Tag Archives: Roger Waters

Rocks In The Attic #696: Pink Floyd – ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (1967)

RITA#696Is there a more important year in music than 1967? It seems to exist as a pivot between then and now, the old and new, the past and the future. Thanks to that year’s rebooted technicolour of the Beatles, and similarly colourful debuts by (the) Cream and (the) Pink Floyd, the floodgates were opened and the rules were rewritten.

Pink Floyd must have been some whacky sight to behold around this time. Who would have thought that such a pretentious bunch of architecture and art students playing freak-out music in front of a trippy light show would become one of the world’s biggest stadium rock bands? At this point, it’s still very much Syd Barrett’s band – his off-kilter rhymes and childlike lyrics drive the record along, with very little of the form and function that would characterise the band after Roger Waters took control.

Compared to the comparatively conventional beat music that had peppered the charts over the previous five years, the primitive and experimental feel to Floyd’s early music is almost proto-punk, a pre-echo of that other seminal year in music a decade later.

RITA#696aHearing a Pink Floyd song on the soundtrack to a film is thankfully a rare thing, but I appreciated the appearance of the brilliant Interstellar Overdrive on the otherwise dull Doctor Strange a couple of years ago. The outlandish asking price for last year’s Record Store Day 12” live version of the song was too much for me, but for this year’s Record Store Day I hunted down this mono reissue of the album, in a lovely redesigned outer sleeve by Aubrey Powell at Hipgnosis.

Far out, man.

Hit: Astronomy Domine

Hidden Gem: Lucifer Sam

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #678: Pink Floyd – ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Season’ (1987)

RITA#678Floyd should have called it a day after Roger Waters left.

In fact, I dislike The Final Cut so much, they should have ended it after The Wall as far as I’m concerned. What was left after his departure was an empty shell of a band, driven by David Gilmour’s amateurish mundane lyrics – assisted by red wine and cocaine – and a vain attempt to recreate the musical feel of Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Is this actually Pink Floyd, because it really sounds like Tears For Fears popped into the studio to write and record the instrumental Terminal Frost?

That said, Lapse is still the most listenable – and least offensively boring – of the three post-Waters studio albums. The production and sound effects hark back to the glory days of classic Floyd, and the cover art, by returning Floyd alumni Storm Thorgerson, is a great image of an endless row of hospital beds on the English coast.

But the most telling part of the record’s packaging is the band photo found inside the inner gatefold. With keyboardist Richard Wright officially out of the band due to legal reasons, and only credited in the liner notes for his contributions to the recording, David Bailey’s photograph of the 1987 version of Pink Floyd features just the pairing of guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason.

It marks the first time since 1971’s Meddle that a photo of the band has appeared in the artwork for any of their albums. But where the warts-and-all shot of Meddle presents the band as edgy students, Lapse now shows them as smug yuppy businessmen.

Hit: Learning To Fly

Hidden Gem: Signs Of Life

RITA#678a

Rocks In The Attic #660: Roger Waters – ‘The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (1984)

RITA#660“Mum, you know I can’t drink that wine!”

“Why not?”

“Durr…” (rolls eyes, points to own stomach) “ – PREGNANT!”

Two nights ago, I saw Roger Waters in Auckland on his Us + Them world tour. I’ve seen him in concert before, six years ago in the same venue, performing The Wall (more on that overheard mother-daughter exchange later). That 2012 was a fantastic show, and something I’ll never forget, but you probably had to be a fan of The Wall to truly enjoy it. This current tour is almost a fully dedicated Pink Floyd greatest hits set, and so there was lots to like.

Opening, of course, with Breathe, the set included the lion’s share of Dark Side Of The Moon, a couple of songs from Wish You Were Here – its title track plus Welcome To The Machine – and the more well-known songs from The WallThe Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall parts 2 and 3, played as one continuous piece, and encores of Mother and Comfortably Numb.

What surprised me though was the portion of the set allocated to Animals – the oft-overlooked 1977 Pink Floyd album (overlooked only in relation to its chronological neighbours Wish You Were Here and The Wall). Up to that point, the concert had been your standard, straightforward arena show: one stage, band playing, big screen at the back projecting images alternating between the band playing, and artful, mind-bending imagery.

But as the band kicked into Dogs, a huge structure descended from the roof of the arena. The four chimneys of the Battersea Power Station emerged telescopically next to an in-scale flying pig, while the sides of the power station were projected onto massive screens. The whole piece looked like the front cover of Animals was floating in the middle of Auckland’s Spark Arena (as a sidenote, the former name of the arena – the Vector Arena – was a more fitting name to host Roger, particularly if Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band was playing saxophone).

