Welcome back to Top “Ten” Tuesday, your weekly top 10 (or 20, or whatever I feel like doing) every week (except last week). Roger Waters celebrated his birthday this past Sunday and I wanted to take today to celebrate his birthday by coming back to Pink Floyd’s music.
George Roger Waters was born September 6, 1943, in Great Bookham, Surrey, England to Mary and Eric Fletcher Waters. His father was a schoolteacher, a devout Christian, and a member of the Communist Party. He was initially a pacifist but changed his stance when he joined the Territorial Army and was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as a Second Lieutenant on September 11, 1943. He was killed five months later on February 18, 1944, at the Battle of Anzio when Roger was 5 months old.
Waters later attended Morley Memorial Junior School in Cambridge and then Cambridgeshire High School for Boys with Syd Barrett. Future guitarist David Gilmour lived nearby but attended a different school.
Waters met Nick Mason and Richard Wright in London at the Regent Street Polytechnic school of architecture (now known as the University of Westminster). Waters enrolled there in 1962. By September of 1963, Waters and Mason had lost interest in their studies and moved into the lower flat of Stanhope Gardens and played music with Wright in late 1963. They played in a band formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe, and were called Sigma 6, but also used the name The Meggadeaths (not to be confused with Dave Mustaine’s group Megadeth). When Metcalfe and Noble left to form a new group in September, the remaining members asked Barrett to join along with Rado Robert Garcia “Bob” Klose. Waters switched to bass and by January of 1964, they became known as the Abdabs or The Screaming Abdabs. They changed their name several times during 1964 to names like Leonard’s Lodgers, Spectrum Five, and The Tea Set. In late 1965, The Tea Set had changed their name to The Pink Floyd Sound, then the Pink Floyd Blues Band, and finally in 1966, Pink Floyd.
Syd Barrett became the band’s frontman, guitarist, and songwriter, and wrote/co-wrote all but one track on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released August 4, 1967. Waters contributed the track Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk from that album. By late 1967, Barrett’s deteriorating mental health and erratic behavior made him unable or unwilling to continue as Pink Floyd’s singer-songwriter and lead guitarist. In March of 1968, the band discussed with their managers on what their next step would be. The band’s new manager Steve O’Rourke made a formal announcement about Barrett’s departure and Gilmour’s arrival in April of 1968. Their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, was released on June 29, 1968, and was an interesting transition album. It featured Syd Barrett on three of the songs and also featuring Gilmour on most of the songs. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is the only song to feature all five band members.
After Syd Barrett’s departure, Waters began to plan Pink Floyd’s artistic direction. He became a dominant songwriter and co-lead vocalist with Gilmour (sometimes Wright).
Beginning with The Dark Side of the Moon, released March 1, 1973, Waters began producing thematic ideas for Pink Floyd albums which became the thing that the band is known for. After Dark Side, they released Wish You Were Here in 1975, Animals in 1977, The Wall in 1979, which is mostly written by Waters. While Waters referred to the cost of war and the loss of his father throughout his work, it was one of the driving forces to the concept of their 1979 album. Disputes between Waters and Wright led to Wright’s departure from the band after the release of the album (however he remained on the tour as a touring musician). In 1983, the remaining three band members released The Final Cut. It was subtitled with “A requiem for the post-war dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd”. He wrote all of the album’s lyrics and music and sang all but one song on the album (which he shared vocals with Gilmour on “Not Now John”).
Creative differences in the band led to Waters’ departure in 1985 which began a long legal battle with the band regarding their continued use of the name and material. In December, Waters issued a statement to EMI and CBS invoking the “Leaving Member” clause of the contract. In October of 1986, he initiated High Court proceedings to formally dissolve the band stating the band was a “spent force creatively”. Gilmour and Mason opposed the application and announced their intention to continue as Pink Floyd. In 1987, Waters and Pink Floyd reached an agreement. Waters was released from his contractual obligation with O’Rourke and he retained copyrights to The Wall concept and the inflatable Animals pig. Gilmour and Mason continued as Pink Floyd (Wright eventually rejoined the band) and released three more albums without Roger Waters. A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released in 1987, followed by The Division Bell in 1994, and The Endless River (the band’s official final album) in 2014.
