This guest album review is provided by Merry Mercurial, a writer of fiction, essays, reviews, and the “highly subjective” music blog which you can read at her website, The Music According to Merry.
Pink Floyd’s 12th studio release, The Final Cut, debuted on the heels of a hit-heavy album that had the nerve to recruit schoolkids to chant, in heavy British accents, about not needing “no education”. The Wall would go 23 times platinum in the US, fuel a bizarre but beloved movie, and become a capital-m Moment in rock. In a way, fallout from The Final Cut makes perfect sense. If the titular wall of Floyd’s 11th and best-selling album had been a maximum-security border – penning the narrator in with every last fear passed down from his own mother and Mother England – it came to have more in common with the high, dangerous structure from Humpty Dumpty. There really was nowhere to go but down, a bad break was coming, and nothing would put Pink Floyd, as the world knew and loved them, together again.
The Final Cut was conceived of as soundtrack for the 1982 movie adaptation of The Wall, but a different event in ’82 changed its direction. The UK responded to Argentina’s play for sovereignty of the Falkland Islands with a military assault that many – including bassist and primary songwriter Roger Waters – considered trigger-happy. The themes of war and loss that had been scattered throughout The Wall became the focus of The Final Cut. Of Pink Floyd’s albums dating back to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (’67), this one may have offered the clearest message: the past blood shed by soldiers, including Waters’s father, had been spent like water. The post-war dream was dead.
Production efforts were bruised in the melee of a band that would eventually be known nearly as well for their friction as their giant pig float that lumbered over concertgoers. Guitarist David Gilmour protested that several of the songs had originally been trimmed from The Wall; he couldn’t imagine they’d become album-worthy with time. Tensions between Waters and Gilmour escalated until the two would or could no longer work together. They largely recorded like divorced parents communicating through their children. Completed in the latter months of ’82 across eight studio locations, The Final Cut is the only LP on which all writing is credited to Waters and the only to not feature founding keyboardist Richard Wright.
The Final Cutby Pink Floyd
Released: March 21, 1983 (Harvest) Produced by: James Guthrie, Michael Kamen & Roger Waters Recorded: Mayfair Studios, RAK Studios, Olympic Studios, Abbey Road Studios, Eel Pie Studios, Audio International Studios, and The Billiard Room, London, 1979-1983
The Post War Dream
Your Possible Pasts
One of the Few
The Hero’s Return
The Gunner’s Dream
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
The Fletcher Memorial Homee
The Final Cut
Not Now John
Two Suns in the Sunset
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums
The album opens with and continues incorporating the faintly disorienting effects Pink Floyd is known for. While the music is as accomplished and mood-appropriate as ever, there are no hooks, no shower singalongs, no delightful sonic montages to show the fun side of Floyd’s dead-serious subject matter. Furnished by Raphael Ravenscroft, even the saxophone – perhaps the instrument most frequently described as “smooth” – sounds throaty and raw in a way that matches Waters’s vocals.
Waters did some singing on The Wall as well – sometimes to powerful effect – but with him taking lead on 12/13 songs, The Final Cut makes it clear that his abilities lie more in conception, composition, and bass. Which isn’t to say his singing was a bad idea altogether. While Gilmour’s voice transitions liquidly from peacenik lullabies to screw-the-man power anthems, it doesn’t simmer with quiet rage the way Waters’s does. He has a way of sounding as volatile when he whispers as when he belts.
What’s more, there’s something about his untrained voice that works on an album that appears to be purposefully unsmooth – sometimes downright uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable that you can hear the movement of Roger Waters’s mouth during spoken-word sections of songs such as “Paranoid Eyes” and “The Fletcher Memorial Home.” It’s uncomfortable that the music bows so low in deference to his undecorated but also unflinching voice: there’s absolutely no place for the political frustration and depression and fury to hide. But that’s likely the point.
The musical restraint exercised on most of the songs is effective in exposing subtleties of mood. On “Paranoid Eyes,” for instance, the music feels like a brew being stirred in the background. Things reach a boil with the airplane sound, explosion, and jarringly jaunty opening of “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert,” a short (1:16) song that keeps up an album-long indictment of Margaret Thatcher.
The title song is perhaps the most emotional of a very emotional collection; it’s wisely arranged to give way to “Not Now John,” which besides being the most swear-laden of all Pink Floyd’s songs, reintroduces a bigger and more traditionally Floyd sound: prominent guitar, energetic female chorus, and David Gilmour’s voice. And while it’s a relief by this point to hear him, there is little sense of harmony between his and Waters’s vocals.
Though The Final Cut did well in England and climbed as high as number six in the US, it was also the group’s lowest-selling since Meddle, released in ’71. Its lyrics deserved and received praise. Its overall sound, execution, and very existence were subject to bitterly mixed reviews. This is the last studio album Roger Waters would make with Pink Floyd. The others would continue under the Floyd mantle, against his wishes, without him. They would not come together again until the Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, in July 2005. At the time, drummer Nick Mason would emphasize that the performance was a one-time thing. It didn’t spell reunion. He would also, however, make it clear that if the band were to reunite properly, his bags were already packed.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.
During the writing and production of Wish You Were Here, the members of Pink Floyd were grasping with the their new found stardom and the pressure to deliver another hit album. A serious bout of collective writers block and frequent tour interruptions further added to this pressure over the course of 1974 and early 1975, but eventually the concept came into being and the fine album was completed. While this record was almost totally composed by bassist Roger Waters, and much of its focus is former band member Syd Barrett, this album is really a tour de force for guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, who contributes some indelible textures, riffs and licks throughout the album.
Following the worldwide success of 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the group negotiated a new contract which gave them a reported advance of $1,000,000. While touring Europe in 1974, the group composed three extended songs. Two of these, “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy” would be held over and reworked as the tracks “Sheep” and Dogs” respectively on the 1977 album Animals. The third piece, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” would become the bookend centerpiece around which this loose concept album would be built.
Wish You Were Here was produced by Pink Floyd as a band with the assistance of engineer Brian Humphries, who had previously worked with the group on the 1969 soundtrack album More. Like its predecessor, the album was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios. Being that Humphries never worked there before, he encountered some early difficulties.
But the technical difficulties were nothing compared to the incredible coincidence of Barrett showing up during the mixing of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” which was obviously written about him. Barrett had arrived to attend Gilmour’s wedding on June 5, 1975, while all four band members were in the mixing room. Not a single one of them recognized him at first as he had shaved his head and eyebrows. Once they all realized that it was him, it was obvious that he was unable to partake in a normal conversation and had no idea that he was the subject of the song they were mixing that day. This put a damper on the wedding and unfortunately no member of Pink Floyd saw Syd Barrett again until they attended his 2006 funeral .
Wish You Were Hereby Pink Floyd
Released: September 12, 1975 (Harvest) Produced by: Pink Floyd Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, January–July 1975
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (I)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (II)
David Gilmour – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals Roger Waters – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals Richard Wright – Keyboards, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion
The first section of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” sounds totally new age during the beginning section, which was originally developed as “Household Objects”, an experimental piece using ARP synth, Hammond organ and wine glass harmonica. After this long intro, the second instrumental section is much more musically rewarding, built on an indelible four note riff by Gilmour, above which he adds a bluesy lead and below which there is crisp and steady playing by the rest of the group. This second section acts as a kind of overture for the album, with Wright performing a calm synth solo that previews a later piece and Gilmour returning with a more blistering lead. After 8:45, the song proper finally begins with Waters on lead vocals delivering poetic lyrics which describe his take on Barrett’s plight. Gilmour adds a superior, double-tracked lead in between the two verses and the final two minutes of the track is dedicated to an extended sax solo by Dick Parry above a new riff before song dissolves into a link to the next track.
