I haven’t been this moved since Johnny Cash sang Hurt. Here is the thing, music rarely moves me anymore. It doesn’t move me in it’s own right. Im of an age where music makes me cry for the context in which I first heard it. I’m of an age when I sit with my Guild and pick out a few songs for my own amusement, and remember playing a version of See Emily Play as a childhood nursery rhyme for my children. That song gets me every single time – no reason, just time and loss and memory.
If I am honest with myself The Final Cut is one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums. I prefer it to Dark Side of the Moon. Not intellectually, not critically perhaps. It is not as grand as The Wall, not as beautiful trip material like Meddle. I put it in the same category as Wish you Were Here, except it is not an elegy for a bandmate and a band, it is an elegy for all of us, for his lost family how it should have been, for that frittered away post war dream, that went down the drains in a wave of conservatism and disaffection. Roger is a champion of The People. Roger believes in humanity. Roger gets very angry indeed at how we all insist on killing each other, in killing the planet. He took the peace, love and understanding creedo of the 60’s to heart, and has remained a warrior. I might not always agree with him, but I respect him. I respect his desire for dialogue, for talk over guns. Heck, I even respect him for standing up to Thom Yorke about the Israeli tour debacle, because Roger is a man who doesn’t shy away from unpopular opinions in a world where having them is now dangerous and not tolerated. I’m not always sure I like Roger, but I respect him. Not only that he is one of the few songwriters than can ilicit a reaction not because of when I link the song to, or who I link it to, but because he can write!
The Final Cut is a protest. It is a love song. It is a warning. It is a mournful yowl into the void. It is honest. “Fuck all that, we gotta get on with this” he hisses into the mic. Roger is right, we really do.
The album is divided into wars past – namely the war that killed his father WW2, Wars present for when the album was written, or else the near past – Maggie Thatcher, the evil British Prime Minister of the 1980s gets a well deserved rough ride, as do other world leaders in The Fletcher Memorial Home (for incurable tyrants and kings) , and an envisioned apocalyptical future, in the terrifying nuclear blast of Two Suns In The Sunset. This always feels like more a Waters endevour than a Floyd record, but that is not a bad thing. It is however, I fear quite a sad one. It is a masterpiece but it’s recording appears to have been fraught. The album about war reportedly became a war in itself, Richard Wright got fired, Gilmour allegedly didn’t like many of the tracks, and Roger in turn accused Gilmour of not contributing material. Mason was sidelined and reduced to sound effects. This was the last album Roger ever made with the band. It was a huge loss. Gilmour went on to do some MOR shit under the Floyd name. Roger toured. They got together at one point for some shows. It was all very sad.
The Final Cut was a costly album. It cost the band. But it’s social commentary, it’s production, the fact it has aged well and sounds as fresh today as when it was released makes it feel almost worth it, as if this was where the band was going, and this was the end of the road we were going to get. Perhaps even the one we deserved.
The Final Cut re-recordings by Waters, in lockdown last year are things of rare beauty. Two Suns, Vera/Bring the Boys Back Home, Gunner’s Dream. Roger has matured, dare I say softened a little. The cartoon horror show of his mind thrown on the screen in The Wall has mellowed into an impressionist painting, weaving colors and textures, memories and wishes. It is full of longing for both a past we cannot go back to, and to change our path into a future we are marching into like a bunch of homicidal suicide lemmings.
Roger hasn’t yet re-done Paranoid Eyes. I love that song. I love it for the gentle loving way it sees veterans who exist in bars, scared of their own shadows, damaged by wars – people like someone I care about dearly. There is no malice, no looking down, rather Roger puts himself into the position of perhaps what his father might have suffered had he come home. It is tender, gentle and kind, as are these re-recordings.
I know I said I love this album not for connections, but for it’s universality, but in my middle age sadness at a life too used up to fix, I listen to possible pasts, not as that young woman I was when I first heard it, but as that greying old witch, wagging my finger at the young ones, warning them, listen to Uncle Roger: “A warning to anyone still in command…of their possible future, to take care.”
“Do you remember me? How we used to be? Do you think we should be …closer?” Oh! If we only could be! The walls fall down, in this final album of a band I loved so dearly. In the dark days of ’21 this album sounds better than ever.