RITA#660a
Dogs segued into Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Waters used this as his opportunity to shame Donald Trump. The band donned pig masks and sat around a dining table sipping from champagne flutes, while a selection of Trump’s inane (or should that be insane?) tweets were projected onto the walls of the power station. ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ eventually appeared inscribed on the screens as the song climaxed.

RITA#660b

I really appreciate that Waters is still (seemingly) a fan of the Animals record. When it was overlooked as one of the Immersion box sets a few years ago, it seemed to lose some of its cachet. Perhaps it was an absence of decent additional material that could have fleshed out such a set, but it just seemed to be a snub for a record that resonates so much with fans as the last true Floyd album (if you follow the theory that The Wall and The Final Cut are just Roger Waters solo albums in everything but name).

The other highlight of the set for me was the inclusion of One Of These Days, the bass-heavy opening song from 1971’s Meddle. I love this song – it’s in my top 5 Floyd tracks – and so when Waters strummed that first heavily-delayed bass note, I let out a squeal of excitement much to the amusement of my wife.

The rest of the show featured everything you’d expect from a Roger Waters show (or a Pink Floyd show for that matter): laser projections, a school choir for Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, a huge inflatable pig flying around the arena (much more manoeuvrable these days thanks to drone technology), and lyrics to die for. If there’s ever been a finer quartet than ‘And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death’, I’d really like to know.

My only disappointment was the absence of Shine On You Crazy Diamond – but I presume this was substituted for the Animals suite due to its topicality in terms of world events. Hopefully he’ll return to New Zealand one day and I’ll get to see him play it.

My experience in seeing Roger Waters play live twice now is that he never fails to attract New Zealand’s cream of the bogan crop. When we saw The Wall, I invested in very expensive diamond tickets, just a few rows from the front. We’ll be away from the riff-raff here, I thought. How wrong I was. To my right sat a twenty-something blonde, dressed like a stripper, accompanied by her forty-something mother. They looked so similar – blonde with roots, caked in make-up, stumbling in ridiculously high heels – they could have been sisters. After the older one returned from the bar, forgetting that her daughter was pregnant (she drank the wine regardless), they proceeded to stand-up in their seat, and danced along to the show. Not a huge problem you might say, but the people sat behind them who had shelled out $400 a ticket thought differently. Security was called after they became belligerent and abusive, and they were thrown out.

This time around, we were sat in the cheap seats with a group of drunken bogans sat behind us. Before the show started, one of them kicked a full tray of drinks over, with the resulting liquids spilling under our seats. They apologised, and it wasn’t too much of a problem, so fair enough. The guy sat directly behind me then thought it was acceptable to put his feet up onto the top of my chair, which I just sat back on, his toes digging into my back, until he got the message and stopped.  Then during the show, one of the males spat his drink out, laughing at something one of his companions had said. My wife took the brunt of it to the side of her face, while a lady in front of her stood up and turned around to give him an absolute bollocking. As I was debating whether to notify security – I wasn’t too sure what had happened, or whether it was accidental or a malicious act – one of their party returned from the bar and passed my wife and I a whiskey and coke each to apologise.

I appreciated this greatly – but the exchange did take me by surprise and as a result I missed Roger singing my favourite lines from Wish You Were Here: ‘Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage?’

Oh well, maybe next time (and I hope there will be a next time)..

I don’t know The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking too well, despite having heard it a number of times. I really need to listen to it more – and probably through headphones so I can pick up on all the little nuances and snippets of dialogue. It’s an album that’s crying out for an accompanying film (like Alan Parker’s 1982 film of The Wall), and while such a project was initially mooted, nothing has emerged in the subsequent 35 years.

Hit: 5:01 am (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)

Hidden Gem: 4:47 am (The Remains of Our Love)

RITA#660c

Rocks In The Attic #432: Pink Floyd – ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970)

RITA#432Of the Floyd’s run of albums primarily driven by Roger Waters’ songwriting (Atom Heart Mother all the way up to The Wall), this was the one I discovered last. It’s one of my favourites though, alongside Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. I struggle with anything prior to this. I have Ummagumma, but I seldom listen to it, and the Syd Barrett albums don’t really float my boat either.

Everything about Atom Heart Mother is awesome, from the cover to the wicked Atom Heart Mother Suite that takes up the whole of the first slide, to the collection of random hippy-inflected songs on side two.

