridged version of this interview appeared in a January post when I launched Just Backdated. That was actually from a Q special on Pink Floyd that was really all about the anonymity they sought compared to many far less successful groups that enjoyed much higher profiles. Here's my interview with Rick in full, as publish in MM. It's two parts, second tomorrow.
In the current era, when groups and artists come and go with alarming regularity, the continuing success of Pink Floyd is a peculiar state of affairs. Floyd are rock’s hermits, and rare indeed is it for them to emerge from their caves to tour or make records.
It’s well over a year since they last played in this country and their only bow to a live audience during that time was a short French outing in June. They didn’t even tour the States to reap the rewards that were obviously in the offing following the success of Dark Side Of The Moon.
It’s a good 18 months since that album was released and by the way Floydian matters are shaping up, it’ll be another six months before their next record reaches the shops. Throughout this period of lengthy inactivity no word is heard from the Floyd, and unlike other groups that go through a period of stasis no solo albums are forthcoming from individual.
They keep their private lives very much to themselves, and little is ever forthcoming about the musical thoughts of Messrs Waters, Wright, Mason and Gilmour, other than the fact they dislike being probed.
Roger Waters’ love of football is well known. He is also pretty fanatical about golf and thoroughly enjoys a game of squash. Nick Mason is a sports car fanatic, spends many a happy hour messing about in boats and was recently seen on Top Of The Pops playing drums behind Robert Wyatt on ‘I’m A Believer’. David Gilmour likes riding motor bikes and enjoys a life in the country, very occasionally turning up to play with a local band when the mood takes him.
But Rick Wright, the keyboard virtuoso, remains a complete mystery, a face guaranteed to warrant not a spark of recognition should he choose to board a London bus or creep silently into the stalls of the Rainbow Theatre in the unlikely event that he wants to catch an up-and-coming act. His efforts with the Floyd earned him tenth place in the keyboards section of this year’s MM poll, a position hardly worthy of the talent he displays on stage with the group.
According to the excellent programme available on the current Pink Floyd UK tour, Wright is pictured as a glamour seeking playboy, surrounded by Hugh Hefner, Charlton Heston and a bevy of naked girls. In effect, though, nothing could be further from the truth. Wright is a happily married man who lives in Cambridge and spends most of his un-Floydian time pottering about in his home studio.
It was, then, with some reluctance that he agreed to be interviewed in the Caledonian Hotel in Glasgow following the opening of the band’s tour last week. Settling down with a packet of Piccadilly tipped cigarettes and strong coffee, he nevertheless proved a fine spokesman for the Floyd.
We began by talking about the three new pieces the group are performing on the tour. ‘Raving And Drooling’ it turns out was written by Waters about two months ago, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ was written about the same time and worked on during rehearsals at Elstree and ‘Gotta Be Crazy’ began as a Gilmour riff. Roger Waters wrote all the lyrics, and none of the songs have been recorded yet.
“We always like to write numbers, go on the road with them and record them later,” said Rick. “We did this with Dark Side Of The Moon and we think it’s easily the best way to go about it. A number changes so much when we do it live over a long period; ‘Shine On’ has changed a lot since we started already.
“I can’t think of any other bands that work this way. Usually bands record songs and then play them, but we feel that if you do a few tours with a number, then that number improves immensely.
“We will probably record them after the tour. There’s enough material in the three songs for an album, but I don’t know yet. We may do something else as well which we haven’t actually played yet. There are things I am working on in my studio that I would like to put on the next album.”
A new Floyd album can be expected in March. The time between Christmas and then will be spent in the studio and next year the group will embark on two US tours, their first for two years.
“It’ll be a two-year gap between Dark Side and the next one and that’s too long in my opinion,” said Rick. “We have never been a prolific group in terms of records. We average about one a year over our whole career. It’s not a policy to work like that – it’s just the way it happens.
“We have a deal with the record company that makes us do about seven albums in five years, which is one album a year and maybe a couple of film scores. It’s very easy to make that deal.”
The immense success of Dark Side has taken the band by surprise, although they all felt it would do well at the time it was released.
“It’s been in the English charts ever since it was released which is quite amazing,” said Rick. “We all felt it would do at least as well as the other albums, but not quite as well as it did. All our albums have done well in this country, but Dark Side was number one in the US and we never dreamed it would do that.
“It was probably the easiest album to sell in that it was the easiest to listen to, but it’s success has obviously put some kind of pressure on us, and that is what to do next. We have always tried to bring out something different with our next release and it would be very easy now to carry on with the same formula as Dark Side, which a lot of people would do.”
Wright acknowledges the material benefits of Dark Side’s success. “It’s changed me in many ways because it’s brought in a lot of money and one feels very secure when you can sell an album for two years. But it hasn’t changed my attitude to music.
“Even though it was so successful, it was made in the same way as all our other albums and the only criteria we have about releasing music is whether we like it or not. It was not a deliberate attempt to make a commercial album, it just happened that way. Lots of people probably thought we all sat down and discussed it like that, but it wasn’t the case at all.
“We knew it had a lot more melody than previous Floyd albums, and there was a concept that ran all through it. The music was easier to absorb and having girls singing away added a commercial touch that none of our other records had.”
Rick has no idea how many copies Dark Side has actually sold, but it’s well into the millions. Around 700,000 copies have been bought in this country, and at least three times that amount have been sold in the US. “I never know about things like sales. I know that it was the first gold record we had in America and since it’s release our other albums have picked up in sales over there.
“We have made a lot of new fans as a result because it was the first time we ever had an AM airplay in America. ‘Money’ was played on AM radio and for a lot of people it was the first time they’d heard us.
“I like to think this hasn’t put a pressure on us in terms of what we write next, but for a whole year we never did anything. We all sat around and got heavily into our reasons for being and our group. We got into a bad period when we didn’t do anything at all creatively.We all still enjoy playing Dark Side but if ever there came a time when one of us didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t do it again, ever. The first time we played it at the Rainbow, it was totally different from today, but it’s remained virtually the same since we recorded it. The solo in ‘Money’ varies according to how David feels, and ‘Any Colour You Like’ is just improvisations but various parts are very arranged and it’s almost like a score.”