“Welcome to the Machine” is a textual track with an abundance of synth and sound effects and the most substantial in studio production. However, this is probably the least musically creative as it is just a strummed acoustic which guides along the dark and mechanical sound effects with little to no traditional rhythms. The song does build a bit in the middle but then unfortunately reverts back to same arrangement for the last verse, missing an opportunity to bring it to a stronger sonic level. The album’s second side starts with Gilmour’s wild, treated guitar riffs which are expertly accompanied by Waters’ bass and Wright’s electric piano for a rich rhythmic experience. Wright then adds the signature synth riff, leading to the verses which feature guest Roy Harper on lead vocals, who was brought in when both Waters and Gilmour were unsatisfied with their respective attempts at singing the song. In any case, Harper’s style fits nicely with the Pink Floyd sound, seeming to split the difference between Waters and Gilmour in style, while adding his own flourish to the end of each chorus. The final two minutes of the song are dedicated to a Gilmour guitar lead over increasingly funky rhythms by the rest of the band, especially Mason who gets more and more intense as the outro proceeds.
Starting with a unique sonic intro, “Wish You Were Here” is the true highlight of the album, as stripped-down acoustic track featuring Gilmour’s gruff and folksy vocals. The song’s full arrangement contains tremendous plethora of musical tid-bits ranging from a county-type piano, to a bluesy, slide acoustic lead, to the modern sounding synth pads. This unidirectional track’s hook comes during the single final verse. which leads to the song’s climatic outro featuring Gilmour vocally mocking his own lead acoustic while the song fades into a distant wind effect. This leads to the second suite of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which starts with a cool bass and guitar thump very reminiscent to “One of These Days” from 1971’s Meddle, right down to the distorted lap steel guitar played by Gilmour. After an abrupt return to the main theme for two verses, the suite just as abruptly turns to a funky clavinet-driven section led by Wright, which is entertaining in spite of the fact that it breaks the musical cohesion. The final parts of the song seem to be extraneous as they really seem to lack focus and direction, just pure filler to fill out the album before a long, anticlimactic fade, a really unfortunate way to end this fine album.
Wish You Were Here became an instant commercial success, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, with EMI reportedly unable to print enough copies to satisfy initial demand. Both Gilmour and Wright have cited this album as their favorite by the band and, while it had initially received lukewarm critical reviews, the album has grown to near universal acclaim over the past four decades. Wright and David Gilmour have each cited Wish You Were Here as their favorite Pink Floyd album.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.
After his tumultuous exit from Pink Floyd, Composer, guitarist, and vocalist Syd Barrett spent several years working on his debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs. Beginning in April 1968, the album was recorded in stages and five different producers were employed, including then-current Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Roger Waters. When it was finally released at the beginning of 1970, the album was more of a curiosity that a solid rock effort and it found minimal commercial success in the UK.
Following the release and success of Pink Floyd’s debut album The Piper At the Gates of Dawn, Barrett started to display counter-productive, erratic behavior. This led to the group adding Gilmour as a fifth member to pick up the slack on guitar and vocals in late 1967. Soon Barrett was no longer able to perform live but the group had hoped he would remain as their primary songwriter and lead vocalist for studio tracks. However, his mental state had deteriorated further and the material he presented to the band was largely unworkable. Barrett was officially dismissed from Pink Floyd in April 1968 and only one of his tracks appeared on that year’s album by the group, A Saucerful of Secrets.
Almost immediately upon departing from Pink Floyd, Barrett entered Abbey Road Studios with producer Peter Jenner. Although only one track from these initial sessions would appear on The Madcap Laughs, many tracks were attempted. In July 1968, Barrett abruptly stopped recording and ended up in psychiatric care in his hometown of Cambridge. Early in 1969, a refreshed Barrett resumed work on the album with producer Malcolm Jones. These sessions proved much more fruitful than those of the previous year, with a large part of the album recorded at Abbey Road in April 1969. However, there were still issues with recording as rhythm players had a tough time matching Barrett’s inconsistent timings and chord structures. Soon Jones’ interest in the project began to wane just as Gilmour had started taking an interest in Barrett’s project.
In July 1969, Waters and Gilmour were completing Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma when they decided to get involved with The Madcap Laughs. In just a few sessions, they worked on several remade versions and overdubs of previous material along with a handful of new tracks. However, Barrett started to protest further overdubs, so Gilmour and Waters decide to mix the collective material and declared the album complete.
The Madcap Laughsby Syd Barrett
Released: January 3, 1970 (Harvest) Produced by: Syd Barrett, Peter Jenner, Malcolm Jones, David Gilmour, & Roger Waters Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, May 1968–August 1969
No Good Trying
No Man’s Land
Here I Go
She Took a Long Cold Look
If It’s in You
Syd Barrett – Lead Vocals, Guitars David Gilmour – Guitars, Bass Mike Ratledge – Keyboards Robert Wyatt – Drums
With a slowly strummed acoustic and the slightest hint of overdubbed electric guitars, “Terrapin” starts the album complete with many blatant mistakes, especially during the chord changes at the end of each sequence. However, this is part of the charm of the album and Barrett’s vocals are on the same high level as on Piper At the Gates of Dawn. Over five-minutes in duration, the song has a hypnotic vibe along with stream-of-consciousness lyrics. “No Good Trying” follows with a full band arrangement, and a psychedelic sound, animated by drums up front with distant whining guitars and keys in background.
“Love You” is upbeat and joyous, bouncy melody over a music hall style piano, while “No Man’s Land” is a droning rocker with good rhythms and bass and a slightly potent lead by Barrett. The haunting “Dark Globe” is the first in the sequence to be produced by Gilmour and Waters, This solo track by Barrett has strummed acoustic and dramatic, deep and desperate lyrics which appear to be Barrett’s first-person account of his own mental state. Concluding the first side is “Here I Go”, a fifties type ballad with elements of English pop and especially dry vocals.
Released a few months prior to the album, “Octopus” is the lone single from The Madcap Laughs. This light and melodic track also gave the album its title when Gilmour mistakenly heard the lyric; the lyric; “Well, the mad cat laughed at the man on the border…” The most overtly psychedelic track is the dark and distant “Golden Hair”, which took some lyrics from poet James Joyce sung through haunting vocals. “Long Gone” is the last truly quality track on the album (and perhaps the finest on the album). It features very good acoustic and deep melody, almost Country-like in the verses but more artistic in chorus.
Down the stretch, the album does include some really sub-par material. “She Took a Long Cold Look” sounds stale in comparison to the fine preceding track and its rambling and lack of structure (which has a charm earlier in the album) starts to really wear thin here. On the acoustic solo track “Feel”, there is some effective use of reverb at strategic parts but this is offset by the inclusion of studio chatter and the weird false start which reveals Barrett’s incoherent mumbling condition at the beginning of the off-tune “If It’s in You”. The album concludes with “Late Night”, the only song from his 1968 recording sessions with Jenner to make the album. This track features full band arrangement, albeit disjointed, as Barrett’s lyrics of isolation bring the listener back to the original purpose of this album.