That first side is where it’s at though. It’s killer. It’s ominous. It sounds so wrong yet so right at the same time. The orchestra must have wondered what on earth this long haired hippy was telling them to play. I once heard the band play it live on the radio – presumably from one of the only times it was played live. My father-in-law turned it off in disgust, saying “This isn’t Pink Floyd!”

What is Pink Floyd though? For the vast majority of casual listeners, Pink Floyd equals Dark Side Of The Moon. But as we all know, that isn’t true at all.

Hit: Atom Heart Mother Suite

Hidden Gem: If

Rocks In The Attic #398: Various Artists – ‘Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds’ (1978)

RITA#398I was listening to a film podcast the other day – the BBC Radio 5 Live radio show with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode – and they were talking about must-see films for kids to watch before they reach the age of 10. Listeners were emailing with their suggestions and the usual suspects came up, leading to a definitive list being drawn up by the end of the show:

1. Karate Kid
2. Spirited Away
3. Finding Nemo
4. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
5. Star Wars
6. The Goonies
7. Watership Down
8. To Kill A Mockingbird
9. The General
10. Big

I’d agree with most of those – it’s bloody hard to pull such a list together with so many choices. Where’s Back To The Future? Where’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark? Ghostbusters? Jaws? What about the James Bond films – a multitude of options?

On the show, they were talking about films with a scary element or an emotional edge to them, which are usually the ones that stick in your mind at that age – hence Spirited Away and Watership Down in the list. I’d put Stand By Me in there also – although I’d probably only show that to a 9 or 10 year old. That Ray Brower kid by the train tracks probably isn’t a good sight for a 6 year old. I’d also put a wildcard in too – Joe Dante’s Explorers, from 1985 – a film that should have received a lot more attention than it ultimately did.

If I had to choose, my top 10 would be:

1. Star Wars
2. Jaws
3. Ghostbusters
4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
5. Stand By Me
6. Explorers
7. Back To The Future
8. The Goonies
9. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial

..and my last on the list would be…

10. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds

Okay, so it’s not a film. But what other top 10 list for kids is it going to go on? Top 10 musicals? Surely only effeminate boys with an unhealthy interest in dressing up in Mummy’s clothes would be concerned with such a list. Top 10 prog-rock double albums? I’m not sure you’ve ever asked an 8-year old to listen to The Wall, but the nightmares inside the mind of Roger Waters aren’t for developing minds. Top 10 spoken word recordings by Richard Burton? The horror!

No, I put War Of The Worlds in there because it’s so good at drawing a visual picture of what’s going on (assisted by the great drawings in the booklet) that it might as well be a film. A great story (courtesy of H.G. Wells of course), great music, great narration by Burton and appearances by the likes of Justin Hayward, David Essex and Phil Lynott – what more could you want? Except a pair of huge headphones so you can really immerse yourself in the story). Jeff Wayne really pulled together something magical.

And for Bond films, I’d expect any 10 year old to have seen them all by that age anyway!

Hit: The Eve Of The War – The Black Smoke Band, Justin Hayward & Richard Burton (narration)

Hidden Gem: Horsell Common And The Heat Ray – The Black Smoke Band & Richard Burton (narration)

Rocks In The Attic #307: Lorde – ‘Pure Heroine’ (2013)

RITA#307Last Wednesday night I stood on Auckland’s waterfront and watched a homecoming gig by a 17-year old New Zealander who had just won two Grammys in Los Angeles a couple of days before. As far as expecting to see things like this happen again, I think seeing Halley’s Comet before we’re next due to would be more likely.

Without consciously meaning for it to be, Lorde’s Pure Heroine has been the soundtrack of my summer – just like Tame Impala’s Lonerism was the soundtrack of my winter last year. I’d like to think I’d rate her without all the hype, but then again I can’t imagine I would have heard any of her music without it.

I remember seeing the first photo of her – a publicity photo in The Listener sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. She was just a cute girl (steady…) with nice hair, sat next to a dog and a couple of words about her being someone to watch out for. But the press is always full of next big things – if you always listened to journalists about these things, you’d be constantly let down.

Then all of a sudden, Royals is #1 in the US charts for nine weeks, and then at the top of the UK charts. The scary thing though was the sheer amount of whacky covers of the song that popped up on YouTube; and then of course New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome rears its ugly head and she starts to be shot down online and in the press. You’d think music critics (and musos in general) who usually champion New Zealand music would welcome her success, but no, they’re happier supporting the likes of Anika Moa and Dave Dobbyn. In New Zealand, it’s considered successful if you’re famous in New Zealand and New Zealand only.

