Saturday, 2 September 2017

My Music Papers for Massey University - Pink Floyd.

A series of essays I did when at Massey in 2008 - The Music of Pink Floyd - got a C+ average.






A Perspective on Pink Floyd
Essay Three - A.
By Thane Zander
Before looking into the history of this supergroup, it is important to categorise Pink Floyd. With Pink Floyd, one needs to highlight the make up of the group, the influences musically and lyrically, and the climate of the world during their lifetimes. It is easy to start with a bold brush, but much harder to actually pinhole the exact truth of what they are and what they have been through. Even harder is actually stating a definitive genre Pink Floyd fits in.

From the before the start, experimentalist group The Abdabs gave birth to a certain sound, a unique sound, that would carry into the Syd Barrett era. This sound was experimental as one would expect from a bunch of young lads. The actual make up of this band is the key to where it would go, primarily Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason, the nucleus of the band through to 1985 and Waters departure. The fact the band known as The Pink Floyd Sound would emerge to create mayhem on the London Club scene is widely reported and with the inclusion of Syd, they found a songwriter that would take them in more than one direction. Though largely a sound experimental group (Interstellar Overdrive and Astronomy Domine) it was Syd’s quirky pop tunes that actually gave The Pink Floyd Sound impetus in their new career. Those pop singles today are not avid collectors with modern day Floyd fans, but the enduring quality of the two longer pieces indicates where most fans place the music.

The genre to this point, and also on the follow up Saucerful of Secrets (where they dropped the “Sound” from the bands name), had been catchy pop songs coupled with power experimentalist rock ballads. (“Set the Control for the Heart of the Sun” and “A Saucerful of Secrets") clearly showed that even without Syd, the band could play longish songs and still sound experimental in the process. It also clearly evident that even without Syd, they had enough songwriting firepower to continue on. Most bands that lose their key songwriter would fold, but it showed then that there was more to the soon to be supergroup than met the eye. This could be verified by the fact that the then management of the group left and stuck with Syd on his departure seeing him as the future, making way for Steve O’Rourke, who would stay with Pink Floyd through to his death in 2000.(Wikipedia)

The group’s decision to follow a whim and record a soundtrack for a film (More) paid dividends in that they showed a burgeoning ability to write to more than one genre. This would count for much when the analysis of their latter years unfolds. With Waters writing both Rock and Folk songs, and the start of a smoothness in their playing, The Pink Floyd were about to hit their straps and start into a new genre, Progressive Rock. The album More was closely followed up by the double album Ummagumma. There are both studio tracks and live tracks to be sampled. The Live tracks are largely reworks of favourites from the first two albums, and amount to a good dose of what it was like to see Pink Floyd live in the late 1960’s. But of more interest, especially to Pink Floyd aficionados, is the studio set, often derided as utter rubbish or sheer brilliance.

On the studio version of Ummagumma is an indication that Pink Floyd were headed in a new direction and largely uncharted waters for the time by any group. A wide arrangement of sound of all varieties explodes from the record and gives the listener either a headache, or an indication that a record such as The Dark Side of the Moon was possible. This experimentation continued through the early 1970’s with Atom Heart Mother (I still claim it as an important piece though David Gilmour and Roger Waters beg to differ)(Wikipedia) Musically Atom Heart Mother (the title track) is ethereal and shows a promise to be kept in the much acclaimed Echoes. Some deride the use of horns but as can be seen later in Dark Side of the Moon (saxophone) and other monumental tracks in the future, horns do work in Pink Floyd material. There is also a new facet to the Floyd sound in the use of backing singers, which would become integral in almost all later Pink Floyd works.
It is also important to remember that three other songs off this album also produced similar results later in their careers as musicians, If (Acoustic Guitar – Wish You Were Here), Summer of 68 (Piano -The Great Gig in the Sky), and Fat Old Sun (Gilmour’s song – loosely reworked in Comfortably Numb). All in all Atom Heart Mother, though not a favourite of many fans, still is important enough to include as a watershed album for where Pink Floyd were going.