The Madcap Laughs sold just enough copies and got well enough reviews that EMI decided to ask for a second Syd Barrett solo album. A month after this album’s release, recording commenced for what would become the second studio album, Barrett, produced solely by Gilmour. This album features a slightly richer sound, especially in the rhythmic mix, but material is not quite as interesting musically aside from the standout tracks “Baby Lemonade”, “Gigolo Aunt” (which was actually started in 1968), and the closing, stream-of-consciousness track “Effervescing Elephant”, which seems like an appropriate closer to Barrett’s recording career. In June 1970, Barrett performed his first and only solo concert, which was cut short after only four songs when he abruptly put down his guitar and walked off stage.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.
The Wall was the most ambitious album of a long and storied career filled with ambitious projects by Pink Floyd. This double-length concept album was composed by vocalist and bassist Roger Waters and spawned an equally ambitious tour, a feature film, and a legacy which has only grown in the three and a half decades since its release in 1979. Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In conjunction with The River of Rock, we celebrate this historical date by publishing this album review along with a review of the 1982 movie Pink Floyd The Wall on Big Blue Bullfrog and a review of the 1990 concert Roger Waters The Wall Live in Berlin on Kid’s Theatre News.
The album’s concept was developed by Waters following Pink Floyds 1977 “In the Flesh” tour, which followed their previous studio album, Animals. With Pink Floyd at the height of their popularity on this tour, Waters became increasingly frustrated by the ever rowdier audience and began to imagine building a giant wall between the audience and the stage. Waters further developed the “Wall” idea to include isolation, problems with authority, and the real-life loss of his father as an infant during World War II. However, “Bricks in the Wall” (as it was then known) was not the only concept Waters developed at that time. A second concept album dealing with themes of marriage, sex, and family life was also presented to the rest of the band for a vote in 1978. Pink Floyd opted for The Wall, and the other concept would eventually be developed into Waters’ debut solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking in 1984.
The Wall has 26 songs which, by comparison, is the same number of tracks as Pink Floyd’s four previous studio albums combined. To help refine and produce this monumental project, Waters brought in Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel. Ezrin, Waters, and guitarist David Gilmour were the main refiners of the material, working from a 40-page script. The album was methodically recorded in several locations including England, France, and the United States. This was mainly due to the band’s year-long “tax exile”, which found them in odd living arrangements and often bickering with each other. Waters made it clear that he was in charge of the project, dictating the schedule and eventually advocated the firing of founding keyboardist Richard Wright when Wright refused to cut a family holiday short because Waters had moved up the recording schedule.
Drummer Nick Mason recorded many of his tracks independently at Britannia Row Studios in London early on in the process. This left Waters and Gilmour as essentially the only band members who fully participated in the day-to-day production through the end. When the team got to New York, Ezrin suggested that Michael Kamen and the New York Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, and a choir from the New York City Opera be recorded to enhance several of the theatrical tracks. Ezrin and Waters also captured many of the spoken-word and sound effects used on the album. The minimalist cover design and accompanying sleeve art was designed by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who later worked on the animation for The Wall tour and the 1982 film Pink Floyd The Wall, bringing a consistent feel to both projects.
The Wallby Pink Floyd
Released: November 30, 1979 (Harvest/EMI) Produced by: Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie Roger Waters Recorded: Britannia Row Studios, Studio Miraval, Correns, France, CBS 30th Street Studio, New York, Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, July 1978-November 1979
In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 1
The Happiest Days of Out Lives
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
One of My Turns
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Is there Anybody Out There?
Bring the Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting For the Worms
Outside the Wall
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin Richard Wright – Keyboards Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion
Later reprised on the final side, “In the Flesh?” is a reference to the band’s tour where the Wall’s initial concept began. For a few seconds the melody of the album’s last song “Outside the Wall” is played, solidifying the album’s comprehensive feel, before this track explodes into a riff-driven hard rock jam which immediately destroys the subtle stereotype brought on by previous Pink Floyd albums. The tracks single verse is in sharp contrast with gentle staccato piano and doo-wop harmony behind Waters’ lead vocals. After exploding back to the main riff for the coda, a dive-bomber effect crashes and is interrupted by the sound of a baby crying, symbolizing the protagonist’s loss of his father as a baby. “The Thin Ice” is much softer and measured, with Gilmour providing the verse vocals and Waters the chorus as, again, there is only one verse/chorus. Gilmour’s signature, slow bluesy guitar close out the song.
The three song medley; “Another Brick In the Wall, Part 1” / “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” / “Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2” is one of the most radio-friendly sequences of the album. Driven by Gilmour’s rhythmic guitar arpeggio, the segment eerily enters in contrast to the faint sound of children playing in the background. Waters melody is soft at through the first section as Gilmour adds overdubbed, sweet slide effects. After a helicopter effect, the second part is shorter with much more movement, vocal effects, and intensity, leading to group’s first and only number one hit, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”. Although composed by Gilmour and Waters, it is Ezrin who deserves much of the credit for the song’s success, as he advocated for both the disco-flavored drum beat by Mason and the second verse and chorus, which featured a choir of schoolchildren. Like many of the early songs on the album, this was originally written as just one verse and one chorus and was barely a minute long. Without the band’s knowledge, Ezrin copied the first verse and spliced it in as an exact second. Inspired by his own earlier work on Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, Ezrin overdubbed 24 tracks of kids singing and laid it on top. The band was initially resistant to this, but eventually relented.
“Mother” is notable for variations between pure folk and differntly-timed waltz. Recorded later in the recording of the album, session drummer Jeff Porcaro was hired to lay down the beat under the guitar solo and later verse/chorus. Both Waters and Gilmour share lead vocal duties in this building song of question and answer dialogue between son and mother. Starting side two, “Goodbye Blue Sky” begins briefly as a pleasant folk song, which quickly turns dark with foreboding synths backing the picked acoustic guitar. “Empty Spaces” was an abridged, last second replacement for the longer “What Shall We Do Now?”, which did not appear until the Pink Floyd The Wall movie. Notable for its backwards-masked message, “Empty Spaces” acts as a bridge to the standard hard rocker “Young Lust”, a song about casual sex that has more Gilmour influence than any other on the album.
Starting with “One of My Turns”, the first half of the album concludes with four tracks that painfully describe the final internal steps of building the protagonist’s wall. “One of My Turns” is split into distinct segments, starting with a groupie’s monologue, followed by a soft ballad with Waters accompanied only by a synth-organ. Finally, the song snaps into a hard rock rendition of the protagonist’s violent breakdown, which terrifies the groupie. “Don’t Leave Me Now” uses some interesting sound and production techniques but has minimal lyrical content, while “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3” is a much more rage-filled rendition of the earlier melody. Finally, this cross-fades into “Goodbye Cruel World”, a delicate song builds on Waters two-note bass riff and the slightest synth by Wright. The vocals are haunting and dry to end the first act of The Wall.
