Continuing the process of digitising my Pink Floyd archive for the forthcoming Rockopedia extract, here’s an article I wrote for Kerrang in 1984 (Note: If anyone can give me a precise publication date, I’d appreciate it):
It’s only a f**king rock’n’roll band.”
On the eve of his Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking shows at Earls Court and Birmingham NEC, Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters talks to Karl Dallas
“Earlier this year we went skiing and I was in the shop, paying a bill, and there was a woman standing there whom I knew slightly. I was waiting for my bill and she was buying something, a tea strainer. Quite suddenly she said to me: Where was your father killed? I was very surprised and blurted out: Oh, Anzio.
“Now this is a woman of about my age so she’s 40-ish. She said: My father was killed in the war. Apparently, somebody lent her a copy of The Final Cut and she had listened to the whole thing and had found it very moving. In fact it had reduced her to tears.
“She told me this, standing in the shop, with some effort I suspect, and I remember thinking: That’s enough, really.
“It doesn’t matter if the Americans don’t buy it.” – Roger Waters
The surprise of the year has got to be the announcement that Pink Floyd’s Roger waters was taking his new album on the road in a superstar package that includes Eric Clapton.
After all, back in 1972, Obscured By Clouds soundtrack album hadn’t Roger Waters summed up what he thought of it all:
So all aboard for the American tour/And maybe you’ll make it to the top,/But mind how you go/I can tell you ‘cos I know/You may find it hard to get off.”
By 1977, the Floyd’s US popularity seemed to demand that they perform in vast stadiums, seating 80,000 to 90,000 people, though Roger had always been aware of the potential destructiveness of touring with a rock band.
He still recalls with amusement the way the 1975 tour reduced films special effects man Derek Meddings to a shadow of his former self when it took some time off from James Bond stunts to mastermind the Floyd’s flashes and bangs:
“He was a sort of bouncy, fit, special effects man from the film industry at the beginning of the tour and at the end he was just broken shell of a man. He just hadn’t understood how physically demanding it was to be part of a group on the road. He never did another tour. He went back into the film industry.”
(Meddings worked with the Floyd again, albeit briefly, concocting the “stab in the back” dagger on the sleeve of The Final Cut.)
And then there was the notorious incident during the final gig of the ’77 tour at the Olympic Stadium, Montréal, when Waters found himself spitting in the face of an over-enthusiastic fan.
The event had taken over.
According to Dave Gilmour, it was Waters who blew out the plans Floyd had for concerts last November, when the whole thing was almost ready to go. But now, Roger is going on the road again, a series of not-quite one-night stands: two nights in Stockholm … Rotterdam … two nights in Earls Court … two nights in Birmingham NEC … Dortmund… Frankfurt … Two night in Zürich … two nights in Paris … And then New York and two nights on the East Coast.
To hear him tell it, though, this one is different because he … is … now … autonomous.
Despite their image as a collective, Floyd always were Roger Waters’ band, at least by the mega-sales time after the departure of Syd Barrett, when Dark Side of the Moon started logging up its Guinness book of Records status for longevity in the Billboard charts, selling 14 million copies (a figure almost equalled, or even topped when you consider it’s a double album, by The Wall’s 13 million).
He was, of course, first among equals, and no one could minimise the contribution of Gilmour towards the sound that put Roger’s anguished songs into the charts.
Certainly Roger doesn’t, but as we talk in the kitchen of his comfortable – though hardly lavish – home while he bathes his fingers in toughening surgical spirit after the first of his punishing daily rehearsals with Eric Clapton et al, it becomes clear that relationships are – how shall I put it? – rather strained at present.
And though he says he still likes the last Floyd album, the perhaps prophetically titled The Final Cut, he admits that the tensions within the band got through on to the vinyl.
“I listened to it again, very recently,” he said, “because, for one thing, I’m having to listen to everything to decider which of my old songs to do in the first half of the Pros and Cons show. I really like some of it. I love all that atmospheric Southampton Dock stuff. I’m really proud of that.
“But in some of it, I can hear in my voice all the strain of the aggravation that was going on at the time. It affected the record.”
Not that strain and aggravation have prevented Floyd from making great albums in the past: notably Wish You Were Here (11 million copies sold), which was recorded at a time when they were so untogether that Roger quipped afterwards it should have been called Wish WE Were Here.
The same alchemy didn’t work on The Final Cut, though, he feels, because “the strains and aggravation meant that my mind wasn’t on it, not fully on it. It’s not easy making records, because you have to concentrate on it and sometimes it’s bloody hard.”
On the other hand, though the money men may wring their hands and the criticsd may gloat over the album’s “failure”, it needs to be remembered that The Final Cut did sell over three million copies, doing particularly well in Germany, almost as well in France and Italy, poorly in Britain – despite, or perhaps because of, its specifically British theme – and really quite badly in the States, where Maggie Thatcher and the Falklands probably didn’t mean a great deal to the average street-wise teenager.
“Quite badly”, to keep the thing in perspective, equals just under a million American sales, I gather, which many a lesser mortal would be content with. But the real reason he blew out the Floyd concerts was simply because he was already deeply into the new album and the possible tour.
“We were never going to tour, anyway. We might have done one gig for a TV simulcast, but I got involved with Pros and Cons and I thought I might well do something theatrical with it. I had a feeling at the time that I would try and organise it into theatre, I mean small theatre, rather than big rock theatre, but in the end, maybe because I feel confident about doing rock theatre, and also because Eric was pushing me to go on the road, I decided to go the Earls Court/Westfallen Halle route.”