This was reinforced with the ground breaking Meddle. One of these Days is still one of my all time favourite Pink Floyd songs, a driving beat, soaring keyboards, angry lead guitar and a very strong driving beat from the rhythm section of Bass and Drums. It is a follow on from The Nile Song, the anger and drive born out of the past. It also heralded to the world that a new force was in place, and its name was Progressive Rock. But the album also plays to the whimsical, and the folk feel pervades, as well as Water’s humour (Seamus), which would surface, too, in later albums although in a differing vein. Of course the real highlight on this album is Echoes, a clear indication that a break through album was imminent. Like a lot of previously lengthy Pink Floyd tracks, this offers a lot. It also shows the group was really mastering their instruments and playing with consummate ease, even if still prone to experimentalism. That would never stop, more so as Waters wrestled the writing reins from the others. Even at this early stage, the power of his persona over the rest, creativity wise, was daunting.

I think what really helped the group up to this stage was their constant live shows and presenting new songs long before they were placed on an album, choosing what worked and what didn’t as they saw fit. That coupled with the ability to write and record a new album every year through to Dark Side of the Moon meant they were honing their craft quite quickly. I have seen in research material that other bands of this time were starting to mimic what Pink Floyd (Yes, Genesis) were offering but having listened to both bands I can safely say that Pink Floyd were beyond the both of them, musically and in the quality of songs they wrote.

Then there was another foray into writing a soundtrack for a film (La Vallee). This is the only album of Pink Floyd I don’t have, and I missed it when sourcing research material. There is material (Wikipedia) to suggest that the album was another foray into practised sound. I don’t see anywhere to say what the sound was like, or the effects, or for that matter the overall outcome of the soundtrack. It was during the scoring of this movie that Pink Floyd was also working on their soon to be popular opus, The Dark Side of the Moon.

The Dark Side of the Moon - one could linger here. From the opening bar on this record, to the closing, one is drawn in and as a washing machine would, spin around and spat out feeling a lot better than when you first started. It’s widely known this album is one of the all time greatest albums of all time, and let’s say the progressive rock market is somewhat small. You can almost be assured that at least one of your friends has a copy, be it vinyl or CD (or both in a lot of cases). BUT! Let’s not forget, that Dark Side was born out of a number of factors. The previous albums, education and the willingness to try new things, or rehash old ones. Yes there are no forerunners to this album, song wise, but there is plenty to indicate that this album just had to happen. One of the key points is the groups own collaboration, their willingness to work together to try and improve the material to a state that it would make a good song.

I think at this point, the dynamics of Pink Floyd shifted a little, too. The money they were making from the album made them very wealthy, which would also both be augmented from reissues of their earlier works and with the coming albums. They had not only tapped the genre of Progressive Rock (probably invented it actually), but they were also spilling over into the Rock categories as more radio stations played Money and other songs from the album. I think this might have had an adverse effect on the group, which would surface later on, especially with Animals.

For the first time in their career, they wouldn’t put out an album in a year. Wish You Were Here was released two years after Dark Side of the Moon, but it was also a watershed album in that it explored Syd Barrett. A fitting tribute too made even more fitting by his arrival during recording,(Schaffer and Mason) much to bemusement of the members of the band (yes some still say Syd’s Band). This album is not a Dark Side of the Moon and returns the band to longish songs that had become their forte. Shine on You Crazy Diamond benefits from its predecessors (Echoes, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Atom Heart Mother) and then some. The whole suite is a great tribute to a band that has become very familiar with their craft, and is totally different to Dark Side of the Moon. And it had to be different, to be Pink Floyd material.

Welcome to the Machine is a song that could almost fit in The Wall, but the other two songs, too, make their mark. Wish You Were Here is now an acoustic favourite, from budding guitarists to professional ones. To offer up the fare on this record Pink Floyd must have been well and truly on song. I’m not a huge fan of the album, but I do recognise that it deserves to be in the top five albums from the Floyd catalogue.

Then along comes another album (once again two years between releases) that starts the Roger Waters takeover of the creative element of the band. Animals is purely driven from one man’s perspective, and the band has to go along with it. Before you wonder, I rate Animals as my second most favourite album from the catalogue. And I’m a huge Waters fan. But having read a lot of material on the group, it’s widely known that this is when the cracks started to appear. Though it’s not recorded, but widely supposed, Rick was starting to drop off the radar as far as input to the writing and recording process, David and Roger weren’t talking (made even more evident with The Final Cut) and the whole parcel that is Animals was a Waters driven project.

