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Happy Birthday, Roger Waters!

Guest Blogger: An interview with Dave Thompson, author of Roger Waters: The Man Behind the Wall. Read on for some very informed opinions on Pink Floyd for Roger Waters’ 60th birthday, continued on Thompson’s blog

Now Thompson brings us Roger Waters: The Man Behind The Wall, and if you think it’s going to unspool as just one more book about Pink Floyd, think again….  Once past the opening couple of chapters, they scarcely even get mentioned again until halfway through the book. 

Q: You open the book with the making of The Wall, which I’m sure will confuse some people.  Tell us why you did that.

A: I wanted to get it out of the way.  Bloody thing.  I really didn’t like it when it came out and I’ve not really changed my mind since then.  I actually preferred The Final Cut when it came out  But it’s also the lead-in to the solo career, because it almost was his first solo album.  When it came time for Floyd to make a new album, Waters gave them two concepts, The Wall and The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking.  And they chose Pros and Cons.  They changed their minds a few weeks later, but that’s how close it came.

Also because too many books, and my own are among them, are obsessed with the music that an artist made first, charting the day-to-day doings of the sixties and seventies, then treating the rest of the career as an afterthought.  Which runs the risk of encourages readers to do the same thing.

Q: Well, for many acts, it is.   

A: Okay, that’s true.  Not many people would argue that Paul McCartney’s post-Wings career is anywhere near as enthralling as his days with the Beatles.  Or that Bowie in the Eighties and beyond tells a more intriguing story than the decade that preceded them.  A Rolling Stones book that analyzed the years since Undercover would be an even bigger drag than getting old.  There’s a reason why Keith Richards’ autobiography spends more time on his favorite recipes, than documenting the creative process of the 2000s.

Q: So how is Roger Waters different?  

A: Because… okay, he’s scarcely been prolific, but the music he’s made since he left Floyd has been a master class in maintaining both relevance and opinion, without once sidelining any of the reasons we consider those qualities to be of interest.  Again going back to why The Wall is important, in a lot of ways it was a sketchbook for concepts and imagery that he would return to and… it’s kind of like a demo for everything he would write about in the future.  Plus, if we go back to the 1980s, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and Radio K.A.O.S. were, and remain, the finest efforts released by any so-called veteran mainstream artist that whole dismal decade long.

Q: Tell us about the first time you heard Pink Floyd.

A: It was fall 1973, newly returned from the school summer holidays. One of my classmates was raving about an album he’d discovered while we were away. It was called The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and he was so mortified by my lack of interest that he insisted on playing the whole thing there and then.

Q: You weren’t impressed?

A: I was thirteen and I was into Glam Rock.  Bowie, Bolan, Slade… wham bam thank you slam.  Pink Floyd?  Horrible, hairy… not one of them knew one end of a tube of lipgloss from the other, and listening to their endless album, I didn’t believe they had time for me.  I remember suffering through the interminable “Us and Them,” and feeling it suck all the joy from the room.  “Money” was a dour disco plod at a time when “disco” translated into anything that might make people feel like doing anything so uncool as dancing and, by the time the stylus hit “Brain Damage,” I was so dispirited that I condemned it as a pompous rewrite of David Bowie’s “Laughing Gnome,” and left the room.

Q: At which point, Bowie himself made you change your mind

A: Yeah.  The rat.  Bowie was the bee’s knees at that time.  He was really only two albums into his reign of stardom, but he was already more than a simple pop star.  He was also an arbiter of taste and, in the fifteen months since “Starman” set the children boogie-ing (in an age when fifteen months actually meant something, and wasn’t simply a moment in time that flashed by in ten minutes), he’d already bent my ears towards a wealth of music that I knew I’d be listening to for years to come.   Jacques Brel, Iggy, Lou Reed and the Velvets… Bowie had never let me down, which is all a very convoluted way of introducing my next exposure to Pink Floyd, courtesy of the album he delivered just a few weeks after my encounter with Dark Side Of The Moon.

Keep reading here!

Roger Waters: The Man Behind The Wall

To some, he is the face behind classic Pink Floyd. To others, he is the temperament behind some of the greatest albums of the rock era. And to others still, he is one of the most original songwriters of a generation that overflows with notable talent. To all, he is an enigma: a rock star who not only eschewed stardom but also spent much of his career railing against it. But to call Roger Waters a mass of contradictions is simply taking the easy way out. He is so much more than that.

Roger Waters: The Man Behind the Wall is the first full biography of the author of The Dark Side of the MoonWish You Were Here, and, of course, The Wall. It traces his life from war-torn suburbia to the multitude of wars he has fought since then – with his bandmates, with his audience, and most of all with himself. Packed with insight and exclusive interviews with friends and associates, Roger Waters: The Man Behind the Wall dismantles the wall brick by brick, revealing the man who built it in all his glory.

Lost Bowie Clip Screened

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From the Blog of Rikky Rooksby. For Rooksby’s songwriting books, visit our website.

I was excited in December by the news that a copy of David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars performing ‘Jean Genie’ live on British chart music TV show Top of the Pops had been found. ‘Jean Genie’ had been released as a single and featured on Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane. It was thought that this clip – first broadcast on January 4 1973 – had been erased by the BBC many years ago. Many classic TV programmes met the same fate. It turned out that cameraman John Henshall had asked for a copy and kept it.

What was special about this performance was that it was genuinely live. Almost all Top of the Pops performances during its long history were either completely mimed to the original backing track, or part-mimed (i.e. lead vocal was live) to a backing track re-recorded by BBC TV musicians and the band. It has always irritated me the way the BBC have constantly devalued the meaning of the word ‘performance’ when describing old TOTP clips by applying it to entirely mimed or mostly mimed appearances – which of course were cheaper and safer for both the TV people and the singers / bands – but are not music-making.

Continue reading this post on Rikky Rooksby’s blog…

Rikky Rooksby is a guitar teacher, songwriter/composer, and writer on popular music. Considered the premiere author of songwriting guides, Rooksby has also written numerous music history and guitar instruction books and has published over 200 interviews, reviews, articles, and transcriptions in music magazines. He has also transcribed and arranged more than 40 chord songbooks, including music by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and many other artists.

A member of the Guild of International Songwriters and Composers, Rooksby is also a sought-after teacher who leads courses on music at The Oxford Experience and other international continuing education summer schools.