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 in 1979. 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 Hiking by 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 1984 albums.