Guitar Aficionado

Roger Waters: “David Gilmour Has a Bad Sense of Humor”

The Pink Floyd founder tells how a joke reunited the two former bandmates for a pair of gigs.
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By Christopher Scapelliti

Roger Waters recently appeared on Classic Rock’s Prog Magazine Show to talk about the newly released Roger Waters: The Wall DVD. In the course of the interview, he took a moment to tell a funny story about how he and his former Pink Floyd bandmate David Gilmour reunited for a couple of brief onstage performances in 2011, despite their often strained relationship.

On May 12, 2011, during a production of The Wall at London’s O2 Arena, Waters and Gilmour appeared onstage together for the show-stopping number “Comfortably Numb.” The song features one of Gilmour’s most famous guitar solos, and he reprised it for the O2 show, appearing—as in the original early Eighties productions—at the top of the wall that is constructed onstage during the first portion of the program. The reunion was a great surprise for fans, as was an impromptu performance of “Outside the Wall” performed near the show’s end, with Waters, Gilmour and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.

Waters explained how the reunion came about, and how—surprisingly—David Gilmour’s sense of humor was behind it all.

“Dave was wanting to do this thing called the Hoping Foundation,” Waters explains, referring to the charity that raises money for Palestinian children. “[Fashion designer] Bella Freud and [journalist] Jemima Khan had organized this gig. They’d done it a couple of years, and various people went and performed together.

“And Dave wanted me to go and do it because he thought up a joke that he thought was really funny, and he was desperate to do it. And he kept asking me to do it, and I kept going, ‘You know what? I don’t know about that,’ and blah blah blah blah blah. He was adamant.

“This is the joke. This is Dave’s sense of humor. All right—ready?

[Waters as Gilmour] “ ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we did a song together?’

“ ‘Yeah, what’s funny about that?’

“ ‘We could do, “To Know Know Know Him Is to Love Love Love Him.” ’

“To Know Him Is to Love Him” was a 1958 Number One hit for the vocal trio the Teddy Bears. With its teen-crush lyrics and syrupy melody, it was the embodiment of the era’s innocuous teen-pop music. (Interesting fact: The song was written by producer Phil Spector, then a member of the Teddy Bears, and was based on the legend on his father’s gravestone: “To Know Him Was to Love Him.”)

Gilmour thought the song was the perfect sly wink about his and Waters’ tumultuous relationship and their inability to completely separate after so many years and so many fights.

“Finally, I’d heard enough,” Waters says, “and I went, ‘I tell you what. I’m gonna be doing a few nights in the O2. You come and do “Comfortably Numb” one of those nights, and I’ll do the bloody Hoping Foundation.’ And I thought he’d just go, ‘Fuck off.’ And he didn’t. He went, ‘All right.’

“So we did it.”

You can watch video of their performance of “To Know Him Is to Love Him” below.

You can also hear Waters tell the story by visiting Classic Rock, scrolling down and clicking on the audio player marked “Roger Waters Talks to the Prog Magazine Show.” The segment begins around the 25:10 mark.

In the interview, Waters also talks about his plans for his next album (and possibly arena show) about “the Troubles,” the Northern Ireland conflict that ran from roughly the late Sixties through 1998. That battle, which raged between nationalists who want to reunite with Ireland and unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain with Britain, resulted in more than 1,800 civilian deaths. Waters’ story revolves around an Irish grandfather and his grandchild who go on a quest to find out, as Waters says, “why are we killing the children.”

You can watch Waters and Gilmour perform “To Know Him Is to Love Him” in the first video below. The performance begins around the one-minute mark, with Waters telling the audience. “I’d just like to say, This wasn’t my idea. It was his idea,” as he points to Gilmour. The set continues with more songs featuring Waters and Gilmour, so continue watching. Below that is their 2011 O2 performance of “Comfortably Numb.”