Was he worried about the forthcoming tour?
“In ’77 I swore I would never do stadium shows again as they had turned me into an animal, and I never will. But this tour is completely different from the ’77 Floyd tour.
“This is very much more like doing the Wall shows. They were tough, even though they were only in sports arenas, and I carried the main burden of responsibility. There was much more to go wrong in that show than there is in this one.
“This one is cleverer, it’s just as effective but simpler to put up and knock down.”
The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking was conceived four or five years ago. In fact, when Roger played the demo to the rest of the band they rejected it in favour of The Wall because it was too personal, and therefore they felt it shouldn’t be a group record.
“Quite rightly, probably,” he reflects.
Anyone who keeps their ears open will notice some musical similarities between The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and The Wall, especially the powerful descending chords and melody of In the Flesh on the older album, which are musically implicit from time to time in this one.
But you’d be making a mistake if you’d seek a thematic link between the two, he says, apart from one place where it’s more of a joke.
“Actually that tune’s not from The Wall, it’s from The Pros and Cons. When we were recording The Wall, I needed a melody suddenly because it was developing as a theatrical idea. I thought: Hang on a minute, there’s one in The Pros and Cons. You could take it out of its quiet self and treat it very monolithically and bombastically and it would sound completely different and it might work. So I tried it and it did work within its new context. But for me it never lost its identity as this quiet, dreamy tune that was the beginning of The Pros and Cons.
“Actually I make the reference later on, in the middle of side two, at the end of Dun Roaming Dun Caring Dun Living, when the truckdriver is throwing the hero out of his cab, I get the orchestra to play it, and it resolves to E minor, so we actually do play it once like In the Flesh, which is just . . . a joke . . . for people who remember The Wall.
It always amazes me how people with ears to hear and eyes to read lyric sheets can miss the point of what a writer is on about. When Roger wrote Animals they missed the rage at the inhumanity of what we do to each other, and said he was describing us as no better than animals.
The Wall was just another album about a rock star’s hang-ups, they said, missing the very specific references to the Nuremberg Rallies of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. He says:
“The Wall was partly about the exercising of control by the person on the platform. It’s about a realisation that in a big stadium the feeling between the podium and the floor is an aberration. No positive human contact is made.”
And now I see some women’s groups are getting uptight about the artwork for Hitch Hiking, not realising that this illustrates but one facet of the dream it describes.
“The display of a non-violent sexual fantasy is not an incitement to rape,” he says.
Waters hates to say more about his personal life than is already revealed by his lyrics, but he was drawn by these criticisms to talk to me briefly about the experiences underlying the negative aspects of The Pros and Cons.
“Certainly, it’s partly about bad relationships with women. It’s also about good relationships with women. That is the point of the whole thing, and how it finishes up is how I’ve finished up, now: feeling good. But in the past I’ve had bad times. I mean, however good a relationship is, it’s bound to feel bad some of the time, unless you’re very comfortably numb, or very numbly comfortable.
“Some of my relationships have been bad in the past, yes. Certainly The Wall was about that. It was drawn largely from my relationship with my first wife, I suppose, and the divorce and all the rest of it. And some of this is, too.
“This was written at much the same time. The bones of the idea went down concurrently with the bones of the idea for The Wall, and as you rightly point out, this is the more personal statement about some of the same stuff. But the idea, I hope, has developed considerably since then.”
It is actually a long dream, a nightmare with a happy ending if you like, and I asked Roger if they were real dreams.
“Writers can only write from within themselves,” he said. “Dreams are only about yourself, even though other people appear in them. Normally the other people who appear in your dreams represent facets of your own inner self. They tell you things about yourself rather than about the outside world. Your sub-conscious uses other people in dreams to express itself. Usually it has nothing to do with them. So they tell me.
“Some of the ideas have come from nmy own dreams and also there are bits and pieces of other people’s dreams. In fact, the third verse of the album’s title track talks about standing on the wing of an aeroplane, looking down at the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and Yoko Ono being there, and telling me to jump, that everybody’s got to die some time and the manly thing is to end it all now.
“That dream belongs to Andy Newmark, the drummer. He came in one day and over lunch in the pub he told me about this dream, and I thought: That’s a good drea, I’ll try and fit that in somewhere. So I did.”
Inevitably, we talk about whether the Floyd will ever get together again, whether like some superstar bands – most recently, Deep Purple – the ex-friends become enemies, years later they get the urge to play together again, and so it happens: no real break, so no reformation, just a rather long rest.
Roger doesn’t see it happening, to be blunt.
“I mean, you’ve built up a big, safe, heavy band, you don’t throw it away lightly. But now that I’ve made my own record, I like being out on my own. I don’t want to hump the weight around any more.
“I already have ideas for two other albums, and there are also a couple of movies I may be involved in. I’ve always been quite interested in movies.
“Nick Roeg’s making a promo video for the single, and also he and a young film-maker called Bernard Rose are shooting footage for the Pros and Cons show, which I shall work on with Nick Thomson as editor. I think it’s more likely that it will develop into a concert TV special or something. There may even be a feature movie in there somewhere, trying to get out.
“But I’m not going to make it. I don’t want to make another feature film, not really. I don’t want all that aggravation again”
Roger gets impatient with the discussions of the Floyd’s future.
“It’s not that important. Who gives a f*ck? It’s only a f**king rock’n’froll band.”
So The Final Cut could really be final?
“Yeah, I would think so.”
Kerrang, 1984 (Asterisks inserted by the publication)