In 2005, the four band members got together on stage for the first time in over 20 years to perform at Live-8 and did the first half of The Dark Side of the Moon. Waters, looking back, said, “I don’t think any of us came out of the years from 1985 with any credit…It was a bad, negative time, and I regret my part in that negativity.” In 2013, he regretted the lawsuit saying, “I was wrong. Of course I was…It’s one of the few times that the legal profession has taught me something. Because when I went to these chaps and said, ‘Listen we’re broke, this isn’t Pink Floyd anymore,’ they went, ‘What do you mean? That’s irrelevant, it is a label and it has commercial value. You can’t say it’s going to cease to exist…you obviously don’t understand English jurisprudence.”
Roger Waters has since spent his time as a solo artist. His first solo album was The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, released in 1984, followed by Radio K.A.O.S. in 1987. Amused to Death was released in 1992, It This the Life We Really Want? was released in 2017. His most recent solo album is Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, a classical album in 2018. He also released an opera, Ça Ira (French for “It’ll be fine”) released in 2005.
With our intro out of the way, which seems to get longer and longer every week, let’s get to our list. I am going to follow the rules I normally set for myself on these lists. Only songs that Roger Waters sang by himself will be included (backing vocals are fine). There were a lot of songs I initially had on here, but ultimately removed because of shared vocals with David Gilmour, so as you’re reading and wonder why huge songs like “Hey You” or “Comfortably Numb” aren’t featured on this list, that is why. I will only focus on songs that are entirely or predominantly a Roger Waters led song. This is my Top 10 Roger Waters Pink Floyd Songs.
#10-The Hero’s Return-The Final Cut
This track, while rejected from The Wall, made an appearance on this one. Then it was titled as “Teacher, Teacher” and had the same tune of the final version but different lyrics. “School boy, school boy/Did you hear what I said?” vs “Jesus, Jesus/What’s it all about?” David Gilmour was opposed to recycling songs saying if they “weren’t good enough for The Wall, why are they good enough now?” Despite the song not being an A-side single, it did reach #31 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in America.
#9-Pigs on the Wing-Animals
I’m putting both parts together as one song on this list. “Pigs on the Wing, Pt 1” and Pigs on the Wing, Pt 2” bookend their 1977 album. It was written and performed entirely by Roger Waters. It’s a simple song with just acoustic guitar and vocals. The songs are a declaration of love for his new wife Carolyne Christie and are complete opposites in tones to the other three songs on the album. Waters said that if the album didn’t include these two pieces the whole album “would have just been a kind of scream of rage.” The 8-Track version of the song includes a special guitar solo played by Snowy White that acts as a segment between the two songs making them one song.
#8-What Shall We Do Now (Backs to the Wall)-Is There Anybody Out There?
This was a song that was cut from the original Wall album, but was featured on the live album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81. On the original Wall album, it was removed at the last minute due to a shortage of space on side two of the album. It was replaced by a shorter song called “Empty Spaces” however since the album cover was already in production, it was too late to remove the lyrics from the sleeve. The original idea was to show Pink (the main character in the album’s story), now an adult, wondering how to give his life meaning and taking an almost obsessive interest in other peoples’ uncertainties as a way of dealing with his isolation. That’s why the song starts with a bunch of questions like “Should I buy a new guitar?/Drive a more powerful car?” The song had a working title called “Backs to the Wall” and two early versions of the song can be heard on the Immersion Box Set for The Wall. It’s a great song that was the majority of fans have never heard until the live album was finally released in 2000.
#7-In the Flesh?/In the Flesh-The Wall
I’m putting these two songs together simply because they have similar titles and start musically the same but the songs don’t run together. “In the Flesh?” acts as The Wall’s overture. The song starts with some very quiet accordion music. The accordion music is a carryover from the album’s final track, “Outside the Wall”. The accordion along with a man asking, “Isn’t this where…” acts as a transition to the album’s opening track where the accordion music continues, and the man’s question is finished,”…we came in?” The title is a reference to their 1977 In the Flesh tour. The question mark is to remind us that nothing is absolutely certain and appearances are not to be trusted.
