Pink Floyd: Was ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ Stolen From Them?

The Phantom of the Opera is still one of the most popular musicals ever. Its title song is one of the most popular songs in the history of musical theater. But did it originate with The Phantom of the Opera or Pink Floyd?

The song “The Phantom of the Opera” has an incredibly memorable opening riff. It’s repeated several times over the course of the musical. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd claims the track’s riff comes from one of his band’s songs.

A Pink Floyd concert ticket | Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

The history of Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle includes a track called “Echoes.” “Echoes” is an epic song if there ever was one. It goes on for 23 minutes. That’s the length of the half of one side of a vinyl record! Perhaps that’s why “Echoes” doesn’t get much radio airplay.

15 years later, Andrew Loyd Webber releases what is perhaps the definitive musical of his career: The Phantom of the Opera. The title track includes elements of progressive rock, the genre Lloyd Webber delved into with Jesus Christ Superstar. Some feel the musical’s title song takes influence from Pink Floyd, one of the bands which defined progressive rock.

“Echoes” by Pink Floyd

Roger Waters says Andrew Lloyd Webber is a plagiarist

Waters claims the song “The Phantom of the Opera” is derived from the riff of “Echoes.” he says he couldn’t believe how similar Lloyd Webber’s song was to “Echoes” when he first heard it. Although Waters noticed several similarities between “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Echoes,” he decided suing Lloyd Webber was too much if a hassle.

He said “It’s the same time signature—it’s 12/8—and it’s the same structure and it’s the same notes and it’s the same everything. Bastard. It probably is actionable…But I think that life’s too long to bother with suing Andrew f*cking Lloyd Webber.”

The title track of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera

Aside from any alleged plagiarism, Waters isn’t even a fan of The Phantom of the Opera or Lloyd Webber in general. He said he found Phantom unbelievably “mediocre.” He also said he knew the music would be mediocre because he saw Lloyd Webber on television and knew he was a mediocre musician just by looking at him!

Roger Waters writes a song attacking Andrew Lloyd Webber

Waters has been outspoken about his feelings toward Lloyd Webber in his music. He pulled no punches in the lyrics to his song “It’s a Miracle.” In it, Rogers sings “It’s a miracle/We cower in our shelters/With our hands over our ears/Lloyd-Webber’s awful stuff/Runs for years and years and years.”

“It’s a Miracle” by Roger Waters

The song goes on. In it, Rogers imagines an earthquake shaking a theater showing one of Lloyd Webber’s musicals. Then, the lid of a piano comes crashing down on Lloyd Webber’s hand and breaks his fingers. “It’s a miracle,” Rogers sings.

Lloyd Webber doesn’t seem to have commented on this issue. It’s up to fans to decide if the two tracks are too similar. Even if “The Phantom of the Opera” is too close to “Echoes,” it shows Pink Floyd are very influential.

Also see: Did Pink Floyd Ever Have a Number-One Hit?