Sure the band played on this album, and played probably the best they ever had (or ever would?), but the emphasis in the groups’ dynamics had changed. Was it the wealth they were now accumulating off the previous two albums, was it recording contract schedules, or was it plain and simple that members of the band had pretty much had enough of each other? It’s clear all the members of the group were committed to record, and as Roger seemed to be the only one providing creativity, it came down to him to produce the bands footprint for the ensuing years. This came at a cost, and from my own assertion on the Sysyphus essay, Rick was needed to tighten the songs and offered arrangements that the group might be able to use.

This became evident when The Wall was released. A lot of good songs, but no lengthy pieces, very little keyboards, and mostly no Rick. It was clear the dynamics of the group were changing, and for the worse. The Wall tours were few and one almost gets the impression when listening to the group members that The Wall was a tiring episode and one that failed to reignite the groups’ ability to play well with each other. It was clear there would be defections, and when The Final Cut came along, Rick was gone, and Dave and Nick pandered to Roger’s whim and produced as studio musicians to Rogers’s directions. This was down to Dave saying contractual obligations meant they had to do the record (Wikipedia), and then finally drop the axe and split the group. But it didn’t quite work that way. Roger went his own way, David went his own way, Nick drove his cars, and Rick sunned it up in the Mediterranean.

Despite Rogers protestations, David, Nick, and Rick reformed the group, produced an album (The Momentary Lapse of Reason) and toured as Pink Floyd. Of course Roger sued and failed, but Pink Floyd went on to record another album (The Division Bell). Although some songs on both albums have a Floyd feel, they generally underwhelm me and I think Roger’s fans might have had it right, He’s Pink.

Where does Pink Floyd sit in the history of rock? Well to start with, they were pop artists (Top of the Pops) with “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”. However, this pop stardom was short-lived (Syd’s departure). Then they were Space Rockers (Interstellar Overdrive, Astronomy Domine, to name a few), then they were Progressive Rockers (Meddle onwards) until they rediscovered radio playable music again (The Wall) By this stage they were and are solid rock stars.
They wrote primarily to appease themselves, to compliment their ranges of style and panache, and they did it as a team, which a lot of rock bands fail to achieve. Let’s not forget, up till Rick’s death, the band members had been in the music business for forty years, a feat only matched by The Rolling Stones, for longevity and continued creativity (although the group failed to put out any new material after The Division Bell.).

A mark of how popular Pink Floyd is the numerous groups out there doing tribute shows across the world. Plus add to that, album sales are still strong and steady. I’ve just turned fifty and have been along for the ride since 1975, yet there is a cleaner where I stay who is only nineteen and she is a total Pink Floyd fan. Yes, they reach across the ages, and will do for years to come.

Where else did Pink Floyd make a mark? Simple answer really, their sound and lighting experimentations and subsequent innovative set ups for their live concerts. They were the forerunner of stadium Rock shows with all the lights, sound, and dry ice, and many bands today work off the Pink Floyd module.

Finally the line ups of the various formations of Pink Floyd. To start with, there was Roger, Nick and Rick (and Bob Klose) as the Abdabs, then they invited Syd Barrett in as guitarist and songwriter, forming the group The Pink Floyd Sound (widely known to have come from artists on Syd’s blues albums). It’s widely known about Syd’s problems with drugs, so the group became a fivesome with the introduction of David Gilmour to cover Syd’s guitar and vocals during the live shows. The “Sound" was dropped off the groups name and The Pink Floyd sailed on, once again as a four piece, this time Syd was gone and David was a full time member. At a stage in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s “The” was dropped.

This line up stood firm through ten years of solid creativity and work (tours) until Pink Floyd decided (well Roger decided really) that Rick wasn’t required anymore, so the new threesome (Roger, David and Nick) completed The Wall and The Final Cut together, before the final culling happened when Roger went solo and the last incarnation of the group reformed as Pink Floyd again, this time with Rick and no Roger. There are a lot of people out there that supported Roger when he filed suit against his former band members. But that’s water under the bridge now. I’m not a great fan of either of the last two albums; they lack certain panache only Roger could have given.

It’s fair to say now what does and doesn’t work for me. Nothing out of the Floyd catalogue disappoints me greatly. I love all their music, feel at home with the lyrics as if they were written for me (a reason for their success – availability) and just love everything they have done as a group. The books written about them give gorgeous insight, and the internet is just flooded with Pink Floyd material (30,200,000 hits on Google) that is so hard to keep up with. In August this year as a tribute, I created eight videos, three from the Pink Floyd catalogue, and five from Roger Waters’s solo material. My legacy to a great group that will never reform and will remain a big part of the music scene for years to come. Each surviving member is lighting a candle for Rick, but also lighting the way for their retiring futures.