“Hey You” is an excellent song which uniquely sits just outside the album’s concept. In fact, this song, sounds like it may have fit in better on the previous Wish You Were Here or Animals albums. Starting with Gilmour’s crisp acoustic and smooth vocals, the mesmerizing ballad gains rock instrumentation on the way to the climatic guitar solo followed by the frantic last verse sung by Waters. The spooky “Is There Anybody Out There?”, starts with a horror movie like intro where the title is spoken several times in a well-treated voice. Then the song turns quite classical and sweet with an instrumental passage led by the classical guitar of session man Joe DiBlasi, backed by an orchestral arrangement. “Nobody Home” is a deep ballad that features Ezrin on piano behind Waters’ fine lyrical motifs. Two very short tracks follow which harken back to Britain during World War II. “Vera” directly references British singer Vera Lynn, who had a very popular song called “We’ll Meet Again” during the mid 1940s, while “Bring the Boys Back Home” is driven by military snare drums, a brass orchestra, and a deep choir accompanying Waters’ strained vocals.
“Comfortably Numb” is one of the most indelible tracks on The Wall due to its pure theatrical sound and lyrical dialogue. Much like “Mother” earlier on the track, Waters and Gilmour vocalize separate characters through the contrasting verses and choruses. Gilmour composed the music as an instrumental during the recording of his self-titled debut album in 1978. Waters changed the key of the verse and added the lyrics and title. However, it wasn’t all happy cooperation as this song sparked a bitter internal fight over two distinct productions of the song. Waters wanted a more stripped-down version while Gilmour advocated for Ezrin’s grander orchestral version. In the end, they compromised with the lyrical areas keeping the orchestral arrangement and Gilmour’s closing guitar solo playing over the band’s rock backing.
The fourth and final side of the original LP contains the most movement musically. The short linking track “The Show Must Go On” was to originally include The Beach Boys’ doing the backing vocals, but ultimately Bruce Johnston was the only member of that band to be recorded, along with a vocal ensemble that included Toni Tennile of The Captain and Tennile (these same backing vocalists were used for “Waiting For the Worms” later on side 4). “In the Flesh” is a reprise of the opening track which starts a violent sequence of songs where the story’s protagonist envisions himself as a fascist dictator and his concerts a political rally where “undesirables” are thrown “up against the wall” in an apparent Che Guevera-type execution method. On “Run Like Hell”, the violence spills out into the streets as told through Waters’ ever-strained, multi-tracked vocals. Musically, this upbeat piece is one of the most rewarding on the album, featuring Gilmour playing ostinato with rhythmic echoes, the only keyboard lead by Wright, and tactical effects and screams to frame the intended scenes.
“Waiting for the Worms” is less frantic but just as potent as its preceding track, with Gilmour and Waters alternating vocals and moods once again. Political and philosophical, this track straddles the lien between the internal strife of the protagonist and real-life commentary on the British empire itself. During the climatic outro, a crescendo is built until it crashes to a halts with “Stop”, where the hallucination ends and the protagonist resolves to settle his own mind once and for all. “The Trial” was composed by Waters and Ezrin and is unlike any song ever made by Pink Floyd. With Waters using several distinct voices to play the various characters. Most of the actual music is performed by the Kamen-conducted New York Symphony Orchestra in grandiose style, with a nice guiding piano by Wright and just a few splashes of traditional rock elements added by Gilmour and Mason. Ultimately, the judge renders his verdict and orders, “tear down the wall!” with a subsequent, repeated climatic chorus. “Outside the Wall” is a dénouement to the album, which takes place in the uncertain time after the wall has been torn down.
One of the best selling albums of 1980, The Wall had sold over 23 million by century’s end. It topped the charts in six different countries, including the United States, and reached the Top 10 in several more. Pink Floyd The Wall followed as a major motion picture in 1982. The band followed the album with a highly theatrical tour which included the building (and tearing down) of a 40-foot high wall of cardboard bricks on the stage. This would be the last Pink Floyd to include Waters (who left the band in 1983) and the recently-fired Wright was hired on as a paid touring musician for this tour. Ironically, he was the only musician to make money, as the other three absorbed financial losses due to the elaborate production. In 1990, Waters broke out this elaborate set for a single concert to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall called The Wall – Live in Berlin.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.
Roger Waters commenced his post-Pink Floyd career with a concept album that he largely composed while still an active member of the group in the late 1970s. The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking was actually released a year before Waters made the official announcement of his departure from the band, but by early 1984 he had apparently already made up his mind. The previous year, Pink Floyd released The Final Cut, which got a disappointing reception both critically and commercially, and Pink Floyd did not opt to support the album with a tour, as both Waters and guitarist David Gilmour began work on separate solo records.
The concept of The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking was developed by Waters in 1977 and presented to Pink Floyd along with an alternate concept. Ultimately, the group chose the alternative, which was developed into Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Waters had decided early on to use whichever was not chosen by the band as a solo project and, in 1983, he revisited this concept. The story focuses on a man’s dreams in real time during the early morning hours of a day, which weave in and out of interlocking stories.
Musical conductor and pianist Michael Kamen co-produced the album with Waters and together they put together a talented ensemble of musicians and singers. This started with drummer Andy Newmark, who Waters used on a track of The Final Cut, and climaxed with legendary guitarist Eric Clapton. Brought in after the basic tracks had been recorded, Clapton nonetheless has a strong presence throughout this album and even shines brightest during a few brilliant musical moments.
The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hikingby Roger Waters
Released: April 30, 1984 (Harvest) Produced by: Roger Waters & Michael Kamen Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February–December 1983
4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad)
4:33 AM (Running Shoes)
4:37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies)
4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)
4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)
4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)
4:50 AM (Go Fishing)
4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)
4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)
5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)
5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)
5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars | Eric Clapton – Lead Guitars, Synths Michael Kamen – Piano | Andy Newmark – Drums, Percussion
While it is hard to compare the musical style of this album to anything else, there are a lot of the same elements as The Wall on this album. While the narrative is hard to decipher, the story is about an English man who’s married to an American wife (just like Waters) and begins with the man having a nightmare and we follow his dreams and reality for 45 minutes of real time. “4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad)” enters with plenty of sound effects and distant, theatrical guitar chords. There is a distant sound of a newsreader saying “Apparently they were traveling abroad and they picked up some hitchhikers…”, which seems to be the catalyst for many of the dream-stories about traveling and hitchhikers. On this track Waters establishes a melody that recurs throughout the album. “4:33 AM (Running Shoes)” is much stronger musically with tension-filled drums, screams of backing chorus, and wailing saxophone by David Sanborn.
In the dream narrative, the main character has an affair with a young female hitchhiker but wakes next to his wife with a strong feeling of guilt. This guilt materializes into another nightmare where Arab terrorists threaten him because of his infidelity. In “4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)”, the character straddles a desperate state between dream and reality, with the most panicked, dream-induced screams. “4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)” is the most Pink Floyd-like track thus far, with everything being at maximum intensity and Clapton’s blues guitars throughout to accompany the great chorus passages with backing vocals. This song devolves to very quiet mid-section, where only Clapton’s guitar persists before everything eventually kicks back in. “4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)” closes the first side by again returning to the opening theme, as a soft singer/folk track. The story twists again as the scene changes from Europe to America (Wyoming) and the song slowly dissolves, some great honky tonk piano by Kamen, which perfectly compliments Clapton’s slide acoustic.
