Pink Floyd: The $250 Million Dollar Question

In 1982 Don Henley said “hell would freeze over before the Eagles would play together again.” Sure enough, the apocalypse never arrived and the Eagles were delivering their feel-good California rock twelve years later in one the most anticipated reunion tours ever.

But who would have thought Pink Floyd would reunite? There were better odds of Barbara Streisand marrying Tommy Lee than seeing Roger Waters and David Gilmour spit out “Comfortably Numb” together on stage.

But sure enough it did happen, when a Pink Floyd reunion stole the show at Live 8 last month in London. That’s right, all four members took the stage together, minus of course the mysterious “is he alive or dead” recluse Syd Barrett. In Live 8 terms, it’s pretty common knowledge that Pink Floyd leaders David Gilmour and Roger Waters see about as eye to eye as George Bush and Bono in an elevator. But there was Waters, along with Gilmour and Nick Mason and Rick Wright performing “Breathe,” “Money,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb” to a world-wide audience.

And the occasion was a benefit, so they weren’t in it for the money, but rather a worthwhile cause that both Gilmour and Waters actually did see eye to eye on. The two Floyd leaders were playing for third world communities whose concept of “Dark Side of the Moon” is far from the second best-selling album of all time.

If Waters and Gilmour can see eye to eye for less than an hour, maybe G8 leaders would make a larger financial commitment to the relief of poverty and aid to third world countries. Although the two played the performance without even making eye contact, there’s no denying there was a musical “chemistry” on stage. Even Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof was quoted as saying, “It’s easier to get the fucking G8 to do anything than getting Pink Floyd back together.”

When the four last played at Earl’s Court in London in 1981, shortly before Waters would leave the band under tension tied circumstances, MTV was only 2 months old, Michael Jordan had just graduated high school, John Lennon’s Double Fantasy was the Grammy winning Album of the Year and Princess Diana was preparing to marry Prince Charles. This latest reunion wasn’t the late 80’s Momentary Lapse of Reason tour or the early 90’s Division Bell tour, where Waters was replaced by Guy Pratt, who coincidentally is married to Wright’s daughter Gala, and therefore his son-in law. There were no extravagant flying pigs floating into the audience and no million-dollar light show that made the band look and sound like apostles. In this 2005 refined stage setting, we were able to see how little hair the 59 year old David Gilmour now has and how much hair the 62 year old Waters is blessed with. We noticed Rick Wright looks more like a journeyed novelist and Nick Mason looks like a cross between a Monty Python actor and Dudley Moore.

Tucked in shirts and gentlemanly appearances aside, these guys could have been high level executives with Exxon. Sure they all look proper now, but they were once young, wild and “out there.” Having penned such classics as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” the epic album Animals, and their spacey Meddle era music that was filmed inside a 2,000 year old empty amphitheater in Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, it’s hard not to ask, “was it really these same guys that pioneered progressive rock? “

Every song was nailed at Live 8, as the performance could have put the famous Floyd cover band The Machine back to covering Led Zeppelin. Their version of “Comfortably Numb” in particular further augmented the fact that Gilmour laid string to perhaps the greatest rock guitar solo ever. Waters graced the song with his asylum echoing vocals and it felt like 1979 again. And “Wish You Were Here” further backed up its legend as one of the most simplest yet purest rock songs ever. Sure they rehearsed, but like any 60 year old hopping back on skis after a break, there are going to be a bunch of ugly spills and form along the way, but those tumbles were hard to find. Gilmour, despite the Mr. Clean top, still looks buff and ready to tear through his catalog of killer solos – yeah you know them all – “Time,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” “Have A Cigar,” “Atom Heart Mother” and “Dogs” to just name a few. And Waters, he’s not sounding too bad himself as he gears up for the release of his full-on opera Ca Ira.

Since the Live 8 appearance, Pink Floyd record sales have increased by 300%. I can’t imagine there were any people left that didn’t already own Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall. But maybe they weren’t buying, just upgrading albums that signified early journeys and significant moments growing up. U2 and Springsteen are better office reference points to connect with your stiff boss or party-guy co-worker, since after all, isn’t Pink Floyd a band for stoners? But with 25 million albums sold world wide, that’s about 50 million red eyes to keep Visine thriving.

Sure you can turn the radio dial anytime of day and stumble upon some bored corporate brainwashed DJ blaring “Another Brick in The Wall” in between ” I Can’t Drive 55″ and “Tom Sawyer.” But go back and try out Atom Heart Mother, Animals, or Meddle for size. Give 1994’s The Division Bell another shot. Maybe even listen to Dark Side of the Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz if you haven’t tried that internet folklore yet.

The band recently turned down a whopping $250 million dollars to regroup. $250 million dollars??? That would be enough to field a New York Yankees baseball team under George Steinbrenner and feed Zaire. Waters and Gilmour don’t even need to talk to each other to pull this reunion off. Motley Crue took separate tour buses on their reunion tour. Tommy Lee and Vince Neil probably don’t know what each other’s favorite drink or sexual position is these days. Who says Rog and Dave have to know each other’s scotch whiskey of choice?

Rogers clearly dismissed any possiblity of a tour in a recent Rolling Stone interview where he was quoted as saying: “I don’t really need it. It would be a very hot ticket. That said, I didn’t mind rolling over for one day, but I couldn’t roll over for a whole fucking tour.”

Pink Floyd had never been a band that indulges itself in “functionality.” Turmoil, head-trips, and mad genius is what made the band the distinctively dark act of its time. But come on Roger Waters, you gotta give us one more tour. You can almost pick the setlists right now: “Fealess>Run Like Hell>Mother>One of These Days>Sheep>Learning To Fly>Time>Welcome to The Machine>Bring the Boys Back Home.” And every night you can mix up the songs spanning the deep Floyd catalog and yes, maybe even a few songs from one of your solo albums would be ok to hear too. And then we can all go on tour with Pink Floyd and there could be a four night run in Vegas. Ok, maybe we’re getting a little carried away here, but come on, $250 million dollars? Say that three times to yourself without thinking private jet, personal chef and lifetime supply of Titleist golf balls. One more big summer tour and maybe another album. It’s 2005 and the song “Time” couldn’t be more well said.

“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in a quiet desperation is the English way

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say”

Hey, if it never happens you can always count on another $250 million dollar Eagles tour.

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