And that hanging question – the genre, the true genre they fit into. Yes they were psychedelic rock, yes they were pop rock and folk, yes they were Space rock, and yes they were Progressive rock (or even alternative). But I think for me, the original name of the group all those years ago, The Pink Floyd Sound, stands testament to where they actually fit in. They stand alone outside all genres as the Pink Floyd sound, a unique and never to be matched accomplishment.

Bibliography

Mason N. Inside Out

Schaffer N. Saucerful of Secrets – The Pink Floyd Odyssey

Wikipedia – Pink Floyd retrieved 19th October 2008 from


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Animals

Music by Pink Floyd
Lyrics by Roger Waters

An essay by Thane Zander, 17th September 2008

Introduction

Animals – an album by Pink Floyd released in 1977. The album reached No. 2 in the UK Album Chart and No.3 in the US charts despite this period being both the Disco and Punk Eras. The album has gone quadruple platinum and rates well in the Pink Floyd catalogue.(Wikipedia)

The album was recorded at Pink Floyds Britannia Row Recording Studios in 1976. It was a departure from previous works in that it became a lyrical masterpiece, and less structure from the musical innovation Pink Floyd had been known for.

My own personal history with Animals is quite revealing. I first bought the album in 1978, and was at that stage a firm Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here fan, and Animals didn’t provide me with the flare Pink Floyd had until that stage. I gave Animals to my brother after a few listens not overly happy with its content. I was 20 years old then and impressionable. I next crossed horns with Animals in 1998 when I decided to fully stock my CD collection of Pink Floyd music and albums. And on first playing I suddenly got what the album was about. A more mature me had become a huge Roger Waters fan, and Animals was where he first took control of the creativity for the band.

My own position with Animals is this. The album is tight. The songs rock, the lyrics are superb, and the package is alluring. There are many areas where the album just glows, and these are where the band really gels as a group of musicians striving to keep it together (as the fall out from The Wall will testify) It’s physically the last album Pink Floyd make sounding like they all have their heart in the project at hand, and having to deal with Roger must have been a hard task.

The whole album is a miasma of thought and thinking, and makes the listener want to be involved in the music, albeit lyric based. After several listens, and the aid of a Lyric sheet from the internet, I managed to fully understand what Roger was going on about. On the Roger Waters BBS I would argue night and day the merits of the album, usually on deaf ears. But allies were around and we continue to this day to enjoy Rogers first true Opus.

Now for the individual tracks and the breakdown of each from my own viewpoint. Each song will be approached on its merits, the lyrics, the music, the solos, and the direction the songs take with each other.

Pigs on the Wing Part One
An unusual song to start the album off with, but when coupled with its’ closing partner, it all makes sense. In the reference material (Schaffer and Mason) there is an explanation that these two pieces were in fact Roger’s lost love and were treated as love songs. The problem is for me is accepting that the starting Part One is a love song. It has elements in it that hint to it, but personally I think this is a great segue in to the material that follows, a sort of airy piece that just floats an introduction. I’ve never read Animal Farm, but I know of it. The choice of Roger to use Pigs as an opening gambit is somewhat obscure, except to say his depiction is probably akin to the fat cats of business that stuffed up his and the Floyd’s royalties (well documented) and he has an aversion to them. I doubt that makes for a good love song. The use of just an acoustic guitar to open with is sublime, adds tenderness to the album that wasn’t often to be seen in early Floyd.


Dogs
Roger’s words, Dave’s dulcet voice and classic Floyd guitar, Nick’s competent drums, and the barest of Rick’s contribution. Ok this song reeks of paranoia and anxiety. “Fly Down South and hide your head in the sand” but it also speaks about fear “You gotta keep one eye looking over your shoulder”, the classes “You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat”. It’s more than that too; it’s an angst ridden song, yet without the anger pouring out in the music and vocals. I like Dogs immensely, at one time the song really echoed how I felt and I was able to understand what it was all about. The length has been mentioned by some commentators, did it need to be that long? Yes it did (and does). The insanity of the situation calls for a long dirge, with the echoing dogs and keyboards in the middle of the song adding lustre to the piece. Lyrically it’s a very tight well driven song. There is enough in the lyrics to catch all kinds of listeners. I think Roger enjoyed doing the writing for this album, as he obviously had a lot of ideas running around in his mind at the time.