Side Two is far superior musically and the tracks are far more diverse melodically. “4:50 AM (Go Fishing)” is the best song on the album and a bona fide classic. The moods are perfectly illustrated and, unlike many other tracks, the story doesn’t alternate between dream and reality. The story talks about an experimental move to a simple life in the wilderness that eventually falls apart and breaks up the family, with the protagonist now finding himself as a hitchhiker. The outro has strong, slow rock with the best sax lead by Sanborn and an animated organ by Andy Bown.
Moving forward, we have the link song “4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)” with a slight, bluesy and jazzy piano. “4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)” is moody and moderate with some spoken effects in the background and melodic vocals out front, leading to the climatic “5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)”, the most upbeat and very entertaining rock song with a steady beat and many cool guitar licks. Lyrically, it breaks out of regular narrative to do an overview of everything.
The album’s closing sequence begins with the soft ballad “5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)”. Clapton’s guitar and Kamen’s piano notes are in perfect sync after the song proper tells a story of sympathy in the face of turmoil. Starting as simple acoustic ballad by Waters, this song becomes Clapton’s finest track on the album. “5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)” is a slow acoustic folk waltz, which utilizes the opening predominant theme to bookmark the album at its close.
The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking reached the Top ten in several countries, but did not fare as well in the U.S. . Waters, Kamen, Clapton and Newmark did go on a short tour to support the album, but the elaborate stage and effects ended up losing a large sum of money for Waters. A film based on this concept was proposed and some footage and animation completed by 1985, but this is yet to officially see the light of day.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.
A Saucerful of Secrets is the only album by Pink Floyd to feature all five group members. This was due to the album being recorded before (late 1967) and after (early 1968) the departure of guitarist and chief songwriter Syd Barrett. Due to this, the group took two separate approaches to the album, which was produced by Norman Smith and recorded mainly at Abbey Road Studios. The first was as a continuation of their successful 1967 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, while the latter approach was a journey into unchartered territory with tracks composed by other band members. The result is an album which contains as many (if not more) sound collages as it does proper rock songs.
After the release of the band’s debut in mid 1967, it was apparent that Barrett’s behavior was becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable. Barrett’s friend and “understudy” David Gilmour was brought in to help out with Barrett’s guitar and vocal parts live. During the earliest sessions for A Saucerful of Secrets in the Fall of 1967, Barrett was still considered the group’s chief songwriter and he did compose several songs. However, most of these recordings were omitted from the album, with “Apples and Oranges” and “Paint Box” released as the band’s third international single in October 1968, and the rest left off due to various levels of non-satisfaction. These included the tracks Vegetable Man”, “Scream Thy Last Scream”, and the maddening “Have You Got This Yet?”, which Barrett performed differently every single time, making it impossible for the other group members to learn their parts.
Barrett was dismissed from Pink Floyd in January 1968, leaving a new incarnation of Pink Floyd to finish the album. The band initially struggled to come up with this material, with all four remaining members contributing some songwriting and vocals. The first tracks from these sessions, “It Would Be So Nice” and “Julia Dream”, were also released as a non-album single in April 1968. After a few more songs were completed, the group still felt there was not enough material for an album and each contributed to the twelve minute, experimental title track to fill this gap.
A Saucerful of Secretsby Pink Floyd
Released: June 29, 1968 (EMI) Produced by: Norman Smith Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, October 1967-May 1968
Let There Be More Light
Remember a Day
Set the Controls for.. the Heart of the Sun
A Saucerful of Secrets
Rick Wright – Piano, Organ, Mellotron, Vocals Syd Barrett – Guitars, Vocals David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals Roger Waters – Bass, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums
A Saucerful of Secrets begins with a three part mini-suite called “Let There Be More Light”. The first part contains a really cool and sharp bass riff by Roger Waters which later dissolves into the bouncy and mocking main section, which alternates between the marching vocals of harmonies of the verse and the harder refrain part with Gilmour on vocals. The closing guitar section features Gilmour providing multiple riffs simultaneously. “Let There Be More Light” was also released in edited form as the fourth single by Pink Floyd.
“Remember a Day” was a song left over from the debut album and was written and sung by keyboardist Richard Wright with Barrett providing a lot of the effect through his slide, lead, and acoustic guitars. The most melodically cohesive song on the album’s first side, this song contains a great piano above a strong rhythm by Waters and drummer Nick Mason. The song was never performed live by Pink Floyd, making it a true forgotten classic from the era when the group was alternating between British pop and pyschedelia, as this song straddles both.
“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is the only song on which features all five group members. It was first performed and recorded with Barrett in 1967 and later featured guitar overdubs by Gilmour. Written by Waters, the lyrics were inspired by a book of Chinese poetry and the song was a successful part of their live set for years.
“Jugband Blues” is the only track on the album written and performed by Barrett and perhaps one of the most haunting songs with Syd apparently singing about his own demise; “…and I’m wondering who could be writing this song…” – an epitaph of Barrett’s short reign as band leader. Barrett enlisted a Salvation Army band to play on this eclectic track which features a three time signatures and dissolves into a slowly strummed acoustic during the final outro which closes the album along with Barrett’s tenor with Pink Floyd.
Waters’ rocker “Corporal Clegg” is the first Pink Floyd song to address the recurring theme of war, as Waters dedicated it to his father. Musically, the song features a good wah-wah guitar on top of a steady and melodic organ before breaking into odd but entertaining kazoo sections. The song is also notable for featuring rare lead vocals by Mason. The dreamy and distant “See-Saw” is the second song written and sung by Wright and features much of the same childlike themes of “Remember a Day”. It features strummed acoustic and a cool electric with heavy chorus effects along with a vibraphone, xylophone and strong mellotron, to convey a great mood and a totally Abbey Road production.
The title song, “A Saucerful of Secrets”, is a twelve minute experimental and avant-garde piece broken into four sub-chapters. It reaches an eerie climax in the first section before the brilliant “Syncopated Pandemonium” section, fueled by Mason’s drum loop, Wright’s haunting piano chords, and a wild theramin effect. Later the song settles into a melodic organ with vocal choruses in a section entitled “Celestial Voices”. “A Saucerful of Secrets” is what the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” should have been and has been dubbed a “masterpiece of psychedelic rock”.
The album A Saucerful of Secrets reached the Top Ten on the UK Albums charts and marked the beginning of an era when the band entered their most experimental phase. Syd Barrett went on to record two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett in 1970 with Gilmour and Waters helping out with production, before totally withdrawing from public life.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.
Perhaps the most complete concept album of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon was the ultimate redemption for Pink Floyd. Culminating years of progressive and experimental music, this album focused on the most atomic elements of human life (and not just the bright spots) and set it all to the beat of a human heart over a 44-minute journey that leaves the listener contemplating the larger picture from several angles. This album sits in a unique place in rock history, bridging the final days of the late 1960s psychedelic era with the new wave, electronic phase that dominated the late 1970s. It also is the perfect pivot point for Pink Floyd itself, representing their past (the opening sound-collage dominated sequence from the album’s start through the intro to “Time”), their present (more rock/pop oriented with long instrumental passages in the middle of the album), and their future (the ending medley, dominated by Roger Waters).
