Keith Richards on why Roger Waters' music lost touch with reality ...

26 days ago

(Credits: Far Out / Alamy)

Sat 18 May 2024 17:30, UK

Keith Richards - Figure 1
Photo Far Out Magazine

The Rolling Stones guitarist and rock and roll madman Keith Richards has never been particularly afraid to let his voice be heard. With a celebrated career in rock spanning over six decades, the guitarist has taken seemingly every opportunity to tear down his fellow musicians over the years. Everybody from Prince to the Sex Pistols have landed in Richards’ firing line, but surely even he could not deny the prolific artistry of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, right?

Since their inception in 1965, Pink Floyd has been a band like no other. During their early period, under the leadership and songwriting of the artistic visionary Syd Barrett, the band pioneered styles of mind-bending psychedelia, forming some of the defining sounds of the 1960s. However, as the group matured and Roger Waters took over the mantle of the group, Pink Floyd became more accustomed to progressive rock and groundbreaking live performances.

Regardless of your opinions on the discography of Waters’ band, their position as one of the greatest live bands of all time cannot really be disputed. This reputation largely arose after the incredible 1972 concert film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, which showcased the incredible production value and performance of the band while playing at a Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii. However, not everybody was convinced by the band’s performance, with Keith Richards particularly critical of Floyd.

Admittedly, The Rolling Stones were not appreciative of many colossal groups like Pink Floyd. In fact, the only other group that Jagger and company deemed as being comparable to themselves were The Beatles. Even the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were faced with disdain by the Stones, so Richards’ critiques of Pink Floyd should come as no real surprise.

During an interview with The Guardian back in 2016, Richards was particularly dismissive of Waters’ group, decisively stating, “To me it’s got nothing to do with rock ’n’ roll”. Seemingly, Keef’s issues with Floyd are mainly a result of their big-budget, high-production value live performances. “What if he played in daytime?” Richards asked sarcastically, “It’s a light show, for Christ’s sake! But that’s all right, it’s a piece of theatre. I guess what the Rolling Stones are is a little bit of theatre and a little bit of reality at the same time”.

While Richards is at risk of being, more than a little, reductive within that quote, it is not hugely controversial to suggest Pink Floyd began to favour theatre over rock music as their career developed. From their early days of rock and roll psychedelia, the band soon embraced complex concept albums and difficult themes, in addition to their emphasis on live performance.

On the other hand, as Richards admits, The Stones are not free from the allure of theatrics either. Playing largely to huge arenas and stadiums, with fireworks and awe-inspiring visuals certainly doesn’t seem to fit with Richards’ rather blinkered view of rock and roll any more than Pink Floyd’s grandiose live shows do. Not to mention the fact that Waters left Pink Floyd all the way back in 1985, over 30 years prior to Richards giving these arguments; it seems as though The Rolling Stones are stuck in the past, in more ways than one.

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