Gimme Five: 1980s Pink Floyd songs that don’t, you know, suck

Pink Floyd‘s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, alas, was no Dark Side of the Moon. Criticized then as now for being transitional and samey, though, it was far from the worst thing foisted on unsuspecting fans during the 1980s.

Check out, or don’t, guitarist David Gilmour’s misfire solo release About Face, an album that is often so terrible as to seem like some deranged trick, and not just because it includes a belated pass at disco called “Blue Light.” Then there was founding bassist Roger Waters‘ drab solo debut Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, a mid-life crisis record, for chrissakes.

Hey, man, didn’t you used to be Pink Floyd?

Still, it wasn’t all bad. Or at least, not shockingly awful. Here’s a list of five tunes worth revisiting:

“YOUR POSSIBLE PASTS,” Pink Floyd (1983): Originally envisioned as a soundtrack to the motion picture component of the group’s multi-media project “The Wall,” 1983’s didactic “band” project The Final Cut became a stand-alone effort when Waters got tuned up over England’s involvement in the early-1980s’ Falkland Islands conflict.

Waters, in full megalomaniac mode by now, had already sacked founding keyboardist Richard Wright, and subsequently relegated Gilmour to just four interludes. (That reportedly led to a heated exchange in which Gilmour said: “Look, if you need a guitar solo, phone me.”) Still, each of Gilmour’s showcases is a coiled delight. He’s pushed into concise bursts of angry brilliance, in particular on this recommended last-gasp cut.

Pink Floyd’s devolution into a Waters cover band, see, was complete. The back of the original liner notes actually read: The Final Cut: A Requiem for the Post-War Dream – by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd.

Gilmour, perhaps rightly, objected. After all, they’d already made this album — and, you could argue, had done a better job of it the first time. Nowhere on The Final Cut, by the way, is that more clear than on “Your Possible Pasts.” Actor Bob Geldof, you’ll remember, recites part of this song’s lyric during “The Wall” film from years before.

“HOME,” Roger Waters (1987): Some of Waters’ most biting commentary, despite the dated production on a plasticine, synth-laden bid for MTV acceptance called Radio K.A.O.S. Here, he challenges us all to stand up to the creeping indignities that eventually coalesce into true injustice. Waters then hits a riff, talking about any number of unexpected personalities who might one day provide the greatest danger to our every day lives — neatly presupposing the sweeping fear that eventually gripped this nation in the wake of Sept. 11.

“NOT NOW JOHN,” Pink Floyd, (1983): Gilmour, having realized the band had discontinued as a working group, adds a lusty fury to his lone lyric on The Final Cut — a sentiment made all the more menacing by the ironic backing vocals, which merrily chime in periodically with “f— all that.”

I’ve still got my single copy of “Not Now John,” which overdubs the line with something that sounds like “stuff all that.” The lyrics on the sleeve, perhaps in a (we now know, failed) bid for airplay, read: “stop all that.”

In the end, any version would do. Waters and Pink Floyd were over.

“THE POWERS THAT BE,” Roger Waters (1987): Commercial flourishes like sequenced drums and programmed keyboards all but sink this tune from Radio K.A.O.S. on first blush. Sort through those aural missteps, however, and you find modern versions of Waters’ patented call to arms against bloated bureacracy and war-mongers — “they like fear and loathing; they like sheep’s clothing” — and a memorable, driving horn signature.

“YET ANOTHER MOVIE/ROUND AND ROUND,” Pink Floyd (1987): Waters, having been invited back for a project featuring Gilmour and founding drummer Nick Mason, had refused and then later unsuccessfully sued over the rights to use the band name — stating that Pink Floyd was a “spent force creatively.” Some said the subsequent release Momentary Lapse of Reason proved it — despite having included “Learning to Fly,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Rock charts.

This dream-like track, to me, represents the best of what the remaining Floyds still had to offer, with a bouyant keyboard signature (though the late Wright was still being listed as a session musician at the time), the appropriate lifting of soundbites from “Casablanca” (get it?, another movie?), and an extended, elegiac coda in “Round and Round” — part of a trio of demos apparently rejected by Waters for The Final Cut project.

It succeeds in ways the too-poppy hit single, the too-draggy “Sorrow” and the too-familiar “Dogs of War” never did — and provides a glimpse into the smaller successes that the trio of Gilmour, Wright and Mason would muster for the Floyd finale Division Bell.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • muleboy303

    the existential and hormonal angst displayed throughout “About Face” worked for me, and apparently others also, as it went Gold and peaked at #32 on Billboard’s charts.

    i suggest giving it a re-listen after years have done their work.

    p.s. welcome to Strangepup