The Final Cut
A Requiem for the Post War Dream
Written by Roger Waters
Performed by Pink Floyd
This album was released on March 1983 (UK) and 2 April 1983 (US). The record made it to Number 1 on the UK charts, and Number 6 on the US Chart. (Wikipedia)
The cover (the first time for a Pink Floyd album was not a Hipgnosis cover) was designed by Roger Waters and on the front depicts military medals ( 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Defence Medal, and Distinguished Flying Cross) whilst the back depicts a man stabbed in the back holding a film canister. (Wikipedia)
Already there is a theme occurring. Roger Waters. He not only wrote the album lyrics, but most of the music, and of course he designed the album covers. It’s widely argued that this was Roger’s first solo album as there was very little input from the remainder of Pink Floyd. David had four solos and singing credit on Not Now John and Nick was replaced on Two Suns in the Sunset. It’s well publicised that Rick had been fired during The Wall and made no appearance on The Final Cut. Still this album is credited as a Pink Floyd album, and scored accordingly in the Box Office. But its reign on the charts was short lived as a lot of die hard Pink Floyd fans bypassed even buying the album based on poor reviews.
This is not a Pink Floyd album. It is a Roger Waters album that uses some of the parts to achieve an aim. Water’s had wrested full control from the rest of the band and they pampered to his whims and fancies, just to get an album out for release as a Pink Floyd one (recording contractual agreement with EMI) – (David Gilmour interview and Wikipedia) The album continues on from where The Wall left off. The bulk of the creativity is Roger Waters, and the result is a very Roger Water’s feeling album, albeit more laid back than the full on Wall concept. During the recording of the album, (July – December 1982 – Wikipedia) Roger initially wanted to rework songs from The Wall movie and stage show to make this album the third The Wall LP, however during this recording phase, his interest shifted to what would become a strong anti war album in every sense of the word.
A Requiem for the Post War Dream. This became the focus for Roger, coinciding with Maggie Thatchers war with Argentina in 1982. The springboard was set, and what followed is what I call my favourite Pink Floyd album of them all. As addressed in other papers, I am an avid Roger Waters fan, for a number of reasons. He uses segue sound affects well, and he writes brilliant lyrics (none so more profound as The Gunners Dream.). His mastery of musical concepts as well makes for interesting sounds and songs. The onus on the listener on this album is not directed at haunting guitar solos or expansive keyboard sound affects, but the need to delve deep into the real heart of the songs, the lyrics.
This album was also their first album to utilise holophonics (a three dimensional sound reproduction system) and when listened to on headphones or a good sound surround system, this album is stunning. Sure it could have had more input from David and others, but what is laid down serves me nicely. The sound affects are given life through this sound reproduction method, and the music has an aural quality that would serve Roger well in his soon to be solo career.
During the making of the album, there were three producers credited with producing the album, Roger himself, Michael Kamen, and James Guthrie. Other band members who played on the album were (on keyboards) Michael Kamen and Andy Brown, (on drums) Nick Mason and Andy Newmark, (on Saxophone) Raphael Ravenscroft and Ray Cooper (on percussion). A line up that, of course, included Roger Waters and David Gilmour.
(From Wikipedia) There are three perceived concepts to this album.
- The state of world affairs at the time of writing the album.
- The second is the mental plight of a WWII veteran, and
- The story of a depressed man.
Most avid listeners to the album, and reader of the lyrics, will probably identify with this contention. I think personally, there is just one voice through the whole album, that covers a miasma of issues in all three areas suggested, but yes they do exist. The album has consistent flow. Musically and lyrically, and seems to be a story of a moment in time, recorded history, recorded perceptions, and recorded hopes and dreams (The Gunners Dream an example).
This album contains one song that epitomises my faith in Roger Waters. The Gunners Dream (TGD) is an anthem in itself, and I rate as my all time favourite Pink Floyd track. So much do I like it I use (to this day) the title as my internet logon name on most of the sites I visit or take part in. It is also the only song in a vast ocean of sound and song that I know I can sing Acapella. I am so enamoured with it, I made a video for YouTube as my first attempt at creating video sound bytes of Roger Waters’s songs. And not actually picking worse songs than TDG, but maybe equal favourite from the album is Two Suns in the Sunset, an apocalyptic disassociation from Pink Floyd.
I am now going to go through each song and rate it on its merit. The logical sequence to follow is first to last, and with that in mind, we strike a very religious outpouring from Roger, most unusual.
The Post War Dream
“Tell me true, tell me why, was Jesus crucified” – Yes very unusual. Roger doing a bit of soul searching (the only other song coming to mind with a religious bent is Sheep) and starting an album off with this reference. And then “is it for this why Daddy died”, more soul searching. Then the rest of the song breaks into the requiem, Maggie, the state of the country, the hopes and dreams of past soldiers shattered by another war? Then ending on more imploration for Maggie. It’s fair to say with this song Roger wasn’t happy with the Falklands War and Maggie Thatcher in particular.