The concept was first introduced to the band by Waters immediately following the release of Meddle in 1971. Although Waters wrote all of the lyrics, The Dark Side of the Moon was the last complete band effort, with all four members getting composing credits. The music was composed and developed as a suite during live performances throughout 1972, with the band simultaneously recording the material for the album Obscured by Clouds. Recording for The Dark Side of the Moon took place at Abbey Road Studios in London, using some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time. The group, along with engineer Alan Parsons, made great use of multi-track recording, tape loops, analogue synthesizers, and a series of recorded interviews to give the album a completely original and unique sound. Snippets of voices were recorded when staff and other occupants of the studio answered a series of questions printed on flashcards. This in itself proved to be an interesting experiment as responses from Paul and Linda McCartney were not used because they seemed too calculating while the most notable responses came from the studios’ doorman, Gerry O’Driscoll.
Although the album only held the number one spot in the US for one a week, it remained on the chart for an incredible 741 weeks (over 14 years) and has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. Released 40 years ago today, The Dark Side of the Moon tops many lists as the greatest album of all time and is Classic Rock Review’s album of the year for 1973.
The Dark Side of the Moonby Pink Floyd
Released: March 1, 1973 (Capitol) Produced by: Pink Floyd Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, June 1972–January 1973
Speak to Me
On the Run
The Great Gig In the Sky
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars Roger Waters – Basss, Snyths, Vocals Richard Wright – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion
Each original side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The first side begins with “Speak to Me”, which forms a kind of overture previewing several sound snippets from the album. Drummer Nick Mason receives a rare solo writing credit because the only real instrumentation is his kick drum, treated to sound like a heartbeat. “Breathe” is a natural extension of the moody songs on previous albums with double-tracked vocals by David Gilmour. Slow and methodical, every note and beat counts while Gilmour adds rich in texture with overdubbed electric and pedal steel guitars. The lyrics are as simple and brief as the title and act as a short intro for the journey up ahead.
One of the amazing qualities of The Dark Side of the Moon is how the album instantly yet seamlessly switches moods, such as when it goes from ethereal “Breathe” to the frantic “On the Run”. This an instrumental piece was performed almost exclusively on an EMS synthesizer and is driven by entering an 8-note sequence repeated at a high tempo, with more voices and sound effects on top to make the piece ever-intensifying until it finally crashes at the end with what sounds like a crashing airplane. This leads to the long intro for “Time”, starting with a chorus of chiming clocks which were painfully recorded one by one by Parsons and various antique stores in London and then synced together through multiple tape machines. Next, comes a passage dominated by Mason’s drums with heavy use of rototoms and a backing “tick-tock” sound created by Waters picking two muted strings on his bass. When the song proper finally kicks in, it is a fantastic release into a full-fledged rock song which contains one of the greatest guitar leads ever. The song is incredibly simple, especially during the verse, but sounds so rich due to excellent production and musicianship. It contains deeply philosophical lyrics, sung by both Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright along with a chorus of female background singers. This is the final song to ever be credited to all four members of the band and is, perhaps, the best overall group effort in Pink Floyd’s long career.
After a short, one verse reprise of “Breathe”, appended to “Time”, comes the most unique and controversial song on the album. “The Great Gig In the Sky” has no legible lyrics, but instead contains about four minutes of improvised scat vocals by Clare Torry, a session singer who Parsons knew from other projects. Depending on your artistic point of view, this could be the worst or the best song on the album, the most meaningful or most absurd, and if nothing demonstrates why Pink Floyd is an acquired taste. Originally titled “The Mortality Sequence”, it is backed by a beautiful, minor key piano sequence by Wright and Torry added her vocals in one session which she entered without previously hearing the backing track. The band paid her sixty quid for the session and sent her on her way, not really hearing from her again until three decades later when Torry sued Pink Floyd and EMI for songwriting royalties, on the basis that her contribution constituted co-authorship with Richard Wright. Torry won the suit for an undisclosed amount and all pressings of the album after 2005 credit her as co-composer.
Side two begins with “Money”, a song which is a true double-edged sword, at once being one of the most recognizable and accessible Pink Floyd songs and one of the most overplayed and overrated. Still, for a hit song it is quite unique and artistically rewarding, written by Waters in the unusual 7/4 time signature for the verses before breaking into more standard, rock-oriented 4/4 time for Gilmour’s extended guitar solo in the middle. During this middle section the sonic tones are also adjusted, as a sparse “dry” section under subtle guitar licks is bookended by stronger dynamics with heavy use of reverb and chaotic drumming by Mason. The song also features a short saxophone lead by Dick Parry.
Parry and his sax have a more prominent role in “Us and Them”, a song about as moody and surreal as one can get while maintaining top notch rock status. It was released as a single in 1974, but kind of flopped as it failed to reach the Top 100 on the charts. However, but the more macro jury of time has rightfully judged this a true Pink Floyd classic. The tune was originally written on the piano by Wright for the film soundtrack Zabriskie Point in 1969 but was rejected by the film’s director. This slow paced, seven and a half minute song contains more spoken phrases which adds to the overall feel. “Us and Them” directly bridges to “Any Colour You Like”, another reprise of “Breathe” but from a totally instrumental approach. In fact, only Gilmour, Mason, Wright are credited for this composition, as Waters is oddly left out.
However, Waters does dominate the final two tracks on the album, taking on lead vocals as well as solo credit for “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”. Here the concept of “Dark Side of the Moon” is fully laid out with a sonically superior, perfect wrap to the album. Further, the larger picture of life itself is focused down to a particular individual as the insanity-themed lyrics are based on former band frontman Syd Barrett‘s mental instability, which began following the success of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967. Waters would re-visit Barrett’s situation in much more detail on the band’s next album Wish You Were Here. Musically, “Brain Damage” contains great layered guitars and a totally unique, synth-organ lead, while “Eclipse” reverts back to a more traditional band jam led by Wright’s Hammond organ. Both songs also contain great female backing vocals. When the main instrumentation fades the sound of the heartbeat from “Speak to Me” comes back to the forefront with one final, profound spoken part by door man O’Driscoll:
There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. (The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.)”
The members of Pink Floyd have long lamented the duality of feelings they have towards the success of The Dark Side of the Moon. It would work to at once validate them as a top-notch artistic group and fractured them as a cohesive unit. The quartet would have much more success throughout the seventies and maintained headlining status even after Waters departed in the eighties. But they would never again quite reach that moment in time when everything came together to create a true rock masterpiece.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.
One of the lost treasures of classic rock and, by far, the most overlooked album in the Pink Floyd catalog during their classic era, Obscured by Clouds acted as a mere warm-up for the more ambitious and highly-regarded Dark Side of the Moon. In fact, by the time Obscured was released in June 1972, the band had been performing material from Dark Side (then titled “Eclipse”) live for many months and had already entered the studio to start recording the 1973 classic. Many die-hard Floyd fans don’t even consider this a “real” album by the band, just the last in a series of soundtracks the group scored between 1968-1972. It is, in fact, a soundtrack for the French film La Vallée (The Valley) by Barbet Schroeder, but far surpasses the previous three; The Committee (1968), More (1969), and Zabriskie Point (1969).
The band itself largely disregarded the Obscured by Clouds album, starting with the rough production, which includes odd sequencing and abrupt endings. At times the album feels like a high-end demo tape and few tracks were ever played live in subsequent tours. Another element in the string of strikes against the album’s success was early pressings of the album were defective with excessive sibilance.
Despite all of this, the album is quite good musically. The band composed to a rough cut of the film, creating pieces that were intended to be cross-faded at various points in the film. But in the process, they managed to create a significant number of complete songs. The instrumentals float pleasantly, filled with interesting textures, but it is the proper songs which are the real standouts on this album, which in a lot ways completes the work started on 1971’s Meddle.