After the quiet accordion section, the album’s sound explodes with a thunderous intro that segues into Roger Waters warning the listener there is more behind his cold eyes. Toward the end of the song, you hear someone shout, ‘Roll the sound effects”. Sound effects of bombs and the engine of a Stuka German WWII plane is heard along with Gilmour’s guitar and Mason’s snare drums. Roger explained the song is a flashback song and how it ties to his generation of war babies. While the song works on the level of grieving a parent killed in the war, but can simply be about abandonment as well. He said, “…it’s about my generation, war babies. But it can be about anybody who gets left by anybody. My father was killed in the war, and although it works on certain levels, it doesn’t have to be about the war, I think it should work for any generation, really. The father is also…I’m the father as well. People who leave their families to go and work, not that I leave my family to go and work, but a lot of people do and have done, particularly in rock and roll. It happens in all kinds of businesses, really. So it’s not meant to be just a simple story about somebody getting killed in the war and growing up and going to school but about being left, more generally.”
The second song “In the Flesh” starts with the same riff as the album’s opening track. The question mark is removed from this song as at this point in the album’s story, Pink knows who he is now, or thinks he knows who he is now is more accurate. Pink is under a delusion that he is not a rock star but a fascist dictator as a result of some medication a shady doctor gave him in “Comfortably Numb”. This song acts as the first song of the story arc where Pink believes he is a ruler. The theme continues into the next song “Run Like Hell” (See #4) and “Waiting for the Worms”.
#6-The Trial-The Wall
This song is probably the strangest on the album. The song takes the style of a mini Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with Waters dancing through characters of a prosecuting counsel, witnesses, the defendant, and the judge. Until I saw the movie, I interpreted the trial in the song as an actual trial, after everything Pink did throughout the album, especially the last few songs. It turns out the trial is all in his head. Roger Waters said, “Anyway, so there is this trial going on in his head, and it’s really just his imagination. He’s creating a courtroom for himself. At the end of it all, when he judges himself, he feels extremely guilty and bad about everything that he’s been and done. And in the end, the judgement on himself is to de-isolate himself, which, in fact is a very good thing. The Wall is then torn down.” The first character accusing him is the schoolmaster from “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, followed by his ex-wife, then his mother. Each character is separated by the witnesses saying he is crazy. The final character is the judge. This the song’s highlight. The judge announces Pink’s sentence, “since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear/I sentence you to be exposed before your peers/Tear down the wall!” The song ends with chanting “tear down the wall” that leads into a massive explosion that was recorded by the band who visited a quarry. The filled a twenty-four track tape, slowed it down, doubled it, and then supplemented them with other available sources to create that explosion.
#5-Brain Damage/Eclipse-Dark Side of the Moon
These two songs are often played together on the radio, but we’ll start with “Brain Damage” first. These are the only two songs on the album that Roger sang. Roger has been singing these songs since the recording of their 1971 album, Meddle. It had a working title called “The Dark Side of the Moon” and was mistaken to be the name of the song due to the repeated lyrics. While Roger had sung songs on previous Floyd albums, he wasn’t confident about his singing then and Gilmour had to encourage him to sing. From this point on, Roger became the main singer of the group singing about half of Wish You Were Here, almost all of Animals, most of The Wall, and all but one song on The Final Cut (again shared vocals with Gilmour on “Not Now John”). Waters has stated the insanity themed lyrics are based on Barrett’s mental instability.
The song transitions into “Eclipse” which carries on a similar tune to “Brain Damage” and is also sung by Waters. It’s a great way to end a great album. The song ends with a heartbeat similar to “Speak to Me”, the album’s opening track, but without the echo and gradually fades away.
#4-Run Like Hell-The Wall
I know I said I wouldn’t include any co-lead vocals of songs, but I’m breaking my rule somewhat here. While Gilmour sings part of the song, the majority of the vocals are Waters. Gilmour sings the “Run, run, run, run” while Waters sings “You better make your face up in your favorite disguise/With your button down lips and your roller blind eyes.” The song is a continuation of the story arc started in “In The Flesh” (See #7) where Pink sees himself as a dictator rather than a rock star. This song is the final Gilmour/Waters partnership, not just for the album but overall with co-writing. The song is the second song to feature a strong disco beat (the first is “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt 2”). Gilmour recalls adding ‘four to the bass drums and stuff…to make it catchy.” It was catchy enough to become a single backed with “Don’t Leave Me Now” in the Netherlands and some US releases and “Comfortably Numb” on later US releases. The single reached #53 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #15 on Canada Top Singles RPM charts. It was one of the first Pink Floyd songs I heard and will always be a special song to me.
