Where To Start With... Roger Waters
Best known to most as the bass player and one of the principal songwriters in Pink Floyd, Roger Waters' subsequent solo career since his departure from the band in 1985 hasn't been one of the most prolific, producing just three studio albums, but when compared with the other Pink Floyd members it is certainly one of the most varied. In addition to those three LPs he has also written an opera named Ça Ira (There is Hope) and two soundtracks – one for Roy Battersby's documentary The Body, the other for Jimmy Murakami's superb animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs' post-nuclear graphic novel When the Wind Blows.
In between, Waters has undertaken a number of live tours – two of which have also produced live albums - performing many of the Pink Floyd songs he wrote during his time with the prog-rock legends, including a poignant performance of The Wall in its entirety in Berlin in 1990.
In 2010, Waters embarked on one of the biggest tours in history – both in terms of the number of dates and sheer, staggering logistics – taking The Wall on a worldwide tour spanning three years and 220 shows on four continents. Just a week ago a film entitled Roger Waters: The Wall was released on DVD and Blu-ray, but rather than a regular 'live concert' kind of affair, instead the film – directed by Sean Evans – is part concert film, part road movie and part documentary examining Waters' troubled journey to come to terms with the death of his father, something that dominates the lyrics on Pink Floyd's seminal album.
Hot on the heels of the film, the soundtrack arrives this week (Friday November 20th) and features his band's performance of The Wall from start to finish, overseen by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. The track listing is, as you would expect, almost exactly the same as on the studio version, with one notable addition in the form of a song called 'The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes', a coda to 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)' dedicated to the man gunned down by London's Metropolitan Police at Stockwell tube station in 2005.
That addition aside, what the soundtrack offers is a blistering live performance of one of Pink Floyd's best albums and even for those hardcore fans who already have the studio album and Waters' earlier 'Live in Berlin' version, this is well worth a listen.
For any of you who are not familiar with Waters' work outside of Pink Floyd, we've picked five highlights below as a handy guide. (You can also find the trailer for the film below...)
'What God Wants (Part I)'
Probably Waters' biggest solo hit, this track from his 1992 album Amused to Death is one of the strongest moments from what is arguably his best solo record to date. The first of a three-part song exploring the hypocrisy of religion, 'What God Wants' (Part 1) also features former Yardbirds axeman Jeff Beck applying his unique guitar skills to the track.
'It's a Miracle'
Another cut from Amused to Death, 'It's a Miracle' showcases Waters' way with a barbed lyric, in this instance aimed at Cats and Phantom of the Opera composer Andrew Lloyd Webber: “We cower in our shelters, with our hands over our ears / Lloyd Webber's awful stuff runs for years and years and years / An earthquake hits the theatre, but the operetta lingers / Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his f***ing fingers / It's a miracle.” Ouch.
The opening track from his 1987 album Radio Kaoss, 'Radio Waves' sets the scene for Roger Waters first post-Floyd LP. As with many of his albums, the lyrics are focussed on politics, particularly polices of Margaret Thatcher and other themes around the Cold War, whil ethe whole album is based around the concept of a disabled man battling against the government for the ill treatment of his coal miner brother. It's heavy stuff, but then Waters has always been a very serious kind of songwriter.
'Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun – Live'
Originally written and recorded during Pink Floyd's early days when Syd Barrett was still their main creative force, this live version featured on Waters' live album In the Flesh and is a powerful and accomplished rendition of the psychedelic track originally featured on Floyd's second LP, A Saucerful of Secrets. With Barrett receding into the drug-induced psychosis that would eventually lead to his departure, this represents a moment when Waters began emerging as an accomplished songwriter in his own right.
'4:41am (Sexual Revolution)'
During the mid-1970s Waters was reaching his creative peak, but the band were struggling to match the creative and commercial success of 1973's Dark Side of the Moon and waters had come up with two different concepts for albums. The first of these was The Wall, the other was the album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Waters reportedly took both sets of demos to the band with the intention of recording one with Pink Floyd, the other as a solo album. The band obviously chose The Wall, but eventually Waters made good on his promise to release the other alone and the album emerged in 1984. Based around the idea of a man struggling with his marriage and considering adultery with a woman he has picked up on the side of the road, '4:41am (Sexual Revolution)' is one of the album's bets moments and features some very Dave Gilmour-esque guitar chops, provided in this case by Eric Clapton.