On Wednesday night’s concert, she rolled out album-opener Tennis Court mid-set. It’s my favourite song on the album and every time I hear it, I always think the world’s got it wrong with Royals. Part of the success of that song must surely be the fact that it’s essentially a nursery rhyme – I mean, we can’t expect the American record-buying public to have sophisticated tastes, can we? Remember, this is the country that gave us Foreigner and Toto.

But for me, Tennis Court is where it’s at. In fact, I wouldn’t have bought the album had I not seen the awesome minimalist music video for that song. Royals may have alerted the world to Lorde, but Tennis Court shows that she can produce music that’s world-class. The rest of the album is pretty strong too. I wouldn’t say that Joel Little’s production sounds particularly cutting-edge; if anything, it sounds like early-2000s downbeat electronica out of the UK – think Zero 7; but the centrepiece is Lorde’s voice, and while she may not be as retro-sounding as Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Adele, there’s still something special about her.

One little thing I like about the production on the album is its cyclical beginning and end – with ‘Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk’ the first line on the album, and ‘Let ‘em talk’ the final line. I love that sort of thing, very Roger Waters at the end of The Wall – ‘Isn’t this where we came in?’

I guess we now have to sit back and see what Ella Yelich-O’Connor does next. I do agree that she’s currently the antidote to the Miley Cyruses and Katy Perrys of the world, so hopefully she’ll continue down that path and avoid the pitfalls of glamour and celebrity.

Hit: Royals

Hidden Gem: A World Alone

Rocks In The Attic #295: Andrew Lloyd Webber – ‘The Phantom Of The Opera (O.S.T.)’ (1987)

RITA#295One of the things I most regret about leaving the UK is that I didn’t go to see any West End productions when I had the chance. My parents took me to see Barnum – a musical about the famous American circus promoter, and starring Michael Crawford – when I was 9 or 10; but I seem to remember I was more excited about the awesome A-Team figures I’d just managed to score from the McDonalds around the corner.

These days I have the opportunity to see touring musicals when they play in Auckland – Wicked has just spent its ten-year anniversary as a musical while playing at the Civic – but seeing a show here is filled with jeopardy. We don’t seem to get many British or American productions; usually it will be the Australian version of the show and who wants to see Les Miserables crippled by a thick Australian accent?

Worse still, a couple of years ago we had Cats play at the Civic in Auckland. The advertising and posters would lead you to believe it was an official production – British, American or Australian – as they used the original artwork you would associate with the original Andrew Lloyd Webber show; but things were not as they seemed. Friends of mine who went to the show were horrified to learn – once they’d sat in their seats, of course – that the production was by the Howick Players, a local theatre troupe. I find the simple fact that there’s a group of amateur dramatic called the Howick Players amusing enough, but then to learn that they skilfully passed off their show as a West End production (until they stepped on the stage in dollar-shop costumes) is hilarious. I think the Howick Players might just be my favourite local theatre group.

I’ve never seen The Phantom Of The Opera so I can’t comment on how representative the soundtrack album is. It’s the original cast recording – Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, etc – so I’d guess it’s the genuine article, or as close as you can get. There’s some cracking tunes on this – The Music Of The Night, Think Of Me, and the title track of course – but it’s not the easiest musical to listen to. It’s very wordy, and I know musicals need to have some form of dialogue to advance the narrative, but the big musical numbers seem to be outweighed by lengthy passages where the players sing a truckload of dialogue.

I’d always thought Echoes by Pink Floyd sounded familiar when I first heard it. Roger Waters claims – with good reason, too! – that Andrew Lloyd Webber stole the descending/ascending motif from this song for the title track of Phantom. I just heard Phantom first (unfortunately). You can understand where Waters is coming from – he definitely has a point. You don’t really hear it said much these days, but the early Lloyd Webber productions were always regarded as operas with a rock slant, so it’s not too far-fetched to assume the maestro would have his ears open to what was happening in that genre of music. There are other parts of Opera that scream Pink Floyd to me – the cries of “Sing For Me!” at the end of the title song reek of Roger Waters circa The Wall.

Waters has never officially challenged Lloyd Webber over the plagiarism, but he has mentioned him in song. The lyrics to one of his solo recordings, It’s A Miracle, reads:

We cower in our shelters,
With our hands over our ears,
Lloyd Webber’s awful stuff,
Runs for years and years and years,
An earthquake hits the theatre,
But the operetta lingers,
Then the piano lid comes down,
And breaks his fucking fingers,
It’s a miracle!

Hit: The Music Of The Night

Hidden Gem: Think Of Me