Not counting the “Pigs on the Wing” bookends, this is the shortest song on the album, at still over 10 minutes. It’s a great 10-minute song with an ominous keyboard and bass. The song had a working title called “Raving and Drooling” before being worked into the Animals concept album. The sheep that the song is talking about are the mindless people who follow the herd. About halfway through the song, there is a subliminal message relating to another group of people called sheep, the religious people. The song goes into a parody of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” The parody is heard underneath a heavy, distorted, robotic voice with bleating sheep in the background. The other notable moment in the song is the guitar riff at the end of the song. David Gilmour said, “On Animals Roger played bass on ‘Dogs’ and I played bass on ‘Sheep”’ and ‘Pigs’. Most of the bass line on ‘Sheep’ (apart from the ending) was what Roger had been playing onstage, as we had been performing it as ‘Raving and Drooling’ for a couple years. However, in the studio Roger had a rhythm part he wanted to play, so we swapped roles. On ‘Pigs’ the part and the playing are mine.” The guitar riff was enough to bring the entire song to #3 on this list! It’s that good!
#2-Another Brick in the Wall-The Wall
There are three parts to “Another Brick in the Wall”. “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” is the most popular of the three parts however since that is shared vocals, I’m not allowed to talk about that one in this article. What I can talk about though, is “Pt. 1” and “Pt. 3”. “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1” starts the theme of putting another brick in the wall. Pink sits in the trauma, learning of his father’s death. His father’s death becomes the first brick in his metaphorical wall that is being built by Pink as a way to isolate himself from other people. The opening C chord is carried over from the previous song. Gilmour is playing a doubled palm mute rhythm part on one note, a D that rapidly acquires a haunting quality. He then plays several short links on a second guitar that is strongly colored by a very present delay which shows the full mastery of the equipment that they were working with in 1979. The song fades into the following track, “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” which is a two-parter that puts our main character in school. It’s a great song that leads into the “Pt. 2” that I’m not allowed to talk about.
Before talking about “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3” I need to first talk about “Don’t Leave Me Now”. It’s a very somber song. When I first heard it, I thought it was a funeral and that someone Pink loved (his mother perhaps?) had died. I was wrong. This is a continuation of the theme that was present in the last couple of songs, “Young Lust” and “One of My Turns” (See Honorable Mentions) focusing on abuse toward women. He’s at his breaking point. After scaring off the groupie from the previous song, he’s trying to show sincerity toward her, talking about the flowers he sent and how much he needs her. The first part of the song features heavy breathing thanks to David Gilmour. The breathing gets louder as the song goes on. The song ends with Pink flipping through TV channels and ending in a violent cry of rage.
“Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3” begins with a lot of smashing sounds. This was done with the help of Phil Taylor (who was in charge of sound effects) was given the task of smashing a TV with a sledgehammer. The sound effect worked so great that it was used multiple times on the album. This is the final part of “Another Brick in the Wall”. The working title was called “Drugs”. Pink is aware of the harm the world can inflict on people, he’s seen the writing on the wall. This is the final brick in the wall. By the end of the song, he is officially closed off from the outside world which is what the next song “Goodbye Cruel World” is all about.
#1-Shine On You Crazy Diamond-Wish You Were Here
This is easily one of Pink Floyd’s greatest pieces of music. If I were to make a Top whatever Pink Floyd Songs list if this doesn’t hit #1 on that list, it would be in the top 5 easily! Just like “Pigs on the Wing” and “Another Brick in the Wall”, I’m referring to both parts of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. The complete opposite of Animals with 2 short songs bookending 3 long songs, here we have 2 long songs bookending 3 shorter songs (although by shorter, I’m talking about 5-7 minutes). The song was conceived and written as a tribute to Syd Barrett. The letters even spell SYD “Shine”, “You”, and “Diamond”. While the band had good reasons for removing him from the band, they still felt bad for doing it. They admired his creativity but were concerned about his mental decline. It was initially intended to be a side-long composition like “Atom Heart Mother” and “Echoes” but split into two parts and used to bookend the album. Roger recorded the vocal line by line over and over again, and it destroyed his voice in the process. This is why Roy Harper was brought in to sing “Have a Cigar”.
