Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Final Cut (album)

The Final Cut
A requiem for the post war dream
Studio recording July-December 1982 
* Released 21 March 1983

Performed by Pink Floyd: David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters
All lead vocals by Roger Waters (except on Not Now John)
Additional instrumentation by: Michael Kamen — piano & harmonium, Andy Bown — Hammond organ, Ray Cooper — percussion, Andy Newmark — drums on Two Suns in the Sunset, Raphael Ravenscroft — tenor sax, and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted and arranged by Michael Kamen.

All songs written by Roger Waters
Produced by Roger Waters, James Guthrie, and Michael Kamen
Engineered by James Guthrie and Andy Jackson
Assistant engineers: Andy Canelle, Mike Nocito, and Jules Bowen
Recorded in England at Mayfair, Olympic, Abbey Road, Eel Pie, Audio International, Rak, Hookend, and the Billiard Room Studios
Mastered by Doug Sax at the Mastering Lab
Holophonics by Zuccarelli Labs. Ltd ©
Cover design: Roger Waters
Photography: Willie Christie
Artwork: Artful Dodgers
Special thanks to Neal Wharton
Dedicated to Eric Fletcher Waters 1913-1944

UK: Harvest SHPF 1983 (Stereo mix 43.28)
US: Columbia QC38243  Reached #6 on the US charts

The original idea for the album that became The Final Cut was an LP called Spare Bricks, which would feature music from the film Pink Floyd The Wall that was new or re-recorded specially for the movie. However, the Falkland War, which begin on 2 April 1982 and ended on 14 June 1982 (30 days before the release of Pink Floyd The Wall) became a powerful creative catalyst for Roger Waters' muse, and things began to change. As Roger developed new material for the forthcoming album, its name was changed to The Final Cut, and it would include music from the film as well as new material. In fact, when When the Tigers Broke Free was released as a single, it bore the inscription 'Taken from the album The Final Cut.' However, as Roger wrote more and more songs which were as much or more an expurgation of his inner emotional state as the songs from The Wall, it become apparent that the LP was taking on a life of its own, and would include all-new material that would serve as an epilogue to The Wall, as well as standing on its own as a vital and passionate statement.

Thus was created the most political of all Pink Floyd albums, as well as the most personal. The songs alternate between strident political commentary and individual anguish. Most people consider this to be a Waters solo album, and not a product of creative collaboration among the members of Pink Floyd. In many ways this is true, but Dave Gilmour's distinctive guitar style is certainly present on the LP (such as the title cut), and gives the album a more 'Floydian' feel than Roger's official solo albums.

The Falkland War was the catalyst of the work, the betrayal of the post-WWII dream of peace among the nations, and the most bitterly unreasonable war of the decade until America's War in the Persian Gulf. Perhaps the most biting irony is that the number of people killed in the war was more or less equal to the number of British citizens on the islands that Margaret Thatcher was supposedly protecting. Work on the album began immediately after the release of the film Pink Floyd The Wall in July of 1982 and continued through that December. The album was recorded in eight different English studios, including the 'Billiard Room' studio in Roger's house. This album was the end of the increasingly tense association of Roger Waters and the rest of Pink Floyd.

Roger Waters: "I got on a roll, and started writing this piece about my father. I was on a roll, and I was gone. The fact of the matter was that I was making this record. And Dave didn't like it. And he said so." [Schaffner 256]  "By the time we had gotten a quarter of the way through making The Final Cut, I knew that I would never make another record with Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason. We just didn't agree on anything anymore." [TAP 53]

Dave Gilmour: "Songs that we threw off The Wall, he brought them back for The Final Cut — same songs. Nobody thought they were that good then; what makes them so good now? I bet he thought I was just being obstructive." [Schaffner 257]

Roger later characterized the making of the album as an extremely difficult time:
"...You can hear the mad tension running through it all." [Schaffner 259]
"...on some of [the album], I can hear in my voice all the strain and aggravation that was going on at the time, it affected the record." [Dallas 148]
"...absolute misery ...a horrible time." [Schaffner 259]

Gilmour agrees, upset partially because he and Nick Mason were reduced to the level of session players, with no more importance than the additional musicians who were brought in; and in Nick's case, even less.

Dave Gilmour: "It reached the point that I just had to say, 'If you need a guitar player, give me a call and I'll come do it.'" [Schaffner 258]

The situation finally climaxed with a confrontation between Roger and Dave, in which Roger allegedly forced Dave to withdraw as co-producer, leaving him to produce with Michael Kamen. Roger also offered Dave and Nick the opportunity to withdraw entirely from the project, at least in name, and he would release it as a solo album.

Roger Waters: "[But they] didn't want that, because they know songs don't grow on trees. They wanted it to be a Floyd record." [Schaffner 259]

However, Dave's dissatisfaction with the album led to describe later as "cheap filler of the kind we hadn't put on a Pink Floyd album in years." [Schaffner 261]

Dave Gilmour: "It's not how I would like to see the Pink Floyd continue. It's not what I would like to do. I didn't enjoy making it, I didn't have much to do with making it, and there was very little enjoyment in it, for me. It's made me consider saying 'Oh fuck it, I'll jack it in,' because it's not what I want to do any more. But I haven't done that, as yet. Who knows? It's one of those hard things." [Dallas 147]

And Dave would toy with pursuing a solo career for the next few years, but in the end return to guaranteed success with Pink Floyd.