Obscured by Cloudsby Pink Floyd
Released: June 2, 1972 (EMI) Produced by: Pink Floyd Recorded: Strawberry Studios, Château d’Hérouville, France, Feb-Mar 1972
Obscured by Clouds
When You’re In
The Gold, It’s in the…
Wot’s, Uh…the Deal?
David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals Rick Wright – Keyboards, Vocals Roger Waters – Bass, Synths, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion
The album begins with a couple of under-cooked instrumentals, although the lead-off title track does have an interesting synth pulse throughout and a general guitar lead piece by David Gilmour (one of many elements which would recycled on Dark Side of the Moon). “When You’re In” contains a more rock-oriented riff and may be the final track credited to all four band members. It contains some nice fills by drummer Nick Mason but sounds as though it is an incomplete attempt at building a proper rock song.
“Burning Bridges” is a ballad which would have fit nicely on any Pink Floyd album. Vocally, it is a duet by Gilmour and keyboardist Rick Wright, who co-wrote the song and provides its mellow organ riff and melody. This became sort of the “movie theme” on the album as it is reprised later on side one with the instrumental “Mudmen”.
Another sign that the band did not take this album too serious was some of the odd naming of tracks, even some of the most interesting tracks on the album. “The Gold It’s in the…” is a pure rocker with a cool and hip early seventies, post-Beatles rock vibe. This particular song has produced polarizing opinions among fans and critics, with some purists feeling it was a shallow attempt at a contemporary rock sound, while others argue it shows their ability to diversify (I tend to agree with the latter). This song’s lyrics are also full of adventure and idealism, another rarity among Pink Floyd themes.
“Wot’s… Uh the Deal?” is as sweet a song as Pink Floyd had ever put out as well as the most totally underrated ever. Again, this may be in part to the obscure title (wot’s…uh the deal with that?). It is an acoustic ballad with double-tracked vocals by Gilmour and lyrics by bassist Roger Waters. The song features and extended piano instrumental which is then complemented by a fine slide-guitar solo. The lyrics are desperate and emotional, but not to the extent of being melodramatic or sappy.
“Free Four” is an absolute gem by Waters and, in truth, one of the best Pink Floyd songs ever. Thematically, it may be Waters’ first summation of the life and death themes he would deeply explore in Dark Side and beyond. It is also the only song on Dark Side of the Moon that features Waters on lead vocals, a role he would later dominate on his final three albums with the band. Unlike the other nonsensical titles, “Free Four” is easily attributed to the rock count-in and persists as an upbeat acoustic folk tune with great layered electric guitars by Gilmour and clap-like percussive drumming by Mason. “Free Four” was the first Pink Floyd song to get significant airplay in the USA.
Gilmour and Wright each also had a showcase song on side two. Gilmour’s “Childhood’s End” is the last song he would write independently while Waters was still with the band and contains a dramatic beginning (echoed in later years by U2) and rapid, rhythmic ticking which would be later recycled and perfected for “Time”. It was one of the rare tracks from this album to be performed live, often containing extended lead sections to feature Gilmour’s guitar playing. Obscured by Clouds is also the final Pink Floyd in their classic era to feature lead vocals by Wright on the melancholy love song “Stay”, a very well done ballad with more interesting guitars, piano, and organ. The album concludes with the experimental track “Absolutely Curtains” (which may have actually worked better as an opening track). The only really instrumentation comes from Wright, with some sparse percussion by Mason, through first three and a half minutes before dissolving into a vocal chant by Mapuga tribe of New Guinea (featured in the film).
Originally titled “The Valley”, the album was re-titled as Obscured by Clouds when the band fell out with the film company. This may be yet another reason why this great music has been so grossly understated over the past four decades.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1972 albums.
The Piper At the Gates of Dawn is the legendary debut album by Pink Floyd and the only album during their Syd Barrett-led era. This era began during the summer of 1965, when Barrett joined the established band which included his childhood friend Roger Waters and unilaterally began to call this band “The Pink Floyd Sound”, after a couple of obscure blues men he had in his record collection. By 1966, the band became part of London’s “underground” scene, gained some high connections, and played some high profile gigs attended by celebrities. In early 1967, the band signed with EMI and their debut album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with producer Norman Smith. The sessions had their share of turmoil as Barrett was unresponsive to direction and constructive criticism.
The sessions for The Piper At the Gates of Dawn came during the middle of a turbulent, exciting, and productive year for Pink Floyd, which also saw the release and charting of three non-album singles. “See Emily Play” was the highest charting on these early singles as the follow-up to “Arnold Layne”, a controversial song as it depicted a transvestite whose primary pastime was stealing women’s clothes and undergarments from washing lines and many English radio stations refused to play the song.
Knowing the band’s reputation for long and improvised live renditions, EMI gave Smith and the band free reign to create the album they wanted to make. There is a certain genius to this album which may take a lot of work for mainstream audiences to “get”. At just the age of 24, Barrett reached inside and tapped into a psychological world caught between the wondrous discoveries of childhood and the tragic revelations of a finite life. The also captures both the pleasure and madness of psychedelic music, all the more compelling in light of Barrett’s subsequent breakdown and deterioration which would force him out of the band within a year.
The album also contains many philosophical and intellectual elements, including it’s title, which Barret took from Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind In the Willows. Although the compositions are genius, there are some flaws in the production as the overall mix is a bit bright and the bass is woefully under-represented throughout. Still, the production is fine enough for the musical quality to shine through, especially for the seasoned listener.
The Piper At the Gates of Dawnby Pink Floyd
Released: August 4, 1967 (Capitol/EMI) Produced by: Norman Smith Recorded: EMI Studios, London, February – July 1967
Pow R Toc H
Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
Tracks On Alternate Album Versions
Candy and a Currant Bun
See Emily Play
Apples and Oranges
Syd Barrett – Guitars, Lead Vocals Richard Wright – Piano, Organ, Vocals Roger Waters – Bass, Vocals Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion
The album begins with “Astronomy Domine”, the ultimate space odyssey song with wild tremolo effects and a chanting vocal duet between Barrett and keyboardist Richard Wright. There is an extended instrumental section after first verse sequence before the song returns for the concluding sequence. the riff-driven “Lucifer Sam” follows with a cool, mid-sixties British groove, making the song a lot less psychedelic than those on the rest of the album.
“Matilda Mother” begins with some interplay between Waters’ bass and Wright’s organ, who plays a big role in the song by also taking on lead vocals. There are also some fine harmonies during the verses and a slow carousel-like sequence through the end. “Flaming” is another melody-driven song but with wild sound effects throughout as well as a bright acoustic guitar, overdubbed in the third and fourth verses and an odd, yet melodic middle break. “Pow R. Toc H.” is the first of two instrumentals on the album, with the heart of the song driven mainly by a blues riff (one of the few moments where Waters bass is well represented). This is a great early art piece by Pink Floyd, though there are times when the sound effects are just a tad overwhelming. According to drummer Nick Mason, the band members were present at Abbey Road when they watched The Beatles recording “Lovely Rita” for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and decided to try voice effects and noises similar for “Pow R. Toc H.”