The last section of the song is more upbeat and bouncier, even if the lyrics are still a little comprehensive and depressive. The lines that start with “Who” at the very end set up a nice segue into Pigs (Three Different Ones). In conclusion of Dogs, it’s purely an angst ridden rock song, but very well handled as an acoustic interlude in places.

Pigs (Three Different Ones)

“Big man, Pig Man” Yes what a way to start another very good song. This one’s Rogers political tirade, his shout to the bureaucracy of the day. “Charade you are” Yes we all ask that at times about our politicians and leaders and community do gooders. Yet Roger gets his teeth into this. Rick gets to open the song with a melodic keyboard sequence, and David keeps the electric guitar (lead) pulsing throughout (with a fairly unusual sound to it). Roger takes charge of the song with his vocals, really wringing out the angst in the song, the vitriol fair oozing out. “Charade you are” Yes it drips contempt. This is one where the lower class kicks back and says ‘what about me’ which is rather strange coming from a middle class college trained member of society. Had Pink Floyd sunk that far down the music ladder, to be lesser cousins to the likes of Jethro Tull, Deep purple, and Led Zeppelin?

Like most of the album, Pigs (TDO) is a relaxing walk through the mind of Roger Waters, coupled with the expert musicianship of his fellow band mates.

Sheep

OK! The 23rd Psalm. On the Roger Waters Bulletin Board (alluded to earlier) there was one poster who utterly loved Animals BUT couldn’t stand to listen to Sheep. Yes he was a devout Christian, and wouldn’t have anything to do with the song. I know of two others since that have the same aversion. From my own viewpoint I see it differently. I think Roger was exorcising some demons, from whatever walk of life he was partaking of. The song is a deep look into the psyche of a troubled man (not mentioned anywhere in any resource material) but with what came next with Roger (The Wall) maybe he was a troubled man indeed. It’s fair to say when Roger gets his teeth into something he gives it his all, despite criticisms, and Sheep certainly does that. I was interested to note that the reading of the reworked Psalm was done by Nick Mason (Mason – Inside Out). There is not a lot not to like about this song. Once again Roger gets the best out of his band mates and a very tight piece ensues.

Pigs on the Wing Part Two
Out take. We came in…….

Conclusion
Animals is a very eclectic album musically speaking. The lyrics are a continuum from one song to the next, as you’d expect from a concept album. Since being reawakened to Animals I have grown to love the music and songs and to this date still assert that it is their most musically tight album of all time. The lyrics help to enhance that thought, and it is as I see it, the first true Roger Waters album, meaning he wrote all of the lyrics and had most of the song ideas done already. He stretches all his skills to deliver a really tight package.

Bibliography
Mason N. Inside Out

Schaffer N. Saucerful of Secrets – The Pink Floyd Odyssey

Ccrfan747 (2007) Analysis of Animals retrieved September 7th 2008 from http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=32491

Wikipedia – Animals retrieved 7th September 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animals_(album)

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Sysyphus Parts I - IV

Composed by Richard Wright

Performed by Richard Wright and Pink Floyd

From the 1st side of LP One of the Two LP set of Ummagumma.




What is Sysyphus? On the album Ummagumma it is an avante garde suite of songs that have no lyrics, and derive all their energy from Richard (Rick) Wrights various instruments, and extends to 13.28 minutes. Wright plays Farfisa Organ, Melletron, Piano, Bass guitar, Timpani and Percussion on this suite of musical pieces.

There is a assertion that the name Sysyphus derives from the Greek God of a similar name, Sisyphus and the pieces mirror the Sisyphean challenge. This is the purpose of this challenge. Sisyphus was the son of King Aeolus of Thessaly and Anarete, and the founder of and first king of Ephra (Corinth). Sisyphus repeatedly broke the laws of hospitality by killing travellers and guests. He seduced his niece, took his brothers throne and betrayed Zeus secrets. Zeus then asked Hades to chain Sisyphus to Tartarus. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Sisyphus was doomed to the Sisyphean Challenge whereby he was ordered to roll a rock uphill until he reached the summit, but nearing the top, the rock always rolled back down to the bottom again. He was bound to go back down and continue to try and achieve that task. Of course, he couldn’t meet that task but kept trying. He was doomed to repeating the task and to this day this challenge is likened to an act of continued persistence or the sea rising and falling everyday, the mundane, but persistent. (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia excerpts intonate that the Sysyphus of Rick Wright is a close correlation to the challenge, with the pieces ebbing and flowing accordingly. “Part I consists of featuring a tympani and a Melletron chords resembling an orchestra” which when I played this for the first time in eons is exactly the way I felt. “a piano solo that dissolves into a raucous dissonant performance as Sisyphus struggles uphill” which makes sense to that part of the song, it’s almost manic in nature, very un-Rick Wright.

