Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Richard Wright's Death the Final "Brick in the Wall"?

As a once rabid fan of the English rock band Pink Floyd, I was saddened to learn of the death of founding member Richard Wright. The 65-year old keyboard player and composer died of cancer on September 15th. While it might be easy for a casual fan to overlook Wright's contributions to the band's signature sound, anyone who has studied Pink Floyd in depth realizes just how important he was. Not only did he write most of his own parts, but he also sang lead vocals on several memorable tunes, including "Astronomy Domine" (written by Syd Barrett), "Time" (from Dark Side of the Moon), and "Echoes" (from the seminal album of the same name).

Even before The Pink Floyd Sound existed in name (1965), Wright was considered a significant contributor by bandmates Barrett, Roger Waters and Nick Mason. Wright met Waters and Mason at Regent Street Polytechnic College of Architecture, and together they played under the names "The Abdabs" and "Sigma 6". Wright's imprint is all over the first Pink Floyd album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Although he eventually lost interest in being a songwriter, Wright continued to provide compositions for such classics as "The Great Gig in the Sky", "Us and Them", "One of These Days", "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", and "Interstellar Overdrive". Suffice it to say that the early period Pink Floyd would not have been the same without him.

Given Wright's important role in the development of the band, it's a shame that Roger Waters' eclipsing ego shunted him aside during the recording sessions for The Wall (around 1979). In fact Waters threatened to end the entire project if Wright did not leave the band. Still Wright agreed to play on The Wall tour as a "hired gun". It's worth mentioning that Wright and drummer Nick Mason are the only two members of Pink Floyd to appear on every tour the band ever did. After Waters left for good in the early-80's, Wright got back with guitarist David Gilmour and Mason for the recording of two albums and several tours. He also released two solo albums during his career (1978 and 1996) and one with a short-lived band called "Zee" (1984).

Even though Pink Floyd continued without Roger Waters, I always had a hard time accepting them under that name. Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell were fine records for what they were- which was an incomplete form of a band I used to call my favorite. As I only really engaged their music in depth long after they had ceased to be vital, I always hoped that one day they would all come together for another album. I've never heard Richard Wight's solo music, but I have heard the work of Gilmour and Waters performing separately. None of it reached the standard of excellence that distinguished Pink Floyd during initial run. In 2005, Roger Waters stepped onstage in London and played a short set with the rest of "Pink Floyd". I've never seen or heard that performance.

I've heard several interviews in which David Gilmour spoke about the possibility of a full reunion of Pink Floyd (sans Syd Barrett, obviously, who died in 2006). He never made it sound very promising. His point was that it was a bit self-indulgent and unnecessary to try to recapture one's youthful glory in the midst of middle age. I found this argument fairly convincing. The magic of art doesn't come with the mere congregation of creators. It's a function of context, shared experience, zeitgeist, compatibility, abilities, and a myriad of other details. Sure, there may be calls for some collective gesture in the wake of Richard Wright's death. Perhaps it will be the proper time to put old festering resentments aside. But that doesn't mean they should ever perform together again.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syd Barrett died in July of 2006, not 2007. The 2005 performance that you've never "seen or heard" featuring the complete line up of the Floyd was the famous Live 8 benefit performance.

David Gilmour on re-uniting with the Floyd now that Richard has passed;

David Gilmour- Star Pulse article

8:28 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Thanks for the correction and link.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Roger Waters Tickets said...

Has anyone purchased Roger Waters Tickets from the website http://roger-waters-tickets.doitbigtickets.com/

2:28 PM  

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