The Riff-Raff Retort

Who is the Strongest, Who is the Best

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Tally No!

The once-liberal Waters puts tradition before animal rights

In July, Roger Waters announced that he would be performing as part of a London benefit concert in October. To make the evening even more special to his fans, he later revealed that he would (finally!) be unveiling part of his long-awaited French opera, Ca Ira. And given Waters' activity over the last 4 years and his history of performing at select benefit concerts (the 1990 Wall performance in Berlin, the 1992 Walden Woods benefit in Los Angeles, and October's "Music To My Ears" concert celebrating the legacy of Billboard editor Timothy White in Boston), adding another benefit to his schedule would not seem to get Floyd fans up in arms.

Countryside march.jpg
A September 2002 march in London in support of the Countryside Alliance.

What made this concert so surprising to fans was the nature of the organization it was benefiting. The Countryside Alliance is a group purportedly dedicated to preservation of the English countryside for farmers, sportsmen, fishermen, and hunters. Proponents claim that at the movement's core is a concern over liberty and democracy, and allowing those who live and work in rural areas should be allowed to decide its fate without interference from cityfolk.

That sounds pretty good on the surface. But opponents note that one of the Alliance's high-profile issues is the protection of traditional English foxhunting, which has come under fire in recent years, called "barbaric", "outdated", and "elitist". Foxhunting, in which packs of dogs are historically used to chase and kill a fox, has long been a sport of the nobility and the wealthy.

In recent years, Roger Waters has come to support the Countryside Alliance. In May 2000, he gave and interview with the Daily Telegraph in which explained his support of the Alliance, and of foxhunting in general. He recalled childhood trips to the countryside to watch foxhunts with his grandparents. "I remember seeing hunts in progress across farmland and thinking what a spectacular sight they were. I was very struck by the hunt followers on their bicycles or in Ford Populars with their Thermos flasks and a ruddy atmosphere of enthusiasm."

That interview also reported that, upon the death of his father's sister in 1999, Waters came into possession of a diary written by Eric Fletcher Waters at age 16. It begins on a New Year's Day foxhunt, on which Eric Waters left his mother's house at Copley, near Barnard Castle, and set out on foot with a pack of foxhounds. Roger Waters described the diary's tale as "a beautiful, eloquent account of the crispness of the air, the snow on the ground and the cry of the hounds, and how a fox was finally killed in a railway cutting." The diary also details the everyday life of Roger's beloved father: "Caught the United bus to Barnard Castle. Played snooker with Jack. Won tuppence."

"I think all rational people agree that foxes need to be controlled." --Roger Waters

"It makes me weep to think of it," said the younger Roger, explaining how this diary helped reinforce his commitment to defend hunting. "It has provided me with an understanding of part of the reason I feel so passionately about the hunting issue. It's not just in respect of memory for him and the sacrifice he and his father made, but the sacrifice they made for the freedom of Britain."

Meanwhile, other notable musicians such as Paul McCartney have strengthened their support of those who oppose what they consider a cruel and inhumane pastime. McCartney's vegetarian lifestyle and pro-animal activism is widely publicized. Of the ex-Beatle, Waters was quoted in 1999 as saying, "He is a person of great sincerity and I respect his right to hold his views. However, McCartney also disapproves of horse and dog racing on the grounds that they exploit the animals. Maybe if Sir Paul had his way, he would ban racing and eating meat as well as hunting and fishing. A ban on hunting could be the thin end of a very thick wedge."

In his typical style, Roger also attacked capitalism and market forces. "The hunting community has provided the bulwark against the forces of the market which would bulldoze the countryside flat, cover it in fertiliser and grow genetically modified wheat." He believes that English agricultural traditions and animal husbandry (and, I suppose, foxhunting) are the key to prevent this market forces from turning England's rural districts into "a dustbowl". "We desperately need for these communities to remain intact, even those of us who live in towns, if future generations are going to have any countryside to enjoy at all."

• • •

Sometime prior to the infamous Countryside Alliance gig on October 16, it was whispered to me that Roger would be appearing at the show. One of my heroes was about to do something that I thought reprehensible. With this in mind I placed a protest book on A Fleeting Glimpse and let the fans have their say.

Within 24 hours the protest book was bulging with comments. There was staggering vitriol in most of the entries, some even threatening to boycott Roger Waters' music in the future should he do the Countryside Alliance gig. I closed the protest book almost after the first day as I could see where this was heading. I then sent all the comments off to Waters' manager Mark Fenwick, who in turn passed them on to Roger.

In the place of the protest book, I ran a poll asking fans if they thought that Roger should perform at the gig. A huge 81% voted NO!