The start sound bytes are interesting to say the least, perhaps a sense of fear and trepidation “announced plans to build a nuclear fallout shelter at Peterborough in Cambridgeshire….” One knows this is in Roger’s backyard and means a lot in the sense of the album, especially the last songs impact.
Musically the sound is wonderful. As mentioned, the holophonics gives the sound a real ethereal quality and is crisp and clear. The actual impact of the separate musical elements in this and by and large all the songs is minimal, the words carrying the weight of the songs.
This song is pure requiem. The reference to cattle trucks and poppies entwined hit at the soul of the Holocaust and its role in shaping modern society. It’s also a rather strong action song against the role religion plays in moulding past societies, and the outcasts it creates. But the killer line is the opener “they flutter behind you your possible pasts”. The “what if” of society, if the choices had indeed made for nought. It also asks the question of modern conflict, have we learnt to think of diplomacy before war, and is war necessary? Who really knows? I guess this song holds water in today’s society, and probably in societies to come, what relevance does history provide in determining if we fight or not. Personally, I listen to this song, and I listen to George Bush in 2005, and still the troops are there. I guess that’s the same question Roger Waters is asking through Possible Pasts of Maggie Thatcher.
The musical content of this song too mirror The Post War Dream, more accompaniment for Rogers chilling vocals. There is a lengthy solo from David’s guitar, some keyboard elements, and strong drumming from Nick. But overall the music is just a backdrop for great lyrics and the sultry voice of a burgeoning Roger Waters.
The closing line “of our possible pasts lie in tatters and rags” suggests Roger thinks the mistakes of the past have been replicated and will be done so again (he was probably right, his thoughts echo mine, though 20 years later).
One of the Few
A quirky wee piece. The lines read as if the Teacher from The Wall jumps out at you, especially the one word line “Teach!” But there is also a more sinister intonation, “make them laugh, make them cry, make them lie down and die” a clear picture of a military dictator emerges.
Musically the song starts with a ticking clock (Time reprise perhaps) and a plaintiff guitar plea from David, then Roger’s questioning and sneering voice takes over. But as a short, it lacks in any great musical endeavour, only what is required to give the piece its own notoriety, the lyrics.
The Hero’s Return
Once again, Roger implores Jesus, this time the plea far stronger than in The Post War Dream. “Jesus, Jesus, what’s it all about?” And once again a vivid picture of the Teacher from the Wall – “trying to clout these little ingrates into shape”. A clear segment of writing that epitomises Rogers’ own lack of beliefs in both role models. Which is strange coming from someone that appeared to relish the society he grew up in.
This line is apocalyptical – “When I was their age all the lights went out”. This tends to perhaps say that his upbringing may not have been as rosy as it’s made out in both Schaffers and Masons books, but then I suppose when you look at Animals and The Wall, Roger does reveal a lot about himself. Or is he the consummate liar (all good writers are good liars). Maybe we shouldn’t read too much into Rogers lyrics, instead focus on the musical feast he’s about to serve up.
The track starts with what sounds like an axe splitting the air and segues into David doing a stilted solo lead in to Rogers’s angry voice. He really grunts out the lyrics, over the backing music, and more hints of The Teacher echo around the speakers as he implores his subjects.
He changes to dream mode for the “sweetheart, sweetheart, are you fast asleep? Good.” segment of the song. There’s a dreamy quality to the singing and music that really builds this song up before it leads into the cataclysm that is The Gunners Dream.
This song also anchors The Post War Dream in that it asks questions of the past in relation to the future. It’s also regarded in some circles that this Requiem is for Roger’s father, yet in the Hero’s Return we find a hint that it is in fact an airman that is The Gunner and that this album, though a requiem to all those lost in the war, features a second world war airman (Dresden at angels one five).
The Gunners Dream
I suppose the best way to understand this song is to know the lyrics, and understand the fear the writer has for society, and for himself and his family. I have known this song by heart since I first got the album, and classify it as the best song Roger ever wrote. There are some that will argue with that, but as a Roger Waters fan, you cannot simply ignore The Gunners Dream, or you do so at your peril. What first drew me in to the song? The haunting sound of someone sailing through the air after ejecting from a downed aircraft and the accompanying piano (which I believe is in G). The sound of air rushing past as he deploys his parachute, and then the soft enveloping sound of Roger’s voice and words. I suppose the best way to describe Roger’s voice in this song is commanding, demanding, and reprimanding, as well as a bit of screaming.
I’ve sung this song Acapella at karaoke’s and know full well how Roger’s voice suits this song. There are high notes, low notes, mood notes, and just plain angsty notes and all join together with some very good lyrics to be a total package. The words are the key. When people hear this song, they oft times pass it off. But when you hear the song and read the lyrics, as he (Roger) said in a song much later, “it all makes perfect sense!”
I’d like to fully dissect this song but I’d never get the other songs completed. I suppose the best way to depict how I see this song is via a video I constructed for YouTube.
