The Band's Unlikely Return Brings Us 'Hey Hey Rise Up'
It’s 2022, and after 28 years of musical dilapidation from Pink Floyd, the band released its soul-shatteringly beautiful ‘Hey Hey Rise Up’ in protest of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Its emotional energy and drama are fuelled by the band’s desire to use its platform one last time to make a change. As David Gilmour stated himself, the “what the fuck can I do?” feeling is unbearable and real. There are many young people who now identify as Die-Hard Pink Floyd fans. And Pink Floyd has capitalised on this ability to appeal worldwide, using its platform as a vehicle to spread a message of defiance and support. Considered s the architects of two major music movements, psychedelic space-rock and blues-based progressive rock, Pink Floyd proves power and influence within its platform.
Interestingly, this is not the first time Pink Floyd has picked up the political microphone. Backtrack circa 30 years. It’s 1989, and tensions are rising in divided Germany as German citizens begin to dismantle the wall – a barrier that for 30 years separated a nation. An interview with Roger Waters just before this pivotal event articulated Pink Floyd’s political intentions after being asked if he’d ever perform ‘The Wall’ on stage again; “I might do it outdoors if they ever take the wall down in Berlin…”. The concert was staged on vacant terrain between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate – the former “no man’s land” of the Berlin wall. Pink Floyd performed ‘The Wall’ here in 1990, a year later, as a new world order was being defined around the band.
Pink Floyd was founded by Syd Barrett in 1965, and the band released two charting singles and the album ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ under his leadership. Appropriately, the band became known for its biting political, social, and emotional commentary. However, after numerous personal tensions and court cases between band members, most notably between David Gilmour and Roger Waters, Pink Floyd heart-breakingly broke up in 1985. As Water’s stated, whilst pondering a solo career; “listen we’re broke, this isn’t Pink Floyd anymore”.
After decades of silence and distance between band members, the war in Ukraine has reunited the band. Fast forward back to 2022 and Gilmour wants to make music again— a final political remark on Russia’s oppressive tactics. Gilmour had viewed an Instagram post of Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the frontman of Ukrainian rock band BoomBox in military fatigue with a rifle slung over his shoulder. The Ukrainian singer was videoed outside Kyiv’s St Sophia Cathedral painfully belting out ‘Oh, The Red Viburnum’: a 1914 protest song written in honour of Sich Riflemen who fought both in the First World War and the Ukrainian War of Independence. Gilmour has a history with them; he performed once before with Khlyvnyuk and BoomBox in 2015 at a London benefit gig for the Belarus Free Theatre. The gentle beauty and boldness of his former colleague and friend’s voice is what inspired Gilmour to reach out and create one last Pink Floydian hit after announcing “this is the end” back in 2008 when keyboard player Rick Wright passed away. Gilmour called drummer Nick Mason and proposed his idea of a protestable release against the “crazy, unjust attack” on Ukraine, as he proudly stated, “it’s pink Floyd if it’s me and Nick, and that is the biggest promotional vehicle”. Interestingly, whilst the war brought the band back together, it also generated a more severe divide between Pink Floyd band members. Roger Waters’ political views on the Russo-Ukrainian War is the reason he is not included in the band’s latest release ‘Hey Hey Rise Up’. A week before Russa invading Ukraine, an interview revealed Waters’ political sympathies towards Russa; “bullshit…anybody with an IQ above room temperature knows [an invasion] is nonsense” and proceeded to condemn “propaganda” that would “demonise Russia”. Gilmour’s response is blunt but expressive: “let’s just say I was disappointed and let’s move on”.
‘Hey Hey Rise Up’ features samples of Khlyvnyuk, a beautifully talented Ukrainian musician, who fights on the front lines as you read this. The release stands as a plea for Ukrainian awareness and all proceeds are gifted to Ukrainian humanitarian relief. Thought to be long defunct, Pink Floyd reconvenes. And for good reason. The group’s beautiful and political new release has left a deep impression on the band’s listeners and on me.
Illustration: William Geffroy Dashe