Mixing Politics and Rhythm
To the casual fan, the music of Pink Floyd isn't highly political. Their music isn't always as politically oriented as, say, Bob Dylan's (or to use a more recent example, Rage Against the Machine's). And they don't keep as high a profile in the political realm as, say, Sting or Bono or Public Enemy or Toby Keith or the Dixie Chicks. And Roger Waters, despite living in Los Angeles on and off for 20 years, missed the deadline to run for governor in the California recall election.
To be fair, it was really only in the last couple of albums he made with the group that Roger Waters began using Pink Floyd as a way to spread his increasingly politically-oriented message. The Final Cut is, by and large, a political statement about the futility of war and the tyranny of governments that continue to fight them. The previous album, The Wall, had really gotten him thinking about his father's death and its effects on his own outlook, and The Final Cut became a cry of rage against the people and attitudes that threatened to deprive future sons of their fathers.
But beyond a few blanket anti-war statements, an expression of bitterness about the post-war British educational system, and a satirical look at neo-fascism, The Wall was really about personal, emotional struggles, rather than political ones. And 1977's Animals, despite its roots in George Orwell's classic political satire Animal Farm, was largely devoid of specific political statements as well.
It wasn't until he split with Pink Floyd that he really turned himself into a political songwriter. Radio KAOS continues where The Final Cut left off, with Roger commenting about Cold War politics, conservative war mongering, and the threat of nuclear holocaust. In Amused to Death his focus is divided between his complaints about television and pop culture, his complaints about the destructive elements of free market economics, and his complaints about the use of war as entertainment and as a political tool.
In recent year, however, Waters seems to have softened somewhat. He writes poems about his love of books and songs about the hope for a better future. He chants "Genuine love!" with his band before taking the stage. He even has a few nice things to say about his former bandmates from time to time.
But that's not to say that he can't get wound up about politics and politicians anymore. He has not been afraid to speak out about the 9/11 attacks or his country's participation in the ongoing "War on Terror". He still takes pleasure in skewering conservative politicians at any opportunity.
David Gilmour, despite not having Waters' reputation as a political artist, has made a few statements along the way. "Out of the Blue" (from his About Face solo album) has been interpreted as a commentary on his own Cold War fears of nuclear holocaust, and "Cruise" is a pointed satire on the 'protective' nature of cruise missiles. Even The Division Bell contained "A Great Day For Freedom", which, despite being somewhat muddled thematically, talks about the political uncertainty and insecurity of the post-Cold War 90s.
So in this issue of Spare Bricks, we look at the ways in which the Floyds have made political statements both through their music and through their remarkable legacy of activism. We hope you enjoy it, regardless of political persuasion.