Week 8: Pink Floyd

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The Final Cut (A Requiem for the Post War Dream)

I’d be surprised if this album found itself at the top of many Floyd fans favourites list but for me this was the album where I discovered Floyd or more accurately when I finally ‘got’ Floyd.  I remember my mate Craig turning up with the album one night and luckily I let him play it and something just clicked.  I’d dismissed all their previous albums but after hearing this I became a fully signed up member of the Floyd fan club. In my opinion The Final Cut is vastly under rated in the Floyd canon.  It’s understandable given it is up against the likes of Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall. All brilliant albums and they all get a regular airing. Unlike the cool kids I never could get into the Syd Barrett era of Floyd.  It was really the period from the brilliant and also under rated Obscured by Clouds in 72 up to The Final Cut in 83 that held the most interest for me.

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Initially this album was meant to be a companion album to The Wall and also intended to be the soundtrack of the film going by the title of Spare Bricks but the Falklands conflict changed all that.  Roger Waters had, by this point, completely taken over the musical and lyrical direction of Floyd and many regard this as his first solo album in all but name.  His relationship with Dave Gilmour completely broke down during the recording, even drummer Nick Mason was replaced on one song because he couldn’t cope with the complex time changes.  While long time keyboardist Richard Wright quit before the album was even recorded.   Given the fraught conditions and collapsing of long term relationships within the band it was remarkable that the album  was completed at all.

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It was the last Floyd album to feature Waters and in a June 1987 interview, Waters recalled the making of the album:

The Final Cut was absolutely misery to make, although I listened to it of late and I rather like a lot of it. But I don’t like my singing on it. You can hear the mad tension running through it all. If you’re trying to express something and being prevented from doing it because you’re so uptight … It was a horrible time. We were all fighting like cats and dogs. We were finally realising – or accepting, if you like – that there was no band. It was really being thrust upon us that we were not a band and had not been in accord for a long time. Not since 1975, when we made Wish You Were Here. Even then there were big disagreements about content and how to put the record together … But making The Final Cut was misery. We didn’t work together at all. I had to do it more or less single-handed, working with Michael Kamen, my co-producer. That’s one of the few things that the ‘boys’ and I agreed about. But no one else would do anything on it.

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The album is unashamedly anti-war and very political, one of the reasons for Waters and Gilmour disagreeing.  Waters grandfather was killed in the first world war and his father was killed in the second when Waters was only 5 months old.  The album is deicated to his father and one of the songs, The Fletcher Memorial Home, bears his name.  Waters felt Margaret Thatcher had been far too hasty and jingoistic in going to war with Argentina over the Falklands and it was a betrayal of those who had died for peace in the second world war.  Given my hatred of Thatcher and what she had done and was doing to the country I was with Roger every step of the way and the resonance of the subject matter of the album may be the reason it all finally clicked with me.  The album combines songs about both the second world war and the Falklands, a number of which were re-written from The Wall out-takes.  The lyrics are dark and harrowing dealing with alcoholism, suicide, terrorism along with soldiers dying for their countries because their leaders decision to go to war.

There are some great songs on this album and despite his failing relationship with Waters, Gilmour delivers some great solos and guitar work throughout.  One of my favourite Floyd songs is ‘When the Tigers Broke Free’ and is the story of how Waters father and his company were killed while trying to protect the bridge head at Anzio.  It was also the song that opened The Wall film and was supposed to be on the original Final Cut release but didn’t actually appear on it until the 2004 remaster.

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When the album was released it made it to the top of the UK charts, a feat which I discovered, to my surprise, that both The Wall and Dark Side failed to do.   There was also a 4 song video EP released in 83 and featured Alex McAvoy who played the teacher in The Wall film.

Although I never got to see Floyd I’ve been fortunate to see Waters twelve times and I was lucky enough to be there the night Gilmour appeared on top of the wall to play and sing Comfortably Numb during one of The Wall shows at the O2 in London.  It was also an emotional night at Live 8 in 2005 when Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright took to the stage together for the first and final time since 1981.  Despite hopes it may lead to a full blown reunion it never happened and with the death of Wright in 2008 the chance of any Floyd reunion sadly died with him.

Waters and Gilmour still have fairly successful solo careers.  Waters much the busier of the 2 on the tour front with Gilmour slightly better at getting new music out.   I very much doubt we’ll see any collaboration from them in the future but they appear to have made peace with each other and given the chasm that lay between them that in itself is a remarkable achievement.

Although the album is a concept piece and should really be listened as a complete piece of music a few of my favourite moments are below.

and the full album

See you on week 9.

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