My music knowledge is very limited despite that fact I love music of all genre. I know what “sounds” good and what “feels” good. I know I have bitten off a huge chunk of lack of knowledge to tackle these pieces as far as the music goes. But I feel Echoes is too long to do a decent attempt of a review, and the others (Shine of you Crazy Diamond Pts 1 – 9, Interstellar Overdrive, Saucerful of Secrets, etc) I find very eclectic and I’m not willing to use them. Sysyphus sounds very different, and I feel worthy of a review. Besides I have challenged myself to deal with a song that has no vocals and that’s way out of my depth.
Before starting, one should note that this is a sole Rick Wright suite of pieces. Apart from accompanying drums and percussion (I assume Nick) the rest of the pieces are devoid of Bass, Lead Guitar, and vocals, though there are recorded sound bites in some of the pieces, no doubt also done by Rick. The reference material for this review is solely Wikipedia, as searches on the internet failed to reveal any essays or other writings and Mason and Schaffer didn’t deal with Sysyphus. So the review is largely personal interpretation.

Sysyphus Part I

This piece as the intro features Rick on Farfisa Organ playing a very dramatic piece with low notes, accompanied by what sounds like a Kettle Drum (Nick maybe) and cymbals. The music, if aligned to the Sisyphean Challenge, dictates a struggle, and reflects the start of the challenge (Sisyph8us being chained in Hades). This is a short piece (at 1.08 minutes) and conjures images in the mind as to how and what is happening to the rest of the pieces. I like the piece, very orchestral in timbre, and very Pink Floyd in texture, especially their earlier stuff and just goes to show how much influence Rick had in the group then.

Sysyphus Part II

This piece opens with a very classical sounding piano. The playing is superb, the keys fair zinging with Rick’s elegance. I was surprised by this level of playing, as I hadn’t heard anything quite like it in the Pink Floyd catalogue till this time. I’m a great lover of classical piano (avid Concert listener) and Rick fairly took me on an opus ride with such skill and poise. But as the piece builds to a crescendo, timpani is heard, and coupled together the piece dives headlong into a manic state, possibly as intimated in Wikipedia, the rolling of the rock uphill (piano) and then the disarray as the rock tumbles back down (the manic phase). The timpani could quite well serve to personify Sisyphus as he deals with the rock and it’s foibles.
The manic piano has almost Jazz like qualities, a sound reminiscent from the Jazz records I have. There is also another sound, a deeper one, which could be the Melletron, though I suspect it’s more like a heavy bass tone on the lower piano registers. Nonetheless, the sound is chaotic. I did, however, read somewhere that the actual sounds created are with someone belting the piano strings with a solid object, creating an orgasmic interlude to the piece. What it does do however is emphasise that struggle Sisyphus is having with his challenge and no matter how hard he tries, he’s doomed not to succeed.

This song runs for a shortish 3.30 minutes, but is nonetheless one of the better constructed songs so far. It’s a strong follow on from Part 1 and leaves one gasping for more, especially the classical nature to start with and the jazz infusion towards the end.

