Roger Waters: The Man Behind The Wall by Dave Thompson book review

The dark side of prog legend Roger Waters

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Two things quickly become clear reading Dave Thompson’s biography of Roger Waters. Firstly, Thompson is an enormous admirer, to the point where the book borders on hagiography.

Secondly, despite Thompson’s pitch for beatification, Waters is an asshole who couldn’t give a fuck about being adored. Or even liked. Split into two parts, the book begins with the background to the recording of The Wall and shoots for a feel good midway pinnacle with Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason reunited onstage at Live8. This is the most compelling material, as Thompson explores in impressive depth how Waters’ personal experiences and beliefs shaped The Wall, and why his ambivalence about the trappings of success and control freakery led to him leaving Floyd. The second half goes back in time to the group’s birth, chronicles Syd Barrett’s decline, then wraps with the Animals tour. The amount of time devoted to Barrett means that Waters is temporarily pushed aside, which is frustrating. There’s a constant tension between Thompson’s worship and Waters’ behaviour, from storming off stage in a jealous rage to spitting in a fan’s face, but the final result is a warts-and-all portrait of one of prog’s great mavericks.