Musically, this songs two strong points are the piano throughout, and the saxophone solo. I love both instruments and was well pleased when they appeared together in such a strong song. Apart from that, I think the musical score echoes the passiveness of the song. In summary, The Gunners Dream is a song of loss, lost opportunities, and loss of innocence. I guess the strongest lyrics that make the most impression on me is “And everyone has recourse to the law, and no one kills the children anymore” But there is so much more to like, it’d take too long to do it. Suffice to say, and bearing in mind repetition, this song utterly rocks my boat.
This is a continuation of The Gunners Dream, but the emphasis shifts from the past to the nearly present. It’s a continuation of some of the song lyrics in TGD, but it adds more by introducing a conversational mood to the song. I do love this song too, but for different reasons than the previous. Once again the piano plays a quintessential part in the songs mood, but this time Roger’s voice is more businesslike than the previous pieces so far. “Button your lip, and don’t let the shield slip” starts the song off in a very determined manner, and the song sets out to tell us how things have changed (paranoia does that). Early into the piece, an organ is introduced and both piano and organ drive the song. There is an acoustic guitar interlude (David I’d guess).
Get Your Filthy Hands off My Desert
The first thing to note with this song is the Jet fighter sound byte. I had a surround sound stereo (an early one) and used to put the track start on the stereo when we had visitors, complete with explosion (bomb – Wikipedia) and it would scare the devil out of folks, including neighbours (who got used to it.) The actual song is a protest march, a declaration of reality for 1982 or thereabouts before. There is an unusual sound in the music though, sounds like a cello or similar being played giving the song a waltz feel to it. Once again, not a great song, but a means to and end.
The Fletcher Memorial Home
This song feeds off the offerings from the previous. It’s a rant against tyrants, dictators, and anyone that behaves in a condescending manner to the people that put them there. There is speculation that this song’s title is a memorial to Roger’s own father, giving added weight to the fact that a man killed because of a tyrant has the last laugh by having them in his own home.
The only musical note I can add is that once again the piano takes a strong part, and towards the end, David’s third solo transpires. I think once again, the music is by and large a backdrop for Rogers vocals (which one could surmise makes this a very non Pink Floyd album).
This song is another acoustic guitar driven piece with a follow up of piano again. One wonders why Roger’s best songs are piano pieces (Nobody Home – The Wall, The Gunners Dream - The Final Cut). This song is supposed to be a love song, in that someone is waving the boys away again and missing her man. It’s plainly about the troops leaving Southampton for the Falklands, revisiting WWII again, a war dear to Roger’s heart. It almost makes it as THE anti war song of his writing career, such is the sense of loss that it derives.
Musically it is, as is most of the album, missing the musicality of Pink Floyd, but in this song I sense too much would have been a killer and the words alone act out the passion play.
The Final Cut
The title song, and what a song! How about the start (and now widely quoted) “through the fish eyed lens of tear stained eyes”. Marvellous. I always take the time to absorb those words. The song is angst. All things that modern life has enshrouded it in to avoid contact with each other. The shotgun blast in the middle and the maniacal laughter of supposedly the shooter, just echo the insanity of modern society, and I think more directed to American society
The music features piano again, with a few moments to break the song up a bit, but by and large Roger’s words and voice steal the show on this one.
Not Now John
OK, I hate this song. Just as much as I hate Money on Dark Side of the Moon. They are songs designed to sell as singles. To make matters worse, on The Final Cut, this is a token Pink Floyd song, to give David a credit, and to hopefully sell the song and the record. Most albums have them, songs that just don’t fit. I’m glad David got a credit for this, but that to me was just a little pampering by Roger to fill the quota. I won’t dare listen to it for this essay, it disappoints me that much, especially when considering the song that follows.
Two Suns in the Sunset
This simply is Graeme Roger Waters last hurrah to the group known as Pink Floyd. It’s plain and simply a last farewell to fans and band members as he moved on and left a parting shot. “Two suns in the sunset” to me mean there are two equal forces sharing the same space and one has to move on or the whole explodes. Having axed Rick, and unable to get rid of David or Nick, I think during the making of this album his mind was made up. The first verse highlights the good times past, the rest counts down the future, and then the end “we are all equal in the end” meaning that as he was ready to move he was prepared to let Pink Floyd go it’s own way. This may not be the case, but that’s how the song stands to me. It’s apocalyptic, inviting The Pro’s and Con’s of Hitchhiking onto the set, in a similar vein as The Tide is Turning on Radio K.A.O.S leads onto Amused to Death.
In conclusion, The Final Cut is an album that caters to taste. The greatest taste is obviously a love of Roger Waters works. The album most definitely is not a Pink Floyd album, and it could be argued the last true Pink Floyd album was Wish You Were Here. There is a lot of anger with Roger Waters out there for stuffing up a perfectly good band, but record sales for the last three albums were still well up there.
One has to have an acquired taste, but no one should ever stop listening to an album that has one of the classic songs of all time and from any genre. The Gunners Dream is superb.
Mason N. Inside Out
Schaffer N. Saucerful of Secrets – The Pink Floyd Odyssey
Wikipedia – The Final Cut retrieved 26th September 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Final_Cut_(album)
The David Gilmour quote – I forgot to save the url of this read, and I can’t find it again.
Dedicated to the memory of Richard Wright – RIP.