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

The dark side of prog legend Roger Waters

Roger Waters book cover artwork

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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.

David West

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.