ROGER WATERS – THE PROS AND CONS OF HITCHHIKING – 30th ANNIVERSARY (A LOOKING BACK REVIEW)…

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On my seventh birthday in 1984, completely off my radar as it were, Roger Waters, the chief lyricist and bassist for Pink Floyd released his first solo album. Tensions were at an all time high in the band, as Roger would soon announce the end of Pink Floyd, much to the remaining members’ chagrin. Topically, Roger was on a roll. Whether or not he was hitting a midlife crisis or not, every bit of angst, insecurity and self-examination he could muster up found its way to his lyrics. Pros and Cons was actually written around the same time as The Wall in 1977-1978. In a very raw demo state, both ideas were presented to the band, and ultimately it was decided that The Wall would work better in a band context. After The Wall tour ended, and The Final Cut was released by Pink Floyd – which really is Pink Floyd in name only as it barely features Nick Mason and David Gilmour shows up for a few spare solos, Roger assembled his own band together to record his new concept album.

The concept is this… The main character, later dubbed “Reg” during the ensuing tour is having a dream cycle that lasts the entirety of the album. The tracks even reflect the time in the morning they take place. So track one is called “4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad)”. Symbolically the dream shifts from lust, to danger, to insecurity and guilt, back to responsibility and family, self loathing, guilt, a mix of strange symbols like Yoko Ono and Dick Tracy, and finally self-realization. The trip is an entertaining one.

Unfortunately, the album suffers a bit of dating in its production style. The doo-wop girls that over-sing certain lyric parts kind of overpower bits of the songs, unless you imagine it in some sort of Little Shop of Horrors context. One thing Roger did right was to find a guitarist that was on par with David Gilmour and had a similar style. So he tapped his friend Eric Clapton. Michael Kamen arranged the orchestra parts, as he did for The Wall and The Final Cut. Andy Bown was along again, who was a second guitarist on The Wall tour. So all in all his band had a feel much like the previous two Pink Floyd albums.

Musical themes from “Your Possible Pasts” and “Fletcher Memorial Home” from The Final Cut appear in “Go Fishing”, and if you listen, even the first quiet notes of the album are a revisit of “In The Flesh?” from The Wall. The albums definitely tie together as pieces of Roger’s psyche. “Sexual Revolution” was even demoed at the same time as The Wall demos, explaining why there is a demo of this on the Immersion Edition box of The Wall. A lot of the songs here follow the same strummed structure of the first track, which makes this more or less one piece of music that takes detours. What is strange to me though is how three singles were spun off of this album. I suppose the promoters have to try. “5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)” is in my eyes one of the best songs Roger has written, and it can work on its own. However, “5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)” or “4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)” were quite bizarre out of context. Especially when you find there’s a 12″ dance mix of the former. Picture that one on American Bandstand!

The album is definitely rewarding when given a full listen. Roger digs pretty deep here, exploring his own misogyny in “Sexual Revolution” only to have it rewarded with backlash, ridicule and castration symbolism. He explores getting himself off the grid as we would say now in “Go Fishing” only to be confronted with isolation. The thing I think I love most about how the concept plays out though is how the edges of the songs blur and make little sense, much as dreams can do themselves. Certain symbols and people appear in the storyline that make no sense. The hot hitchhiker is with someone at the beginning, then suddenly not attached and interested in Reg, then they are being chased by “Arabs with Knives” who then suddenly are not a threat at all. But taken in as one full story, it actually makes sense. You kind of feel like Roger’s therapist, especially if you play The Wall, Final Cut and this album back to back.

However strange, I keep coming back to this album. It always seems like there’s a bit I missed in there each time I listen. In a perfect world, this would finally be remastered, with bonus tracks like the “Dance Mix” I mentioned, the “Part 2 and Part 1″ 12” b-side mix of “For the First Time Today”, and maybe that radio broadcast that exists of this tour from 1985 in NYC. But for now, at least I have my import copy on CD with an uncensored cover.

Here are the three videos from the album:

“5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)”:

“5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)”

“4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)”

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