Barrett wrote eight of the album’s eleven songs along with contributing to two instrumentals which were credited to the whole band. Waters was credited with one composition, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”. This closer of the first side is a more frenzied piece than anything else on the album, with Mason really shines on this track with a style of over-the-top drumming which should make Keith Moon proud.
Rumour has it that the band insisted in contract negotiations that “Interstellar Overdrive” remain in experimental form on the debut album. The song, which became the the unofficial theme song of the underground event “the fourteen hour technicolor dream”, was the first recorded by the band in January. This instrumental starts strong, with a strong and catchy main riff, but within a minute and a half the song begins to deteriorate into a psychedelic collage of sound effects, which goes on for about seven minutes and may have be just a bit much for any sober listener.
Syd Barrett takes over the rest of the album, with some fine and interesting compositions. “The Gnome” is an upbeat, acoustic folk song with some exaggerated vocals by Barrett and some excellent bass by Waters. “Chapter 24” is perhaps the first deeply philosophical song by a band that would make their reputation exploring such matters. Barrett’s melody floats above the transcending musical motif with the middle part dissolving with a Middle-Eastern sounding organ. The song was inspired by by text from chapter 24 of the ancient Chinese script I Ching (The Book of Changes).
“The Scarecrow” is built on a series of percussive effects by Mason and organ flights by Wright. These at first sound disparate, but are soon held together by layered vocals in concert with tightly strummed electric guitars. An acoustic montage is later overdubbed over the whole ensemble in the outro.
“Bike” is the most brilliant and chilling song on the album, and perhaps the quintessential Syd Barrett song. Lyrically, the song is metered like a 10-year-old’s boasting rant about disparate subjects during the verse and a melancholy chorus about a “girl who fits in with my world”. Knowing of Barrett’s eventual mental demise, the song has turned out to be extremely profound. Musically, the song is driven by good piano and effects by Wright throughout and rock driven rock verses with softer, melodic choruses through the song proper, which lasts less than two minutes. The song and album concludes with a psychedelic reprise of sound collages.
After the release of the album in August 1967, Pink Floyd continued to perform in London, drawing ever larger crowds. But Barrett’s mental state continued to deteriorate and soon he got to the point where he could not perform onstage. Aside from a few more single tracks and one song on the next album, Barrett would not perform with the band again, making The Piper At the Gates of Dawn, a truly unique work.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1967 albums.
For what turned out to be his final solo studio album (to date, 20 years and counting), Roger Waters composed a complex (and often confused) concept album called Amused to Death. The title came from a book by author Neil Postman, which explored the history of the media and the concept (although cloudy) is of aliens arriving after the extinction of humans and finding all our skeletons sitting around television sets and trying to work out why it was that our end came before its time. They come to the conclusion that we “amused ourselves to death”. While the album follows the same calm, storytelling, musically rich template of Waters’ two previous solo efforts, this album seems to be the most directly influenced by that material of Waters’ former band, Pink Floyd. In fact, there appears to be some direct sampling from Pink Floyd songs “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”, “Echoes” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.
Lyrically, the album is brimming with hate on a variety of subjects from capitalism to America to religion to war to television to Stanley Kubrick to Andrew Lloyd Weber. Waters makes a few good points on these varied subjects, with the better use of sarcasm in these instances. However, the logic of the vast rants on Amused to Death is convoluted, such as when Waters somehow ties Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalists (deposed in 1949) to the slaughter at Tienanmen Square 40 years later by the very Communists that deposed them. He also applies moral relativism to the “Germans killing the Jews” and the “Jews killing the Arabs”. But the greatest offense may just be the mere fact that so much of the lyrical material seems dated and irrelevant, unlike past efforts which seem timeless and relevant to any era. Just take the example of Waters harping on television habits from his perspective at the dawn of the Internet age. A futurist, Mr. Waters is not.
Conversely, the album is superb musically. Waters’ enlisted legendary guitarist Jeff Beck to play lead guitar and a whole host of talent to provide additional music and vocal support. Amused to Death is mixed in QSound, a virtual surround sound, which enhances the spatial feel of the audio along with the various sound effects sprinkled throughout the album. The quality of production by Waters, Nick Griffiths, and Patrick Leonard is simply superb and makes this album worthwhile for any audiophile even if you like nothing else.
Amused to Deathby Roger Waters
Released: September 7, 1992 (Columbia) Produced by: Roger Waters, Nick Griffiths, & Patrick Leonard Recorded: Various Locations, 1988-1992
The Ballad of Bill Hubbard
What God Wants, Part I
Perfect Sense, Part I
Perfect Sense, Part II
The Bravery of Being Out of Range
Late Home Tonight, Part I
Late Home Tonight, Part II
Too Much Rope
What God Wants, Part II
What God Wants, Part III
It’s a Miracle
Amused to Death
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synthesizer, Guitars Jeff Beck – Guitars Andy Fairweather Low – Guitars Patrick Leonard – Piano, Keyboards Graham Broad– Drums, Percussion
“The Ballad of Bill Hubbard” starts the album off with a spoken word story of the desperation of trying to save a comrade in the battle lines during World War I, recited in the first person by Alf Razell after some introductory David Gilmour-like guitar motifs by Jeff Beck, who continues to add licks even after the recital commences. The song abruptly “changes channels” into the upbeat and funky “What God Wants, Part I”, the first single from the album, banned by the BBC due to controversial lyrics. Driven by the bass of future American Idol judge Randy Jackson, we hear Waters voice for the first time on this track and it is quite clear that his voice is very rough and shot.
“Perfect Sense, Part I” contains a beautiful moody piano and dual lead vocals by Waters and female soul singer PP Arnold, while “Perfect Sense, Part II” contains a sequence where sports commentator Marv Albert darkly simulates a nuclear missile attack as a sporting event. “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” is musically the best song on the album, with a strong rock arrangement and interesting chord progressions, but it again comes off preachy lyrically.
The album settles down again with “Late Home Tonight” with some interesting strings and acoustic guitars accompanying Waters speaking before the calmness is shattered by the sound of a huge explosion. “Too Much Rope” features guitarist Andy Fairweather Low, who performed on Waters’ previous studio album Radio K.A.O.S. as well as many live tours. “Watching TV” is arranged like a happy-go-lucky acoustic country folk song with the very dark lyrical subject of the Tienanmen Square massacre, as Waters sings of his “yellow rose and her blood stained clothes”. Don Henley later shares lead vocals on the song.
The album concludes with three extended pieces, which many consider the climax of the album. “It’s a Miracle” is very sarcastic in content, with a tight composition and catchy melody. It highlights Waters very sharp satire with lyrics such as;
“We’ve got a warehouse of butter, we’ve got oceans of wine / We’ve got famine when we need it, got a designer crime / We’ve got Mercedes, we’ve got Porsche, Ferrari and Rolls Royce, we’ve got a choice…”
“Three Wishes” is a more personal song, a quality evident in the earlier works by Waters, with quality music and sad lyrics. The closing title song, “Amused to Death”, is a nine minute package of cynicism and sarcasm, with a tinge of hope at the end. The theme comes full circle as Bill Hubbard is laid to rest and memorialized.
There was no tour in support of Amused to Death and selections from the album were performed sparingly on future tours by Waters. As this may be the final studio output by the musical genius, it is worth a careful listen or two, even if it falls short of Roger Waters’ lyrical capabilities.