Dave Gilmour: "For Roger, as I say, it's a successful album. He's setting out to explore something, and he does it very successfully. I think, personally, it's a weak album musically. I think there's only three good songs on it. I can't quite manage to make myself believe that if the lyrics and the power of what you're saying is good enough then the music that helps portray it doesn't really matter. In a way it would have been better to have been a solo album, I think. It is a solo album, really, largely." [Dallas 147]  "[The Gunner's Dream, The Fletcher Memorial Home, and The Final Cut were] really great. I wouldn't want to knock anything that's good, whoever it's by. And I didn't, at the time, knock anything because of any personal problems that one was going through." [Schaffner 262]

Nick Mason: "I think The Wall and even more so The Final Cut very clearly indicate Roger's increasing control and increasing interest in lyrics. There is no doubt in my mind that his strongest suit has always been writing. He works very hard at that, and he's less interested, I think, in the music. Roger will happily use the same piece of music four times, with different lyrics to make a new point in the story. Whereas Dave would probably try and find four different pieces of music — and hang the same lyric on it!" [Schaffner 258]

Roger Waters: "[The Final Cut, a requiem for the postwar dream] says something about a sense, I suppose for me personally, a sense that I may have betrayed [my father]. He died in the last war and I kind of feel that I personally may have betrayed him, because we haven't managed to improve things very much. That the economic cycles still over-ride everything, with the best intentions, the cycle of economic recession followed by resurgence still governs our actions. So everything's accelerating, and it seems very likely that we'll just get into one big down and that'll be the end of it. We'll get into a great big down and somebody somewhere, by some mistake or just because they think it seems like a good idea, will press the button and that'll be the end. I see no way round that, unless we stop having quite so many children." [Dallas 148]

Of course, since the dramatic lessening of international tensions caused the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc, this violent end to civilization seems much less threatening — yet still enough of a risk to cause President Clinton to negotiate with the Ukraine, at a massive expense to the United States, to disarm their nuclear store.

The 'Holophonics' system used on this album is a mysterious system of recording done by Zuccerelli Labs, which is very likely simply a system of binaural recording. The holophonics theory is that there are high frequencies generated by the ear, and that sounds interfere with these frequencies, and the interference pattern is what our brains interpret. The fact that this sounds like a crock makes no difference to how great the music sounds on headphones, with added depth and layers as opposed to non-binaural recordings. It is especially noticeable on Paranoid Eyes, Get Your Filthy..., and the first two tracks.

Nick Mason: "I suppose for me, probably the making of The Final Cut was the most difficult [time in Pink Floyd]. I think by then there was very much a feeling that we were really hardly a band any more, that the sum was no longer greater than the parts, that we weren't achieving anything like our potential. But the thing became an arena for all the problems of Roger feeling that really he wanted to either leave the band or run it his way. And the material sort of drifted, actually, I think it probably drifted away from one idea and then became a sort of new concept and new story. And that happened halfway through, and instead of perhaps ditching it, which is perhaps what we should have done, or rethinking it, we didn't even really have the sort of mechanism set up any more as a band to be able to sort of sit and talk rationally about it, it would have simply been another opportunity for a fight."

"I saw that album as the beginning of the end."

"At that time, certainly, I just thought 'I can't really see how we can make the next record, or if we can it's a long time in the future and it'll probably be more just because of feeling of some obligation that we ought to do it, rather for an enthusiasm."
[Above 3 from Redbeard interview, 30 Mar 94]

Roger's comments on the production of the album and the merits on which it should be judged make a fitting epitaph.

Roger Waters: "Recently, I was in a shop and there was a woman standing there whom I knew slightly. Quite suddenly she said to me 'Where was your father killed?' I was very surprised and blurted out 'Oh, Anzio.' She said 'My father was killed in the war.' Apparently, someone had lent her a copy of The Final Cut and she had listened to the whole thing and she had found it very moving. In fact, it had reduced her to tears. She told me this, standing in the shop, with some effort I suspect. I remember thinking 'That's enough, really, it doesn't matter if the Americans don't buy it.'" [Miles]

Roger Waters: "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. It sold three million copies, which wasn't a lot for the Pink Floyd. And as a consequence, Dave Gilmour went on record as saying, 'There you go: I knew he was doing it wrong all along.' But it's absolutely ridiculous to judge a record solely on sales. If you're going to use sales as the sole criterion, it makes Grease a better record than Graceland. Anyway, I was in a greengrocer's shop, and this woman of about forty in a fur coat came up to me. She said she thought it was the most moving record she had ever heard. Her father had also been killed in World War II, she explained. And I got back into my car with my three pounds of potatoes and drove home and thought, 'Good enough.'" [Salewicz]

Album Package
The cover to The Final Cut, designed by Roger Waters, is an extreme close-up of a WWII officer's uniform and medals. The medals are, in clockwise order from the top: the Distinguished Flying Cross (for acts of courage, valour or devotion to duty while flying), the Defence Medal (for three years service), the Africa Star (for service in the North African campaign), and the 1939/45 Star (for wartime service). This uniform is probably closer to that worn by the fictional bomber, later teacher, who the album is partially about, than that worn by Roger's late father Eric.

Post War Dream, The
Your Possible Pasts
Hero's Return, The
Gunner's Dream, The
Paranoid Eyes
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
Fletcher Memorial Home, The
Southampton Dock
Final Cut, The
Not Now John
Two Suns in the Sunset

1 comment:

  1. Between "Your possible pasts" and "The hero's return" is lacking the song "One of the few", with theses lyrics:

    "When you're one of the few
    To land on your feet
    What do you do to make ends meet?
    Make 'em mad
    Make 'em sad
    Make 'em add two and two
    Make 'em me
    Or make 'em you
    Make 'em do what you want them to
    Make 'em laugh
    Make 'em cry
    Make 'em lay down and die"