Some weeks later Mark Fenwick sent me a statement that Roger had issued in response to the comments I had sent him. This statement has since been removed at Fenwick's request. Roger's statement is reproduced here in its entirety:

"I was recently contacted by someone who runs one of the many Pink Floyd/Roger Waters websites. He wanted me to be aware that something of a debate was in progress relating to my forthcoming concert performance at the Royal Albert Hall in support of The Countryside Alliance.

A group of hunters and a pro-hunting protestor.

"For anyone who doesn't know, the Countryside Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the British Countryside in all its diversity with a special brief to encourage conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats and to defend the traditions of country life and the livelihoods of those connected with those traditions. One of those traditions is hunting with dogs.

"One of my most treasured possessions is a diary which my father kept, in his 16th year, from Christmas 1930 until the autumn of 1931. This is the entry for 1st Jan 1931:

"'The New Years Eve Dance finished at 3am and Ken and I went into their house for some coffee. Verna and I went to the hunt at Romaldkirk. Lovely day. Hounds put on railway line, set up a hare and ran it west.'

"My father's subsequent story is well documented. He was a man of high principal, who gave his life fighting the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Ironically, Hitler banned foxhunting in 1939.

"As a child, I was forever rescuing sick or wounded animals and nursing them back to health and freedom. I was determined that when I grew up I was going to become a vet. I mention this ambition only because my position illustrates the general point that the pro-hunting fraternity is informed by a love of animals not the reverse.

"The anti-hunting lobby claims its desire to criminalize is motivated by a belief that hunting with dogs is cruel. If cruelty to animals was the real motivation why not first address the transport of live animals to slaughter, the tethering of sows, experiments in the cosmetics industry, the factory farming of poultry and the caging of veal calves? I believe the real motivation is based on old grudges conceived in the alienation of our class-ridden society carried via the anthropomorphism of 'The Bambi Syndrome', and given birth to in an ill-educated urban society disaffected from the traditional British values of personal liberty on moral issues. What we see is a 'Lets get the bloody toffs' attitude. My view is that hunting with dogs is not only morally correct but also a natural expression of mans' nature as an omnivore. I understand that others hold an opposing view and I respect their right to do so. It may be that I am part of a minority. If that is the case I would expect my government to protect my rights, as it should any minority. It would be a grave mistake for the government to impose legislation on the rural community, which would create a bitter divide between town and country in a society already battling with a sense of loss. Loss of empire, loss of self respect, loss of purpose, loss of national identity, loss of the traditional British virtues of fair play and fair-mindedness.

"I see the current attack on hunting as part of a general move towards an Orwellian future where our children and grandchildren could inherit a life of dull grey uniformity in a land dumbed down and neutered by the twin blades of a crass tabloid press and government motivated by the political expediency of clinging to power at all costs.

"There is some deep part of the Englishness in me that compels me to stand and be counted.

"PS: There is a very good book, The Hunting Gene, which I would recommend to anyone, on either side of the argument, who is interested in the hunting issue in England. It is written by Robin Page and distributed by Merlin Unwin Books, 7 Corve St, Ludlow, Shropshire."

Now let's have a look at parts of the statement and see what Roger had to say:

One of those traditions is hunting with dogs.

This is the very heart of the matter. Why hunt with dogs? If the fox is a menace, then put it down humanely; shoot it if needs be but for goodness sake don't set a pack of hounds on the poor creature with the result that it is torn to pieces.

My father's subsequent story is well documented. He was a man of high principal, who gave his life fighting the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Ironically, Hitler banned foxhunting in 1939.

So, Roger's father was a man of high principal and Hitler banned foxhunting! What does this statement actually mean? Roger may wish to consider that Hitler probably managed to get a few things right in his lifetime. If Hitler had been in favour of foxhunting would Roger be against it?

As a child, I was forever rescuing sick or wounded animals and nursing them back to health and freedom. I was determined that when I grew up I was going to become a vet. I mention this ambition only because my position illustrates the general point that the pro-hunting fraternity is informed by a love of animals not the reverse.

Well I must say that's one of the biggest crocks I have ever read! The pro-hunting fraternity loves foxes so much that they set a pack of hounds on them and let them be torn to shreds. Come on, Roger. That's a load of rubbish!

The anti-hunting lobby claims its desire to criminalize is motivated by a belief that hunting with dogs is cruel. If cruelty to animals was the real motivation why not first address the transport of live animals to slaughter, the tethering of sows, experiments in the cosmetics industry, the factory farming of poultry and the caging of veal calves?

Red herring, Roger! Sure there are a lot of things to be done to address cruelty to animals. However it's no good saying "Look what they are doing; if they can get away with it, then leave us alone." Clean up your own backyard, Roger, and set an example. Don't bleat that there is other cruelty so your form of cruelty should be left alone.

I believe the real motivation is based on old grudges conceived in the alienation of our class-ridden society carried via the anthropomorphism of "The Bambi Syndrome"... What we see is a "Lets get the bloody toffs" attitude.