Don’t click off of the article yet! I have five more songs I want to talk about. While I could’ve easily filled the “Honorable Mentions” with songs that Roger sang co-lead with Gilmour, I didn’t want to deviate from the rules of my list more than I have to. I’ll save those for another list. Below are more great Waters led vocal songs. As always, I have them in chronological order.
This is the fourth track from their 1971 album. Unlike the other tracks on the album, Roger Waters wrote the piece himself and brought it into the studio already finished. It is the only track on the album not co-written by Gilmour. The song is about a place called Saint-Tropez, a commune of the Var département in southern France located on the French Riviera. The song reflects what a day in Saint-Tropez might be like. There is a funny misunderstood line in Italy. The second to last line of the lyrics, “Making a date for late by phone” was often misinterpreted to “Making a date for Rita Pavone”, a well-known 1960s Italian pop singer. Pavone herself has stated several times, that she believes the line is about her.
Pigs (Three Different Ones)-Animals
This is the third song on their 1977 album. The “Three Different Ones” refers to a different “pig”, though the identities are just speculation because only the third verse identifies who the subject is. The pigs represent people who feel like they are the moral authorities. The sheep then follow and obey the pigs because they believe it’s the right thing to do. The third sheep mentioned “Whitehouse” was interpreted for years to be an attack on the presidency, which would’ve been Gerald Ford at the time. Roger Waters later explained it was about Mary Whitehouse, a morality campaigner who was described as a “house proud town mouse” who has to “keep it all on the inside”. Partway through the song, Gilmour uses a talk box on the guitar solo to mimic the sound of pigs. This is the first time the talk box was used by Pink Floyd. It’s a great 11-minute song.
One of My Turns-The Wall
The song starts with a woman checking out Pink’s apartment (Trudy Young), possibly a groupie from the previous song. Pink is unresponsive, watching a movie after learning his wife is having an affair…at the same time he is. Pink is suffering from an existential crisis that turns into a fit of rage. About two minutes in the song gets louder as he starts throwing and smashing things. Gilmour’s guitar solo is great in this song. He recorded two answering parts on the opposite sides of the stereo field. The song ends with Roger shouting and holding the note, “Why are you running away…” The song acts as the B-side to “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt 2”.
One of the Few-The Final Cut
This is the third track from Roger’s final Floyd album. It’s a very short song, only 1:12. It features a ticking clock in the background. Roger does everything in this song, the vocals, acoustic guitar, synthesizer, and bass guitar. The lyrics describe a war veteran’s return from the war to start teaching. He would’ve been a pilot from the Battle of Britain which is commonly known as The Few. This was one of the rejected songs from The Wall that was recycled into The Final Cut, it had a working title called “Teach”. A few of the lyrics, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry” in the final verse of the song is reprised in the third verse of “Not Now John”.
Two Suns in the Sunset-The Final Cut
This is the closing track from The Final Cut. This song sadly never was performed live by Pink Floyd. This was because there was no promotional tour for the album, then after Roger left, the song (the whole album most likely) was ignored by the rest of the band. Roger Waters did premier the song almost 35 years later in a concert from the Us + Them, on October 17, 2018, at Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Andy Newmark played drums on this track as Nick Mason was struggling due to the complex time signature changes. Partway through the song we hear the lyrics “the sun is in the east, even though the day is done” refers to the glowing fireball of a nuclear explosion. The song was partly inspired by Andrzej Wajda’s movie Ashes and Diamonds.
This was a fun list to do but it was really hard when half the songs I was going to use, I realized my rules prevent me from using them on this list. Oh well, maybe another time then. If you enjoyed this list, I did a similar list to honor Richard Wright’s birthday, and I encourage you to check that out if you haven’t yet. Check out the link below! What did you think of my list? Do you agree with it? Would you rearrange it? What songs would you include on your list? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Before you go, don’t forget to follow Awesome Albums on Instagram and Twitter, like on Facebook, and Subscribe on both YouTube and BitChute for music-related content. Also, don’t forget to come back next Tuesday, for another list for Top “Ten” Tuesday!