Judge Dave Ryan knows which one is Pink.
So you thought you might like to go to the show…
For over 40 years, Pink Floyd—Richard Wright, Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and (once upon a time) Syd Barrett—have been arguably the most commercially successful band of the so-called "progressive rock" era. Although the band was unique in its relative lack of band-member turnover, it was nonetheless a band driven by personal strife between its members. In the late '70s, the band's underlying tensions finally boiled over. While the group technically never disbanded, a near-irreparable rift developed between the egomaniacal Waters (the primary songwriter for most of Floyd's '70s output) and his bandmates.
That's what happened to Pink Floyd. Everyone knows it; it was hardly a secret at the time. Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? attempts to delve deeper into not just the "what," but also the "why" behind the mess. It's mostly successful in its task—while it doesn't bring a lot of new information to the table, it does serve as a good overview of the 28 chaotic years between the release of Animals in 1977 and the band's one-off reunion at the Live 8 concert in 2005.
The film starts with the troubles that arose during the "In The Flesh" tour the band undertook to support Animals. Cheated by promoters, nearing the edge of bankruptcy, and disillusioned by the fans' rowdiness at their shows, the band members began to slide into their own personal funks, culminating with Waters spitting on a group of fans from the stage in Toronto. Desperately needing to produce an album quickly for financial purposes, Waters presented his bandmates with two possible "concept" albums for the next Pink Floyd album. One, entitled "The Pros and Cons of Hitch-hiking," was about a man undergoing a mid-life crisis, told in real time over the course of a single evening. (This eventually became Waters' first solo album.) The other, "Bricks in the Wall," was about a rock star becoming progressively alienated from his fans. The Wall became one of Pink Floyd's most successful albums, eclipsed (pun intended) only by the legendary 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon (which spent an unbelievable 741 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart, finally dropping off in 1988). From this triumph, the film documents the steady development of internal rifts between Waters and the rest of the band that wound up breaking Pink Floyd apart after the release of their follow-up to The Wall, the aptly-named The Final Cut.
The story doesn't end there, however—several years and one lawsuit later, Gilmour and Mason re-formed Pink Floyd and released a new album, 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Wright rejoined them for The Division Bell in 1994. When the band's friend Bob Geldof (who had played "Pink" in the movie version of The Wall) asked Gilmour if Pink Floyd—inactive since the end of the tour to support The Division Bell—might be interested in reuniting to headline the Live 8 show in London's Hyde Park, he was turned town. Nonplussed, he contacted Nick Mason, who was in favor of a reunion, and asked him to speak to Gilmour. Gilmour still refused. With time running out before the show, Mason reached out to Waters. Waters was excited about the possibility of a reunion. To help facilitate it, Waters phoned Gilmour—their first direct contact in a couple of years—to talk about reuniting. Finally, Gilmour agreed, and Pink Floyd—the real Pink Floyd—took the stage for the last time.
Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? is a perfectly good music documentary—it's got a lot of primary source interviews (albeit nothing really new), and some good expert witnesses on hand. There's even some interesting musical theory discussion about what makes a Waters song a "Waters song." The problem is, it's answering a question that nobody's really asking. Everybody—at least everybody who cares—knows exactly what happened to Pink Floyd: Waters' ego went crazy and drove everyone else away. That's been known for years. This leaves the film hanging in a documentary no-man's-land. It's not revealing or penetrating enough to give Floyd fans more insight to the band's troublesome dynamics than they probably already have, but it's not exhaustive enough to serve as a pure history of the band's post-Animals heyday. It's still worth a watch for fans of the band; you're just left with the feeling that it should have been so much more. Not a home run, but a good solid double.
Not guilty—but barely.
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