Sysyphus Part III
This song is also a short one and runs for 1.49 minutes. It’s a jazz fusion sound throughout, something Pink Floyd were renowned for and something that may solely attributable to Rick and his ability to arrange such material. Maybe there needs to be a deeper significance to Pink Floyds later work accorded to Rick, such is his input.
I suspect the main instruments in play with this piece are the Farfisa Organ (the driving sound), the Melletron (Sound Affects), cymbals and snare drum. I can’t discern any other instruments and feel that this is the main catalogue for this piece.
How it relates to the Sisyphean challenge. I guess the sounds echo the running down of the hill of Sisyphus and he then manhandling the boulder to begin the challenge again. The music is hectic, almost manic, and very different to what I have endured so far. It’s a section that serves to echo the pieces that have gone before leading up to the finale.
Sysyphus Part IV

This song (piece) is the longest of the four tracks at 6.59 minutes. It’s the last of the four pieces. Once again, this track too starts with a classical sound. The Farfisa is making what sounds like a violin sound, leading into the rest of the song. There is also a woodwind sound, floating in the background. The woodwind sound may be lower register keys on the Farfisa, the violin upper register. The song then fades away, and the manic organ takes over, perhaps the sign that Sisyphus has tried rolling the boulder again and one again fails. Once again Kettle Drum and cymbals enter the fray, also in a very classical way for a short interlude, then back to the organ and a very Pink Floyd sound (Rick’s sound). Sound affects (Melletron) also enter the piece and the jazz fusion affect takes over as Sisyphus tackles the boulder once again. The whole affect is desperate and calls for a lasting ear to continue listening.
Then the piano intro from Part 1 resurfaces, as well as the kettle drum and a reprise is formed. The sound is very space aged and could have been used in any science fiction movie. The song then dies out to the crescendo of Kettle drum and cymbals and the experience that is the Sisyphus Challenge completes.

In conclusion, the four pieces are Rick Wright stretching himself and giving birth to the seeds that would follow in later albums. He derives sound and sense and drives his works as a master of his craft. The key here is that he not only uses the odd on or two instruments to get his sound, he’s willing to stretch out a bit and go further for the sake of the group, even though this was essentially a solo piece. The music is a delight to the ear, and should be ready listening to any Pink Floyd fan, and maybe even any jazz or classical lover.
Overall I was wholly satisfied I had refound this piece. It really does drive home the point that Rick Wright was a master at his craft, and an integral part of the Band that was Pink Floyd.

Bibliography




This review is dedicated to the memory of Richard (Rick) Wright.


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The Final Cut

A Requiem for the Post War Dream

Written by Roger Waters

Performed by Pink Floyd

Reviewed by Thane Zander


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.

  1. The state of world affairs at the time of writing the album.
  2. The second is the mental plight of a WWII veteran, and
  3. 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.

Possible Pasts

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.

Paranoid Eyes

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).

Southampton Dock

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.


Bibliography
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.

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The Soundtrack to the Movie More

Music and Lyrics by The Pink Floyd

Essay by Thane Zander, August 2008


Introduction

In researching this album, I had flashbacks to the day I actually originally purchased the album. In the early to mid nineties my collection of my favourite band consisted of a few well known Floyd classics, but that was it. So I made a determined effort to buy their entire catalogue.

I made a good start, by replacing Animals (which I gave to my brother after buying thinking it was rubbish), Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle, and More. Regrettably I loaned More out to my brother in law as soon as I got it without one listen, and he promptly lost it. In 1999, I joined the Roger Waters BBS online and in the course of two years learnt a heck of a lot about the Floyd, the individuals, and the albums. I don’t recall once More being mentioned.

Skip forward to 2008, and the Massey course on Pink Floyd. In the past weeks I have been able to source all my missing albums through the Massey Distance Learning Library, and the Palmerston North Library. Books I have read include Schnaffers’ A Saucerful of Secrets – The Pink Floyd Odyssey, and Nick Masons’ Inside Out. Albums that I have immersed myself in have been Piper at the Gates of Dawn, More, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Division Bell

Why More? I could have easily subjected myself to the first two albums and the Syd angle, but that’s been done to death. Ummagumma, AHM, or Meddle might have been more interesting, but there was something enticing about the simplicity of More. Both Schnaffer and Mason gloss over the album and workings at the time, so information is scant on the album as such. I think too it would have been more beneficial to see the movie to gauge what Pink Floyd had to deal with in writing the music/lyrics. (A little aside, on Saucerful of Secrets the band name is Pink Floyd, on the album More the band name is Pink Floyd, however on the Movie Credits {courtesy of the opening movie clip on YouTube} the band is called by their old name The Pink Floyd)

More is about discovery for the Floyd. I liken it this way, Piper at the Gates of Dawn was the party (Syd), Saucerful of Secrets the hangover, and More the new morning with a slight pain killer to ease the day. It’s really the first time Pink Floyd had away from London and their fan base, and dabbled in an area most thought they wouldn’t do. Their reason for doing the movie is not explained by anyone, except one must assume they were following their roots and diversifying as they went. I think too it gave them the opportunity to shake the Syd mantle by getting them to start flexing their dynamic muscle, i.e. stronger song writing skills.