I concede that there is an "alienation of our class-ridden society", but in this case it is brought about by a bunch of "bloody toffs" who continue to practice barbarism & cruelty.

My view is that hunting with dogs is not only morally correct but also a natural expression of man's nature as an omnivore.

I could probably understand that statement a bit more if the fox hunters actually ate what they killed, but they don't! How anybody can think that setting a pack of hounds on a defenceless fox is "morally correct" is totally beyond my comprehension.

Although English by birth, I have lived in Australia for over 30 years now and consider myself more Australian than English. However I did spend the first 24 years of my life in the UK and do know a bit about fox hunting. I can understand how people don't want anybody else to mess with their 'traditions', and normally that's fair enough. That being said though, I think if you see a 'tradition' that is inflicting cruelty on animals then it is the right thing to do to voice a contrary opinion and hope that the perpetrators of the heinous practice will sit up and pay attention.

Colin Turner is a special guest contributor to Spare Bricks.


The Riff-Raff Retort

Taking offense at In The Flesh

A couple of years ago, I was in Camden, New Jersey to see Roger Waters perform In The Flesh. The show began with a pumped-up version of the tour's title song. Many people were screaming. Many people were singing along. Many people held their crossed wrists over their heads. Many people were enjoying themselves. And a few people were leaving.

I thought it odd that the young couple chose that moment to get refreshments or use the restrooms or do whatever they were departing to go do that should have been done before the show started. Some time later, I realized that their seats, a couple rows ahead of me, were still vacant. Then it dawned to me--the angst in their faces, the yarmulke, their lack of participation in the sing-along--they were Jewish. They were offended by Roger's rantings and weren't coming back.

I'd always considered that this track from The Wall had the potential to be the most offensive moment in the Pink Floyd canon. For it is here that Pink's alter ego goes on a neo-Nazi tirade of racial epithets and ethnic cleansing. On the surface, Pink's rantings about killing Jews, blacks, homosexuals, drug addicts, diseased people, and anyone else that doesn't "look right" appear to be very offensive. I'd never been offended by them. But, now I had proof positive that at least two other people were.

Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get 'em up against the wall
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me
Get him up against the wall
And that one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint!
And another with spots!
If I had my way
I'd have all of ya shot!

So, are these neo-Nazi ramblings truly offensive? The short answer to this question is yes and no. It all depends on the context.

If the context is the whole album of The Wall (or the movie, or the live performances of The Wall that occurred in 1980, 1981, and 1990) then these lines are not offensive. They are not offensive in this context because they serve a deeper, even altruistic, purpose.

The Wall tells the story of a young rock star named Pink. Putting it simply, Pink has had a rough life. As a result, Pink has built a "wall" around himself to protect himself from the outside world. The key point to the story is that the building of such walls is not the right behavior. They actually do more harm than good.

Three-fourths of The Wall detail Pink's life and identify all the "bricks" that go into building his wall, allowing the audience to identify with Pink and sympathize for him. It is at this point that Roger Waters, as author of The Wall, needs to show his audience that this was a bad thing to do.

Roger shows Pink going insane, developing a split personality. It is this new personality that takes over when the wall is completed. This new personality even refers to the other sometime earlier in the song, "Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel." Pink's alter ego is a bad man that does bad things. There are many ways in which Roger could have depicted this bad man. But Roger chose to depict him as a Nazi. Why?

It's easy to depict Nazis as evil personified. But Roger has other reasons. One of the bricks that built Pink's wall was the loss of his Father when Pink was but an infant. Pink's Father was killed in World War II fighting the Germans. It is this irony, that the absence of a Father causes Pink to become what his Father died trying to eliminate, that drives home the message of The Wall.

Are The Wall's neo-Nazi rantings truly offensive? It all depends on the context.

It is in this context that the vulgarity needed to portray the profound evil that is Nazism does not offend.


The Wall is not the only context for these lyrics. These lyrics are part of the song "In the Flesh". Roger Waters has performed this song live on each of his solo tours. In 1984/1985, it was a regular number in his Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking tour. In 1987, it was a staple of his Radio K.A.O.S. tour. And in 1999/2000/2002, it was a featured part of his worldwide tour of the same name.

In all of these cases, the song is played outside the context of The Wall. It is in these performances that "Roger Waters"--and not "Pink's evil alter ego"--sings these lyrics. It is in these performances that these lyrics become offensive; especially to audience members that are unaware the song's proper context.

If someone were being exposed to this song for the first time, like the fictitious Jewish couple in Camden, seeing Roger perform it live on his solo tour would be akin to listening to the Wall LP and starting with side 4 by mistake, or going to see the movie version in the theater and accidentally walking in an hour after it had started. Such a person is liable to be offended by this song played out of context and stop listening to the album or walk right back out of the theater--and rightfully so.

If I had my way, I'd have gone with In The Flesh? from side one instead.

Ed Paule is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.


Who is the Strongest, Who is the Best

The Top Ten Most Offensive Floyd Songs

The theme of this issue, and how to apply it to a top ten list, was a difficult one to nail down. After considering making a list of the most offensive themes in Pink Floyd's work, I decided instead to go with a list of their most offensive songs.

More often than not, the Floyd lyrics that get pegged as 'offensive' by critics are either intended by the Floyd as a joke, or simply misunderstood by the listener. Personally, I don't find much in the Floyd's repertoire at which to take serious offense. So what I've done is compile a list of Pink Floyd (and solo) songs with lyrics that might be interpreted as offensive, and let the reader decide.

10. "Arnold Layne", 1967 single release

"Arnold Layne had a strange hobby, collecting clothes, moonshine, washing line." Foolish, and a bit irrational, but a lot of people at the time found lyrics about a cross-dresser to be offensive... so much so that the song was banned from some major radio stations. I happen to find it offensive that anyone would be offended by Arnold.

9. "Our Song" from Music From The Body

No offensive lyrics here, but plenty of fart noises, which is offensive on an embarrassing level. Being that it's the first song on the LP, it sets a tone for the rest of the album that's quite a turnoff. There are some songs on this album that are pleasant enough, but I just can't get past the fart noises. I'm supposed to play this? If I had the CD I'd just go right past it, but I don't, so the LP rarely gets played.

8. "Don't Leave Me Now" from The Wall

"How could you go? When you know how I need you, to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night oooooh Babe." This is easily one of my all-time favorite Pink Floyd songs. But this line really bothers me. I suppose it's an attempt at humor, but domestic violence really isn't something to joke about.

7. "In the Flesh" from The Wall

"That one looks Jewish, and that one's a coon. Who let all of this riff raff into the room?" This lyric is so obviously used as a parody, it's hard to really be offended by it. But some listeners undoubtedly are offended when the lyric is taken out of context. Those of us that know the story of The Wall understand what the character represents here. As such, this is one of those lyrics that some may find offensive, but it really isn't. Pink has gone mad, he has become deranged with power. This type of thinking exhibited here by these lyrics is not a good thing. And that's the point.

6. "The Fletcher Memorial Home" from The Final Cut

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Reagan and Haig." Okay. Most of you Floyd fans out there are probably wondering what this one is doing here. We're all entitled to our opinions when it comes to politics, and I can understand and respect that. But I am offended when one of history's greatest leaders is referred to as an 'incurable tyrant' and 'overgrown infant', and when it is suggested that the 'final solution' should be applied to him. I love the song, and understand the concept and what Roger is getting at. But to me it simply shows how naive Roger's political views can be. And I am offended. If you agree with Roger's thinking here, that's fine, but history will long disagree.

Honorable Mentions

"What God Wants, Part 1" from Amused to Death
"Mother" from The Wall
"Candy and a Currant Bun", 1967 B-side
"Not Now John" from The Final Cut

5. "The Post War Dream" from The Final Cut

"If it wasn't for the nips, being so good at building ships." I'm almost embarrassed writing this one down. I just think the term is used too blithely here. It's not used in a parody situation--it's just blurted out without much forethought. Not being Japanese, I don't know how offensive the term really is, but it certainly sounds offensive.

4. "Watching TV" from Amused To Death

"My yellow rose, in her blood stained clothes." Racist? Some say yes; others, like myself, say no. To me, this is a term of endearment. It would be the same as calling someone my "brown-eyed girl." A yellow rose is a beautiful and delicate thing. To put that together with blood stained clothes brings forth a sad and startling image, and the lyric is asking you to grieve for this picture. I find nothing offensive about that. However, some are simply offended by the use of the word 'yellow'. I don't get it and never will, but there it is. You decide.

3. "Sheep" from Animals

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he makes me down to lie." Yes, a great parody, and quite humorous, but using these words and mocking the Bible in such an obvious way is outright blasphemy to some. As a Catholic myself, personally, I'm not offended. But I can certainly see why some might be.

2. "Sexual Revolution" from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

"As I've always said I prefer your lips red, not what the good Lord made, but what he intended." Roger the misogynist. We've all heard that claim. Can't argue with that much here and I'd have to put this lyric in the category of truly offensive. On the one hand, it's kind of humorous, but Roger certainly sounds serious. In this writer's opinion, assuming he is serious, Roger once again shows his complete lack of understanding of anything religious. As if God really intended women's lips to be red!

1. "Waiting For the Worms" from The Wall

"Waiting, to turn on the showers and fire the ovens." I happen to be extremely offended by this lyric. Granted, the song is a parody. Understood. But this is not something to be trifled with. To make light of the Holocaust's mass murder of millions of human beings is in poor taste in this writer's opinion and is entirely uncalled for.

Bob Cooney is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.