Argument

Ok, first and foremost, I’m not a musician. I can’t read music, I have a little grasp of melodies and harmonies, and I can’t play any musical instrument except maybe a blues harp or drums (badly). I am however a keen listener to music and can tell what works and what doesn’t, for my ear. I’m also a writer and poet, so the lyrics to me are very important. If lyrics are weak, the song is weak, unless it’s a killer song, music wise (instrumental). My intention in this section is to break down the album into its parts and deal with what does and doesn’t work for me.

There are three categories of song on this album, Heavy Rock, Folk rock, and Instrumentals.
The Heavy Rock songs are The Nile Song and Ibiza Bar. Both songs surprised me when I first heard the album as I didn’t (until that stage) realise Pink Floyd had it in them. Sure, One of these Days, Money and Run Like Hell, to name a few, may be considered heavy rock standards, but all are well and truly dwarfed by these two songs, especially The Nile Song.

It seems to me there must have been a lot of angst in the band at that point of their career, for them (actually Waters) to write such a grunty song, so it serves a wonderful purpose in reminding us that even then, Pink Floyd were a little ahead of the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Slade, and Queen.

Ibiza Bar sounds like a rerun of the Nile Song (courtesy of internet blogs) and shares a lot of the same guitar riffs and chord progressions. It doesn’t have the punch of The Nile Song, but works as well as it. The real surprise for me is the strong voice of David in the Nile Song. I’m not sure that he uses the same force ever again in the various Pink Floyd line-ups.

The Folk songs are exactly that and don’t really rock my boat so to speak. I suppose they were dictated to by the movie (insomuch as The Nile Song and Ibiza Bar). Cirrus Minor,, Crying Song, and Green is the Colour (all Waters) are soft folk songs and largely unspectacular.

One song I feel could have been a hit at the time was Cymbaline. Catchy tune, catchy lyrics and well played by the band. Take for instance these atypical Waters lyrics:

Apprehension creeping
Like a tube-train up your spine

A clear indication of where Roger was going with his song writing. I see these lyrics and I’m transported ahead four years to the wonderful writing on The Dark Side of the Moon.

The Instrumentals. Ok this is where Pink Floyd started flexing their experimentalism muscle. Sure A Saucerful of Secrets, Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and Interstellar Overdrive had proved they could do it, but a lot of that material was largely improv around the central theme. In More, each band member was allowed to create something to the greater whole, obviously tied into the theme on the movie at that point. During my studies, I was acutely made aware as to how much impetus and skill Nick Mason gave to his job as drummer. I managed to see on YouTube a segment from the Pompeii tapes several times Nick Highlighted. But when I got to More, there on track four Up The Khyber, was Nick and Rick stretching their skills and making somewhat of a fist of what they were doing.

There is not a lot wrong with any of the songs or music per se, but one has to remember Pink Floyd music is measured against the highly popular albums on the repertoire and that leaves More near the bottom of the composition chart. Sadly it is left languishing when in fact it should be counted as a productive album.

Conclusion

The album is both a delight and a let down. A delight in that I like the songs by and large, especially The Nile Song, (and Dave’s Spanish Piece with flamenco guitar) and the direction the Pink Floyd are taking on their soon to be long journey. It’s more pleasant to the ear than some of the later stuff, but I’m sure it would be even better a listen seeing the film and the soundtrack in one sitting. There is enough material on the internet to see some snippets (I saw the opening credits- Cirrus Minor - and Cymbaline on YouTube) and I’m sure there are plenty of others around.

It should be noted that all early Pink Floyd music is a progression. They really didn’t come onto the music scene until Dark Side, but up till then there was enough material to suggest Dark Side would happen. More is a part of that progression, an ends to a means. It allowed Pink Floyd to try another genre (Film scores) and allowed them to tailor their music to what they felt worked. I think that overall the songwriting skills were reflective of that time in their development, poor poetry, equally bad lyrics, except on one song, but you’d expect that from a group that was finding its way after Syd.







2 comments:

  1. That was an interesting read, thanks �� was brilliant to see RW again last month - especially performing pieces from Animals and WYWH.

    ReplyDelete